The Heritage Foundation

Executive Memorandum #43 on Russia

February 13, 1984

February 13, 1984 | Executive Memorandum on Russia

New Chance for Improved U.S. -Soviet Relations


(Archived document, may contain errors)

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'NEW CHANCE FOR_-IMPROVED U.S. SOVIET RELATIONS

The death of Soviet leader Yuri Andropov and the assumption of power by Konstantin Chernenko present both a challenge and an oppor- tunity to the United States. The challenge is to maintain a steady course in U.S . policy toward the Soviets despite the temptation to make preemptive concessions to obtain what might appear as a friendly Soviet response. The opportunity is to be flexible and creative enough to present; the Soviets, at a time when reassessment of U.S. - Soviet policy is possible, a chance.to take actions that would end their prolonged policy paralysis and reflexive rejection of Western initiatives and begin the process of reducing the tensions which they have helped to create. There are certain things t h e U.S. should not do: It should not be overly eacrer to seek sweeping new agreements or understand- ings with the Soviets. Nor should there be "halts" or "pauses" in U.S. defense measures which have been undertaken in response to Soviet-actions. For examp l e, deployment of Pershing and cruise missiles in Western Europe should proceed on schedule--until the Soviets agree to reduce or eliminate their intermediate range bal- listic missiles. Finally, until there is concrete evidence to justify it, there should be no euphoric talk about a possible change of heart in the Kremlin or the "dawn of a new era" in U.S.-Soviet relations. However, there is in fact an opportunity during times of tran- sition and new leadership for changes-in nation-state relationships. Th e current Soviet transition is no exception. While the Reagan Administration already has demonstrated considerable flexibility and innovation, it should seize the initiative and reiterate those solid proposals it has made for improved relations with Moscow that would ease world tension. These include: 01 A return to the START and INF bargaining table to negoti- ate seriously over: 1) ways to eliminate or substantially reduce the number of theatre-range nuclear missiles in the Soviet Union and Europe; 2) met h ods of lessening or eliminating the growing instability in the U.S.-Soviet arms balance caused by the Soviet land-based ICBM capa- bility to destroy the major portion of the U.S. nuclear retaliatory capability in a first strike. 0 An agreement at the Mutu al and Balanced Force Reduction talks in Vienna on an accurate data base regarding the

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number of Soviet troops in Eastern Europe and adequate verification of balanced reductions through on-site in- spection; and agreement on limited confidence-build ing measures at the Conference on Security and Disarmament in Europe talks in Stockholm. Consideration of a meeting between President Reagan and the new Soviet leadership. This, of course, would require substantial advance preparation and a:site in the U. S ., or at least outside the Soviet Union, and no preemptive U.S. concessions. In turn, the Soviets could signal their intentions to lower tensions by: 0 Muting anti-U'S. bombast and threatening rhetoric by Soviet spokesmen and in official publications. 0 M a king significant human rights gestures such as freeing imprisoned dissidents, relaxing emigration restrictions, and removing obstacles to the mututal East-West flow of information. 0 Joining talks to allow full independence for Afghanistan. 0 Restraining C uban and other proxy forces destabilizing Third World nations. 0 Complying in letter and spirit with existing treaties and agreements. 0 Eliminating support for terrorist activities. The Soviet record of recent years and Moscow's blanket rejec- tion of Re a gan arms reduction and tension-lowering initiatives in part might have been the result of policy paralysis caused-by Brezhnev's and Andropov's long illnesses. As such, the Reagan Administration should give the new Kremlin leaders a chance to demonstrate w h ether they desire improved East-West relations.. This requires the U.S. and'its allies to remain strong militarily, to understand the ideological dynamics of the Soviet leadership, to respond firmly to Soviet probings and--at the-same time--remain open to Soviet proposals to reduce tensions. Any system which requires that its, leader's serious illness be described as a common cold for several months has certain peculiarities and dynamics which limit its flexibility to respond to initiatives. Washington sho u ld recognize this and be patient. For this, America's foreign policymakers require bipartisan public and congressional understand- ing and support. With such support, the Reagan Administration can probe the new opportunities for reduced U.S.-Soviet tensio ns.

W. Bruce Weinrod Director of Foreign Policy and Defense Studies and Manfred Hamm Senior Policy Analyst

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