East-West Arms Control and the Fall of the USSR, 1967-1994: Radical Change or Expedient Accommodation?

Article excerpt

Traditionally, international affairs focus mostly on the complex interrelationship between states at the regional and global levels. Regardless of their actual or perceived national power and size, states tend to coexist more or less peacefully and engage in different degrees of economic and trade cooperation. And when international cooperation or coexistence fails, hostility and war quickly ensue. Diplomacy therefore has emerged throughout the centuries as the most elaborate and vital tool of foreign policy, aimed at securing the country's objectives and national interests through agreed-upon rules of conduct for the peaceful management of international relations and tensions. Negotiations between official representatives of opposing countries is the most effective diplomatic technique to peacefully attain in the confidentiality of the bargaining table a communality of interests among all parties involved. If enough mutual good will exists, diplomacy can bridge and solve existing contrasts in the most advantageous, or least disadvantageous, manner for all parties. Finally, negotiations often produce legally binding, written documents that codify the agreements just reached between friends or foes. Diplomatic rules evolved slowly from antiquity (ancient Greece; ancient Rome; Byzantium) and especially from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century these rules were continuously refined by Venetians, Dutch, and French into an internationally-accepted and binding common body of international law. American diplomacy, too, evolved from these common European traditions, but the American mind - by habit prone to a more practical approach to existing problems - always focused mostly on negotiations as an essentially business-like bargaining process and management technique of international affairs among "rational" states, capable to achieve through good will, moral principles, and relentless enthusiasm, acceptable solutions to existing contrasts while promoting international stability. Warfare was seldom relied upon by America, which saw conflict as a symbol of diplomacy's failure, rather than the other coin of foreign policy as it was practiced in Europe and Russia. Thus, through time, the democratic European states, and especially the U.S., perceived negotiations and diplomacy to have positive moral value, per se, by reinforcing international stability through a peaceful bargaining process based on the mutual respect for international law.(1)

Realism theories and state practice prove that all countries, irrespective of their ideology, rely on a combination of both diplomacy and military power to anchor their foreign policy and national security to a relatively rigid set of policy tenets, values, and beliefs. National foreign policies reflect a more or less careful balance between domestic outlooks on international affairs, minimal-maximal national security requirements, the range of domestic support for each foreign policy initiative, and the routine politico-bureaucratic adaptation of national foreign policy aims to the continuous flow of changes altering the international arena. If the impact of change in the international arena is slow enough to allow each national bureaucracy to absorb its policy implications into well-established foreign policy response patters, the result will be an incremental administration of international changes within the pre-existing fabric of national foreign policy decision-making. Thus, when possible, this process minimizes any radical alteration to national foreign policy tenets and the stability of the international system itself. However, when the routine flow of international events is deeply altered by the emergence of systemic and/or revolutionary changes with world-wide repercussions, then national foreign policy bureaucracies painfully struggle with decreasing policy options, faster time deadlines, and uncertainty over policy developments that deviate from well-established routines. When states become unable to influence these external changes through traditional diplomacy, the temptation arises for violent reactions to resist and/or redirect revolutionary changes within the established parameters of national interests and foreign policy tenets. …