Anatomy of Mistrust: U.S.-Soviet Relations during the Cold War

Anatomy of Mistrust: U.S.-Soviet Relations during the Cold War

Anatomy of Mistrust: U.S.-Soviet Relations during the Cold War

Anatomy of Mistrust: U.S.-Soviet Relations during the Cold War

Synopsis

"The United States and the Soviet Union missed numerous diplomatic opportunities to resolve differences and control the arms race because neither state trusted the other, according to Deborah Welch Larson. She shows that the goals of Soviet and U. S. leaders were frequently complementary, and an agreement should have been attainable. Lost opportunities contributed to bankruptcy for the Soviet Union, serious damage to the economy of the United States, decreased public support for internationalist policies, and a proliferation of nuclear weapons. Synthesizing different understandings of trust and mistrust from the theoretical traditions of economics, psychology, and game theory, Larson analyzes five cases that might have been turning points in U. S.-Soviet relations: the two-year period following Stalin's death in 1953; Khrushchev's peace offensive from the launching of Sputnik until the U-2 incident; the Kennedy administration; the Nixon-Brezhnev detente; and the Gorbachev period. Larson concludes that leaders in the United States often refused to accept Soviet offers to negotiate because they feared a trap." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

For many years I have been trying to determine why foreign policy officials make decisions that result in needless sacrifice of lives and money. Studying the making of U.S. foreign policy, I was impressed with the ways in which incorrect images of the world could distort reception of accurate information and bias the outcome of even the most structured, analytical deliberation about alternative policy options. Often, no matter how systematically the president elicited conflicting points of view, analysis and debate could not overcome the tendency of officials to fit the world to their preexisting beliefs.

To understand better the influence of beliefs and cognitive processes on foreign policymaking, I read widely in cognitive and social psychology. I was particularly struck by attribution theory, which analyzes how people explain and predict the events of everyday life. In my first book, Origins of Containment: A Psychological Explanation, I evaluated five social‐ psychological explanations for the origins of the Cold War belief system. Even in a bipolar world, I suggested, the United States and the Soviet Union could have defined their relationship differently. They could have chosen to be limited adversaries, might have competed for the favors of a united Germany or might have divided Europe into spheres of influence; they could have pursued isolation or gone to war with each other. The Cold War was not structurally determined by the bipolar distribution of military power. If alternative paths existed, then perhaps the United States and the Soviet Union could have avoided a Cold War; but I did not elaborate that counterfactual. When I wrote the book, virtually all international relations theorists maintained that the Cold War would continue as long as the world was bipolar.

In this book, I show that leaders on both sides had a strong interest . . .

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