The Carter Years: Toward a New Global Order

By Richard C. Thornton | Go to book overview

Conclusion

T he major objective of the president and his secretary of state had been to secure a new cooperative relationship -- detente -- with the Soviet Union, as the prerequisite to movement toward construction of a new international order. The focus of American strategy was completion of a SALT II treaty as a steppingstone to a broader relationship. The strategic bargain would involve a quid pro quo -- Soviet strategic weapons and geopolitical restraint in exchange for American technological and economic largess.

Detente with Moscow would permit the United States to move toward completion of the geopolitical changes that had been set in motion in 1973 -- changes which would include the withdrawal of American forces from their forward containing positions around the Soviet periphery to less vulnerable, and less costly, positions off the Eurasian landmass and the establishment of stable collective security structures in place of American power. Ultimately, American strategy envisaged the establishment of a new global order based upon United States -- Soviet cooperation rather than confrontation. That strategy also envisaged harnessing the growing economic power of West Germany and Japan to a broader cooperative world order, fore- stalling the disintegration of the global political-economic system into competitive regional blocs.

Yet it was plain from the first months of the Carter administration that the probability of success for this strategy was low. The Soviet Union was bent upon a different course, designed to exploit its growing military power. The continued buildup of Soviet strategic and conventional weapons power, combined with geopolitical activism,

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