Sovieticus

By Cohen, Stephen F. | The Nation, June 16, 1984 | Go to article overview

Sovieticus


Cohen, Stephen F., The Nation


SOVIETICUS.

As the 1984 Presidential election approaches, it appears that voters will not be given a clear choice on the most fateful political issue of our time-- cold war or detente. The nuture and logical results of President Reagan's cold war policy are clear. American-Soviet relations are at their most dangerous stage in two decades. Virtually all diplomatic solutions to political problems have been abandoned in favor of military ones. American troops are being readied for combat against an alleged "Soviet threat' in Central America. And a new strategic weapons race is unfolding which will increase the risk of nuclear war, render arms control even more difficult and make another generation of Americans captive to soaring military expenditures.

Despite those perils, the Democratic Party has failed to put forward a real alternative. Indeed, its two leading candidates for the nomination seem to have no Soviet policy at all. Both promise to end the nuclear arms race, but neither has specified any diplomatic solutions to the American-Soviet political conflicts that underlie the arms race. Both fail to understand, or to tell voters, the plain truth: a comprehensive policy of detente remains the only rational alternative to cold war.

What follows, therefore, is the kind of detente program that the next President--whoever he will be--should advocate. It is based on three principles:

The United States, while disliking many aspects of Soviet behavior, should recognize that the Soviet Union is a legitimate great power with equal rights and interests in world affairs. By stating this principle of political parity, the U.S. government would seek to renew a civil dialogue with the Soviet leadership and to eliminate the political reasoning behind quests for military superiority on either side.

While seeing the Soviet Union as a powerful and dangerous adversary, the U.S. government should no longer exaggerate the Soviet threat to American interests or to world peace. The American people must understand that Soviet ambitions abroad are constrained by many factors other than U.S. military power and that the Soviet Union is not responsible for every incident of unrest in the world.

The American people should have a realistic understanding of detente. It is neither appeasement nor a promise of harmonious superpower relations. Instead, it is a diplomatic process of political negotiations through which conflict between the rivals might be partially reduced by mutual accommodation and cooperation.

Having stated those principles, a pro-detente President must offer specific steps designed to begin negotiations on major American-Soviet conflicts of the last decade. Here, briefly, are a few such policies, some to be pursued publicly, others through quiet diplomacy:

1) The President announces a one-year moratorium on the testing and deployment of all American nuclear and antisatellite weapons on the condition that the Soviet leadership respond in kind. During that year, the two governments will reopen all arms control questions and try to improve their political relations. …

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