The Soviet Union and Arms Control
At first sight, long-term assessments of Soviet arms-control policy in the Gorbachev era would seem to be a waste of time. Tempting proposals have been coming from Moscow at a tremendous rate and apparently hard positions have been changed with varying degrees of subtlety. Gorbachev has certainly injected a fresh urgency into this aspect of East- West relations and his style, so different from the glum stonewalling of his predecessors, has created unprecedented challenges for his negotiating partners in the West. This trend has been capped by the December 1987 INF treaty and, more recently, by General Secretary Gorbachev's December 1988 announcement that the Soviet Union would unilaterally reduce conventional forces in Europe. 1 Yet, irrespective of the new thinking Gorbachev has been trying to introduce, Soviet arms-control policy has long been consistent in its fundamental purpose of gaining time.
Arms-control policy has always formed an integral part of Soviet foreign policy, and thus it has been formulated in accordance with the requirements of international and domestic situations. The basic problem has for long been the Soviet Union's relative backwardness, manifested most obviously in the notorious technology gap dividing the USSR from its capitalist competitors. The reasons for this are rooted both in history and in systemic shortcomings, and ever since bearing two centuries of the Tartar yoke, Russians have been trying to catch up. After the 1917 revolution, it was clear that it would take time to build up the industrial