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Gorbachev Generation, The: Issues in Soviet Foreign Policy

Gorbachev Generation, The: Issues in Soviet Foreign Policy
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“This is a collection of timely and thought-provoking articles by some of the leading American experts on Soviet foreign policy. This book will be “must reading” for students of the Gorbachev regime.”--Darrell Hammer, Professor of Political Science, Director of Russian and East, European Institute at Indiana University

In the period when a new leader in the Soviet Union seeks to consolidate his political power through both successful policy implementation and personnel changes, he typically (and sensibly) concentrates on pressing domestic problems rather than on foreign policy issues. In this context, while it is important to adopt measures that will ease international tensions and try to correct egregious errors of the previous leadership, the main focus is likely to remain on the domestic situation. However, domestic policy cannot and should not be separated from foreign policy.

This volume examines a number of important foreign policy issues and challenges that the Gorbachev leadership faces now. Thus far, that leadership has acted predictably in seeking to reduce tensions with a number of states (for its own direct advantage) and to limit its support of potentially revolutionary situations abroad. At the same time, the Soviets have emphasized their role as a major player in Asia and the Pacific, while not relinquishing that same role in Europe. The new leadership has not been passive in international relations but, during the past two years, with the exception of continued support for terrorist elements in the Middle East and participation in the protracted war in Afghanistan, it has limited its direct involvement. At the same time, Gorbachev has differentiated his foreign policy initiatives from those of his two immediate predecessors, who generally continued the Brezhnev policies, and permitted a holdover of foreign policy personnel.

Soviet-US relations have improved substantially since the early years of the Reagan administration. The first two Reagan-Gorbachev summit meetings did not produce substantive agreements on arms control or arms reductions. Negotiations accelerated during 1987, and an important breakthrough in nuclear arms reductions occurred late that year on December 8, in Washington when Reagan and Gorbachev signed a treaty eliminating intermediate range and
shorter-range missiles. As of this writing, the INF Treaty has been submitted to the US Senate for ratification. The importance of the Treaty is that it calls for the elimination of nuclear weapons rather than limiting their growth, as the SALT (Strategic Arms Limitations Talks) agreements did during the 1970s. A fourth summit meeting between Reagan and Gorbachev was held in May, 1988.

In order to maintain the security of the Soviet state and to continue to Project power abroad (if not to ensure communist-style revolutions, then at least to develop and maintain influence in regions and states important to Moscow), the leadership will need to decide whether it is able and willing to sustain the level of military spending that has characterized the past several decades. In light of critical domestic needs, but with constant military/security pressure to maintain parity (or rough equivalence) if not surpass the United States militarily, Gorbachev and his associates will need to respond carefully to this urgent issue, perhaps the single most
important challenge the leadership faces today.

JANE SHAPIRO ZACEK is a Project director at the Rockefeller Institute of Government at the State University of New York in Albany. She has co-edited several volumes on Soviet and Eastem European politics, including Politics and Participation under Communist Rule (1983), From the Cold War to Detente (1976), and Change and Adaptation in Soviet and Eastern European Politics (1976). Dr. Zacek received her doctorate from Columbia University.

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