U.S.-Soviet Relations: Testing Gorbachev's "New Thinking'
Address at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville on July 1, 1987. Ambassador Armacost is Under Secretary for Political Affairs.
It is a special pleasure to be at the University of Virginia during this year of the 200th anniversary of the Constitution. That document owes much to Virginia's enlightened political leaders-- a number of whom, including three of our earliest Presidents, were associated with this institution. The University of Virginia and the Miller Center, under its fine director and scholar of the presidency, Ken Thompson, continue the tradition of the Virginia Founding Fathers in seeking to blend scholarship with a commitment to public service.
I welcome this opportunity to address the subject of "The Dialogue of the Superpowers.' Over the past year, our discussions with the Soviets have intensified further. During Secretary Shultz's visit to Moscow last April, major progress was made in arms control, especially in the area of intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF). We hope an agreement will soon be possible--the first to actually reduce nuclear weapons. Yet our relations are not confined to just arms control, however important that subject may be. The U.S.-Soviet competition extends across a broad spectrum that includes:
Soviet behavior in regional conflicts;
Human rights; and
Bilateral matters such as cultural, scientific, and people-to-people exchanges.
The U.S.-Soviet dialogue must deal with all of these issues.
I would like to direct my remarks today to regional aspects of the U.S.-Soviet dialogue, with particular emphasis on developments in Southwest Asia and the Persian Gulf. These issues are of fundamental importance to the quality and stability of our relationship with Moscow, and they are the issues on which I have been most personally engaged.
Forty years ago this month, George F. Kennan published in the journal Foreign Affairs a remarkable article destined to change the way thoughtful Americans conceived of relations with the Soviet Union. Entitled "The Sources of Soviet Conduct,' Kennan's article analyzed in graceful and elegant prose the motivations behind Stalin's foreign policy. He ended by prescribing that the United States should enter "with reasonable confidence upon a firm containment designed to confront the Russians with unalterable counterforce at every point where they show signs of encroaching upon the interests of a peaceful and stable world.' Thus currency was given to the word "containment,' and, in one version or another, in Democratic Administrations as well a Republican, that term has come to define the basic U.S. strategy toward the Soviet Union.
The appearance of Kennan's article coincided with the Truman Administration's first steps to stem Soviet attempts to establish control over the Eurasian land mass. Viewed as a whole, U.S. efforts were directed toward containing a three-pronged Soviet strategic thrust centered in the west on Europe, in the east on China and Japan, and in the south on Iran an the Persian Gulf.
In Europe, containment found its initial expression in the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and NATO.
In the Far East, the U.S.-Japanese Security Treaty and U.S. resistance to North Korean aggression created a barrier to the further spread of Soviet influence.
In the Near East, the United States faced the Russians down when they refused to remove their troops from Iran.
Much has changed since Kennan's article was published. The Soviets have evolved from a Eurasian land power into a global superpower. They have developed ties with a host of Third World countries and established, in the late 1970s, outposts of special influence in such countries as Angola, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Nicaragua, and Afghanistan. The task of containing, neutralizing, or reversing the spread of Soviet power in the Third World has posed a major new challenge that this Administration has sought to address with realism and strength.
Despite the Soviets' new global reach, however, the three strategic theaters that emerged in Kennan's time have remained critical in the U.S.-Soviet competition.
In Europe, U.S. and NATO policies have succeeded in checking Soviet military expansionism. The Kremlin has not abandoned, however, efforts to extend Soviet influence over the greatest concentration of industrial and military power on the Eurasian Continent. The dramatic buildup in both Soviet nuclear weaponry and conventional arms continues to present a major threat to Western security. East European aspirations for self-determination also remain unsatisfied. And Moscow …