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Points of Mutual Advantage: Perestroika and American Foreign Policy Since the end of World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union have been engaged in constant struggle, a contest of superpower strength but also a contest of values and vision. No relationship has been more difficult or, ultimately, more promising. Difficult because traditional Soviet ideology has used the same words as we do--democracy, human rights, freedom, peace, and justice--while in practice denying the values behind them. Promising because in the nuclear age, the imperative of avoiding disaster has compelled us both to search for common interests.
We are in a time of rising promise. Relations with the Soviet Union have improved considerably since 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev launched what he called perestroika--a total restructuring of Soviet society, including Soviet foreign and defense policies. And this Administration has been building on what was achieved during the Reagan years so that improved American-Societ relations will last. As President Bush has declared, "we will work together to move beyond containment of the Soviet Union ..."
We now have a historic oppotunity with the Soviet Union. We have the chance to leave behind the postwar period with the ups and downs of the cold war. We can move beyond containment to make the change toward better superpower relations more secure and less reversible. Our task is to find enduring points of mutual advantage that serve the interests of both the United States and the Soviet Union.
There are two reasons why we think that the prospects for a lasting improvement in U.S.-Soviet relations are better than ever before. First, we in the West have demonstrated through our strength, unity, and fidelity to our values that democracy and free market economies work and work well together. Second, the alternative vision advocated by the Soviet Union has failed to produce either prosperity or an attractive society. Simply put--freedom works! Communism doesn't!
As a consequence of the failure of their system, the Soviets, led by Mikhail Gorbachev, have begun the process of reform and rebuilding called perestroika. And it is this process, combined with our own achievements, that offers promise for the future.
The President has said and I have said that we want perestroika--including the restructing of Societ-American relations--to succeed. We have reached this conclusion not because it is our business to reform Societ society or to kee a particular Soviet leader in power--we can really do neither--but because perestroika promises Soviet actions more advantageous to our interests. Our task is to search creatively for those points of mutual U.S.-Soviet advantage that may be possible--and many more may be possible because of perestroika. Ultimately, of course, even as we explore Soviet "new thinking," we must be prepared to protect our vital interests, come what may. We must maintain a defense budget commensurate with our security requirements, and we must be vigilant and push Moscow toward cooperative behavior across the full range of our relations.
Now, I want to explain this policy of ours in more detail--specifically what we see in perestroika, why we want it to succeed, and what we are doing to find those points of mutual advantage that will benefit both American interests and perestroika itself.
Perestroika and Soviet
I think it is important to begin by understanding the origins of perestroika. First and foremost, it is a Soviet response to a rapidly changing world in which they see themselves increasingly hard pressed to compete economically, technologically, politically, and militarily. The exponents of perestroika see their country as rich in natural resources and human talent but stifled by the legacy of stagnation--a system incapable of producing the economic progress and political legitimacy which Soviet citizens have the right to expect. And, as both President Gorbachev and Foreign Minister Shevardnadze have emphasized in their conversations with me, the cause of this problem goes beyond just a question of material assets. It is rooted in the very psychology of Soviet society, reinforced by equally stagnant political and legal systems.