[fa.arms-d] Arms-Discussion Digest V2 #62

arms-d@ucbvax.ARPA (10/03/84)

From: Moderator <ARMS-D@MIT-MC.ARPA>

Arms-Discussion Digest Volume 2 : Issue 62
Today's Topics:

		Kennan on USSR + US policies

Date:  1 Oct 1984 0637-PDT
Subject: Kennan on USSR + US policies
To:   arms-d@MIT-MC, poli-sci@RUTGERS

In the 24 Sept 84 issue of the New Yorker George Kennan has some
interesting commentary on Russian and American policy in the form
of two letters to anonymous (and probably fictional) high government
officials in each country.  Some quotes:

from the lettter to the Russian;

"... That such things could happen as did happen in thew Soviet Union
in those years from 1935 to 1953 - that they could happen, above all,
to a great political movement and a great advanced society in the
modern age - is puzzling enough, but that the political regime through
which, and to which, these things occurred should not be interested,
some 30 or 40 years later, in inquiring into their causes, and should
instead try to bury in oblivion what were, after all, the dominant
domestic-political realities of two momentous decades of Russian
history: this, to us, is not comprehensible at all.

It is, in fact, a bad sign.  When an individual is unable to face his
own past and feels compelled to build his view of himself on a total
denial of it and on the creation of myths to put in its place, this is
normally regarded as a sign of extreme neurosis. ... Can it be
otherwise, we wonder, with a political regime ? ...

let us ... consider certain aspects of the official Soviet personality
(not unconnected, incidentally, with Stalinist traditions) which have
remained generally constant for over half a century and have , in my
judgement, done as much as anything else to poison the relations of
the Soviet Union with the West.  They constitute, collectively,
something that is very hard to sum up in a single sentence ... It has
been sometimes described as the "siege mentality".  It is, in essence,
the state of mind that assumes all forms of authority not under Soviet
control to be, or to be likely to be, wicked, hostile, and menacing.
It conjures up the image of a Soviet regime endowed with unique
insight, wisdom, benevolence, and nobility of purpose, standing out
bravely through the decades against misguided and dangerous foreign
forces, frustrating their evil designs, protecting its own grateful
people from their wily encroachments.  A number of troublesome
phenomena flow from this neurotic view of self and surroundings, among
them the conspiratorial nature of the regime itself; the dark
suspision of everything and everyone foreign; the obsession with
secrecy, espionage, and internal security; the evident compulsion to
conceal and protect the centers of Soviet power with an elaborate
facade; the determination to force others either (and preferably) to
mistake this facade for the reality or at least to connive at the
fiction that it is real. ...

And this does endless damage to your foreign relations.  Consider just
your treatment of the foreign resident in Russia - the diplomat or
journalist.  There is the beady, mistrustful, clandestine observation;
the determination to isolate him from Soviet society ... If an example
of this is needed, take only the recent Soviet televison series so
obviously designed to make the American Embassy in Moscow the target
of general hatred and suspicion. ...

You cannot wall yourselves off in this way, like some Oriental
despotism, and then expect sympathy and admiration and confidence from
the world outside. ... Exaggerated suspicion invites exaggerated
suspicion.  Don't you realize that by this sort of overreaction the
Soviet government has been "graduating" for more than half a century a
new class of embittered foreign diplomats and journalists, and sending
them out into the world to spread their bitterness  ? ...

They [Soviet authorities] probably do not wish the Soviet Union to
appear threatening, but they are also not unhappy that it should
appear strong - perhaps, even, stronger than it really is.  If this is
the case, I am sure they are making a mistake, for we are all now in
the danger zone with our wild military competition, yet the impression
of a Soviet Union arming inordinately, needlessly, and with implacable
determination, in a manner explicable only by aggessive intentions,
rests in large part on just such uncertainties, and on just the
exaggerated speculations they encourage. ...

The concept of bilateral relations that sees the two sides as two
deadly spiders in a bottle, only one of which can expect to survive,
is now self-defeating even from the standpoint of national security. ..."

from the letter to the American:

"...I believe that it is generally recognized today that the nuclear
balance, whatever it may once have been, has long been subject and
continues now to be subject, to steady destabilization by precisely
this process of technological innovation, the pace of which is faster
than the pace of negotiation. ... Nor, incidentally, will the Russians
have forgotten that they once negotiated with us for some 6 or 7 years
over a second SALT agreement, only to see us, after signing it,
decline to ratify it and then add insult to injury be reproaching THEM
repeatedly with allegedly violating it.  None of this encourages them
to repeat the performance. ...

Despite the fact that there is no political issue in the relations
between the two countries which could conceivably justify a war
between them, the preparations, material and psychological, for such a
war have been allowed to become an ingrained dominating habit not just
for our armed aervices but for large parts of our civilan society as
well. ...  The fleets and planes of the two powers chase each other
about on the high seas and elsewhere, snoop on each other, and take
high risks in the process, with an intensity that could not be greater
if it were known that war was coming next week. ...  Preparations on a
vast scale for a specifically envisaged war, however defensively
conceived or masked, are a species of cogwheel that permits of advance
in only one direction. ...

We can no longer go on talking endlessly about a war with the Soviet
Union and then cllaim we are seriously attempting to avoid it.  We can
no longer try to reassure each other of our patriotic vigilance by
striking the high-pitched heroic-chauvinist note in our
domestic-political discourse and at the same time try to assure the
outside world, including our political opponents, that our aim is only
peace.  The truth is that the general attitude this country has
adopted in recent years in matters of East-West relations, of national
defense, and of arms control is not one that lends much credibility,
in eyes other than our own, to our claimed enthusiasm for renewed arms
talks.  Rather, it suggests an anxious pursuit of that most unreal and
unreachable of all mirages: some sort of nuclear superiority that
threatens the adversary and does not threaten us in like measure. ...

The question is whether business can usefully be done with them [the
Soviets] over the removal of the greatest of all dangers: the danger
not just of nuclear war but of any further great war at all in this
age of high technology and of tremendous - almost uncontrollable -
destructive power.  The fact that the Soviet leaders have no desire
for such a war, and would greatly like to see it avoided, is
unmistakably clear to anyone who knows anything about them. ...

The issue of war and peace is the crucial issue.  The others, real or
fancied - Angola, Afghanistan, Central America, human rights, what you
will - all pale beside it.  These others can wait.  The crucial issue
cannot.  Buit to get on with this crucial issue (and this is the
essence of what I am trying to say to you in this letter) we will have
to look more closely at ourselves - at our own motivation, our own
behavior, the formative processes of our own society - than we have
done to date.  A mere "retrun to the negotiating table" will not solve
the problem."


[End of ARMS-D Digest]