Managing the Strategic Triangle

Summary of a Workshop Discussion

by Norman D. Levin, Jonathan D. Pollack


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In May 1983, The RAND Corporation convened a two-day workshop to explore a broad range of conceptual and practical issues associated with U.S. policies toward the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the interactions of these policies within the U.S.-USSR-PRC "strategic triangle." This Note summarizes the main issues discussed at the workshop. It reveals not only considerable differences of views about the value of the "strategic triangle" concept to U.S. policy planners, but also great uncertainty about whether and how to relate America's China policy to U.S. dealings with the Soviet Union. There was general agreement that U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union and China must each be cast in basically bilateral terms and that an excessively manipulative approach to managing great-power relations can easily backfire; but at the same time, it was recognized that U.S. policies toward each nation influence in some measure the actions of the other, whether intended or not. The discussion demonstrates that there is still no clear consensus on how to conduct interactive relations with the Soviet Union and the PRC.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

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