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The Soviets' response to the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) must be understood within the context of their deteriorating economic situation and need to modernize their economy. This Note evaluates the defense burden to the Soviets of both an offsetting and an emulation response to the U.S. SDI effort. The analysis is conducted within the context of General Secretary Gorbachev's modernization program, which is designed to increase the productivity of economic resources. The analysis suggests that the Soviets can partially offset a U.S. SDI effort with a ruble expenditure that is a small percentage of current defense spending. Although the Soviets may regard such a response as unsatisfactory, it is important to consider the striking contrast compared with the burden of an emulation response. The author hypothesizes, therefore, that the Soviets will choose not to directly emulate the U.S. SDI activities, at least until they have modernized their technical-economic base.

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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