Potential threats to U.S. Soviet deterrence: the political dimension

by John Van Oudenaren

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This paper analyzes the stability of U.S.-Soviet deterrence against the background of a changing global environment. It argues that a potential cause of instability is the clash between U.S. and Soviet views on the role of the "unrealized" military potential (in the form of economic power) outside the hands of the two superpowers. Soviet interests are served by the development of a special relationship with the United States in which the latter in effect "polices" its allies to prevent them from challenging Soviet "equality." From the American perspective, however, it grows increasingly difficult to both defend third areas against the Soviet Union while at the same time policing these areas on behalf of the Soviet Union. Hence the American disillusionment with detente. The paper then suggests three possible ways in which the international order might develop so that the conflicting views of the United States and the Soviet Union on the meaning of "equality" do not threaten deterrence.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

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