East-West economic relations: conflict and concord in Western policy choices

by Abraham S. Becker

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The controversy over East-West economic relations was central in Atlantic alliance discussion in 1981-1982, but subsided in 1983, not because a consensus on basic issues was reached, but largely because attention is now focused on the INF deployments. Major differences between U.S. views and those of its allies--particularly West Germany--are explained in terms of distinctions between normalization and containment as grand strategies of Western relations with the USSR, the objectives of transformation of the Soviet system vs. that of managing the conflict, and pessimistic and optimistic views of the extent and structural imbeddedness of Soviet hostility to the West. These are related to alternative strategies and policies of East-West economic relations--principally, variants of the economic theory of detente and the Reagan Administration's effort to impede Soviet military buildup--in the context of the role of trade and other options for resolving the Soviet growth dilemma. The special problems posed by Eastern Europe are discussed separately. The West's conflicts over the fundamental questions of East-West economic relations remain unresolved. There are prospects for some improved cooperation over specific issues (such as strengthening COCOM) but the scope for agreement seems to be limited. The best that can be hoped for is a damage-limiting strategy of incremental progress.

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