Gorbachev and GRIT: did arms control succeed because of unilateral actions or in spite of them?

by Richard Bitzinger

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This paper analyzes the strategy of GRIT--Graduated and Reciprocated Initiatives in Tension Reduction--and discusses whether GRIT was successful for Mikhail Gorbachev in his attempts in the late 1980s at unilateral arms control. Called into question is whether this strategy of reciprocation and cooperation has any role to play in "real-world" arms control and international relations. The author finds that although Gorbachev made several sincere attempts to participate in GRIT with the United States, these efforts failed largely because (1) U.S. interests were strongly against participating; (2) Soviet motives were not trusted, even after repeated initiatives; and (3) Gorbachev's overparticipation in GRIT came to be seen as a sign of weakness. If arms control did eventually succeed, it was largely for other reasons (e.g., negotiated agreements, the collapse of communism, etc.), and the GRIT strategy would appear to have had little impact.

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