Executive and Congressional Use of Security Linkage During the Late 1970s

by Kiron Skinner

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This paper investigates when and how the U.S. Congress and the executive branch of government used security linkage during the late 1970s, the period in which U.S.-Soviet detente unraveled. This paper challenges the conventional wisdom that U.S. officials primarily invoked security linkage to affect Soviet international behavior. A close review of the historical record shows that U.S. security linkage was as much about the domestic politics of national defense as it was about Soviet malfeasance. Patterns of security linkage are also discerned. While members of Congress have tended to establish a tight or tactical link between issues, executive officials have generally connected issues in a contextual or diffuse manner. Domestic politics, too, account for the difference in executive and congressional use of security linkage. Finally, this paper argues that understanding when and how the United States used security linkage during the late 1970s is of policy significance in the contemporary context. The Clinton administration has been faced with pressures to use a variety of economic and security levers in interaction with the People's Republic of China, North Korea, and Russia. The lessons of U.S.-Soviet security linkage may help the current administration to avoid some of the pitfalls of linkage diplomacy.

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