Economic Leverage on the Soviet Union in the 1980s

by Abraham S. Becker


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This report presents a reevalution of the use of leverage on Soviet behavior by means of the instruments of East-West economic relations. A conceptual framework is presented in Secs. II and III, centering on the ideas of leverage and denial as policy tools and on the opportunities and constraints offered by Soviet economic dependence and vulnerabilities. Sections IV through VI analyze the actual use of the major export instruments — grain, credit, and gas pipeline technology — during the early 1980s. Section VII takes up the issue of consensus in the Western alliance as a condition of successful East-West trade policy. The author concludes that the only possibility for effective denial over the long term is to aim at selective impedance of the Soviet military effort. Only on this objective can an alliance consensus be reached. More ambitious hopes of using the West's vast economic power to alter Soviet behavior seems sadly incompatible with the realities of Western national and alliance politics.

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