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Detente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan [Paperback]

Raymond L. Garthoff

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Book Description

1 Aug 1994
In this revised edition of his well-received 1985 volume, Raymond Gathoff incorporates newly declassified secret Russian as well as American materials into his account of American-Soviet relations from 1969-1980. The book considers both the broader context of world politics and internal political considerations and developments, and examines these developments as experienced by both sides. It also recounts how differences in ideology, perceptions, aims and interests were key determinants of both US and Soviet policies.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 1226 pages
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution,U.S.; New Ed edition (1 Aug 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815730411
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815730415
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 16.2 x 23.2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 401,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed AND comprehensive 24 May 2000
By "ekrav" - Published on
I almost feel a twinge of guilt in not giving this superior work a full five stars, as it a wonderful resource for those studying the rise and fall of detente.
Mr. Garthoff offers readers both breadth and depth in his study of superpower politics, bringing insights to the formulation of foreign policy as well as the policy makers themselves. The book goes in depth on every important event in US-USSR relations in the late 1960s through the end of the 1970s, with a particular strength in detailing the arms control negotiations of the period.
The only reservation I have is the particular emphasis on the details of the diplomacy of detente. This substantial work is perhaps not well suited to those who are interested in the broad strokes of Cold War history, but those who want to learn about the nuts and bolts of policy making will be pleased.
On the other hand, Mr. Garthoff handles his treatment of the details in a clear and straight-forward style, with explanations of technical matters written to be understood by both novice and expert historians. From ABMs to Zbignew Brzezinski, Detente and Confrontation explains it all.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb study of the Cold War 15 Oct 2004
By William Podmore - Published on
Garthoff refutes the theory that the US state just responded to aggressive Soviet moves. He writes, "The Soviets' reaction to the NATO LRTNF [Long-Range Theater Nuclear Forces] decision was thus formed in the context of their belief - self-serving though it may have been - that their own modernization and replacement programs based on the SS-20 missile (and Backfire medium bomber) were consistent with maintaining an existing rough balance between the Soviet Union and the United States, and between the Warsaw Pact and NATO. The United States-led NATO decision was not a response, as claimed, nor a comparable modernization program. It was a major new escalation of the arms race and an attempt, by circumventing SALT [Strategic Arms Limitation Talks], to tip the overall strategic balance as well as the European nuclear balance to the advantage of the United States and NATO." (page 969.)

He also points out that the USSR was not an aggressor on the world stage, contrary to the lies put about by Reagan et al. As he writes, "All the cases of direct coercive use of Soviet military power occurred in its directly adjacent national security zone - Hungary (1956), Czechoslovakia (1968), and Afghanistan (December 1979-February 1989). Each case was unquestionably perceived by the Soviet leaders as strategically defensive and protective against counterrevolutionary challenges, although objectively and analytically the actions were coercive. While the defensive nature of the Soviet action may not have been accepted, the significance of the subjective perceptions of a defensive purpose should not have been neglected in evaluating the question of a Soviet propensity to use force and in predicting whether, where, and when the Soviet Union might again have done so.

On the whole the United States used its own military forces coercively more frequently ..." (page 744.)

On the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, Garthoff wrote that to the Soviet leaders, "It was seen as the only solution to a specific situation on their borders that was threatening Soviet security." (page 1037.) "the Soviet decision was a reluctant recourse to defend vital interests." (Page 1074.)

Garthoff concludes, "There is no evidence that the Soviet leaders ever contemplated launching a military attack on the United States - or against NATO." (page 1153.) The US state, not the Soviet Union, raised the danger of nuclear war by its hodtility to any arms control agreements: as Gerthoff writes, "Regrettably, by the early 1980s, they [the Soviet leaders] came to see little prospect for arms control because of the shifting American stand. The United States had ratified none of the arms limitation treaties it had signed since 1974 and it had repudiated the SALT II Treaty signed in 1979." (page 1156.)

This extraordinary book gives a realistic picture of the US and Soviet records, and it gives the evidence needed to make intelligent judgements about world affairs.
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dryreading, but invaluable. 4 May 2001
By - Published on
This book is a bit dry, but it is an invaluable discussion of its subject, Soviet-American diplomacy in the seventies. Garthoff was a diplomat at the time, and his account is based on a wide reading of all availabe sources. Although neither side was as imaginative or informed or as sensitive as they should have been, Garthoff presents a compelling case that the United States was responsible for botching the opportunities for peace in this period. The case is even more compelling because Garthoff is so moderate and quiet in his argument. Much of the debate on detente has been confined to the Republican party, and to those Democrats who supported Republican policy. According to this limited debate, supporters of Ronald Reagan criticized the supporters of Nixon and Kissinger for their unduly idealistic view of a rapprochment with the Soviets. Naturally Nixon and Kissinger argued that their view was the height of realism. A slightly different version of this debate would be held in the Carter administration as national security adviser Zbigniew Brezezinski criticized Secretary of State Cyrus Vance while neoconservatives damned Carter as an appeaser.
With the possible exception of Vance these arguments were wrong from beginning to end. If Nixon and Kissinger ever believed that Russia could be a "normal power," they overreacted and panicked whenever the Soviet Union sought, like a normal power, to expand its influence. Out of spite towards Indira Gandhi and warped realpolitik, Kissinger and Nixon deluded themselves that India, with Soviet encouragement, was going to attack Pakistan while the latter was slaughtering Bangladeshis. In fact the opposite happened (and Pakistan lost). Garthoff shows how Kissinger and Nixon paid insufficient attention to the technicalities of the arms race, so the number of nuclear arms boomed in the aftermath of SALT I. Garthoff's account of the Yom Kippur war, in which Nixon was in a drunken haze and Kissinger brought the world to the brink of war because he panicked and incorrectly thought the Russians were going to intervene, is, as they say, worth the price of the book itself.
Similar problems occured in Angola, Yemen, Ethiopa and Afghanistan. Essentially knowing nothing about these countries, many Americans viewed them as part of a cunning Soviet plot to expand its influence. In fact Communist agression was exagerrated (as in Yemen), or the Communists were not the aggressive party (as in Ethiopia's war with Somalia). Americans saw the brutal Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as part of a cunning plot to seize the world's oil reserves, when in fact it was a strictly local response to the incompetence of the Afghani party. (Who in turn had come to power almost by accident. They had reacted to a crackdown by the military government and found themselves in power.) Garthoff's account of these countries is especially detailed and well-informed.
By the 1980 election conservatives had claimed that there was a window of vulnerability and that the Soviet Union could conceivably defeat the United States in a first strike. This was, as Garthoff shows, a fantasy. Most American missiles were not even in landed silos, and a far greater percentage of Russian missiles were. Even if the best possible Soviet scenario, they could not reasonably expect to destroy more than a fifth of the US arsenal. By contrast, the Americans in the worst scenario could threaten to destroy two-fifths of the Russian one. Garthoff's book ends in an atmosphere of fear and ignorance. One should read his sequel, The Great Transition, to read how the World got out of this mess.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Reference 18 Nov 2008
By Heather - Published on
This book is a must have and must own for any history student or history buff. It is detailed and provides a wealth of information for people who are new to the subject or who consider themselves to be "buffs" of the topic as well. I bought this book for a class and I am glad I had to because I have held on to it since it is such a wealth of information. I wish I had the hardcover book rather than the paperback since it is a thick book and i tended to use it a lot but either version is great. Again, I highly recommend this book. You really cannot go wrong with it.
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