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Interesting article: 1983: Ronald Reagan and Yuri Andropov

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      1983: Ronald Reagan and Yuri Andropov
      By George J. Church. Reported by Erik Amfitheatrof/Moscow, Laurence I. Barret and Strobe Talbott/Washington, with other bureaus
      Jan. 1, 1984

      "They are the focus of evil in the modern world."
      — Ronald Reagan March 8, l983

      "They violate elementary norms of decency."
      — Yuri Andropov September 28, 1983

      In the beginning were the words. At the top, verbal missiles fired in magisterial wrath: Ronald Reagan denouncing the Soviet Union as an "evil empire" that has committed "a crime against humanity" when its fighters shot down a Korean jetliner; Yuri Andropov responding that the Reagan Administration had "finally dispelled" all "illusions" that it could be dealt with. At a baser level, crude vilification: American caricatures of Andropov as a "mutant from outer space"; Soviet comparisons of Reagan to Adolf Hitler.

      After the words, the walkouts. "Everything is finished!" Soviet Negotiator Yuli Kvitsinsky proclaimed, as he stomped out of a meeting with his U.S.counterpart, Paul Nitze. Four days later, the U.S.S.R. broke off the Geneva INF (Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces) talks on limiting missiles in Europe. The U.S. "would still like to launch a decapitating nuclear first strike," Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov, the Soviet armed forces Chief of Staff, charged at a remarkable news conference, as he rapped a long metal pointer against a wall chart showing U.S. and Soviet nuclear arsenals.

      By year's end the Kremlin let two other negotiations drift into limbo. It refused to set a date for resuming either the Geneva START talks on reducing the numbers of long-range nuclear weapons or the decade-long Vienna bargaining on cutting conventional forces in Europe. The suspensions left the superpowers for the first time in fourteen years with no arms-control talks of any kind in progress and with even regular diplomatic contacts frosty.

      Now, in the silence, come the missiles, no longer metaphorical but physical and nuclear. U.S. Pershing IIs, looking incongruously toylike with their bright red and yellow stripes, being deployed in West Germany. In Britain and Italy, Tomahawk cruise missiles, sleek, innocent-looking and small enough to fit into a pickup truck, all targeted on the Soviet Union. On the other side, Soviet mobile rockets going into Czechoslovakia and East Germany, aimed at U.S. allies in Europe. Tomorrow, perhaps, Soviet depressed-trajectory ballistic missiles on submarines off America's Atlantic shores, capable of hitting Washington as rapidly as the Pershing IIs could strike, say, Minsk: twelve to fifteen minutes after firing.

      Following the missiles, fear and alarm. "The second cold ware has begun," shrilled the Italian weekly Panorama. French President Francois Mitterrand warned that the situation was comparable in gravity with the Cuban missile crises of 1962 or the Berlin blockade of 1948-49. American Sovietologist Seweryn Bialer, who has just returned from Moscow, where he had extensive interviews with Soviet officials, observes that "a test is coming between the superpowers. The Soviets are frustrated, angry. They have to reassert their manhood, to regain the influence in the international arena that today only America enjoys."

      And always, growing in intensity throughout the year, came the horrifying pictures of the apocalypse that war in the nuclear age would mean. Astronomer Carl Sagan and Biologist Paul Ehrlich warned a sober scientific conclave in Washington that the detonation of less than half the megatons in U.S. and Soviet arsenals could send up a cloud of smoke and dust that would block out the sun's light, producing a "nuclear winter" of death from freezing and starvation. Some 100 million Americans watched The Day After, a frightful TV visualization of nuclear blast, fire and radiation. (Marshal Ogarkov confirmed that the show had been screened privately for some Soviet officials. His view of it: "The danger which is shown in the film really exists.") In Western Europe, demonstrations against the missiles made up in hysteria for anything they might have lacked in numbers. Hundreds of thousands of peace marchers paraded in West Germany, some wearing mourning clothes or displaying faces! painted white to resemble death masks. Hundreds of women chained themselves to the fence at Greenham Common airbase in Britain to protest the unloading of U.S. cruise missiles in tarpaulin-draped cartons from giant droop-winged transport planes.

      What could happen, of course, is by no means what necessarily, or even probably, will happen. The U.S. and the Soviet Union have not reached The Day Before the missiles fly. Indeed, Washington and Moscow share in a keen apprehension not only of the terrible power of their nuclear weapons but also the danger that any shooting at all between their forces could conceivably bring those weapons into use. For all their angry rhetoric, the two superpowers have been extraordinarily careful to avoid any direct military confrontation.

      Still, there is grave danger: if not of war tomorrow, then of a long period of angry immobility in superpower relations; of an escalating arms race bringing into U.S. and Soviet arsenals weapons ever more expensive and difficult to control; of rising tension that might make every world trouble spot a potential flash point for the clash both sides fear. The deterioration of U.S.-Soviet relations to that frozen impasse overshadowed all other events of 1983. In shaping plans for the future, every statesman in the world and very nearly every private citizen has to calculate what may come of the face-off between the countries whose leaders--one operating in full public view, the other as a mysterious presence hidden by illness--share the power to decide whether there will be any future at all. Those leaders, Presidents Ronald Wilson Reagan of the United States and Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, are TIME's Men of the Year.

      Certainly there were other momentous developments, and other protagonists and antagonists, on the world stage in 1983. In the U.S., it was a year of movement--dynamic, puzzling or both--in the economy and politics. Production and income rose and unemployment fell, all more rapidly than almost any economists or business leaders had dared to hope at the end of the frightening 1981-82 recession. The inflation rate dropped lower than it had been since 1972. Federal Judge Harold Greene supervised the final breakup of the world's largest corporation, AT&T.

      Eight Democrats hit the hustings for their party's 1984 presidential nomination. Vice President Walter Mondale had built an imposing lead over Space Hero John Glenn in the race to take on Reagan, who set Jan. 29 as the date for an announcement that will stun the world only if it is not an official declaration of his candidacy for re-election.

      Overseas, a familiar and often scowling face was removed from the ranks of world leaders. Menachem Begin, worn by illness and disheartened by the death of his wife, resigned a Prime Minister of Israel and was succeeded by his Foreign Minister, Yitzhak Shamir. Other leaders consolidated their power. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl led their conservative parties to huge electoral victories, Thatcher's Tories triumphing by the biggest British landslide since 1945. Pope John Paul II made moving pilgrimages to war-torn Central America and to Poland, where crowds of a million turned out daily to receive the native-born Pontiff's blessings.

      Revolutionary terrorism and religious fanaticism shed more blood in the Third World, and this time some of the blood was American. U.S. troops went into combat for the first time since 1975, invading the tiny Caribbean Island of Grenada and overturning a clique of hard-line Marxists who had murdered Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, a milder Marxist. Suicide truck bombers, presumably Islamic Shi'ite zealots who share Iranian Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini's belief that the U.S. is the "the Great Satan," blew up the American embassies in Lebanon and Kuwait, as well as the headquarters of the U.S. Marine peace keeping force at the Beirut airport, a shocking attack that killed 241 U.S. servicemen.

      But the U.S.-Soviet rivalry colored, when it did not dominate, nearly all these seemingly disconnected events. Thatcher and Kohl defeated opponents who had made the acceptance of American missile emplacements a major issue. In the U.S., Democrats are decrying what they view as Reagan's excessively hard-line policy toward the Soviets. Even the Pope's travels were overshadowed by new, although inclusive, evidence that Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish terrorist who shot the Pope in 1981, had been aided by the Bulgarian secret service, presumably backed by the Soviet KGB--which was at the time headed by Andropov.

      Violence in the Caribbean Basin and the Middle East brought the superpower confrontation into still sharper focus. The invasion of Grenada, Reagan claimed, prevented Marxists from turning that island into a Soviet-Cuban colony. Elsewhere in the region, however, no such quick or decisive victory for Administration policy seemed in sight. U.S. aid to the conservative government of El Salvador in its fight against a leftist insurrection, and to the contra rebels battling the Marxist-led government of Nicaragua, did little more than sustain grim guerrilla wars. Just a the U.S. did after the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the imposition of martial law in Poland in 1981, the Soviet Union volubly denounce the U.S. moves but did not so much as hint at military action in retaliation. This underlined a rule of U.S.-Soviet competition that neither side will ever acknowledge publicly: each has a sphere of interest that the other respects.

      In the deadly quagmire of the Middle East, the spheres did collide. The bombing of the U.S. Marines apparently was carried out by terrorists striking from portions of Lebanon occupied by Soviet-armed Syria. Unable to bring about a Syrian withdrawal by diplomatic pressure, the U.S. at year's end was trying to forge a closer alliance with Israel. In December, a U.S. naval armada off Lebanon sent carrier-based planes to strike Syrian antiaircraft batteries that had fired on an American reconnaissance flight; two planes were shot down, the first fighter-bombers lost to enemy fire since the U.S. stopped raids in Viet Nam. That raised the chilling prospect of U.S. air strikes' killing some of the almost 6,000 Soviet technicians who are manning Syrian ground-to-air missile sites. But both superpowers are sharply aware of the peril and are conducting quiet ambassadorial exchanges on how to avoid such consequences.

      Thus almost anywhere one might try to unravel the tangled evens of 1983, the skein leads quickly to two figures: Reagan and Andropov. Fittingly so. As Chiefs of State of the prime nuclear powers, they symbolize some of the stark differences in U.S. and Soviet values and political systems that make the Washington-Moscow competition so intractable.

      To stay that they are a study in contrasts is to put it most mildly. The two leaders are of comparable age. Reagan will turn 73 in February; Andropov will be 70 in June. Apart from having their fingers in the nuclear button, they share one other similarity: Reagan has never been inside the Communist world and Andropov has never been outside it. Otherwise, they differ in almost every way.

      Reagan is the Great Communicator, a genial performer before audiences of one sort or another since college days, master of the one-line quip, a man who entered politics in early middle age after winning fame in that all-American institution Hollywood. He rose to the presidency largely because he was able to articulate a personal ideological view on television more forcefully than anyone else. Andropov is the consummate Communist Party operative, a nearly faceless toiler in the political establishment of the U.S.S.R. all his adult life, head for 15 years of that quintessentially Soviet organization the KGB, a man who attained power by sophisticated backstage maneuvering in the ingrown, secretive Politburo.

      In office, Reagan has become as vivid a figure to millions around the world as he has long been to U.S. citizens, dominating TV screens not only domestically but at time internationally. Andropov has become very nearly a ghost. He has been ill for much of his single year as Party Secretary and has been absent from public view since Aug. 18. He is suffering from a kidney ailment and is rumored variously to have diabetes and pneumonia. Though diplomats believe that Andropov has visited his office several times recently and is working daily at home or in a hospital bed, he has for months presented himself to the world only as a signature affixed to statements issued in his name.

      There is a compelling reason for him to reappear at key meetings of the Party Central Committee and the Supreme Soviet this week: his continued absence would signal physical weakness that could have substantial political consequences, including Politburo discussions as to whether he is strong enough to stay on the job. On the other hand, if the truth is that Andropov is simply continuing to recover from a debilitating illness, his failure to appear would have far less meaning. Few things underline the difference between the U.S. and Soviet political systems so strikingly as the contrast between the regular, detailed medical bulletins the White House issued after Reagan was hit by a would-be assassin's bullet in March 1981 and the current statements by Kremlin officials to an unbelieving world that Andropov's ailment is nothing more than "a severe cold."

      Personal contact between the two Presidents has so far been limited to messages that TIME has learned they exchanged in 1983 (how many, no one will say). They are unlikely to lay eyes on each other soon, or perhaps ever. Even if Andropov's health would permit a summit meeting in the coming months, the political climate probably will not.

      For Americans, Andropov is still a puzzle, and not only because of the mystery surrounding his health. When he speaks on Soviet-American relations, it is as the voice of an entrenched Kremlin bureaucracy. His personal opinions of the U.S., and indeed whether he has any that are distinguishable from the general view in Moscow, can only be conjectured. The Soviets emphatically do not have that problem with Reagan. The President's beliefs about the U.S.S.R., its leaders and their philosophy are in no doubt.

      Reagan began forming those views shortly after World War II. When he left military service and resumed his civilian acting career, he was a liberal Democrat on domestic issues; he had never thought much about world affairs. The decisive experience for him was the Hollywood labor wars of the late 1940s. As a board member of the Screen Actors Build, Reagan tried without success to help mediate a bitter jurisdictional dispute between SAG and the Conference of Studio Unions. He became convinced that the dispute had been tormented by Communists who were trying to take over the U.S. movie industry on Moscow's direct orders. After he had led non-striking actors across picket lines,, Reagan received a threatening phone call. Thinking his life was in danger from Communists, he took to carrying a gun to ward off attackers. More than 30 years later he still talks about that period with a passion that he believes Moscow reciprocates. Asked on the eve of his election how he thought he! was viewed by the Soviet leaders, Reagan responded, "You see, they remember back, I guess, [to] those union days when we had a domestic Communist problem. I was very definitely on the wrong side for them."

      As the cold war began and Reagan became a spokesman for General Electric after his movie career fizzled, he also underwent a conversion to conservatism; his views became definitely anti-Soviet as well as anti-Communist. He came to see the Kremlin's leaders as thugs and bullies who tried ceaselessly to stir up trouble around the world. During the 1980 campaign, he said there would be no "hot spots" if it were not for the Soviets; they would back down if, and only if, they were confronted with force.

      Since becoming President, Reagan has kept up the Rhetoric, modulating it only slightly. As wielder of a nuclear arsenal and head of an alliance whose members often worry about how the U.S. might use its awesome power, he has spoken frequently of the necessity of trying to negotiate agreements with the Soviets. But his private distrust and animosity keep breaking through into his public utterances. In his first news conference as President, he said of the Kremlin leaders that, following stated Marxist doctrine, "the only morality they recognize is that will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat." In a sermon-like address to evangelical Christians in Orlando, Fla., early in l983, he called the Soviets "the focus of evil in the modern world" and the prime example of "sin and evil" that "we are enjoined by Scripture and the Lord Jesus to oppose...with all our might."

      At times, too, Reagan has talked of the Soviet Union as a Phenomenon tat a resolute West could cause to disappear. In a 1982 speech to the British Parliament, he borrowed a phrase that the Bolsheviks had used against their opponents and predicted that Soviet Marxism would wind up on "the ash heap of history." Speaking at a Notre Dame commencement in 1981, and again to evangelicals last March, he called Marxism-Leninism a "bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written."

      Moreover, Reagan's closest aides say he consistently speaks exactly this way in private. At one National Security Council meeting in September 1982, Reagan advised Negotiator Nitze on a way to present an American position in the Geneva INF talks that both men knew the U.S.S.R. would find unacceptable. Said he: "Well, Paul, you just tell the Soviets that you're working for one tough son of a bitch."

      The Soviets initially did not believe that Reagan meant what he said. In 1980 they actually seemed to welcome his election. They had by then become fervent members of the Anybody-but-Jimmy-Carter Club, voicing criticism that might have been taken from Reagan's campaign speeches: Carter was so vacillating and unpredictable that no one ever knew what he might do. Moscow at that point viewed Reagan as a standard Republican conservative whose more strident anti-Soviet proclamations were just campaign oratory. The Soviets recalled that Richard Nixon had won political prominence by talking stern anti-Communism, but in the White House turned into the prime American architect of U.S. Soviet detente.

      Shortly after Reagan took office, though, the Soviets concluded that they had been wrong about him. Americans often remark that Reagan's bark has been worse than his bite. After all, he lifted the embargo that Carter had clamped on U.S. grain sales to the Soviet Union following the invasion of Afghanistan and proposed only mild and ineffectual economic sanctions in response to the imposition of martial law in Poland. But the Soviets have come to take Reagan at his word. Says a Kremlin specialist on American affairs: "With Carter, it was always interesting to read a speech and say, `Aha, [former Secretary of State] Cyrus Vance wrote this one' or `Here's a paragraph from [Carter's National Security Adviser] Zbigniew Brezezinski.' But we have done what you might call content analysis of Reagan's statements over the past couple of years, and we feel quite sure that the man speaking was Reagan." To Soviet ears, the President seems not only to be denying the U.S.S.R.'s coveted ! claim to equal status with the U.S. as a superpower, but even challenging its right to exist as a legitimate state.

      In particular, Reagan's $1.6 trillion military buildup has shocked the Soviets. To Americans that reaction might seem sheer hypocrisy. Nothing did more to destroy detente than the Kremlin's insistence throughout the 1970s on piling up weapons far in excess of any legitimate Soviet defensive needs. During the decade the U.S.S.R. put in place thousands of nuclear missiles and expanded its oceangoing war fleet while increasing its already massive superiority over the NATO countries in tanks and artillery. Any U.S. President elected in 1980 would have had to continue and enlarge the counter buildup that Carter had already begun.

      The cloistered nature of the top Kremlin leadership singularly handicaps its members in judging how their actions look to non- Soviet eyes. To them, Reagan's plans appear to envisage a restoration of the nuclear superiority the U.S. enjoyed during the 1950s and '60s. His arms control proposals seem to be designed only to placate European public opinion while codifying that supremacy. George Arbatov, one of Moscow's chief experts on U.S. affairs, charges that "the Reagan Administration returned to Geneva not to find an agreement but to relive the pressure [from the peace movement] and, frankly, to fool the people." As to Reagan's rhetoric, Anatoli Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador to the U.S., says: "Words are deeds."

      Andropov has put much less of a personal stamp on foreign policy, and on the minds of his adversaries, and on the minds of his adversaries, than Reagan. Not only was he a somewhat unknown figure to those outside the Kremlin even before illness removed him from public view, but some of what the West thought it knew about him was wrong. The picture of Andropov as a Westernized intellectual, fond of American music and books, that circulated widely in the months before he assumed power following the death of Leonid Brezhnev in November 1982 was mostly the product of wishful thinking, possibly aided by deliberate Kremlin disinformation. He does, however, have a reputation as the best informed and most sophisticated Soviet leader since Lenin. Western diplomats who visited him in Moscow early in his tenure were impressed by his command of facts and sardonic humor. But French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson, who met Andropov last February, found him "extraordinarily devoid of th! e passion and human warmth" that Russians often display.

      Andropov amassed the trappings of power more rapidly than any previous Soviet leader; he assumed the twin posts of General Secretary of the Communist Party and President of the U.S.S.R. within seven months. By that time, he had also become chairman of the powerful Defense Council. It took Brezhnev 13 years to accumulate those three titles. Once again, though, appearances may have been deceiving. It is still not clear how much real authority Andropov exercised before he fell ill, nor how much he will regain if he recovers full health. The task of determining that is complicated by the nature of Moscow's decision-making system.

      At the top, in theory at least, sits the Politburo, which meets every Friday morning in the Kremlin. It is one of the most elderly ruling bodies in the world; the average age of its eleven full members is 67. Most started moving into influential positions during the 1940s and, like Reagan, formed their views then. They have traveled in the West only fleetingly if at all. Some Soviets acknowledge the problem that their leaders' age and narrowness of experience creates. Confides one young journalist: "The old leaders at the top who cling to their old ideas and to their power, that is our tragedy."

      On the matters that most affect the outside world, Andropov is widely believed to make decisions only after consulting the two other members of what is in effect a troika. They are Andrei Gromyko, 74 who has been Foreign Minister since 1957, and Dmitri Ustinov, 75, the Defense Minister who appears to have backed Andropov in his bid for power after Brezhnev's death. Ustinov's rising prominence suggests that the Soviet Union under Andropov is becoming still more militarized. Brezhnev took his country far in that direction, but Andropov appears to been even closer to the Soviet military than his predecessor.

      The military's clout reflects in part the ancient obsession with security of oft-invaded Russia and in part cold judgment b the Politburo that armed might commands both the fear and respect that give the modern Soviet Union its best chance of extending its ideological and political influence. The practical effect is that the marshals and admirals get whatever weapons they want, never mind the cost.

      Andropov's contributions to the breakdown of Soviet-American relations, is one sense, go back further than Reagan's. He became a full member of the Politburo in 1973, when Reagan was still Governor of California with no influence on U.S. foreign policy. Thus Andropov was part of the Kremlin leadership that did much to scuttle detente not long after it was launched.

      Detente was an attempt to spin a web of agreements on arms control, trade and scientific and cultural exchanges that would give both sides a tangible stake in maintaining correct, if not exactly friendly, relations. Nixon and Brezhnev formalized the concept in 1972 by signing an agreement pledging each side not to seek a "unilateral advantage at the expense of the other." The Soviets have long accused the U.S. of violating the spirit of detente by encouraging Egypt to switch from Kremlin to client to U.S. ally--for which there is no evidence--and by enacting the Jackson-Vanik amendment of 1974, which made a U.S.-Soviet trade agreement contingent on freer emigration of Jews from the U.S.S.R. Moscow disregarded that as unwarranted interference in its internal affairs.

      Soviet violations of detente, however, were so much more blatant as to appear systematic. In the analysis of Adam Ulam, head of Harvard's Russian Research Center, the Kremlin leaders always took it for granted that the two sides would continue their competition for power and influence in the Third World, and after the Watergate scandal broke they saw little reason to be cautious about doing so. They judged the political authority of Nixon and his successors to be too gravely weakened for them to shape any vigorous response to Soviet probes. Among other things, the Kremlin sent guns and Cuban troops to help Marxist movements seize power in Angola, Ethiopia and South Yemen.

      Most destructive of all, Moscow continued its relentless piling of arms. In 1977 the Kremlin started replacing mobile, accurate, triple warhead SS-20 nuclear missiles in the Far East and in the western U.S.S.R.; those in Europe vastly increased the destructive power aimed at U.S. NATO allies. The SS-20s were supposedly intended to counter the threat posed to Moscow by British and French nuclear weapons, but by the end of 1978 they already exceeded the British and French forces in the number of warheads.

      In retrospect, it seems incredible that the Politburo thought it could pursue such a course while still proclaiming, as Brezhnev often put it, that "detente is irreversible." Yet for a long time, it seemed that the Soviets really could make major gains at the West's expense, as U.S. and West European leaders struggled to preserve what remained of detente. As late as 1979 Jimmy Carter was publicly embracing Brezhnev in Vienna to celebrate the signing of the SALT II treaty, which set limits on the number of nuclear launchers that the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. could build. Then came the invasion of Afghanistan. In the Soviet's eyes, they only prevented the overthrow of a Communist regime on their borders. To the West and especially the U.S., the invasion was a supremely menacing use of Soviet troops, for the first time since World War II, to expand the Soviet empire by force.

      Suddenly, it was all too much. Though the Soviets had nothing to do with it, the nearly simultaneous seizure of hostages by Iranian revolutionaries added to an impression among tens of millions of American voters that the U.S. was letting itself be humiliated around the world, and that it was time to fight back. By the end of his presidency, Carter had reluctantly given up trying to persuade the Senate to ratify the SALT II treaty, reversed his earlier policy of holding down military spending, embargoed grain sales to the U.S.S.R., and called for a boycott of the Moscow Olympics. The voters saw it all as too little and too late. Other factors of course, influenced the election of 1980, notably rampant inflation and unemployment. Still the popular appeal that carried Reagan to decisive victory was enhanced not a little by the fact that he had proclaimed an uncompromisingly hard-nosed anti-Soviet line long and loud.

      For all his tough talk, Reagan initially gave low priority to foreign affairs. He preferred to concentrate on his economic program. Equally important, he felt he needed to get a military buildup in high gear so that he could later negotiate with the Soviets from a position of strength. Nonetheless, the President was soon faced with an urgent issue. In 1979, the NATO countries had approved what came to be known as the two-track decision. The U.S. would install Pershing II missiles in West Germany and cruise missiles in five European countries, beginning at the end of 1983, to counter the menace of the Soviet SS-20s. Simultaneously, Washington would try through negotiation to limit or even eliminate the deployment of all such intermediate range nuclear missiles in Europe. At the same time, fears of nuclear war, fanned in part by incautious remarks from members of his Administration and Reagan himself, dictate a new attempt to negotiate reductions also in "strategic" weapons! , the intercontinental missiles that the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. aim at each other.

      Reagan, according to his closest aides, believes fervently in reducing nuclear arms. Nonetheless he has held to his belief that the U.S. must first remove what he felt had become a frightening Soviet superiority in some categories of Atomic weaponry. As a goal for the INF talks that began in Geneva in late 1981, the embraced the "zero option": the dismantling of all Soviet SS-20s in Europe and Asia in return for no deployment of the new U.S. medium range missiles. In the Separate Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) that got going in June 982, Reagan proposed a one-third cut in nuclear warheads. The trims, however, were structured in such a manner that the Soviets would have had to destroy a disproportionate share of their heavy land-based missiles that the U.S. most fears.

      The Soviets, as expected, said not to the two proposals, but they sent signals to the Reagan Administration that they wanted a peredyskka (breathing space). They had good reason: on many fronts, Soviet policy was and remains troubled. Though Moscow's military may command fear and respect, the appeal of Soviet ideology and life-style is at an all time low, even among the Kremlin's allies. The open though unarmed rebellion in Poland during 1980-81 followed by the imposition of martial law, demonstrated that the U.S.S.R. can hold its East European allies in line only by force.

      At home, the growth rate of the inefficient Soviet economy has slowed to roughly less than half its 1960s pace. Some experts believe the economy might stop growing altogether or even decline later in the 1980s. Most important, by 1982, with Brezhnev terminally ill, the Kremlin was burdened by internal maneuvering for the succession.

      When Andropov succeeded Brezhnev, the deadline for the installation of U.S. missiles in Western Europe was approaching rapidly. The Kremlin had already begun a diplomatic and propaganda campaign to stop the deployment by trying to turn European public opinion against it. Andropov raised that effort to a fever pitch. Says one Soviet observer: "I have never seen such sustained propaganda over one issue."

      The campaign was an adroit, though ultimately unsuccessful mixture of blandishments and threats. Andropov enticed Hans-Jochen Vogel, head of West Germany's opposition Social Democratic Party, who visited Moscow in January, with visions of the benefits that Bonn would enjoy if only it rejected the U.S. missiles: lucrative trade, reunification of families separated by the division of Germany, regional disarmament. At the same time, the Kremlin played deftly on Western Europe's fear of nuclear war. It warned incessantly that deployment would end the INF talks, and possibly the START negotiations as well. Worse, the Soviets said that in self-defense they would take measures that would increase the risk of nuclear catastrophe.

      To the U.S., however, Moscow was simultaneously dropping hints that Andropov, like Reagan, really wanted to focus his energies on domestic economic problems. Reagan in January sent Andropov what aides describe as a "very personal message" stressing that the U.S. did not seek confrontation. By midsummer, the two sides seemed to be groping cautiously toward an easing of tensions. Washington and Moscow signed a long-term grain deal and were negotiating an agreement on the opening of new consulates. Some of Reagan's aides were even entertaining thoughts of a summit meeting with Andropov in 1984. Says a senior Reagan lieutenant: "We had undertaken to pave the way for a summit when the KAL thing shot it right in the posterior.

      The shooting down of Korean Air lines Flight 007 provoked a rage against the U.S.S.R. that surpassed even the anger stirred by events in Afghanistan and Poland. In a TV address, Reagan in effect all but indicted the Soviets as cold-blooded killers unfit for membership in the community of civilized nations. Yet, according to an investigation by the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Soviets may not have known on the fateful morning that the plane they were destroying was a civilian jetliner. Though the Soviets tracked KAL 007 for 2 1/2 hours, the fighter planes did not fire on it until it was about to leave their air-space. It is quite plausible that the Soviet military, acting without consulting Andropov, decided to shoot down an "intruder" before it got away, without making sure what it was. If so, Reagan would have had a fully provable, and only slightly less damning, case had he charged the Soviets with the equivalent of criminally negligent manslaughter ra! ther than premeditated murder.

      The Soviets immediately made matters worse for themselves by refusing to apologize. They indicated they would commit the same act in similar circumstances, and accused Reagan of causing the deaths of KAL 007's passengers by sending the plane on a spy mission. Says Michael Howard, Regius professor of modern history at Oxford University: "The incident was a nasty indicator of the inability of the U.S. and the Soviet Union to talk to each other intelligently about what was on the balance of probabilities a horrible mistake."

      By then, too, the Politburo had other reasons to be on the defensive. The West German and British elections, and the inability of the European peace movement to mount demonstrations quite so large or angry as anticipated, meant that Moscow's strident campaign to stop deployment of the Pershing II and cruise missiles in Europe had failed.

      The Kremlin summed up its accumulated frustration and resentment in a carefully crafted statement issued on Sept. 28 in Andropov's name. It accused Reagan of mouthing "obscenities alternating with hypocritical preaching" and, in so many words, said that it could no longer do business with him. America-Watcher Arbatov hammered the same point home in an interview with TIME. Said he: "We have come to the conclusion that nothing will come from dealing with Reagan."

      Two months after the Andropov statement, the U.S. missiles started going into Britain, Italy and West Germany. The Soviets reacted by announcing that they would begin to take their oft-threatened countermeasures, installing new ballistic missiles in Czechoslovakia and East Germany and intermediate-range warheads on submarines plying the waters just off U.S. shores.

      Meanwhile, vilification reached new heights, or depths. After the shootdown of KAL 007, American indignation boiled furiously; one video-game operation reprogrammed his devices to show as the target "Andropov, Communist mutant from outer space." Soviets have more than reciprocated, and on a quasi-official level. The controlled Soviet press abounds in descriptions as Reagan as a crypto-Nazi Soviet cartoonists, who have long depicted the President as a gunslinging cowboy, now add swastikas or ghostly faces of Hitler to their drawings.

      Unsettling though all this is, it does not necessarily increase the danger of war. New missiles in Eastern Europe and on submarines will not significantly increase Soviet firepower aimed at Western Europe or the U.S. Nor are the American missiles in Europe the first-strike weapons that Kremlin propaganda incessantly proclaims them to be.

      Despite the comparisons between the current impasse and the crises over Berlin and Cuba, there is an all-important difference. In 1948, Soviet soldiers stood ready to shoot if the U.S. tried to supply West Berlin by land rather than air; in 1962, U.S. ships were poised to stop and search Soviet vessels carrying arms to Cuba. Nowhere in the world today, however, are American and Soviet forces pointing guns at each other. That could happen in the Middle East, but even there the most recent violence has provoked nothing comparable to the worldwide alert ordered by Richard Nixon during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, in the heyday of detente. The lesson being drawn by many diplomats and academic experts is that the very power of modern weapons is deterring not just nuclear but conventional war.

      Even the talk of a new cold war seems overstated. When a Soviet diplomat voiced his fears to an acquaintance at the State Department over a meal in Washington, the American cooly replied: "You're probably too young to remember what the cold war was really like. If this were another cold war, you and I would not be sitting here having lunch." During the real cold war, Stalin sealed off the U.S.S.R. and its citizens from virtually any contact with foreigners. Today, despite the frost in formal relations, U.S. and Soviet journalists, athletes, scientists, performing artists and even diplomats continue to meet and chat unofficially. Just last week the Soviets agreed to cooperate with American, European and Japanese scientists in tracking Halley's comet over the next three years.

      The Reagan Administration, indeed, is remarkably cocky about U.S.-Soviet relations. In its view, the U.S. military buildup--and Reagan's policy of firmness generally--has the Soviets on the run. Says one official: "For a couple of decades the Soviets were sure that the economic and political balance, part of what they like to call `the correlation of forces,' was shifting their way. But the past few years the balance has been going the other way,and they have begun to realize that. They have lost ground in the Middle East compared with a few years ago. Their politics aren't selling in the Third World any more. Afghanistan is a problem for them. Their economy still suffers from terrible rigidity, and their foreign policy is in confusion." A colleague draws this conclusion: "We don't think we can or should fall all over ourselves to be nice to them"

      The President's aides are convinced that the Soviets will return to the arms control bargaining tables, and that the U.S. will be able to talk them into a deal. Says National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane: "If we can engender a kind of dialogue with the Soviets in which we make clear that this renewed sense of purpose, strength and resolve is not oriented against their system, and that we are not seeking to alter it, then this dialogue can lead to a stable modus vivendi. We seek that." Privately, some Administration officials predict that the Soviets will resume the Geneva INF talks by March. Their reasoning: now that the U.S. missile deployment has started, it is in the Soviet's military self-interest to keep the deployment as small as possible, and to do that they will have to agree to begin talking again. In addition, sooner or later, and probably sooner, Moscow will conclude that it can get a better bargain from a President who is running for re-election than from! one who has been returned to office for another four years.

      That, at least, is the theory, but it is also true that some of Reagan's advisers made the mistake of thinking that the Soviets would not walk out of the INF talks in the first place. Some officials take seriously the possibility that the Soviets will not return to the bargaining table at all. Even if they do, the continuing chill in superpower relations poses at least three serious dangers:

      1) An escalating arms race. The new generations of nuclear weapons, such as mobile intercontinental missiles and long-range cruise missiles, that are being readied by both sides share several characteristics. They are expensive. They are extremely difficult to detect and thus to include under the verification procedures of any arms-control agreement. They will compel each side to take countermeasures, perpetuating a never-ending cycle.

      Existing arms-control treaties could start to break down. The SALT I interim agreement on offensive arms, signed in 1972, technically has expired, and SALT II was never ratified by the U.S. Senate. Washington and Moscow, nonetheless, have agreed to observe the major provisions of both treaties. The Administration, however, is preparing a report that accuses the U.S.S.R. of cheating on some important provisions of the SALT treaties.

      Reagan may send this report to Congress in January. It will mention that the Soviets are operating a large radar base in Siberia that the U.S. suspects will be used to guide the kind of antiballistic missiles that have been banned under the SALT I-ABM treaty and will questions Moscow's compliance with important parts of SALT II as well. Yet the Soviets would have a point in asking what right the U.S. has to complain about violations of SALT II, a treaty is has refused to ratify. If the arms control agreements start to erode, all restraints on the nuclear race would be off, and the piling up of weapons would increase the peril of war by accident.

      2) New strains in the Western alliance. Though the U.S. has won the first round of the Euromissile controversy, the battle is far from over. Full deployment of Pershing IIs and cruise missiles will take five years, during which Moscow will keep up its propaganda, seeking to appeal to the people of Western Europe over the heads of their governments.

      The campaign has had an effect. Though it was then-Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of West Germany who originally called attention to the imbalance being caused by Soviet SS-20 missiles aimed at Western Europe, his Social Democratic Party has since changed its position and come out against the NATO response. In Britain, the Labor Party advocates unilateral nuclear disarmament. The crushing electoral defeats that these principal opposition parties suffered in 1983 dim their hopes of coming to power very soon, but Washington can no longer be serenely confident that any foreseeable British or West German government will back its position: Even the strongest West European governments must take into account the public nervousness. If the Soviets engage in a prolonged boycott of the arms talks, some NATO allies may start pressing the U.S. to make concessions.

      3) Proxy wars. Careful as they have been to avoid a military clash, the superpowers run a constant risk of being dragged into one by the action of allies or clients they cannot control. One example: if the incessant factional strife in Lebanon broadens into a general Middle East war, Syria could call on Moscow to intervene militarily under a 1980 treaty. The ambassadorial exchanges between Washington and Moscow on avoiding a clash could have a greater chance of success if diplomatic contacts between the two capitals were more frequent and less antagonistic.

      The current prospects for dampening down these dangers seem bleak. Some of the more obvious steps have been officially rejected, or even sneered at, by one side or the other. Nonetheless, there are moves the U.S. could undertake, without violating any of Reagan's ideological convictions, to make the superpower relationship less menacing and more manageable. Among them:

      -- Offer to merge the START and INF talks. For the moment, the White House has decided against doing so, in the believe that the Soviets will soon resume the INF talks on Reagan's terms, namely by accepting deployment of some new U.S. missiles in Western Europe. Moscow scoffs at the idea of a merger for precisely the opposite reason. "One can only merge something that really exists," says First Deputy Foreign Minister George Korniyenko.

      Nonetheless, the idea has merit. The distinction between "strategic" missiles, defined by the U.S. as those with ranges of 3,400 miles or more, and "intermediate-range" weapons has always been arbitrary. Westerners remark that Soviet strategic missiles can hit London or Rome as easily as Chicago; Moscow considers any missiles capable of striking the U.S.S.R. to be strategic, whatever their range. Merging the two sets of talks would make possible more varied trade-offs between different types of weaponry.

      In any merged talks, the Soviets are likely to demand concessions for withdrawing the missiles they are now installing in East Germany and Czechoslovakia. As long as intermediate-range missiles were under discussion, the U.S. would be burdened by the necessity of representing the position of its European allies, supposing those often disunited nations could agree on one. But the alternative could be a prolonged suspension of the START as well as the INF negotiations, a breakdown of what remains of the SALT treaties, a completely unrestrained arms race, and considerable damage to NATO.

      -- Propose measure to guard against war by accident. Reagan has suggested some, including upgrading the White House-Kremlin hot line and more comprehensive advance notification by each side to the other of missile test launches and major military maneuvers. Senators Sam Nunn, a Georgia Democrat, and John Warner, a Virginia Republican, advocate setting up "crisis control centers" manned by military officers of each country who could get in touch with one another immediately. Democratic Presidential Candidate Gary Hart offers a variation: a single center in Geneva or Vienna staffed jointly by the Pentagon and Soviet Defense Ministry, where each side could see pictures of what the other's satellites were showing and explain any activity that looked threatening.

      At present, the political climate is so strained that the Kremlin derides even these modest "confidence-building measures." Says Arbatov: "What difference could it make if your President were to call Moscow (on the hot line) and say `Hi, it's Ronnie, a couple of missiles are flying in your direction but don't take it serisously'?" Still, war by accident or miscalculation is a terrible risk for both sides, and the risks become greater as missile flight times become shorter. The Soviets are already dropping hints that they may adopt a "launch on warning" strategy. This means that they would automatically fire their missiles as soon as they picked up signals that U.S. missiles were on their way. The U.S., also fearing sneak attack, may be driven toward the same strategy. Confidence-building measures might help dissuade both from adopting that idea, which is supremely dangerous because it means a wayward blip on a radar screen could touch off a holocaust.

      Seek regular and frequent contacts with Soviet officials at every level. Though the old Nixon-Brezhnev idea of annual summits seems unrealizable for a long time to come, Washington could promote more frequent exchanges at the foreign minister, ambassador and assistant secretary levels, supplemented perhaps by meetings of uniformed military men. The belief has grown among U.S. conservatives that merely agreeing to talk is itself a concession. But no American interest is likely to be compromised if Secretary of State George Schultz and Gromyko, say, were to agree to meet several times a year. Each side needs to hear what the other is really thinking--fully, frankly, in private, in person and often. In the absence of frequent contact, both sides will be doomed to keep practicing what former British Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington has christened "megaphone diplomacy." Says former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger: "Our weakened ability to communicate with the Soviets adds modestly, though measurably, to the risk of a clash of arms and detracts from the cohesion of the alliance."

      Adopt a realistic trade policy. Though Reagan has learned not to say so out loud, associates say he still believes that the U.S.S.R. could be badly damages, and forced to cut back on its military buildup, if the West cut it off from trade contacts. That is a delusion: inefficient as the Soviet civilian economy is, the Kremlin could squeeze it further to continue piling up arms. The Soviet public will do what it is told, partly because it has no choice, but partly because it responds vigorously when it believes the motherland is being threatened. S

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