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Journal of Cold War Studies 5.2 (2003) 106-109

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Brian Frederking, Resolving Security Dilemmas: A Constructivist Explanation of the INF Treaty. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000. $64.95.

After almost a decade of negotiations the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on 8 December 1987, effectively eliminating all of their intermediate- and shorter-range missiles. It was neither the first Cold War superpower arms control agreement nor the last before the Soviet Union [End Page 106] collapsed. Its significance, however, lies less in the missiles it banned and the fleeting "stability" it achieved than in the fact that it contributed to and was an early result of the profound transformation of ideas that made the end of the Cold War possible. An adequate explanation of the INF Treaty, and of the end of the Cold War itself, requires two connected moves. First, one must invoke an ideational ontology in which social interaction is a consequence of institutionalized collective understandings and discourse, or rules. Second, one must employ a social epistemology and methodologies that highlight the construction of social reality and the role of language in social construction.

This ambitious task is undertaken by Brian Frederking in Resolving Security Dilemmas. To begin with, he rejects neorealist/rationalist explanations that dismiss actors' ability to interpret one other, the context of their interaction, and the manner in which language binds agreements, and that depict the INF Treaty instead as an outcome of the U.S. military buildup. Then, drawing on constructivist international relations (IR) theory and speech-act analysis, he tries to show that the elimination of INF weapons and the associated intrusive verification measures would have been impossible in the context of social rules that characterized the Cold War. These rules had helped sustain the superpower security dilemma by challenging each side's notions of truth, normative rightness, and sincerity. The INF Treaty became possible only after Gorbachev's Soviet Union devised new social rules and after the United States, too, adopted them. These rules made the two countries' notions of truth, normative rightness, and sincerity more compatible—producing the first phase of a "security community." Although the INF Treaty in itself did not resolve the Cold War security dilemma or construct a U.S.-USSR security community, it was nevertheless "an important first step in the process that eventually ended the Cold War" (p. ix).

Frederking's distinctively linguistic approach takes institutional facts, such as security dilemmas and security communities, as socially constructed sets of rules that are established by repeated speech acts (assertions, directives and commitments). Rationality, in turn, is the pragmatic communication of intended meanings. Material reality does play a role in Frederking's explanation of the INF Treaty—the American Strategic Defense Initiative, for example—but only in the context of the changing interpretations and linguistic strategies that characterized superpower social interaction after 1985. To "catch" institutional facts empirically, Frederking uses a speech-act model that a. specifies the background knowledge of interaction; b. gathers the relevant speech acts; c. derives, via a pragmatic analysis, the propositions that actors convey; and d. "constructs a formal argument analysis from the inventory of pragmatic propositions" (p.22).

The first two chapters present the competing hypotheses—neorealist/materialist versus constructivist/ideational. Chapter three introduces the Cold War social rules and how "superpower statements, arms control agreements, military policies, and missile deployments constructed and supported those rules" (p. x). Relying on a speech-act model, chapters four, five, and six show that speech acts were consistent with the Cold War rules until 1985; afterward, "new thinking" began penetrating the scene until it challenged the validity of those rules, effectively allowing the INF agreement [End Page 107] to be reached. Chapter seven concludes that a constructivist approach is the most appropriate for explaining the INF Treaty and the end of the Cold War.

There is much to be commended in this book. First, Frederking's constructivist explanation of the INF agreement and, indirectly, of the end of the Cold War adds to...