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SPHERES OF INFLUENCE:___ SEAL THEM OR PEEL THEM? Robert A. Pastor „s the 1984 presidential election comes into focus, and the memory of the Korean airliner recedes, the Reagan administration will probably make one more attempt to reach an arms control agreement with the Soviet Union. From a political perspective, the administration is well positioned. If Reagan can demonstrate his flexibility, the Soviets will either have to make a deal, which will deprive the Democrats of the nuclear issue, or they will bluster and refuse to cooperate, thus helping Reagan to prove his point about Soviet disingenuousness on arms control. Because of the Korean airliner tragedy, too, the Soviets have an additional incentive to be cooperative and regain some of the credibility they lost in Europe. If the Soviets decide to cooperate, the United States may find an astute Yuri Andropov prepared to cut a larger deal. If the United States stops supporting Afghani insurgents and stops encouraging the Poles and other Eastern Europeans, the Soviets will call off their wolves in Central America. It is not hard to see why Andropov might be attracted to such an arrangement, and why Reagan might agree. The nations on the borders of the United States and the Soviet Union are currently undergoing various stages of ferment and rebellion. Undoubtedly, Soviet and U.S. Robert A. Pastor is faculty research associate at the School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland. From 1977 to 198 1 he served as the senior staffmember responsible for Latin American and Caribbean affairs in the National Security Council. Dr. Pastor has written extensively on U.S. policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean, and on international economic issues, including a book entitled Congress and the Politics of U.S. Foreign Economic Policy, 1929-76 (Berkeley : University of California Press, 1980 and 1982). 77 78 SAIS REVIEW leaders want to stabilize and consolidate these areas before turning to other ambitions. Washington and Moscow view the turbulence in curiously similar ways, each attributing the instability on their frontiers to alien causes and the instability on the other's frontier to natural causes. Because President Reagan still apparently believes that the Central American insurgencies can be quieted by a command from Moscow, it is conceivable that such a proposal could originate in Washington. The Reagan administration might conclude that the margin of U.S. influence in Afghanistan and Eastern Europe is small, if not trivial. Moreover, previous administrations "lost" those countries; and Reagan cannot afford to lose one on his watch. Having focused world attention on El Salvador, the Reagan administration can hardly ask us to avert our gaze as the Salvadoran army disintegrates. The essence of the problem seems to be how to manage conflict and reduce the possibility of East-West confrontation. This, of course, is the question that started the cold war. In spite of our desire to move on to new and different questions, it refuses to go away. Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt wrestled with it as they pondered the complexion of post—World War II Europe. Churchill was prepared to accept a division of "spheres of influence" with Stalin, but Roosevelt believed that the postwar world should be guided by a single set of values: selfdetermination for Poland as well as for France. This argument continues to divide Americans into two general groups: "universalists,"whose hopes were raised by the Rooseveltian dream, and "sphere-ists" or "realists," who believe that peace can be maintained only by accepting international realities.1 George F. Kennan would later repeat Churchill's case, arguing for "a decent and definitive compromise—divide Europe frankly into spheres ofinfluence—keep ourselves out of the Russian sphere and keep the Russians out of ours." Although Roosevelt and Truman (and their successors) did not accept this argument, it can still be heard. The control exercised by the superpowers in their traditional spheres is breaking down.2 Thus, a key strategic question is being raised: Do we reassert control in traditional ways, sealing our spheres from outside influence? Or do we peel away the remnants of the spheres and forge new, more balanced relationships on the peripheries? The invasion of Grenada notwithstanding, the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-4724
Print ISSN
1945-4716
Pages
pp. 77-90
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-11
Open Access
No
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