Review by Kirkus Book Review
Though this is supposedly a chronological continuation of two of Harvard Sovietologist Ulam's previous studies--Expansion and Coexistence and The Rivals--it's more a restatement than a follow-up, going back to the post-WW II period for the root of America's Soviet miscalculation. In Ulam's view, the US failed to act when it was strong and the USSR relatively weak. By allowing the Soviets to consolidate their hold over Eastern Europe when we had the bomb and they didn't, we gave them a powerful dose of self-confidence. If we couldn't stop them then, why should they fear us later? The main culprit in Ulam's interpretation is the theory of containment, which he castigates for setting the US on a reactive, rather than active, path. He acknowledges that containment appealed to a people averse to getting into another war (noting that it failed on that score), and shrugs at the problems a democracy encounters in playing the game of nuclear blackmail. When internal Soviet difficulties became apparent after Stalin's death, the country had acquired enough military power to be relatively secure in international affairs. For the US, an opportunity had been lost. Since then, Soviet leaders have clung to a world-view of constant struggle, though they tried, through detente, to deflect that struggle from the threat of nuclear war. Ulam, like many others, believes that the repressive character of Russian political life makes an aggressive foreign policy necessary to sustain the regime. For evidence he points to Poland, where the relaxed atmosphere of detente loosened the regime's repressiveness enough to prevent it from immediately snuffing out Solidarity, but not from destroying it later (when detente was on the wane). So, by a reverse logic, Ulam himself becomes convinced of the inevitability of struggle. He counsels the strengthening of ties between the western allies, and caution lest arms control agreements with the Soviets secure American interests at the expense of Europe. Along the way, he narrates the major points of US-Soviet relations within his time-frame: SALT I and II; Afghanistan; the US opening toward China; the Middle East; etc. The great continuity is the idea that we've been had. Consistent, but old-hat. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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