Radical changes in Eastern Europe, the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan, and significant force reductions by the Soviet army signal a new era in U.S.-Soviet relations. Much has been written about these breakthroughs, but there are few satisfactory explanations of why they came about. Yet there is an explanation, and it is essential to understanding the full implications.
In this major new book, Michael MccGwire describes the radical rethinking of Soviet national security that together with the decision to democratize Soviet politics prompted these developments. MccGwire was among the first to recognize the shift and foresee the implications. He masterfully laces the redefinition of Soviet security requirements in the broader context of world wide foreign policy and explains the implications for the United States.
As MccGwire traces the whole Perestroika process, he explains that Soviet military from 1948 to 1986 had been driven by the possibility of wold war and the compelling objective of not losing. He then describes the course of events and the reasons underlying the fundamental change in Soviet defense and foreign policy that first became apparent in 1987. The Soviets at that point redefined their military doctrine: a world war could and would be averted by political means. MccGwire doesn’t attribute the reorientation of Soviet policy to the confrontational policies of the Reagan administration during the 1980s, which almost certainly delayed the process, but rather to the bankruptcy of established Soviet policies, autonomous new rethinking, and concern about the danger of war.
The book focuses on the 1981-1990 period, but MccGwire also reinterprets Soviet defense and foreign policy since World War II, including an original explanation of Soviet arms control behavior. Perestroika and Soviet National Security describes the truly momentous developments within the Soviet Union that have changed the face of Europe and our global interaction with the rest of the world. And most important, it looks at the hidden objectives that underlie policy to help clarify the fast-changing events and what they may mean for the future.
Donald F. Kettl
March 1, 2000
Michael MccGwire wrote this book while a senior fellow with the Foreign Policy Studies program at the Brookings Institution. He is currently a senior visiting fellow in the Global Security program at Cambridge University.