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The Myth of TriumphalismRethinking President Reagan's Cold War Legacy$
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Beth A. Fischer

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780813178172

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813178172.001.0001

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Moscow Calls Off the Arms Race

Moscow Calls Off the Arms Race

(p.102) 5 Moscow Calls Off the Arms Race
The Myth of Triumphalism

Beth A. Fischer

University Press of Kentucky

Told from the Kremlin’s perspective, this chapter debunks the myth that Reagan’s military buildup—and SDI in particular—compelled the Soviets to agree to arms reductions and then to collapse. In reality, the US buildup had a negligible effect on the USSR. By the 1980s Soviet reformers believed nuclear arsenals were of little value: they were costly, could not be used, and incited fear in the West, which prompted the United States to increase its arsenal. The USSR would be more secure, they reasoned, if arsenals were greatly reduced, if not eliminated. Moreover, although some Soviet scientists were initially worried about SDI, this concern dissipated as scientists determined Reagan’s plan was not feasible. In short, for a variety of strategic, financial, and ethical reasons Moscow sought to end the arms race. It therefore did not build its own SDI-style system, nor did it match increases in US defense expenditures, as triumphalistsassume. The Reagan administration’s policies did not compel the Soviet Union to disarm and then collapse.

Keywords:   Soviet reformers, New Thinking, Arms race, Perestroika, Soviet military doctrine, Doctrine of sufficient defense

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