Date: Wed, 22 May 2013 10:54:21 +0200
Deterrence theory and Soviet foreign policy: Soviet lessons from their victories and defeats in the Third World
- Deterrence theory assumes that U.S. losses in the Third World lead Soviet decisionmakers to infer three kinds of lessons that will lead the Soviet Union to behave more aggressively in the future: (1) The United States lacks the resolve and capacity to defend other U.S. interests both in the periphery and in strategic areas of the world; (2) U.S. allies, unsure of the strength of U.S. security guarantees, are ready to accommodate themselves to the Soviet Union; (3) States in the region of the last Soviet victory are poised to fall like dominoes under the domination of the USSR and its local clients. However, an assessment of the lessons learned by 44 Soviet policymakers and academics from 37 cases of Soviet losses and gains in the Third World from 1965 to 1988 demonstrates that deterrence theory and its adherents grossly exaggerate the deleterious consequences of American failures in the Third World, while simultaneously grossly underestimating the efficacy of the non-military instruments of U.S. power. While direct U.S. military intervention to deal the Soviet Union defeats in the Third World is a sufficient condition for maintaining high U.S. credibility, it is not at all necessary. Soviet defeats that come about indirectly through the agency of U.S. diplomatic and economic efforts and military aid to regional allies are just as effective in generating Soviet images of a highly credible United States. Moreover, both cases of indirect U.S. involvement and cases of no U.S. involvement at all have the additional advantage of being far better at teaching Soviet decisionmakers that the regional environment is inhospitable for Soviet expansionism. When the United States intervenes directly, Soviets only pay attention to the behavior of the United States, while ignoring the deterrent lessons being taught by the local actors themselves.