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Journal Article

Reagan and the Russians: Crisis Bargaining Beliefs and the Historical Record

Russell J. Leng
The American Political Science Review
Vol. 78, No. 2 (Jun., 1984), pp. 338-355
DOI: 10.2307/1963368
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1963368
Page Count: 18
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Reagan and the Russians: Crisis Bargaining Beliefs and the Historical Record
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Abstract

Reagan's view of how to deal with the Soviet Union is compared to the U.S. performance record in three Soviet-American crises: Berlin, 1948-1949, Berlin, 1961, and Cuba, 1962. Reagan's public statements indicate that he views the Soviets as incorrigibly hostile, so that conflict bargaining with the Soviets is a zero-sum game requiring a coercive U.S. bargaining strategy. This is characterized as a "bullying" strategy and contrasted with a "reciprocating" approach. The two approaches provide competing hypotheses for an examination of Soviet responses to U.S. influence attempts. The study tests the association between types of U.S. influence attempts and initial Soviet reactions and then proceeds to an interrupted time series analysis of the longer effects of U.S. threats of force on the mix of coercion-accommodation in Soviet crisis bargaining. The author finds a positive association between specific U.S. threats of force and initial Soviet responses in kind, and between carrot-and-stick inducements that use less specific threats and more accommodative Soviet responses. With the exception of the Cuban crisis, U.S. threats of force have not been associated with significant extended shifts in the level of Soviet hostility. The article concludes that, on balance, the performance record of the United States is more supportive of the efficacy of a reciprocating strategy than the coercive bargaining strategy implied by Reagan's beliefs.

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