SOVIET INTEREST IN BILATERAL DISCUSSION OF REGIONAL CONFLICTS

Created: 8/14/1986

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DIRECTORATE OF INTELLIGENCEugust 6

Soviet Interestilateral Discussion of Regional Conflicts

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By calling for renewed discussion of regional conflicts In the runupossible sunlt meeting, Moscow nopes to gain leverage In the arts talks, create more favorable conditions for consolidating its embattled Marxist dependencies, and draw Washington into discussion of proposals which, if implemented, would tend to erode US power projection capabilities and political influence in the Third world. Tne Soviets do not think that the core regional struggles In Nicaragua, Angola, Afghanistan, and Cambodia can be resolved through talks with Washington, nor do they seek this. They may think that sufficient cooperation Is possible on peripheral issues to present the appearance of some stabilization of Soviet-American relations in the Third World, with possible payoffs in the Third World and--more directly--in the drm% talks.

oint in time when Its highest priority isrevita1ization, which it hopes to protect tnrougnnegotiations and regeneration of an atmosphereMoscow is confrontedS aamintstrati onto be bent on undermining its gains in the Thirdthe very existence of Its Marxist clientUS military activity and security ties overseas,on US economic leverage to reduce opportunitiesSoviet gains.

memorandum was prepared by Soviet Analysis, with the assistancerequest of the National Security Counci"

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In this context, as one of several parallelat shaping tne US/USSH dialogue in the runup to asummit meeting later this year, the Soviets navea new phase of discussion of regional conflicts. proposal foresees initial talksconceptual" aspractical plane (now under discussion for late AugustSecretary of State Armacostelegation consistingForeign Hinlster for African affairs Anatoliyof the First Latin American Department of tne UFAVladimir Kazimirov, and Chief of tne Hear East andCountries Department Vladimirhich will reviewed by tne respective foreign mlnisters--looking towardof topics they might discuss that could leaddecisions at the summit meeting. What the Sovietsto is still unclear,uestion-and-answer format maybound some of the uncertainties.

Question. Are thenterested in the substance as opposed to the appearance of'the regional conflict talk's?"

ot necessarily.

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et of other talks which, taken together,rocess of engaging Uasnington in the pre-summit period. This treatment of the talks was clearly Implied in Gorbachev'sune letter to the President. Since tnen tnere naseeting of the Bilateral Reviewn SCC0uclear Experts Testing Talks meeting1he Nitze-Karpov bilateral discussion of strategic arms control issues and summit preparationsecond meeting of the Bilateral Reviewugust). Further meetings of the Nuclear Testing Experts Talks and of Nitze-Karpov have been scheduledeptemDereptember, respectively. The common elements in all of these talks held so far haveepresentation on the Soviet side by mid-level officials not vested witn policymaking authorityack.of substance to the discussions. Tne latter wouldoncern with form rather than issues per se, unless, of course, the Soviets do not yet have their act in order. In either case, the rather low level of Soviet representation scheduled for the proposed regional conflict talks Isign that the pattern already established may repeat itself. The Soviet delegation to the talks may, of course, be tasked only with probing US positions, in preparation for later higner-level demarches. The intrinsic significance attributed Dy the Soviets to the regional conflict issue will be reflected not only--and perhaps not so much--by how seriously Moscow oeals with the US on the problem in the summit context, but by the effort it makes to

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leak and propagandize Soviet positions anc attack USnd to develop associated active measures campaigns targeted at US allies and tne Tnlrd world aucience. Mow much tne Soviets will be able to use tne talks to play to tne gallery, ana how much impact this will have remain to be seen.

Question. To what extent has the proposal in fact been aavancea to achieve ITxocjeneous, non-regional objectives?

Answer. The key area tne Soviets would see potentiallya discussion of regional conflicts would be the armsand the bilateral atmosphere moreby years of US linkage of arms negotiations andbehavior, Gorbachev's advisers may well haveto seize the initiative here and demonstratethe "sober-minoed" elementsongress and among ourby Moscow to be urging flexibility in tne arras talks on

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Question. Do tne Sovietsumpening of regional confI lets?

Answer. To some extent this would be desirable, althougn not essential, while some Soviets stress the prospects for exploiting Third World tensionshe near term, the dominant view appears to be that on least now--US influence can best be eroded by conveying an appearance of normalization of East/West relations in the Third world. Soviet arms deliveries and even economic assistance for selected embattled clientsicaragua) have not suggested any oesire to abandon tne

policy of consolidating the "socialist-oriented" regimes, much less any strong economic compulsion to reacn agreement witn tne United States over regional conflicts. Nevertheless, Soviet behavior doesesire at the margin to contain the costs of client support. Conceivably Gorbachev could also use tne appearance of progress in talking with the Reagan

administration about regional conflicts as an argument internally for (a) flexibility in arms negotiations with Washington and (b) lowering the threat assessment of the "imperialist ganger" employed to justify current rates of military spending. H

Question. Do the Soviets think tnere are prospects forconflictsegotiationsn?

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Answer. Almost certainly not, as far as tne core struggles in Nicaragua, Angola, Afghanistan, and Cambodia are concerned. But they mignt see the talkseans of smoking out US intentions. If they had not decided so already, the experience of almost two completed rounds of regional talks must have convinced Soviet leaderseeting of minds with the Heayan administration on these conflicts was highly unlikely, uesuite reporting of talk by individual Soviet officials of "trading" that would preserve existing spheres of Influenceicaragua for Afghanistan) it is highly doubtful that the Soviets believe the US could or would agree to such transactions, nor would the Soviets want to actually go throuyn with anytnlng of the sort either, unless they were convinced they were losing their client anyway. However, Moscow might believe that certain limited mutual accommodations are possible which could reduce Soviet risks and advance Soviet interests in regions--such as the Yemens, Iran-Iraq, the Levant, or East Asia and tne Pacific--where the confrontation between the United States and the USSR has not been joined so directly. |

Question. Does Moscow believe it can constrain the US admininistrat1egional policies throughew dialogue on regional conflicts?

Answer. Probably to some extent. The Soviets may hope thatof willingness to "negotiate" regional conflicts wit Ipressure against the "Reagan Ooctrine" amongof US support for various antl-Communlstamong US allies. By the same token, the Soviets may hopethe appearance of "linkage" of their own betweenof arms control steps highly valued by many 1nand US restraint toward Soviet Third Worldurther incentive to pressure the administrationback. ]msWIeWMSTri

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Question. Do tne Soviets believe that establishing awith Washington over regional conflicts coulotneir interests in tne ihiro

Answer. Almost certainly yes, although how much so is open to question. The Soviets probably calculate that it would be difficult for Washington to counter the perception that the United States was negotiating the fate of its clients over their heads with Moscow, fanning fears among Insurgents and their supporters of lack of US resolve and an American sellout. Naturally, the Soviets have analogous problems witn their

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Clients, out they probably perceive the liabilities here to oe heavier for the United States. The Soviets may also see tne dialogue on regional conflictsseful forum in which to engage Washingtoniscussion of general or regionally-specific principles ofspeciallyilitarywould In practice disproportionately affect US freedom of maneuver and would perhaps have considerable resonance among Third World audiences.

Question. Are we likely to see the "new loon" in diplomatic style as the Soviets approach the dialogue on regional issues?

Answer. Probably yes; partly because Gorbachev's advisers may indeedighter touch than Gromyko, but more becauseshe Soviet interest to keep tne process going If possiole and, if not, not to be seen as torpedoing it. Tnus, tne Soviets are not likely to lead with ringing denunciations of USb" and "state terrorism.- Rather, tney arewhlle displaying firmness on substance--to avoid excessive abuse, shownd condemn the United States more in sorrow than in anger. Given the very limited hopes that tney proDably have of actually negotiating with tneir Interlocutors on the one hand, and the audiences they do hope to reach on the other, public diplomacy Is highly likely to be tne name of tneirheir interest In the talks is more than purely formal.

Question. Does tne Soviet highlighting of discussion onplane imply an agenda tnat finesses issues in favor of discussion of Droac

Answer. No. We are likely tooviet agenda tnat combines country specifics and more general issues ofegional or global nature. The specialist composition of tne Soviet delegation for theh talks clearly suggests that tne Soviets do not intend to evade country discussions and might tare the Initiative here--def1ning the issues very differently tnan we do. Our side might well be confrontedet of no-win proposals dealing, for example, with:

he South African menace to International security.Interventlonlsm" in Central America.he Pakistani nuclear program.

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olitical settlement of tne Afghan war ana outsiaeterventi on."

he Arab-Israel 1

The absenceouth Asian specialist on tbe Soviet side doesuestion mark, however, as to how actively the Soviets will pursue Afghan and Pakistani issues. Previously Polyakov has refused to discuss Afghanistan as being beyond his sphere of competence. | J

The Soviets could confine themselves to rehasningalready expressed in the first two rounds oftalks. Or, tney could build on the few areasthat have emerged in these discussions--endingwar, curbing Irantan terrorism, and opposing the usewarfare in the Middle East. These gambits indicate an intention either of demonstrating "toughness" toioviet audience suspicious of Gorbachev's resolve, orattention to regional Issues at the summit. But these

courses of action would appear unlikely, given the Soviet Initiative to hold the talks, the reference to "conceptual" discussions, and--provided thereore tnan formal interest in holding the talksprobable intent of addressing audiences outside tne conference room.

The most likely alternative would probably oe an attempt to engage the United Statesiscussion of ideas that Gorbacnev has floated at the Party Congress under the rubriccomprehensive system of internationaln his speech ofarch to an Algerian delegation, and recently in nisuly speechf which apply to one or more regions. The agenda here might include:

oint sponsorship of regional CDE-type security conferences (Mediterranean and Pacific Ocean conferences have already been mentioned).

egional mutual security pacts.

uclear-free zones.

egional confidence-building measures.

Reductions of military forces and closure of military facilitiesS bases in tne Philippines, possibly with some clarificationoviet rjuld uro quo).

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Constraints on naval operations (the Mediterranean, South Pacific and Indian Ocean nave Deenncluding antisubmarine warfare.

conomic cooperation (especially in tne Pacific regi on).

addition, the Soviets might also raise questionsore global character. Possible items here would Include:

nternational economic issues, including tne debt crisis, posed so as to constrain Western economic leverage against the USSRorld conyress on "problems of international economic security" has already oeen proposed).

errorism,arrow focus on actions to which the Soviets might feel especially vulnerable.

atural resources and pollution.

cientific and technical cooperation.

ontrol of export of chemical warfare materials.

rug trafficking.

Building on earlier efforts of Brezhnev tocode ofhe Soviets might also see some advantage in attempting to draw Wasningtoniscussion of "principles" of international behavior that could be used to counter the Reagan administration's activism and assert tne USSR's claim to recognition by the United Statesegitimate superpower actor in the Third World.

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