Analysis : Dukakis Taking Less Dovish Stance on Security
In three speeches this week answering Vice President George Bush’s stinging attacks on his competence in foreign and defense affairs, Democratic presidential candidate Michael S. Dukakis moved toward the national security mainstream of administrations preceding Ronald Reagan’s.
In the process, he shifted away from his identification with the dovish wing of the Democratic Party.
Critics of his new positions concentrated on Dukakis’ implicit revival of the 1970s policy of linkage--the view that the United States should offer economic concessions to the Soviets only in return for Soviet good behavior. Many specialists believe that that approach, in effect a decade ago, allowed various interest groups--on arms control and Jewish emigration, for example--to demand that improved relations with the Soviets be held hostage to their particular causes.
Under Fire on Missiles
The Democratic candidate came under fire also for two statements on land-based missiles that some critics said seemed at odds with each other. On one hand, he complained that today’s land-based U.S. missiles might not survive a Soviet attack and said a new mobile missile needs to be developed. On the other hand, he proposed a ban on missile flight tests, which many experts believe would prevent development of such a missile.
Despite that, Dukakis has moved away from positions that put him at odds with the military Establishment.
In the early 1980s, for example, he favored a freeze on nuclear weapons production, and he opposed building a radio station at an Air Force base in Massachusetts to facilitate communications in the event of war. He later changed his mind on both.
A year ago, in responses to a Los Angeles Times questionnaire, he favored banning nuclear weapons tests and missile flight tests, and he urged “significant” cuts in defense spending.
Seeks Stable Defense Budget
This week, by contrast, he emphasized his commitment “to building a strong defense.” His chief defense adviser, Robert J. Murray, said Dukakis’ aim was “a stable defense budget.”
And, having hinted last year that he would cut nuclear weapons spending in favor of conventional arms, he now supports a “strong and modern and versatile” strategic nuclear arsenal.
Dukakis specifically endorsed the new Trident 2 submarine-based missile, which he once appeared to criticize, as well as the B-2 stealth bomber and advanced cruise missiles. He attacked the B-1 bomber as a $27-billion waste, although his advisers quickly added that the B-1 would not be scrapped.
In fact, his list of preferred weapons appeared very similar to that of the Jimmy Carter Administration’s final year.The notable exception was the 10-warhead MX missile.
Missiles on Rail Cars
President Carter wanted to shuttle 200 MX missiles among 4,600 shelters in Utah and Nevada to hide them from the Soviets. President Reagan put 50 missiles in fixed silos and now wants an additional 50 to be a mobile force, placed on railroad cars that would be kept on a military reservation until a crisis.
Dukakis derided the “rail-mobile” MX this week as a “Pearl Harbor-style basing mode.” He said that “in those rail barns, (the MX) is a sitting duck.”
But he complained that the only present alternative--the “road-mobile” Midgetman, a one-warhead land-based missile favored by congressional Democrats--was three times more expensive per warhead than submarine-launched missiles.
Dukakis for the first time accepted the need to modernize the U.S. land-based missile force with a new, mobile missile. In referring to the policy of maintaining land-based, air-based and sea-based nuclear forces, he said: “I’m going to work with the Congress to find a sensible, affordable way to maintain the effectiveness of the land-based missile leg of the triad.”
Revival of ‘Linkage’
Dukakis’ revival of “linkage” in Soviet-American relations was indirect but unmistakable.
“ ‘Linkage’ was not a word he used,” Madeline K. Albright, his chief national security adviser, insisted. But there was no doubt of his meaning as he described his intention to “challenge” Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev on various fronts.
“Mr. Gorbachev wants to make his country part of the international economic community,” Dukakis said. “He wants access to Western resources and technology. He wants expanded economic contact with the West and he wants to join international economic institutions. What is he prepared to do in return?”
The U.S. aim, he answered, should be to “translate Soviet economic weakness into improved Soviet behavior in world affairs.”
The administrations of Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, and to a lesser degree the Carter Administration, pursued the linkage policy to obtain Soviet agreements on arms control, restraint in various Third World conflicts and improved human rights for Soviet citizens at home.
Moscow Rejected Demand
Those goals were not always achieved. In 1974, for example, Congress enacted the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which demanded increased emigration of Soviet Jews in return for U.S. trade concessions. Moscow rejected the demand and canceled a new economic cooperation agreement.
Harvard Prof. Joseph S. Nye Jr., a Dukakis adviser on foreign policy, insisted that the Democratic candidate opposed such narrow and specific linkages.
“As a fact of life in U.S.-Soviet relations,” he said, “progress or delay in one area affects other areas. If arms control is lagging seriously, for example, other issues in the relationship are affected. No one is talking about tit-for-tat.”
But a Soviet affairs expert who is otherwise sympathetic to Dukakis complained that “linkage” of any kind is bad U.S. policy.
“The country tears itself apart on this matter,” said this expert, who asked not to be named. “Everyone has an issue he wants to make hostage to improved U.S.-Soviet relations. We become wide open to feuding over what’s more important. It’s far better to pursue each issue--arms control, human rights, regional matters--on the merits.”
Resolving Division of Europe
Another major Dukakis departure from Reagan foreign policy was a broad approach toward resolving the division of Europe.
“We know that the Soviet Union cannot ignore the security concerns that history has embedded in the very figure of their society,” Dukakis said. But free trade unions, political parties, free elections and freedom of worship “do not endanger security,” he said. “In Eastern Europe, it is the status quo that creates instability.”
By implication, Dukakis seemed to propose a formula, discussed mostly in academic circles until now, that would allow Eastern European nations to remain allied militarily to Moscow on condition that the Kremlin ended its ideological and political domination of the region.