Public-opinion polls indicate that Americans overwhelmingly distrust the Soviet Union—and favor nuclear-arms agreements with the U.S.S.R. This split vision happens to reflect a healthy dose of reality. On the one hand, Soviet leaders have done little to reassure the West in recent years. Soviet adventurism in Africa, military buildups, and the repression of dissidents at home have combined with three decades of cold-war competition and conditioning to make us highly suspicious of their motives.
On the other hand, most Americans know that nuclear war isn’t good for humans and other living things. The public believes that, “in a nuclear era, confrontations between the two leading nations in the world must be avoided,” according to pollster Louis Harris. “This means finding areas of agreement which might then ease tensions.”...
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