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Soviet Ballistic Missile Defense and the Western Alliance

Soviet Ballistic Missile Defense and the Western Alliance

David S. Yost

ISBN 9780674826106

Publication date: 10/12/1988

This is a study of the strategic challenges that Soviet ballistic missile defense (BMD) programs may pose for the Western alliance. David Yost suggests that the challenges for Western policy stem partly from Soviet military programs, Soviet arms control policies, and Soviet public diplomacy campaigns, and partly from the West’s own intra-alliance disagreements and lack of consensus about Western security requirements.

By reviewing the history of Western assessments of Soviet BMD, Yost shows that long before the American strategic defense initiative (SDI) was launched, Soviet BMD system modernization and infrastructure expansion were well under way, and that current Soviet programs are not mainly reactive to the SDI. Yost judges that the Soviets are probably better prepared than the Americans to deploy a network of traditional, ground-based BMD systems that would have at least some military value in the next decade, particularly against the limited and selective retaliatory attacks envisaged in NATO strategy. He does not argue that the Soviets are preparing for a clear-cut “breakout” from current arms control limits on BMD, but he notes the risks posed by activities that could eventually amount to a “creepout” from certain treaty constraints. Because of such ambiguities and the seriousness of the strategic and political stakes, the West should be prepared to pursue any necessary countermeasures in a timely fashion. His aim in this book is to advance understanding of the possible strategic challenges to the West and to identify potential points of consensus for Western policies.


  • A well-researched and ably developed account of complex issues relating to the East–West military relationship, well organized, clearly written, and impressively deliberate. It contains the best-documented historical account of Soviet missile defense programs, and the author carefully explains the implications of these developments for European security.

    —Benjamin S. Lambeth, The RAND Corporation


  • David Yost is an Associate Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. He worked in the Department of Defense, primarily in the Office of Net Assessment, in 1984-86 under the auspices of fellowships from NATO and the Council on Foreign Relations. He was recently a fellow in security studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Smithsonian Institution, and a Visiting Scholar at the School of Advanced International Studies, The Johns Hopkins University.

Book Details

  • 405 pages
  • 6-3/8 x 9-1/2 inches
  • Harvard University Press