In the last six months, the confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union has become more tense and heated than at any time since World War II. The descent of both sides into a wartime psychology is generally linked to the September 6, 1983 date of the Korean airliner incident.
The Soviet's downing of the airliner was, at best, a tragic blunder compounded by a callous cover-up. But the Soviet leaders were genuinely, and understandably, bewildered by the unusually vicious and frenzied name-calling that came from the United States in the wake of the tragedy. The torrent of verbal abuse, combined with continued U.S. intransigence at the nuclear arms control talks, apparently convinced the Soviets that Ronald Reagan is so consumed with blind ideological hatred of their country that further attempts to reason with him were futile.
As a result, when the United States began deploying the NATO Pershing II and cruise missiles, the Soviet delegates walked out of both the Euromissile and strategic arms control talks and have so far shown no inclination to return. They seem inclined to sit out 1984 with the hope that the American people will make Ronald Reagan go away this November. In the meantime the Soviets have also done their part to escalate the military danger in Europe by moving shorter range nuclear missiles into Warsaw Pact countries closer to potential battle lines.
The current war-like atmosphere has not been limited to the escalation of the nuclear arms race. Reagan proclaimed the U.S. invasion of tiny Grenada a victory against Soviet expansionism. He similarly justified escalations of the proxy war against Nicaragua. Perhaps most foolishly and dangerously, the administration has been concocting a superpower confrontation over Lebanon, applying a simplistic analysis that identifies all Lebanese opposition with the Syrians and sees the Syrians and the Soviets as a monolithic entity.