1973 – 1980, 1981 – ?
In 1973, difficult climatic circumstances and dramatic crop failures prompted President Nixon to allow for massive grain sales to the Soviet Union. While a blow to Russian pride, the program was nevertheless a step towards normalized relations between the superpowers. Additionally, it provided an enduring domestic lobby to pressure for continued thawing in economic relations between the two countries. In 1980, President Carter suspended the program in retaliation for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Shipments were resumed a year later under President Reagan. This culminated in a treaty with the Soviets, with the Soviets promising to buy 9 million tons of US grains per year.
Time: Mid War
Removed after event: No
There is no card higher on the send-to-space priority list than Grain Sales. Even if it weren’t a DEFCON suicide card, the fact that it cuts your handsize makes it almost always unplayable.
Being hit by Red Scare/Purge while you have this in hand is crippling. This card (and others like Voice of America) is a reason why the USSR tries to hang onto the China Card during the Mid War, so that they can hold multiple cards from turn to turn.
SALT Negotiations is a good way to try to defuse Grain Sales — either you raise DEFCON and therefore can play it without triggering suicide, or you get to draw an extra card from the deck and can hold an extra card to next turn.
This the best US event in the game. It is certainly by far the best all-around headline for the US: it conducts Operations, it cuts the USSR handsize, it can lead to a DEFCON win, it’s recurring, it’s unplayable by the USSR, and it’s impossible to backfire on you.
I almost always try to headline this, even if I have NORAD in play — the only possible exception is if I’m headlining Red Scare/Purge and have Bear Trap in hand. In that case I will save Grain Sales for the next turn headline (but ideally trigger it before Turn 7).
Keep in mind that the handsize reduction for the Soviets is just as painful as the Operations you get to conduct; accordingly, I almost always take the card and play it rather than return it. (Also remember that because you’re just playing it like you’re playing any other card, you can do things like send it to space.) Even taking a neutral 1 Ops is often superior to returning the card because of the handsize problems.
There are a very few instances, however, where I would return the card:
- Scoring cards, assuming that the USSR is unlikely to improve its position, are a good candidate to return so that you can actually conduct Operations.
- Extremely strong USSR events like Brezhnev Doctrine or Decolonization, IF you can’t or don’t want to space it. For example, if I draw We Will Bury You, I typically just keep it and send it to space, but if I already have a card in my hand I need to space, or if I really need to conduct Operations, then I will return it to the USSR.
- Harsh US events, like OAS Founded, are sometimes better left as crises for the USSR player (assuming he can’t space it).
- 1 Op events, if you desperately need 2 Ops for some particular reason. (This is rare.)