Letter from the President

Pugwash Symposium on Disengagement in Europe: towards arms reduction and weapon-free zones

As a member of the International Pugwash Council I attended the recent Pugwash Symposium in Prague. I was impressed by how quickly the Europeans seem to responding, in their thinking about European security, to the new situation presented by the INF Treaty and by new attitudes in the USSR. Nevertheless the symposium noted that little progress was being registered at the 35-member Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in Vienna, with Western delegates accusing the East of too little progress in human rights and the East claiming that NATO countries are not responding to the Warsaw Pact’s latest proposals (and previous proposals) on arms control and disarmament and are thus negating the spirit of the INF Treaty and losing the opportunity it created.

The latest proposals in question are those addressed to members of NATO by the Foreign Ministers’ Committee of the Warsaw Pact, meeting on March 10th in Sofia. They amount to a series of proposals for gradual disengagement in Europe, as a follow-up to the signing of the INF Treaty, and include:

  • the conclusion of a treaty between USA and USSR on a 50 per cent reduction of strategic offensive weapons;
  • general and complete prohibition of nuclear weapons tests; speeding up the USA-USSR talks on verification in order to secure ratification of the 1974 and 1976 threshold treaties, in order to facilitate a comprehensive test ban;
  • prohibition of chemical weapons and elimination of stockpiles; completion of a mandate in the CSCE talks on the reduction of conventional weapons and armed forces from the Urals to the Atlantic;
  • commencement of separate talks on the reduction of tactical nuclear weapons including dual designation systems;
  • development of further confidence-building measures following from the Stockholm conference;
  • creation of zones free of nuclear and chemical weapons in the Balkans, and in the centre and north of Europe, and the creation of a nuclear-free corridor along the lines of contact between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces;
  • moratorium of one or two years on the growth of military spending in NATO and the Warsaw Pact;
  • greater openness and predictability in the military field, with verification;
  • exchange on doctrines on strategy, especially on “no-first-use” of nuclear weapons and no replacements for weapons eliminated.

In spite of disappointment at the lack of NATO response to these proposals, the Symposium reflected the more hopeful atmosphere created by the signs of changing priorities in the USSR, which moderated that country’s militaristic policies in order to give domestic needs more importance. The opportunity for detente and disengagement should not be lost. NATO was urged to respond to the Warsaw Pact with counter-proposals. Accurate data should be produced about the strength of arsenals and armed forces and data exchanged between governments to expedite the CSCE talks. The Symposium was in favour of the mutual redu:tion of armed forces — both nuclear and conventional. It was not possible to deal with them separately, especially in view of NATO’s insistence that the other side enjoyed superiority in conventional forces. The Soviets stressed that dialogue on doctrine was essential to break the stalemate as the NATO doctrine of relying on nuclear weapons to make up the perceived imbalance in forces was in their view the main impediment to progress. NATO’s idea of the need for post-INF ‘modernization” of nuclear and conventional forces also made agreement on disengagement difficult.

Movement towards a Common Strategy was the desired objective and if reduction could not be agreed to in the first stage at least ceilings should be imposed on further increases. This discussion will be continued at the Pugwash Annual meeting at Dragomys (near Sochi) next September.

The main impression I carried away was that while inter-governmental negotiations may be stalemated, all kinds of unofficial contacts are being used to promote detente and disengagement in Europe. These include contacts between the SPD in the Federal Republic of Germany and the Poles as well as the GDR, and contacts between various peace-oriented foundations in the West and the East. Canada needs to keep in touch through NGOs as well as through governments, if we are not to be left out.

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ISSN 1925-170X (Print) | ISSN 1925-1718 (Online)