President's Corner

In the quest for peace I am inclined to agree with Charles Dickens when he says in Little Dorrit, “Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving — HOW NOT TO DO IT.”

As Derek Paul reminded us in his paper for the Moscow Academy of Sciences’ Conference on Detente, “On January 15 and in several stages a programme of peace proposals has emerged from the leadership in Moscow the like of which has not been seen since the early post-war days. 1986, a declared year of peace, might also have been named the year of ‘appeals’: scientists the world over have been receiving urgent calls to make a ‘genuine contribution’ to ridding mankind of weapons of mass destruction.”

And yet my impressions from the Pugwash annual meeting in Budapest and consultations with the Institute of USA and Canada Studies in Moscow during September registered some of the frustration and opportunities delayed, if not missed entirely, in the East-West dialogue, especially on the crucial issue of the CTB.

(See Bookshelf for a list of the Pugwash papers available.)

The Soviet extension of its moratorium on testing, as well as cooperation between USA and USSR seismologists on verification, taken in conjunction with the degree of information exchanged about the Chernobyl disaster at the IAEA Vienna meetings, provided an encouraging offset to the stalemate on arms control talks in Geneva and the deterioration in the USAUSSR relationship on the political plane arising from the Daniloff affair. The presence of Olafur Grimsson, a professor from Iceland and President of Parliamentarians Global Action, lent a new type of energetic political leadership in a Pugwash conference. This group stresses the possibilities of non-governmental agencies acting to unite scientists to influence the political process,as the Five Continent Peace Initiative on verification of a test ban.

My visit to the Soviet Union Sept. 8-16, when I had an opportunity to talk with G.A. Arbatov, director of the Institute for US and Canada Studies, and to participate in a seminar, confirmed my impression that the Soviet peace initiatives fit into a new comprehensive security concept based on the recognition of interdependence of nations, put forward by Michael Gorbachev at the 27th CPSU party congress in January. It is also related to the policy of reconstruction whereby the USSR under its new leadership seeks to enter the 21st century a modernized, technologically advanced state which can hold its own with the USA in superpower politics. There is no doubt in my mind that a primordial assumption of Soviet policy since World War II has been to obtain recognition of parity with the USA in world affairs. This requires a reconstruction of the whole economy, stressing greater efficiency as well as more individual initiative, party discipline and a greater productivity, especially to meet consumer demand. This is inconsistent with maintaining the present wasteful use of resources for the promotion of an arms race which the new leaders have recognized provides no greater security to either side.

I came away from Moscow with the conclusion that in this quest for parity there can be no victories or defeats in the diplomatic relationship of the superpowers, and that this is fully recognized by the new leaders in Moscow. It can only be hoped that after the pre-election fever has passed in Washington, the two sides will conclude that the proper objective of diplomacy in the nuclear age is mutual advantage in the common interest in survival where both sides are better off with fewer weapons of mass destruction. By removing some factors of insecurity through moratoriums, each side will feel more secure. This, in my view, could happen despite the “circumlocution” and impediments to progress which loom large at the moment.

- George Ignatieff

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