Second International Scientists' Congress "Ways out of the Arms Race"

On Dec 2-4, 1988, the Second International Scientists’ Congress on “Ways out of the Arms Race” was held at Imperial College, London. The first being two years ago in Hamburg. Organization was done by Prof. Tom Kibble and Dr John Hassard of the Physics Dept., IC. Having very little outside funding and risking significant personal financial loss, they nevertheless managed an impressive program with 35 invited speakers. Fortunately, the conference turned out to be a success, with over 550 attenders from 24 countries. It is impossible to convey all of the ideas and impressions one receives at such a meeting, but here are some highlights:

Robert McNamara (US Secretary of Defense, 1961-8* This first major talk, on ‘The State of the Arms Race”, struck a positive note. He views the current political environment as the first opportunity in 40 years for genuine dialogue with the Soviet Union and expressed the opinion that there is a good chance for a comprehensive treaty within one year He went on to detail various elements of START and discuss current aspects of arms negotiations in general.

Roaki Segdeev (Institute for Space Research, Academy of Sciences USSR, Moscow): Speaking on the same topic as McNamara and having been told to be prepared to talk about the USSR’s alternative viewpoint on arms control, he found himself in the “embarrassing” position of agreeing with almost 100% of what McNamara said. He went on to discuss the 2 outstanding issues in the Geneva 1988 negotiations, SDI/ ABM and SLCM.

Josephine Anne Stein (Office of Technology Assessment, US Congress): Her talked on “Scientists and the Arms Race” dwelt mainly with the role and viewpoints of the scientists at the US weapons labs, especially Lawrence Livermore. Most of this material would be quite familiar to those at Simon Fraser University having heard it presented last year by the SfP sponsored visitor Keith Miller of the Mathematics Dept at UC Berkeley. He had outlined the Berkeley faculty initiative to require that the UC oversight of the weapons labs be done more responsibly.

Wolfgang Schwarz (Institute for International Politics and Economics, Berlin, GDR): Speaking on “Vulnerability of Civil Infrastructures”, he gave a vivid description of why social organisms of Europe would be incapable of withstanding military conflict&

Alexei Arbatov (Head, Dept. of Disarmament Problems, Inst of World Economy & Foreign Relations, Acad. of Sciences of USSR, Moscow): He spoke on “Emerging Terminologies and Stability”. He reflected the general Soviet concern that new technological developments like SDI strengthen one’s current weapons capabilities, whether they are offensive or defensive, and in large measure do not change the current offensive versus defensive proportion of one’s weapons.

Virginia Gamba-Stonehouse (Argentine Macarthur Fellow, Visiting Professor Univ. of Maryland): An excellent overview of ‘The Arms Race & the Developing World” was given. She explained the mechanisms generating the current Third World Arms Race, including the increasing global North/ South rift, and confirmed the important role which should be played by UN peacekeeping forces.

Scilla Elworthy (Director Oxford Research Group): Information obtained by the group involving the “Role of Military Research Establishments” was given.

James Thompson (Psychology Professor University College London): His talk on “Psychological Disarmament” discussed the importance of understanding psychological aspects such as the “them versus us mentality” and showed graphically how this theme is dealt with in the media

Rainer Rilling (Professor of Sociology, Univ. Marburg, FRG): His talk, entitled “The Militarization of Science”, outlined how military R&D budgets are increasing steadily and how social, civil, and ecologically oriented research is ignored. He expressed a pessimism about this situation in the 1990’s unless Science Policy is fundamentally altered. His research is continually hampered by the difficulty of obtaining data on levels of military funding.

Richard Ennals (Principal Lecturer Kingston College of Further Education): He discussed the UK scientific environment and the difficulties in “Decoupling Research from Military Applications”. He is the Former Research Manager Dept. of Computing, Imperial College, having resigned his position in 1984 over IC policy regarding SDI funding.

Patricia Lewis (Senior Research Fellow, Verification Technology Information Centre, London): She spoke on “Verification experience of INF & START,” and drew certain basic distinctions between scientists’ work on arms developments and arms reduction, viewing the latter as much healthier.

Hans-Peter Durr (Director Heisenberg Institute for Physics, Max Planck Inst of Physics & Astrophysics, Munich): He explained “The Global Challenges Network” and examples of problems on which it works, such as an the effort to clean up the Baltic Sea He is an impressive example of a person who views many global problems as being horrendous but energetically coordinates international initiatives to resolve them.

Frank von Hippel (Professor of Public & International Affairs, Center for Energy & Environment Studies, Princeton): In a summarizing talk on “Scientists Contributions to Disarmament” he emphasized the need for scientists to work independently in two areas: Challenging experts who rationalize the arms race and making alternatives more creditable. He also announced the new journal “Science & Global Security”, to be published in both English and Russian.

Sergei Kapitza (Head of Lab, Inst. for Physical Problems, Academy of Sciences of USSR, Moscow): This other summarizing talk on “Security via Interdependence” reiterated the theme that in time the procedure of verification will create a whole new attitude. It was stressed that most current agreements were bilateral and that an international agency, perhaps the UN, was needed to set standards for things like the nuclear industry He used universities as examples of institutions which should he seats of interdisciplinary research but which instead inhibit “global thinking” making it almost impossible to even study or do research about the larger issues.

Maj-Britt Theorin (Ambassador, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Stockholm): Speaking on “The Way Forward”, she expressed some, optimism due to the improved state of many world conflicts and the new UN roles and outlined the various tasks which still need attention, such as “controlled nontesting” (versus “test control”), a comprehensive ban on chemical weapons, and the arms race in space.

Dorothy Hodgkin (Emeritus Prof., Oxford; Nobel Laureate for Chemistry 1964): Her “Closing Remarks” gave a touching personal note to the end of the conference.

There was a large, well attended poster session. One of considerable interest was presented by Meir Vanunu, which included a petition for the release of his brother by the Israeli government a topic covered in a recent SfP Newsletter. Eric Fawcett had an excellent presentation on Peace Net and SfP; which made my own SfP posters look amateurish.

The conference left everyone with many things to think about. There were reasons for pessimism, such as the enormity of the world’s ecological problems, and for optimism such as the viewpoint expressed by many speakers that there is currently a political climate for truly cooperative global approaches in resolving differences. For an SIP member like myself who has not attended many international meetings of this type, it was the opportunity to meet many courageous and warm people (such as SfP’s Founding President) and to strengthen my resolve.

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