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President's Corner

It is important that the pre-Christmas summit should be seen in the perspective of the larger nuclear and disarmament debate. The INF agreement should not be allowed to generate a sense of false optimism that could anaesthetize the deeper involvement of the public in arms control and disarmament issues.

At the same time the momentum towards further and more basic arms reduction, generated in my view in large measure by domestic economic developments in the USA and USSR, should not be lost. Limiting arms is not a substitute for policy, but it is the lead element.

Preventing nuclear war remains the over-riding common interest of all nations — not just of the superpowers. Incremental, steady progress in arms control and disarmament measures will not only serve to reduce this threat, but can build confidence on both sides, especially with the demonstrated willingness of the new Soviet leaders to accept more far-reaching measures of verification.

In his annual report, US Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger (since retired) said he had directed the US Joint Chiefs of Staff “to engage in a rethinking of established practices, because high tech weaponry and new tactics are the only way to compete successfully against Soviet advantages in numbers and perennially high defense funding”. This emphasis inspired the term “competitive strategies”.

General Secretary Gorbachev has offered for domestic reasons the substitution of “cooperative strategies” through arms control, recourse to on — going East/West dialogue and the quest for cooperation through multilateral bodies including the UN, GATT and IMF as well as dialogue between NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

Canada’s Defence White Paper with its emphasis on “increased defence spending”, including the continuation of cruise missile testing and nuclear submarines smacks more of Weinberger’s “competitive strategies” than any response to possible “cooperative strategies” which seem to have emerged from the Summit in Washington.

Science for Peace continues to face a challenge of contributing to the greater comprehension among the public that sometimes shows signs of preferring not to think about such a depressing, overpowering and complex issue: How to bring the arms race under verifiable control?

Meanwhile, policies and plans are pursued by the advocates of security through military terror,such as the NATO commitment to first-strike, computer-triggered responses to nuclear weapons and plans for nuclear war fighting, as well as possible weaponization of outer space through SDI.

This all belongs to the ideology of security through balance of military power. To break this vicious circle which has escalated arms races in the past, and to kick the cold war habits which are used to justify this approach, we need to explore the possibilities offered by Gorbachev and the new leadership in the Soviet Union of cooperation on the basis of mutual interdependence in security and economic matters, using the debate on the INF and this partial reduction in nuclear arsenals as a beginning of a significant change in world affairs.

Nobody is more irritating than someone who is determined to be cheerful. Optimism is a state of mind associated with foolhardiness. But pessimism is often conducive to retaining the status quo. So, with some trepidation, I confess to being heartened by the turn of events in world politics, and in that spirit I wish my colleagues in Science for Peace A HAPPY AND CREATIVE NEW YEAR.

– George Ignatieff

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