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A new strategic arms limitation treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union (SALT II) is now essentially complete. As is always the case with a complicated negotiation, each side has conditioned acceptance of key provisions on the successful resolution of remaining open issues. Thus, it is always possible that the process will break down as each side plays out its end game. But at this stage, it seems extremely unlikely that the basic provisions of the agreement will change further.
All Americans are alarmed at the shrinking value of the dollar in their neighborhood supermarkets - by close to one-half in the last ten years. With the President's announcement in early November ordering a series of dramatic actions to shore up the value of the dollar abroad, more and more Americans have also become conscious of the dollar's declining value in terms of major foreign currencies over the same period - by more than one-half against the West German mark and the Japanese yen, and by nearly two-thirds vis-à-vis the Swiss franc.
For the last five years the world has been trying to cope with a set of problems triggered by the sudden oil price explosion of late 1973: the availability of oil to cover future energy demand, the economic and financial upheaval attending the jump in oil prices, and the utilization of a flood of petrodollars by OPEC countries for their national development and other purposes. These three issues are intimately interrelated and interact on each other; they can thus be properly assessed only in conjunction with each other.
The essential difference between rich and poor nations (say the less-developed countries) is the percentage between the purchase price of an ounce of raw cocoa in West Africa and the selling price of a Hershey bar in New York (or, indeed, Accra). The poor nations get only the fluctuating price of the raw commodity, determined by outside buyers. The rich countries receive the value added by transporting, manufacturing and packaging the commodity into an end product, along with all the jobs and industry created - from shipbuilders and wax paper manufacturers to advertising agencies.
In the turbulent world of the Middle East, there have been few islands of political stability that have been able to survive the storms of revolutionary change. Iran, with its political system directed by an absolute monarch and an enormous wealth of natural resources, has been widely viewed in the Western world as the most important such refuge in the area. American opinion leaders have long admired the sturdy consistency with which Iran has maintained its orderly existence, and in seeking a reliable partner and client state upon which to rest U.S. political and economic interests, American decision-makers chose to place their bets on Iran.
When the last issue of Foreign Affairs went to press in late August, few readers can have believed that by early fall Egypt and Israel would be negotiating a peace treaty. The only sure way of predicting the future is to have the power to shape it, and here the actors in the field have a great advantage over even the most learned commentators. The army of pundits and experts that marches in the procession of international affairs is becoming very much like the chorus in Greek tragedy, whose vocation was to express musical consternation at events that it was powerless to control.
Political ideas make their own realities. Often in defiance of logic, they hold men and are in turn held by them, creating a world in their own image, only to play themselves out in the end shackled by routine problems not foreseen by those who spun the myth, or living past their prime and ceasing to move people sufficiently. Or, political ideas turn to ashes and leave behind them a trail of errors, suffering and devastation.
Europe and the United States have parted company on the question of reprocessing spent fuel from nuclear power reactors, particularly as it applies to the separation and export of plutonium. The decisions to proceed with the construction of new plants at Windscale in Britain and La Hague in France, designed in large part to provide this service for non-nuclear-weapon countries, run counter to the U.S. conviction that restricting separation and trade in plutonium is essential, at least until more effective controls can be devised.
Soon it will be a year since Jimmy Carter's April 1978 trip to Brazil. Prior to the visit strained relations between the two countries were ill concealed. Washington's efforts to roll back the Brazilian-West German agreement for construction of facilities for uranium reprocessing and enrichment in Brazil were deeply resented - not least because Vice President Mondale was dispatched first to Bonn.