THE "summit" at Geneva seems to have been a more comfortable and relaxing place for a meeting than "summits" often are. The results achieved there have been rightly hailed throughout the world as marking the beginning of an effort by the leading nations of the two power blocs to adjust by discussion and negotiation their conflicts of national interest and ideological difference which have divided and distressed the world during the last decade.

This conference, however, was not an end but a beginning-- though a good beginning--and it would be foolish, perhaps dangerous, to draw premature and exuberantly optimistic conclusions from it. Peace will not be achieved by one or even by two or three meetings at the "summit," but by many meetings and much hard, constructive work at lower levels. This work, which is one of negotiation, and is now well launched by top statesmanship, remains to be carried on through day-to-day diplomacy. It will be conducted, one may hope, without all of the fanfare and publicity which unavoidably and, no doubt, rightly attended the conference at Geneva. While it is important to relate the results and implications of the Geneva meeting to the current international situation, it is even more important to decide the right course to follow in the new and warmer international climate which the conference has generated.

The Geneva talks have a special and immediate significance for NATO. The Atlantic organization, indeed, is involved in terms of both cause and effect. The collective strength--political and military--which we have developed in NATO was perhaps the most important of the international forces which made the recent discussions possible; just as the growing realization by Soviet as well as by Western leaders of the dread risks and consequences of nuclear warfare made them essential.

It is indisputable that NATO's collective strength has been a major deterrent against aggression in Europe. Without NATO, and the united defensive purpose which it represents, the successors to Stalin might not have gone smilingly to Geneva to join in the effort to diminish the risk of war and to lighten the crushing burden of armaments which Stalin's threatening policies placed on many peoples, including his own. NATO, which was brought into being primarily in response to the fears aroused by overwhelming Soviet military force used as the spearhead for Communist expansion, will obviously be affected profoundly if the threat from that force has, or appears to have, diminished.

The adjustment of conflicting national interests between the big Powers which we hope has now begun is, of course, entirely in accord with the principal, persistent and permanent objective of NATO: to prevent war without sacrificing the freedom and security of its members. Our long-term aim remains to eliminate altogether the use of force for national purposes by establishing the general collective security system intended by the United Nations Charter and by operating through the world organization. But only when that is accomplished can NATO, as a security agency, safely "wither away" like the state in a pure Communist society. (The analogy is a somewhat discouraging one.) So long as fears and ambitions and aggressive ideologies result in the division of the world into power blocs, and thereby make a universal system of collective security unattainable, the prevention of war through a regional security system based on the unity and defensive strength of its members is the best way open to us; and it is entirely consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations.

No person, no nation, no group of nations can view with comfort, however, the prospects for a world where peace rests primarily on the deterrent effect of collective military strength and regional political unity. That discomfort becomes deep anxiety in the face of the fantastic development of nuclear weapons and their inclusion in the armament of a few big Powers now, and of many other Powers soon. This makes it more than ever necessary, while maintaining military strength, to put forth every possible effort to reduce the danger of war and gradually make such strength unnecessary. In all the long story of mankind, arms alone, however powerful, have never been sufficient to guarantee security for any length of time. Your strength for defense becomes the weakness of those against whom you feel you must be ready to defend yourself. Your security becomes their insecurity. So they in their turn seek safety in increased arms. A vicious circle commences which in the past has caused untold misery and destruction and might now, if we cannot cut through it, cause mankind's extinction. Even adequate collective force for defense, then, is no final solution. It is merely a means to an end--peace based on something more enduring than force.

Furthermore--and this must increase our anxieties in the nuclear age--it is more difficult under conditions of fear and mounting international tensions for governments to distinguish between real and apparent threats to their vital interests. The frightened man is usually the most trigger-happy. This consideration makes it all the more necessary to reduce tension in order to avoid a war caused by accident or miscalculation.

Paradoxically, the growing realization of what nuclear warfare means in terms of global destruction has already created what many consider to be the greatest deterrent to war. It has also been one of the major impulses which brought about Geneva; and it may lead us still further on the road to peace. The knowledge that any aggression might bring about total war, that all-out aggression would certainly do so, and that the aggressor could not hope even through massive surprise attack to escape nuclear devastation himself, has inevitably had a sobering effect upon the conduct of international relations.

When the use of nuclear weapons could bring global catastrophe, a special responsibility rests upon the Powers possessing them to exercise restraint in the conduct of their foreign policies and self-denial in using threats of force. They are called on to make a supreme effort to adjust conflicts of national interest so that these do not lead to war. Negotiations such as those at Geneva should serve to increase the awareness by the nuclear Powers of this special responsibility to resolve their conflicts not only in their own interests but in those of the international community as a whole. That is another reason why the members of NATO join with all other peaceful nations in welcoming such negotiations.

That welcome, however, should not lead us into wishful but unrealistic thinking and happy but premature conclusions. Diplomatically, it is true, we seem now to be out of the trenches and manœuvring in the open. This discloses hopeful possibilities of victories for peace. But it also has its dangers, inherent in any fluid situation. Now more than ever we shall need imagination and caution in the right balance. Above all, in this warmer climate of today we shall need to be resolute against the temptation to relax our vigilance or abandon our defense efforts. Until the underlying conflicts between the two power blocs are peacefully resolved--and that has not happened yet--nothing could be more dangerous than to yield to such a temptation. NATO has assumed special responsibilities for the maintenance of peace and security. The discharge of them has never required that we should brandish our arms. They do require, however, that we should not now discard them and thus give grounds to any potential aggressor for believing that it might be safe to take risks with peace.

Refusal to weaken our NATO strength does not mean, of course, that we should not reëxamine in NATO the strategy which determines the use and purpose of that strength. This has, I think, become increasingly necessary as conditions have altered since the NATO pact was signed. Various experts have recently pointed out that there is now virtually an atomic stalemate and that this, along with the over-all balance of power which it represents, is now the main protection for Western Europe. If so, then NATO strategy, which has tended to emphasize the importance of large conventional forces on the European continent, should be looked at again.

No one would deny the value of such forces and the desirability on both political and military grounds of including North American contingents among them. But equally important in European defense and as a deterrent against aggression is the protection of the centers on the American continent from which atomic retaliation--if it ever has to be used--must come. For this reason, North America in a very vital sense may be a NATO center of as great importance to the defense of Europe as any defense line or barrier on that continent itself.

Until the present improvement gets beyond the atmospheric, at all events, until we are sure that it is not merely designed to remove apprehensions of conflict without removing the sources of the conflict itself, any weakening of our strength and unity would be no service to peace. Let us try to distinguish, though it will not be easy, between the real product of hard bargaining and diplomatic negotiation, and a gambit in psychological warfare.

The current Four-Power negotiations themselves provide the best means we have had in many years for testing how real the apparent change in Soviet international policies may be. They also give the Soviet leaders the same opportunity to test the words and attitudes of Western leaders. This alone would make these negotiations desirable and worthwhile. Up to the present, however, conflicts of interest and policy have not been settled and the basic security of the West has not improved. The problems facing the Big Four--and all of us--have been identified and clarified but they have not been solved. If I may switch to a meteorological metaphor, the dampness has disappeared but the cold remains--even though we don't feel it so much! It would be premature in these circumstances to discard our "woollens" but permissible to look forward to the day when, perhaps, it might be safe to do so.

There is another important question related to the above. If the current relaxation of international tension, based mainly on a realization of the completely new dimensions of nuclear warfare and its consequences, is interpreted to mean that war is now unlikely, or at least far less likely, what effect will this have on NATO and the relations between its member countries?

For one thing, it will strengthen the temptation, which I have mentioned, to relax our collective and individual defense efforts --and save a lot of money! As the direct military threat may seem to recede, the fear of aggression which brought NATO into being in the first place will lessen. With that, it must be admitted, NATO will lose much of the cohesive force which still holds it together. There are those who are counting on this. These dangers to NATO must be faced. Defense strength and unity must be maintained, yet we may not have for this purpose the same incentive which we have had before. We must, therefore, develop a stronger bond of unity than a common fear. If the challenge of the Communist nations to our free institutions should take new forms, avoiding tactics and policies which risk nuclear devastation, NATO should, in its turn, while maintaining whatever collective military defensive strength is necessary, develop new impulses for unity and community.

NATO cannot live on fear alone. It cannot become the source of a real Atlantic community if it remains organized to deal only with the military threat which first brought it into being. A renewed emphasis on the nonmilitary side of NATO's development would also be the best answer to the Soviet charge that it is an aggressive, exclusively military agency, aimed against Moscow. One way in which NATO might pursue this objective would be to initiate consultations from time to time on the economic policies of its members, just as we now hold frequent consultations-- to great mutual advantage--on foreign and defense policies. It might also be found useful to consult together informally but frankly on matters normally dealt with in other international bodies, not with a view to the adoption of a common NATO policy --which would be undesirable as well as impracticable--but in order to develop a better understanding of each other's policies and to avoid conflict between those policies and the interests of the broader international community.

NATO, then, while resisting the temptation to weaken its collective defense effort merely because of the warmer post-Geneva climate, must also broaden and deepen the basis of association of its members in nonmilitary fields. It must prove to those who profess to fear that it is aggressive that it has no other purposes than defense and no greater interest than the resolution of serious international issues in such a way as to bring about genuine security.

One such issue is the conflict of interest between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers over the right of a reunified Germany to associate herself with the West through membership in NATO--if her people freely decide so to do. Now Soviet policy in Europe since the war has clearly been designed and stubbornly enforced to prevent any German settlement which would permit the alignment of a rearmed Germany with the Western Powers. This policy was presumably based on the premise that the addition of German military, political and economic power to the side of NATO would prove a serious threat to Soviet security, as well as adding substantially to the means at the disposal of the Western alliance to resist direct and indirect pressure.

Surely under the overriding necessity of avoiding a war in which both sides have enough atom bombs to knock each other out, a way will be found to settle even such an important conflict of interest as exists in Germany by seeking a compromise through negotiation--a compromise in which the claims of German unification can be reconciled with those of Soviet and European security. Such a compromise cannot be found, however, in the determination of the Soviet Union and its friends to weaken and ultimately destroy NATO and drive its overseas members out of Europe. About that there should be "no possible, probable shadow of doubt, no possible doubt whatever." NATO can safely disappear as a security agency only when these functions are absorbed by a United Nations which is able to guarantee the security of each by the collective action of all.

Is what the Soviet Government fears most about Germany her potential threat in the future rather than the actual political and military measures authorized under the limiting and restrictive clauses of the London and Paris agreements? If so, assurances and guarantees could be worked out which should serve to remove any such fears. These safeguards might cover such matters as Germany's eastern borders and the level, deployment and equipment of NATO and anti-NATO forces in Central Europe. There is room for negotiation, for bargaining, if you will, over reciprocal concessions of this kind--provided it is clearly understood that both Germany and the other members of NATO are free to choose the kind of international association they require for the collective protection of their security.

In order to make the necessary safeguards reasonably acceptable in Moscow, the Soviet Government will have to be persuaded that the participation of a united Germany in NATO and in the Western European Union is not, and will not be, a spur to German aggression, but, on the other hand, represents an effective means of limiting German power and controlling German action. The fact is that NATO, in its expanding network of relationships, in its developing consultative machinery, does exercise such a limiting and controlling influence on the activities, not merely of any one but of all of its members. In this case there is indeed more safety in our numbers even for the other side!

Is it beyond the capacity of our diplomacy to convince the new leaders of Russia of this--that a united Germany in NATO would be a defensive and defensible solution to the German problem, preferable in every way to an independent, armed Germany free-wheeling in the center of Europe, or to a Germany divided in a manner which cannot be permanent but which while it lasts frustrates European security or stability?

Moreover, if the Soviet Union were successful in destroying NATO, through its German policy or in some other way, would that really add to Soviet security? On the contrary, it would increase tensions between the two great super-Powers by driving the United States, unweakened in its nuclear strength, but now more resolute and determined than ever to maintain that strength, behind its continental ramparts. From that position its capacity to retaliate with overwhelming power would still be great, indeed decisive. But there would also be a more intense and fearful feeling that such capacity might have to be used.

Would the Soviet Union feel more secure with that situation than with one where the United States and Germany were grouped with other states in a defensive NATO arrangement of checks and balances? If Moscow, however, clings to its own solution of the German problem, if it insists on remaining implacably hostile to NATO, determined to do everything it can to break it up, then it will indeed be difficult to convert the "spirit of Geneva" into constructive and lasting diplomatic achievements at the forthcoming meetings "below the summit."

These views may seem pretty dark in the light of the new hopes and relaxed tensions of recent weeks. They are not meant to be so. Nothing will be gained, however, and ultimately much may be lost, by nourishing illusions that Geneva has solved our problems, that the dangers to peace dissolved when four men smiled into 40 cameras. A sense of proportion and sober realism in the months ahead will be more useful than premature hosannahs in ensuring that the progress recently made is continued until we find a peace that is something better than mere coexistence.

We have had concrete evidence, and we can rejoice in it, of a greater willingness on the part of the Soviet leaders to negotiate over conflicting issues. This is a situation which we have always hoped to bring about because there is no tolerable alternative method of settling disputes in the nuclear age. But this does not necessarily mean that the basic long-term aims and policies of the Soviet leaders have changed. Nor have those of the West.

It will be well also to remember that the huge Soviet military capability remains intact, and the well-tried Communist techniques of political infiltration and subversion are still readily available for use. Nor is there much evidence as yet that the extension of Communist control over other countries by nonmilitary means as opportunities offer has been renounced. It is to be hoped that convincing evidence of this kind will soon be forthcoming. Otherwise there is bound to be an ultimate limitation on the final degree of détente which we can expect in the relations of the West with the U.S.S.R.

In all these circumstances, I repeat, it would be folly for NATO not to remain on guard, strong and united. It used to be said that "eternal vigilance is the price of freedom." In the nuclear age it is the price of survival. NATO should at the same time avoid any provocation in action or attitude that might seem to substantiate any possible feeling that it is an aggressive threat to those whose policies and actions actually brought it into being in the first place. One way to remove this feeling would be to convince the Soviets that we realize that armed strength is relative; that a reduction of armaments which is general and equitable does not decrease anybody's strength, but does increase everybody's security--provided, of course (and this is a vital proviso), that there is confidence in the effectiveness of the arrangements to ensure that the undertakings given are being carried out.

Limitation of armaments is a cause which all men of good will can support, but we must be wary of proposals which would be unfair and unbalanced in their effect. We must remember also that there can be no effective and general disarmament until some measure of security and trust has been established. And let us not forget that even if arms are reduced, if security is increased, if the cold war thaws away in the sunshine of Geneva, there will remain certain basic conflicts between the Communist and non-Communist worlds. The task of statesmanship will remain: the resolution of these conflicts without war.

Let us also remember that if we are approaching peaceful coexistence, it will be also competitive coexistence. In this competition, which is not new but may now gain new emphasis, NATO and its individual members will have to show that their system of free society is not only militarily defensible but does more for the individual than Communism can ever do. Ultimately it is on this test that NATO--and the non-Communist world--will succeed or fail. To ensure success in expanding economies, full employment, social justice and welfare and the freest possible international trade will count as much as atom bombs and jet aircraft.

In this marshalling and collective employment by NATO of its nonmilitary as well as its military resources, NATO's influence will extend beyond its immediate membership. It covers, of course, only a limited geographical area. But it includes the most powerful nations of the West which have world-wide interests and responsibilities. Thus, inevitably, NATO impinges on the rest of the world. Its members have the right to hope that their motives and policies will not be misunderstood or misinterpreted, even (or possibly especially) by those who may feel, sincerely and for reasons which seem to them convincing, that regional security systems of any kind do not make for peace.

May I conclude by summarizing what is, in my opinion, the best course for NATO to follow after Geneva? The Atlantic organization must become more flexible. It must adapt itself to meet the new challenges which will come if happily we enter a period of peaceful but competitive coexistence, and its member governments will have to use it more for that purpose. This is no time for NATO to weaken or limit itself. On the contrary, it should redouble its effort to fulfill the full promise of the Atlantic Pact. It has already proved to be an effective agency for organizing defense coöperation to meet a military threat. It must now develop greater cohesion and coöperation among its members in the pursuit of common political, social and economic objectives.

Increased consultation within NATO is essential in order to ensure that NATO unity will not melt away under the warming rays of Big Four cordiality. It is not surprising that in foreign and defense policy more has been done in this regard than in other fields. If countries are pledged to stand by each other if any one is attacked, it is to be expected that they would consult together about policies which might result in such attack. But the maintenance of expanding economies and healthy social structures must surely be regarded as being as much a common interest of all members as the maintenance of common defense measures. Harmony between the governments in the economic and social field is, therefore, almost as essential as is coördination of foreign and defense policies.

We need not only to persuade our own membership of the continuing value of the organization for maintaining the collective force which our security requires; we must also be convinced of its value as a vehicle for developing those closer political, economic, cultural and social relations which can give greater vitality both to the Atlantic community and to the broader community of the United Nations. To the world as a whole we have to prove that our hopes and plans for an enduring peace envisage more than a reliance upon the fear of nuclear devastation. We have to demonstrate in action the worth of NATO as an effective international organization based upon democratic principles and as the guardian of our "freedom, common heritage and civilization" when matched against the Communist bloc in the competitive coexistence which lies ahead. This will be a time of severe tests for NATO. If it fails to meet them, far more than NATO will suffer.

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  • LESTER B. PEARSON, Secretary of State for External Affairs of Canada; Ambassador to the United States, 1944-45; President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, 1952-53
  • More By Lester B. Pearson