THE nations of the world have never essayed a more difficult task of creative statesmanship than designing an arms control plan for the atomic future. The rewards and risks are great; the hazards of doing nothing may be vast. Recalling the brave start and the early failure at Lake Success, with the long stalemate that followed, one wonders whether as yet the work has really begun in earnest. Do the encouraging developments of the past year, and especially of the past months, represent more than the exploratory testing of positions by nations which are not yet sure whether they wish to become collaborators or remain antagonists?

Grounds for this doubt lie partly in the political context of the disarmament negotiations since the seven-year deadlock was broken by Vyshinsky in the General Assembly last September. But the doubt also springs from the way in which the problems have been attacked. Save for the initial studies at the United Nations in 1946 and 1947, the treatment of the congeries of military, technical, legal, political and economic issues which emerges in planning for an effective system of arms control has been superficial and at points cavalier. Thus far, the search has been for formulae which, even when accepted, have barely concealed wide areas of potential disagreement.

These disagreements could be fatal to success. Arms control is an inescapably practical business, however much its ultimate success may depend on the spirit of the participants. If a workable plan is to be pursued in good faith, we need a protracted period of careful preparatory studies, followed by bargaining in which we must expect to give as well as to take.

This prospect brings to the fore the disquieting fact that there is little informed opinion concerning the problems of arms control even in the countries where it can shape national policy. Public knowledge has been curtailed by the technical and even secret character of many of the facts; by its infrequent consideration in the United Nations; and, above all, by the pervading pessimism with which Western publics have come to view the possibility of agreement with Communist states. Now, however, a chance for real negotiation may exist. The U.N. Disarmament Commission must report to the General Assembly on the London meetings of its five-Power Sub-Committee which ran from late February till mid-May and resumed in late August. The Assembly in turn will doubtless give this report a prominent place on its agenda. So, too, will the October meeting of the foreign ministers of Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the United States (four of the five Sub-Committee members, only Canada being unrepresented).

The succession of reports and debates now in store can be evaluated only against the pattern of agreement and disagreement that has been evolving since the Sub-Committee's first meeting in London in May and June of 1954. Just at the despairing close of that meeting a British-French compromise plan laid the basis for the Soviet concessions the following September. This article will seek to trace that developing pattern, even though the materials for a thorough account are still inadequate. We have the verbatim record of the London Sub-Committee meeting in 1954 but not of that in 1955. However, we also have the debate in the General Assembly in October 1954, the public record of the Geneva meeting "at the summit," and, of special value, two sets of documents from the Sub-Committee's meeting this May. One of these sets was released by the Soviet delegate on May 11, 1955, in breach of the Sub-Committee's rules. It comprises three draft resolutions which, pieced together, form the skeleton of an arms control plan and constitute the source of Premier Bulganin's statement on disarmament at Geneva. The other set of documents, released in self-defense by the four Western Powers on May 13, comprises several joint draft resolutions and memoranda to which all four Powers had agreed, other memoranda commanding the assent only of the British and French delegations, and an earlier Soviet draft resolution. All these are carefully formulated documents.

The questions posed by any attempt to devise an effective arms control plan may be roughly grouped as follows: What is to be done with nuclear bombs and other "weapons of mass destruction?" How are armed forces and conventional armaments, including foreign bases, to be limited? What should be the stages for putting the control plan into operation? How should compliance with its requirements be policed? Is "enforcement" important and practicable? What political adjustments are essential if the control plan is to function effectively? These will be considered in turn.


It might appear logical to approach the planning of a system of arms control by first considering the objectives and the level of armaments which would be compatible with them. But to do so now would be to depart from the actual approach to the control problem that has been taken for the past eight years. In language of firm generality, all five Powers have declared their hope that armaments will be reduced to the levels required for internal police and the fulfillment of their obligations to the United Nations. However, they have also agreed that reductions to this depth should not be taken until more limited reductions had been effected, and they have confined their planning accordingly. Their restraint will be paralleled in this article. We shall pursue neither the alluring vision of an almost disarmed world nor the challenging problems of how it would be governed.

The approach taken plainly reflects the world's initial preoccupation with the atomic bomb. To devise ways to bring nuclear weapons (and "other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction") under international control was the purpose for which the U.N. Atomic Energy Commission was created in 1946. Even after its merger in 1951 with the inert U.N. Commission for Conventional Armaments to form the U.N. Disarmament Commission, the focus remained on atomic weapons and the perplexing and special hazards which they raise. From the start, it has been agreed that all forms of nuclear weapons are to be eliminated. But what are "nuclear weapons?" The documents permit a clear answer: not the loaded A- and H-bombs but simply the bomb cases used to hold the nuclear explosives, with the devices they contain for precipitating nuclear chain reactions. The nuclear explosives are to be kept for peaceful uses.

The unloaded weapons are complicated pieces of apparatus, varying quite widely in size (it will be recalled that tactical A-bombs can be fired from a cannon). Once their design has been perfected, they presumably can be reproduced in volume without great difficulty by any nation possessing advanced metallurgical and metal-working industries. As armaments expenditures go, their total cost cannot be large. Scrapping presents no technical problems. But there is no sure way to tell whether all previously made weapons have been accounted for and whether new ones are being secretly manufactured. As a Soviet draft resolution candidly declares: "Thus there are possibilities beyond the reach of international control for circumventing this control and organizing the secret manufacture of atomic and hydrogen weapons."

This pessimistic forecast assumes, as the Soviets put it, that "states having enterprises for the production of atomic energy are able, in violation of their agreements, to accumulate big quantities of explosive materials." Is this assumption valid? Can anything be done about either the past or the future production of fissionable materials (uranium 235 and plutonium) and such difficult-to-make products as may be essential to fusion, e.g. deuterium (heavy water) and tritium? Neither the Western Powers nor the Soviets propose to do away with the current stocks of these materials, though certainly they would require an accounting for all past production. Unfortunately, checking the accounts rendered would leave a margin for error that has been estimated unofficially at 20 percent of past production.

If controls were operating, both the United States and the Soviet Union would, of course, render accounts disclosing large stores of weapons-grade fissionable materials; the United Kingdom would have relatively small supplies to report. Are these stockpiles to remain available for use in weapons in case the control plan broke down in its critical early years? If it seemed worthwhile to take expensive precautions against this hazard, the stockpiled nuclear materials could be placed in reactors and contaminated radioactively in order to render them unusable again either in weapons or in power reactors without time-consuming reprocessing. Or chemical contamination might be used, a less effective if less expensive technique.

The British-French memorandum of June 14, 1954, which Vyshinsky accepted last fall as the basis of renewed negotiations, proposed that the elimination of nuclear weapons be followed by the "conversion of existing stocks of nuclear materials for peaceful uses;" and in a draft resolution of March 8, 1955, the United States and Canada also agreed to like language. This may refer to no more than would take place over a number of years as existing stocks were actually used in atomic power reactors. It may contemplate contamination by the means suggested above. The Soviet documents make no reference to conversion.

Presumably a control plan would require that military stockpiles be drawn on to fuel atomic power reactors; if so, we may exhaust the disclosed supplies of weapons-grade nuclear materials in a relatively few years. In the interim, additional output of nuclear fuel might be confined to uranium enriched in uranium 235 by not over 20 percent. This enrichment, effected by the costly gaseous diffusion process, is sufficiently fissionable for an atomic power or research reactor, but it is not weapons-grade. On the other hand, some major reactors (e.g. those at Hanford, Washington) convert uranium into plutonium which, after chemical processing, is weapons material. Moreover, the so-called breeder and converter types of power reactors also yield plutonium which, when processed, is ready for weapons use. Hence, if stocks of weapons explosives are to be kept from expanding before the demand for nuclear fuels for power reactors builds up, the plan may have to require at least that reactors producing plutonium and not power be closed down until demand begins to press on supply. This tactic seems to have been envisaged by the U.N. Atomic Energy Commission back in 1947.

Of course, whatever the steps taken to guard disclosed stockpiles and to limit new production, the risk of secret stores remains. Some critics of controls argue that this is a risk to which we alone are exposed. The Soviets, they say, would surely maintain illicit stores of nuclear arms, whereas the cumbersome democratic processes of our Government would preclude our concealing either nuclear weapons or nuclear explosives. Let us hope the critics are right; secret violations would buy us dubious protection and would vest terrible power in an unknown and self-perpetuating group of officials. But the Soviets could not know what we have done. Elementary prudence would require them to assume that we had hidden enough bomb cases and nuclear materials to retaliate quickly in case they attacked.

We wind up, therefore, with the possibility of an atomic standstill de facto, if not de jure. The "elimination of nuclear weapons" would be treated by both sides as a fiction, even if measures were taken to contaminate weapons-grade materials and to limit the output of new materials to immediate peaceful needs. However, the output of new weapons would at the least be slowed down. If an inspectorate were operating, clandestine manufacture on a substantial scale would involve risks of detection. Moreover, the development of new and sinister forms of nuclear weapons could also be restricted, especially if the control plan embraced the Soviet proposal to stop nuclear weapons tests. (Since presumably our much more extensive testing has advanced our nuclear weapons technology further than that of the Soviets, it is rather surprising that they should have originated this proposal.)

All five Powers agree that "other weapons of mass destruction" are to be eliminated, but they have not yet identified them. Materials for chemical and bacteriological warfare and devices to spread them would doubtless be covered. However, since these do not require large-scale specialized facilities of a sort readily detected, the prohibition might not be fully effective. More helpful, perhaps, would be the inclusion in this category of ballistic and guided missiles designed for use against mass targets. The greatest danger of a devastating surprise attack would come from intercontinental missiles with nuclear warheads. They would render the heavy bomber obsolete and presumably they would be easy to hide. But if they have not yet been designed and tested, an inspectorate probably could inhibit their development by preventing their testing and their mass production. If, however, controls were not begun until some time after such missiles had been in volume production, no effective accounting for past output could be hoped for. There would be another big loophole in one or both sides of the arms control system.

A significant problem of definition remains open. Is the big bomber to be regarded as a weapon of mass destruction and therefore to be eliminated? Or is it to be considered as a conventional weapon and therefore to be controlled?


Modern armaments are so diverse and so specialized in function that the task of reducing the entire array is indeed formidable. The conferences of the inter-war period struggled long over such simple variables as the tonnage of cruisers, the caliber of guns and the size of tanks. Understandably, therefore, when the Powers seek measures of arms reductions they turn to the one interchangeable part in all modern military machines: the human being. In May 1952 the United States made the first attempt at specification by following up its proposal for a five-stage arms census with a suggestion by Secretary Acheson that maximum limits be set on the military and para-military personnel of all Powers. For the U.S., the U.S.S.R. and China--a China--he proposed uniform ceilings of from 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 men and, for Britain and France (who joined in the proposal), ceilings of between 700,000 and 800,000 men.

The Soviet Union had only scorn for this proposal. Vyshinsky called the figures "out of the hat." Account had to be taken, he said, of the differing defense tasks facing nations with different areas, boundaries and neighbors. He still preferred the longstanding Soviet solution: a proportional cut, one-third or maybe one-half of existing forces.

This position, which, of course, would have preserved the Soviet quantitative advantages, was suddenly abandoned at London last May when the Soviet representative accepted our 1952 approach in principle. (The Western position at London had been stated in terms of a general objective: "No state shall have armed forces strong enough to be a serious threat to international peace.") The Soviet proposal was for ceilings of from 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 men each for the U.S., the U.S.S.R. and China, and 650,000 men for Britain and France. The levels permitted all other states were to be "considerably lower" than these five.

In setting the levels for all states, including the Council's five permanent members, the Soviets would have account taken of "demographic, geographic, economic, and political factors." These criteria they borrowed from a comparable Western proposal, but their specific reference to the permanent members probably means that the U.S.S.R. intends to argue that application of these factors entitles it to a higher ceiling than our own, though within the 1,000,000-1,500,000 range. The British and French accepted the Soviet figures, but on condition that the three top ceilings be uniform.

At the Geneva meeting, Premier Bulganin proposed ceilings for Powers other than the permanent members within a range of from 150,000 to 200,000 men. In so doing, he sharpened a significant difference between the Soviet and Western positions. The Western Powers had seen Germany, Japan and Italy as a special problem. Applied to them, the criteria would call for increases rather than reductions in their armed forces. Accordingly, a Western resolution, though naming no names, calls for "special arrangements" for "certain specified states." Needless to say, German rearmament is closely tied to the complex problems of German reunification and of European security arrangements. Indeed, this inter-relationship is disturbingly reminiscent of the conflicting goals of French "security" and German "equality" which brought the General Disarmament Conference at Geneva in the thirties to a halt.

Should limits also be placed on the arms available to the curtailed forces? The virtue of limiting only military manpower is the relative simplicity of the device. The defect is the obvious one that a lively arms race can continue between two nations with equalized armed forces.

The Western Powers, in a draft resolution of March 12, 1955, propose that the quantities of "armaments and equipment" for "the maintenance of the armed forces permitted under the convention" shall be agreed upon and that no state shall "retain or acquire" any excess. Moreover, the "levels and types of such armaments and equipment shall be such as to prevent undue concentration of total permitted armed forces. . . ." The obscurity of this criterion emphasizes the disheartening difficulty of the task. If our total military personnel were cut to, say, 1,200,000, and we decided to keep 300,000 naval personnel, how many battleships, submarines and aircraft carriers might we retain? Shades of Washington, London and Geneva! With an air force of 400,000, how many air wings? And would the controversy with the Soviets be any sharper than within the Pentagon? The Soviet treatment of the problem is no more specific than this sentence from one of their May draft resolutions: "The five Powers undertake to reduce correspondingly their conventional armaments as well."

Obviously we have here a pitfall in the path of agreement even if everyone shows good faith. We are not going to scrap carriers that take years to build in return for the scrapping of tanks that take weeks. The difficulties in working out equivalent arms cuts supply one of the strongest arguments for a drastic, one-step reduction of all armaments to internal police levels. Once this is ruled out as impracticable, what alternatives present themselves?

Budgetary control is one. As the comment on Premier Faure's reliance on this device has made plain, it is hard to equate Communist military budgets with those of the capitalist West. But budgetary restraints may have utility as an auxiliary to ceilings on military manpower. Another and perhaps more promising approach would allow existing conventional armaments to be kept but not increased. Replacements could be allowed for deterioration, though not for obsolescence. Coupled with a deep cut in manpower, such a standstill would probably lead to the mothballing of military surpluses from planes to battleships, but each state would be judge of what should go into storage. A few years of successful control would make it vastly easier to negotiate schedules for scrapping rusty weapons.

Foreign bases pose special problems. Soviet spokesmen for years have fulminated against military bases on foreign territory. However, these complaints have seemed on a par with their complaints against war propaganda. We have usually rejoined by calling on them to evacuate the satellite states, and the matter has not gone beyond an exchange of unpleasantries. Now, however, a Soviet draft resolution prescribes that "states possessing military, naval and air bases on the territories of other countries undertake to dismantle these bases."

The point is not easy to meet. If nuclear weapons are "eliminated" and other arms so reduced that no state remains "a serious threat to international peace," what function do the bases have? If the disarmament program could be trusted fully, the bases naturally would be superfluous. But dismantling a base is a little like scrapping a battleship. If the control plan were repudiated or sabotaged six months later, it would be hard to reconstitute either. Before relatively permanent steps like these are taken there should be a longer period for testing controls than the two years set by the Soviets.

In view of this hazard, foreign bases might be dealt with in three ways. Some could be dismantled in the regular course of the arms reduction program. With even 1,500,000 men under arms, we could not hope to hold all the bases which we now maintain with 3,000,000 men. Other bases might be relinquished to their respective sovereign nations to be preserved in at least stand-by condition. A third group might be designated for dismantling or surrender at the end of specified periods, long enough to permit a thorough test of the viability of the control program.


One reason why the Powers have dealt only cursorily with so many of the above matters has been their concern with the phasing of the control plan. This is due partly to the tactics pursued by both the United States and the Soviet Union. More deeply, however, it lies in the nature of the control problem itself.

Since World War II, both nations have relied on secrecy as an important factor in sustaining their military power. We have jealously guarded our dwindling store of atomic secrets; the Soviets have depended on the Iron Curtain and drastic restrictions on travel to conceal their military installations and supporting industries, including atomic facilities. Arms control would mean disclosure of many, perhaps all, the secrets of both Powers. This itself has given them pause. Still more, each side has feared that it might find itself making unilateral disclosures.

We have insisted that disclosures proceed by stages, with the revelation of atomic secrets left to the last. To the Soviets this has seemed a stratagem to enable us to learn their secrets while concealing our own indefinitely. They have therefore pressed for prohibitions against the use and even possession of atomic weapons prior to setting up effective controls. To us this seemed a way for them to deprive us of our strongest weapon and then to sabotage the controls before we had learned their secrets.

In the past seven years the Soviet insistence on an initial ban on atomic weapons has slowly weakened. Even as late as the 1954 London Sub-Committee meeting, however, the Soviets insisted that all nations agree at the outset not to use atomic bombs even against an aggressor who was using them. When they accepted the British-French compromise proposals as the basis for negotiation in September of that year they left the preliminary pledge against the use of nuclear weapons open for further study. Now they accept the Western position that the bomb might legally be used in defense against aggression. However, they attach a nullifying provision that such use must await "an appropriate decision" by the Security Council--to which, of course, the veto could be applied.

The British-French compromise sought to limit arms reduction to three stages (though the first was not so identified). In the preliminary stage, military manpower and budgets were to be frozen. In the first stage of the plan proper, 50 percent of the agreed reduction in armed forces and conventional arms would be carried out. The second stage would see the remaining 50 percent of the reduction completed. At the start of this second stage all production of nuclear weapons would be banned, and at the end they would be eliminated. The Soviets complained that the British-French program was "uncoördinated," a euphemistic way of stating the suspicion that the cuts in conventional arms would be completed and those in nuclear weapons would not. This led the two Powers to propose that the prohibition on nuclear weapons go into effect when the reduction in other arms was 75 percent complete, both processes to be finished by the end of the second stage. Since the processes would differ greatly in scale, the synchronization might be more apparent than real. The Soviets accepted the formula in May. We did not.

Under the British-French plan none of this procedure, not even the preliminary steps, would be taken until the inspectorate was in a position to carry out its functions in that stage, and had so certified. In Soviet eyes this promised to delay indefinitely the final step, abolition of the A-bomb and H-bomb. At the 1954 Assembly they agreed to the concept of two stages but specified that these be of prescribed duration, six months or a year each.

This difference as to timing of stages continues. In their draft resolutions of May 10, 1955, the Soviets proposed that the first stage be scheduled for 1956 and the second for 1957. Last spring in London, the United Kingdom and France, though not the United States and Canada, agreed to the principle of fixed periods for each stage, "subject to any extension of time essential to permit states to complete" the scheduled measures. This compromise seems sensible, and if the problem of stages were simply a matter of timing it would appear well on the way to solution. But it has been tied closely to the problem of inspection, which as we shall now see is highly complex.


The significance of the problem of policing any control plan has risen as the prospects of the Baruch proposals have declined. The Baruch proposals followed the lead of the Acheson-Lilienthal report in seeking to minimize the need for policing by giving the control agency managerial control or ownership of all facilities required for nuclear fuel production, together with ownership of the fuels produced. In the U.N.A.E.C. majority report this was expanded to make the agency the owner of all "dangerous" facilities. The task of the inspectorate was chiefly to uncover clandestine operations--a hard mission to perform without also uncovering secret non-atomic military installations not supposedly under control.

The Soviets at once scented a move toward American monopoly in the ownership plan and refused to discuss it. Their concern had some substance; the West could count on a clear majority in the proposed Atomic Development Authority, and its powers and discretion were to be wide. We clung to the plan long after it had any prospect of acceptance, and only withdrew covertly in a working paper on the administration of controls submitted at London in 1954. In the interim, after a dust-raising insistence that inspection of atomic facilities be "periodic" and not "continuous," the Soviets abandoned this point. But the original function of inspection--discovery of undisclosed operations--is still at issue.

The Western position as set forth in a 1955 London draft resolution is unequivocal: the inspectorate must be stationed permanently in the countries under control and have "unrestricted access to all installations and facilities as required by them for the effective performance of their responsibilities and functions." At the Assembly in September 1954, the Soviets proposed that the task of inspection be divided into two parts. A temporary body was to police the first stage, involving only armed forces and conventional arms. Though their statement was not clear it seemed to allow for some independent checking of the accuracy of government reports. The second stage, involving atomic armaments as well, was to be entrusted to a permanent control organ which would continue its policing indefinitely. Again it was not clear how extensive would be this organ's power to check suspected activities in undeclared premises. There seemed no change from the negative position taken at London in June 1954.

Since that time the gap seems to have widened. The Soviet draft resolution of May 1955 was prefaced by a long and candid explanation, quoted above, of why inspection is unable to detect atomic violations and of the "tension and distrust" which "make difficult the reaching of agreement regarding the admission by states to their enterprises, particularly those engaged in war production, of foreign controllers who could inspect the enterprises." Then came a proposal that during the first stage inspectors be stationed only in "big ports, railway junctions, motor roads and airdromes" where they could make sure that "no dangerous concentrations" of armed forces were being prepared to make a sudden attack. In the second stage the control agency would continue this function; but, "within the bounds of the control functions they exercise," inspectors would also "have unhindered access at any time to all objects of control." This clearly begs several questions as to both "control functions" and "objects." The reason is not hard to guess. The power of inspectors to search for undeclared facilities or stockpiles would probably be confined to cases where grounds for suspicion could be produced--a hard condition to satisfy in a totalitarian state.

It is puzzling why the Soviet representatives have been so obdurate in the matter of inspection once the control concept had been extended to cover all forms of armament. Do they suppose that the policy of military secrecy could survive an inclusive system of arms control? It is less difficult to explain the caution they have evinced in proposing limited inspection in the first stage. It probably springs from their fear of unilateral disclosure. The Soviet secrets are of a sort that would be laid bare by free-ranging inspection in the first stage; ours, in the second.

This concern may explain Premier Bulganin's subsequent rejection of President Eisenhower's call at Geneva for an exchange of "military blueprints" and reciprocal aerial surveys. It is symptomatic of the improvement in relations, however, that he based his position on the inadequacy of aerial inspection, not on its one-sided character. Also, he took pains not to shut the door tightly. The President's proposal seems prompted by much the same pessimism about the effectiveness of nuclear controls as the Soviets expressed last May.

Taken together, the President's proposal and that of the Soviets for watching mobilization centers have opened up the critical problem of inspection to a fresh examination. Objectives as well as methods should now be reviewed. Inspection can accomplish some tasks effectively and without too great difficulty; others it can achieve only with skillful planning and meticulous execution; for still others it is not reliable at all. Perhaps a few quite specialized inspection techniques, ranging from metallurgical testing to aerial surveys, would give virtually all the assurance that can be provided by policing; in that case, its further extensions would create needless problems for us as well as for the Soviets.

Our new attitude reveals some of the same nervousness regarding inspection that the Soviets have shown from the start. Thus President Eisenhower, at a press conference not long before Geneva, said: "Are we ready to open up every one of our factories, every place where something might be going on that could be inimical to the interests of someone else?" Read now in the light of his proposal for aerial surveys and his expression of readiness to combine it with the Soviet plan of watching mobilization centers, we gain the impression of an emerging American preference for a control plan which would not attempt to control the level of armaments but rather their use. This gradual approach would check the arms race only if it bred mutual confidence to a degree that made cuts in military spending more palatable. It would relax tensions more if there were not the risk that "something . . . inimical" might be going on in uninspected places on either side, and that it might be volume production of the intercontinental ballistic missile.


We have been concerned with how to enforce controls ever since Mr. Baruch stressed the need to define violations of the control treaty as "international crimes" meriting measures of "condign punishment" free of the veto. Some authorities insist that nations must disarm fully and leave all military power to a United Nations "police force" if controls are to be enforceable.

The concept of enforcement assumes that unwilling nations can be coerced into observing a control plan much as citizens are coerced into obeying national laws. But is the assumption true of nations the size of the United States and the Soviet Union? The coercing nations could, of course, go to war against the offender; but since the purpose of the plan is to avoid war, a war to force observance seems self-defeating. To be sure, other pressures can be brought to bear against a violator, even a large one. This may take the form of moral censure, U.N. resolutions, judgments of the International Court of Justice, or economic and diplomatic measures. All these have their place. But when the danger is that the suspected state may be preparing to launch an atomic war, pressures of that character seem inadequate.

The inspectors policing an arms control plan may some day find evidence pointing to a willful and menacing violation. The fire alarm rings. The control agency would, of course, call for prompt explanations and corrections. The U.N. Secretariat, the Security Council and the General Assembly, if in session, would be notified. This machinery is cumbersome, and so far as the Council is concerned the veto can paralyze action. But if it failed to work the threatened nations would not be helpless. Their armed forces would have been curtailed, but so would those of their opponents. During negotiations for a peaceful adjustment they could take steps to rearm and make clear their intention to fight if necessary. Article 51 legalizes measures of self-defense.

The violator would then have a choice between peace and war. The choice would long have been open to it. Would it have deferred a decision to turn to war until it had accepted the control plan, disclosed at least some of its secret installations, destroyed a considerable part of its nuclear weapons and sharply curtailed its military forces? This is possible, but is it likely? How, for example, does this risk compare with the recent danger that a little atomic war over Quemoy and Matsu might grow into a big atomic war over New York and Moscow?

Another danger is more probable. The Soviets and their allies have a bad record for not carrying out international obligations and for using disputatious tactics that in effect repudiate duties even when they stop short of formal breaches. An arms control plan might be sabotaged in like fashion. There could be delays in the destruction of nuclear weapons; armed forces could be camouflaged as police or athletic societies; inspectors could be balked at every turn. The control agency's efforts to straighten out the tangles might merely breed more frustrating controversies.

If this situation begins to emerge under a control plan, there is one way to deal with it. The United States and its allies can make it plain that they stand ready to denounce the control treaty if the operation of it is obstructed. They must not be bluffed. If they are firm, probably the Communist states will conform. Presumably they would not have signed the treaty if they had not considered arms control in their own best interests. If that calculation changes, the sooner we find it out the better.

The obstructions which occur may not always involve such present danger that quick action is imperative. Legal procedures could be provided for testing in the International Court of Justice whether the failures of one side to perform its duties had relieved the other of its duties; thus the obligations of the arms treaty should be declared interdependent, as are the obligations of most contracts. This would act as a continuing reminder to the Communist states that they could not enjoy reduced arms burdens and freedom from the threat of war for long unless they were meeting their own responsibilities.

As tensions relaxed, budgets fell and peaceful industries expanded, there would develop a vested interest in peace and disarmament. The beginning period would be the critical one. To bring self-interest to bear in support of the plan, the phasing of it should prevent either side from gaining at any stage an advantage materially greater than the disclosures, arms reductions and other sacrifices that had been required of it at the start. Otherwise an advantaged Power might accept the controls in bad faith, knowing that an early breakdown of the system would leave it with a net gain.

These considerations bear directly on the wisdom of the position now taken by the United States as to the control agency's powers. We withdrew our insistence on the abolition of the Security Council veto in the working paper which we submitted at London in 1954. In its place, we proposed that the agency be authorized to "order" control measures in cases involving violations, including the cutting off of nuclear fuel supplies and the closing down of reactors. The Soviet Union claimed that this would usurp the Security Council's exclusive authority over disputes: the control authority might "recommend" action to the Council but the Council alone could "order" action.

The difference seems less significant when one considers what will lead a Power like the Soviet Union or Communist China to obey an "order" or a "recommendation." If it considers the continuation of the control system to be in its interest and knows that a refusal would jeopardize it, then it will obey an "order"--but, given these assumptions, it would obey a "recommendation" as well. If it is prepared to risk the collapse of the control system, neither an order nor a recommendation would be effective.


It is often said that agreement on arms control must await a general political settlement. What is less often recognized is that arms control implies the settlement of political issues, at least to the point that warfare is not to be used to resolve them. An operating arms control plan might have prevented the North Korean attack, but it could not have continued in existence for long after the hostilities began. If the Soviet Union and China had wished the plan to survive they would have had to keep the North Koreans under check. Applied to existing situations, this means that an arms control plan would require firm restraints in Korea, in Vietnam and its neighbors, in Israel and the Arab States, and in Formosa and the coastal islands. The political settlements involved would not need to be final, but they would have to be such that the use of military force was barred.

The question arises how a plan operating under the United Nations could function effectively if a number of large nations remained outside the organization. This is not a technical problem of draftsmanship; legally the problem could be solved. Under almost any control plan the administration of that plan would become the chief function of the United Nations. States as large as China, Japan, Germany and Italy could not long remain outside the central body.

As these tough political problems are examined with the needs of arms control in view, the happy suspicion grows that it may be easier to settle a dispute as a means to achieving some larger and independent purpose than it would be to resolve it wholly on its own merits. Thus the United States could more easily recognize Red China's claim to a Security Council seat as a step in setting up an arms control plan under the U.N. than on grounds bearing exclusively on the merits of that claim. For its part, China would find it easier to give up the effort to capture Formosa by force if this were part of the procedure of joining a control plan. Thus the initiation of arms control could involve political adjustments which in turn would make it easier to reduce armaments still further.

Before such a beneficent cycle can begin it is necessary to do more than secure Soviet acceptance of a workable plan. Somehow the American people and their political leaders must be prepared to go along too. This will not be easy. We have come to distrust the Soviet Union deeply and with cause; there are powerful isolationists in both parties and there are many organizations in which patriotism slips over easily into chauvinism. Our tolerance of our present pitiably inadequate civil defense organization indicates how ignorant and indeed how indifferent we are about the perils from which a workable arms control system might preserve us.

Fortunately, we probably have some time left. The present era of improved international feeling may persist. The present uneasy balance in nuclear armaments may continue, at least until one side, by virtue of advances in the technology of delivering or repelling an atomic attack, feels that it is in a position to overwhelm the other. Will the Great Powers have achieved political maturity before that point is reached?

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