PRESIDENT Eisenhower's announcement of the suspension for one year of all nuclear weapons tests and his invitation to the Soviet Union to negotiate a permanent ban on tests has raised hopes all over the world that a beginning has been made in controlling nuclear weapons and that a big step forward has been taken in the quest for peace.

The hopes which have been focused on a nuclear test ban are intense and varied. Many thoughtful people concerned about the danger of radioactive fall-out maintain that the quest for security must not be allowed to endanger the health of future generations. Others argue that the end of nuclear testing is essential to build confidence for more fundamental agreement, especially in the field of disarmament. It would prevent the diffusion of nuclear weapons to other Powers. It would lessen the dangers of thermonuclear wars. And these arguments are reinforced by an insistent Soviet campaign to the effect that nuclear tests should be unconditionally prohibited and nuclear weapons outlawed.

The yearning for an end of the cold war reflects the deepest aspirations of the free world. So intense is it that we have been ready to stigmatize as more immoral than other weapons the weapon around which we have built our defense of that world. But the very intensity of our desire for peace may increase our peril. It may make us seek agreement for its own sake and thus set in motion a train of events which will divide the non-Communist world and undermine its resolution. The hopes which have been attached to a complete ban on nuclear tests are surely understandable. But they should not have been raised so high without a careful analysis of the political and psychological implications of such a step and its relationship to our defense policies and long-term goals. Instead we became preoccupied with technical problems of a test ban, which are by no means the most important. When we agreed to meet with Soviet scientists at Geneva, we clearly implied that if inspection was found to be technically feasible, we would be willing to discuss a complete ban. Therefore, when the scientists had made their report, we felt impelled to make a critical policy decision, although only its technical aspects had been fully explored.

This article questions whether a complete suspension of nuclear testing is desirable, whatever the possibilities of inspection. It argues that we should deal with the health hazard by ending tests which involve appreciable fall-out but that we should agree to a complete ban only as part of a general disarmament agreement which includes conventional weapons. The desire to avoid a nuclear holocaust and to achieve a lasting peace should be taken for granted in any debate on this problem. At issue can only be the best means to achieve these ends.


Because of the emphasis laid on the technical aspects of ending nuclear tests, it may be useful at the start to discuss these and to point out some of the difficulties involved. It is generally agreed that surface nuclear explosions can be detected at considerable distances by equipment which measures radioactivity and shock waves.[i] The difficulty arises with underground testing, high altitude testing and testing underneath the polar icecaps, and with the increasing civilian uses of nuclear energy.

With respect to underground testing it is argued that a system of inspection stations spaced 300 miles apart could detect all un-underground explosions of about 1 kiloton explosive power except in the seismic belt where earthquakes are more frequent, requiring inspection stations on a 100-mile grid. Nevertheless serious problems remain. Methods of "buffering" explosions so that the seismic shock is weakened have barely been explored, but indications are that they can reduce the seismic wave by a very substantial percentage. Moreover, the seismic equipment can locate the shock only within an area several miles in diameter. Some but not all of the characteristics of an underground explosion can be distinguished from those of an earthquake. Conclusive proof can be obtained only by finding the precise location of the suspected evasion either by means of boring for radioactive samples or by discovering an entrance to the test site. This is a considerable task in an area which may cover more than 30 square miles. And the negotiators at Geneva agreed that the problem of high altitude testing was very little understood at this stage. The same difficulty may apply to testing underneath the polar icecaps.

Again, as the peaceful uses of nuclear energy become more widespread other means of evasion may be developed. In fact, the United States explicitly and the Soviet Union by implication have both exempted peaceful applications of nuclear energy from their announced test bans.[ii] One of the obvious applications of nuclear energy is in mining. It will not be easy to prevent a country from using devices for blasting which also have military applications, or from gaining militarily useful knowledge by checking the results with scientific instruments. To be sure, inspection teams could be invited to witness each peaceful use of nuclear explosives; but as the peaceful applications of nuclear energy grow more common, this will become increasingly difficult. A nation determined on evasion could overload the inspection mechanism by hiding test explosions among hundreds of ordinary ones.

In any event we must keep in mind that the best inspection system can guard only against presently known methods of evasion. In the nature of things it is difficult to protect against a contingency not yet imagined. And finally, evasion will be easier to attempt and to conceal in the Soviet Union than in the West. In the West a ban on nuclear testing will be largely self-policing, because public opinion will not countenance evasion and scientists will not lend themselves to it.[iii] No such inhibitions will exist in the U.S.S.R.

Yet the most vexing problem of inspection is not that of obtaining information, difficult as it is, but the political consequences to be drawn from whatever information does become available. Obviously a violation of the nuclear test ban is not a casus belli. It may not even be a sufficient cause for the injured party to start testing again. Once nuclear tests have been banned, the free world will not abrogate its agreement easily, even in the face of strong provocation. Even if it reached a decision to do so, years might be consumed before tests could be resumed. For one thing, a nation like the United States which had observed the ban might by then have nothing to test. A ban extended over a period of years would almost certainly lead to the attrition of our weapons laboratories, whose ablest scientists would be increasingly tempted to concentrate on more promising fields. For another, the United States would have great difficulty reassembling its testing machinery. Present tests involve scores of installations and thousands of personnel. It would be impossible to keep these teams together once a test ban had been agreed upon. Even a strong indication of Soviet violation might therefore leave the United States at a serious disadvantage or at least without adequate recourse.

Moreover, there is a great difference between obtaining information which is technically reliable and establishing a similar degree of political and psychological clarity. It is often maintained that a violation of the test ban would have a catastrophic impact on world opinion. But this assumes a degree of certainty about Soviet intentions which is belied by all past experience. The Soviet Union has always been skillful in presenting its challenges in an ambiguous manner, partly by masking its own actions, partly by charging its opponents with similar transgressions. According to its usual tactic, the Kremlin, within a short time of signing an agreement to end nuclear tests, would quite probably accuse us of violating it.[iv] In the resulting atmosphere of recrimination it would be difficult to separate sincere charges from the customary exchanges of the cold war. The result might well be a further weakening of the will of the free world.

Finally, it is quite possible that a complete ban on testing would enable the Soviet Union to overtake us in the military applications of nuclear energy. Whereas a complete test ban would magnify our already great difficulty in inducing our ablest scientists to work on nuclear weapons, it would not prevent the Soviet Union from keeping its research teams together either by compulsion or by arranging appropriate incentives. Also, the Soviets may feel less dependent on testing in order to achieve scientific progress. The experimental method is instinctive to the West. Marxist dogmatism places much greater reliance on theory. For example, the Kremlin announced its first nuclear explosion several days before it took place. Thus even if the rate of scientific progress were the same, the Soviets may gain an advantage because of greater confidence in untested data. Or else they may use a temporary cessation to prepare tests of superior weapons.

Nevertheless, the deepest concern about a complete ban on testing does not arise from the danger that it may permit Soviet technical advances or from the political and practical difficulty of inspection. We must consider whether the basic motive behind Communist pressure for a complete ending of nuclear tests may not be the Soviet Union's conviction that it would gain a substantial advantage from a complete ban which it scrupulously observed. The wisdom of a complete end of nuclear tests so often advocated as a "first step" depends on the answer to the question "first step towards what?"


It may be argued that such a question is a symptom of the distrust which has produced the cold war. Unless both sides are willing to take some risks in the quest for peace, it will be said, the world will be doomed to an indefinitely continued armaments race and eventual destruction. Since the death of Stalin, great changes have occurred in the Soviet Union, brought about by the appearance of a new bureaucracy, the increasing demand for consumer goods, and the creation of the entire apparatus of an industrialized society. According to this line of thought, the Russians' expressed desire for peaceful coexistence represents a concession to the pressures of these new forces. Given time and patience, the Soviet Union may evolve into a society not unlike ours.

Because these assertions derive from attitudes which have contributed so much to the stability and often the freedom of our society and that of many of our allies, it is difficult to contradict them. A status quo Power always has difficulty in understanding a revolutionary state. All its instincts tempt it to accept peaceful professions and to refuse to believe in implacable hostility.

Were it not for this difficulty of understanding, no revolution would ever have succeeded. A revolutionary movement always starts from a position of inferior strength. It owes its survival to the reluctance of its declared victims to accept its professions at face value. It owes its success to the psychological advantage which single-minded purpose confers over an opponent who does not believe that some states may prefer victory to peace. The ambiguity which makes the Soviet challenge so deadly derives in part from the skill of the Soviet leadership; but the danger is magnified by the tendency of the free world to choose the interpretation of Soviet motivations which best accords with its own preconceptions. Neither Lenin's writings, nor Stalin's utterances, nor Mao's published works, nor Khrushchev's declarations, have availed against the conviction of the West that a basic change in Communist society and aims was imminent and that a problem deferred was a problem solved. It is only to posterity that revolutionary movements appear unambiguous. Thus a status quo Power is never certain until too late that another state intends to overthrow the international system, especially as the revolutionary Power will present each demand as a specific, limited objective, which often in itself seems quite reasonable. However weak at the beginning, it can substitute psychological strength for physical power; it can use the very enormity of its goals to defeat gradually an opponent who cannot come to grips with a policy of unlimited objectives.

This becomes a particular problem if the revolutionary Power exploits this weakness systematically. In Soviet terminology, for example, the concepts war and peace are inherently confusing. Since, according to Communist theory, the social structure of capitalist states necessarily produces war, real peace can be achieved only by the world-wide triumph of Communism. Therefore any act by the Soviet Union, however warlike on the surface, is pacific by definition and any measure by a capitalist state, however seemingly conciliatory, tends toward war. Thus the slogan peaceful coexistence has never had more than a tactical significance in Communist terminology. "Marxism-Leninism," wrote Mao, "does not allow concessions to be regarded as something purely negative . . . . Our concession, withdrawal, turning to the defensive or suspending action, whether in dealing with allies or enemies, should always be regarded as part of the entire revolutionary policy, as an indispensable link in the general revolutionary line . . . ."[v] To be sure, the protestations of peaceful coexistence have recently become more insistent; but the reason is not very flattering to the West, since it consists in the assertion that war has become unnecessary in order to encompass the downfall of the free world.

The argument outlined here may not prove persuasive to the increasing number of people in the free world who desire an end to the cold war so intensely that they ignore the lessons of the past and the fundamental professions of Communist doctrine. But even the most optimistic should ask themselves why Khrushchev can be expected to deal any more gently with the countries of the free world than with his erstwhile colleagues in the Soviet Presidium. What was the doctrine of collective leadership but the principle of peaceful coexistence applied among the Soviet leaders? Yet it was used ruthlessly by Khrushchev first to paralyze opposition by branding it contrary to the principle of collective leadership and then to defeat his opponents one by one. Khrushchev could not have succeeded domestically had he not been able first to convince his colleagues of his sincerity. Is it not at least possible that the men who arrested the leaders of the Hungarian revolution while negotiating an armistice with them and who executed them despite a promise of safe conduct are now seeking to apply these same methods to weaken the cohesion of the free world and then to destroy its members piecemeal? A wise policy will at least consider this contingency and will not risk everything simply for the sake of agreement.

Certainly the free world has a duty to seek to spare mankind the horrors of another war. It must strive for any agreement that offers such prospects. But a real relaxation of tensions can come about only if the Soviet leaders become convinced that they cannot use negotiations to induce us to disarm unilaterally, that any agreement must be mutually advantageous. We must consider, then, whether insistent Soviet demands for a complete ban on nuclear testing are not designed to paralyze the free world rather than to bring about peace as we understand the word.


Rightly or wrongly, the free world has based its defense on nuclear weapons. We need not here review the circumstances nor analyze the motives that led to this decision. It is enough to note that nowhere in the Western world are there sufficient conventional forces to resist the Soviet preponderance in conventional strength; and nowhere is there any immediate prospect of developing them. Nothing now stands in the way of Soviet domination of Eurasia save the Soviet reluctance to pay the price of a nuclear war.

That is why the Soviet Union has systematically sought to paralyze the West's will to use the weapons around which its entire defense effort has been built. It has done this both by creating a substantial nuclear stockpile of its own and by seeking to have nuclear weapons outlawed. Appealing to the most basic fears of humanity, the whole apparatus of Soviet policy, from diplomacy to "peace" congresses, has sought to undermine our reliance on the most effective--or at least the only available-- means of resistance to Soviet domination.

The free world should therefore have no illusions about the implications of a complete ban on nuclear tests. For if a cessation of nuclear testing is a "first step" to anything it is to an increased campaign to outlaw nuclear weapons altogether. If these weapons are too dangerous to test, so the argument will go, they are surely too terrible to use. That this is the aim of Soviet policy was made explicit by Khrushchev: "After the termination of nuclear weapons tests, it would be possible to raise the question of the Powers making a solemn undertaking not to use hydrogen and atomic weapons and henceforth to adopt a decision on the total prohibition of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons . . . . "[vi] In the present state of Western defenses such a prohibition is tantamount to unilateral disarmament. The onesidedness of our military establishment has deprived our diplomacy of flexibility. If the free world possessed a conventional force sufficiently powerful and mobile to blunt Soviet aggression by similar forces, the complete cessation of nuclear testing would not be so dangerous. But none of the advocates of a nuclear test ban has been prepared to champion--and many have actively opposed--a build-up of conventional forces sufficient to offset the grave risks which their proposals invite.

Nor will the weakening of the free world be compensated for by a victory in the battle for the minds of men. In the current atmosphere where all attention has been focused on the most cataclysmic uses of nuclear weapons and we have failed to develop or to offer a plausible alternative, a complete cessation of tests will merely serve to shift pressures to the banning of nuclear weapons. We must be sensitive to world opinion. But we have also an obligation to contribute to shaping it. We must succeed in conveying the fact that unless the free world is prepared to accept a settlement on Soviet terms, we must have a military establishment which we are prepared to invoke for our defense. If we are not willing to run some risks for the preservation of our values and our interests, the collapse of the free world is inevitable and no amount of rhetoric can eliminate this fact.


The willingness to run risks depends in part on the options afforded by our military establishment. We require more conventional forces. We must have a wider spectrum of nuclear weapons. We must stop pretending that we can have security on the cheap.

One of the penalties of being on the defensive is that the choices which we must make are more difficult than the aggressor's, if only because the dangers against which we must protect ourselves are more varied. The aggressor can choose his point of attack; he can select the weapons system which seems most promising; he can concentrate on the area where his opponent is weakest either geographically or in weaponry. The defender must be able to defend all likely targets of aggression and against any weapons system that may be employed. Two consequences follow: (a) at equal levels of military effort the aggressor usually has an advantage; and (b) the defensive requires a more advanced weapons technology than its opponent. The side which concedes the first blow must have a more mobile and better protected retaliatory force, for it must be able to withstand the attrition of the initial attack. Its weapons must be lighter so that they can be rapidly moved to threatened areas. It must possess a range of capabilities which deters the aggressor from tilting the scales by expanding either the area or the intensity of the conflict. The side which concedes the first blow therefore runs major risks if it compounds the disadvantage of the defensive by having a frozen weapons technology. This is particularly true in the present stage of weapons development.

The nuclear weapons with which we are most familiar and which are most fully tested are also the most destructive. Any war would have to be conducted in their shadow. Under present circumstances they even inhibit recourse to conventional weapons, for the danger of a nuclear showdown will be thought to be inherent in any conflict. This view has already been articulated in Great Britain where Lord Russell has insisted that even surrender is preferable to running the risk of war.[vii]

It is therefore essential that we develop nuclear weapons of finer discrimination, less destructive power and greatly reduced fall-out. This need exists regardless of whether we intend to rely on a conventional or on a nuclear defense. As long as the defensive effort of the free world is polarized between inadequate conventional forces and nuclear weapons of enormous destructiveness, the Soviet bloc will be able to pose the dilemma of suicide or surrender in a variety of forms. By engaging in or encouraging aggression with conventional forces it can force our leaders to choose between yielding or invoking a strategy which will involve catastrophic casualties. Even if we build up conventional forces and resist initially without recourse to nuclear weapons, the Soviet Union may be tempted to utilize a few weapons of low yield unless deterred by the knowledge that we have ample weapons of similar discrimination and superior technology.[viii] A conventional war can be kept conventional only if we are prepared with a wide variety of nuclear weapons.

This will be true whether or not the Soviet Union follows suit. The rhetorical question "Why develop clean weapons if they use dirty weapons against us?" is surely no more pertinent than the argument "Why rely on bullets if the opponent has nuclear weapons?" This reasoning would loosen all constraints and would lead to the continued elaboration of ever more destructive weapons. Moreover, the availability of clean weapons is of great importance for the protection of our own troops and also civilian populations, which may be endangered by fall-out from our own weapons. But the essential purpose of having a wide range of clean and discriminating weapons is to give the free world an option which does not involve either immediate catastrophe or surrender. Possession of them will improve the plausibility of our deterrent and reduce the possibility of Soviet atomic blackmail which has been so central a feature of Soviet diplomacy in recent years. And they will provide a shield behind which to build up conventional forces if we are prepared to make the sacrifices. The difference in will power between the Soviet bloc and the free world must not reach the point where we assume an unlimited willingness on the part of our opponent to run risks, while we recoil before the risks of even a limited defense.

In a revolutionary world rife with possibilities for upheavals, perhaps unsought by any major Power, it is imperative to couple the quest for peace with efforts to mitigate the consequences of conflicts that may occur either by accident or design. If this effort is not made, the result must be an increasing pacifism which will produce appeasement if not surrender; or else, if a decision to resist is taken, it will lead to the most catastrophic kind of war. Is it not possible that Soviet leaders have been so insistent on a complete and unconditional end of nuclear tests precisely because they are aware of the paralysis produced by such prospects?


Would not the end of nuclear testing avoid the diffusion of nuclear weapons among other Powers? Of course, a nuclear test ban will serve only to inhibit the independent development of nuclear weapons by "fourth" Powers; it will not necessarily prevent the distribution of nuclear weapons from the stockpiles of the major nuclear Powers, nor will it stop them from turning over blueprints to an ally. Nevertheless a complete ban on nuclear testing will have psychological and political consequences which will make it difficult for other Powers to acquire nuclear weapons, particularly in the free world. The issue of a ban on nuclear testing is therefore inseparable from that of nuclear sharing.

The situation with respect to nuclear sharing can be summarized as follows: The Communist bloc possesses a decisive military superiority in all contiguous areas. The Soviet Union can threaten with nuclear weapons all peripheral areas and much of Africa from its own territories; Communist China is overwhelmingly stronger than any neighboring state in conventional weapons. In these circumstances the Soviet Union may have decided that it has little to gain and a greal deal to lose from the diffusion of nuclear weapons. Indeed, in view of the political unreliability of some of the satellite régimes, it probably has a positive interest in keeping nuclear weapons out of their hands.

The immediate Soviet objective is therefore to prevent the development of a nuclear capability under local control on the European continent, for then Western Europe and other contiguous areas will eventually become neutralized. Without a nuclear capability of its own, Europe will find it impossible to resist the increasingly bold Soviet threats of nuclear warfare, which have been a cardinal aspect of Soviet diplomacy in every crisis since Suez. Europe, should it want to be defended, would then become entirely dependent on the American assessment of its danger. In such a situation the Soviet leaders may well calculate that the United States would be reluctant to invoke its own destruction for the defense of Europe, or that even in an all-out war they could not be prevented from seizing Europe. For after the initial exchange of blows the Soviet Union would remain supreme in Eurasia.[ix] That the Soviet Union is concerned with making Europe impotent and not with the threat offered by a European nuclear establishment is demonstrated by the Soviet protest against the plan to equip the Swiss army with nuclear weapons.[x] By no stretch of the imagination can Switzerland be suspected of aggressive intent against the U.S.S.R.

In negotiating about a nuclear test ban we must therefore take care not to contribute to a climate of opinion which will make our position on the Continent untenable and a local defense of Europe impossible. Already influential groups in Britain argue for a unilateral renunciation of nuclear weapons and considerable pressures exist in Germany against equipping German forces for nuclear war. In both countries the cessation of nuclear tests is considered as an initial move away from atomic weapons. The more the Soviet Union succeeds in building up a distinction between nuclear weapons and other weapons, while retaining full control of its own stockpile, the more it will undermine the will of the Western alliance to resist. Once the Soviet Union has succeeded in bringing about a divergence between our military establishment and that of our European allies, it may hope that our NATO partners will be paralyzed by their impotence and we by our unwillingness to risk all-out war.

If we permit a distinction to grow up between our military establishment and that of our NATO allies, our expulsion from Europe is almost inevitable. Further delay in the distribution of nuclear weapons to our European allies will give the Soviet Union more time to persuade Europeans that they will be able to escape involvement in any conflict by refusing to permit nuclear installations on their territory. Logically, this denuclearization of Europe will be followed by a demand that American troops withdraw, since their equipment is so obviously nuclear. At the very least it will expose us to great pressure to withdraw all our nuclear installations from the Continent. Western Europe would then be impotent, at the mercy of Soviet Russia. NATO would cease to have meaning.

This is not to say that Europe must obtain nuclear weapons from its own production or that these weapons must be under national control. From many points of view it would be highly desirable if NATO's nuclear components were under NATO control, or if a European atomic force were formed on the model of E.D.C. Similarly it is not essential that nuclear weapons be locally produced, but only that there be European participation in their use and control. Before we go much further in the direction of a complete ban on testing, we should at the very least amend our Atomic Energy Act to permit wider nuclear sharing. And our approach to the question of nuclear testing should be based on premises which do not inhibit nuclear sharing and which will not give impetus to Soviet ban-the-bomb propaganda.

Will not the possession of nuclear weapons by our allies increase the danger of war? This would be true if our allies felt thereby encouraged to attack the Soviet Union, or if they were to use nuclear weapons in their own quarrels outside of Europe. But excessive adventurousness vis-à-vis the Soviet Union can hardly be considered a European failing. Even in the less preferred contingency that nuclear weapons were under national rather than NATO control, it is difficult to conceive the circumstances which would induce any European country to unleash a unilateral attack on the Soviet Union. The individual nuclear capability will remain so small, the disproportion in vulnerability is so great, that they could not, by any rational calculation, use these weapons for offensive ends. Their purpose would be to make the costs of aggression, particularly of local adventures, prohibitive, and to discourage Soviet atomic blackmail.[xi]

As for the use of these weapons to settle private quarrels outside Europe, this could be effectively forestalled by placing them under NATO or an over-all European control. But even should they be under national control, the likelihood of their use outside of NATO is slight. The difficulty which the French army has in Algeria is not inadequate firepower but that of finding targets against which this firepower can be used. Atomic weapons have little significance in guerrilla-type operations.

But what of the uncommitted nations? Is there to be no end to the diffusion of nuclear weapons? First, it must be recognized that from a technical standpoint the diffusion of nuclear weapons will grow increasingly difficult to prevent, regardless of what decision is reached with respect to nuclear testing. As the peaceful uses of nuclear energy become widespread, more and more nations will become familiar with nuclear technology. The end product of many atomic reactors is plutonium, which is also the basic component of nuclear weapons. As nuclear energy becomes more familiar, its military applications will be very difficult to control. Nothing short of the original Baruch-Lilienthal plan seems capable of arresting this trend.

It does not follow, moreover, that because the diffusion of nuclear weapons must be stopped at some point it must be stopped at this point, or that the most effective method is a ban on nuclear testing. To be sure, the more nuclear Powers exist the more difficult it will be to arrest the spread of nuclear weapons. But we must weigh this risk against the danger of collaborating with the Soviet Union in the neutralization of Europe. This would leave us without powerful allies. It would place us ultimately in the position of having to defend the whole Soviet periphery alone against Soviet nuclear attack or Soviet atomic blackmail. Bilateral negotiations with the Soviet Union to the exclusion of our European allies are fraught with danger. It would be much better to deal with the problem of the diffusion of nuclear weapons directly rather than through the indirect method of a test ban, and to include our NATO allies as nuclear Powers in any agreement, preferably through a European Atomic Community.

Of possible methods to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, a test ban is the most disadvantageous to the free world. Its relevance to nuclear sharing is primarily that it will contribute to a psychological attitude in the West making it impossible for any of our allies to acquire nuclear weapons. Communist China will not be similarly inhibited from obtaining nuclear weapons from the Soviet Union. Even if reports that the U.S.S.R. has already agreed to give nuclear weapons to Communist China are premature,[xii] it does not seem likely that the Soviet Union would in the long run risk its most important alliance by refusing to share nuclear weapons in any form. It is idle to argue that in these circumstances the United States would be free to give nuclear weapons to its own allies. By that time, the public opinion of our NATO partners would not permit the possession of nuclear weapons, especially as the direct threat to these countries is not markedly increased if China possesses nuclear weapons.

The difficulty with a total ban on nuclear testing is that it stakes too much on a measure which in itself is of problematical significance. It will build up world-wide reluctance to resort to nuclear weapons, the only means of defense now existing against Soviet aggression or Soviet military pressure. It will impede if not prevent the articulation of a strategy for the defense of Europe. It will increase the danger that any war that does break out will take the most catastrophic form. By freezing weapons development after only the most fearful applications of nuclear power have been fully explored, it will increase the possibilities for Soviet atomic blackmail without reducing the free world's peril. As a first step it goes too far and in a too uncertain direction.


One of the difficulties the free world has had in dealing with the Soviet bloc is that we have been clearer about the things we oppose than those we stand for. This has given much of our negotiations with the Soviet Union the quality of a stubborn rearguard action designed primarily to thwart Soviet overtures. It has enabled the Soviet leadership to define the issues in international debate, putting us in the position of respondent rather than initiator. World-wide pressures are built up against us before we have a chance to demonstrate our own purposes and values.

So it has been with the issue of nuclear testing. Our diplomacy has concentrated on problems of inspection or on belittling the danger of fall-out. Whatever the scientific basis of the fear of radiation,[xiii] there is no question that we should respect the depth of that fear among many peoples exposed to fall-out from tests outside their control and against which they have no protection. Control over radioactive fall-out is therefore a requirement of any United States policy on nuclear testing. But the United States should not be asked at the same time to initiate the control of armaments by paralyzing itself and its allies without at least the beginning of a reduction of Soviet conventional strength and of some protection against surprise attack. The fact that the Soviet Union has proved obdurate on a general disarmament scheme indicates only that it wants to use negotiations to disarm us unilaterally, not that such a scheme lacks merit. If we negotiate only on issues the Soviets declare soluble, we can be sure that diplomacy will become increasingly a device to undermine the free world.

In the negotiations on a nuclear test ban which are about to begin, the United States should therefore propose that we are willing to address ourselves immediately to the problem of fallout but that a complete ban would depend on a comprehensive disarmament agreement. Pending such an agreement, we should propose that, while nuclear weapons are essential to the defense of the free world, we are prepared to take immediate steps to mitigate the effects either of testing or of using them. We should invite the Soviet Union to join a U.N. committee which would immediately set a maximum dosage of permissible fall-out from testing well below the level brought about by recent tests. The U.N. committee should then assign a quota to the United States and its allies and another to the Soviet bloc on a 50-50 basis. (Since most of the potential "fourth" Powers are in the West, this would be a considerable concession to the U.S.S.R.) For two years all Powers would agree to register with the U.N. all tests which involve fall-out and both sides would agree not to exceed their quota. During those two years the quota would be progressively reduced, ultimately to zero. Afterwards, unless there were by then a general disarmament agreement, nations would remain free to conduct surface tests of "clean" weapons, underground tests and tests in outer space, so long as they did not cause fall-out. Technical experts from both sides would agree on an adequate inspection mechanism, which could be relatively simple.

While such an agreement would impede the arms race, it would not stop weapons development altogether. It would permit the continued elaboration of defensive weapons and of weapons which can be applied with discrimination, both in terms of fall-out and in terms of yield. Indeed it will put a premium on such development because these weapons can be tested most easily underground or within established "fall-out" quotas. It will avoid placing the United States in the position of not trusting its allies with the development of weapons which are essential to their defense and which their opponent already possesses in quantity. At the same time, it will impede the too rapid diffusion of nuclear technology and thereby afford time for a careful study of this problem. The easiest weapons to develop are those with major fall-out effects. The least complicated method of testing is above ground. Thus a limited ban could channel future weapons development into the least destructive channels. It would reduce and ultimately eliminate whatever health hazard there may be in present testing.

Such a proposal would counteract the Soviet effort to elaborate a distinction between nuclear and non-nuclear powers or zones or warfare, a distinction which can only paralyze the free world. At the same time, it would call attention to a distinction between forms of warfare which are unnecessarily destructive and those which seek to confine devastation to the smallest possible proportions--a condition which is essential to make our deterrent posture plausible and to strengthen the will of the free world. If the Soviet Union rejected our proposal, we and our allies should impose a steeply decreasing quota on ourselves, thus forcing the Soviet Union into the position of being solely responsible for any health hazard in nuclear testing. In this manner, increasing pressure of world opinion could be built up against the most catastrophic use of nuclear weapons and in favor of a general disarmament agreement. This approach to the problem of nuclear testing would have the additional advantage that it would be much easier to inspect. Inspection could concentrate on one problem reasonably well understood: that of fall-out. If no radioactivity were found, no violation was taking place.

A restriction of nuclear testing as outlined here would meet many of the fears of humanity without exposing the free world to incalculable peril. It would be a "first step" which avoids most of the dangers of a complete ban and yet achieves many of its goals. If the limitation of nuclear tests proved workable, the inspection system could be expanded, reduction of arms might follow, and efforts could be made to reduce the danger of surprise attack. None of these measures is possible, however, as long as the Soviet Union is encouraged to believe, by the irresolution and evasions of the free world, that through skillful and persistent diplomacy it can break up the cohesiveness of the Western alliance and undermine the will to resist aggression with the only effective weapon now at our disposal.


It is widely believed in the West that the issue of nuclear testing is a touchstone of our sincerity. Many argue that the Soviet Union scored a major gain by renouncing nuclear tests and that we exhibited lack of imagination and the absence of a moral dimension by not following suit immediately. The reluctance to end nuclear testing, so the argument goes, is a symptom of the sterility and over-concern with military problems which have been at the root of so many of our difficulties.

There is no doubt that the Western world is in deep trouble. It has not been able to articulate either a philosophy or a program adequate to the challenge of the times. It has failed to identify itself with the revolutionary period through which we are living and it has not had the vision or the willingness to carry through a sustained program of world economic development. Because we have not been clear about our purpose we have often found it easier to concentrate on defensive measures than on those which might give a sense of direction to a world in turmoil.

But even in the military field we are inadequately prepared to deal with most of the issues with which we are likely to be confronted. We have insufficient strength for limited war. We are falling behind in the over-all strategic equation. The answer to our political dilemma is not to be found in reducing our defenses--for even here more effort and imagination are required --but in injecting a greater sense of purpose into our over-all performance.

As a nation of specialists we like to believe that a problem is either political or economic or military. The challenge we face, however, is that contemporary problems involve a combination of all these factors. Our choice is not between working for the things in which we believe or attending to our necessities. If we cannot do both, we will not be able to do either.

[i] For a very good account of methods of detecting nuclear weapons testing see "The Detection of Nuclear Weapons Testing," by Jay Orear, in "Inspection for Disarmament," edited by Seymour Melman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958), p. 85 f.

[ii]The New York Times, August 23, 1958.

[iii] For an interesting analysis of the degree to which public opinion in free world countries would support a test ban see "An International Public Opinion Poll on Disarmament and 'Inspection by the People': A Study of Attitudes Toward Supranationalism," by William M. Evan in Melman, op. cit., p. 231 f.

[iv] This process may already have started. See the Soviet charge that the United States "hid" 18 test explosions in the Pacific. The New York Times, August 24, 1958.

[v] Mao Tse-tung, "Selected Works," v. 2, 1937-1938 (New York: International Publishers, 1954), p. 263-4.

[vi]The New York Times, June 29, 1958.

[vii] Bertrand Russell, "Freedom to Survive," The New Leader, July 7-14, 1958, p. 23.

[viii] The aggressor employing nuclear weapons against conventional forces will have a relatively concentrated target because massed firepower is difficult to achieve otherwise in a conventional war. He can therefore employ relatively crude nuclear weapons, having first dispersed his own forces.

[ix] See Peregrine Worsthorne, "Our Bomb and Theirs: As the Russians See It," Encounter, July 1958. Also Raymond L. Garthoff, "Soviet Strategy in the Nuclear Age," New York: Praeger, 1958.

[x]The New York Times, August 9, 1958.

[xi] For a fuller discussion of the problems of the defense of Europe see the author's "Missiles and the Western Alliance," Foreign Affairs, April 1958.

[xii]The New York Times, August 18, 1958.

[xiii] See for example the recent U.N. report on radiation. The New York Times, August 11, 1958.

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  • HENRY A. KISSINGER, Associate Director of the Harvard Center for International Affairs; author of "Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy"
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