How Russia Decides to Go Nuclear
Deciphering the Way Moscow Handles Its Ultimate Weapon
About a decade ago a Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs created a furor on both sides of the border by saying that "the days of relatively easy and automatic political relations with our neighbors are, I think, over." Nourished for years, as we all had been, on post-prandial pap about the unfortified frontier and the capacity of North American good will to mellow away all differences, Americans and Canadians were unduly shocked. They disregarded the fact that Mr. Pearson had not said relations were deteriorating; he merely said they had become more complex. They had become more complex be cause they were no longer a simple matter of line- fence disputes over borders and waterways. We had both ceased isolating ourselves from the troubles of the world and, for that reason, we were likely to have differences on a great many more subjects than in the past. Mr. Pearson aimed to persuade people on both sides of the border to adopt an adult attitude to our relations, to abandon the persistent North American illusion that good will without understanding was adequate and that problems could be smiled away in intercommunity singing, to recognize that any two countries in close proximity were bound to go on having disputes and differences and that the mark of intelligence was not to pretend they did not exist but to approach them tolerantly, judiciously, and unemotionally-and, in a sense, to take them for granted.
The truth of Mr. Pearson's prediction has been demonstrated by the history of the past ten years. The sense of partnership and common purpose between the United States and Canada is, I think, stronger than it ever was. Nevertheless, we argue about a lot more things than we used to because there are many more things to argue about. Our most acute differences are as likely to be about distant places-China, Cuba or Laos-as about tariffs and waterways. There is, in fact, an edge to these arguments about faraway places which make them more of a threat to good relations than are our traditional controversies. Perhaps we have come to take for granted disputes about trade, farm surpluses and drainage canals, recognizing that a state of litigation between neighbors is normal and perpetual. When a question of common policies toward the rest of the world is involved, however, the perspective is confused. On the one side there are complaints about "disloyalty" and on the other side grumblings about "arrogance."
This aspect of United States-Canadian relations is so perplexing that a vocal minority in Canada want to rupture the partnership and launch into neutrality. Although the neutralists are primarily moved by an aversion to recent United States foreign policy, the appeal of their formula lies also in that it seems to many Canadians a simple solution to an unbearably complex question. The question is how, as a small power, to be an ally of a much larger power with whose fortunes we are deeply involved but whose policies we cannot control. Faced, as the United States is, with a multitude of international problems of the utmost severity, this problem of a lesser power manipulating its hand alongside a great power may seem trivial. Nevertheless it is crucial for Canadians and important for the United States because Canada is only one among many allies in comparable positions.
In some ways, the policy of a lesser power is more complicated than that of a great power, even though its reverberations are more limited. As members of the United Nations we are obliged to take positions on disputes without restriction. We are involved in the consequences of all international issues from Berlin to Quemoy. We must figure out responsible policies even though they are less decisive. And we have the additional procedural problem of how to raise our voices to some effect. To sit back and let our large friends make all decisions would be tidy but impossible for a spirited people; we have perversely refused to concede that great powers have a monopoly on wisdom. So we must persuade our large friends to listen to us-either in single argument or by combining with other lesser powers in NATO, the Commonwealth or in the United Nations. We can, if necessary, dissent and go our own sour way or we can end up in some kind of association in which our share in the formulation of policy has inevitably been modest and for which our enthusiasm is therefore restrained.
The way in which United States-Canadian relations can be bruised by differences on an international issue has been unpleasantly revealed recently over the question of Cuba. Most Canadians welcomed the Castro revolution but were increasingly dismayed by the course that revolution took. Inevitably, Canadian feelings have been less strong than those of the United States because we have not been directly attacked by Castro and our economic interests in Cuba have received more reasonable treatment. Furthermore, a small country, somewhat concerned itself with the overweening economic power of the United States, has a certain sympathy with aspects of Castroism. All middle and small countries, I am afraid, have a kind of permanent grudge against large countries, and this conditions even when it does not determine their policies. Canadians, nevertheless, are committed to the defense of democracy and have no desire to abet the introduction of Communism into the Americas.
It is important to bear in mind, however, that countries can be united in a common purpose but differ over tactics. It is, in fact, differences over tactics rather than ultimate ends which have been and will undoubtedly continue to be the cause of dispute between our two countries. When the United States Government decided to impose an embargo on trade with Cuba and break diplomatic relations, the Canadian Government did not follow suit. The reason was not that Canada wanted to give aid and comfort to an enemy of the United States but that we thought an embargo an unwise tactic which would not achieve its object, a view shared by most of the United States' allies. If NATO or any other association in which we participate had agreed to impose an embargo, then we would have been under an obligation to conform, whether we approved or not. There was no such agreement, however; there was merely a unilateral decision of the United States Government.
Unfortunately, this rational position of the Canadian Government, rationally accepted by the authorities in Washington, was distorted by the kind of misunderstandings which inevitably accompany issues in which feelings are deeply involved-uncompromising resentment of Castro on one side and a mettlesome concern for independence on the other. A Cuban trade mission arrived in Canada at an awkward moment, and statements were made by Cubans and Canadians that lent themselves to misinterpretation. Out of them grew an unwarranted story about plans for vastly expanded Cuban-Canadian trade. These were picked up by editors in the United States, and Canada was denounced for exploiting a neighbor's disadvantage and for softness on Communism. These charges were greeted with resentment by Canadians and a field day was had by those who are ever at the ready to find evidence of undue American interference in Canadian foreign policy. This controversy did not predispose Canadians to an objective and tolerant view of the more important issues involved in the invasion of Cuba in April or the tactful pressure on Canada by President Kennedy in May to join the Organization of American States. And by raising doubts in American minds about Canadian objectivity over Cuba it has limited the chance for Canada to be of some service in easing Caribbean tension.
This tempest illustrates the dangers which lie in a failure to comprehend the difficulties inherent in our relationship. Because our relationship is so close and because to the superficial eye we are so much alike, the anger aroused when we differ is embittered by a sense of betrayal. The fact that we worship at the same supermarkets leads to unwarranted conclusions about the identity of our political lives. Our social habits are similar, but our histories are different. Because our histories differ, we are bound to differ in our attitudes to other countries and in our approach to international issues. For example, we in Canada solved our relations with Europe and the internal relations between our two communities without a revolution and without a civil war. This fact does not make us more virtuous, but it has had its effect on our political temperament. Variations in our political temperament show up constantly in our approaches to foreign policy. National generalizations are always hazardous, but it is, to some extent at least, true to say that Canadians are, more so than Americans, disposed to compromise, disinclined to see issues in black and white, reluctant and skeptical crusaders, disposed by the lessons of their own history to accept and live with problems and to dissolve them rather than solve them at a stroke. What looks to Canadians like sophisticated diplomacy can seem to Americans like naïveté or lack of moral courage. To us, American policy has often seemed rigid and inflexible, but we for our part must guard against making a fetish of flexibility and compromise. These temperamental differences have been apparent in our approaches to major international issues from Laos to Lebanon, from China to Cuba, and they are likely to continue. They need not prevent us from working together as allies provided we make allowances for these differences in tactic-and provided we avoid irrational rows like that over Cuba.
I do not suggest that the answer is to be found only in greater tolerance by Americans of the independence of Canadian foreign policy. It would be better if the understanding of the Canadian position shown by most informed Americans and by officials of the State Department could spread wider. The basic problem, however, rests with Canadians to work out a satisfactory concept of our role in the world.
We are still confused ourselves-inevitably, perhaps, because the problem is difficult. We are too much concerned with world problems to relax into the happy escape of satellitism. We are too deeply engaged in the struggle against totalitarianism to find a way out in neutrality. We have learned from the role we have played in the Suez crisis, in supervising the truces in Indochina and in the settlement of disputes in the United Nations that we have a unique contribution to make to international causes which justifies insistence on maintaining our independence in foreign policy.
What we have to do is find a reasonably consistent philosophy for working in harmony with a neighbor, ally and partner on a basis of mutual independence in which equality is not possible. The heart of the dilemma is that although man for man Canadians and Americans have equal rights to a voice in the world, there is no denying the predominant role of the United States as a country. It is no contribution to reason to make rhetorical statements about our being free and equal partners in the common cause, because we are not. The role of the United States is a decisive role, the role of Canada is supplementary. We have the right to seek to influence American policy and to reject American policy if we do not agree with it. We have to bear in mind, however, that preservation of the military and diplomatic strength of the United States is a Canadian national interest. This can mean that for Canadian nationalist reasons we sometimes support American positions even when we think they are unwise-on China, for example. In this respect, however, we are not unique. Our propinquity does not necessarily make our position different from that of more distant allies of the United States.
In some ways, propinquity has given Canada more freedom of action than other allies because we have been less dependent on American aid. There have been occasions when Canada differed with the United States in the United Nations and elsewhere, although more timorous allies hesitated to do so lest they forfeit United States good will and risk thereby the American commitment to supply and defend them. (Whether or not this fear was justified, it existed.) Canada was fortunately never obliged to accept economic aid from the United States, and Canadian soil is so important to the defense of the United States that we have not been inclined to worry about its losing interest in our fate. We have, of course, a permanent interest in avoiding foreign policies which would unduly irritate Congress- not because we fear anything so crude as sanctions on their part but because there are many issues which come before them, mainly economic, on which we hope they will take a generous view of the Canadian interest.
We shall approach this question more discriminatingly if we think in terms of our each having a unique role in world affairs, one the role of a great power and the other the role of a middle power. We see this question out of focus when we think too much in terms of a bilateral relationship rather than in terms of our being independent actors on a crowded world scene. Although Canadians may be vigilant about the presumptions of great powers, we do not for the most part deny their special rights-even their rights of veto properly exercised. We must always be conscious, furthermore, of the awful responsibilities they bear.
The role of middle powers is less well understood-even by the middle powers themselves. The term "middle power" has come into current use, and it is ill-defined. It is ill-defined because the middle powers are by their diplomacy in process of putting meaning into the term. There is a deliberate ambiguity in the word "middle." At first it was used to describe countries which, by reason of their resources or military power or population, were not to be considered among the great powers but which had positions in the world clearly different from that of the small and powerless. Such middle powers were Sweden, Brazil, India, Australia, Canada. These middle powers often found themselves involved in mediatory exercises, and as a consequence the emphasis has shifted to the other connotation of "middle." The word suggests not only middling in size but also a place in the middle of a conflict between the disputants, an intermediary, one not too closely attached to any bloc, and capable of intercession. As the emphasis in international security action has shifted from military force to diplomacy, the emphasis on physical and human resources has diminished. Now we find among the most effective middle powers very small countries like Ireland and Tunisia.
Canada is a middle power in both senses. We became so not by deliberate policy but because the circumstances of the international balance of power fashioned the role for us. During the past decade there has been a cold war which was also a nuclear stalemate. Fear among the great powers of each other's capacity to destroy the world (or a large part of it) has provided a rough kind of stability in the world. The great powers have held the ring. Within this ring there have been many quarrels-in Indonesia, Palestine, Kashmir, Indochina, Congo-dangerous disputes which would flare into perilous threats to peace if the great powers became involved. Ironically, this balance of terror has provided an opportunity for diplomacy to work. To settle or at least stabilize these conflicts, there has been a process of almost constant negotiation. Fighting has been stopped, and a kind of rough justice patched up which is not ideal but is better than the arbitrament of nuclear war. The lurking threat of forceful intervention by the great powers has been a powerful element in this diplomacy of adjustment. So also have the principles of the United Nations Charter. These principles are subject to erratic interpretation and their application has been highly political, but nevertheless there has been growing an international conscience which prescribes the bounds within which a settlement must be found. In this diplomacy the middle powers have had an important role to play. The great powers held the ring, but someone had to jump in and act as referee. The great powers, although the pressure they exert in the treatment of disputes is far from negligible, have in recent years been automatically excluded from the role of referee, only lesser powers being considered sufficiently disinterested to act as mediators, truce supervisors or patrollers of the peace.
Let me cite some of the ways in which Canada has been thrust into this role and gained experience in it. It is a role the fundamental nature of which has persisted although governments have changed in Ottawa.
In the late 1940s Canadians found themselves playing a useful role in the center of the Palestine and Indonesian disputes. We had no commitments to the Arabs or Israelis, the Dutch or the Indonesians, and no vested interests in these areas. We had no history in those parts of the world either, and the people had had no chance to learn to dislike or fear us. We were, therefore, useful go-betweens. In the Korean War we could not play a mediatory part because we took our place with the United Nations fighting forces. However, when it came to the negotiations for a truce and the disposal of prisoners, and in subsequent issues involving the United States and China, there was a role we could play. Canada did not have diplomatic relations with Peking because the Korean War broke out before our intention to recognize the Peking government had been carried out. We did, however, have very close Commonwealth relations with India, the only non-Communist country able at that time to have any dialogue with the Chinese. Relations between the United States and India were, in the early and mid-fifties, far from cordial. Canada was on occasion able to act as interpreter between Delhi and Washington in order to keep some chain of understanding and communication between Washington and Peking. I do not want to oversimplify or to exaggerate that role because many countries were involved in the frantic diplomacy made necessary by the fact that the two antagonists could not talk to each other. There was, however, at least one occasion on which a message which persuaded the Chinese to be careful passed from Washington to Ottawa to Delhi to Peking-in such a way, of course, that everyone involved in the chain could deny that any such thing was intended. During that period Canadians acquired a reputation for promoting feasible accommodations which strengthened our diplomatic hand and also landed us after 1954 with some arduous international chores.
It may seem to be implied in what I have said about the role of a middle power that we consider ourselves neutral, able to talk to either side in the cold war because we make no choice between them. There is, in fact, a body of opinion in Canada which argues that we should rid ourselves of our NATO and NORAD ties so that we might be more truly neutral to carry on this efficacious kind of diplomacy. It is, however, excessively logical to see things in this way. No country can properly be called neutralist, because although it can be neutral on some issues it cannot be neutral on all. Canada, a member of NATO, has never pretended to be neutral in the main issues with the U.S.S.R. or China. We can, however, be impartial in most of the confused disputes which reach the United Nations and we can refuse to judge them in strictly coldwar terms. Few of the disputes I have mentioned involve a direct conflict of the Communist power against the United States and its allies. They are for the most part paradoxical issues rising out of the transition from the old imperial order to the new. What is required is not neutrality so much as objectivity, a willingness to hear both sides and to see the issues in perspective.
If a country is to establish a reputation qualifying it to perform the duties of a middle power it must demonstrate that it is objective enough and strong-minded enough to differ, if necessary, with its great-power allies. Canada has had to make clear, over Indochina and other matters, that it was prepared to disagree with the United States and, over Suez, that it was prepared to disagree with the United Kingdom and France. It has diverged on other issues as well, but it has remained firmly attached to NATO and no one has had sound reason to doubt what side it was on in a showdown.
In 1954 Canada became involved in one of the more arduous aspects of middle- power diplomacy. When the Geneva Conference of that year concluded truce agreements for the states of Indochina it was essential to have commissions to see that the terms were respected. The states chosen to man these teams were India, Poland and Canada-an embryonic and by no means entirely unsuccessful troika. Since that time, Canadian military and diplomatic officers have been on duty in Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia, and Canada has been directly engaged in the diplomacy of that distant part of the world. As the United States did not sign the Geneva Agreements and, until President Kennedy's recent statement on Laos, had never wholeheartedly accepted the spirit of those agreements, Canada found itself obliged to pursue courses with which the policy of the United States was not in strict harmony. We were both seeking the same end, to keep Indochina tranquil and free, but we were doing so by different methods. The strain on our good relations over Indochina has been kept more on the diplomatic than the public level, which is as it should be. In recent months our attitudes on Indochina have come much closer together and an important cause of difference has been diminished.
The obligations of a middle power extend both to our military and diplomatic activities. Provision of truce or observation forces for Indochina, for Palestine and Lebanon and now the Congo have become a major priority for the Canadian services. In 1956 Canada took the lead in proposing the establishment of the United Nations Emergency Force at the time of the Suez crisis, a Canadian general was placed in charge of it, and Canada has supplied one of the largest contingents. In this case we had to make clear that we were not acting as agents of the British. As in the case of our differences with the United States over Indochina, we did not consider that we were impairing essential British or Western interests in the Middle East; we were exercising our right, however, to make our own interpretation of how those interests would best be served.
In 1958 we supplied officers for the United Nations Observer Group in Lebanon, a commitment which also required a certain element of detachment from United States and British thinking about Lebanon at that time. The next request Canada received for a contribution to peace-keeping forces was for the Congo in July 1960. Because of the preference for non-white forces, we might have escaped an invitation altogether. We were asked to contribute only because our kind of assistance was indispensable. Some middle power had to be involved which could supply communications personnel and air force maintenance. Among those middle powers which habitually contribute to these peace-keeping exercises, only a few such as India, Sweden and Canada are normally able to provide the necessary technical base. The selection of middle powers to act in disputes is, of course, on an ad hoc basis. None of us would be accepted as impartial and disinterested in all circumstances.
These mediatory roles are a source of satisfaction to a country like Canada because we feel that we have been performing services to the cause of peace and order for which we are peculiarly fitted. It is a role which great powers cannot play, but which it is in the interest of the great powers that someone should play. There is a danger, of course, that middle powers will drift into attitudes of moral superiority over the great powers. This division of function between great and middle powers is a result of the complex balance of forces in the world. If we deny that greater virtue and wisdom go along with greater power, we might also avoid the sentimental illusion that innocence and high-mindedness are qualities of the weak. Some Canadian orators are in the habit of descanting upon the love felt for Canada by the masses of Asia and Africa because those masses know we have no imperialist designs upon them. It is hardly proof of our higher ethics that a people who have never been able to digest a tenth of the land they own have refrained from coveting territory or resources on far-flung continents. These masses accept us as disinterested to a large extent because they never heard of us before. Canadians have acquired a reputation for fair-mindedness which we should preserve because it is our most valuable diplomatic asset. We must, however, preserve it not only by our objectivity in dealing with disputants but also by being fair-minded to the great powers.
There is a constant temptation on a middle power to stand up to a large power not to prove a valid point but to prove its virility. This is not a very profitable game because the posture impresses neither great nor lesser powers. The solid way to establish a sound middle-power position is to contribute sound solutions. Furthermore, if we in Canada want to influence the policy of the United States the least promising way to make that attempt is by public criticism. Fortunately for us, the way is open to intervene at the policy-making stage because of the constant exchange of views and intentions which takes place between our two governments. Allies should always try to sort out their differences by diplomacy in private. A great power is much more likely to alter its policy to accommodate the views of a lesser power if it is not expected to back down, under pressure, from a position it has already made public. Because Canadian views on almost all international subjects are constantly being made known to Washington through diplomatic channels, and vice versa, and because these views are not exchanged in open speeches, the general public is largely unaware that there is any consultation at all. Consequently the Canadian public is inclined to think that its government too docilely does what the United States wants. No one in the State Department, nagged by the Canadian Embassy daily, suffers from that illusion. The shrill complaints heard from Canada about the way in which the United States has dictated Canadian policies on China or Cuba or disarmament are based to some extent on incomplete comprehension of the way in which international relations are conducted.
Canadians and Americans might avoid misunderstanding and recrimination if we would recognize that we are partners in a common cause but we are not twin brothers. Because of the differences in our size, our roles in the world are likewise different. They are not, however, inimical; they are complementary. If it were not for the strength with forbearance of the greater powers-some of them at least-we middle powers would have no room for man?uvre. On the other hand, if it were not for the middle powers, international diplomacy would be unbearably inflexible, and the brush fires which could have ignited forests would probably never have been extinguished. Canadians must not think of themselves as more peace-loving than Americans because they wield no wicked rockets but keep the peace in far-off places without artillery. On the other hand, Americans must not think of Canadians as slack in the faith or muddled neutralists because they often serve best by negotiating both with saints and sinners. We each have useful roles to play, and diversity can be as important as unity for good diplomacy.
There is perhaps too much indiscriminate praise of unity by writers, speakers and, above all, the drafters of communiques. We ought not, of course, to allow our antagonists deliberately to split us in order that they can thereby accomplish some specific economic or military end. To imply, however, that the way to do the Communists in is for all the so- called "free nations" to band together in enforced agreement on all issues displays ignorance of the nature of the international game. The Communists have not gained anything in particular because the British had observers in Peking when the United States had not. It has always seemed to me (as one who was present throughout the Geneva Conference of 1954) that the Western powers were able to strike a remarkably good bargain over Indochina, considering that the Communists had been winning the war hands down, and that this was achieved to some extent because the policies of the United States and the United Kingdom were miles apart. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that one of the reasons the Communists backed down was that they were worried by the threats of American intervention. However, American intervention with nuclear weapons would by itself have had disastrous consequences. Fortunately, Sir Anthony Eden was at Geneva prepared to talk with Chou En-lai. The result was that the Communists were induced to arrest their conquest, and two-thirds of Indochina was given a chance to be spared from Communism. Canada, likewise, had a role to play in this settlement which it could not have performed if it had been closely identified with the policies of either the United States or France.
The kind of unity which is forced beyond a steadfast acceptance of a common purpose and essential military collaboration to imposed uniformity of tactics is not even desirable in principle. It is the variations in the attitudes of Western countries on China or Angola or Laos which have saved us from isolation as a minority bloc in the United Nations. Such diversity on issues in which diversity is advisable does not prevent us from being firmly united on issues such as the right of access to Berlin where a common stand may be essential. If we in NATO would recognize that "NATO unity" applies to fundamental purposes and must be limited in its application, we would avoid much of the bitterness and frustration which paralyze our will. We long ago gave up chasing after the phantom of a unified policy in the Commonwealth and concentrated on seeking to understand and make allowances for each others' policies instead. The Commonwealth, although it has had its own kind of troubles, has been healthier for this realism. The consequence in NATO of the fixation about unity has been a neurosis of failure instead of the confidence which should have been inspired by quite reasonable success. If we would talk less about unity and more about understanding, we would show more sense and maturity.
It is by no means Americans only, but all of us-the European members of NATO in particular-who have come to exalt unity as an end in itself-like love and charity. Unity is, of course, not a state to be deliberately avoided-although one shudders to think of the consequences if NATO had been unified in support of some of the actions of its members in the past decade. It is an end to be pursued rather with discrimination, both as to the object and the company. Diversity, however, is one of those particular values of Western civilization we seek to preserve against totalitarian unity. Diversity can also be a good principle of diplomacy-pursued also with discrimination, of course. It is particularly applicable in the relations between large and small powers like the United States and Canada. We in the West can have very good teams provided we don't expect all our players to be up on the forward line shooting on goal from the same angle.