The Washington Spectator
Tristram Coffin, Editor
Volume 15, No. 16
1989 The Public Concern Foundation, Inc.
(ISSN: 0887-428X)

September 1, 1989

Thawing the Cold War

This month, a meeting in Vienna will reduce the military menace of the Cold War. Specifically, negotiators from West and East will try to drastically cut the weapons and armies that face each other across Europe.

The tone was set by a joint West German-Soviet statement late this spring: "Security policy and armed forces planning must exclusively serve the purpose of reducing and eliminating the danger of war and of safeguarding peace with fewer weapons."

No less a figure than Admiral William Crowe, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that if Gorbachev carries out the arms cutbacks he plans, "I think that the bolt-out-of-the-blue attack on Western Europe will go away. That is really something."

Two other happy omens. The U.S. and Soviet Union have pledged not to use force against the other in responding to an accidental incident. And in talks at Geneva, Washington and Moscow have agreed in principle to reduce long-range missiles, those that cross oceans and continents.

The bargaining in Vienna will be tough and with some bitter moments, but the outcome is almost certain. All participants, even the hawkish British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, want to end the threat of nuclear Armageddon that hovers over Europe.

As the Cold War ebbs, nations of the world can then tackle another critical problem--our rape of the land and the chemical pollution of air and water.

A clear rationale for the Vienna meeting is offered by Worldwatch Institute: "It is be coming clear that growing reliance on force is actually reducing national security. In the age of weapons of mass destruction, 'the capacity to defend in order to deter an attacker has been replaced by the capability to destroy massively without the ability to defend.'. . . In fact, the proliferation of strategic nuclear weapons has brought every human being within the compass of instant destruction. Competitive national security policies have yielded international insecurity.

'"At the same time. the pursuit of military power is undermining the economies of rich and poor countries alike. A . . . resource drain toward the military undermines economic security by retarding civilian research and development, slowing productivity growth, detracting from international competitiveness and contributing to indebtedness.

"Perhaps worse, governments preoccupied with security threats of military origin have ignored the perils of environmental degradation.... On a global scale, climate change, ozone depletion, deterioration of the agricultural base, and deforestation are formidable challenges to the safety and well-being of the entire race."

Prime Minister Gro Harlem Bruntland of Norway explains the problem: "We are living in an historic transitional period in which the conflicts between human activities and the environmental constraints are literally exploding. The finite world will have to provide food and energy and meet the needs of a doubled world population sometime in the next century."

A New Race Foreseen
"For the entire century, humanity has witnessed an unending arms race and an unprecedented toll of wars and destruction. With environmental degradation proceeding at a rate where it soon may become irreversible, security has come to embrace a new race --he race to save the planet."

Michael Renner, Worldwatch Institute

Physicians for Social Responsibility points out: "Every spend preparing for the wars of tomorrow is a dollar we could have spent meeting the human needs of today." Some facts: The annual world military budget is $900 billion. The estimated global cost to reverse the world's most pressing environmental crises is $149 billion.

The Trident II submarine and F-18 jet fighter programs cost $100 billion, exactly the sum needed to clean up the most hazardous U.S. waste dumps. The cost of developing the Midgetman missile is $6.5 billion. (This spring. the Air Force had to blow up a Midgetman 73 seconds after launch in a test flight because it was tumbling out of control.) The yearly cost to cut sulfur dioxide emissions by eight to 12 million tons a year, and so combat acid rain, is an estimated $6.5 billion.

The Soviets have been candid about their reason for pressing cuts in arms. Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhov said. "the government was planning to carry out major cuts in arms spending to bring down a massive budget deficit and restore the economy." (Washington Post)

Nikolai Shmelyov, a top Soviet economist. was even more blunt in a talk to the Congress of People's Deputies. Unless the nation takes radical steps now to reduce its "colossal" budget deficit, the Soviet Union could suffer a "catastrophic economic crash," according to a Washington Post dispatch.

The Bush Administration is not advertising it, but the U.S., too, needs relief from military spending. Business Week reports: "Military spending of close to $300 billion a year is occurring at a time when the Federal government's overall budget is still $150 billion in the red. Defense spending diverts precious resources from the private economy, as well as from other forms of government spending that might enhance the productivity of the work force....

"Further progress on both strategic and conventional arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union could pave the way for much deeper cuts. By eliminating missiles and demobilizing troops, America could reap a sizable peace dividend by the year 2000. Short-term interest rates could fall to less than 5%, housing could surge, the Federal budget would move into surplus, and growth would accelerate."


The chore of being World Cop is immensely expensive. The Center for Defense Information notes: "The U.S. maintains 500,000 military men and women plus 450,000 civilian employees and dependents at 375 major bases and hundreds of minor installations in 35 foreign countries.

"U.S. forces stationed abroad in peacetime plus those stationed at home but intended to fight in foreign countries account for about 70% of U.S. military spending," or more than $200 billion a year.

"U.S. forces actually stationed in foreign countries in peacetime account for nearly one-third of U.S. military spending." We have some 45,000 troops in South Korea, but "they are clearly no longer necessary to defend against an attack by North Korea. South Korea is more than strong enough to defend itself."

The U.S. has nearly 4,500 nuclear weapons deployed with its forces abroad.

George Bush has been reluctant to push hard for big cuts in military spending. Much of his government career has been as a faithful lieutenant in the Cold War, as Congressman, GOP national chairman, CIA director and Vice President. Ironically, the justification for the Cold War, a fear that the U.S.S.R. was poised to invade West Europe, is now regarded by some scholars as a myth. (On a PBS special, Peter Ustinov observed that Russia has been almost obsessively defensive, since it has been invaded by France, Germany, Britain, the U.S., Japan and other nations.)

Also, Bush is something of a hostage of the Republican right wing, which worked hard for his nomination and election. The New York Times notes, "Mr. Bush and his aides are said to worry about appearing too eager to work with Mr. Gorbachev. Their fear is that such eagerness might inflame right-wingers. . ."

Bush is also aware that having an "evil" enemy is a unifying political force in a nation.


So when Gorbachev grabbed world headlines with his disarmament plans, Bush treated him as he might a political enemy, as he had treated Michael Dukakis in 1988. Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney doubted that Gorbachev's objectives could be attained and suggested he could not be trusted. Others in the Administration termed Gorbachev a fly-by-night who would soon be replaced. The White House spokesman termed the Soviet leader "a drugstore cowboy."

Columnist Jeff Smith asked, "Aren't you, too, a little ashamed of our nation's leadership's failure to match the Soviet Union's new spirit of glasnost and perestroika with anything like the attitude of peace, brotherhood and fair play that we as school kids were brought up to believe?" (Tucson Weekly)

A Los Angeles Times editorial added: "What the nation needs from its President now is a strategy for moving as fast as possible to trim nuclear arsenals to whatever minimum is needed to deter conventional war. It needs quick and massive reductions in ground and tactical air forces that face each other in Central Europe, along the lines already suggested - again taking the initiative - by Gorbachev."

The author of an authoritative book on the Cold War (Diplomacy of Silence, University of Chicago Press), Hugh De Santis, wrote, "The most basic explanation for lack of a sweeping new policy toward the Soviet Union is an outdated chart.... The Kremlin has abandoned a revolutionary script in favor of an accommodating pragmatic approach to international affairs."

Recently, the President decided the time had come to change his tone. He retired to his summer home in Maine to find answers and a way to heal the split in NATO.

West Germany was tired of being the arsenal of NATO, loaded with nuclear missiles, bombers and U.S. troops, making it the prime target in case of war. Chancellor Helmut Kohl, facing an election, called for immediate negotiations to remove short-range missiles permanently from Europe. He was supported by smaller NATO nations but vigorously opposed by Margaret Thatcher. Gen. John R. Galvin, the NATO commander, asked for new short-range missiles to replace the Lance.

BUSH'S EUROPE PLAN- At the NATO summit meeting, the President outlined his new plan:

The Bush proposals would save the U.S. more than $2 billion a year.

He was still holding firm on one major Reagan plan, Star Wars. He rejected a proposal by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to put off development and testing the space weapons, saying we must 'fully protect our options."

The reaction was generally favorable. The British Guardian wrote. "President Bush's proposal for conventional arms cuts underlines how greatly preferable it is to have in the White House a man who can be depended on to have thought deeply about his strategy." But the Economist said, "On a closer examination. Mr. Bush's proposal contains rather less than meets the eye." The diplomatic correspondent of Die Zeit (Hamburg) warned, "All they [NATO] have done is plug a leak in the ship of the alliance.... To imitate Mikhail Gorbachev. as George Bush has done so successfully in Brussels, can only be a stop-gap operation." There is some disappointment that the President did not have a specific plan to reduce short-range missiles. Bush has suggested that talks on the missiles be delayed until after a deal has been made on non-nuclear forces.

A HOPE TO PUT ASIDE THE COLD WAR - Both sides will meet in Vienna with a hope of thawing the Cold War. People the world over are tired of living under its shadow. The Soviets have so many other problems economic crises, ethnic conflicts within the U.S.S.R., and East Europe's pulling away from Moscow - that they are likely to accept any reasonable offer.

Secretary of State James Baker has called for universal environmental reform. Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze says that ''the biosphere recognizes no divisions into blocs, alliances or systems. All share the same climate system and no one is in a position to build his own isolated and independent line of environmental defense." He calls for a UN Environmental Council and assures the world that the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies are willing to negotiate a binding code for the environment.

THE ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES - The problems that lie ahead and demand world action are:

CLEANING UP THE ENVIRONMENT - The environment - land, air, water - must be cleaned. As he introduced the Clean Air Act, Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) pointed out that cone hundred million Americans live in areas in which the air is not safe to breathe. The biggest problem is ozone, formed from hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides. Ozone can age our lungs prematurely, making us more susceptible to other diseases, including cancer.... Last summer, children in New York and Washington were playing in air which did not meet the standards that OSHA applies to work places."

President Bush outlined goals for cleaning the air - for example, by reducing sulphur dioxide from power plants by 50% - but balked at strict government enforcement.

A year ago, the Prime Ministers of Norway and Canada proposed a worl-wide "Law of the AIR," to be supported by a world environment fund, financed by a tax on fossil - fuel use. The fund would go for research in energy efficiency and alternative fuels.

So, good cheer at the council tables in Vienna, for this negotiation can pave the way to a more peaceful and a more livable world. Our hop[e]s and our future on this crowded planet Earthare in the hands of the negotiators.