Year XXVII, 1985, Number 3, Page 153
Reflections on Gorbachev’s Plan
Mikhail Gorbachev, the General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, has presented a plan for world disarmament the major features of which are reproduced here in note form as a guide for readers who may not have read them all or who may not remember them all.
As has generally been observed, the position contained in this plan represents a highly significant turning point in Soviet foreign policy which to be fully appreciated must be examined in the short, medium and long term perspective. The Soviet text, speaks of three phases which, it should be noted, are highly contrastive as to their features and chances of success.
Before assessing each of them in turn we should bear in mind that for various reasons the first and second could not have been drawn up without the third phase (complete abolition of nuclear weapons). The first reason is simply that faced with Reagan’s programme to abolish nuclear arms by means of the space defence, it was inevitable that the USSR would include the same objective in its programme, but using a different formula. The second reason concerns the apocalyptic nature of nuclear arms and the fact that it is consequently impossible to mobilize world public opinion regarding initial objectives of partial nuclear disarmament without presenting this as a series of steps towards total disarmament. Thirdly and finally, in a somewhat different way, the same requirement – at least as regards the passage from the first to the second and third phases – also holds true for the Superpowers, political and military bodies which will accept a policy, which is so hard for them to stomach, only if they have a relatively clear vision of the security conditions which can be achieved with each phase.
This obviously does not mean that we will really achieve total disarmament following Gorbachev’s or Reagan’s plans. But the fact that it is already necessary, operatively, to establish a symbolic relationship between partial and total nuclear disarmament highlights the existence of new evolutionary trends in world politics which need to be examined in particular as regards their possible developments in all countries and not just the USA and the USSR. Now these trends, taken as the basis for future world politics, show that, unlike the past, disarmament (i.e. permanent and organised peace) is no longer just a moral problem which goodwill, pure and simple, can resolve outside the political arena, but has become: a) a political problem created by the current state of affairs, and more precisely by the fact that the increasingly destructive power of weapons is changing the motivations and the expectations of political behaviour, and hence the very nature of political processes; b) a problem which cannot be pushed to one side until it is resolved.
If it is in some way true, as Marx stated, that history only creates the problems it is capable of resolving, then this means that a new historical age is about to begin, characterised by the construction of mankind’s political unity, and prospectively, an end to war as a means for resolving nations’ conflicting interests. Indeed it is not possible to conceive of the nuclear age as a mere continuation of the past or its political institutions. But this is difficult to understand because, although suggested by the current position, it is not fully comprehensible within bipolarism, the currently operating position. Under this position which is the one adopted by Gorbachev, Reagan and all those who argue that the course of world politics depends above all on their will, all the nuclear disarmament programmes, whatever their source, while being the only conceivable developments, are nevertheless such as to be relegated to the realm of illusions. Indeed thinking cannot rest – except in the form of a dream – on the idea of a world kept peaceful by the goodwill of Reagan, Gorbachev and their successors.
This difficulty about conceiving the future (the cause for the current confusion of reason) vanishes if we tie thinking into reality, which, in fact, indicates that there is a decline and not a growth in bipolarism. It simply disappears if we think of the new (disarmament), not in terms of the old (the world which is about to disappear), but in terms of the new: the European Union, the strengthening of great regional units, the end of bipolarism and, as a result of new power relationships arising from a multipolar equilibrium, a transformed UN capable of exercising control over disarmament and developing a just international economic order.
It is in this light, moreover, that we can appreciate that Gorbachev’s and Reagan’s nuclear disarmament plans are affected by the new state of affairs in world politics but are unable to shape them into anything else but a cardboard dream. Just consider that the USA and the USSR are proposing to achieve peace and disarmament by the very means with which they feed the opposite, namely military primacy. We need therefore to stress: a) the Americans and Russians are not able to stabilize any form of deterrent (because no really credible deterrent exists), and hence they keep on recycling plans to ban nuclear weapons; b) in their initial form these plans are not always distinguishable from those used to develop the strategic concept of limited nuclear war; c) the process of disarmament can only take shape when we move towards the power of prohibiting war, a power which can only reside in human beings’ will to march towards mankind’s unity.
The considerations which apply in the long term to Gorbachev’s plan do not apply in the short term. It is in this area that major objectives can be achieved, albeit precariously, until such a time when the problem of peace will be the responsibility of all the peoples of the Earth, i.e. when bipolarism has ended. It goes without saying that international detente is an indispensable premise in the steps leading up to this moment.
These first phase objectives can be pursued, firstly, because by reducing strategic nuclear weapons by a half, the USA and USSR would not reduce their military power at all (their stores of nuclear arms are much greater than those needed to destroy the whole of mankind, which is the same thing as saying that they are partly useless), secondly, because both countries would keep their full second strike capacity, and, thirdly, because of the physiological need for cycles of detente after those of tension.
There is considerable uncertainty in Europe over another important aspect of the first phase: the complete elimination of medium range USA and USSR missiles from Europe. But Europeans must realise that this development is inevitable in the case of detente. It is necessary for Europe to abandon, albeit gradually, the pretension that they be protected by the USA even at the cost of international tension.
The problem of the second phase remains. Gorbachev argues that in this phase the USA and the USSR ought in any case to complete the reductions agreed during the first phase. Moreover, other nuclear powers ought to commit themselves to disarmament. The radical step to be undertaken should be to eliminate all tactical nuclear weapons. The ban on space attack weapons should become multilateral and all nuclear weapon experiments should be abandoned. These proposals are compatible only with the first stages of multipolar equilibrium, and an end to the need for the USA and the USSR to include their part of Europe in their own security sphere.
In all other circumstances, persistent bipolarism in particular, these measures would run counter to both the USA’s and the USSR’s security. We should not forget, however, that in the absence of any real process of world political unification the logic of raison d’Etat and its corollary – the maximisation of power – cannot in any way be overcome.
1 – ... The Soviet Union proposes that a step-by-step, consistent process of ridding the earth of nuclear weapons be implemented and completed within the next 15 years, before the end of this century...
Stage One. Within the next 5 to 8 years the USSR and the USA will reduce by one half the nuclear weapons that can reach each other’s territory. As for the remaining delivery vehicles of this kind, each side will retain no more than 6,000 warheads.
It stands to reason that such a reduction is possible only if both the USSR and the USA renounce the development, testing and deployment of space-strike weapons. As the Soviet Union has repeatedly warned, the development of space-strike weapons will dash the hopes for a reduction of nuclear armaments on earth.
The first stage will include the adoption and implementation of a decision on the complete elimination of medium-range missiles of the USSR and the USA in the European zone – both ballistic and cruise missiles – as a first step towards ridding the European continent of nuclear weapons.
At the same time the United States should undertake not to transfer its strategic and medium-range missiles to other countries, while Britain and France should pledge not to build up their respective nuclear arsenals.
The USSR and the USA should from the very beginning agree to stop all nuclear explosions and call upon other states to join in such a moratorium as soon as possible.
The reason why the first stage of nuclear disarmament should concern the Soviet Union and the United States is that it is they who should set an example for the other nuclear powers. We said that very frankly to President Reagan of the United States during our meeting in Geneva.
Stage Two. At this stage, which should start no later than 1990 and last for 5 to 7 years, the other nuclear powers will begin to join the process of nuclear disarmament. To start with, they would pledge to freeze all their nuclear arms and not to have them on the territories of other countries.
In this period the USSR and the USA will continue to carry out the reductions agreed upon during the first stage and also implement further measures aimed at eliminating their medium-range nuclear weapons and freezing their tactical nuclear systems.
Following the completion by the USSR and the USA of a 50-per-cent reduction of their respective armaments at the second stage, another radical step will be taken: all nuclear powers will eliminate their tactical nuclear weapons, i.e. weapons having a range (or radius of action) of up to 1,000 kilometres.
At this stage the Soviet-US accord on the prohibition of space-strike weapons would become multilateral, with the mandatory participation in it of major industrial powers.
All nuclear powers would stop nuclear weapon tests.
There would be a ban on the development of non-nuclear weapons based on new physical principles, whose destructive power is close to that of nuclear arms or other weapons of mass destruction.
Stage Three will begin no later than 1995. At this stage the elimination of all remaining nuclear weapons will be completed. By the end of 1999 there will be no nuclear weapons on earth. A universal accord will be drawn up that such weapons should never again come into being.
We envisage that special procedures will be worked out for the destruction of nuclear weapons as well as for the dismantling, re-equipment or scrapping of delivery vehicles. In the process, agreement will be reached on the number of weapons to be scrapped at each stage, the sites of their destruction and so on.
Verification of the destruction or limitation of arms should be carried out both by national technical means and through on-site inspections. The USSR is ready to reach agreement on any other additional verification measures...
Thus, we propose that we should enter the third millennium without nuclear weapons, on the basis of mutually acceptable and strictly verifiable agreements. If the United States Administration is indeed committed to the goal of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons everywhere, as it has repeatedly stated, it now has a practical opportunity to carry it out in practice. Instead of spending the next 10 to 15 years in developing new space weapons, which are extremely dangerous for mankind, weapons allegedly designed to make nuclear arms unnecessary, would it not be more sensible to start eliminating those weapons and finally do away with them altogether? The Soviet Union, I repeat, proposes precisely that.
The Soviet Union calls upon all peoples and states, and, naturally, above all nuclear states, to support the programme of eliminating nuclear weapons before the year 2000. It is absolutely clear to any unbiased person that if such a programme is implemented, nobody would lose and all stand to gain. This is a problem common to all mankind and it can and must be solved only through joint efforts. And the sooner this programme is translated into practical deeds, the safer life on our planet will be.
2 – ... We are extending by three months our unilateral moratorium on all nuclear explosions, which expired on December 31st, 1985. Such a moratorium will remain in force even longer if the United States for its part also stops nuclear tests. We propose once again to the United States that it joins this initiative whose significance is evident practically to everyone in the world.
Obviously the adoption of such a decision has by no means been simple for us... A reduction of nuclear arsenals alone, without a prohibition of nuclear weapons tests, does not provide a way out of the dilemma of nuclear threat, since the remaining weapons would be modernized and there would still be the possibility of developing increasingly sophisticated and lethal nuclear weapons and appraising their new types at test ranges. Therefore, the cessation of tests is a practical step towards eliminating nuclear weapons.
I wish to say the following at the outset. Any references to verification as an obstacle to the establishment of a moratorium on nuclear explosions are totally groundless. We declare unequivocally that for us verification is not a problem. Should the United States agree to stop all nuclear explosions on a reciprocal basis, appropriate verification of compliance with the moratorium would be fully ensured by national technical means as well as with the help of international procedures including on-site inspections when necessary. We invite the United States to reach agreement with us to this effect.
The USSR resolutely stands for making the moratorium a bilateral, and later, a multilateral measure. We are also in favour of resuming the tripartite negotiations, involving the USSR, the USA and Great Britain, on the complete and general prohibition of nuclear weapons tests. This could be done immediately, even this month. We are also prepared to begin without delay multilateral test-ban negotiations within the framework of the Geneva Conference on Disarmament, with all nuclear powers taking part...
In the absence of a positive response from the United States, the Soviet side has every right to resume nuclear tests starting January 1st, 1986...
3 – ... Space must remain peaceful, strike weapons must not be deployed there. Neither must they be developed. And there must also be introduced very strict controls, including the opening of relevant laboratories for inspection...
It is our profound conviction that we should approach the third millennium not with the Star Wars programme, but with large-scale projects of peaceful space exploration by all mankind. We propose to start practical work in developing and implementing such projects. This is one of the most important ways of ensuring progress on our entire planet and establishing a reliable system of security for all...
4 – The Soviet Union considers the task of completely eliminating still in this century such barbaric weapons of mass destruction as chemical weapons fully feasible.
At the talks on chemical weapons within the framework of the Geneva Conference on Disarmament certain signs of progress have recently become evident. However, these talks have been inadmissibly drawn out. We are in favour of intensifying the talks on the conclusion of an effective and verifiable international convention prohibiting chemical weapons and destroying the existing stockpiles of those weapons, as was agreed upon with US President Reagan at Geneva...
We are prepared to make a timely announcement of the location of enterprises producing chemical weapons and ensure the cessation of their production; we are ready to start developing procedures for destroying the corresponding industrial base and to proceed, soon after the convention enters into force, to eliminating the stockpiles of chemical weapons. All these measures would be carried out under strict control, including international on-site inspections.
A radical solution to this problem would also be facilitated by certain interim steps. For example, agreement could be reached on a multilateral basis not to transfer chemical weapons to anyone and not to deploy them in the territories of other states...
5 – In addition to eliminating weapons of mass destruction from the arsenals of states, the Soviet Union proposes that conventional weapons and armed forces become subject to agreed-upon reductions.
Reaching an agreement at the Vienna negotiations could signal the beginning of progress in this direction. It now appears that an outline is discernable of a possible decision to reduce Soviet and US troops and subsequently freeze the level of armed forces of the opposing sides in Central Europe. The Soviet Union and our Warsaw Treaty allies are determined to achieve success at the Vienna talks. If the other side also truly wants this, 1986 could become a landmark for the Vienna talks too. We proceed from the understanding that a possible agreement on troop reductions would naturally require reasonable verification. We are prepared for this. As for observing the commitment to freeze the number of troops, in addition to national technical means, permanent verification posts could be established to monitor any military contingents entering the reduction zone.
Let me now mention such an important forum as the Stockholm Conference on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures and Disarmament in Europe. It is called upon to create barriers against the use of force or covert preparations for war, whether on land, at sea or in the air. The possibilities for this have now become evident.
In our view, especially in the current situation, it is essential to reduce the number of troops participating in major military manoeuvres which are notifiable under the Helsinki Final Act.
It is time to begin dealing effectively with the problems still outstanding at the Conference. The bottleneck there, as we know, is the issue of notifications regarding major ground force, naval and air force exercises. Of course, these are serious problems and they must be addressed in a serious manner in the interest of building confidence in Europe. However, if their comprehensive solution cannot be achieved at this time, why not explore ways for partial solution, for instance reach an agreement now about notifications of major ground force and air force exercises, postponing the question of naval activities until the next stage of the Conference?
It is not by chance that a significant part of the new Soviet initiatives is addressed directly to Europe. Europe could play a special role in bringing about a radical turn towards the policy of peace. That role is to erect a new edifice of détente...
6 – Ensuring security in Asia is of vital importance to the Soviet Union, a major Asian power. The Soviet programme for eliminating nuclear and chemical weapons by the end of the current century is harmonious with the sentiments of the peoples of the Asian continent, for whom the problems of peace and security are no less urgent than for the peoples of Europe. In this context one cannot fail to recall that Japan and its cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki became the victims of the nuclear bomb and Vietnam a target for chemical weapons.
We highly appreciate the constructive initiatives put forward by the socialist countries of Asia, by India and other members of the non-aligned movement. We view as very important the fact that the two Asian nuclear powers, the USSR and the People’s Republic of China, have undertaken a pledge not to be the first to use nuclear weapons.
The implementation of our programme would fundamentally change the situation in Asia, rid the nations in that part of the globe as well of the fear of nuclear and chemical warfare and bring security in that region to a qualitatively new level.
We see our programme as a contribution to a search, together with all the Asian countries, for an overall comprehensive approach to establishing a system of secure and lasting peace on this continent.
7 – The pattern imposed by militarism – arms in place of development – must be replaced by the reverse order of things – disarmament for development. The noose of the trillion-dollar foreign debt, currently strangling dozens of countries and entire continents, is a direct consequence of the arms race...
The Soviet Union is opposed to making the implementation of disarmament measures dependent on so-called regional conflicts...
The Soviet Union’s goal is not to whip up regional conflicts but to eliminate them through collective efforts on a just basis, and the sooner the better...