Year XXX, 1988, Number 2, Page 83
From Détente to Peace
It is universally known that the content of the INF Treaty is not very far-reaching: it affects only about 4 per cent of the nuclear weapons based in Europe. But it is equally certain that the historical significance of the Treaty goes far beyond its actual content. It is the first time in the history of the relationships between the United States and Soviet Russia that a treaty has foreseen not only a limitation in the arms’ race, but also the actual destruction of a part of existing weapons. This has been interpreted by public opinion as a signal for the future, and this is the reason why so many hopes have been aroused all over the world.
Are we really witnessing the beginning of a “New era”? Two points can be made in favour of this idea:
One is the fact that neither of the superpowers can sustain the enormous and ever-increasing costs — both financial and political of the arms’ race. For Gorbachev the continuation of the arms’ race would mean giving up perestroika. For the U.S. it would mean further aggravating its deficit and endangering the very prosperity of the country.
The second, and more significant point, is that the very idea of defence has lost any sense in the nuclear age, as a war would mean the destruction of both belligerents and, probably, the whole planet. Thus the idea of common security is gaining ground, supplanting the traditional conception according to which the security of a state becomes greater as its potential enemies become more insecure.
This second argument is, however, still far from being generally accepted. Many politicians and observers keep on reasoning with traditional categories. They have learnt from history that in international relations the behaviour of states is governed by the logic of power, which leads each of them to strengthen itself at the expense of its competitors, and that war is the continuation of politics by other means. So, they apply this lesson to the current world balance of power and draw from their reflections the sceptical consequence that, as happened in preceding phases of US-Soviet relationships, the present détente will last only as long as it matches their power interests, and will be superseded by a new phase of tension as soon as their power interests change.
This would have been sound reasoning until a few years ago. But today, that the leaders of the superpowers have realized that the world as a whole has become a single community of destiny, and that it depends on them to ensure the survival of mankind, it is difficult to imagine that they will return to their previous way of thinking and behaving. This does not mean that the march will be easy. The logic of sovereignty keeps on working and fuelling mistrust between the superpowers. Pressure will continue to bear on governments from military quarters and other sectors of society. But as long as the main features of the world political context remain the same, it seems that the drive towards collaboration will be stronger than the drive towards competition, even though it should not be forgotten that, in an increasingly shrinking world, the international equilibrium would be rigid and conservative, quite incapable of adjusting the relationships between states to the changing reality of world economy and balance of power.
This is why we are justified in feeling reasonably secure as long as the world political context remains in its current state. But the problem is to know how long the current state will last. And everything points to the conclusion that it will not last very long. The world is rapidly changing, creating problems which are increasingly difficult to solve through intergovernmental decisions. New frightening causes of tension are arising. Take for example the population explosion in the Third World in a context of increasing economic disequilibria; or the seemingly unstoppable tendency towards the exhaustion of unrenewable natural resources; or the increasingly dramatic nature of nationality conflicts, especially in Soviet Russia. These and other problems justify the fear that, in a not too distant future, the desperate conditions of enormous masses of human beings will unleash irresistible irrational forces, thus radically changing the basic data of world politics.
It is clear that the good will of the governments of the states of the North of the world will not be sufficient to keep control over a situation in which such deep imbalances arise. In reality, no international system based on the principle of sovereignty would be able to cope with such problems in a strictly interdependent world. Collaboration between the superpowers, therefore, can prevent war in the medium term but, if it is not supplemented by a vision of the future inducing people firmly to believe that the tendency will steadily reinforce itself and eventually lead to a more perfect world union, it cannot provide the means to ensure reasonable management and better distribution of increasingly scarce resources, a comprehensive population policy, effective defence against damage to the environment threatening the survival of the world, etc. The danger of war would thus unavoidably reappear in a most frightening shape.
The goal to be achieved is the one towards which the federalists have been striving for forty-five years: world federal government. For this goal to be approached two main developments are necessary:
i) Firstly this goal needs to be adopted by the leaders of the superpowers and the largest number of other states as a final end giving the “New era” its true sense. We all know that the realization of a World Federation is not for tomorrow. But we must also recall that human behaviour is guided not only by institutions but also by expectations. The case of the European Community is telling from this point of view: its institutions are very ineffective, based as they are on the principle of inter-governmental collaboration: but the expectation that Europe will one day unite, kept alive by the permanent presence of the problem on the political arena, has been enough to make it unthinkable, in the last forty-three years, that a new war can break out between the European states. That is why one of the federalists’ main tasks today is to promote and support every initiative by the major world leaders oriented towards the ultimate goal of a world government. This orientation should be demonstrated by taking concrete steps towards the strengthening of the UN in the fields in which advances are possible (resources of the seabeds, Antarctica, arms’ monitoring, solution of regional crises, etc.).
ii) Secondly, an example needs to be given to the world of the institutional change by which the goal can be achieved, i.e. of how state sovereignty can be transcended. This can reasonably be expected only in a regional framework, and in particular in Western Europe, where conditions, material and spiritual, are ripe for a federal union.
A European Federation, together with the development of other regional integrations, would change the face of the world and make the struggle for a World Federation more credible. It is easier to conceive a world government founded on large regional poles than it is to conceive it as being founded on one-hundred and fifty-nine states ranging from a few thousand to a billion inhabitants.
In this way a very tight link is established between the endeavours of federalists in Europe and the world: they are indeed engaged in the same struggle, even if it is fought in partially different theatres. The former can find their beliefs strengthened by an increased awareness of the final sense of their commitment. The latter can perhaps achieve greater clarity over the intermediate steps to be accomplished in their long march.