2 MARCH 1962, Page 4

Khrushchev's Initiative

Dv his conditional acceptance of the idea of a psummit conference before June President Kennedy is steering a judicious course between an appearance of unwillingness to talk and an un- prepared entry into negotiations. Although the ostensible purpose of a meeting between Heads of State would be to discuss disarmament, it is clear that many other subjects would be raised-- primarily the German queStion. It is sadly ap- pa'rent that on this issue the West is in a con- dition of disarray which can easily be increased by skilful Russian diplomacy. Probably it is in- evitable that in this field Mr. Khrushchev should hold the initiative. He has no allies to consult, and less pressure from opinion at home to handi- cap his manoeuvring. But even with these ad- vantages there is no reason why the NATO powers should always appear to he caught on the wrong foot by a sudden change in Russian policy.

If reports of a four-point plan to be offered by the USSR as a basis for direct negotiations with

Bonn are correct, then the West may be taken by surprise again. As reported, this plan includes demolition of the Berlin wall, liberalisation of the East German regime, the inclusion of West Ber- lin and a corridor to West Berlin in the territory of the Federal Republic, the signing of a Ger- man peace treaty with both Germanies and their entry into the UN. If this does turn out to be a genuine Russian offer, then there is nothing in it that must necessarily be unacceptable either to Bonn or to the West in general. If it is not, on the other hand the lesson is still there: the West has little idea of what it wants in Berlin or in the Germanies apart from a status quo that cannot last for ever. Before we go to the summit we should make up our minds. We should also remember that, while we must stand absolutely firm against Russian encroachment on our rights in the air corridors or elsewhere, we cannot afford to let slip any occasion for a genuine negotiated settlement of the German problem. Here we have two duties which are often re- called : to the people of West Berlin and to our West German allies. But there is also a third obligation which receives less notice: that of relieving the pressure on the inhabitants of East Germany. That consideration should not be absent when we come to examine any new Russian proposal either at the summit or before.