25 OCTOBER 1963, Page 13

Bombs and Balances

By HEDLEY BULL TliE limited nuclear test-ban treaty is widely I taken to signify a reduction in international tension and the beginnings of a more stable world order. It is true that it represents a measure of détente between the United States and the Soviet Union more substantial than any that has ob- tained since the beginning of the cold war. But this détente has been purchased at the price of a deterioration in the relationships between each of the treat powers and certain of its allies. The question arises, therefore, whether what is now taking place amounts to a reduction in inter- national antagonism or merely to a redistribution of it. And it may also be asked whether any. conception of international order, built chiefly upon the idea of agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union, is not designed for a world that is already passing away.

In so far as the Treaty of Moscow issues from a conception of world order, this is one that arose in a period characterised by the polarisation of power between America and Russia, and the ideological schism; and in which it was natural to think of the maintenance of peace as a matter of the co-existence of these two States and the definition of an order in which their respective ideologies might be con- tained. The circumstances of the present time are, of course, different: new centres of power have arisen, especially in Western Europe and China, to complicate the simple balance of power of the early post-war years; and the nations of Communist allegiance pursue a wide variety of paths in foreign policy. These new centres of Power have served to jolt the United States and the Soviet Union towards the posture of detente 'they are now tentatively adopting. Not only does France's vision of the future of Europe consti- tute a challenge to American leadership, and -China's doctrinal line a threat to that of the Soviet Union; both imply the rejection of any purely bilateral agreements on world problems, and both are a cause (as they are also, in some measure, a result) of the perception of common interests by the two great powers.

The Moscow Treaty is the subject of a con- flict in which there are major powers ranged on both sides. Although the treaty's supporters are much more formidable than its opponents, some of the measures suggested for widening the basis of the détente, involving further agreements about arms control or about European problems, would, if carried through, have the effect of strengthening the ranks of the opponents. In Presenting the limited test-ban treaty to the world, the United States, Britain and Russia find themselves confronted with the familiar com- plaints of the Have-Nols against' the Haves. The diplomatic line of Washington, London and Moscow is that the treaty is a step towards world order consistent with the interests of all nations. On the other hand, the view put forward by Peking and Tirana, and in a more muted key by Paris, is that the treaty is an attempt by the mature nuclear powers to consolidate their military superiority. The arguments of China and France go a long way towards undermining the moral position of the sponsors of the treaty. If it is true that atmospheric testing dangerously pollutes the air, why have the Have powers Chosen this moment to bring 'it to an end, after the United States has conducted 259 nuclear tests, the Soviet Union 126 and Britain twenty-one, if it is not because challengers to their position are now entering the field? If it is necessary to make a beginning in arms control, why start with a measure that will consolidate the position of the Haves and penalise the Have-Nots? Why not begin, as General de Gaulle has proposed, with the abolition of delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons, in which France is most conspicuously weak and the United States and the Soviet Union so far advanced? Or why not consider first, as China has proposed, a general prohibition of nuclear weapons that will affect all nations equally?

Accession to the Moscow Treaty does not, of course, require a Have-Not power to renounce nuclear status. Potential nuclear powers are free to conduct underground tests and to receive foreign aid in doing so; the right of withdrawal under Article IV provides them' with an easy avenue of escape; and they may seek to develop nuclear weapons without testing them, or to acquire them from abroad. Nevertheless, China and France are undoubtedly correct in perceiving in the agreement a challenge to their nuclear ambitions.

As Mr. McNamara has said to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the necessity to test underground would confront aspiring nuclear powers with great obstacles in terms of costs and delay. The United States and the Soviet Union, moreover, are still committed to the objective of a ban on tests in all environments, and to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. The policies which have led to this treaty might, therefore, if they develop momentum, confront the Have-Not States with a revised agreement that would prohibit all testing or perhaps even all further acquisition of nuclear weapons. The amendment procedures in the Treaty of Moscow are significant in this connec- tion. An amendment need be approved by only a majority of the parties, but this must contain the votes of the original three. Thus the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union retain a veto against changes unfavourable to themselves.

China and France may, therefore, complain to the great powers, as revisionist Germany and Italy sonce objected of 'the Versailles system,' that the order which they are being invited to join is one that is weighted against them, and that those whose privileges it perpetuates have established themselves by disregarding the same virtues they call upon others to observe. It is open to the United States and the Soviet Union to accept this deflation of their pretensions, and yet to make the reply that the League powers .might have given to Hitler and Mussolini: that in this imperfect world any order must be some- one's order, and any order is better than none. This is not an answer that will convince those to whom it is addressed; but it may satisfy the sponsor States themselves, while also carrying a great deal of conviction elsewhere in the world: Yeti if the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union can find cogent and honourable reasons for excluding France, China and other aspirants from the nuclear club, the questions still remain whether they are able to, and whether it is wise to attempt, to do so. If the Have-Not countries are to be brought into the system they must be persuaded or coerced. Given that they wish to retain their own nuclear weapons and yet have other States renounce theirs, the Have powers may follow one of two courses. They may adopt the policy of what might be called nuclear self- denial : of extracting the minimum advantage from the possession of nuclear weapons, in the hope that by doing so the practical effect of the division between Haves and Have-Nots would be diminished to such a point that its perpetua- tion would become acceptable to the latter. Or they may embrace the opposite alternative of exploiting their nuclear position to the full, of threatening or even conducting nuclear war so as to impose their will on the recalcitrant nations: the policy which may be called that of the con- cert of nuclear powers.

The policy of nuclear self-denial would take the form of the maximum abstinence by the States possessed of nuclear weapons from the use of them in war or the threat of their use in foreign policy. One ingredient in this policy might be the adoption by the nuclear powers of a for- mal commitment not to use nuclear weapons first. It has sometimes been argued that by divesting themselves in this way of the right to take advantage of their special position, the nuclear powers would be so diminishing the mili- tary and political utility of possession of nuclear weapons as to establish a virtual equality of Haves and Have-Nots. By thus placing nuclear weapons in a category apart from the normal conduct of international relations (along with poison gas) they might weaken the motives that would otherwise lead States to seek entry into the club.

Such a policy of self-denial may be said in some small measure already to have been prac- tised and to have had a certain effect : we may imagine that if the United States or the Soviet Union had actually used nuclear weapons during the post-war years in local conflicts the demand for this kind of armament would be very much stronger in other countries than in fact it is. However, the most rigorous policy of self-denial, although it may diminish the gap between Haves and Have-Nots, can hardly eliminate it; a nation cannot command overwhelming power and yet not be influenced by it in its dealings with others. E'ven if this proposition were not true, it remains one of the central maxims of statecraft. The sponsors of the Moscow Treaty, moreover, clearly have no intention at present of adopting any suich yigorous policy,. The United States Ad- ministration has specifically reaffirmed its free- dom to use nuclear weapons in war, in rejecting the interpretation of Article I of the Treaty, ac- cording to which it prohibits nuclear explosions conducted in war as well as-test explosions. And the underground tests conducted by the United States since the Treaty was signed, the defence of the Treaty by Mr. McNamara before the Senate, in terms of its preservation of United States nuclear 'superiority, and the programme ' of 'safeguards' outlined by the Administration, all indicate an intention to live just withm the letter of the agreement.

The policy of the concert of nuclear powers would require the existing members of the club, while seeking to minimise the factor of nuclear force in their relations among one another, to preserve it as an instrument with which to con- front the outside world. Some of those in the United States who follow this line of think- ing have gone so far as to suggest a Soviet- American attack (under UN auspices) on Chinese nuclear installations, and a blockade of French testing grounds in the Pacific. These latter measures would almost certainly have the effect of increasing the determination of the countries concerned to achieve full nuclear status, whilst failing to achieve anything more than a postpone- ment of their ability to do so. They might, in addition, have quite incalculable effects upon the course of world politics.

The central problem that arises about a Soviet- American nuclear concert, however, is whether the attempt to establish it will in fact promote the objective of a stable world order, which it purports to serve. If the problem of international relations in the second half of the twentieth cen- tury is .that of the adjustment of conflict not among two, but among at least four, major centres of power, then the project of an order in which two of them have no stake, is inappro- priate to the task in hand. It is true that the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union has by no means, come to an end; that the lead of these two States over their nearest rivals is still immense; and that the character and political direction of the centre of power that is arising in Western Europe is still uncer- tain. It is true also that the views of the Chinese Government are such as to raise the question whether it can at present be accom- modated in any international order at all. But the notion that China and France may be dis- regarded as mere saboteurs of a Soviet-American system that clearly can and should be brought into being, fails to do justice even to the changes that have already taken place. If history is any guide, the replacement of a simple by a multiple balance of power will restore that element of diplomatic flexibility that has been absent during the years of the cold war. If this is the meaning of the Soviet-American detente, then there exists indeed a new situation with new opportunities for dealing with international problems. But if these opportunities are to be exploited, it must first be recognised that the new situation exists.