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Fission to Fusion

Brass Tacks

By Steven R. Rivkin

The meeting between the President and the Prime Minister in Washington last week may well prove to be one of the most historic events in the post-War history of the Western alliance. The summit meeting and the terse communiques that emerged from it take on their potential significance because the agreements reached--on the substantive issues of pooling scientific research and strengthening NATO's policy making functions--could represent a total revision in Western patterns of response to Soviet challenges.

Without the launching of the Russian satellite or the worsening situation in the Middle East, it is likely that the ills of the Western alliance--the confusions and contradictions in policy and purpose--would not have been met squarely for many years to come. Last week's meeting does not in itself give promise that these problems will be met either wisely or honestly. But the long-overdue acceptance by the Americans of the idea of scientific cooperation points to a much closer working alliance with Great Britian.

For what we have done in effect is to accept the idea of pooling foreign policies as well as nuclear and missiles research. The atomic devices which we have developed since the War serve today as the foundation of our policies toward not only the Soviet Union but friendly and uncommitted nations as well. Massive retaliation, in substance the doctrine of both Democratic and Republican administrations, has laid down the conditions in which our global strategy operates. Until now, the United States has sought to manage this global nuclear counterweight alone. The harmful results of this monopoly have been clear--fear and complacency within NATO, breakdowns of common policy such as Suez, and a menacing ambiguity on the shared problems of colonialism.

During the last decade, we have erected an impressive network of formal alliances, but little recognition has been given to scientific cooperation despite Britain's key contributors to World War II joint research.

The explosion of the atomic bomb and the realization of its fearful effects brought a wave of American sentiment for maintaining a monopoly over nuclear weapons. The Atomic Energy Act of 1946, the nation's first legislative pronouncement on the problems of nuclear control prohibited the resident from sharing nuclear secrets with other nations. Public hostility only deepened in the next few years with the discovery that the British scientists Fuchs, Nunn May, and Pontecorvo had successfully spied for the Russians.

Save for minor revisions in 1954, the Atomic Energy Act has determined the attitude of the U.S. toward scientific cooperation since the war. Now the dramatic Russian technological successes and apparent strains in the Western alliance have forced a revision in this policy of mutual isolation among the two English-speaking powers. But serious problems still remain before even this first step toward increased Western unity can be completed. First, President Eisenhower will have to secure Congressional authorization in order to share nuclear secrets with the British. This will demand great candor and initiative on his part in pushing his proposals and explaining the international circumstances that justify them.

On their side, the British will have to develop a security system that can convince American skeptics that cooperation will not lead to further disasters. They will have to give up much of their independence in weapons development, which they must admit has helped foster for them the continuing illusion of military self-sufficiency. But in the last analysis, the British now seem to have secured what they bargained for all along with their own separate weapons systems and their go-it-alone campaign in Suez: full recognition as a valued and respected participant in an Atlantic alliance.

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