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Two-Way Talks


Bilateralism--the bugaboo of modern diplomacy--is finally receiving deserved, and even thoughtful attention in the State Department. With the problems of holding the European alliance together weighting heavy on its hands, the Department is understandably fearful of any influence which might weaken Western ties.

Bilateral disarmament discussions admittedly come under this heading. If the United States and Russia set themselves up to decide the survival of the world, the smaller European nations, including France and Britain, will surely feel out in the cold. The minor NATO countries have developed a not irrational dread against any expression of power polarization, and particularly against negotiations in which they are not consulted.

At the start of last spring's United Nations disarmament subcommittee meetings, multilateral discussions seemed quite practical. With the collapse of these talks and their referral to the larger UN group, however, the prospects from effective disarmament decisions have dimmed perceptibly.

To escape stalemate on the disarmament proposals, the United States has little choice but to seek direct talks with the Soviet Union. Assuming that the Russians are still as sincerely interested in reducing the threat of annihilation as they appeared last spring, there is a good chance that some preliminary disarmament steps can be arranged in such meetings. The history of wartime and early post-war negotiations points clearly to the effectiveness of bilateral decision-making. Obviously, the mistakes of Yalta will not be repeated.

The fear of Yalta-type conferences, however, still remains to be disposed of. Only an extremely tractful approach to the European nations can allay their fears of being sold down the river. Secretary Dulles' for midable unpopularity may prove a hindrance to such tactics, but hopefully, need not be an insurmountable obstacle.

Essentially, the Secretary will have to ask our Western allies to prepare with us a series of alternate disarmament formulae in order of preference. Dulles will also have to bind himself to these plans, in principle at least, but must be prepared to receive quite different proposals from Russia.

Dulles must let our allies know that he will be prepared to accept such schemes, but might soften the blow by inviting unofficial British, French and Canadian representation at the disarmament talks. Although the three countries would not have any formal voice in the discussions, their delegates could advise the United States on the worth and acceptability of Russian plans, relative to each country's policy.

Certainly some new direction must be sought for disarmament. If it is ever to become reality, it must probably be achieved outside the unwieldy United Nations structure. A modified bilateralism, for all the instinctive fears it raises, is the best, and at this point, the only answer.

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