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The Soviet Union and the United States have been giving chief consideration at the London disarmament talks to proposals which would limit nuclear testing, establish quotas on conventional armament and begin "open-sky" aerial inspection. So far the United States has presented no official plan for establishing a central European buffer zone.
Such a proposal has been suggested by disarmament representative Harold Stassen and was originally proposed by Anthony Eden at the Geneva Conference of 1955. Though the plan would involve fundamental revisions of our European policy, these changes will probably be forced upon the administration either now or later. Stassen's plan calls for a "test tube" area of disarmament and inspection in West and East Germany and the neighboring satellites. If accepted, this neutralization plan can not only alleviate much tension in Central Europe but would also provide a proving ground for realistic control by inspection.
In addition, establishing a European buffer zone can herald solutions to some of the outstanding political problems between Russia and the United States. Neutralizing a trial region might lead to a general European security pact including both East and West. Successful negotiations could also promote agreement on troop quotas for the leading Western and Communist nations.
The establishment of a demilitarized zone would make eventual German reunification possible. Russia will certainly not accept Germany's unification as a member of NATO, but she would more readily permit a neutral unfied Germany.
The disadvantages of the Stassen plan from the West's point of view result principally from short-term problems. Germany's NATO contributions would be sacrificed; however, the Federal Republic presently plans to contribute only one third of its original troop commitment. Since it is now committed to NATO membership, the Adenauer government would have to revise its foregn policy extensively. But if the United States invited German discussion on European disarmament, Adenauer's Christian Democratic Union could start changing its policy without excessively losing face before the Social Democrats.
It is difficult to know whether the Soviet Union would seriously consider accepting the proposal. The resentment of Russia's satellite empire is kept in check by the memory of Hungary, and Russia might welcome the opportunity to neutralize a potentially explosive and embarrassing area. If she withdraws from East Germany, however, that nation would probably shake off its present dictator and install a coalition cabinet like Imre Nagy's ill-fated regime. Russia's acceptance is thus doubtful.
Proposing the buffer zone, though, is itself of value. It demonstrates to the neutral nations that the United States would seriously consider fundamental policy changes in order to achieve disarmament. With more countries supplied with atomic weapons and with the possibility of missile warfare, basic changes in strategy will be forced on the United States whether the administration takes the initiative or not.
The London conference shows signs of stalemate on the question of troop quotas and aerial inspection. If the United States presented a "test tube" proposal, it would at least open a new front for negotiations and could result in realistic progress in disarmament.
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