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The Outlook at Geneva


President Kennedy's speech ordering a resumption of atmospheric nuclear testing unless the present Geneva negotiations produce a test-ban treaty was delivered in a tone of artificial hopefulness and candor. He raised conditions that seem to undercut the possibilities of a workable agreement by insisting on an enforceable one.

Enforceability presumes penalties. The assumption that world opinion was such a penalty has been destroyed by both Soviet and American decisions to resume testing--world opinion is just a nuisance. An agreement that is simply workable, however, makes violation unprofitable by reducing the rewards. An agreement of this sort is possible at Geneva.

The American negotiators, whose stated aim at Geneva is to "make unnecessary" our forthcoming tests, can hardly expect the Soviets to sign under the pressure of an ultimatum, and whether President Kennedy intended "nuclear blackmail" or not, the timing of his announcement will not make the Russians soften their objections to an elaborate inspection system.

The nuclear test ban treaty which the U.S. and the United Kingdom will soon propose should be designed to ensure compliance, and thus should work toward minimal agreements which can be honored without violating any nation's commitment to its own security. A token agreement would reduce the test-ban issue to proper proportion. But above all, it must work. And it should start from certain premises:

1. The President's decision to resume testing should not couched as an ultimatum; the date of resumption should be left flexible insofar as tangible progress, in the opinion of the U.S. negotiators, is being made.

2. The U.S. should be ready to accept a treaty banning above ground tests and underground tests which exceed a threshold detectable by existing systems. It follows that the U.S. should be willing to rely on existing detection systems which are admittedly capable of placing any Soviet atmospheric tests, and large underground blasts.

3. The U.S. should request but not require a token number of on-site inspections by neutral or United Nations scientific personnel in order to introduce the precedent of international control, and to make more meaningful the Soviet commitment to the treaty.

4. All efforts should be made to 'up the ante' or make violation by either side as unprofitable as possible. Obviously, broad publicity, statements and speeches by heads of state adhering to its provisions will help. But far more important, each side must develop and publicize its ability to test immediately should the other violate the agreement. The best deterrent against other nation's testing is the threat that the other will resume and negate the advantage. Thus the U.S. should be willing to reverse its recent insistence on inspection of preparations, not simply because access to secret laboratories is a demand more stringent than those the USSR has already rejected, but precisely because the ability to test on short notice is the sensible, paramilitary means of implementing a test ban treaty.

Both sides should further consider a scheme wherein if either feels its security dependent on a resumption of atmospheric testing, this is permissible with international monitoring. Information going to both sides will widen no gaps, and thus the logical requirements of stabilized deterrence will not be violated.

Inspection and enforcement are not synonyms. No matter how intricate a network the West demands, inspection cannot enforce a test-ban treaty by punishing violations. As soon as the Soviet Union violates an agreement, we would have to restore our ability to test, why then, should we dismantle at the outset the best means of enforcing compliance?

The answer to that question was given in the President's speech. Amidst the rhetoric he said, "Some may urge us to try it again, keeping our preparations to test in a constant state of readiness. But in actual practice, particularly in a society of free choice, we cannot keep top-flight scientists concentrating on the preparation of an experiment which may or may not take place on an uncertain date in the undefined future.

"Nor can large technical labs be kept fully alert on a stand-by basis waiting for some other nation to break an agreement. This is not merely difficult or inconvenient. We have explored this alternative thoroughly and found it impossible of execution."

This clinching argument, the last Kennedy used in defending his decision, precludes the hope that if no agreement was reached in the area of preparations-inspection, a treaty in which the U.S. relied on the ability to resume testing on short notice would be possible.

Even in this society of free choice, the military establishment has made demands on its citizens in the interest of national security.

Does the nature of their research exempt scientists from the compulsion to stand by? Men like Hans Bethe, Ralph Lapp, Isidor Rabi and others say no.

But, as Kennedy recognizes, other scientists do want to test. Nevertheless, the Manhattan project and the great postwar evaluation of the atomic scientist's moral responsibility suggest there are socially concerned researchers who devoted years of their creative lives to the atomic bomb and other nuclear projects, but who prayed against the use and flatly opposed testing and further development of their inventions. It is time for the rest of America's scientists to realize that the peace race will not be a spectator sport, and to make some of the sacrifices Kennedy so often requests.

Obviously, a test-ban agreement will demand effort and sacrifice. But the real goal is not just removing the well-publicized dangers of fallout and checking the impetus that testing gives the arms race. The history of past disarmament negotiations has written the agenda at Geneva, and the test-ban is the inescapable first item. If the test-ban can be disoposed of in any way that leaves room for national security and encourages compliance, the areas of negotiation will broaden. Few have spoken of the step beyond the test-ban, but disengagement is clearly the most promising. Disengagement can lead, as a test-ban cannot, to a political and military situation that becomes more stable with the passage of time.

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