New Forest East



Observer editorial – 20 September 1987

[This article, though not involving Julian directly, is included because of its historic relevance to the anti-nuclear campaign.]

Is the Cold War over at last? It may be, to judge by the historic success of the arms control talks in Washington. Not since the false hopes of détente were dashed in the 1970s have the superpowers talked so harmoniously or to such purpose as they did last week. Never before have they agreed to real reductions in the burden of nuclear blackmail that lies over the world. The principal success was to have reached agreement to eliminate from the arsenals of both sides a whole category of nuclear missiles. True, they represent only about 4 percent of the total nuclear armouries, so their destruction will not eliminate or even significantly reduce the ability of either side to reduce the other to rubble. But the removal of cruise Pershing-2 and SS-20 missiles and their shorter-range cousins is the clearest possible signal that the nuclear arms race possesses a reverse gear. If these missiles can be removed, then there is hope of deep cuts in strategic nuclear weapons too, and a long-overdue reduction in the monstrous imposition of overkill.

From the narrower perspective of European security, the deal is equally attractive. The anxieties of Nato notwithstanding, it is difficult to see how the West can fail to benefit from a deal in which the Soviet Union will reduce its arsenal by a thousand more warheads than the United States. Think back to 1979, when Nato settled on its “twin-track” decision to deploy cruise and Pershing-2 missiles in Europe while continuing to negotiate with the Russians about the elimination of such systems. If the Soviet Union had then offered, inconceivably, to eliminate all its intermediate and short-range missiles aimed at Western Europe in return for the non-deployment of cruise and Pershing-2, the offer would have been greeted with disbelief – and joy. Yet that is the very outcome that has now been achieved by deployment and negotiation: the twin-track decision has achieved its objective.

Now is the moment for those who stood firm in 1983 – the year of deployment – to enjoy the results of their resolution. Despite public agitation and the parading of conscience through the streets, Nato was not deterred. Who would now have the nerve to claim that if the prescription of the peace groups had been followed the outcome would have been as good? The deal is a triumph for toughness and realism in international relations ...