MOSCOW — 'For the first time there has been a step away from the abyss, and centimeters here can very well prove more important than kilometers on an even, safe ground.'
'Our rivalry . . . bleeds both countries economically by senseless wasting of colossal resources, so needed by the Soviet Union and the much richer United States.'
The atmosphere of the Washington summit meeting resembled the weather in the American capital at the time. There wasn't any frost from the Cold War era, but there wasn't any particular warmth either, both in the streets and in the relations of the two leaders and their assistants. It was a cool but businesslike and realistic meeting, devoid of the excitement of the first Geneva brush between General Secretary Mikhail S. Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan, but also lacking the tension and disappointments of Reykjavik. Gorbachev brought an important treaty from Washington, but he hasn't brought a new detente, or "detente No. 2," as one of Reagan's former aides put it. However, this will not prevent us historians from regarding this summit as the most important diplomatic and political event of the past year. Gorbachev's stay in the United States last month followed the strictly planned itinerary and for us, watching all its episodes on TV, it didn't look particularly tiresome or difficult. But the road to it proved terribly rough for Gorbachev and Reagan alike.
Stepping down on the lunar surface, Neil Armstrong said, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." Assessing the results of the meeting in Washington, some journalists and politicians put it diametrically opposite: "Forty years of fruitless efforts for disarmament and the first small step forward." Then they usually point out that of the 50,000 to 60,000 nuclear warheads, under the treaty just 3,000 to 4,000 are going to be destroyed.
The figures here are correct; the assessment is not. The leaders of our countries, their ministers and experts in the respective delegations, did a tremendous job, securing not a "small step forward," but a big stride toward disarmament. For the first time the talk is not about regulation of arms growth, but about actual decrease in the overall number of missiles and their warheads. Having overcome the tremendous momentum of the fearsome nuclear- and military-industrial-complex machine, our countries have not just slowed its movement, but were able to put it into reverse in an important area.
For the first time there has been a step away from the abyss, and centimeters here can very well prove more important than kilometers on an even, safe ground. A complicated mechanism of negotiations, concessions and compromises has been set up and fine-tuned, and will come in handy in further talks. And finally, the strictest measures on control and verification have been agreed upon, the very stumbling block in the course of all previous disarmament negotiations.
What happens next, whether the fervently desired forward-movement starts and the 50% cutback in our strategic arsenals is achieved, whether acceptable solutions are found for other armaments and whether the U.S. Congress ratifies the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty--all are questions with no answers yet.
Who gained more from the treaty? I think there is an equal measure of success for both the Gorbachev and Reagan administrations.
The INF Treaty is based, as all know, on Reagan's proposals--those "disarmingly simple" proposals, in his own words--made in 1981. From this point of view, Gorbachev had to make much more difficult decisions than Reagan. Even my archive contains dozens of articles by various authors and experts rejecting and ridiculing the "zero option." As a matter of fact, Reagan's proposal had been flatly rejected by Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev and his diplomats and then by his successor, Yuri V. Andropov, who even broke off all talks with the United States as "useless." The zero option was then rejected by Andropov's successor, Konstantin U. Chernenko, and after him by Gorbachev himself during his first two years in power. One can safely assume that the polemics concerning the amount of possible Soviet concessions were pretty sharp among both the politicians and the military leaders, but in the end common sense and new thinking triumphed over old dogmas.
Our countries' knowledge of each other is still very poor, and peaceful cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union has been reduced to the barest minimum as a result of suspicion and mistrust. I do not want to say that there are no grounds for concern and even mutual criticism in our countries. But our rivalry has gone too far; it bleeds both countries economically by senseless wasting of colossal resources, so needed by the Soviet Union and the much richer United States for solving economic, social and ecological problems.