In mid-December, Canada was among just eleven nations to vote against a nuclear arms freeze in the United Nations General Assembly. The proposal for a nuclear freeze is probably the best known and most widely supported disarmament proposal. It calls upon both superpowers to "halt the testing, production, and further deployment of all nuclear weapons, missiles, and delivery systems in a way that can be checked and verified by both." The call for a freeze is backed by such people as William Colby, ex-director of the C.I.A., Thomas Watson, Jr., former chairman of I.B.M. and former Ambassador to the USSR, and Paul Warnke, President Carter's chief SALT II negotiator. About 75% of the American public support it, according to opinion polls; it is the Democratic Party's official policy.
Support for a bilateral freeze agreement between the U.S. and the USSR to halt the development, production, testing, and deployment of all nuclear weapons systems is a basic first step in the disarmament process. A freeze by both superpowers would improve nuclear stability while saving $500 billion over the next decade--funds which could be spent on meeting global needs. The resulting prosperity would contribute greatly to world peace and justice.
Would the freeze give unfair advantage to the Soviets? While the U.S. is ahead in some areas and the Soviet Union in others, according to the U.S. Department of Defense Report for fiscal year 1982, "The United States and the Soviet Union are roughly equal in strategic nuclear power." If either superpower presently enjoys an advantage it would be the United States, which is ahead in the sophisticated technology which leads to first-strike capabilities. Furthermore, studies have shown that the Soviet Union is more vulnerable to an American first-strike than vice-versa: Considerably fewer Soviet warheads would survive a U.S. surprise attack than American warheads following a Soviet first-strike. However, neither superpower is close to having a true first-strike capability, for both still have unquestionable ability to retaliate. This rough equality offers a welcome chance to freeze the nuclear arms race now, at a time when neither side would be gaining an advantage. A freeze would put a lid on further first-strike potential.
Would the Soviets agree to a freeze? They have in fact supported the freeze at the United Nations. The time has come to challenge them to implement this proposal. Successful disarmament agreements with the USSR do not have to rely on the honesty of the Soviets. For, as former C.I.A. directors Herbert Scoville and William Colby have stated, American intelligence could effectively monitor the Russians under such a comprehensive agreement. The freeze can be monitored by satellites, radar, and other means which both sides now possess and are already using to police the various arms agreements that have previously been adopted. And the U.S. Defense Department, the State Department, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have stated that "Soviet compliance performance under 14 arms control agreements has been good."
While it might theoretically be possible for one side to cheat on some phase of weapons development, it could not get away with cheating enough to gain a significant advantage.
The Canadian government continues to express its concern about problems of verifying a freeze. Ironically, however, it has agreed to test the cruise missile, which will complicate the possibility of verifying whether the superpowers live up to the terms of future arms limitation agreements.
According to a Gallup poll taken during the last federal election, 85 percent of Canadians support a nuclear freeze and in all likelihood would want the Canadian government to reestablish its leadership on international peace issues by reversing our vote at the U.N. General Assembly. The government should be reminded of this fact.