Recent Months in Review

By John Bacher

Chinese End Atmospheric Tests

In a March 21 speech marked the U.N. Year of Peace, Chinese Premier Zho Ziyang announced that China would conduct no further atmospheric tests. The proportion of the Chinese national budget to be spent on the military was reduced from 12 to 9 percent at the same time.

NATO Accepts New U.S. Chemical Weapons

On May 22, the U.S. formally notified NATO's Defence Ministers of plans to "modernize" the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile, including production of new binary nerve gas weapons. The decision was opposed by Greece, Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands on the grounds that the binaries would undermine current talks to ban chemical weapons.

On June 25, NATO Commander General Bernard Rogers said that the deployment plan for NATO's new binary chemical weapons was now complete. West Germany and Great Britain were the only countries willing to take the weapons.

West Germany Increases Military Service

On April 17, the West German parliament extended compulsory military service from 15 to 18 months. This was justified on the basis of population decline.

Star Wars

The Italian socialist-headed Craxi government accepted participation in the U.S. Star Wars program on April 3. On April 17, Norway rejected participation, calling on SDI to become part of the Geneva summit negotiations. On April 13 a panel of physicists at the University of Chicago estimated that 58 percent of senior university physicists opposed Star Wars. On May 6, Israel agreed to participate in Star Wars. Its agreement with the U.S. is outlined in a classified memorandum. The Japanese Scientists' Association has released a statement against its country's participation in Star Wars research, noting that it would delay nuclear disarmament and "distort the advance of science."

Dutch refusal of Nuclear Tasks Irks U.S.

NATO Military Commander Rogers in January criticized Dutch withdrawal from military tasks designed to explode nuclear weapons on targets within the NATO alliance. This decision, according to Rogers, represents "the first time" a nation with a nuclear role in NATO refused to "participate in the initial use of nuclear weapons" in response to a Soviet conventional attack.

New Zealand Continues Non-nuclear Defence

In December of 1985, New Zealand's parliament approved legislation making the country a nuclear weapons free zone. Clause 9 (2) of the draft legislation permits the entry of foreign warships only "if the Prime Minister is satisfied that the warships will not be carrying any nuclear explosives upon their entry into the internal waters of New Zealand." New Zealand is committed to appointing a Minister for Disarmament. Prime Minister David Lange stated

that New Zealand would continue to press for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Great Britain has replaced New Zealand in ANZUS exercises. Great Britain and the United States have both barred New Zealand from Western intelligence information. The U.S. has threatened trade sanctions. Despite such international pressure, the non-nuclear defence policies continue to enjoy broad popular support. They have been endorsed by all New Zealand churches.

Nuclear Testing

In response to the Soviet nuclear test moratorium, the U.S. continues to reduce the emphasis on the problem of verification in its arguments against the cessation of nuclear testing and the immediate negotiation of a comprehensive test ban treaty. On December 16, some 46 U.S. Senators asked President Reagan to enter into negotiations with the USSR for a comprehensive test ban treaty. On March 16, 160 religious leaders signed a letter calling on the U.S. to join the USSR's moratorium. These protests come up against formidable interests promoting the increase in U.S. nuclear arsenals; scientists estimate that new U.S. planned weapons systems will require 100 to 200 tests to complete. On January 14, the National Resources Defense Council stated that between 1980 and 1984, the U.S. had conducted 12 to 19 unannounced nuclear tests. In response, the Department of Energy's spokesperson Chris West, responded that he would not confirm or deny the reports because "that would defeat our purpose" in keeping the tests secret. On February 6, U.S. Secretary of State Shultz declared that "as long as there are nuclear weapons" there would be "a need to conduct tests." This was justified in order to maintain nuclear stockpiles and "carry out modernization."

To deflect the impact of the USSR's moratorium, the U.S. Department of Energy on May 8 revealed its past protests against radiation from shallow-level Soviet underground tests between 1963 and 1984. This was outlined in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which reported that 200 Soviet nuclear tests had vented radiation, resulting in 100 private protests from the U.S. The DOE admitted to radiation releases from 70 tests, 31 of which drifted past the test Site.

In late February two American peace activists, one a U.S. Navy veteran of the 1946 Bikini tests, were ejected from the U.S. embassy in Moscow in response to their protest against the American refusal to participate in the USSR's moratorium. On April 7, nine American members of Greenpeace slipped into the Nevada testing area, challenging officials to find them. Greenpeace succeeded in 1986 in postponing a U.S. test. The April 10 U.S. test failed, since a set of doors failed to closer after the explosion, causing a waste of $70 million.

Continuation of Soviet Moratorium

Mikhail Gorbachev kept offering arms control proposals to the U.S. government and equally conciliatory gestures to other nations. In June he had offered to tolerate U. S. Star research ballistic missile defences, provided the Americans agree not to build and deploy such weapons. In July he had announced plans to withdraw 7000 Soviet troops from Afghanistan, and mentioned the possibility of withdrawal of Soviet troops from the Mongolian border with China. For the British and French, he also offered something: the statement that the Soviets are willing to accept their nuclear arsenals, providing they are not modernized. In Vladivostok in July he proposed a Pacific conference to curtail the nuclear rivalries of the two superpowers' navies in the Pacific. Then on 18 August, Gorbachev capped the whole series of conciliatory acts by announcing that his government would extend until January 1 its moratorium on nuclear testing. He invited the U.S. to reciprocate, as most of the other NATO countries (including Norway, Denmark, and Greece) have also urged the Americans to do, but White House spokesmen immediately rejected the idea again.

Nevertheless, the U.S. House of Representatives, apparently convinced of Mr. Gorbachev's serious intentions, had four days before supported all five of the arms control initiatives that had been offered as amendments to the $285 billion U.S. 1987 defence bill. Against Mr. Reagan's wishes, and contrary to the votes in the Senate, the House voted

  1. to extend a ban on anti-satellite weapons testing;
  2. ban nuclear weapons tests;
  3. deny Mr. Reagan funds to exceed the SALT II treaty limits,
  4. reduce by more than $2 billion his 1987 request for Star Wars research; and
  5. delay Mr. Reagan's plan to resume chemical weapons production and replace existing U.S. stockpiles in Europe with binary weapons.

Final Session in Stockholm

The last session of the 35-nation CSCE (Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe) began in Stockholm on August 18. It will last only five weeks, and has an enormous task yet to accomplish if any final agreement is to come from the process. Both the Soviet Union and the United States promised to make concessions toward that end. The USSR immediately offered to allow one or two obligatory inspections by other states each year of its military activities. The other western countries hailed this as a significant step forward.

After the end of this session, the Helsinki process is scheduled to continue with an autumn review conference in Vienna. Leaders of western peace movements will be meeting there at the same time, led by Dutch IKV activists, to discuss their positions on these negotiations, particularly ways of working to implement the terms of the Helsinki Accords which deal with human rights.

Iceland-Another New Zealand

Iceland, a full member of NATO, adopted a Nuclear Free Zone policy identical to New Zealand's in April, 1985. Unlike New Zealand, however, it has received virtually no publicity in the United States and no criticism. Apparently the U.S. and NATO would rather respect Iceland's NFZ policy than draw attention to it. During NATO's "Ocean Safari" naval exercises last fall, no warships crossed the 12-mile limit of Iceland's nuclear-free territorial waters. The only NATO ships to make port calls in Iceland during the exercises were tankers, merchant ships, and a non-nuclear Coast Guard vessel, reports The New Abolitionist, June/July.

Protest: Central America and Afghanistan

A statement was signed by peace activists of the Western and Eastern blocs, jointly condemning the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the U.S. intervention in Central America. Among the Western signatories were Isabel Allende, the late Simone de Beauvoir, Kurt Vonnegut, and Carlos Fuentes. Those from the East included Jan Jozef Lipski of Solidarity and Hungarian writer Gyorgy Konrad.

Thanks to Simon Rosenblum for the June/July Recent Months Review page. (We forgot his byline.)

Peace Magazine Oct-Nov 1986

Peace Magazine Oct-Nov 1986, page 6. Some rights reserved.

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