The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington

BEFORE Khrushchev reached Washington, one of the candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination commented that, if his party was not careful, the Republicans would end up by tagging it with the “war party” label once again — and with disastrous results, the senator thought. After Khrushchev had come and gone, that seemed even more likely. For, if Khrushchev had any public response in his whirlwind tour of the United States, it was to his peace theme, to the idea that the two great powers had no escape from somehow living together on this shrinking planet.

Of the potential Democratic nominees, only Adlai Stevenson publicly embraced the Eisenhower approach during Khrushchev’s visit. Senator Humphrey — though he launched his own campaign after his famous Kremlin talk with Khrushchev — and Senators Kennedy, Johnson, and Symington, as well as California’s Governor Brown, have all taken a cautious approach.

In reality this makes a great deal of sense, for the meeting at Camp David solved none of the East-West issues. Considering what Khrushchev calls “the accumulations of the Cold War years,” it is not easy to come to agreement in a hurry. Considering, too, the quick collapse of the “spirit of Geneva” a few months after the 1955 Summit Conference, the United States cannot afford to relax in the glow of the “spirit of Camp David.”

The peace plank

Some political leaders in Washington take the cynical view that the 1960 campaign will be plagued by pie-in-the-sky talk or by hints of tax reductions and other pleasant dreams which will materialize if only this or that candidate is selected to deal with the Communists. This doubtless is a danger, and once one party has a try at it, it will be next to impossible for the other to resist.

On the Republican side, Vice President Nixon seems to consider himself in an ideal position. He was associated in the public mind with the Eisenhower invitation to Khrushchev; and, after his own trip to Russia, his stock rose in the Gallup poll — and so did that of the GOP as the party best able to keep the peace. On the other hand, Nixon took a wary view of the meaning of the Khrushchev visit, and to anyone who thought he was going soft on the Communists he could cite the harsh words spoken about him by the Soviet Premier.

Nonetheless, Nixon’s challenger, Governor Rockefeller, managed to find a position on the Khrushchev affair even more cautious than Nixon’s. He did this first at the Governors’ Conference in Puerto Rico, before Khrushchev arrived in Washington. Rockefeller is reported to have told the President privately of his reservations about the exchange of visits with the Premier, though he was careful not to snub Khrushchev in New York, where he paid a call on him. But he followed that with a speech calling for caution in trade dealings with the Soviet Union.

The trouble for all the would-be candidates of both parties in trying to figure out how to run on a peace platform is that they do not have control of the peace plank. The other end of the plank, alas, is in Khrushchev’s hands, and no one can tell when he might choose to yank it.

Disarmament talks

After the Camp David talks, the American experts in Soviet affairs were impressed by the way Khrushchev promptly carried out his part of the bargain in removing the threat to Berlin. They were considerably more impressed by the way Khrushchev publicly lectured his Red Chinese allies in Peking about not attempting to test the United States by force of arms. But they will be very much surprised if the spirit of Camp David does not receive severe strain from some careless word or phrase uttered in Moscow or Washington, with the other side answering back in kind.

There is no reason to think that a Summit conference or any other East-West conclave can quickly resolve any of the issues now outstanding. Washington observers think that an agreement on a nuclear test ban may not be far off, but that has nothing to do with trimming the arms race. At best, it might help prevent it from getting worse by making it difficult for other nations, including Red China, to go into the nuclear weapons business.

Khrushchev’s call at the United Nations for total disarmament was taken in Washington as a skillful propaganda gambit, though some at least do not dismiss the idea that he would like eventually to achieve that end. His private words during his visit enforced that view, given his premise that the Communist bloc can win the world struggle without resort to arms. American officials say that Russia is devoting 25 per cent of its gross national product to arms, compared with 10 per cent in the United States of a much larger gross national product. The arms expenditure is the reason that Khrushchev cannot fulfill the obvious desire of the Russian masses for the good things of life.

The need for a new policy

But before the bargaining can begin, especially in the complex area of disarmament, two things have to happen: the United States must establish a policy to replace that which was drawn up more than three years ago and which has now been outmoded in many respects by technological change; and the United States has got to sell that policy to its allies in London, Paris, and Bonn, each of whom has a different way of looking at the problem.

There seems to be no doubt that it is far more difficult to get agreement on an American, and especially an allied, policy than it is to get agreement on a comparable Soviet policy. The in-fighting in Washington over disarmament is immense every time there seems to be the slightest possibility of any agreement with the Communists. To get a State Department policy is difficult enough. To get an agreed State-Defense-Atomic Energy Commission policy is enormously difficult, so great are the conflictinginterests.

Officials in Washington concede that the only man in the Eisenhower years who could really force decisions in the arms field was Harold Stassen. But he fell prey to his inordinate presidential ambitions, and his keen mind was lost to Washington. No one has yet replaced him, though a panel headed by Charles A. Coolidge, a Boston lawyer and former Pentagon official, is now trying. It is a safe prediction, however, that the Coolidge recommendations will serve as the basis for some furious arguments at the National Security Council table, with the President having to make some unpleasant decisions.

Increasing chances for error

This is not to say that there has not been some serious and important thinking in Washington. For instance, in one office with the best of access to the President, there has been a lot of discussion of what is termed the “increasing instability of the deterrent.” By this is meant that, as weapons systems progress inexorably from the manned aircraft to the missile stage, there are increasingly too many buttons to be pushed and too many people with thumbs assigned to push those buttons, wired to weapons which, once launched from their pads, cannot be recalled.

This is a line of thought which for some years has been urged on the Administration by a number of outsiders, but only lately has it begun to be discussed seriously in the inner councils. One area being explored is this: to lessen the increasing instability it is necessary that each side know more about what the other is prepared to do and where; therefore, there should be some mutual system under which Soviet and American nationals are in each other’s countries and in a position to tell their own governments when, by chance or error, a missile goes off which is not indicative of an attack.

Enormous problems are posed by such an idea, not to mention the suspicion such a proposal would surely arouse in the Soviets, given Khrushchev’s repeated assertions that Western inspection and control schemes are designed more to gain intelligence than anything else.

At best, officials in Washington say, there cannot be any new Western disarmament policy ready for the ten-nation East-West conference until around March 1. In May or June the President is scheduled to visit the Soviet Union. And in July the Democrats and Republicans plan to hold their presidential conventions.

It probably will be very difficult to keep such issues out of the campaign, considering the history of the test ban, which was injected into the 1956 election. It should not be forgotten, either, that the Stevenson proposal that year, and the Eisenhower-Nixon rejoinder that his idea was most dangerous, had the result of setting back hopes for a test ban by at least two years. Campaign statements on such complex issues have a way of creating fixed positions from which escape, upon calmer reflection, is most difficult.

New pattern for economic aid

While the bulk of public attention has been riveted for months on Soviet-American relations, a quiet revolution has been taking place within the free world, culminating in the Washington meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund this fall.

The Eisenhower Administration has been plugging, with evidence of success, a new line on the problem of how to meet the needs of the underdeveloped nations. This new way of thinking goes back a year to the preceding Bank and Fund meetings in New Delhi. There, both Treasury Secretary Anderson and Federal Reserve Chairman Martin became alarmed at what they took to be signs of a lack of confidence in the dollar. The subsequent increasing drain on American dollar reserves, related to the change in the balance of trade, brought them both to the President’s office. They joined in fervent pleas to Eisenhower for the sound dollar and for the necessity of getting other major industrial nations — especially Britain, France, West Germany, and Japan — to start paying part of the bill for aid to the underdeveloped nations.

The President was most responsive. He began to put paragraphs in his speeches urging such a sharing of the burden. He was supported by the heads of both the Bank and the Fund in private talks with the finance ministers and other leaders of the industrialized nations in their visits abroad and again at the Washington gathering.

Slowly, sometimes reluctantly, the other finance ministers have agreed that the case is a good one, that their own economic health is such that they can afford such steps. In some cases there were pleas that it would be politically difficult, but indications are that even the political taboos may be surmounted.

The pattern for economic aid is not likely to be a big multinational agency, either inside or outside the United Nations, though there are political pressures for each of these schemes. More likely, aid will be given on what amounts to an ad hoc basis, country by country, in a plan similar to the combination of government and private bank aid which was pumped into Argentina a year ago. Tied to that loan, and almost certainly to future agreements, was a commitment by the recipient government to put its fiscal house in order in cooperation with the Monetary Fund.

This is a technique which has worked in a number of semi-industrialized countries. It probably will be more difficult in less industrialized nations. But if it were coupled with a more rational American policy on the use of our important agricultural surpluses, especially wheat and cotton, it could have enormous bearing on the struggles to meet the revolution of rising economic expectations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

A key figure in these developments has been Per Jacobsson of Sweden, one of the keenest minds in Washington. His frequent and generally little-publicized visits to the capitals of the world and his firm insistence on fiscal responsibility to every official he meets have had excellent results. In Washington he is regarded as a superb example of the best kind of international civil servant, though he is not so well known as many other men who are actually much less influential.