The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington

on the World Today

THE second post-World War II summit conference, scheduled to open in Paris on May 16, will meet in an atmosphere quite different from that at the time of the first Eisenhower-Khrushchev encounter in Geneva in mid-1955. In 1955 the conquest of space was as yet in the realm of science fiction, and international continental ballistic missiles were still only on the drawing boards. Most important, the American military lead was indisputable, and America’s diplomatic power accordingly was vast.

In the intervening years, the Soviet Union has reached a point of equality, with many a prediction, from alarmed Americans as well as from a triumphant Khrushchev, that Russian power will be dangerously greater in the early 1960s. This is clearly reflected in Soviet diplomatic maneuvering, especially in the year and a half since Khrushchev first raised the Berlin issue.

There have been some changes for the better since 1955, however. For one thing, that first summit conference opened the door to what has become a major flow in both directions of all sorts of people, both in and out of the respective governments. These contacts have contributed a great deal to a mitigation of the more strident Cold War days. The East-West atmosphere, in short, has improved considerably, though it does not take much to recharge it, as Berlin has shown.

In 1955 Nikita Khrushchev had to share the spotlight of the Geneva summit with the now banished Nikolai Bulganin; this time he is clearly top man. On the other hand, President Eisenhower at Paris this May will be only eight months from his retirement from the White House. This fact adds an urgency to a search for agreements. The Democrats in Washington worry about this in purely political terms; and many diplomats are also worried lest it lead the President and Secretary of State Christian Herter to concessions that they might otherwise refuse. Up to now there has been no evidence that the President is approaching the summit in a political mood. Herter is known to believe that it would not at all be disastrous if this summit meeting fails to reach agreements, now that the way is open to future discussions either at the summit or at lower levels. One must remember that after the 1955 summit came a futile foreign ministers’ conference, which, in turn, led to a break in East-West negotiations, an end to the discussion, for all effective purposes, for two years. It took much diplomatic haggling to reopen the high-level channels.

Still, the pressures on Khrushchev, now sixtyfive, and on a soon-to-retire Eisenhower will be considerable. Khrushchev has given evidence that he really means to try to do business at Paris in a number of fields, chief among them Berlin, a nuclear test ban, and disarmament in general. While there has been a tendency in Washington to play down any possible summit agreements, a great deal of serious work has been going on in case the President finds Khrushchev in a mood for those compromises which alone can bring any agreement. Agreements of substance, except perhaps in the test ban issue, will be a surprise, but one cannot rule out the possibility.

Adenauer’s pessimism

West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, though appearing even more vigorous, at eightyfour, than in his six previous visits to the United States as the German leader, is in a thoroughly stand-pat mood. His surprise proposal at a National Press Club luncheon for a pre-summit plebiscite in West Berlin was taken as a gambit to kill off any new proffers of concessions to Khrushchev by the United States and its allies, since the expected “no” vote in any such plebiscite would make concessions difficult. The idea therefore got a chilly reception in Washington.

There is no disposition to give West Berlin to the Communists, but there is a disposition to explore the British idea that it just may be possible to get out of Khrushchev a new pledge on West Berlin’s freedom, including free access, provided some concessions are made along the lines of those offered last summer at the Geneva foreign ministers’ conference. At that time, the West proposed, with Adenauer’s approval, cuts in Western troops in West Berlin, a ban on at least some of the Western propaganda work in the city, and acceptance of East German Communists as agents of the Soviet Union for control of access routes to the city from the West. Adenauer tried and failed last December to get Eisenhower, Macmillan, and De Gaulle to withdraw that offer.

The Chancellor’s mood during his visit to Washington this year boiled down to this: stand pat at the summit and until a new President is inaugurated next January. In fact, one German official privately put it this way: “Our problem is to get through the next ten months” — until there is a new man in the White House. Adenauer spoke longingly in Washington of the late John Foster Dulles and told a little story to drive home the point of German approval of Dulles’ tough line toward Russia: an unknown Ruhr workman, said Adenauer, had sent him ten marks just before he left Bonn to buy flowers for Dulles’ grave.

The longing for peace

The stand-pat posture, however, is an impossibility in an era in which Khrushchev at least alternates smiles with his frowns. The world longs for peace; the West castigates Red China for its warlike talk and its incursions on the Indian border; the President visits major areas of the world to tell the public of America’s peaceful intentions. Eisenhower is by nature an optimist; he means it when he says he would go anywhere, any time, in the interests of peace. The summit meeting is evidence of this, and so is the President’s planned visit to Russia in June.

Washington observers think that Khrushchev at the summit will create no irreparable breach because of Eisenhower’s subsequent trip to Moscow. Khrushchev needs the visit, it is argued, to increase his own strength internally, to show the Soviet people how hard he is working for world peace, for they, too, very much fear nuclear war. Furthermore, there is considerable evidence of strain in Soviet-Red Chinese relationships. Khrushchev refused to talk about his Chinese ally when he visited America last year. In recent months he has taken almost a neutral position in the controversies between China and India. Lately, in his “don’t rock the boat before the summit” appeals, he has indicated that if the United States insists on spreading nuclear weapons among its NATO allies, then he, sadly, would have to give similar weapons to Red China.

The Soviet dogged ness in the Geneva nuclear test talks also is taken as an earnest of Khrushchev’s determination to keep nuclear weapons away from additional nations, including Red China. Americans in general are not aware of how far the Russians have moved on the test ban issue in the effort to reach an agreement. The issues now have been so narrowed that Washington expects a major push by Khrushchev at the summit to produce a final accord and to make a signing by the two leaders, along with Britain’s Macmillan, a major feature of the conference.

The ten-nation disarmament talks are something else again, however. Here the issues are so vast and so complicated, and the gulf between the two sides so wide, that progress can only be slow at best. This is one reason that the test ban negotiations seem more important than they are in themselves — they provide a pilot scheme for the critical issue of inspection and control. It would be a major move for the Soviets to open their country, even to the extent of the inspection being talked about for the test ban treaty.

The defense issue

The 1960 summit conference will be important simply because the two sides are talking over their differences and because they are doing so at other levels of diplomacy as well. The results undoubtedly wall play a part in the presidential campaign. For one thing, almost all the Administration’s Democratic critics have been saying that the United States is at a disadvantage at the diplomatic table because of its declining military strength in relation to rising Soviet power.

The military defense issue has been red-hot in Washington since the day Congress convened in early January. Vice President Nixon, as the prospective Republican candidate, has been well aware of this and has tried to get away from the stand-pat Eisenhower posture without getting out of step with the President. This is indeed difficult, but Nixon did his best by saying he would favor monthly reviews of military policies once he is in the White House.

From all the millions of words heard on the defense issue, a number of conclusions may fairly be drawn. There is agreement, for the most part, that, as of the moment, American strength forms an adequate deterrent power; the issue centers on whether it will be adequate in 1961 or 1962 or 1963. The Democrats say no, unless there is a stepped-up ICBM and Polaris nuclear submarine program, as well as space programs. The Administration has bowed to this opinion by increasing the budget for space, but it has fought any increases for missile or conventional warfare.

Democratic candidates who have been speaking around the country say they find a sense of uneasiness over the American military position. But they generally stop short of making any blood, tears, toil, and sweat appeal to the public: they are not convinced that the public is prepared to accept that at this stage.

An old political maxim is that there are few votes in foreign policy, but it has often been proved wrong. In 1956, the Suez crisis at election time almost surely added greatly to Eisenhower’s vote, on the grounds that as a general he would know how to keep the United States out of the fighting. This time, no similar crisis appears to be impending, unless Khrushchev chooses to create one over Berlin. What is most worrisome to both Republicans and Democrats is the extent to which Khrushchev will be able to influence the election. Yet there is no reason to suppose that he sees any real difference between the two parties. He already has castigated Nixon and most of his potential Democratic rivals.

The President’s trips

Administration critics complain that the President has no foreign policy except one of locomotion. Yet they find it hard to say that nothing-useful was accomplished by his two big trips this year, to Asia and North Africa and to South America, or that his prospective visit to Russia and Japan also may not be a help in creating a more correct image of America.

Khrushchev, too, has been traveling to Asia again, and he is contemplating a first visit to Africa. The Jet Age has made such visits much easier, and the extent to which propaganda images of each major power are influenced by such visits seems to have made them inescapable. The most valid criticism heard in Washington is not of the trips themselves but of the followthrough.

Khrushchev’s method is to make some specific commitment on each trip to leave behind some proof of his words of peaceful coexistence. Eisenhower has not done so, nor in most cases has there been any followthrough once he was back home. In good part this is the inevitable advantage accruing to a dictator with no Congress to deny him funds or otherwise harry his policies. Foreign aid seems no more popular than ever in the United States, yet it is in this critical field that the Russians have been aping the past American policies with considerable success.

Another criticism is that Secretary of State Herter himself is away too much. It is undoubtedly true that in his absence it is more difficult to get decisions on all but the most critical issues. In recent weeks there have been a number of suggestions for naming an American minister of foreign affairs, who might do the traveling and negotiating abroad, but this is at best questionable.

Basically, very much depends on the nature of the man who is President. Any Eisenhower successor will have to do some traveling, if only because Khrushchev does. But since most of the men now seeking the presidency have themselves traveled widely, it is probable that the next President will be a stay-at-home, at least during the early part of his Administration.

Travel is no substitute for policy, however. Once a new Administration has fixed its foreign policy, travel may be a useful adjunct.