11 October 2011, 18:23

The Reykjavik Summit: a missed chance

The Reykjavik Summit: a missed chance

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Reykjavik Summit in 1986, when Secretary-General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev offered his U.S. counterpart Ronald Reagan to sign an agreement which would stipulate complete nuclear disarmament within a decade. Mr. Gorbachev says his proposal came as a surprise for the U.S. delegation.

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Reykjavik Summit in 1986, when Secretary-General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev offered his U.S. counterpart Ronald Reagan to sign an agreement which would stipulate complete nuclear disarmament within a decade. Mr. Gorbachev says his proposal came as a surprise for the U.S. delegation. The next day, after discussing the issue with his ‘hawks’, Mr. Reagan answered negatively. 

A major obstacle to signing of what could have become a historical agreement was the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) proposed by Ronald Reagan in 1983 to use ground and space-based systems to protect the US from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. The SDI was soon referred to as ‘Star Wars’ after the popular film by George Lucas. The Soviet Union was at the time a country viewed by the US as a potential enemy. However, Mr. Reagan was ready to accept Mr. Gorbachev`s proposal if the U.S. would have been allowed to keep on with its SDI program. If Gorbachev had agreed, a strategic balance between the two countries would have been violated, which Moscow could not allow to happen, especially amid the ongoing Cold War focused on mutual nuclear deterrence.

In September, 1991, there appeared another chance to dramatically reduce each other’s nuclear arsenals. Anticipating the collapse of the Soviet Union, the then U.S. leader George Bush Sr. unveiled a nuclear arms-reduction plan, proposing cutbacks in all kinds of nuclear weapons in the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Mr. Gorbachev responded a month later by saying that his country was ready to remove its nuclear arsenals from the territories of non-nuclear countries. This was the time when the history of the Soviet Union was almost over, with former republics declaring independence, and ex-Communists revising their views and preparing for the presidential elections in a new democratic Russia.

According to U.S. scholar Hans Kristensen, whose book “US Nuclear Weapons in Europe- a Review of Post-Cold War Policy, Force Levels, and War Planning” aroused controversy in the West, the total number of nuclear bombs currently stands at 150-240, their power of about several hundred of megatons. Many experts have been wondering: if the Cold War is over, and Russia is no longer ‘the Evil Empire’, why do the U.S. and NATO still keep their nukes in Europe? Europe has seen a growing number of anti-nuclear movements, its activists protesting the presence of US nuclear bombs on its territory. The activists held a large-scale anti-nuclear campaign in Italy`s Umbria several years ago, demanding the removal of bombs. Groups of British pacifists, known for undertaking protest campaigns near U.S. army bases in the UK, even faced arrests for their activity.

We should admit, however, that since the Reykjavik Summit in 1986, some progress has been achieved in terms of nuclear arms reduction. When Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Reagan were having talks in Iceland, there existed 70,000 warheads, most of them owned by the Soviet Union and the U.S. Currently, the number of warheads is said to be more than 20,000, with 95% again possessed by Russia and the US.

The so-called Nuclear Club, which originally comprised Russia, US, Great Britain, France and China, in recent years has accepted Pakistan, India, and Israel as its new members. Fifteen years ago the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service reported that there were already twenty countries, each capable of making a nuclear bomb of its own, not to mention more than forty other countries having a nuclear power station, which allows using nuclear technology for both peaceful and military purposes.

The situation has hardly changed since then. The VoR`s political observer Valentin Zorin, who used to cover the Reykjavik Summit in 1986, says that when a talk focuses on missile defense, the situation with the SDI comes to mind at once: “I see so much in common between what happened 25 years ago and what is going on now. The US is being persistent about its missile defense policy, though actions they have been taking on this front have not turned productive. A report unveiled by the Department of the Treasury confirms this, saying that the authors of the missile defense program do not deserve the money they receive. I should say that our Defence Ministry officials are not flexible either. I think that sometimes Russia`s approach is counterproductive and ungrounded as well”.

But now that 25 years have passed since the Reykjavik Summit, it is clear that one should not necessarily possess nuclear arms to put another country on the brink of a collapse or even conquer it. Knowing the laws of information warfare and using force from time to time would be enough: remember the USSR, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, e.t.c.  

 

 

 

 

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