Trudeau’s peace crusade

Robert Miller December 5 1983

Trudeau’s peace crusade

Robert Miller December 5 1983

Trudeau’s peace crusade


Robert Miller

For blessed are the peacemakers on earth. —Henry VI, Part Two

Suddenly, if belatedly, the nuclear menace had become everybody’s nightmare, and millions of ordinary people prayed and hoped that the few peacemakers of the earth would succeed. In a fast-moving series of related developments in Europe, Asia and North America, the human race seemed to lurch another step closer to oblivion last week as the menacing East-West confrontation grew worse. Government leaders one or more steps removed from the twin summits of nuclear power in Washington and Moscow faced increasing public pressure to do something, almost anything, to help reduce international tensions and enable the world to retreat from the nuclear brink.

One such leader was Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who for more than a month has conducted a personal crusade for peace and who has made it clear that hand-wringing and diplomatic expressions of concern will no longer appease the worried masses. Said Trudeau in New Delhi, where he attended part of the Commonwealth Conference in search of maximum support for his much-travelled five-point peace plan: “To say ‘No’ to annihilation is not sufficient to make statesmen of us. We must also provide the alternatives.”

Initiative: Then, Trudeau decided to break away from the Commonwealth talks (page 38) for meetings early this week with Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang in Peking. Trudeau planned to return to New Delhi to report to his Indian counterpart, Indira Gandhi. In Ottawa, U.S. Ambassador Paul Robinson, a staunch Ronald Reagan loyalist, praised the Trudeau initiative and suggested that the Prime Minister should also visit Moscow.

The new respectability surrounding the Canadian leader’s plan was the most encouraging note in an otherwise disturbing series of developments last week. In rapid order the West German parliament voted to accept 108 mediumrange Pershing II missiles as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s European nuclear cover, the Americans began shipping Pershing II components to Germany for almost immediate de-

ployment, and the Soviets broke off crucial medium-range missile negotiations in Geneva, charging that the Germans were “nuclear maniacs” and blaming the Americans for “wrecking the talks.” For his part, President Reagan expressed disappointment but not surprise at the Soviet walkout and took off for a U.S. Thanksgiving holiday in California, and, most ominously, Soviet President Yuri Andropov, who has not been seen in public since Aug. 18, issued a tough written statement vowing to retaliate for the installation of the Pershings by increasing the number of submarine-based nuclear missiles aimed at U.S. targets.

Annihilation: In his pilgrimage for peace, Trudeau had not chosen an easy path or a simple objective. For almost four decades, ever since the bomb made its initial and horrifying appearance in the 1945 U.S. attack on Hiroshima, statesmen have been pursuing alternatives to annihilation while the world’s population has tried to adjust to living under an increasingly shaky balance of terror. As the sands were running out on 1983, the statesman’s pursuits took on new urgency while citizens (and voters) stepped up their clamor for a new and less nerve-racking modus vivendi for all mankind. Said Robert M. Laxer, convenor of a nonpartisan Torontobased committee of academics and businessmen who support Trudeau’s initiative: “For the first time in history, little children—my grandchildren—accept and even discuss the likelihood that they will not live their potential lifespan. Because of the bomb. Well, we have to do something. It’s just not acceptable.”

The bomb. The word itself commands respect—and with gut-wrenching reason. The bomb has become universal shorthand for the vast and growing arsenal of nuclear weapons that mankind has built in the somewhat tarnished name of security. Today’s nuclear stockpile, a mind-numbing array of missiles and bombs that sit silent and deadly on their various launching pads, most of them under the control of the implacably opposed and progressively pugnacious United States and Soviet Union, is big enough to snuff out life on earth— not lives, but life. Scientists, statesmen, even soldiers agree: the beasts of the forest, the lilies of the field are as threatened as man himself by the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe unleashed by madness or mischance.

Worldwide, a growing and angry awareness that doomsday looms far too large has made the bomb, at last, the central issue of the international community. The control of nuclear weapons


and the related question of how to curb the staggering and, to many, obscene $650-billion-a-year global arms race have mushroomed into the most urgent challenge confronting government leaders. It is a challenge filled with moral, social and, in the democracies at least, political implications. It is also a challenge that Trudeau seized, if he has not yet wrestled it to the ground. The Prime Minister began his crusade in late October and persevered despite early coolness from his allies abroad and barely concealed skepticism from his political opponents at home. Opposition members of Parliament from both the Progressive Conservative and New Democratic parties publicly wished him well, but privately, and perhaps unfairly, complained that he was grandstanding in a desperate 13th-hour attempt to revive the Liberals’ bleak electoral prospects (page 28).

Abyss: In New Delhi, Trudeau and a clutch of Canadian diplomats lobbied hard among the other 47 Commonwealth heads of government and their representatives, seeking support for the Prime Minister’s initiative. In contrast to the polite but restrained reception Trudeau encountered in Western European capitals in mid-November, he was encouraged by the reaction in New Delhi. There were early signs that Trudeau’s proposals, aimed at breaking the U.S.-Soviet nuclear stalemate and

moving the world back from the abyss, had made a favorable impact on the conference. Hostess Indira Gandhi gave Trudeau the honor of speaking first as the closed-door sessions on East-West tensions began, and even Britain’s Iron Lady, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, seemed to acknowledge Trudeau’s efforts in her opening remarks. Said Thatcher: “There is a need today to lower tension and remove misunderstandings. Increased contact does not of itself guarantee results, much less quick results, but it can ward off the worst dangers, and for that reason alone is worth pursuing.”

Two strong possibilities emerged: first, that other Commonwealth leaders might accompany Trudeau on some future legs of his pilgrimage (possibly to Washington and Moscow); and second, that the conference itself this week might endorse the Prime Minister’s initiative in its official closing communiqué, although stopping short—as protocol requires—of mentioning Trudeau by name. Said one senior Canadian official: “The consensus is a bit stronger than I had expected.”

If that is the case, perhaps the consensus was forged by the disquieting news from abroad. As Queen Elizabeth II, the prime ministers and the presidents assembled in the teeming Indian capital, the bulletins from the world’s nuclear fronts were unsettling. In Europe there was a mixture of despair and defiance. The broad-based European

peace and disarmament movements seemed almost exhausted from more than a year of mammoth protest demonstrations that failed to have any visible impact on Western nuclear policy. In Bonn, after 6,000 police turned water cannons and tear gas on an estimated 3,000 demonstrators, injuring a few and arresting nearly 200 outside the Bundestag during the Pershing lí debate, the peace movement seemed uncertain what it ought to do next. Almost halfheartedly, organizers announced that a demonstration would be held Dec. 12 to mark the fourth anniversary of NATO’s decision to station new missiles in Europe, but it was unable to announce a venue. Later a spokesman said that the demonstration would be “massive but scattered.”

Demonstration: Some European observers feared that a mood of hopelessness over the nuclear issue would lead radical elements to undertake desperate and violent action, perhaps sabotaging missile sites or attacking road convoys carrying nuclear weapons. In the Netherlands, where a half-million civilians, including 44-year-old Princess Irene, demonstrated on Oct. 29 against the impending arrival of 48 U.S.-made cruise missiles, the only gesture planned was a Christmas march at Woensdrecht, where the missiles will be deployed.

NATO and the Warsaw Pact, on the other hand, continued their macabre dance. Less than 24 hours after the

West German parliament voted on strict party lines to accept the U.S. missiles, U.S. aircraft began flying Pershings into the country. In the end, NATO continued exactly on the schedule laid down in 1979, when it decided to deploy 572 single-warhead Pershing II and cruise missiles starting this month. At the same time, NATO invited the Soviets four years ago to negotiate the entire question of medium-range missiles in Europe, including the Soviet Union’s triple-warhead SS-20 rockets. Two years later the talks on Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) got under way in Geneva. Their collapse led to Andropov’s tough announcement in which he warned of “a real danger that the United States will bring catastrophe upon the people of Europe.” Andropov vowed to resume deployment of SS-20s, frozen since 1981; to accelerate preparations for the installation of new Soviet missiles in East Germany and Czechoslovakia; and to expand the number of sea-based nuclear weapons aimed at U.S. targets.

Deployment:: The Soviets encountered muted opposition in at least one Warsaw Pact nation: Czechoslovakia. Officials in Prague began organizing a media campaign and demonstrations to mobilize support for new missiles, but unofficial Czech sources reported growing public unease, especially in Prague. Perhaps aware of citizens’ concerns, Czech police issued a warning to dissenters that any public statement

condemning the deployment of Soviet missiles could bring 15 years in jail.

In Asia, in addition to the Commonwealth Conference’s preoccupation with the nuclear issue and the arms race, there were new expressions of concern, particularly by Tokyo and Peking. Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone and Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang seemed to endorse the Trudeau initiative in a joint statement at midweek, shortly after Hu began an eight-day official visit to Japan, the first by a top-ranking Chinese party official. Hu and Nakasone announced that they had agreed to support calls “made by others” for peace in Asia and throughout the world. Trudeau met privately with Nakasone while en route to New Delhi, and he asked the Japanese premier to brief the Chinese official on the five-point plan.

In North America millions of U.S. and Canadian television viewers were still recovering from the shock waves triggered by a grim film about a rain of hydrogen bombs on the United States. The film, entitled The Day After, attracted huge audiences for ABC TV, generated countless panel discussions and informal debates and contributed to an already insistent public demand that world political leaders begin taking steps to forestall a mindless slide toward nuclear disaster (page 30).

With his pilgrimage partly completed and support for his plan evidently

growing, Trudeau was one leader who could say he was trying. While the Prime Minister was in Tokyo, he had an unscheduled half-hour meeting with Georgi Arbatov, the head of Moscow’s Institute of the U.S.A. and Canada, one of the Kremlin’s most senior advisers on foreign policy and also a personal associate of Andropov’s. According to Trudeau, Arbatov “had not come to Tokyo with any special messages for me. He just heard I was in town and made himself available for a meeting.” The Prime Minister added, “He [Arbatov] was somewhat pessimistic about the state of East-West relations and he did not seem to entertain great hopes that I would be able to convince the United States to be, in his words, more reasonable.”

Commitment: Still, Moscow was curious enough about the Trudeau initiative to agree to see a Canadian emissary to discuss it. So was the government in Peking. Shortly before he first took his crusade to Europe, in early November, Trudeau wrote privately to both Andropov and the Chinese, offering to dispatch a representative. Both Communist capitals agreed, although neither gave any commitment. Trudeau chose Geoffrey Pearson, son of the late prime minister, Lester B. Pearson, and, until three months ago, the ambassador to the Kremlin, to lead a two-man delegation to Peking and then Moscow. Travelling with Pearson was Garry Smith,

an External Affairs staffer who was a member of the special task force that Trudeau established in early October to help prepare the initiative.

Pearson and Smith flew from Tokyo to Peking on Sunday, Nov. 20. They began formal talks Monday morning at the Diao Yu Tai government guesthouse, a tranquil compound set on an artificial lake (the compound’s name translates literally as “Fishing Pier,” and it once served as quarters for visiting President Richard Nixon). In a V-hhour meeting with Assistant Foreign Minister Zhu Qizhen, Pearson outlined Trudeau’s proposals and answered Zhu’s questions. Then, after lunch the Canadians had an hourlong conference with China’s foreign minister,

Wu Xueqian, at Wu’s downtown offices, where the agreement for Trudeau’s visit was reached.

Pearson and Smith had no time for formal banquets or any of the other pomp that normally caps an official visit to Peking, and they left for Moscow Tuesday morning.

Weaponry: The Chinese allotted only two sentences in their official newspaper to the Canadian delegation’s visit, and Peking has issued no formal reply to Trudeau’s proposals. But a Western diplomat in Peking told Maclean ’s,

“They [the Chinese] are in the comfortable position of supporting all the standard calls for world peace without having to do a thing to reduce their weaponry until there is some initiative by the United States and the Soviet Union.” As for whether the Chinese would be willing to sit down with the other four nuclear powers, as Trudeau has proposed, the official added, “The Chinese wouldn’t jump in until they first saw that Britain and France were going to do so.”

When Pearson and Smith arrived in Moscow, their timing was awkward: Andropov’s statement was released almost as their plane landed. Pearson, who had spent the past three years in the Soviet Union, had a two-hour morning meeting Friday with foreign ministry officials, then spent an hour in the afternoon with Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. There was no comment by either side, but sources said it was probable that the subject of a visit

by Trudeau was discussed. Pearson and Smith were expected to rejoin Trudeau in Peking on Sunday.

From the beginning, Trudeau’s crusade has been a curious mixture of public and private activity which sometimes appeared to be out of synchronization. Trudeau first declared that he was willing to play a role in the stalemate during a heavily promoted but carefully phrased speech on Oct. 27 at the University of Guelph. He then produced some specific proposals, and he scheduled a whirlwind tour of Western European capitals (Paris, Bonn, Rome, Brussels, The Hague and London). He completed the tour on Nov. 11, but it was not until Nov. 13, in a speech to a partisan Montreal Liberal gathering,

that he outlined for the Canadian public his major proposals: a conference of the five nuclear powers sometime in 1984, with the objective of stabilizing and possibly reducing their weapons stockpiles; a strengthening of the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty; cuts in conventional forces in Europe; and the scrapping of any plans to build such futuristic items as antisatellite weapons. Still, the Americans announced on the weekend that they will undertake a multibillion-dollar antisatellite program soon.

The Trudeau crusade had its genesis in the September downing of Korean Air Lines flight 007 by Soviet fighters. Trudeau publicly described the incident, which claimed 269 lives, as an illustration of the danger of hair-trig-

ger reaction in the nuclear age. Privately, he asked members of his own office, the external affairs and defence departments and a handful of outside experts to suggest potentially useful roles that he and Canada might play.

Pressure: A Liberal party gathering of cabinet ministers and MPs had agreed, during a weekend think-tank session at Val Morin, Que., early in September, that the Canadian public was worried about the nuclear question and that definitive political pressure for peace was building. In mid-September External Affairs Minister Allan MacEachen ordered his senior bureaucrats to develop some new initiatives. At the end of the month the Prime Minister convened a meeting at a government re-

treat house on Meach Lake, north of the capital. Among those attending: senior External Affairs security and arms specialist Louis Delvoie, Privy Council Clerk Gordon Osbaldeston, Assistant Cabinet Secretary Robert Fowler, Trudeau’s chief of staff, Tom Axworthy, several senior ambassadors, Brig.-Gen. Maurice Archdeacon of Defence, as well as MacEachen and Trudeau. A task force under Delvoie was assigned to sift through proposals and make firm recommendations to the Prime Minister.

By mid-October, Trudeau had made up his mind. He presented the plan to cabinet and began to write letters and make phone calls. The initial reaction from most foreign governments ranged from wary politeness to noncommital chill. After some delay Reagan replied

with a three-page letter, which has yet to be released but that was understood to have been generally supportive of Trudeau’s overall objective and to contain a suggestion that Trudeau and the president meet face-to-face soon. White House sources added that the two men also talked on the phone.

But there was little doubt that the U.S. state and defense departments were less than enchanted with what some officials felt was a flawed, misguided plan, however well intentioned. Some U.S. officials made it clear that they thought it improper for an ally to try to pressure Reagan into dealing with the Soviet Union in ways he might prefer to eschew.

In the weeks since Trudeau barn; stormed Western Europe, where he made little media impact, there has been a continuing trickle of reaction and explanation. A French foreign office aide told Maclean's last week that President François Mitterrand was upset by what the Quai d’Orsay described as the vagueness of the Canadian plan. The aide added that there were further misgivings because France felt that Trudeau had chosen the wrong moment to thrust himself into the deepening missile crisis—because of the possibility that the Soviets might use Trudeau’s

I crusade as a means of sowing discord within NATO. But other government sources said that the real cause of French unhappiness could be traced to a peace plan that Mitterrand himself has drawn up but not yet revealed. Mitterrand and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl met in Bonn late last week for one of their regular twice-yearly con-

Isultations, and French spokesmen said that Mitterrand discussed an “initiative” to break the superpower missile deadlock. It seemed doubtful that Mitterrand was talking about the Trudeau initiative.

Superpowers: Still, some Europeans were pleased with the Trudeau plan. Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, who will host the opening session of the 35-nation European Security Confer1 ence in Stockholm in January, had lunch with Trudeau in New York on

I Sept. 30, when they discussed the nuclear issue. Palme strongly supports the Trudeau proposals and shares Trudeau’s view that it is time to begin a real process of disarmament. As well, former West German chancellor Willy Brandt said last week that the Trudeau plan had his full support. “It reflects my view,” Brandt said, “that the situation has become too serious to be left to the superpowers.”

The superpowers’ recent behavior indicated clearly that some form of cooling off is essential. Relations between Moscow and Washington have almost collapsed since the days of détente

begun under Richard Nixon and the late Soviet chairman Leonid Brezhnev. A senior Soviet party official, Vadim Zagladin, said last week, “U.S.-Soviet relations are so bad at present that they are virtually nonexistent.”

Indeed, there has not been a summit meeting since Jimmy Carter met Brezhnev in Vienna in 1979 to sign the second Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT

II) treaty, which the U.S. Senate has never ratified—a reaction to the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. If Reagan does not meet with Andropov between now and the U.S. presidential elections next year, he will become the first president since Harry Truman to have served a full term of office without attending a summit conference. Even

the so-called hotline, connecting the ij White House and the Kremlin, has not been used for any real business since the 1979 Iran crisis.

Reagan’s deep-seated suspicion and long-entrenched dislike of the Soviets is one problem; the health problems of his Soviet counterpart is another. Brezhnev was infirm throughout much of the final phase of his life (in Vienna, Carter physically saved him from a tumble), and Andropov is believed to suffer from a severe kidney ailment. But with the two high commanders barely on speaking terms, tensions inevitably rise, and worries proliferate through both governments.

Inflexible: Almost since the Soviets began producing nuclear weapons (with the aid of purloined U.S. technology), there have been regular and largely ineffective attempts to control the spread and development of the bomb and its associate engines of destruction. President Dwight Eisenhower, in a 1955 Geneva meeting with Premier Nikita Khrushchev, proposed that the two countries adopt an “open skies” policy, allowing reciprocal aerial inspections of military installations. The Soviets rejected the idea and instead pushed for a comprehensive disarmament package, with open skies to follow. Eisenhower rejected that suggestion and, in a way, helped to set a pattern that would become familiar over the years: each side had different and inflexible expectations, and any new round of talks was fated, almost by definition, to break down or drag on to no result.

Along the way, however, there were some successes. Among them: the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty, signed in the wake of intense international pressure to stop atmospheric nuclear tests as a hazard to human health; the 1968 Nonproliferation Treaty signed initially in Washington, Moscow and London and subsequently by more than a hundred countries; the 1972 SALT I agreement, signed in Moscow by Nixon and Brezhnev, which limited the number of missile launchers (a restriction soon circumvented by the development of the multiple warhead); and the 1979 SALT II accord, which, among other things, put limits on strategic delivery vehicles and prohibited the testing or deployment of mobile Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (iCBMs).

Throughout the process of negotiations, the arsenals grew. Now the U.S. Arms Control Association estimates that the United States has stockpiled roughly 26,000 nuclear warheads, half of them strategic weapons, half tactical, j Washington estimates that the Soviet Union has a total of 30,000 warheads, j But the numbers are meaningless: both sides could reduce the planet to a frozen, lifeless ball of matter spinning sii

lently through space by detonating only a small fraction of their stockpiles. The 108 Pershing Ils deployed in West Germany, 1,600 km from their targets, con; tain 324 times the power of the bomb ¡ that the Americans dropped on Hiroshima.

Britain became a full-fledged nuclear power in 1952 and now has a stockpile of 388 warheads. France, which joined the club in 1960, has 400 submarine-carried warheads as well as 18 land-based missiles. Since China exploded its bomb in 1964, it has built 200 mis; siles and an estimated total of 700 warheads, all of them based in the north and believed to be targeted on the Soviets.

India exploded a nuclear device in 1974—using Canadian-supplied nuclear technology—to

prove to the world that it had the technical capability, but U.S. intelligence sources say that India has not built any nuclear weapons since, although it is stockpiling enough plutonium to manufacture about 20 bombs a year if it chose to do so.

Trapped: So far, the size of the nuclear club is not large in terms of membership. But that may well change soon.

The Pentagon estimates that by the year 2000 as many as 31 nations may have nuclear weapons. A classified U.S. report entitled Defense Guidance declares that the greatest threat of nuclear war in this century comes not from a superpower but from the possibility that a smaller nuclear nation may find itself trapped by an enemy that will not back down.

But for the moment, at least, the big powers with the bomb pose the problem that Trudeau and other heads of government want to concentrate on.

As the Prime Minister’s pilgrimage appeared to be gathering momentum on the far side of the world, it was something less than a complete success at home. Not a few Canadians were skeptical of the man, his mission and his motives. One barometer of skepticism in Canada

is the ubiquitous radio phone-in show, and a number of those programs across the country logged negative calls. Said open-line host Saul Jacobson of CKCK Radio in Regina: “People seem to think a peace pilgrimage was a good idea, but that it should be left to someone else, a [Henry] Kissinger. They believe Trudeau should focus his energies on dealing with unemployment and inflation.” Similarly, in an informal street poll in St. John’s only one in a dozen Newfoundlanders did not believe that Trudeau had ulterior (and political) motives in his crusade.

But Beth Powning of Sussex, N.B., came down on the other side. She wrote to the editor of the Fredericton Daily Gleaner. “Here, in my secluded valley, where the only sounds are those of cows and ravens, it all seems so remote. And yet I, and you, must never forget for an instant that our lives are terribly threatened. I have felt a weight lifting from me since Pierre Trudeau began his peace initiative. It is like a turning point in what had seemed a losing battle.”

The Beth Pownings, in their thousands, are the Canadians Robert Laxer’s Toronto-based committee hopes to reach (among the founding members: former Liberal finance minister Walter Gordon; University of Toronto Chancelo lor George Ignatieff, ~ himself a former Canadian ambassador to the

United Nations; historian and author Michael Bliss; Ontario Arts Council Chairman Walter Pitman).

If the committee can raise enough money, Laxer said, it would buy a full page in the Toronto Globe and Mail and publish an open letter to Trudeau. The proposed text says, in part: “Your efforts to help reduce the threat of a nuclear holocaust deserve the wholehearted support of all Canadians .. .Regardless of any past attitude to your leadership and disregarding all political partisanship, we are now as one with

you—We urge all Canadians____to

rise to the high level of consensus ... by which our country through its Prime Minister and people can play an honorable role in helping to assure peace and goodwill to all men and women.” Impassioned: Not even his harshest critic could honestly accuse Trudeau of developing a sudden or insincere interest in the nuclear question. Nearly 20 years ago, before he joined the Liberal party, he savaged both it and Lester Pearson for considering accepting nuclear weapons on Cana| dian soil. The Pearson « government did so. Five years later, in 1969, Trudeau was the Liberal prime minister and, in a review of defence policy, he began stripping the Canadian Armed Forces of their nuclear weapons. The last phase of that decision is only now being completed, with the removal of warheads from the old CF-104 interceptors. Those planes will be replaced by the CF-18s, which will not carry nuclear weapons. Repeatedly through the years, Trudeau has delivered impassioned speeches calling for arms control, and in one heralded 1978 address at the UN he proposed the “suffocation” of the arms race by stifling research and development of new weapons. He may be, as some of his less charitable critics suggest, a prime minister near the end of power and contemplating his place in the history books. But those same critics would probably have to concede that Trudeau is also a 64-year-old father of three young sons who have every right to expect to inherit the earth, alive, green and full of promise..

John Hay

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