For the sake of argument

We need more “nuclear powers" —and better Soviet espionage

PEYTON V. LYON November 19 1960
For the sake of argument

We need more “nuclear powers" —and better Soviet espionage

PEYTON V. LYON November 19 1960

We need more “nuclear powers" —and better Soviet espionage

For the sake of argument


We can and must do something to reduce the risk of nuclear war. The most promising measures, however, are seldom the most obvious or popular.

For example, one useful step would now be to add to the number of countries with the independent capacity to employ nuclear weapons. Another would be to extend greatly — and unilaterally if need be — Soviet facilities to observe our defense preparations; we must be certain that Communist espionage is effective.

Let me begin my explanation with several general observations:

• I do not believe that the Kremlin would necessarily exploit any military advantage in order to extend its domain. However, we must take into account the significant possibility that it might seek to do so. We dare not provoke the Soviet Union by our weakness.

• Even if it were feasible, it is not essential to maintain an exact balance of military strength; it is important, however, that we be able — and appear resolved — to retaliate with so much force that no potential aggressor could expect an attack to prove a paying proposition.

• At the same time, we must convince the Russians that they need not fear attack by us. In the light of their history, the ring of Western bases surrounding them, and frequent, ill-advised outbursts by the Pentagon brass, the Russians’ anxiety is understandable. They could conceivably conclude that they must perpetuate the arms race, and perhaps launch a preventive war, even while preferring to pursue their aims by non-military means.

Our policy must therefore he to persuade the Soviet side of two things: it can expect no gain from military pressure; and, because it need not fear attack, it can safely negotiate with us a sweeping disarmament pact. Any steps toward unilateral disarmament by the West

arc shortsighted because they reducc the Kremlin’s incentive to disarm by fostering hopes that its aims could be accomplished through

superiority in military force.

Measures of unilateral disarmament might even increase the chances of war. Would we prefer to accept Soviet domination rather

than resist with inferior strength or run the risk of nuclear destruction? Considering our traditions, it is at least as likely that at some unpredictable stage we would elect to fight hack, regardless of consequence. Any initial surrender, or

display of irresolution, would have served simply to lure the aggressor on to his destruction — and ours. Unilateralism is clearly no answer to the problem.

Some would accept this argument for conventional but not nuclear

weapons. The editor of Maclean’s appears to have held this position when he wrote: "We believe that though some things justify war, nothing can justify nuclear war

with its threat to the survival of the whole human race; that nuclear war can be and must be prevented, and that the first step toward preventing it is to stop planning to

wage it."

A unilateral refusal to contemplate the possibility of nuclear war, which this fallacious conclusion appears to support, is emphatically not the way to avoid such a war.

Maclean's (and here it is joined by many other Canadians) seems to miss the central point about the nuclear deterrent, which is that its

first function is to deter war itself.

It can serve this function if — and only if — potential aggressors believe there is a real prospect that the defenders will use nuclear

weapons. Unless insane, no one could then expect to gain by initiating war. and would almost certainly not do so. “Credibility” is thus the very essence of the nuclear deterrent. Like religion, it must be believed if it is to do its job.

Unfortunately, the nuclear deterrent in American hands has already lost much



continued from page 10

“By giving nuclear arms to the Swedes, Germans or Turks, we’d lessen the danger of war”

of its credibility; the risk of nuclear war, as a consequence, is increasing. When the Americans possessed a monopoly on the atomic bomb, and were immune to direct attack, it was credible that they would carry out the threat to inflict atomic chastisement on any aggressor. Belief in mis threat was diminished when the Americans quite properly declined to exploit their atomic monopoly during the Korean War. It has suffered even more through the development by the Russians of the hydrogen bomb, and missiles that could carry it to American targets. American invulnerability is a dead letter.

All-out nuclear war between the two giants would now be suicidal for both — or so close to it that neither could expect to gain anything by embarking on this course. This stark fact diminishes the possibility that war might start as the result of a direct attack by one superpower on the other.

The possibility of Soviet aggression elsewhere, however, has been increased by the unprecedented vulnerability of the United States. The Russians possess a decisive margin in conventional forces, and ■night now be tempted to exploit this ad/.intage in a probe against a lesser power; ,ey might gamble that no American president, in order to defend Turkey or Berlin, would press the button that would lead to the destruction of the United States. The threat of massive retaliation is thus increasingly incredible and ineffective. Even the presence of American troops in an exposed country could scarcely create the expectation that any attack on it would be answered with American nuclear weapons. 1 he Western threat of massive retaliation might at any time he put to the test and exposed as bluff; we should then be on the slippery slope to capitulation or nuclear catastrophe.

In the interest of peace and security, we must restore credibility to the nuclear deterrent. Some authorities, who believe in the feasibility of limited nuclear war, consider that the deficiency in the deterrent has been made good by the stationing in allied countries of tactical nuclear weapons under American control. These weapons range in power from veiy little up to that of several Hiroshima bombs, and thus greatly diversify the nuclear armory. However, if the superpowers started using any type of nuclear arms against each other, it seems improbable they would call it quits before employing their most devastating models. Because of this, the Russians might still gamble that, providing the United States itself weie not attacked, the Americans would climb down rather than initiate nuclear war.

Reluctantly, 1 am forced to the conclusion that it is now necessary to enable more countries to employ, on their own, the nuclear deterrent. 1 have in mind countries like Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Turkey, which arc vulnerable to Soviet military pressure.

The Russians might take the chance uat an attack on any such nation would not bring American nuclear retaliation. ¡Yiey could scarcely, however, assume . -at Swedes, Danes, Germans or Turks would refrain from the use of every means at their disposal to respond to an invasion of their respective homelands. In such hands, therefore, the nuclear deterrent could regain the credibility from which it derives the capacity to deter.

Adding to the number of “fingers on the button” might increase the risk of war by accident. On balance, however, the risk of nuclear war would be lessened. Furthermore, there are means available to keep any increase in the risk of acci-

dent. or misuse, within reasonable limits. In the first place, it would not be necessary to give countries like Turkey and Germany the most potent nuclear weapons since they need not be enabled to defeat the Soviet Union singlehanded. It

would suffice if they could by themselves inflict such damage on the aggressor that the cost of even a successful invasion would be clearly excessive. The strength of the weapons to he given could be related to each country’s estimated value

to the Kremlin. The secret of Swiss invulnerability has not been the capacity to withstand invasion by a major power; it has been sufficient that the Swiss armed forces could make the price of Swiss real estate appear unprofitably high. Similarly. the Swedish, Danish. German and Turkish forces, if equipped with tactical nuclear weapons, would be sufficiently formidable to reduce to insignificance the threat of Soviet aggression against their countries. These weapons, on the other hand, would hardly enable them to threaten with success the Soviet Union.

or any of its protégés in eastern Europe.

Secondly, “dual control” over the nuclear weapons could be maintained until the moment of attack, or serious threat of attack; this implies that the local forces would need to be equipped with the means of delivering nuclear warheads, and trained in their use; the United States — or, better, a new Western agency — would retain the keys to the warheads up to the moment of crisis.

This would limit the “fingers on the button.” apart from times of crisis, and facilitate negotiations on disarmament.

The conditions under which the keys would be handed over would be rendered explicit in advance, and provision made so that the transfer could be carried out without delay.

The stage would thus be set for effective resistance, if need be. by the smaller countries without the necessary involvement of the United States or other powers. The ability to localize a conflict would be a distinct advantage. More important, the enhanced credibility of the deterrent would greatly reduce the likelihood of any aggressive attack. It is even

conceivable that American forces could be withdrawn to the United States without its allies losing confidence. The dismantling of American bases abroad would eliminate an important source of tension.

The Russians would probably refuse to concede immunity to the Americans; they might well threaten to rain missiles on New York if control over nuclear weapons were transferred to countries with which they were at odds. This threat need not be taken seriously since, to carry it out, the Russians would have to accept the certainty of all-out nuclear retaliation on their own cities.

I he proposed dispersal of control over tactical nuclear weapons would decrease the risk of war by increasing the certainty that aggression could not pay. However, it cannot be regarded as an adequate substitute for controlled disarmament, especially in the nuclear field. We must persist in our efforts to achieve this goal.

Unfortunately, even though we have made progress in the negotiations on nuclear tests, there are no grounds for optimism that an effective ban on the weapons themselves is anywhere in sight. Indeed, we may be beyond the point of no return since there seems no way of ensuring that the other side would not successfully secrete a clandestine stock of nuclear weapons. These are easily hidden. Given the degree of mistrust between the cold-war camps, this uncomfortable fact renders unlikely an effective agreement on nuclear weapons, even should both sides genuinely desire one. We dare not. therefore, rest all our hopes on disarmament.

Let the Russians fly over us

A more promising approach might be to tackle the growing risk that one side could initiate nuclear war in the mistaken belief that the other was about to launch an attack. This is a significant risk since measures designed for instant retaliation, which are necessary to make the deterrent credible, are increasingly difficult to distinguish from preparations for surprise attack — and there is still some advantage to getting in the first blow. In the era of the intercontinental missile, the time available for consultation and contemplation will be perilously short. We must, therefore, exert ourselves to prevent any misunderstanding of our intentions by the Kremlin.

It is very much in our interest to give the Russians every facility to assure themselves not only of our determination to retaliate if attacked but also of our resolve not to use nuclear weapons unless attacked. To this end. I support Major W. H. Pope's proposal, made in this column last December, that the Russians should be invited to help man the radar stations in the Canadian North. We should also invite them to inspect from the air the whole of Canada, and the United States, without waiting for them to reciprocate. Not only would this help to reassure the Russians but it could demonstrate our pacific intentions to the neutral nations. Without prejudicing our defenses, it would reduce the possibility of war through misinterpretation of our policies.

A special problem is presented by the development in the United States of nuclear-powered submarines equipped with Polaris missiles. These are most formidable craft and. because of their mobility, almost invulnerable. They increase the probability that the United States would reply to any direct Soviet attack with the devastating punishment of Russian cities. However, they could operate against our security by increasing doubts about West-

ern intentions. We might be advised to consider the startling suggestion, made by Dr. J. G. Eayrs of the University of Toronto. that we should offer some of these submarines to the Russians to show we are not planning to employ them for a sneak attack.

Such proposals may well prove infeasible. They illustrate, however, the sort of imaginative measure required to meet the totally unprecedented and dangerous situation that confronts us.

There remains the question of the possible acquisition of nuclear arms by Canada itself. Many voices, including that of Maclean’s, are urging that we repudiate any further reliance on these weapons. If the advocates of this position are prepared to have our allies abandon the deterrent, even if the Russians refuse to follow suit, I can respect their integrity while deploring their judgment. I simply cannot share their faith in Soviet restraint and goodwill.

A holier-than-thou stand is shabby

The more widespread but less readily defensible position is that Canada should totally reject nuclear arms while favoring retention of them by our major allies, at least until such time as the Russians agree to disarm under effective controls. This view implies acceptance of the proposition that Canada gains something through the possession by our friends of these frightful weapons; at the same time, we are advised to repudiate any share in the cost, risk or unpopularity caused by the Western reliance on the nuclear deterrent. T his is a shabby attitude, often made worse by being advanced as the dictate of unselfish morality.

We already share in the responsibility for the adoption by the West of its nuclear strategy. Could we retain the respect of our allies, and influence with them, if we now assumed a holier-than-thou attitude toward them because they possess the weapons that alone hold in check the mighty military potential of the Soviet l Jnion?

Maclean's, to its credit, has counseled against claiming moral superiority for Canada if we refuse to accept nuclear armament; it has also conceded a probable loss of influence with our NATO allies. Such a loss might be offset in part by a gain of stature in the eyes of the incommitted, but 1 doubt it.

In any case, no gain in influence with the neutrals would be likely to compensate adequately for a serious loss of standing in the Atlantic community.

Any responsible Canadian foreign policy must, in particular, seek to maximize influence in Washington. It should do this not because the Americans are always right. If they were, we could relax and leave everything to them. Instead, we need to maximize our influence with the Americans because they are capable of being wrong, with tragic consequences for themselves, Canadians and all mankind. Influence among the neutrals is not to be despised, but it would be the height of irresponsibility to purchase this influence, and the glamor of a more detached role, at the expense of our unique status in Washington. Here, and not as one of the many w'ould-bc leaders in the neutral camp, Canada can do most to promote peace and security.

Before accepting nuclear weapons, Canada could — and should — press its allies to agree that our defense contribution be entirely of conventional forces. These arc the sort we can best provide, and in which NATO is most deficient. I also question the necessity of having nuclear weapons based on our soil; the Bomarc seems clearly a case of "too little too late." Nor

is Canada one of the countries that need an independent nuclear potential in order to deter a possible Soviet assault. It is quite clear that an attack on us would be regarded as an attack on the United States, with all that that implies.

I am therefore optimistic that our allies would agree not to insist that we increase our participation in the nuclear field. However, should the alliance decide that all its forces must share in the actual possession of the weapons, and we remain a member, as we should, we would have little option but to go along.

The one convincing proof of Canadian reluctance to rely on the nuclear deterrent would be a vast increase in our conventional forces. If our allies followed suit. NATO would then be able to meet any Soviet aggression in kind: we could give up the perilous threat to reply with nuclear weapons to almost any attack, even if the attacker used strictly conventional forces. The NATO allies have more people, and much greater industrial power, than the Soviet Union; there is no excuse for our complete reliance on the nuclear threat apart from a reluctance to

accept the lower living standards that a balanced defense program would necessitate.

I have expressed disagreement with some of the views put forward by the editor of this magazine. Let me conclude by seconding his plea that the discussion in Canada of the nuclear predicament be earnest, good-tempered and realistic, and that even the politicians should be excused if they alter their stand in the light of hard fact. If there was ever an issue that called for non-partisan, dispassionate consideration, this is it. ★