Page 10, 19th June 1981

19th June 1981
Page 10
Page 10, 19th June 1981 — Letter from America

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Locations: Washington


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Letter from America

What the Pentagon can learn from CND

ONE MAN who apparently puts a shiver up the backs of staff men at the Pentagon is Westminster's Monsignor Bruce Kent, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament's national secretary.

Unlikely as this may sound, he was one of the people I was asked about while meeting defence chiefs in Washington's nerve centre. They clearly see the churches as well-meaning but wrong in their opposition to nuclear rearmament.

"We (NATO) have got hopelessly behind in the deployment of theatre nuclear forces," they argue. While we have been limiting arms growth, they (the USSR) have used the last ten years to catch up "having lost our superiority, the old moral imperatives of the 1960s protest groups no longer apply."

The Pentagon is clearly worried by the growth of unilateralism in Europe particularly in the churches and political parties. And well they might be: in Germany, Helmut Schmidt has had to threaten his Social Democratic party with resignation if they accept what is already British Labour Party policy. In Holland, the Dutch will not yet agree to deploy NATO's cruise missiles.

But the Americans do understand the genuine reservations of many European politicians who are determined to halt the arms race and are also concerned about diverting

limited funds into nuclear hardware at the expense of conventional non-nuclear forces like former minister Keith Speed's navy, For those of us who question the wisdom of Cruise—and who are opposed to Britain's go-italone £6 billion nuclear deterrent, Trident — and yet cannot accept the unilateralist view, it is disappointing that the Reagan Administration has apparently buried SALT (Strategic Arms Limitations Talks).

The Pentagon say that SALT may resurface as SART, arms reduction instead of limitation. Maybe, but they should all put a bit more urgency into their lives if they really want to stem unilateralism. The stark choice, otherwise, is the disintegration of NATO as member governments reject its strategy.

More and more people see the futility and pointlessness of endless rearmament yet also realise that the alliance has maintained peace in Europe. The two need not be incompatible. James Callaghan spelt out the danger in the recent defence debate when he said that "there has never yet been an arms race which has not led to war".

Nuclear reduction or not, the Soviet Union will continue its political and military drive to extend its totalitarian system. Our resources would be best deployed in reaching over the heads of the commisars: in providing practical help to the Afghan insurgents who are bravely fighting to get back their country; in beaming more TV and radio programmes to Eastern Europe in an effort to open minds; and, in countries like Poland, political and economic support for those who are courageously challenging the existing order.

Maybe, too, a more balanced approach to defence spending, which should be constantly and critically appraised. The Pentagon might do worse than seconding Monsignor Kent and giving him a temporary portfolio.

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