NEXT week Presidents Bush and Gorbachev will stand in an ornate
Kremlin room and put their pens to what some here believe will be
the last Soviet-American arms control treaty.
The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) culminates more than
nine years of negotiations. But taking the failed SALT II pact into
account, the two superpowers have been trying to reach an agreement
on strategic nuclear weapons since 1974. While both sides have
spoken of a follow-up treaty, most Soviet analysts discount this as
an unrealistic proposition.
"It is clear that the two countries are exhausted by the current
START negotiations," comments Sergei Blagovolin, who heads military
studies at the prestigious Institute of World Economy and
International Relations. "I don't think another treaty negotiation
now is really very important for the future of our relations."
Instead, liberals like Mr. Blagovolin envision a shift away from
the cold war preoccupation with preserving a balance of power to
joint action, even including military cooperation.
"The main idea," the expert predicts, "will be establishing a
real cooperative security structure between the Soviet Union and the
West." The two sides will focus more on threats to their mutual
security from other sources, including "the dramatic rise of new
threats from the south," as well as instability in Europe, as seen
in Yugoslavia, he explains.
Such Soviet policymakers want to extend the kind of initial steps
away from the cold war taken during the Gulf war when the Soviet
Union gave tacit support to the Western war against Iraq. The new
agenda, says Vladik Zubok, an expert on United States-Soviet
relations at the USA-Canada Institute, includes cooperating to limit
arms transfers to third-world nations, barring the proliferation of
nuclear weapons and conversion of defense industries to civilian
"It's too early to bury arms-control summits," Mr. Zubok
believes. But these discussions will no longer be a purely US-Soviet
affair. Broader meetings such as the one in London last week between
the Group of Seven Western leaders and Soviet President Mikhail
Gorbachev will gradually replace bilateral summits, he asserts.
This does not mean military issues will disappear from the table.
From the post-cold-war point of view, the two sides might begin a
discussion of a "mutually acceptable restructuring of military
forces," suggests Blagovolin. Such talks could even extend to
creating a future military division of labor between the NATO
alliance and the Soviet Union, he adds.
Such ideas are by no means confined to Soviet think tanks.
Concrete proposals along these lines were contained within the
detailed annex which Mr. Gorbachev attached to the letter he
dispatched to the London summit. The annex provided detailed
proposals for cooperation in a number of fields, of which first
place was given to defense conversion.
Alongside proposals for Western firms to develop civilian
aircraft and other commercial products, Gorbachev suggests a number
of joint military projects, all of a carefully "defensive" nature.
The most striking is the idea of joint development of early warning
systems "to prevent unauthorized or terrorist operated launches of
ballistic missiles." The proposal is aimed at potential nuclear
powers such as Iraq and echoes the idea, proposed by Blagovolin and
others, of joint development of Star Wars-type space-based warning