From Yalta to Disarmament: Cold War Debate

By Joseph P. Morray | Go to book overview

16
Stalemate

The year 1956 brought the discussions in the Disarmament Commission and its Sub-Committee to a deadlock no less hopeless than that of the Atomic Energy Commission eight years earlier. The interval had, however, introduced a change in Western policy toward these deadlocks. In 1948 the majority powers had begun the third report of the Atomic Energy Commission with the candid declaration: The Atomic Energy Commission reports that it has reached an impasse." By 1956, though the impasse in the Disarmament Sub-Committee was no less plain, the Western powers refused to admit it publicly. They sought to keep the disarmament discussions centered in the private sessions of the sub-committee. It was no longer possible to bury the issue entirely. The intensity of public anxiety was too great for that. A confession of failure in the sub-committee would lead only to pressures on the principal governments concerned to tackle the problem in some other way, with the risk that the Soviet propaganda advantage would be enhanced in such a new turn. The Western powers, therefore, continued to present elaborate working papers to the sub-committee. These invited endless discussion. The fact that talks continued was used to pacify world impatience on the issue. While there was talk there was hope, unless one examined carefully the content of the talk. This few could do, because the talks were private, and by the time the records were published they made a forbidding mound of material safe from penetration by the busy newspaper editor and United Nations delegate. Very few have bothered to undertake the weary task of studying this voluminous record. Since time is always limited, most people read the occasional reports issued by their governments on the progress of the talks and resign themselves to waiting for a favorable outcome.

It was clear by 1956 that the Soviet Union was engaged in a major propaganda initiative on the disarmament issue. This was one feature of a complex campaign to reduce international tensions, to check the drift of the world toward a new war, to promote "peaceful co-

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