Russia: A Bang in Asia

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But for many months, the West believed that the Russians sincerely wanted a worldwide test-ban agreement. Perhaps they did. They were aware, after all, that nuclear fallout—even from their own weapons—could kill Communists as well as nonCommunists. Moscow also seemed as sensitive as the West to the deep opposition among the Afro-Asian neutrals to further test explosions. The Russians also seemed to view the test ban as a device to close the membership of the "nuclear club.'' At the Geneva conference, Russian delegates hinted privately that they had no desire to see nuclear bombs in the hands of the Communist Chinese.

Squawks from Scratchy. But progress was slow and the sessions dreary in the Palais' Birch-paneled Room VIII. From the start, the U.S. and Britain demanded a careful system of inspection and control to prevent any cheating after a test ban went into effect. With monotonous regularity, Moscow's delegate, craggy, high-domed Semyon ("Scratchy") Tsarapkin said nyet, demanding an immediate test ban and leaving the inspection to be discussed later. The talks got hideously complicated with endless debate on technical details. At one stage, the West, discovering to its dismay that underground tests could be concealed from seismographs by exploding the bombs in caves, reversed itself and refused to include small subterranean explosions in the treaty until better detection systems were developed.

But after months of talk, the conferees finally hammered out agreement on 17 clauses, got down to the bedrock details of inspection and control, e.g., how many foreign inspection teams could be stationed on Russian soil, how freely could they move in their investigations? The West demanded 20 inspections a year to check on suspicious earth movements, but Russia insisted three were enough. "You cannot sneak spies into our bedroom,'' cried Nikita Khrushchev. In one compromise after another, the U.S. agreed to 17, then twelve, in hope of reaching agreement. The U.S. even consented to let Soviet scientists examine early, Hiroshima-type U.S. bombs in one projected plan for joint scientific research. In any case, Moscow's delegate needed no treaty at all if Moscow could prevent Western testing simply by staying at the conference table, for both the U.S. and Britain had agreed to a year's moratorium on tests and clearly were willing to continue the moratorium as long as there was a chance of agreement.*

Don't Peek. New President John F. Kennedy talked hopefully of the test-ban talks as one area where "a new initiative" might actually achieve results and provide a first step toward real disarmament.

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