Russia: A Bang in Asia

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The hope was short-lived. When Kennedy's new delegate, ruddy, patient Arthur H. Dean, showed up at Geneva with a new set of concessions, Scratchy Tsarapkin bluntly shot them down before Dean had even had a chance to present them formally. Calling a press conference, Tsarapkin damned Kennedy's concessions as "unrealistic, impractical, and not conducive to agreement." Then he announced that Russia would no longer agree to a single neutral administrator to supervise inspections, demanded instead the now famous "troika"—or three-man—control over all aspects of a test ban. This would give the Communists a veto any time the Western member at a lonely inspection post deep in Russia decided a suspicious cloud of dust or a distant rumble needed checking out as a possible illicit nuclear explosion.

Troika was clearly unacceptable. But Kennedy was still determined to show the world that the U.S. was willing to talk at Geneva as long as there was anything to talk about, despite the growing clamor from U.S. generals and scientists who feared that the substantial nuclear lead the U.S. enjoyed over Russia in October 1958 might now be greatly reduced unless testing was resumed. Back to Geneva went Arthur H. Dean with a new set of compromise proposals. He presented them one day last week at the 337th weary session in Room VIII of the Palais. Scratchy showed no signs of interest, for he was just back from an informative weekend in Moscow. He knew that even as Dean spoke preparations had begun for the Russian nuclear explosion that would not only rip a large hole out of Central Asia, but blast the Geneva talks into oblivion as well.

A Breakthrough? Why did Khrushchev do it? All the evidence now indicates that the Kremlin's boss decided at least six months ago against the whole idea of joining a test-ban treaty. In all probability, Khrushchev has been under heavy pressure from his own generals who demand an armory of refined, small nuclear weapons to match the superior variety of tactical weapons already developed by the U.S. for such tactical missiles as Minuteman and Polaris.

Conceivably, the Russians may have made a major technological breakthrough on some new nuclear device that is so important that testing outweighs all other factors; some American scientists feel that with luck, hard work and unlimited testing, the U.S. could develop within five years the first crude version of a neutron bomb, which would kill by neutrons but leave buildings more or less unharmed. Khrushchev recently warned U.S.'s John McCloy, President Kennedy's adviser on disarmament, that the Russians were working on the neutron-bomb idea themselves.

What kind of a bomb did Moscow explode last week? There were few clues. In fact, Moscow was not even admitting that an explosion had occurred. It was Washington that detected the test, on its secret worldwide network of nuclear observation posts. From the White House came a terse statement of the bare known facts:

"The Soviet Union today has conducted a nuclear test in the general area of Semipalatinsk in Central Asia. The device tested had a substantial yield in the intermediate range. It was detonated in the atmosphere."

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