- Title Balancing Act with Russia
- Publication Title The Illustrated London News
- Collection Illustrated London News Historical Archive
- Date Saturday, Mar. 22, 1969
- Volume 254
- Issue Number 6764
- Page Number 9
- Place of Publication London, England
- Language English
- Document Type Article
- Publication Section News
- Source Library Illustrated London News Ltd
- Copyright Statement © Illustrated London News Ltd. All rights reserved.
Balancing act with Russia With his decision to scale down defence plans, Mr Nixon is trying to strike a diplomatic bargain. WILLI FRISCHAUER shows how it alters IL global perspectives, especially vis-,- vis Russia. MOMENTS OF GREAT DECISION OFTEN PASS UNNOTICED AND are only recognized in retrospect. President Nixon's compromise solution of the ABM--anti-ballistic missile -conundrum may well be such an occasion. The " little local difficulty " over the West German presidential election in Berlin which arose earlier this month between East Germany and Bonn-in effect, between the Soviets and the Western allies-provided a clue when it became evident that Moscow, for two reasons, had no intention of going to the brink. First it was not worth endangering the prospect of talks between the Soviets and Americans on much wider issues. At the same time Moscow was obviously aware of the trouble brewing on its borders with China. China's threat On his part, the President of the United States seemed no less anxious to avoid a clash with the Russians, with whom he must discuss the delicate issue of a nuclear arms race. The Soviets have long pressed the issue of nuclear disarmament, and always regarded an extended American ABM system as a threat to their own security which would require a strong response in the form of a build-up of their own second strike capacity. China's belligerent mood makes it easier for President Nixon to remind them that the United States also faces a grave practical threat from China. It lends force to his contention that the Russians should not view a new American weapon system as directed against them. But the President has gone a step further.. His com- promise over the ABM plan is intended to impress the Russians as much as to silence both hawks and doves in his own camp. By scaling down the original plan, which covered all major American cities, to a system intended to protect military installations only, he indicates that Moscow has no need to fear a blow at her own cities. And by giving the go-ahead in the first instance for only two major installations, instead of a vast national network, he gives his military technocrats the opportun- ity of practical experience. At the same time, he leaves his opinions open for modifications annually. Here's the snag. Moscow is now facing belligerent China on her eastern borders-although the territory over which the skirmishes rage has long been contested between China and Soviet Russia. The flare-up is an indication of rapidly worsening relations and a hint of worse. So the USSR needs an extended defence system. This, though designed to repel the Chinese threat, may well come to be regarded as a menace to the US. By the same token it may bring about the very escalation in US counter-measures Moscow has been at such pains to avoid. With the Pentagon looking for valid reasons to extend its scope, the way to a disastrous missile race could soon be opened again. Budapest meeting The USSR has one additional problem-that of putting their own house in order, for it is not only Czecho- slovakia which indicates that all is not well in the Communist camp. This week in Budapest the Warsaw Pact countries are in session-and even here the Chinese situation has been much in evidence. The Rumanians, fearful of a fate worse than Czecho- slovakia's, are looking towards Peking for protection against Soviet imperialism. The Russians would not wish to aggravate the Americans by descending on Bucharest as they did on Prague. We are witnessing new tests of strength which form new fronts and create new alignments. New pressures beget new policies, the most important of which is the rapprochement between Russia and America. It will demand new thinking in Whitehall, too. Otherwise Mr Denis Healey will still be crushing Soviet submarines in the Med while elsewhere the American and Russian navies are already steaming side by side. Cry of hate: Both Russian and Chinese reports of the seven hour border battle on March 15 on the much contested territory of Damansky island in the Ussuri River accuse the other of being the aggressor. Fairly heavy casualties were suffered. Earlier clashes brought protests (above) from the People's Liberation Army outside the Soviet embassy in Peking. Man with a secret? James Earl Ray. convicted of the murder of civil rights leader, Dr Martin Luther King is led away on March 10 to begin his 99 year prison sentence. However Senator James Eastland, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has stated that he doubts whether the murder was the work of only one man and that he is " assembling all available facts."