It appears we have an agreement with the Russians to remove medium-range nuclear missiles from Europe. The negotiations were tough, and both sides worked hard to put a deal together.

How did it happen?

One of the Americans on the delegation, said to be a CIA man, went to a Soviet delegate and said to him, "You might as well make a deal. We know for a fact your medium-sized missiles don't work."

The Soviet delegate, certain to be a KGB man, cried, "You've been spying on us! That violates the Geneva convention."

"Don't get so excited," the CIA man said. "Ours don't work either."

"You're sure?"

"We couldn't even light a Christmas tree with one. For years we knew your missiles were no good -- but it was only recently we found out ours are bummers."

"How can I believe you?" the KGB man wanted to know.

"Don't take my word for it. Inspect our contractors' spare parts. If that doesn't convince you the missiles won't work, nothing will."

The KGB man was suspicious. "Why are you telling me all this?"

"Because we want an arms treaty and the only way to get one is to convince you that what we are both taking out of Europe doesn't matter since they won't fly anyway," the CIA man said. "If we took ours out unilaterally the political fallout would be awful. If you take yours out alone you get the same flak. We have to remove them together so there will be peace in our time."

"Wait a minute," the KGB man said. "What about the Pershing missiles in West Germany? If both of us give up our missiles and the Germans keep theirs, Bonn could become the biggest threat to Europe."

"Don't worry, comrade. The German missiles don't work either."

"How can we be so sure each other's medium-sized nuclear weapons don't work?" the KGB man asked.

"As part of the treaty we will test-fire every missile as it is removed from its hole."

"At what target?"

"Iran. It's always good for a soft landing. If for some reason the missile isn't a dud, then it's 'Bye-bye Tehran.' "

"So what are you saying?"

"We sign a treaty and remove all medium-sized weapons from Europe. Then we go out and buy white tie and tails to wear when we get the Nobel Prize."

"Let's drink to glasnost and Gorbachev."

"To Beverly Hills and Ronald Reagan."

"I can see the day," the KGB man said, "when every missile will be turned into a plowshare."

"And every plowshare will be sold to the Russians to help the farmers get on their feet."

"We must make peace by eliminating all weapons that don't work."

"Except for one," the CIA man said.

"What weapon do you refuse to give up for the cause of peace?"

"Minesweepers."

1987, Los Angeles Times Syndicate