The invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein produced a common vote of censure by all five of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Only a few years ago, such unanimity on such an issue would have been unthinkable; a resolution satisfactory to the United States would have drawn a veto from the Soviet Union.
But collaboration between the United States and the U.S.S.R. on world affairs is as yet thin and uncertain. The bases for common action need to be stronger and less burdened by mutual ideological and strategic nuclear concerns before strong bonds of international cooperation can be built between us.
But where else can we look for decisive assistance? In the event the president had not acted promptly to lead the international community in condemning Iraq's sudden and unprovoked takeover of Kuwait and by our prompt movement of forces into Saudi Arabia, Saddam Hussein's momentum might have been unstoppable.
But there is enormous danger in the current U.S. position. The United States should now move from a position of leadership to one of support for a coalition of powers upholding the principles of the United Nations' Charter. The core of that coalition should be the great powers that are entrusted with the power of veto in the United Nations' Security Council. The two most important of those are the United States and the U.S.S.R. Without both in support of the common actions being taken, the coalition would not have the unity of will and the physical resources both to defend Saudi Arabia and to force Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. With the passage of time, Saddam Hussein's opportunities for exploiting Arab grassroot resentment against the United States, IsraelNo Soviet strategist would find a radical, strong and more unified Moslem world to the south of the U.S.S.R. desirable.and the rich oil-producing kingdoms and sheikdoms can be expected to grow, and the interests of those who have initially supported United States's policies to become more complex and divided.
President Bush would be wise to accept Zbigniew Brzezinski's distinction between supporting the defense of Saudi Arabia from invasion and forcing the eviction of Iraq from Kuwait. On the latter issue, it would be prudent for the president to play for time. But if he does so, what use should he make of the time thus gained? I believe he should try radically to improve the bases for U.S./U.S.S.R. collaboration.
I cannot imagine that any Soviet strategist would find a radical, strong and more unified Moslem world to the south of the U.S.S.R. a desirable development; too much of their population is Moslem, and the importance of that group relative to the Russian ethnic group is growing. During the frequent discussion Mikhail Gorbachev used to have with then-secretary of state George Shultz and his team, Gorbachev often emphasized the common U.S./U.S.S.R. interest in not encouraging the growth of a strong Moslem force in the Middle East and South Asia with poten tially divisive appeal to the growing Moslem minority in the Soviet Union.
The dedication of much of Soviet leadership to the past tenets of Marxist-Leninist ideology has significantly eroded. But strategic nuclear concerns remain a continuing barrier on both sides to a positive evolution in the political relations between the United States and the U.S.S.R. Prompt and radical forward movement in the START negotiation could be the key to transforming the Kuwait crisis into a door to a more favorable future.
A new and more ambitious approach to START is needed -- one that would greatly reduce U.S. vulnerability to strategic attack while increasing Soviet confidence that the United States could not possibly gain from initiating a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union.
Such a new approach could have the following elements:
During an agreed period of time, both sides would phase out and destroy all of their land-based MIRVed missiles.
Concurrently, both sides would agree to reduce the aggregate number of warheads on permitted strategic nuclear systems to no more than 5,000.
The actual warheads on each side would be limited to those permitted by the agreement.
Certain ancillary provisions would be necessary to assure the durability of the agreement.
The resulting strategic nuclear balance would be one in which all elements on both sides would be either highly survivable or at least not worth the cost to attack. The resulting reduction in incentives to attack would produce a more stable strategic environment for both sides.
If the Soviets agree to the above arrangement it should be possible for us indefinitely to postpone most of our Strategic Defense Initiative program; the strategic balance between the United States and the U.S.S.R. should be so stable as to require SDI defense only against tactical missiles, not long-range strategic missiles, such as we and the Soviet Union rely upon.
In the strategic nuclear field, the U.S.S.R. will remain a superpower into the indefinite future. Even after substantial stabilizing reductions, such as those in the suggested new approach, the United States and the Soviet Union would, between them, posses more than 80 percent of the world's strategic nuclear weapons. We and the Soviets would have a strong common interest that the stable, equal balance between us not be upset by uncontrolled proliferation of nuclear armaments in the hands of others. I believe this would correspond to the interests of France, the United Kingdom and China as well.
If the bases for cooperation between the United States and the U.S.S.R. were assured, it also should be to the common interest of the great powers that the United Nations' Charter be implemented with their support in the manner the drafters of the Charter originally contemplated. The type of aggression exemplified by Saddam Hussein's surprise attack on Kuwait cannot be said to be consistent with the Charter. The principal members of the U.N. Security Council would have the unchallengeable collective power to make Saddam's position in Kuwait untenable. A United Nations solution to this problem would be far more satisfactory than the United States carrying an excessive burden with inadequate support from others. The writer's most recent government service was as a special adviser to the president and secretary of state on arms control in the Reagan administration.