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'The right deals with the right despots'

From the former British foreign minister's Alastair Buchan Memorial Lecture for the Institute of Strategic Studies, London.m Last year we were told that the so-called peace movement was going to engulf most Western European governments. The peace movement is still there and I do not underrate its irrational appeal. But there is now a little less talk about neutralism in Western Europe. The caricaturists of the Atlantic Alliance have had their day: Europe is neither neutralist nor defeatist, and the real America is not tempted by the mirage of isolationalism.

As a defensive alliance NATO has been a self-evident success. But it must be an imaginative alliance, too. It is not just a pooling of arms, with the Americans throwing in the biggest stake. We must pool our ideas as well as our weapons, and forge these into sound, sensible, and consistent policies.

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The notion that we should face the Russians down in a silent war of nerves is based on a misconception of our own values, of Soviet bahavior, and of the anxious aspirations of our own peoples.

The democracies have a duty to themselves, to the wider world and indeed to the Soviet Union itself, to be true to their own first principles.

These principles are dialogue, openness, sanity, and a nonideological approach to the dangerous business of international affairs.

There are those who regard dialogue itself as dangerous - and so it might be if we were talking from a clear position of weakness. But armed as we are, and with the long-term structural advantages the West enjoys, who can possibly claim that this was the case? Talking to an equally heavily armed but far less scrupulous adversary is not a concession; it is common prudence. Talking patiently, deliberately, and firmly is part of the bureaucratization of the peace. It is what policemen do to potential suicides.

The pursuit and exercise of pure power can be very dangerous. Even if it was ever successful in the past - which I am inclined to doubt - such so-called realism is no longer realistic in the nuclear age.

Nor can we afford a crude, one-dimensional moralism. John Foster Dulles once said that there could be no question of ''a self-serving deal with the despotic leaders of captive peoples.'' I wonder. The right deals with the right despots can often be in our own interests, as well as those under their yoke.

We could make it clear to Moscow that new opportunities for cooperation could arise if they were to put a stop to expansionism. We should be ready to do business with the Russians when it benefits both sides and when the Russians make it possible. Indiscriminate sanctions against the Soviet Union are neither feasible nor desirable. If they did not work against Mr. Smith in Rhodesia, they are unlikely to bring down the Soviet Empire.

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In any case it is not our aim to drive the Russians further into nationalistic and militaristic introversion; to give them a pretext for strengthening their economic might over East Europe, or their repression of the aspirations of their own people.

Any progress in the economic field would of course be unthinkable in a political void. But this is another reason why we must listen as well as talk to the new Soviet leaders, to watch for any signs of a new realism.

We must see whether they understand the crucial need for political confidence-building measures in arms control; on Afghanistan and Cambodia, on East Europe, and on the treatment of their own people. We should make it clear that any such moves would be matched by a swift and positive Western response.

I am not preaching a return to detente pure and simple. Detente was never pure and simple anyway - though I confess I find it hard to understand how both sides can have lost by it. My guess is that it was either a draw or that the West won on points.

But now it is time for a new approach to East/West relations. We need something less sentimental and less divisive than detente. We must deal with the Russians simply because they are there.

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