CONFERENCE STATEMENT: THE PROBLEM: The superpower conflict has led to the development of nuclear arsenals that place at risk the survival not only of the nations of the East and West but of all other nations. The intensity of this conflict has not only distorted the economic and social priorities of East and West but has adversely affected the ways in which the superpowers relate to the countries of the nonaligned world, particularly the developing nations. Recently, however, there has been a dramatic shift in the Soviet leadership's approach to its domestic problems and international relationships. There has also been a shift in the West toward greater receptivity to cooperative ventures with the Soviets. As a result, there appears to be a greater openness and tolerance on both sides, leading to a greater capacity to cooperate, than at any time since World War II.
ENORMOUS peril and outstanding opportunity. That is how Gail Lapidus characterizes the present moment in East-West relations. The peril arises - as it has for decades - from the threat of nuclear warfare between the United States and the Soviet Union. But Professor Lapidus, a Soviet specialist at the University of California, Berkeley, sees a new pattern forming. ``This is an extraordinarily important moment,'' she says, a ``watershed'' that could herald ``a major restructuring of the international environment.''
Why? Because ``Soviet behavior has been the most significant source and propellant for some of the major international tensions of the mid-20th century,'' she says. And that behavior is changing. The Soviet Union, she explains, is undergoing ``what we might almost call [a] normalization,'' in which ``some of its most abhorrent and most aberrant features are being reduced.''
Under the perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness) initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev, she says, there is ``a major struggle'' under way involving ``a change in the values of the key segment within the Soviet elite.'' Glasnost, with its ``simultaneous connotation of both candor and publicity, stands at the center of this effort. It marks a real break with the entire Bolshevik conception of a vanguard party, premised as it was on the need for tutelage over backward masses.''
Russian poet Andrei Voznesensky characterizes the change as a ``revolution in consciousness.'' But he emphasizes the tremendous risks inherent in the ``terrible resistance'' to the reforms from an entrenched bureaucracy that is 18 million strong.
Japanese philosopher Shuichi Kato, during a recent visit to Eastern Europe, encountered the buddings of this bureaucratic resistance there as well. ``More freedom for the governments of the Eastern European countries,'' he says, ``means more resistance [from governments] toward this openness.''
But Mr. Voznesensky remains convinced that Mr. Gorbachev is right to introduce greater democracy. ``It is impossible to have a good economy now without democracy,'' he says.
What are the elements of this new Soviet shift toward democracy? According to Professor Lapidus, they include:
A regard for pluralism, including ``a rejection of the notion that there is a single truth'' and recognition that social, ethnic, and intellectual differences are ``not only legitimate, but are even desirable.''
A new definition of military security, moving away from the belief that ``a diminution of someone else's security automatically leads to an increase in yours.''
A growing sense of global interdependence, moving away from the ``conception of the world as fundamentally divided and in fundamental conflict'' and toward ``a recognition of the common elements of the world experience.''
A revival of ``the more humanistic strands of socialism,'' and an increasing willingness to criticize the Stalin era.
A recognition of ``the importance of trust'' in relations, and a growing Soviet willingness to ``sacrifice some degree of secrecy'' and ``share more information.''
The challenge for the Western nations, says Lapidus, is to seize these opportunities to help the So-viet Union become ``a more constructive participant in the global arena.'' But the West cannot have much effect, she warns, on the internal Soviet struggle. ``We know so little about the internal Soviet scene,'' she says, ``that it's very difficult to know whether measures that we might think would be helpful might not indeed turn out to be hurtful.''
One measure that most observers agree will help, however, is greater East-West dialogue. ``A really important goal [for] the year 2000,'' says Meinhard Ade, director general of the Office of the President in West Germany, is to overcome the sense of antagonism between East and West. Reflecting on the cold war years, he says that ``the competition between Eastern and Western systems was not a competition that gave us force.'' Instead, it was a ``paralyzing'' competition that prevented both sides from addressing ``more important questions.''
Nigerian journalist John Araka agrees. ``If we want to achieve peace in a nuclear age,'' he says, ``the emphasis really should be on communication.'' He sees the need for extending the discussion of security beyond the superpowers - since it is quite possible that other nations may become major powers in the 21st century. ``As more and more nations acquire nuclear technology without necessarily improving their economic system,'' he says, ``such countries can turn out to be very dangerous in the future - because, out of frustration, out of annoyance, they can press the button.''
For futurist Ted Gordon, such proliferation represents ``the most threatening'' aspect of nuclear weaponry in the next century. To control it, industrial nations typically must deny technology to developing nations - a highly unpopular stance. Mr. Gordon also points to the need to control ``potentially destabilizing'' nonnuclear weapons emerging from laboratories - chemical and biological weaponry, including genetically based weapons containing viruses designed to attack particular races.
At bottom, however, what is gradually evolving is a view of global security that goes far beyond the classic struggle between two superpowers.
``There aren't superpowers now,'' asserts British politician Shirley Williams. Tracing the concept of a superpower to the post-World War II years, she notes that in 1945 the United States produced 70 percent of the gross national product (GNP) of the West. ``Today, she produces 22 percent of the world's GNP and 9.5 percent of the world's trade,'' Mrs. Williams says. ``America is no longer economically the superpower. Nor is the Soviet Union.'' Then why continue to speak of ``superpower'' relations? ``It's just that none of the rest of us have raised our voices loud enough to say, `Excuse me, the emperor's got no clothes!' because we're frightened the emperor might be cross,'' she says.
Or, as former Arms Control Agency official Adam Yarmolinsky quips, ``the other formulation is there is no emperor in those clothes.'' Clothed or not, the superpowers still possess the one thing - nuclear weaponry - that should raise alarms around the world.
Yet the alarms are not often sounded loudly - a fact that puzzles some onlookers. ``I've been surprised, almost stunned, at the lack of expression of a sense of moral outrage on this issue of security and peace,'' says ecologist William C. Clark. It is sometimes discussed, ``as though it were a [mere] blemish in our economic performance.'' Instead, he says, it should be discussed ``in terms of the incredible drain on our ability to deal with all these other problems that the annual flows of expenditures on military and so-called security issues impose upon us.''
Former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, expanding on that idea, points the finger at such nonaligned nations as Brazil, India, and Sweden. He feels they should be taking the nuclear weaponry issue to the United Nations and making it ``an issue of morality.''
In his view, they should be saying to the American and Soviet governments, ```If you ever carry out your NATO and Warsaw Pact strategy, you're going to destroy yourselves. Up until recently we thought if you were stupid enough to pursue [such] a strategy, that was your problem. [But now] we are learning that through climatic conditions you will destroy us. We will not tolerate that. We wish you to present to us a verifiable agreement that - starting next year or certainly in the 21st century - you will no longer put our nations at risk. It's immoral. It's illegal. We won't tolerate it.'''
What gives this moral outrage new force, many observers agree, is the growing recognition, on both sides of the East-West divide, of the reality of global interdependence - however uneasy some nations are with the concept. ``We have an enormous capacity, even though we use the word, to deny the fact of interdependence - fearing that it may suggest a weakening of power or independence,'' says Radcliffe president Matina Horner. She sees the need for a new set of guidelines. What, she asks, are going to be ``the rules for relating under an interdependent network - whether it's between men and women, between groups within our own country, or between the first and the third world - that are different from the rules that govern relationships if we continue to see independent and dependent beings, first powers and secondary powers?''
One way to build on interdependence, says ecologist Clark, is by building new forums for interaction. Noting that international economic forums exist, he suggests the creation of ``analogous forums of world leaders addressed to the issue of world security.''
Although such a forum exists within the United Nations, notes Mr. McNamara, its peacekeeping function has largely failed to work. Why? Because, he says, ``the US and the Soviet Union haven't permitted it to.'' But now, he says, with the changes afoot in the Soviet Union, ``there is a high probability that, if the US and the Soviet Union worked together, they could create the United Nations as a major force in the world for peacekeeping in a nuclear age.''
Other forums, however, may also be needed. Yet the problem in creating them, notes Mrs. Williams, is that the entire political process is geared to short-term responses - toward ``public pressures for immediate gratifications'' in the developed nations, and toward ``a desire to achieve national expressions of achievement'' in developing nations. To overcome the resulting political inertia, she says, ``we have to create a forum which is driven by public opinion itself.''
What an interdependent world may need, in fact, is a newly interdependent political process that takes account of all levels of society. That is especially true in the developing world, says Indian filmmaker Vineet Narain. The new rules of intercommunication, he says, should not be confined only to Nairobi, Bombay, and other large third-world cities, where the population is to some degree Western in its thinking. ``The majority of the population in third world,'' he notes, ``lives in rural areas.''
In dealing with third-world countries, says rural community organizer Billie Jean Young, efforts should be made not only to bring together opinion leaders but to ``bring together rural people'' who come from ``similar places in the social and economic strata'' and who are generally left out of governmental decisionmaking processes. ``They learn from each other,'' she says, ``and they learn from similar experiences.''
Cognitive psychologist Edwin Hutchins agrees. ``I think we really have to get to the grass roots and somehow instill a new sense of the circumstances of our species on this planet as we approach the end of this millennium,'' he says. He worries that Americans, in particular, get their views of the third world simply from popular media, where ``cultural diversity is not depicted as an alternative way for humans to exist,'' but is instead ``typically reduced to some kind of cultural exotica.''
From his travels around the United States, Kenyan journalist Patrick Mungai attributes some of the refusal to recognize cultural diversity to the American educational system. American schools, he says, instill the idea that ``whatever is American is good.'' That view, he says, makes Americans believe that ``they cannot borrow anything from an outside society.''
But global interdependence may require a greater willingness to borrow - as well as new measures of success. Just as we now have economic measures, says Gordon, and just as the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has developed its ``doomsday clock'' indicating the proximity of a nuclear war, so ``it would be very useful to have measures of peace. Why not develop a parallel to economic measures that somehow indicates stability or proximity to peace?''
ACHIEVABLE GOALS for the year 2000 Return to a world without nuclear weaponry, in so far as achievable. Move toward confidence-building measures that reduce East-West political and military tensions. Move from a posture of mistrust, competition, and fear to cooperation. Engage both the West and East in assisting the developing nations to attain peace and eradicate poverty.
HOW it could be done: Reduce superpower engagement in regional conflicts, especially those involving low intensity warfare. Strengthen the United Nations and regional organizations to deal with peace-keeping functions. Move beyond the prospective 50 percent reduction in strategic nuclear weapons toward further agreements to reduce nuclear and conventional arms and to reduce and eliminate nuclear testing. Strengthen the impediments to proliferation of nuclear weapons among nonnuclear states. Create new restraints to the conventional arms trade among nations. Encourage negotiated settlements of conflicts, and support the application of sanctions against nations tolerating international terrorism. Ban the development, production, stockpiling, and use of biological and chemical weapons. Increase economic cooperation by expanding trade and investment. Increase possibilities of nongovernmental cultural exchanges, including exchange of students and scholars; sharing of artistic endeavors; use of television and film to convey realistic views of life in each country and to promote understanding; exchanges of young people.