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Toward a Century of Peace

Former leaders pool ideas for a more workable world

A LARGELY unseen but significant and hopeful new private force for tackling world problems is developing. It involves the quiet efforts of some of the most experienced former and present leaders (including Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher, and George Bush) from at least 50 countries, linked together in a quest to shape expert recommendations for making life on the planet safer and saner. Soon, Mr. Gorbachev will begin submitting to current world leaders specific proposals crafted at the recent State of the World Forum he hosted in San Francisco.

A working group I chaired at that conference dealt with (1) eliminating remaining nuclear weapons and (2) cooling explosive regional conflicts. This group also included former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, former President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, current Executive Deputy President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, and such former high US officials as National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and Arms Control Ambassador Max Kampelman.

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We found no recognizable trend, in the aftermath of the cold war, toward constructing the new mechanisms necessary to achieve a world in which all people can at last feel safe. A global community is nevertheless developing swiftly on its own - built not by design but by rapid travel, instant communication, and speed-of-light financial transactions, forces that transcend national boundaries and bring us together.

Simultaneously, ethnic and cultural struggles are tearing some regions apart. In one sense, this reflects an understandable desire to resist homogenization and to retain group identity in the emerging global community. But bloody fragmentation in the absence of a stable international order is highly dangerous when the world still sits atop a nuclear powder keg.

Our report sets forth nonutopian proposals to secure a safer world. While we agree that humanity's goal must be the abolition of all weapons of mass destruction, we realize that this takes time. It's our consensus, however, that certain realistic steps can greatly reduce the nuclear danger. Carrying forward the process that Presidents Gorbachev and Reagan launched by further reducing old superpower nuclear arsenals is simple, workable common sense.

Present treaties call for reducing what were roughly 35,000 American and Soviet nuclear weapons apiece down to 3,000 each. We propose that the United States and Russia negotiate further verifiable cuts down to 500 nuclear weapons on each side. Then, China, the United Kingdom, and France should be drawn into the negotiations, and we should work our way down to about 100 each. To prevent surprise attack, remaining warheads should be separated from delivery systems and both placed under international monitoring.

Worldwide steps should also include:

*A ban on further production of fissile material.

*A ban on production and possession of military ballistic missiles.

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*A ban on further testing of nuclear weapons.

*Strengthened enforcement, among all nations, of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

*Drastic reduction in the production and transmission to dictators of the ever-more-deadly conventional weapons that have killed more than 100 million individuals in the 20th century.

The group further urges the development of procedures for early resolution of the myriad problems that cause violence. Early-warning or conflict-prevention systems can spot looming conflicts before they explode and can dispatch skilled negotiators to intervene in time to prevent the outbreak of hostilities.

Most critical of all, workable mechanisms are needed for global decisionmaking on problems that individual nations cannot cope with alone. This requires reforming, strengthening, and increasingly utilizing the UN, the International Court of Justice, and other existing institutions, supplemented by regional organizations best able to handle regional problems.

Expanding the workability of the UN requires, in turn, a fairer and more realistic system of representation for nations. A United Nations endowed with its own revenue sources and a strictly volunteer peacekeeping force has become a necessity.

Ways to reach these goals are debatable; the world's survival is not. What matters is that work begin now. In one respect, it already is under way. The wise experience of those now networking together around the globe under varying auspices is a new phenomenon that will continue to grow.

In San Francisco and Moscow, it is the Gorbachev Foundation. In New Delhi, it is the Rajiv Ghandi Foundation. In Australia, Prime Minister Paul Keating just announced plans to gather his own group of experts to wrestle with questions of the world's future on nuclear and other issues. On the 50th anniversary of Hiroshima, so did Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama.

All these efforts are not mere academic think-tanking but are preparatory to precise, practical steps for achieving the common goal of peace in the 21st century.

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