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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a system of measures, the implementation of which should lead to the complete abolition or the substantial reduction of the means of waging war and to the creation of the conditions for eliminating the danger of war. With the development of nuclear weapons and other weapons of tremendous destructive power, disarmament has become a very important international problem that urgently demands a solution.

The idea that disarmament is an effective means against armed conflicts and wars has a long history. However, in societies divided into antagonistic classes, the ruling classes have used the idea of disarmament to carry out political maneuvers, to weaken the enemy militarily, and to mask measures to build up their own military potential. Bilateral or multilateral agreements limiting the use of armed forces were concluded even in antiquity, but they could not halt the growth of militarism, which reached its peak as a complete economic, political, and ideological system after the transformation of premonopoly capitalism into imperialism. Appeals for arms limitation in statements by bourgeois statesmen and in international acts and resolutions merely led to the spread of pacifist illusions (the Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907, the Fourteen Points proposed by President Wilson, and the Covenant of the League of Nations).

Opportunities for solving the disarmament problem did not arise until after the establishment of the Soviet socialist state and subsequently, the establishment of other socialist states, whose foreign policy is based on the struggle for peace among peoples. As defined by V. I. Lenin, “disarmament is the ideal of socialism” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 30, p. 152). At the Genoa Conference (1922) the Soviet delegation proposed a general reduction of armaments. In later years the Soviet government submitted proposals for general and partial disarmament during bilateral and multilateral negotiations, in various committees of the League of Nations, at sessions of the League of Nations Preparatory Commission for the Disarmament Conference (1927 and 1928), and at the Geneva Disarmament Conference of 1932-35.

After World War II (1939-45) the efforts of the Soviet Union were largely responsible for the inclusion in the UN Charter of provisions stating that disputes between members of the UN would be settled by peaceful means and that all UN members would refrain from the threat or use of force in international relations. The Soviet Union was also largely responsible for the inclusion in the Charter of special provisions on disarmament (arts. 11, 26, and 47). Thus, disarmament became a generally recognized principle of international law. However, as soon as the war was over, the imperialist forces immediately instigated an arms Tace and unleashed the Cold War. With the development of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons, supersonic jet airplanes, ballistic missiles, and other new types of combat matériel, the danger posed by the arms race increased tremendously.

Under these conditions the Soviet government, while maintaining the defensive capability of the USSR at the necessary level, joined with the governments of other members of the world socialist system, which emerged in the postwar years, and fought persistently for the limitation of the arms race and the creation of conditions that would permit partial and later, complete disarmament.

The problem of disarmament has been discussed by many international bodies, including all sessions of the UN General Assembly, the UN Atomic Energy Commission (established in 1946; composed of all the members of the Security Council and Canada), and the Commission for Conventional Armaments (established in 1947; composed of all the members of the Security Council). The UN Disarmament Commission, which was established in 1952 to replace the Atomic Energy Commission and the Commission for Conventional Armaments, was originally made up of all the members of the Security Council and Canada. From 1958, it included all members of the UN. The Ten-Nation Disarmament Committee, which was established in 1959 under an agreement concluded by the USSR, the USA, Great Britain, and France, was composed of representatives of five socialist states (the USSR, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Rumania) and five capitalist states (the USA, Great Britain, France, Italy, and Canada). Established in 1961 to replace the Ten-Nation Disarmament Committee, the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee included, in addition to the membership of the Ten-Nation Committee, the representatives of eight nonaligned countries (Burma, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Egypt, Sweden, and Ethiopia). In 1969 the Eighteen-Nation Committee was renamed the Committee on Disarmament, and it was enlarged to include representatives of Hungary, the Mongolian People’s Republic, Argentina, Morocco, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Yugoslavia, and Japan. In January 1975 the committee was expanded to include representatives of the German Democratic Republic, the Federal Republic of Germany, Zaire, Iran, and Peru. The problems of disarmament have also been discussed at the Geneva Conference of the Heads of the Government of the Four Powers (1955) and at several other conferences on various levels.

On June 19, 1946, the Soviet government submitted to the UN Atomic Energy Commission the draft of an international convention under which states would pledge not to use atomic weapons, to outlaw their production and storage, and to destroy all stockpiles within three months. The USA and Great Britain did not support the Soviet proposal but countered it with the Baruch Plan on atomic energy control, which did not provide for the prohibition of atomic weapons. The Baruch Plan merely ensured a US monopoly on the future use of atomic energy, under the guise of an “international agency” for the “control” of atomic energy—an agency not subordinate to the UN Security Council. On Dec. 14, 1946, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution based on Soviet proposals and entitled the Principles Governing the General Regulation and Reduction of Armaments. Although they voted for this resolution, the Western powers sabotaged its implementation, and they rejected several other Soviet proposals linking a general reduction of armaments and armed forces to the solution of the most important problem—the prohibition and elimination of atomic weapons.

Justifying their sabotage of disarmament with the argument that there was no international security system, the Western powers exacerbated international tension by creating aggressive military and political blocs (for example, NATO, SEATO, and CENTO) and by concluding bilateral, aggressive military and political agreements. The Western powers’ policy on disarmament was evidence of their stubborn refusal to renounce the policy of atomic blackmail. The bankruptcy of this policy was revealed when the USSR developed the atomic bomb (1949), the hydrogen bomb (1953), and later, intercontinental missiles.

The Soviet government unswervingly continued its efforts to create the preconditions for a solution to the disarmament problem. Striving for progress in finding a solution to this problem, the USSR met the Western powers halfway as often as possible, but the Western powers made unacceptable demands aimed at gaining one-sided advantages or at replacing disarmament with intelligence gathering, under the guise of “control” over disarmament. The Western countries invariably rejected proposals for partial disarmament measures, which were advanced repeatedly by the Soviet government in the 1950’s (in particular, proposals for the proportional reduction of the armed forces of the five powers, as well as proposals for a gradual reduction of armaments).

From 1955 to 1958 the USSR reduced its armed forces by 2.14 million men, and in January 1960 the Supreme Soviet of the USSR passed a law calling for a further reduction of 1.2 million. The Soviet government eliminated its military base on foreign territory (Porkkala), unilaterally stopped testing atomic and hydrogen weapons, and announced that it was willing to end the tests permanently if the Western powers would follow its example. (Far from following the Soviet Union’s example, the USA and Great Britain increased the number of nuclear test explosions. Therefore, in late October 1958, the Soviet government ordered the resumption of tests.) Between 1955 and 1958 the armed forces of the other European socialist countries were reduced by 456,500 men. The Western powers responded to the initiative of the socialist countries with a further intensification of the arms race.

The Declaration on General and Complete Disarmament, an outstanding Soviet peace initiative, was submitted by the Soviet government to the Fourteenth Session of the UN General Assembly on Sept. 18, 1959. The General Assembly unanimously supported the idea of general and complete disarmament. In 1962 the Soviet government submitted to the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee the draft of a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict international control. The draft contained a comprehensive disarmament program to be carried out in three stages within four years, under the supervision of a special control body. However, during the negotiations on practical disarmament measures, the Western powers advocated only a limitation of armed forces and armaments that would entirely conform to their strategic and political interests. They rejected compromise proposals submitted by the Soviet Union.

Despite the efforts of the Cold War politicians to foil the implementation of any proposals aimed at a limitation and reduction of armaments, changes in the world balance of forces in favor of socialism and peace created opportunities for a gradual solution to the disarmament problem. The economic development of the socialist countries and the growth of their defensive power convincingly demonstrated the hopelessness of the arms race, which the progressive international public opposed with increasing determination and vigor. Anti-imperialist actions became widespread at both the national and the international level. The peace movement focused continuously on disarmament questions. The Conferences of Communist and Workers’ Parties discussed disarmament and made it one of their principal demands. The movement for disarmament inevitably exerted pressure on the ruling circles of the capitalist countries. Beginning in the 1960’s, a number of agreements limiting the arms race to some extent were concluded on the initiative of the USSR.

At a conference in Moscow in the summer of 1963, representatives of the USA, the USSR, and Great Britain discussed the possibility of limiting nuclear weapons tests. As a result, the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space, and Under Water (the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty) was concluded on Aug. 5, 1963. It went into effect on Oct. 10, 1963.

Signed on Jan. 27, 1967, the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (the Outer Space Treaty) prohibits the use of outer space for military purposes and forbids the orbiting of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The Outer Space Treaty went into effect on Oct. 10, 1967.

New treaties for the further limitation of the arms race were worked out in the 1960’s by the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee and from 1969, in the Committee on Disarmament. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty came into force on Mar. 5, 1970; the Treaty Prohibiting the Placement of Nuclear Weapons or Other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Seabed (the Seabed Treaty) was opened for signature on Feb. 11, 1971, and came into force on May 18, 1972.

The struggle for disarmament is one of the most important principles of socialist foreign policy and an integral part of the Peace Program adopted by the Twenty-fourth Congress of the CPSU. Under this program, the Soviet government, realizing that general and complete disarmament cannot be implemented immediately, directs its efforts to the urgent solution of at least particular and subordinate problems. The Soviet Union and the other socialist states that participate in the Committee on Disarmament submitted to the committee the draft of the Convention on Bacteriological Weapons. Adopted and opened for signature on Apr. 10, 1972, the convention came into force on Mar. 26, 1975. In March 1972 the socialist countries submitted to the Committee on Disarmament the draft of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, and Stockpiling of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction.

On June 23, 1971, the government of the USSR proposed the convocation of a conference of the five nuclear powers (the USSR, the USA, France, Great Britain, and China) to discuss problems of nuclear disarmament. The government of China openly opposed the proposal. At the Twenty-sixth Session of the UN General Assembly (1971) the USSR proposed the convocation of a world disarmament conference. Despite the opposition of China and several other states, the General Assembly approved the proposal.

The Twenty-seventh Session of the UN General Assembly (1972) adopted a resolution calling on all states to make “efforts with a view to creating adequate conditions” for the convocation of a world disarmament conference. In addition, a special committee was established to examine all questions that might arise in connection with the convening of such a conference. Acting on a Soviet proposal, the Twenty-seventh Session of the General Assembly also adopted a resolution containing a formal declaration on the “renunciation” by all UN members “of the use or threat of force in all its forms and manifestations.” The resolution also called for the “permanent prohibition of the use of nuclear weapons,” and it recommended that the Security Council “should take, as soon as possible, appropriate measures for the full implementation of the present declaration of the General Assembly.”

Acting on a Soviet proposal, the Twenty-eighth Session of the UN General Assembly (1973) adopted a resolution entitled On the Reduction of the Military Budgets of States Permanent Members of the Security Council by 10 Percent and Utilization of Part of the Funds Thus Saved to Provide Assistance to Developing Countries. The practical implementation of the resolution would have made a contribution to the cause of disarmament and would have assisted the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America in developing their economies.

The Twenty-ninth Session of the UN General Assembly (1974) approved the USSR proposal entitled the Prohibition of Action to Influence the Environment and Climate for Military and Other Purposes Incompatible with the Maintenance of International Security, Human Well-being, and Health. On the initiative of the USSR and other socialist countries, negotiations on a mutual reduction of armed forces and armaments in Central Europe opened in Vienna in October 1973.

Bilateral Soviet-American negotiations on the limitation of strategic arms, which opened in 1969, are of special importance in the struggle for disarmament, as are a number of agreements on specific aspects of disarmament, which were concluded by the USSR and the USA between 1971 and 1974. Among the most important of these agreements are the Treaty on the Limitation of Antiballistic Missile Systems and an interim agreement on several measures to limit strategic offensive weapons (both signed in May 1972), as well as the Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War and an agreement (formulated in a special document) on basic principles of negotiations on the further limitation of strategic offensive arms (both signed in June 1973). Other important bilateral disarmament agreements include the Protocol to the Treaty on the Limitation of Antiballistic Missile Systems and the Treaty on the Limitation of Underground Nuclear Weapons Tests (both signed in July 1974), the accord reached in November 1974 on concluding a new agreement on limiting strategic offensive arms, and the Treaty on Underground Nuclear Tests for Peaceful Purposes (signed in May 1976).

A number of developments have created the conditions for cooperation among states with different social systems and have opened prospects for progress toward disarmament, which is of vital importance for all peoples. Among these developments are arms limitation agreements between the USSR and the USA, the overall improvement in Soviet-American relations, and the conclusion in the early 1970’s of several treaties and agreements normalizing the situation in Europe. (The success of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe made a substantial contribution to improving the situation in Europe.) The transition to political settlements in a number of international conflicts and the improvement of the international situation as a whole have also contributed to the creation of the conditions for cooperation among states with different social systems and for the solution of the disarmament problem. Hope for progress in solving the disarmament problem rests on the rising political, technological, and economic power of the socialist commonwealth and on the increasing activity of democratic and socialist forces throughout the world. However, representatives of the military-industrial complex in the capitalist countries, who oppose a solution to the disarmament problem, are trying to push international relations back into the Cold War period. Therefore, the struggle for disarmament calls for persistent and prolonged efforts. Its success will be promoted by the further development and strengthening of the favorable changes that emerged in the international situation in the early 1970’s.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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