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New Left Review I/168, March-April 1988


Simon Bromley and Justin Rosenberg

After Exterminism

The signing of an inf Treaty at the Washington Summit of December 1987 has brought to a symbolic (if illusory) close a dramatic episode in postwar history. [*] We are grateful for discussions and clarifications during the preparation of this article with Elena Lieven, Mike Rustin, Mark Thompson and Fiona Weir. We are especially indebted to Ken Coates for extensive discussions on an earlier draft, which led to considerable revisions. Dorothy and Edward Thompson were also kind enough to discuss an earlier draft with us at great length. It will not, it seems, mark a decisive reversal in the nuclear arms race. Compensatory adjustments, on the nato side at least, and the us determination to develop a new generation of space-based weaponry will probably carry the military competition forward into a qualitatively new round, while sea-based systems will take over the strategic roles of Cruise and Pershing II. [1] D. Johnstone, The Politics of Euromissiles, London 1984, p. 190. It will not represent the recovery of a European popular sovereignty against superpower occupation, or the emergence of a progressive ‘third way’ in the political alignments of the international community. The Thatcher and Kohl governments came unwillingly, and under strong American pressure, to an acceptance of the deal; and they looked ahead not to dealignment and denuclearization but rather to the coalescence of a European nuclear pillar of nato. It may not even be the solid foundation it appears for improved superpower relations. The failure of the Summit to show any progress on resolving superpower disputes in the Third World was suggested by contradictory indications of Soviet policy on Afghanistan. Certainly, any return in the near future to the cold war virulence of the early 80s seems unlikely; nevertheless, the political significance of the agreement for the two governments is hugely discrepant; and the underlying goals of us policy—nuclear superiority and global confrontation—have not perceptibly, or even officially, altered. But despite all this, and paradoxically, the inf Treaty will bring about the fulfilment of the central political demand which since 1979 has generated and united a peace movement of unprecedented proportions across Western Europe.

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