''Our children must not grow up scared . . . of the future.'' So says the President of the United States. To save children from fear, he wants to donate billions of dollars for ''dense pack'' deployment of the MX missile. He says this helps chances for accord on serious arms control.
I, too, am worried - about Soviet children. I want a rapid accord on serious arms cuts. So why not deploy some new Soviet missiles, say ''MX''? Chances for agreement would grow further. All together, we can sing odes to peace on earth.
I apologize for the bitter joke. Yet even the harshest critic cannot accuse me of having gone beyond the limits of the President's logic. The logic the USSR has offered, and will offer, is different: We worry that scientists and engineers on arms projects work more quickly than do diplomats. While diplomats painstakingly deliver new accords on controlling one or another type of weapon, new arms appear whose reduction is even harder to negotiate. Thus we have proposed: Let us agree not to create new weapons. Let us freeze at current levels and then, having made our flanks safe, let's begin reducing what we already have.
''No,'' they say in Washington. They argue this would mean freezing a ''clear Soviet advantage.''
I respect the higher-ups, even American. I feel awkward raising an objection against the President, but I must do so: The US says that in the past 15 years the Soviet Union has launched 60 submarines, the US not one. In fact, the US currently has 40 nuclear missile submarines with 648 launching tubes and 5,280 nuclear charges. The Soviet Union has 62 submarines with 950 launching systems and 2,000 charges. Thus, the Americans can hit some 2.5 times as many targets as the Soviets can. That is how the ''advantage'' looks.
It is said the USSR has built 200 medium-range ''Backfire'' bombers in the past 20 years while the US has built not a single strategic bomber. Yet even if roughly 150 Soviet heavy bombers are added to the Backfire count, the balance favors the US, which has 570 heavy and 65 medium bombers.
And so on. The fact is that by the end of the 1960s the US had completed deploying the carriers for its nuclear ''triad.'' The USSR tackled this task only in the 1970s. By the way, in not a single category did the Soviet Union go beyond the limits of SALT I and II. And this is well known to the US President.
US ''concern'' for children seems increasingly to amount to a bid to bring back the era of clear US nuclear advantage.
Mr. Reagan speaks of the intensive talks on cutting nuclear arms. Yet the problem is that for talks to produce mutually acceptable compromise each side must take into account not only its own interests but those of its partner.
Most Soviet strategic power consists in land-based missiles. The US has taken another road, stressing less vulnerable bombers and submarines. So what does Washington suggest? To start reduction with land-based rockets. Overall strategic parity between our nations is made up of individual imparities. Where this imparity favors the USSR the US suggests erasing it. Where the US has the lead, everything stays as is. Thank you, Mr. President. I know it is tempting to understate the intelligence of your negotiating partner. But to such an extent?!
Or there is the famous ''zero option.'' Suppose the USSR removes all medium-range SS-20 missiles from Europe (and from Asia as well, by the way). Great. Zeroes everywhere! But what do we do with French and British rockets? The ''zero option'' is in fact a minus for the Soviet Union.
The US approach is simple: Put forward deliberately unacceptable proposals, then accuse Moscow of ruining talks. It is doubly hard for me to believe the US really wants a fair arms accord given development in recent years of US strategic doctrine to include ''limited nuclear war,'' the idea that such weapons can be an instrument of policy.
I feel I must also mention the sanctions, the former US sanctions. The President found himself in an inconvenient position with his allies. What distresses me, however, is this: It is hard to deal with a person who tries to approach his political interlocutors as a medieval lord would his vassals.
That, I think, is the main problem. I try to read closely what is said by US political leaders. What I discover is odd, and frightening: If something in the world does not suit the US it is the communists who are to blame, the ''agents of the KGB,'' terrorists, and other ''bad guys.'' This seems - with apologies to Socrates - the US ''philosophy.'' And policy flows from it. The ''bad guys'' understand only the language of crude military force. This is how we shall talk to them, lest they abuse America. Or fail to see it is the greatest, the richest , the strongest - choose your superlative.
For years I have written that good relations between the Soviet Union and the US are desirable and possible. In principle, I am still convinced of this. Yet when I hear present US calls for peace, arms reduction, cooperation, I find myself, curiously, not happy, but unconvinced of the sincerity or good intentions of the White House, of its desire or ability to see the world as it is.
I will admit objections. Life, experience, may sway politicians like Mr. Reagan from the metaphysics of absolute ''good'' and ''evil'' to comparing, calculating real interests, to searching for compromise. Look, I'll be told, the White House does not talk now in the same way as before. And it is true: The phrasing has changed. But deeds? I see the same bid to relate everybody and everything to some ''Soviet threat.'' The same course for militarization. The same urge to dictate US will, impose rules of behavior, and the same attempts to make the allies finally abandon detente.
Surely negotiations must go on. And the Soviet government will continue them. Certainly all opportunities should be sought to improve the situation, reduce tension. And the Soviet government will seek them. A government must not, does not have the right to abandon hope. Yet my personal point is simple: The evidence so far, the ''signals'' emanating from Washington, suggest it is just impossible to reach serious accord with the present administration.
I would add only that this is one occasion where I would like very much to be proven wrong.