Pry open the window on Russia
From remarks by the president of the Occidental Petroleum Company at the Overseas Press Club awards dinner in New York on May 5.m Current relations between the Soviet Union and the United States are as bad as I have ever seen them in my 60 years of doing business with them, off and on. But sometimes in foreign affairs, when relations are the worst, sudden breakthroughs can be made.Skip to next paragraph
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I believe that a summit meeting between President Reagan and General Secretary Andropov is necessary. More than necessary, I believe it is imperative.
But it is imperative that it occur this year. To delay beyond November 1983 would make such a meeting impossible because of the forthcoming election year.
To my mind, Mr. Reagan and Mr. Andropov could resolve more over a handshake than 100 negotiating sessions. However, if a summit is not feasible. . .President Reagan and Secretary Andropov (might) meet each other at an informal dinner in Geneva - as men who clearly have no wish for a war that would destroy most of the world.
It would give them a chance to size each other up, for each man to get a feeling about the other.
Capitalism and communism will always be anathema to each other. We do not buy the ideology of the Soviets. They do not buy ours. But there is no reason why we have to threaten to destroy each other with nuclear weapons. We can trade with each other and have cultural and scientific exchanges and let history decide which system is better for mankind.
I am a capitalist who has dealt with communists much of my life, and I can tell you that the only way to negotiate is with patience and strength. By this I do not mean that we should let our guard down. The Soviets respect strength.
The Soviet Union is changing just as the US is. While the two countries may dispute as they each seek to influence the growing strength of the third world, there is no reason why they should face each other over the barrel of a nuclear gun.
The Soviet Union is struggling with its own internal problems, just as we are.
Today I see subtle changes taking place in the Soviet Union. I used to say the difference between a communist and a noncommunist was a thousand dollars. Now I say it's an automobile. When I was in Moscow in the '20s I was one of the very few who had a car, primarily because I represented Ford Motor Company. Today the Soviets are turning out a million cars a year, and half of them are going into private hands. I say that every Russian who owns an automobile is a capitalist. He has his own property and he wants to protect it.
The Kremlin leadership is obviously undergoing change. The same is true throughout the whole body of their bureaucracy. Those Russians who endured the horrors of World War II and remember the 20 million who perished will shortly be passing the torch to a new generation of technocrats, who regard World War II as only a historic milestone.
It is essential that we open a dialogue with this new group. I believe it can be done.
Not by trying to revive detente. . . But at least by establishing a modus vivendi.
President Nixon and Henry Kissinger opened a window with the Soviets in 1972 and for a brief period there was a remarkable bit of communication. It came in diplomacy, in trade, in cultural exchanges, even in joint space exploration.
I think we should pry the window open again.
Certainly, we do not want to provide the Soviets with technology and know-how that could be used against us. But there are a number of trade deals which can be made - and which will be made by our Western allies if we do not. There is a vast amount of cultural exchange which is possible, and I have always found that cultural exchange contains the most vibrant ingredient of all - understanding of the lives of people.
I further believe that unless we open this window again and resume trade and cultural exchanges, we will be losing our friends in Western Europe. . .(The) leadership there no longer puts full faith in the US and its foreign policy or in the economic force which the US once could bring to bear.
The Europeans will still look to us in a crisis, but in the course of everyday life they wish more and more to be independent.
The day could come when NATO, as we know it, will be only a hollow shell. Our great country could become isolated, and we cannot permit that to happen.
Let's not forget that there is another great power to be reckoned with, and this should not be overlooked.