There is no one simple, easy way to eliminate or to reduce quickly the conditions that underlie the current sense of fear (hence hostility) between the United States and the Soviet Union, which, in turn, are largely responsible for the danger of nuclear war.
But there is one new factor in the world equation which is replacing in part the condition that made Soviet-US collaboration possible during World War II. At that time they had enemies in common. Both were dedicated to the overthrow of Hitler's Nazism. And they both felt threatened by Tojo's brand of Japanese imperialism.
Today, as their respective technicians and physicists learn more about what a nuclear was could do to both of them, they have in common a new need to find some way to overcome the danger of such a war. They are driven apart by ideology and mutual suspicion but pushed toward each other by a common need to save themselves from nuclear annihilation.
The drawing-together process is providing to the difficult because each is afraid the other will extract some advantage from any agreement they might reach. But government interest in arriving at a negotiating position is being stimulated by public concern. The people who (in their own minds) march for peace or a nuclear freeze or some other of the many popular panaceas for the arms race are not going to get what they think they want. But they do make manifest a public anxiety which governments must and increasingly do recognize.
For example, when the Reagan administration came to Washington, its thinking about nuclear weapons was dominated by those who opposed any negotiation at all with the Soviets. They were searching not for a viable negotiating position but for ways of avoiding being drawn into a negotiation.
Three years in office has made a change. Pressure from public opinion plus pressure from the NATO allies has combined to cause a search in Washington for a viable negotiating position. At one time there was even thought of aiming for a Reagan-Andropov summit meeting next summer.
That project has been undone by the shooting down of the Korean airline, by Mr. Reagan's tendency to blame Moscow for everything undesirable in the world, and by Mr. Andropov's illness.
But pressures continue to bear upon both Washington and Moscow. Both capitals must come up within a reasonable time with new negotiating positions which world public opinion will accept as being sincere and helpful.
And quietly, almost imperceptibly, in the background there are two trends that already make a difference in the thinking of the two superpowers. The spaces between them are beginning to fill up with political forces increasingly thinking for themselves.
We are no longer strictly speaking is a two-power world. China is emerging as an increasingly independent buffer force in Asia. On the other side, Europe is still divided into NATO and Warsaw Pact camps. But today, Western Europe influences Washington as much as Washington influences Western Europe. Moscow is not impervious to public opinion at home or by the outside world.
Not so long ago the only things that mattered in world affairs were what Moscow or Washington thought or intended. Today there is such a thing as European opinion. It must be taken into account. Europe begins to adjust the terms of both alliances. Europeans are even beginning to think long, vague thoughts about someday being independent of both Moscow and Washington. Europe is already a moderator between the two. It may become a buffer.
Moscow's greatest fear is of being isolated in a hostile "capitalist" world. Washington's greatest fear is of being isolated in a hostile "communist" world. The possibility of Poland going capitalist frightens Moscow quite as much as the specter of Grenada going communist frightened Washington. The more the world goes independent, the less Moscow or Washington will need to fear the other's recruiting drives.
Time is reducing the conditions that bred the dreadful arsenals of weapons probably capable of destorying the human race. Meanwhile, the most useful thing the single individual can do, on either side of the Iron Curtain, is to influence his government, by voice and by political pressure, to renew the search for reduction in the number and types of dangerous weapons and in the tensions that could trigger the weapons.