Today we ask ourselves once again - does mutual nuclear terror serve as a deterrent against war? For almost 40 years the world has avoided a third world war - and, quite possibly, nuclear deterrence has been, to a considerable extent , the reason for this. But I am convinced that nuclear deterrence is gradually turning into its own antithesis and becoming a dangerous remnant of the past.
The equilibrium provided by nuclear deterrence is becoming increasingly unsteady, and increasingly real is the danger that mankind will perish if an accident or insanity or uncontrolled escalation draw it into a total thermonuclear war. In light of this it is necessary gradually and carefully to shift the functions of deterrence onto conventional armed forces with all the economic, political, and social consequences this entails. It is necessary to strive for nuclear disarmament.
Of course, in all the intermediary stages of disarmament and negotiations, international security must be provided for vis-a-vis any possible move by a potential aggressor. For this in particular one has to be ready to resist at all the various possible stages in the escalation of a conventional or a nuclear war. No side must feel any temptation to engage in a limited or regional nuclear war.
There are two specific problems. The main part of the USSR's nuclear potential is concentrated in gigantic land-based missiles. Essentially, this is a first-strike weapon. It is necessary to strive to eliminate these weapons or to reduce their number. There is little chance of this happening before the West has analogous missiles and is ready to eliminate them as well as the other means of nuclear war.
The second problem is the following: The USSR is not likely to eliminate its powerful medium-range missiles, which have upset the nuclear equilibrium in Europe and which threaten China and Japan, before the West deploys analogous missiles.
Certainly the ultimate goals are international security, the elimination and demolition of nuclear weaponry, rapprochement - convergence by countries with different political systems; in the long run convergence is the only alternative to global destruction. This goal cannot be achieved without profound political and ideological changes in the relations between socialist (Communist) and Western countries, and without changes in those countries.
In the postwar years Nils Bohr as well as (Leo) Szilard and many other like-minded people dreamed that open societies would provide an important and indispensable guarantee for international security. Since then Stalin's tyrannical regime with its monstrous mass crimes has become a thing of the past in the USSR. But the key features of the system formed under Stalin have basically survived. They are: the monopoly of the party and the state in economics and ideology which is even harsher in the political and military spheres, and the violation of civil rights connected to this which contradicts the principle of the openness of society - violations of freedom of conscience and the free flow of information, of the right to choose one's country of residence and place of residence within the country, and unfounded persecution of dissidents and prisoners of conscience.
Of course, the scale of persecution cannot at all be compared to that of Stalin's times, but to persecute people for their convictions, people who have not resorted to violence or advocated it, is in essence inadmissible. I am certain that the plight of the prisoners of conscience - many of whom are sentenced to 7 and even 15 years of deprivation of freedom - cannot help but disturb us. It is very important to fight for each prisoner as an individual. Universal amnesty of the prisoners of conscience in the USSR and throughout the world would not only be an act of humanity but an important step on the path of strengthening international trust and security.