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DIPLOMACY: Punch & Counterpunch

4 minute read

It was like the sixth or seventh round in a long championship fight between two well-matched heavyweights, when after a long spell of listless mauling there is a flurry of punching that stirs the audience. Most of the punches last week were thrown by Soviet Russia; most of the counterpunching was done by the U.S. — sometimes with effective blows, but counterpunches nevertheless.

The Russians had abruptly got very busy—so busy that John Foster Dulles let it be known that he had asked U.S. intelligence agencies to find out who was the Mr. X behind the Kremlin’s increased cleverness in foreign affairs (the provisional answer: some of the moves bear evidence that the shrewd little Armenian, Deputy Premier Anastas I. Mikoyan, is being heard—see COVER STORY).

Showing the Flag. At the moment, Russia’s happiest hunting ground was the Middle East. Last week Moscow got off diplomatic notes about the situation there to the U.S., Britain and France. Ostensibly just a renewal of last April’s bland proposals that the Big Four forswear the use of force in the Mideast, the notes actually added up to a device to win an Arab audience for the charges that France was planning “a military alliance with Israel,” that Britain had committed aggression in Oman and Yemen, that the U.S. was plotting against the Egyptian and Syrian governments. Like the two Soviet naval squadrons which last week moved through the Mediterranean showing the Red flag in Albania and Yugoslavia, the notes served incidentally to assure Arab opportunists that the U.S.S.R. had moved into the Middle East to stay.

The U.S. counterpunch was to make a display of speeding arms delivery to Syria’s Arab neighbors. At week’s end eight C124 Globemasters were standing by in Athens and Libya to airlift U.S. weapons, including 106-mm. recoilless rifles, to Jordan. And determined not to let Syria’s new pro-Russian regime lull everyone to sleep with sweet talk, Washington did what it could to make plain its concern about Syria (see NATIONAL AFFAIRS). This was a clear declaration of intent to defend vital U.S. interests in the Mideast, but so far the initiative there remained with the U.S.S.R.

The Sloganeers. The Russians were also going on the offensive in the diplomatic battle over disarmament. In London last week Soviet Delegate Valerian Zorin bluntly brushed aside the laborious spell-out of the Western proposals to the U.N. Disarmament Subcommittee. This left Russia free to exploit the disarmament issue in the twelfth U.N. General Assembly session beginning next week. There Russia can again hard-sell the simple slogan, “Let’s all stop nuclear tests.”

The U.S. response will be the somewhat more qualified slogan: “We will agree to stop tests if you will agree to stop making bombs.” The U.S. proposals implied a far greater degree of genuine disarmament, but by virtue of its very simplicity the Russian slogan was likely to have its appeal to “peace-loving” neutrals, while the Russian press keeps up its efforts to show the U.S. as a warmonger (see cartoon).

Cease & Desist. Against Russia’s attack in the U.N., the U.S. planned another counterpunch. At a special U.N. session this week, U.S. Chief Delegate Henry Cabot Lodge would propose a resolution calling upon Russia and the puppet Kadar government to “desist from repressive measures against the Hungarian people.” Nobody had much hope that the resolution would help the Hungarians. What it might do is to keep alive in the world’s mind and heart the awareness of Soviet cruelty and treachery. Such a reminder may be necessary when the Russian delegation starts filling the air with denunciations of Western activity in Algeria, Oman and Syria. In fact, the British Foreign Office last week described the flurry of Russian notes about the Middle East as simply an attempt “to distract attention” from the forthcoming meeting of the U.N. Assembly to consider the report on Hungary. The world would be a much simpler place if that was all there was to it.

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