Everyone is cheering the Russian people these days. And with good reason. They showed their mettle, standing up to tanks and guns. I, for one, think they deserve our warmest support.
But what kind of support?
A lot of people are saying: money. Pressure is being put on Western governments to rush over to the Soviet Union with truckloads of American dollars, British pounds, French francs, and German deutsche marks. The Soviet system is in such trouble, we are told, that people are going to go hungry through the bitter Russian winter unless we give them massive aid.
But let’s think about this for a minute. Is giving money the best kind of support?
Giving money to a country is like giving money to an individual–you’d want to be sure the person was going to use the money responsibly. You wouldn’t just hand over funds to a drunk or a criminal.
Come to think of it, the Soviet Union–in spite of the revolution–has some of the qualities of both a drunk and a criminal. Let me explain.
Give money to a drunk and it just enables him to buy more liquor. By the same token, give foreign aid to a corrupt government and it simply enables government officials to live in luxury, while their people starve.
President Bush has been absolutely right to withhold aid so far. The old Soviet system is collapsing; but let’s be sure the new system is genuinely committed to a free market before we rush over to support it.
You also don’t want to give your hard-earned dollars to a criminal. Give money to someone with a gun pointed at your head, and you give him the idea that’s a good way to make a living. Now, the Soviet Union has about 30,000 nuclear warheads–around a third of them aimed right at the United States. That’s 10,000 nuclear warheads mounted on intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching our cities.
If someone with a gun asked me for help, the least I’d expect is that he would put away his weapon first. By the same token, we ought to tell the Soviet Union, “Put away the missiles aimed at our cities, and then we’ll be glad to help you.”
In fact, I’d like to suggest a business deal. The United States could offer to buy the Soviet Union’s nuclear warheads. How about a million dollars for every warhead? For 10 thousand warheads, that would come to 10 billion dollars.
Not a bad deal.
The Soviet Union would get the hard currency they so badly need and would be able to feed their hungry masses through the winter. And the U.S. could bury the warheads in some obscure corner of the ocean, where they’d make nice fishing reefs.
An added benefit is that by reducing the threat to U.S. security, we could reduce our own defense budget. In fact, that would pay for the aid we want to send to the Russian people.
If the Soviet Union is serious about peace and democracy, there’s no reason to refuse this kind of deal. And if the United States wants to make this a safer world, there’s no reason not to couple monetary aid to nuclear arms reduction.
Warheads in exchange for food. I can’t think of a better example of hammering swords into plowshares.