For several years now, many of us have argued that the only way to stop the nuclear arms race is simply to stop. We've put forward the idea of a freeze on the production, testing, and deployment of new nuclear weapons systems as a realistic first step toward disarmament. Many of us have also argued that stopping the arms race requires a bold initiative from one of the superpowers.
At each step of the way, U.S. advocates of this approach to disarmament have continually had to answer the question, "Would the Soviet Union really go along with that? Can we really take that kind of chance?" But since August 6, 1985, the shoe has been on the other foot.
On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, the Soviets made a bold unilateral initiative for peace by declaring a five-month moratorium on nuclear testing. It wasn't just a proposal for a moratorium or a proposal for negotiations on a moratorium. They actually stopped testing and challenged the United States to join them in ending the arms race.
At the end of the five-month moratorium, despite the Reagan administration's rejectionist posture, the Soviets went the second mile and extended their unilateral test freeze for another three months. This time the invitation came as part of a detailed proposal to eliminate all nuclear weapons by the year 2000 and included a proposal for on-site verification of a test ban (see "A Shield Against Disarmament," Sojourners, April 1986).
As the March 31 date for ending that moratorium period approached, the Soviets extended their efforts even further and said they would not test nuclear weapons again unless the United States first did so. As this is written, the Soviets have gone more than eight months without a nuclear weapons test.