Lown, Bernard

Bernard Lown (IPPNW), 1994

Bernard Lown, interviewed by telephone, spring 1994
Interviewer — Metta Spencer

Q (Metta Spencer) We’ve actually met before along time ago, I think it was in Cologne at the IPPNW meeting, and I have been working for several years on a book which I still have another year to finish I think, and the main theme of the book is the influence of the international peace movement on Soviet Policies under Gorbachev. I think it is terrible to let the illusion persists that the Cold war ended because the Americans built up their Military. So I wanted to …

A (Bernard Lown):You have a very sympathetic audience here.

Q: Ya, so I have by now about 200 interviews but I have saved some of the best ones to the end because I might …

A: You are an optimist.

Q: Well, maybe not, I’m not sure that I am an optimist because I know that you had an important role to play. I mean I don’t know first hand, but I have certainly have heard it. And I have been collecting kind of anecdotal evidence of influences generally at a personal level, conversations or group meetings or something of that sort, where people who are in the peace movement and others, I am not limiting just the peace activists but I am sort of looking for the roots of Perestroika and the new Political thinking, especially in these international contacts.

A: I think one of the important suggestions that I may make is the worthwhile reading of Georgy Arbatov’s book.

Q: I have read it, yes.

A: He is a patient of mine over many many years.

Q: Oh, I didn’t know that.

A: 019.. had much contact with him attributed these thesis partially to his thinking on some of these issues. In our discourse in Moscow, he told me what Brezhnev was about.

Q: Ah, I see, so this was in the pre-Gorbachev period.

A: This was in 1981, 82, 83, 84.

Q: Interesting. Can you tell me more about those conversations.

A: Well, i think definitely I would say that your thesis is a very important one, and the reason it is important is because of the nature of the Establishment is always this: denigrate channels outside of their control and having any impact globally, thereby discouraging popular Rash group movements like ours. There is no doubt that the Peace Group plays a critical role both in the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union and the evidence is direct and I can suggest a lot of it.

Q: Good, please do so.

A: Well Let me begin by sort of flowing through, stop me at any time. The IPPNW emerged largely because of a sense of desperation in my personal life, in the sense that having been the founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility in 1961 and having worked within the first presidency of this group about 9 years, by the time 1978, 1979 rolled around, it was clear that we had failed. We failed to have any — well we had an impact on public opinion, that was not your position to move the establishment from an intensified Arms Race that began under Carter. And the reason of reflecting on it, time and tell him that it was stalemated by the effective reposts that we received, five words: YOU CAN’T TRUST THE RUSSIANS. And that I heard a thousand times over whenever the argument arose. Then the question came up — why should we and the Soviet physicians work together and thereby establishing a model of co-operation and trust building and demonstrate that they are not the diabolical preachers of the evil Empire but human beings expected to..048.by what was going to happen. Now the beginning of the IPPNW, it was very fortunate since I was able to reach out to Chazov. Had I reached out to anybody else, we would have had much less impact. There may not have been an IPPNW, and at that time, in 1980, Chazov was a personal physician to Brezhnev.

Q: I have heard that, yeah.

A: He was and I knew that for a fact. And he took care of him. He had a cardiovascular problem, he had great faith in Chazov. Now Chazov was initially very opposed to getting involved. We were good friends over 20 years, having worked together in Cardiology, and that shows, I don’t want to digress, how the medical profession has ties that transcends boundaries in a way that made intimacy and trust that very few other professions do. Now when I came to Chazov, he was supportive of the idea of forming a movement globally but was opposed to his own personal involvement, and he was opposed for legitimate reasons. He felt that this was quixotic. We are tilting at a powerful windmill. They are going to undermine our professional careers. The movement will be rapidly politicized and we will be a small pond in a big ocean. The way we have no say, no way to shake and in fact we will be destroyed. That is a typical Russian sort of a black prediction. We argued for many hours and finally for reasons that are complex and personal, we agreed that we would work with each other. And this was in March of 1980. Now I won’t go into the history of IPPNW, but merely touch on it. At the moment Chazov got involved, he began to speak out. And he was the first one to go on Soviet television late in 1981 and talk about nuclear issues. And was regarded very courageous, which seems you know contradictory because he had the Soviets spouting all the time about that they are for peace and they are the peace forces of the world and that it is the American Imperialism that pushes the Arms Race and yet they did not encourage any discussion of nuclear disarmament.

QQ: Right.

A: The recent for that are many, one of which is that we are afraid of undermining support for the military. Now, what I am telling you is not something that I am speculating, it is something that they told me. By they, it was Arbatov, Chazov, Latchiv, Velikhov, Polkhunov.

Q: I did not know the last name.

A: Polkhunov was the head of the Supreme Soviet. Now Chazov’s speaking out began to crack the a hardboard, refractory, intractable apparatus. In 19—, I don’t know precisely the year, but it was 1982 I think, Chazov decided to speak to the Central Committee on this issue.

He prepared a report. He had to submit a report to the staff, to Suslov. Suslov was the head of Ideology. And he submitted it and they said it is no good, it will not pass and they sort of rewrote it, and Chazov got very upset about it. He tried to reach Brezhnev but he could not, Brezhnev was out of town and he did reach Chernenko. And Chernenko encouraged him to give his original thoughts, which has never been reported any way. Then Chazov ignored Suslov, in fact the most powerful guy in the Soviet Union, and he gave his talk. When he gave his talk there was vast silence, and then Brezhnev ambled over to the podium and said that those are the first sensible words we have heard in a long time.

Q: Oh, my goodness.

A: Chazov then got a standing ovation. Well, in any case that began the example of many to introduce the issue to the military industrial-political centre of the Soviet Union. At the same time, we shaped the public opinion in America during those years with the enormous ‘bombing’ run all over the country. So that by 1983, there was deep thinking in the establishment in the United States about it. The reason I know that is that we requested a message from Reagan and he refused, in 1981, 82. But in 1983, he sent us a message and the message is worth reading and you should get hold of it. Because, maybe IPPNW archives will have it or else you can get it from— I don’t know wherever you are.

Q: Well, I am in Toronto so may be I can get it from CPPNW.

A: Ya. And Reagan’s message made one categorical statement: Nuclear war cannot be won, it must never be fought. That statement was so.125.. and complemented the White House because it was in accord with our thinking, which a Reaganite never admitted that nuclear war cannot be won. Here there were people in [Thema] and Bush were acting, well we can absorb 40 million casualties. And this was the break and that break did not occur because they had a change of heart, but they had to placate a large Western public. And this became a clarion call, a year later in the elections where Reagan used it all the time that nuclear war cannot be won, must never be fought. They sort of pre-tested that doctrine.

At the 3rd IPPNW Congress in Amsterdam, and if you look at the literature that emerged from there, that would be good place to start. Now to return to the Soviet Union, in 1980, that particular congress, it would take me hours to relate all that, but we have limited time because I am really under pressure.

Q: Okay.

A: I have an hour, so we will have to break at eleven thirty.

Q: Okay. I’d like to turn over my tape before then.

A: Now, that way before I forget, could you write me a little note of what you are doing so I’ll have it on my files.

Q: Sure.

A: To go further to the 3rd Congress in Amsterdam, and at that Congress I invited Velikhov. Velikhov later became the science advisor to Gorbachev, Yevgeny Velikhov.

Q: Yeah, I know his name.

A: Now, Velikhov was a very bright physicist, now head of the major institute of theoretic physics [Kurchatov] in Moscow. Now, Velikhov I knew and I was urging him and provoking him to organize a think tank on a nuclear mission they did not have. From my experience and the IPPNW, it was clear that the Soviets did not have a thought in their head about how to get out of this fix. They were largely reactive to British and American and other position papers—bad and good, but they did not think it out for themselves, and that was clear once you watched them operate, and you take the paper we gave last year and sort of put the Soviets in a [primitive era]. There was no original thinking and hammered this into Velikhov and at the 3rd Congress I introduced them to Frank von Hippel.

Q: I ‘ve interviewed him.

A: Frank von Hippel was a very seminal thinker on this issue at Princeton. And I told Frank and I told Yevgeny to get to work together and they did. And that was a major contribution that has emerged. Now the argument that seemed to me personally was that if we depend on arms controllers, we are doomed. Because arms controllers meeting these secret conclaves have no motivation to get on this bandwagon, this militarization of nuclear [or what]. What it says is that they want this illusion that something is happening, and it diverts the public from involvement and therefore there is no pressure on the system to change. And therefore in 1983, in Amsterdam, I proposed in a sentence without elaborating, a new policy called a Unilateral Reciprocating Initiatives. Unilateral and that will be very large as time moves on.


A: Unilateral Reciprocating Initiatives. I was not clear by what I meant by it but it was a substitute to arms control. In 1984, at the 4th Congress, we had an annual Congress world cup , took enormous energy to have one every year. Now we can’t do one in 3 years. But the fear and dread, somehow got us angry enough to move and do the impossible thing. I was going back and forth to Moscow and in the ten years I have made about 35 trips and I was testing this idea in 83 and it did not have a warm reception at all in Moscow. Because they said that okay, we take an initiative, the Americans do not respond; where do we go from there? My answer was more initiative. Well, they said okay, we’ve disarmed completely and then what happens. I said that the public will step in at some point and they would buy it, because despite all the Marxist jabber, they were really not Marxists, none of them. That is that they had no faith in people; no faith in the masses —you would have talked about it a thousand times, but they would not like a catalyst. There was absolutely no belief in that, which to me was very amusing and sad. But in 1984, I prepared two talks for our congress: one dealt about trust; trusting the Soviets in our race, sort of intensifying destiny. And the other one dealt with Unilateral Initiative. And Chazov got frantic, he did not want me to give the unilateral initiative speech, because any speech given by me or him was regarded as a joint statement and he knew damn well that any statement he made had been approved by the Politburo. So therefore that would be implicit that this is Soviet Policy. So he was trying to constrain me from doing that; we had talks in two sessions: one a private session of all the organizations, and secondly a public plenum. We had two plenums; one with everybody in the movement- there were 450 people at that meeting and then the public plenum with a bigger hall with Papandreou there ..209.. and Nobel Lawyers from Mexico – Garcia Robles, etc.

Q: Oh yeah, I ..

A: And then the Finnish Prime minister and you know a lot of politicians. Chazov did not want me to give it there, because he could not persuade me to give it guys at the IBPMW. That talk you ought to read. You can get from my secretary. Finnish talk about new initiatives, I don’t remember the time, because it lays about an argument. Now once we went out of the Congress, I urged our executive director to circulate and Chazov objected that we stop that circulation. But I went to Moscow to argue with Chazov that we must address this issue because that’s the only way its going to be open and the first step in the unilateral Initiative must be a cessation of nuclear tests. That is the visible first step. This was late 83 and Chazov said that I am sick and tired of listening to you talk like this, because it is a waste of time; we are never going to agree, and I said: well, thank you very much, you personally agree with me, but whom should I meet in the Soviet Union. Well he knew a lot of people and I talked with them including, I went back to Joe Green [?]229.. and I got a cold reception from only one guy; that was Bessmyrtnyk. He gave me a tough time. He was deputy Foreign Secretary and Chazov introduced me to him, a lot of arms control guys, a lot of central Committee members, and he would not come along. He refused.

Q: Chazov would not.

A: And I would come along and talk to them and persuade them that this was the only survival policy available and a number of them encouraged me. Most of the scientists absolutely supported me. Goldansky, Velikhov, Sagdeev to all these guys; people in the U.S. Canada .Institute And Bessmyrtnyk gave me tough time. He was very very articulate and sophisticated. He said okay we do as you say: we stop the nuclear tests, it makes a headline and then nothing else appears in the press. Nothing. And then after a while we go six months, eight months, nine months, America makes no response. Then we begin to test again. We may say that Russians broke their pledge; they are liars, they are testing. It was a ploy, so what is the value of your policy? I was very naive, I argued and I said that it could not happen, despite of all the controls you _______ to the Western public, there will be a lot of talk about the Russian initiative. So he laughed, and he said that I was very naive and that I did not realize that the capitalists had complete control of the Media. They could turn it down off and on at will. He turned out to be right, by the way. He listened though intensively, and with him were some key people in Arms Control; one became the head of the U.N. subsequently, I have that name in my file. I can’t remember.

Q: Ah, Petrovsky?

A: No, Petrovsky I met and he was very sympathetic but he was not the guy. this guy was head of the U.N. for a number of years under Gorbachev actually.

Q: The Head of their delegation to the U.N.

A: Oh, I don’t know. I’ll think of the name some other time. In any case, when Gorbachev got into power, I was in Moscow in April and talked about it to a number of people, but not Gorbachev and then in late May, i was in Moscow. Not late May, early may.

Q: May, 1985.

A: May of 85’ and at that point they gave me a banquet; I was rather surprised. I mean these were banquets for Central Committee and other high people. There was a lot of Vodka, Caviar and toasts. And several people took me aside and told me: you are successful. I said what do you mean? And this point I panicked, because I realized that there was no movement strong enough because part of this strategy required a powerful peace movement to compel reciprocation. But that was not there. So I took that the announcement would be delayed. They told that the announcement would b e made on July 29th. Gorbachev is going to give a speech to announce that on August 6th in Russia. And when they heard me, they expected me to go Gaga, Great, very wonderful and I was very uneasy, because my part of the bargain could not be kept. They looked very surprised. A Hamlet who did not know his own mind. In any case the policy of reciprocating initiative that became the whole mark of Gorbachev and helped break the whole impact, because if you look throughout the journey , one initiative after another, the moving of 50,000 troops to that to that, was a part of that policy that we had urged; nobody had ever identified with IPPNW or my owing urging pattern.

Q: I asked Petrovsky that whether there or not there was a specific discussion of the notion of unilateral initiatives and he said yes.

A: The point is that Gorbachev acknowledged that. It is interestingly enough, I just retired as president and the IPPNW had solicited from people around the world, and as a testimonial, they gave me a banquet in Mexico city in October, and in there was a message of Gorbachev and the message of Gorbachev is interesting, it is written on the back of the INS treaty signed by Reagan himself. And in Russian right across the script is written, “Dear Bernard, without your help this treaty is probably not have not have happened.”

Q:It’s wonderful.

A:Signed Mikhail Gorbachev, september 24th 1993. The point is that he knows and many of those know, I have had several statements from Arbatrov, the famous sex figure, he was fully aware of what was going on, more than anyone else. Because, in a way, I would test ideas and ask him, and because he was my patient, and therefore my confidante, so I feel that the IPPNW made an enormous impact. We made an impact in another way, ya. And that is the whole visibility to the issue of Soviet union peace and disarmament(329). In 1982, we had a broadcast on Soviet television, it was June of 1982, and that broadcast telecast was on Saturday 6 and 7 o’clock in the evening and they estimated that a 100 to 150 million people watched, but I had no way of knowing that this was going on, but they rebroadcasted a week later and that was the most outspoken discussion of the issue ever. That was 6 doctors, 3 Americans, 3 Russians, who sat and talked for one hour on prime time. I mean one hour. With that broadcast, we tried to show that the United States weren’t successful. And you know, it was very very strange, we were extraordinarily naive. We thought anything like this would make headlines in America, and that American television would want to show the broadcast or excess than before. So one of the doctors took the broadcast that hadn’t yet been shown because it was first videoed. In Moscow we showed it on Saturday, we did the taping on Thursday. We took it on Friday morning and flew to New York. Jim Mullin, as in Dr. Mullin, and he went ABC, NBC, CBS and they weren’t even interested in looking at it. They would not look at it. I mean it is just beyond comprehension. Here’s something going to be shown on Moscow television tomorrow night and you can scoop it, and they were not interested.

Q: What did they say?

A: Well, that we have not got space, we have not got time, we can’t be bothered, its not news, you’re going to talk, talking heads are not that interesting, you know. The New York Times and the Washington Post come up with when they do not want to publish a line which is against the nature of politics.

Q: Great.

A: I have seen it over and over again. So you would talk about it for hours and I spent enormous time with New York Times and the Washington Radio. Now that broadcast had an enormous impact, because among other things, it says that the Soviet Union would be turned into a ___. There would be no value and no protection of the poor by the military, the Red Airforce, the Red Army, the Red navy wouldn’t help them. And then it discussed the cost of the military which had never been discussed before. And thirdly, it addressed Civil Defense, which was a big bugabboo in America. the Soviet Civil Defense was what was going to defeat us. I mean morning day and night, you heard about Soviet Civil Defense. After that Broadcast, try to find me an article in America, about Soviet Civil Defense. It put an end to it, I don’t know why, but it did. And it put an end to it because we said that Civil Defense was a deception, it cannot work. People who try to partake in Civil defense will be incinerated and asphyxiated, people in shelters. Furthermore Civil Defense’s only meaning is this pre-emptive strike. How else would you know if you get your people in shelters? You have to strike first. And that had an enormous impact, and there is one guy in the New York Mirror, a Washington correspondent who said that American doctors had saved the U.S. $3 billion right now. He had a column. It was a Washington Correspondent with a Swedish name, I haven’t in mind right now. So in fact we had a profound impact with our Congresses, we had Congresses in Budapest. We had another interesting impact that nobody else has talked about and that is we helped contributed the liberation of E. Germany.

Q: Oh, I hadn’t heard about that.

A: Nobody was aware of that. If you look — the E. Germans could not organize, they could either go to church and become church members and the Protestant church was not proscribed —many of the dissidents moved to another Church. But another movement that was not prescribed was the IPPNW. So if you look at the Forum, the forum that played the critical role in disconbbulating the East Germans (415) were really overthrowing the Govt there. Of the 30 members in the Forum, 12 were IPPNW activists.

Q: I am not understanding your words, the Forum?

A: the Forum was an East German Group, I don’t know their full name.

Q: Well, there is something called the “new Forum,” which is a political party.

A: Well, I think it was called the new forum or the Forum or the German Forum or East German forum or whatever.

Q: Okay.

A: That group which was the leading activists received a lot of attention at the time, organized a talk room, a study room, tried to set up an agenda and their agenda was Social Democratic and they were swept over by Kohl. Disappeared.

Q: they must have been the guys who became the Noya Forum.

A: Yeah, The New Forum. They were the ones, of whom I met a number of them were from the IPPNW. So infact the IPPNW penetrated the iron curtain, penetrated the recalcitrant United States, setting up a pressure on govt here. At least Reagan comes to terms with the issue that they are based until the public..441.

Q: Now, you left me with Chazov still being nervous, not comfortable about your promoting this and not going to meetings with you to the Central Committee people or whoever. How did that turn around?

A: Well, It turned around actually in 1984, in the winter of 84-85. At that time Chazov came on a visit to the U.S. and we travelled together to Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland and Philadelphia. And those were big meetings held at each of these centres, trying to cooperate for the cessation of nuclear testing. We now focused on what we call the Ceasefire campaign. Nuclear testing is the threatening issue. Our first step is the Nuclear abolition and while Chazov was here, we put enormous pressure on him to agree to that position, and Chazov resisted. He resisted because they felt that an initiative taken by the Soviet Union is not negotiated. They wante parity.. To be equal to the Americans. They had an enormous inferiority complex, in part because deep deep down they knew that they were way backwards in technology; that they could not keep up with the U.S. And among them was a lot of Hokum pretention. Arbatov told me once that they put up wooded missiles. They put wooden missiles with enough metal in them so that the satellites would see them , you know it would seem like metal, but it was largely wood, and they would suspect that they had thousands of metal missiles when they had very few.

Spencer: Potemkin Village.

Lown: Now this of course I knew in 1980-81. Chazov was very resistant to take that position which he thought would not lead any place and would discredit him for speaking up against the policy of the Soviet Politburo or whatever. But in 1985 January, a mierably cold winter in Chicago , way below zero, we argued day and night and finally in Los Angeles, we were sitting in mayor Bradley’s office, and we called the Press Conference for 2 O’clock, and we were getting the keys of the city from Mayor Bradley..and at that Press Conference, I remember that both me Chazov were going to announce that our policies were unilateral initiatives, cessation of nuclear testing issues. That we must come out. He was hemming and hoping so I gave the diary and there was a fellow named Norman Steiner Deputy Executive director…(changing the sides).


Q: Okay, we are back. Norman Steiner.

A: Yes, Norman Stein. He was a very clever and we prepared versions, we came up with 3 different versions of the same thing. And Chazov was standing there with Tulinov, who was really [not a?] doctor, a representative of the Central committee to ensure that the party line is maintained. Lovely guy but really an apparatchik. And Chazov showed him the document and he said “No way.” So I said to Chazov, “Don’t listen to him. What you think with yourself what is wrong with that?”

He says “I don’t like this line.” So I said okay and I called Norman. Norman was clever to anticipate which line needed change. Chazov was shocked, saying how could we have it already corrected. So he looks at Tulinov and made a sour face and I said, What don’t you like in this?” and he said “I don’t like this.” And I said Norman, “Do you have another version?” He said yes, and he comes through with the 3rd version.

Now it’s about five minutes to two and the correspondents are starting to come in and Chazov I remember was in a state of massive exasperation and Tulinov was cringing and angry but he did not dare indicate that he was in control, you know because there were too many people around. And at this point Chazov in a typical Russian Fashion said “ah , to hell with it”, and he signed.

So at that press conference we announce. As that goes out of the wire, it goes in the Soviet Union, and the interesting thing is that there is an interregnum. Cherneko is dying because two days later Chazov is called out, leaves the trip and is raced back to Moscow.

Q: Was he also Chernenko’s doctor?

A: Yeah, he was the doctor of all of them. I think he probably doctored Yeltsin too. So at that point try to imagine what goes on in the Soviet Union. They hear Chazov making this announcement of the new policies, Soviet Union is beginning to engage in Unilateral initiatives, of which testing will be the first policy. Now, they know damn well that Chazov would not say anything unless it was approved by the Politburo, and Chernenko approved it but Chernenko is dying so who knows why..

Q: But wait a minute. Chernenko had approved it, how and..

A: No, he did not.

Q: Oh, he didn’t.

A: Okay, listen. The Soviet system functions in a way that Chazov would not have said it unless Chernenko had approved it. Chazov understood that. Chazov in effect was saying that I am determining Soviet foreign Policy, although he wasn’t. A strange twist of history. And Chazov was tense enough and uneasy enough, I knew him very well, we were like brothers. He used to call me his brother, so I knew what was going on his mind. I knew why Tulinov almost had a stroke that day, because they were announcing in Los Angeles Soviet Foreign policy.

Q: Well, had Chernenko lived would Chazov had been..

A: demoted?

Q;Ah, Ah.

A: God knows.

Q: He must have thought he would be.

A: He was uneasy about his sacrificing his career but he had a lot of good friends and enormous political sensibility in the Soviet system and a good deal of courage.

Q: How many people knew what was cooking when this happened?

A: Just Chazov and myself. Norman Stein did.

Q: Okay Stein did, but what about at home, what about the Central Committee folks?

A: I don’t know. I have no way of gaining that information.

Q: But fortunately, he died in the nick of time, didn’t he?

A: He died within a month.

Q: But in the meantime nothing happened?

A: In the meantime nothing happened. He was too sick, and the moment Gorbachev steps in, one of the earliest decisions they made is on this issue. Because by May, I knew about so they must have made it atleast in April.Gorbachev got in in March.

Q: Chazov is often blamed by dissidents by not being at all courageous, especially within regard to Sakharov.

A: I think that the Sakharov issue is a very complex issue and the propaganda here has been so hot. Firstly I feel uneasy making a saint of anybody who devises nuclear weapons and the father of the H-bomb is not my saint— Mr. Sakharov or Mr. Teller. They regarded each other as buddies. And the point that the Americans have never looked at the effectiveness of the success of the movement, IPPNW, was really in no small measure because we put ourselves in Soviet shoes, asking, if I were a Soviet what would I be able to do? And we ask them to do likewise.

Let me ask you this: if a Harvard professor of theoretical physics, very influential, Nobel laureate, came out appealing to the Soviets to strengthen their SS18s, to be able to strike at the evil empire of Washington, which is the source of imperialism and misery the world around, what would happen to that professor at Harvard? Would there be an outcry, would there be a vendetta against the guy, would he be suspended, would he be brought on charges? Would a number of Professor’s write letters saying that what you are doing is outrageous?

Q: is that..

A: That’s exactly what Sakharov did.

Q: Ya, I know he did. Is that the issue that stuck in Chazov’s craw?

A: Ya, what Chazov did in 1973 at a time when Sakharov came out in support of American Missiles —which was unthinkable. If you were a Russian, this was the act of the greatest traitor. I mean it is unconceivable asking someone to build missiles that will destroy Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev and Odessa. A Russian thinking that way! Chazov and another twenty guys wrote a letter of protest against Sakharov. Now when we got the Nobel Prize, the American CIA and the German intelligence dug up this letter. I know the facts precisely of what happened and they began to churn out a propaganda, the likes I have not seen. I mean the propaganda of the west was just unbelievable against us. Just look at the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times bitching away that the Nobel committee should be dismissed. Never during the history, except during Hitler’s period did the Prime Minister ask abrogation of the peace prize. And largely based on this letter. And Chazov was the one who got it in the neck. Chazov offered for example, then Sakharov family never acknowledge the fact that Chazov offered to doctor Sakharov at any time. He offered to do that. He said anytime you need my help, please fell assured that I will provide you with medical help. They were playing their own game, Yelena Bonner and Sakharov.

Sakharov was a very courageous guy. I think what he did was very important, I think he made an important push in the right direction. I think is his disavowal of nuclear weapons was all okay, but he wanted the nuclear industry to continue. He was a great supporter of nuclear power. And he was not for abolition of Nuclear weapons. McNamara was in a far better position than Sakharov ever took. McNamara — I was just with him in Delhi, two weeks ago.

Q: Oh, really. For what?

A: I gave the 8th Indira Gandhi lecture. Weeks before that was the Indira Gandhi symposium, for which MacNamara was the chief guest.

Q: Another thing that one often hears.. my people who are detractors of IPPNW make statements about people like Vartanian and other people.

A: That is absolutely outrageous.

Q: So, it is not true.

A: Couldn’t be. I know Vartanian as well as I do Chazov. Vartanian was SELECTED DELIBERATELY BY THE intelligence agency— I do not know whether it was the CIA or whoever— to be the fall guy. Now they chose the wrong guy. He was a psychiatrist, but he wasn’t a practising psychiatrist.

Q: i did not know that.

A: He was an animal geneticist; he worked with rats

Q: So he was not a psychiatrist.

A: He was a psychiatrist, but he wasn’t involved in psychiatric work. He didn’t do clinical work. He was primarily doing genetic work on alzheimers or on the genetics of this or that. He was a biologist. He had a psychiatry degree but he never practised it. And I knew that. And since he was in Hawaii at one of the international psychiatric meetings, that would be the 70s or the 80s, I don’t know. For the major international Psychiatric meeting the spokepersons for the soviet Union was Benedictov and Vartanian. Now they couldn’t pick on Benedictov, because he was not a psychiatrist, he was a surgeon. So they picked Vartanian. Vartanian was the evil person who was responsible for soviet psychiatry. He wasn’t at all. Now you can fault Vartanyan on one score — that he was an apologist. Of saying, “well, we made mistakes, we put people in institutions , some wrong diagnoses, but it is not a deliberate policy.” He was wrong on it; he should have known better. But he was no different than any other Soviet doctor, and he happens to be very decent, very courageous and — of IPPNW, he was one of the best elements in Soviet Union, by virtue of being ready to stick his neck out where few of them were. So I felt grief about it because the IPPNW began to discriminate against him. For example at the 6th meeting in Cologne, he wasn’t even invited to be a speaker. He wanted to come and was deeply hurt. He was a lovely guy. He died.

Q: No, I didn’t know that.

A: Just died. But he was aching, he was aching for another reason. He was aching because he was the ultimate victim, in the sense that when he was a small child, he and his brothers were orphaned by the fact that there father was shot by Stalin. Their mother was in a concentration camp. They were waifs in Moscow. They underwent enormous persecution and prejudice because they were the children of a traitor, and now this guy at the beginning of his life a d at the end of his life. Beginning of his life, he gets it from the Soviet system; at the end of his life he gets it from the so-called democracy.

Q: Were there ever any efforts made to establish his innocence and publicize it?

A: Not really and I feel very bad about it. Because the outcry against him, I don’t know if you are aware of this but when their big guns began to fire away, when they have the APUP, CNN , NBC, CBS, all of them going and you try to pause it, Don Quixote was more sensible.

Q: There was a delegation of American or international psychiatrists who went to look into the allegations and made a report. Do you know anything about that?

A: No I don’t.

Q: Because one of the women who was on that team was really badmouthing Vartanyan.

A: Ya, Vatayan spoke mellifluous English, because he worked at (I think) NIH for a year. He was a very thoughtful guy and the Soviets pushed him in position that was untenable and he had to speak out for the system in part, but I knew another aspect of him. He was an extraordinary human; honest, forthright, but he was a Soviet man.

Q: Do you have any clues as to how the IMF decision was made? You know when Gorbachev sort of backtracked and took the position that had been ruled out before.

A: What year was that?

Q: Oh, god, let’s say 87-88?

A: Ya.

Q: That, was. There is another fellow who has done a book on the same topic I am working on, only on Pentagon policy—how the peace movement influenced Pentagon policy. David Cartwright, he used to work for SANE/Freeze. I just got his book. I haven’t read it yet but actually it is from him that I got the idea of doing this because I thought it would be real hard to show that American policy was influenced but much easier to show that Soviet policy was influenced. And he said that he thinks the one thing that still needs to be nailed down is that how the decision was influenced to go fpr the INF, because that was the critical turnaround. And he does not have the evidence and I do not know where to go to get it. I don’t know if there was any foreign influence.

A: I don’t know if there was any. I know that at that point there were many other forces that were getting in its way. Pugwash was having a lot more influence because some of their leaders were an entourage of people who were closer to Gorbachev , who could reach Gorbachev, where before they completely out in the cold.

So I think people like Joe Rotblat might be able to give something to you. You know him.

Q: Yes, I’m a Pugwashite, so I have interviewed him, although he did not give me anything on INF.

A: How about Goldansky?

Q: Ya, and I have interviewed him too. But neither one of them had anything to say about the INF thing. Well actually, I did not push them very hard.

A: Well, I think it is worthwhile to look at that.

Q: The Dartmouth group also had some influence. I don’t know about you but I would have a hard time calling them a peace group. But they certainly have high level meetings. Do you know anything about those meetings?

A: No, I don’t know.

Q: Arbatov was involved in that.

A: Ya, you might want to talk to Arbatov, he’ll, tell you.

Q: Ya, I interviewed him, but he did not get very specific.

A: When did you interview him?

Q: It would have been July of 1991. Is that possible, or may be 92. Ya, 1992, a year and a half ago.

A: Many of these people write their own books.

Q: Ya the thing that amazed me was that I interviewed him and then a week later was in Berkeley California and found his book by accident and he did not mention it. He scoops everything that I was going to show

A: Maybe you are writing a book and then you say that hey, I am not going to talk about this because its my book and I don’t want somebody else to look at it.

Q: The book was already out there but I did not even know if it existed.

A: Maybe you can think of another book? Well, he comes to visit me twice a year. He just called me a week ago. He was in the U.S. for a month and I was away in India. He told me he was catching a plane to bemoan Zhirinovsky.

Q: That’s something to bemoan all right.

A: By the way, did you see Safire’s article in yesterday’s New York Times?

Q: No.

A: Worth reading. Safire’s not one of my heroes. Do you know him?

Q: No. Of course, I mean I know who he is. I just got back from Turkey and I was in there three weeks and so everything I was reading (interrupted).

A: In yesterday’s article in the New York Times, Safire presents the argument that Zhirinovsky is actually Yeltsin’s man and he gives some fascinating clues about relationship.

Q: Really. Oh, wow.

A: he says that the person who has the most to gain from Zhirinovsky is Yeltsin and why is Yeltsin remaining quite. Why when Zhirinovsky says that Yelstin likes him, Yelstin never responded. Why did Yeltsin permit Zhirinovsky all the time on television when he would not let anybody else? He has a lot of interesting tit-bits and I think it makes a lot of sense.

Q: Fascinating. Okay, I’ll go get it. It is very interesting.

A: If you can’t get it, let me know.

Q: Its easy to get.

A: Well, it was nice talking to you.

Q: Wonderful to talk to you. I very much appreciate this. So I will send you a note saying what I am doing and before I go to press, I will send you; anything I quote you, I will send to you.

A: Try to get my talk about Helsinki, because it develops the argument which I think is one of the crucial pieces in the whole unilateral initiative policy. 1984 Helsinki; it was a all for a new innovative approach and if you have difficulty let me know.

Q: Good. Thank you very much. Bye.

Audio file

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The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy, by Metta Spencer, published by Lexington Books