Interview – Bill Epstein (phone July 5, 1991)
Interviewer — Metta Spencer
Bill’s whole career was at the UN. He joined it while it was in the preparatory phase before becoming a reality. In retirement he worked at UNITAR. He raised money from a wealthy friend to endow the Canadian Pugwash Group, which for many years he led from New York, though the group was ten small and not very active. Its main member was John Polanyi, Uof T’s Nobel laureate.
MS – You were in a Pugwash meeting.
BE – No I was the organizer of the Banff Pugwash conference.
MS – In ’81, and you had Arbatov, and Percy and Warnke and Palme there?
BE – I was the guy who introduced Pugwash system to having big public forums. They’re going back to it now, we had a hell of a big turnout, we had 1500 people in Calgary on a Sunday afternoon. The last week of August and they were all very pleased to get this big audience. I treated Arbatov exactly the same as I treated Warnke and Percy and Palme. He obviously was pleased about it and by god next summer he invited me next summer back to to come to, he says you know you pay your way and we’ll take care of everything here. And they did they gave me a wonderful visit. Two weeks boy, Leningrad, Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, a really marvelous trip. They said everybody I asked to see, they arranged to see them. You know I wrote the thing down and you know a more stilted formal report on Geoff Pearson’s suggestion and sent it to External Affairs.
MS – Did you keep a copy?
BE – Yes of course.
MS – This is something you did for them, but do you still have it and how would you feel about letting me see it?
RD – Well the only reason is that it will have the names of the people who I spoke to. These guys are still busy working and it could really damage their career.
MS – OK look why don’t you blot out the names and just put X and Y.
RD – I just might do that. Mind you it’ll take me a little while to find the damn thing. You could ask Geoff Pearson if he remembers it, I’m sure he will. [Pearson as Canadian ambassador to USSR.] He doesn’t know about Bagramov coming back and telling me. You know I myself am not a 100% sure whether that Bagramov wasn’t just being clever and nice to me when he said see we took your advice. Obviously they did some thinking through and this is one of the ideas they put forward. And whether they put it forward if Bill Epstein gave it to them or not…
MS – Now let me get this on tape again. You went to see the guys in the foreign office and you talked to people…
BE – First of all I talked to people, to a bunch of academicians. They agreed with me, not one person spoke up in disagreement, they all seemed quite enthusiastic with my whole idea and I got tremendous applause. Whatever verification they asked for on anything provided you could reciprocate, on a reciprocal basis. And I said in the first place I think the Americans will back off a little bit, won’t want so much. In the second place you’ve removed their arguments for not agreeing.
MS – OK this was at a stage where the overt impasse between them was on on-site inspections. And they had asked for how many and the Americans had offered….
BE – NO no the last thing way back in the ’60s, Khrushchev offered them 2-3 on site inspections and the Americans insisted on 7. And the non-aligned came up with a compromised position, that’s all public. She wrote it up in her book even, Alva Myrdal came up with a compromise with between 4 and 5 a year but not restricted with 4 to 5 any particular year. You might have less one year and more another year, but the average would have to be 4 to 5 a year. But then what happened was when Reagan said that test ban was a long term goal, it was no longer a priority goal of the US then I was very very upset. I went around looking how do we move things forward. So I said to the Russians, why don’t you propose to them you will accept any kind of verification provided it’s on a reciprocal basis. Not one single academician and I talked to a lot of them, not directly one on one but I spoke to an audience of them, that disagreed, they all said they agreed with me.
MS – And Bagramov was among them?
BE – Yes he was the guy who organized the meeting. In any event I told all 3 of them, Zhurkin, the deputy director of the institute, Arbatov, the director of the institute and Bagramov the head of the Canadian section. They all seemed quite that it was an interesting idea and they didn’t try to urge me not to put it forward, in fact they were sympathetic.
MS – And then you talked to the guy from the foreign office?
BE – At that time he was just below an ambassador.
MS – OK he said he sounded guarded.
BE – He said now look we’ve worked our position, we’ve thought about it a lot, we went through all the negotiations in 1977 to 1980 when we came very near to an agreement. We don’t see why we should change then, they’re serious and we’re not here just playing games. Implying that I was just playing a game with them, but I was serious too. And I says you’ll see they’ll start running away from it, but he says no we think we’re on the right track. We could have had an agreement back in 1980, but it didn’t work out, then the government changed and we’re still standing by our position. Then a very important man, on the international affairs side of the central committee, he kept telling me I was just being naive and that I meant well, but really the Americans were only interested in getting military intelligence.
MS – And this guy is still functioning?
BE – Yes, so is the Ambassador. Every once in a while you read the central committee guy’s name in the press.
MS – Well that’s interesting, I should verify this with Geoff Pearson then he may be able to find this piece of something for me. I’m not in any hurry for this but eventually…
BE – Well as long as you’re not in any hurry, because I’m going to be away for a month and I’m so damned busy writing.
MS – No that’s fine I’m going to be working for this for quite a while, a year or so. But this is a wonderful story. This really becomes part of the new thinking then. This would be one of the clear changes that would be identified as the new thinking. And you’re saying that it was already there, they could say that in private in ’81.
BE – Absolutely. I’m not even sure it was private, it wasn’t a public meeting open to the public, but they invited all the academician they thought were interested in it.
MS – Now one of the people I will probably go talk to, because I know him, is a guy called Lev Semeiko. He’s at the USA Canada Institute.
BE – I don’t know him.
MS – You don’t know him, all right.
BE – But I did conduct one or two lectures right in their building.
MS – That’s great. OK, tell me your next story.
BE – This goes back to the ’70s. You know in Pugwash you get to know people. He’s dead now but I can tell you his name, I forget, you can look it up in the Pugwash report of that year.
MS – He’s a Russian?
BE – Yes, he’s a Russian Academician, Emelianov. So during the 70’s, the Russians to this day are still holding on to peaceful uses of nuclear explosives. One time they proposed having 400 cratering explosions to dig the canal from the, to join the 2 rivers, they were going to deflect the water from one river that was going up to the Arctic to have it go down to the Caspian Sea. The Caspian sea was drying up.
MS – I’ve heard of something like that in Canada, but I’ve never heard about it in the Soviet Union.
BE – Yes that was a big thing, that’s no secret at all. Dig a cratering canal with 400 cratering explosions. That would have set off enough radioactivity to poison all of Siberia or maybe the Soviet Union. Because there’s nothing as dirty as a cratering explosion. This was really a form of lunacy. One, the whole idea of using nuclear weapons for peaceful purposes, because a nuclear bomb was a bomb whether they choose to use it for military or peaceful purposes is nonsense because all they’re going to do is increase terrible pollution. Mind you the Americans did that to test up in Alaska, a deep underwater test, they set off a big 5 megaton explosion or something, to test whether you could create harbors and things like that. It didn’t create any real serious damage but I’m sure there’s plenty of radioactivity still down around there. Anyhow the Russian put out an oil well fire with an underground explosion, by exploding down underground that just snuffed it out. Maybe that’s what they ought to be doing in Iraq. They also dug a lake there, made a deep crater and then water ran into it creating a lake, except that after a while the water all ran out. It went down into the earth, there are plenty of fissures and cracks down in the earth. I imagine an underground explosion could develop a few fissures and cracks too. They always wanted to reserve the right, whenever we started talking about stopping all nuclear explosions, they said for peaceful uses they would be very good, very important for us. So you dig canals and roads and harbors and crack oil bearing rock or gas bearing rock or things like that. Yeah but I said this is merely an enticement, it’s like India exploded it’s 1974 nuclear bomb for peaceful purposes they said, we never heard what peaceful purposes. That’s why I argued with this guy at great length, Emelianov and others too, but he’s the guy who first when he said you know Bill I agree with you, but I cannot say so because it’s official government policy, but you keep writing articles about it and I will see that those articles are sent on to other people to point out that this is maybe something we should consider. That’s one of the good things about Pugwash, you had a chance to talk to people and that’s why I was trying to raise funds to go to Peking, Beijing and this Pugwash conference will be the first one I’m going to miss in about, see I stepped down I think you were there at the meeting when we decided, I said no I think that the new guys that are taking over should go. And then we could only afford to send 2. I said I’ll try to raise funds myself. I’ve been turned down by 5 different people.
MS – To raise money?
BE – I suspect that part of the reason is that they don’t feel comfortable to give money to go to conferences in Beijing at this time. But I was turned down so I’m not going to go. I’m going for that precise purpose to try to talk to some Chinese or get to know them so eventually you can talk to them. But I tell you there has been more than one instance, the same thing when I wrote my article in 1980 in the Scientific American for the cut off of production of fissionable materials for weapons. There was a guy who sold that to Trudeau and to the Canadian government and they even drafted the first god damn resolution that they haven’t moved on since for 13 years. We put forward the same lousy resolution every year. They could go forward but they’re too stupid to do it or too much on the American side. Anyhow there were many such instances like that. They would say we can’t propose it or support it but you write it and we will get a copy of your article and send it forward and say that it merits consideration. That’s happened on many things.
MS – Well I think probably this guy Evangelista is probably collecting the same kind of stories I’m collecting and I don’t know has he called you?
BE – I never heard of him.
MS – Well he’s a well known political scientist, he’s written on…
BE – Does he belong to Pugwash?
MS – No.
BE – Well if he doesn’t belong to Pugwash he’s not a very good candidate to get the right feel.
MS – Well one of the things I think everybody’s beginning to realize is that Anders Boserup must have had a big impact with nonprovocative defence.
BE – There’s no question, a hell of a big impact, but one of the guys who worked with him is still alive is Robert Neild.
MS – Yeah at Cambridge.
BE – Yeah so he knows lots of things that Boserup knows.
MS – I think that is getting to be well, I’ve seen references, in other words I don’t have any scoop there although I did interview Boserup.
BE – Boserup’s been peddling this story for more than 10 years.
MS – What do you mean he’s been peddling this story?
BE – You know urging this thing, arguing for it.
MS – Yeah right.
BE – That’s been taken up by everybody including the Russians first. But he was doing it publicly, I did mine privately. There’s not the slightest doubt that the Russians used Pugwash to pick the brains of the western scientists. This was strictly OK. I mean we tried to pick their brains too when we had conferences.
MS – Well have you ever heard of a case in which the influence went the other direction, the Russians through Pugwash or any place else were able to use activists or Pugwash people or people who who active citizens to influence and succeed in influencing western policy?
BE – I can’t think of one off hand, but there’s not the slightest doubt that the Soviet government used their Pugwash scientists in a tremendous effort to do that. That anytime they had a new idea they tested it out in Pugwash and use Pugwash as a sounding board. Now whether any of their ideas worked I cannot recall.
MS – Now who were some of the main Soviet players?
BE – Oh they go back to…
MS – Well I know the names of Goldansky and…
BE – Well those are the recent ones, they go back to Artsimovich, he was the father of their atomic bomb. Sakharov was of their nuclear hydrogen bomb. Then there was, well all of their old timers the original group. All you have to do is to look back to the early years of the annual Pugwash meetings, you get a big list of all of them. I sent many many, we started storing then at the Canadian Institute of International Affairs.
MS – You were storing what?
BE – Our library, I sent them a lot of books.
MS – Oh the Pugwash stuff?
BE – All of the Pugwash annuals. Annual proceedings, so they’ll have a whole set of them there. If there are any missing you could probably arrange to get them copied from the London office. Once it’s down to reminiscing there’s all sorts of, I could tell you one cute story. I was chairman of the international group of scientists, where Sol Zuckerman was the rapporteur in effect. We didn’t have a formal rapporteur but we called on him, I just asked him to do the first draft of the report. And one of the Russians was livid with me he was going to raise hell and everything. I said look it’s not going to be the final report it’s just going to be the first draft because he writes better English than anybody else there. He’s a scientist and he knows how to do it. So, what the hells his name, we became very friendly at Pugwash afterwards. Anyhow he was furious about this and I said it’s just for convenience, everybody will have a full chance to add subtract and do anything you want but we have to have a document. He said I am going to go and make a complaint to the Secretary General about doing this thing, this is biased. I said good I’ll give you his telephone extension and you can go call him, I was just calling his bluff. Well after a lot of fiddling around he was a bit mollified, but we became fast friends afterwards. But at that same meeting he had another Russian scientist with him who we put in our report that chemical weapons had often been used in wartime, but biological weapons had never ever been used in wartime. And it went sailing through, nobody challenged it, and after the report was signed and everything I said to one of the Russians, you know what you said there after you had 2 big issues in front of the security council at the time of the Korean war when the Chinese accused the American of using biological warfare. And you could see how their system operates they had some international commission of jurors in Geneva to make a big study and they come out and say yes the the Chinese are right. And I said you just admitted that there has never been any use, does that mean that the Chinese were wrong. He said I didn’t think about it but the answer is yes. The pages of the security council are filled, page after page of long lists of biological, bacteriological, you know things that they were using in Korea. Which is rubbish, the Americans did the same things about the chemical weapons used in Vietnam or SE Asia or where ever.
MS – Now you have known a lot of Russians at the UN…
BE – That’s right I’ve always worked, if one day I write my autobiography I think I’ll entitle one chapter working for the Russians.
MS – I didn’t know this thing about how there was an agreement, but tell me a little bit about that, is it anything in writing?
BE – No it’s not in writing, it’s just an informal agreement during the preparatory committee in the first session in London. The president of the general assembly would never be a big power it would always be chosen with smaller powers, there were some informal agreements. They would distribute the seats and this is more or less agreed between the Russians and the Americans, but the British certainly were informed, how much the French and Chinese were I don’t know, but the British were informed. A Russian would be head of the security council department, that’s what they always wanted, that’s what they insisted in San Francisco. If there was no veto there, even a question if a matter was vetoable was a substantive matter or not vetoable as a procedurative matter was itself subjected to a veto. There was a hell of a long debate and the Russians finally said, unless you agree to that we will not agree, there will be no agreement. So the west agreed to that and they had to sell it to all of their western allies.
MS – So this post is like a, the ambassador, what is it the Soviet ambassador to the UN?
BE – No the Soviet ambassador, the Soviet national is chosen by the secretary general and appointed under secretary general for political and security council affairs.
MS – Oh I see so he’s a UN employee at that point, I see.
BE – At that level they’re not really employees ; they’re political appointments. People from the rank under secretary general, assistant secretary general and directors are all appointments in the hands of the secretary general, they don’t have to go through any boards.
MS – Now this is Dobrynin?
BE – No we started with Sobolev.
MS – Whatever happened to him?
BE – He quit when the Russians withdrew their support for Trygve Lie because Trygve Lie was a, you know over the Korean thing.
MS – So what he quit in support of Trygve Lie?
BE – No on the other side because contrary to American policy, he just withdrew. Then they sent a very low grade man to replace him.
MS – And he was an OK guy you thought?
BE – Yes he was a very intelligent man.
MS – Then he was followed by…
BE – He was followed by, there are a hell of a lot of a slew of them. Sobolev was there from 1946 to about 1950 I guess.
MS – When did Dobrynin come?
BE – 1959 or 60. In between we had a bunch of less important guys. And after that we had a bunch of less important guys too.
MS – You got along with Dobrynin all right…
BE – And Sobolev because you could talk to them the same way I would argue with a Canadian or an American. I didn’t go out of my way to butter them up.
MS – And that was OK with them?
BE – Not only OK they used to come around and ask me my opinion of things very often. They thought it was an honest answer the way I saw it. And they came to the conclusion that I was giving them the truth. Or at least they were sufficiently interested to want to get my opinion.
MS – Can you remember any way in which there were influences there that….
BE – Absolutely, when Dobrynin was there at the time of the Berlin crisis in 1960, I think it was. And they were awfully concerned about that whole Berlin crises. And I wrote them a little memo saying there is two ways this damn thing can be handled. There’s one article in the charter that talks about the victorious powers of certain rights and they can do that or if the situation goes to the point where it becomes a threat to the peace or concerning international peace and security, then you could bring it to the security council. And my god his eyes opened up and he took my memo and underlined it and sent it off to Dag Hammersjold. And it became once again one of his bright boys. It made it possible for Hammersjold to say, they didn’t even know how the hell to react, to say that they cannot intervene the US until the parties themselves try to settle it, unless it becomes a danger to international peace and security then anybody can raise it at the security council. And that’s the position Hammersjold took on the basis of Dobrynin, which he got from me. I know he was very excited about it, Dobrynin. He didn’t know how the hell to handle it because this was all big power stuff. I remember Kennedy went there and said Ich Ein Berliner, but that was after the heat was on. During 1960 it was a very dangerous thing. There were several other, lots of small little things, but that was a big one an important one.
MS – Tell me at the UN in terms of the NGOs. I understand that, but this is a really dicey thing. A lot of the diplomats really resent the presence and just wish that all the NGOs would go jump in the lake.
BE – There is some truth in that, particularly the Americans and to some extent the British. The British are a little more delicate in hiding their feelings. Most of them regarded the NGOs as just a pain in the ass. Is you tape recorder on?
MS – Oh yes.
BE – Oh Christ.
MS – I’ll send it. I told you. Listen who ever is typing this thing up, I don’t know who’s going to be transcribing this, but I’ve just made a promise that I will send in this transcript so I want this typed up.
BE – Not just that, but nothing gets published about what Bill says unless he OK’d it.
MS – OK, fair enough.
BE – I’ll be very flexible about it.
MS – OK, now at the UN, do you know ways in which, I mean can you say that the peace NGOs have any influence on policy especially Eastern European and Soviet policy are there any influences there?
BE – The East Europeans and the Soviet Union are much more interested in pushing the NGOs, most of which are western, then the west did. They always wanted NGO participation, always because most of the NGOs who were active tend to be on the side of peace. That was always the framework in which the Americans or the Westerners on the whole operated.
MS – So they’re pretty hospitable then?
BE – Who?
MS – The eastern block. I mean they were.
BE – They were yeah, certainly and they still are. They keep telling the NGOs how important they think they are. And the west when they say it, some do say it, but a lot of the western countries, the Swedes believe it. And mind you there are a lot of areas, for example I’ve just been reading, Sir John A. McDonald writing kind of a biography for the 80th birthday of John Humphrey, there’s no doubt that the NGOs played a tremendous role in the whole human rights field. And they play a continuing role in the economic and social areas. They play a very very small role in the peace an security field, the disarmament field, but they still play some role. The best thing NGOs can do in this age, that certainly the mothers of America and even Khrushchev wrote the mothers of Russia too later, they persuaded the American government to go for the test ban. They certainly were responsible, the mothers of America, for getting the partial test ban treaty. They swung around the American government, women Strike for peace and nobody remembered them. Boy they were raising hell. They played a big role and I keep on telling them that their best role that they can play is with their members of parliament or congress. They do help a little bit to inform smaller delegations. The smaller delegations, the Africans, the Asians, the Pacific Islanders and some of the Latin Americans, the third world countries. They don’t have access to the same information that the East and the West did. So they also are supportive of the NGOs. The NGOs fill out our forms, our Disarmament Times is read religiously even by the big delegations. They read it because they don’t know what the hell we’re peddling. The little delegations read it because they trust us and they want to know what we’re saying. On the merits to just keep an eye on us. The damn Canadians refuse to give us any more money because it’s no use to Canada.
MS – Disarmament Times?
BE – Yeah. It’s a pain in the neck to me. That the way they’ve been reactive and you’ve been to it, they’re a consultative group.
MS – Which is hardly functioning. They don’t call any meetings anymore, they travel around and consult.
BE – Because they found that there was too much opposition. I started the damn thing at the time of Trudeau before the first special session. I got them to set it up, the Canadians.
MS – Who did you talk to to get it to happen?
BE – Alan Gottlieb, who was then deputy minister of foreign affairs. I made a big speech about it when they had a big meeting in 76 or 77 in Winnipeg, the UNA, big big conference there.
MS – I wouldn’t have thought he’d be interested in such things, he seems pretty elitist to me, Alan Gottlieb.
BE – Oh, no. I went to him and I said so publicly at that meeting, I said look Canada has got 3 real experts in Canada who have been following disarmament for years and not one of us has ever been called upon. Whereas all of the other governments have even set up formal advisory groups, consultative groups, advisory groups. The Americans even it’s in the statute of the Arms Control Agency.
MS – Who 3 you were thinking of?
BE – General Burns, George Ignatieff and Bill Epstein, I mentioned our names. We’ve been working for years in the field and who were sought out by many other delegations. The Canadian delegation never ever consulted any one of us. I spoke to Burns once and he said bitterly, I’ve never had a telephone call, the same with George Ignatieff. And so I mentioned it at a meeting there where people took note, one of the people there who didn’t take note was Geoff Pearson who was then head of the UN division. And there was someone there higher than him, one or two people higher, I forget. Then next time I went to Ottawa I called Alan Gottlieb, who I’ve known for years who was on the 18 nation disarmament committee in 1962. And I went and told him the same thing and he wrote it all down and he said you’re right Bill we ought to be using our expertise. So then the first group they called together they were really pretty expert. Both on the disarmament side and on the military side. Then they started branching out to NGOs in order to be able to sample American – Canadian opinion. But then from the beginning we had a big fight with them in the first year or two.
MS – With whom?
BE – First with Geoff Pearson and then Menzies, who was ambassador. And said look you guys aren’t consulting us, you’re using us to try to sell your propaganda, you don’t want to hear our views, you want us to hear your views and you don’t take any of our views into account. And when Doug Roche was appointed, Beasley succeeded Menzies, Beasley was quite good, Alan Beasley. Then they put Doug Roche in, I guess he was the first ambassador after Beasley.
MS – No, they put George back in for about a month.
BE – Yeah about one month.
MS – He never came down there I don’t think.
BE – No he never operated at all, they never consulted him, they never functioned. In fact he was never sworn in as far as I’m aware.
MS – Somebody told me a story about that he had been asked to serve.
BE – I know a lot about the story. He phoned me to find out his address, he was then in France that summer. And they told me why. Gary Smith I guess was the chap then. So I gave him the address and I called George and George called me, George and I worked out his basic position that he was going to explain to them. Then the election took place and he was away all that summer. Then Joe Clark called him in and asked him to stand down, he was going to appoint Doug Roche. What story did you hear?
MS – I’m not even sure of my story, I have a bad memory, I wish I had the memory you have. But I heard that he sold his house to go down there.
BE – Oh no that’s when he thought that he was going to be appointed Governor General, that was under Trudeau.
MS – Oh OK so that’s…
BE – He was asked whether he’d take a job and he had a house in Toronto and he had to sell that.
MS – Yeah pretty crummy deal. I’m going to go to the Soviet Union in 10 days.
BE – Do you want anymore tips or ideas?
MS – Yeah if you have any thoughts, if you have any advice for me?
BE – Well what exactly are you going to do there, who do you want to see?
MS – Well I’m going…
BE – And how are you going? Are you going on your own or is somebody inviting you?
MS – I’m going on my own.
BE – Well have you set up meetings?
MS – No.
BE – Oh boy. Have you got the embassy, is Vernon Turner still there?
MS – I don’t know.
BE – Jesus Christ you gotta know, because he’s a hell of a good guy.
MS – Is he?
BE – Yeah, damn right he is, I could tell you stories about him but I won’t.
MS – Why?
BE – Because a lot of these stories, you promise you don’t use it?
MS – Yes.
BE -[deleted a short passage here because he asked me to, though nothing he said was controversial or problematic.]
MS – Well I mean why would he be interested in seeing me, unless I have some reason?
BE – Well you tell him what your reason is, I don’t know what your reason is myself.
MS – My reason is this research, but it’s actually got a lot of other forms. I’m going first to Poland to interview some former dissidents who are involved in the government now. Then I’m going to Moscow for about a week and I’ll stay with some friends, one of them the husband is on the Moscow city council now. He’s a person who used to be the head of…
BE – Well let me give you some good advice…
Side 2 of Tape
MS – So you were telling me a story about Dobrynin?
BE – I was very pleased because once during the early ’70s I guess it was, I think I was retired then already. Whenever Gromyko came to the UN, of course Dobrynin was the ambassador of the Soviet Union, and he came with him and stayed here for the period of time, a few days that Gromyko was here. And once Gromyko and his whole entourage were walking by to go into the assembly hall and there was Dobrynin a few paces behind him and he saw me and by God he broke the ranks and he came out and shook hands and we had a little talk. Which I thought was an unusual thing, but Dobrynin was a man who the Americans came to respect him. They used him a lot and Kissinger and him were the back channel you know the SALT 1 agreement. He was the dean of the whole diplomatic corps there, he was the expert on, what the hell’s the time, oh I got to hang up soon any how because I have to call Ernie Regehr, he’s doing an excellent job on this transfer of arms deal. Well what the hell was I going to say, yeah he stayed on long before, 12 or 14 years like Yakovlev did in Canada. He was the dean in Canada, Alexander Yakovlev.
MS – He stayed on at the US as the ambassador to the UN.
BE – He stayed on just a few years at the UN and then he went back and I think he did something in the foreign office there for some period of time. I guess anybody who comes to the UN or any post goes home to get reoriented or something. Then they sent him to the US sometime in the ’60s and he stayed there until 1985. What’s his name brought him back home, Gorbachev, and made him senior advisor in the central committee. Because he was a real expert on the Americans, he knew them and he was a guy that lots of Americans, Senators and Congressmen and I know Gene La Rocque from the center of defence information, they would phone him up and arrange to meet him frequently. He was a fairly outgoing guy. Well the story I told you, he came out of the line and shook hands with me.
MS – Tell me about the Dartmouth group and the Edinburgh group.
BE – I don’t know about the Edinburgh group but I know the Dartmouth group. That’s something that Norman Cousins, who was a good friend of mine, he started up on Eisenhower’s suggestion. Then he went to David Rockefeller and a few others because Eisenhower says listen, we’ve got no channels of communication whatsoever with Soviet scientists and Academicians and academics.
MS – By the way there’s a story about Norman Cousins that I read some place yesterday, that he had been asked by Kennedy to explain the ABM policies to Khrushchev because he was going over. And then he did some kind of shuttle diplomacy.
BE – Well he certainly did, he wrote a book about it, The Strange Triumvirate. He was a go-between Kennedy, and that can’t have been the ABM thing at that time, it was the test ban thing. It was after the U2 incident. He was a go-between between Kennedy and Khrushchev and also between Pope John and Khrushchev. In fact he wrote a book about it, The Strange Triumvirate, in which the introduction says, he may not remember it but this book was written because Bill Epstein urged me to write it. Then I checked with Ted Sorenson and Bobby Kennedy and they both thought it would be OK, so I’m writing it. I’ve worked very closely with, he was my pipeline to the test ban issue. I’ve been on the test ban not just the last couple of years but all my bloody working days.
MS – See all the stories like that that you know of, such as Cousins’s being a go between…
BE – But it’s all written up in his book.
MS – No but what I’m saying is I didn’t know that story and you probably know a whole bunch of people who have functioned as influential people, even though they’re not government officials. So I want….
BE – Well Cyrus Eaton was one and Armand Hammer, there are all kinds of them. But you see I never think of their names unless you mention how did Norman Cousins meet him up.
MS – I don’t know I distracted you that’s one thing, you were about to say something else then I took you off track.
BE – When you start talking these things come back. Oh yeah Norman Cousins played a big role in that whole test ban issue thing. And after the Cuban missile crisis, you know Kennedy was very anxious to agree openly to channels to the Russians. Just then you started talking about the Dartmouth group.
MS – You’re memory is 10 times better than mine, I’m losing it and you’ve still got it.
BE – I don’t know why but anyhow, I also enjoyed my work, I mean I love it. So when you put it out of your mind you remember it.
MS – OK now go on with the Dartmouth group because that’s really interesting.
BE – Eisenhower said look we don’t have any channels of communication with any of their scientists or NGOs or no official people and that’s terribly important. The Russians don’t encourage it, but I think we should encourage it. Obviously he talked to the ambassadors like George Kennan and Charles Bohlen and they all thought it would be useful to but there’s a limit to what official people can do. Because when they’re talking to officials everything is official. But when you’re talking to private citizens or allegedly private citizens then you can be a lot freer. So he urged them to get something going and Norman Cousins went to work and he was smart enough to get David Rockefeller interested. That’s a big name to the Russians to, the Rockefellers. When Khrushchev came here he wanted to meet Nelson Rockefeller. So they started meeting, one year in the United States, the next year in the Soviet Union, it wasn’t strictly a yearly business, sometimes they’d meet more than once a year. They hired a very good friend of mine, even when he was working for the UN, to act as their interpreter, George Sherry. To this day he goes to the Dartmouth meetings and gets paid for it. He’s a colleague, a very good friend of mine and he’s the guy who could tell you probably the whole history of it.
MS – How would I reach him?
BE – You’d have to call him.
MS – Does he live in New York?
BE – Yeah, he’s here in the summer, well he’s here until Christmas, in the winter time he has a teaching job at Occidental College in Los Angeles. He’s retired now he’s at UNITAR.
MS – So if I address something to him at UNITAR?
BE – Yeah, you can use my name with it too.
MS – Now do you think they had any influence?
BE – Oh a great deal, in fact there’s some people that argue that they had more influence than the Pugwash people did. But never the less they didn’t get the recognition that the Russians gave to Pugwash. They used to get the very top Academicians, the President of their academy of sciences and people of that level. When they started Pugwash, they sent their top people over, the Russians. Cyrus Eaton provided his home and that’s why Pugwash started there. When Khrushchev came here he gave Cyrus Eaton a Troika, horses and a sled. There are thousands of such stories but you have to…
MS – Now Sherry would be the best person to tell me what kind of influence people may have had on policy?
BE – I think so, I don’t know anything about the Edinburgh group, he might.
MS – I don’t know that it was anything influential, I know that…
BE – Certainly the Dartmouth group was very influential. They kept them going.
MS – You know some of the people who were involved you know in terms of participants?
BE – Oh I’ve heard all sorts of names, I don’t even know if Sherry would know if it’s been written up.
MS – Do they still meet?
BE – Yes, Sherry went off to the Soviet Union, not to long ago to attend one of their meetings. He’s been their interpreter I think ever since they started. He used to be with a Russian interpreter.
MS – Oh someone’s here, can you hold for a second?
BE – Well then I’d better say goodbye
MS – OK goodbye.
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