NO MORE NUKES: On Thursday, February 25, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) will bring Ambassador Max Kampelman to Santa Barbara to discuss nuclear disarmament. Since ridding the world of nuclear weapons is the NAPF’s raison d’être, the subject of the lecture is no surprise. What many will find startling is that Kampelman was also President Ronald Reagan’s chief arms negotiator with the Soviet Union. What’s more, he remembers Reagan himself as an advocate for a world without nukes.
“Max worked closely with President Reagan,” writes NAPF president David Krieger, “and the two of them had the same goal: a world with zero nuclear weapons.” Those who remember Reagan as a hawkish paragon of nuclearism will no doubt furrow their brows in confusion. Reagan is considered by many to have been an obstacle to nuclear weapon-free peace. Could he really have been the opposite?
“My relationship with Ronald Reagan has led me to conclude that the President Reagan I came to know and work with was not the man whom I read about in the papers,” Kampelman wrote in an email exchange with The Indy. “We met when he was elected and invited me to remain as our Ambassador to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, appointed by President Carter. Reagan’s deep interest in the Soviet Union led to occasional sessions with me reporting on my negotiations with the Soviets at that conference. That three-year, 35-country, East-West Conference in Madrid, I am convinced, led to important internal changes in the Soviet Union and included the migration of more than one million Jews from the Soviet Union to Israel.”
But that was only the beginning of Kampelman’s career in late-Cold War peacemaking. “About a year after my return to private life, President Reagan telephoned me to say that he and Gorbachev had agreed to re-open the nuclear arms talks and that he wanted me to represent the United States at those talks,” Kampelman wrote. “I accepted and quickly learned that he and Gorbachev had both hoped to establish zero nuclear weapons as their goal. One of the two treaties arising out of that negotiation reduced both of our INF (Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces) nuclear weapons to zero and both of our strategic nuclear weapons by 50 percent.”
Since the 1980s, Kampelman has worked alongside the likes of former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, Clinton-era Secretary of Defense William Perry, and Nuclear Threat Initiative CEO Sam Nunn to move humanity further toward his ideal of complete nuclear disarmament. He received a Presidential Citizens Medal from Reagan in 1989, and a Freedom Medal from Clinton in 1999.
He was there for some of the Cold War’s close scrapes, but Kampelman doesn’t think we’re out of the woods today. “I am convinced that the dangers arising from the spread of nuclear weapons is a serious and growing threat to us and the civilized world,” he wrote. “The knowledge of how to produce those weapons of mass destruction is now widespread. The danger to us is greater today than ever before. It is vital for us to persuade the civilized world to abolish nuclear weapons. It can be achieved.”
Kampelman’s talk, “Zero Nuclear Weapons for a Sane and Sustainable World,” comes as the ninth annual Frank K. Kelly Lecture on Humanity’s Future. It begins at 7 p.m. in the Fé Bland Forum at the Santa Barbara City College campus (721 Cliff Drive). Visit napf.org for details.