One of the problems the United States has in fashioning a rational policy toward the Soviet Union is the prevalence of Cold War myths about U.S.-Soviet relations. One of the most persistent of these myths--that the Soviet Union broke a mutual moratorium on atmospheric nuclear testing in 1961--has been given added circulation in three recent articles in The Times--one quoting a White House briefing officer, of all people.
One Op-Ed article on Oct. 19--by David Blair, identified as a senior research analyst at Pan Heuristics--denounced "Soviet perfidy" for "breaking the moratorium." Another, on Nov. 21, by A G. Fortunato and Susan Sabiner, New York writers, referred to the Soviet resumption of testing and warned against "short memories" as far as Moscow is concerned. Both articles cited "breaking the moratorium" as an example of the dangers of trusting the Russians. In a Jan. 4 article, the briefing officer cited the events of 1961 as evidence that "you can get snookered" agreeing with the Soviets to moratoria."
The facts of the matter are somewhat different, and if the authors don't know them, the Op-Ed editors should. Following a Soviet ban on atmospheric nuclear testing, President Eisenhower proclaimed a moratorium on such tests effective Oct. 31, 1958. The Soviet Union accepted this. Then, a year later, the United States announced that it was terminating the moratorium on Oct. 31, 1959, and then said it was renewing it for two additional months. On Dec. 30, 1959, President Eisenhower announced that the United States would no longer be bound by the moratorium after Dec. 31.
The Soviet Union resumed atmospheric testing in September, 1961. Soon thereafter the United States followed suit. The Soviets' action was callous and is rightly condemned, but quite clearly they did not break the moratorium because, as a result of the President's pronouncement, it no longer existed.
Thus, alas, is public opinion formed, and misinformed.
FRED WARNER NEAL Claremont