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Strategic Arms Limitation Talks

STRATEGIC ARMS LIMITATION TALKS

STRATEGIC ARMS LIMITATION TALKS. In 1968 President Lyndon B. Johnson and Leonid I. Brezhnev, Soviet Communist party chairman, agreed to open the first of an eventual two Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). By this time, the three basic issues that had stalled previous major Soviet-American disarmament agreements no longer posed problems. First, the détente that followed the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 improved the political climate greatly over the days of Joseph Stalin and Joseph R. McCarthy. Second, the development of the spy satellite made irrelevant the thorny issue of on-site inspections. Third, America's nuclear superiority over the Soviet Union was eroding because of a massive nuclear building program undertaken by the Soviets after the Cuban crisis, which eliminated the problem created because the United States was unwilling to give up its nuclear lead while the Soviets refused to negotiate except on terms of equality. So, in 1968, Johnson offered to open SALT with the clear implication that the United States would accept Soviet nuclear parity.

Unfortunately, the 1968 talks never came off. First, the Soviet Union and other Warsaw-Pact nations invaded Czechoslovakia. Then Richard M. Nixon, Johnson's probable successor, attacked the president for considering abandonment of America's nuclear superiority. With Johnson already discredited by his Vietnam policy, Nixon's attack forced postponement of the talks.

With the defeat of the Democrats in the 1968 presidential election, SALT had to await a new administration and its review of defense and foreign policies. After Nixon's election, presidential assistant Henry A. Kissinger undertook a study that showed the Soviet Union would indeed soon achieve nuclear parity. Nixon now talked of nuclear "sufficiency" rather than superiority. Still, the president took a hard line. He insisted that the Soviet Union prove its good faith in Vietnam and the Middle East before convening SALT. He applied even more pressure by pushing a new, albeit limited, antiballistic missile (ABM) program through Congress and by quietly accelerating deployment of sophisticated independently targeted multiple warheads.

SALT I opened in November 1969. The official delegates met first in Helsinki and later in Vienna. Nevertheless, the real negotiations took place in secret meetings between Kissinger and Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, which culminated in the SALT I agreement hammered out at the Moscow summit of 1972. SALT I consisted of two accords: the Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which severely limited ABM defenses, and the Interim Agreement on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, which froze the total number of strategic missile launchers pending further negotiation of a more comprehensive treaty limiting strategic missiles and bombers. The United States and the Soviet Union had concluded a separate agreement in September 1971 on measures to avert accidental use of nuclear weapons. The ABM Treaty, of indefinite duration, restricted each party to two ABM sites, with one hundred ABM launchers at each. In the only later amendment, a 1974 protocol, the two parties agreed to forgo one of those sites. Further constraints included a ban on the testing and deployment of land-mobile, sea-based, air-based, and space-based systems. The United States and Soviet Union could deploy only fixed, land-based ABM systems at the one allowed site. The Soviet Union kept its existing ABM systems around Moscow. The United States completed its deployment at a site for defense of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launchers near Grand Forks, North Dakota, but in 1975 mothballed the complex as too expensive. The ABM treaty was a solid achievement in arms limitation, although both nations found it easier to agree to it because they doubted the cost-effectiveness of available ABM systems.

While the treaty temporarily headed off a costly and useless ABM deployment race, it did not have the desired effect of also dampening down deployment of strategic offensive missiles. Furthermore, in June 2002, President George W. Bush unilaterally withdrew from the 1972 ABM Treaty because it limited the ability of the United States to develop new antimissile defenses. Bush had come into office stating his intent to remove the United States from this agreement, and the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 only hardened his resolve to revive President Ronald Reagan's attempts to develop a missile shield. Opponents of the withdrawal pointed out that the United States has more to fear from biological war and that the defense industry is yet to create a workable national missile defense system.

The second accord, the Interim Agreement, froze the level of land-and sea-based strategic missiles. The Soviet Union had a quantitative advantage with 2,348 missile launchers to 1,710 for the United States. Two important facts, however, offset this imbalance. First, the accord did not apply to strategic bombers or forward-based nuclear delivery systems, and the United States had a significant advantage in both categories. Second, although the Soviet Union had more missile launchers and deployed missiles, the United States had a larger number of strategic missile warheads, and by 1972 had already begun deploying multiple, independently targeted reentry vehicle warheads (MIRV). Overall, the Interim Agreement placed only modest limits on strategic missiles. In contrast to the ABM Treaty, it was not significant as an arms control measure.

The American public widely cheered SALT I, but it had two significant gaps: it lacked controls on manned bombers and on multiple warheads. At the Vladivostok summit of 1974, President Gerald R. Ford announced that he and Brezhnev had already reached a tentative SALT II agreement limiting all strategic weapons. They promised to restrict their arsenals to 2,400 strategic missiles each, 1,320 of which could have multiple warheads. Although Soviet missiles carried larger payloads, two provisions compensated for this advantage. The United States could have 525 bombers to the Soviets' 160, and American planes and missiles already stationed with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Europe would not count against its quota of 2,400.

SALT II refers to the subsequent negotiation of a treaty to replace the SALT I Interim Agreement. These talks lasted from November 1972 to June 1979. The SALT II Treaty provided equal levels of strategic arms and included strategic bombers as well as strategic missiles. Intended to be in effect for ten years, during which the United States and Soviet Union would negotiate a third SALT agreement for further reductions, the SALT II treaty fell afoul of the collapse of the Soviet-American détante of the 1970s after the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979. Neither the American Senate nor the Soviet Duma ever ratified it. Nonetheless, both sides formally observed its constraints until 1986, and, for all practical purposes, even after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

In 1982, under the administration of President Ronald Reagan, a new series of negotiations, the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START), succeeded SALT. In July 1991, President George H. W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signed the START I treaty in Moscow. In January 1993, Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin met in Moscow to discuss the START II treaty. These treaties involved increasingly substantial reductions, but even so, START I brought the level of strategic warheads down only to about the SALT II level, and START II down to the SALT I level. Moreover, the START II treaty proved largely irrelevant because although the U.S. Senate ratified the agreement in 1996, the Russian Duma refused to do so until 2000 in protest of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's accepting new members from the former Soviet Bloc, American policies toward Iraq, and NATO intervention in Kosovo. In May 2002, President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a nuclear arms reduction treaty to shrink strategic nuclear forces by about twothirds over the next decade. The Senate and the Duma have yet to ratify this treaty, and even if they were to approve it, the agreement only requires each nation to store rather than destroy the missiles that it cuts. Critics of the treaty identify this stipulation as seriously under-mining the effectiveness of the agreement since both countries can easily reactivate missiles in a conflict.

The SALT process was a success in demonstrating that adversaries could reach arms limitation agreements, but owing to the very cautious and conservative approaches of both sides, the limitations on strategic offensive arms were unable to keep up with the military technological advances given precedence by the two countries. The ABM treaty, buffeted mainly by revived American interest in President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) of 1983, survived the decade before the SDI lost favor. It remained an effective arms control agreement until 2002. Pursuant to the SALT I agreements, a Standing Consultative Commission (SCC) came into existence to resolve questions regarding the meaning of and compliance with the SALT agreements. It was also stipulated that there would be no interference with the use of national technical means of verification, such as observation satellites. SALT thus helped at least to stabilize, if not greatly reduce, the military balance. The SALT process and the agreements reached, while causing some friction and disagreements, contributed to the overall political détente of the 1970s. While not sufficient to sustain that détente, the SALT process helped ensure that even under renewed tension, the risk of nuclear war remained low.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Caldwell, Dan. The Dynamics of Domestic Politics and Arms Control: The SALT II Treaty Ratification Debate. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1991.

Carter, April. Success and Failure in Arms Control Negotiations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Goldfischer, David. The Best Defense: Policy Alternatives for U.S. Nuclear Security from the 1950s to the 1990s. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993.

Shimko, Keith L. Images and Arms Control: Perceptions of the Soviet Union in the Reagan Administration. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991.

Weber, Steve. Cooperation and Discord in U.S.-Soviet Arms Control. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991.

Jerald A.Combs

Raymond L.Garthoff/a. e.

See alsoAir Defense ; Arms Race and Disarmament ; Cold War ; Defense, Department of ; Foreign Policy ; Missiles, Military ; Russia, Relations with ; Summit Conferences, U.S. and Russian .

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Strategic Arms Reduction Talks

STRATEGIC ARMS REDUCTION TALKS

The Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) were predicated on the concept of "minimum deterrence"a regime in which both the United States and the Soviet Union would reduce nuclear arsenals to the minimum level needed to deter the other from attempting a first strike. As with previous bilateral nuclear weapons treaties between the United States and the USSR, the goal of START was to reduce the costs associated with a gratuitous arms buildup, while simultaneously increasing system stability by ensuring mutual vulnerability.

Prior agreements limited the number of weapons each nation possessed, but advancements in technology made these previously agreed upon levels untenable to the United States; in the early 1980s it was perceived that the Soviet Union was close to a first strike capabilitythe ability to attack enough targets in the United States so as to prevent a retaliatory strike.

This perception of a "window of vulnerability" prompted the Reagan Administration to undertake a massive weapons modernization program, in addition to pursuing the proposed Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The Soviets believed that SDI was destabilizing and therefore were willing to make cuts in offensive nuclear arms in exchange for restrictions on American research and development of space-based defensive systems. As with the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties (SALT), the Soviet Union was once again forsaking short-term superiority in favor of long-term stability.

START mandated cuts in the number of nuclear delivery systems by about 40 percent, reduced the number of warheads by roughly 30 percent, and also established more complete verification procedures.

The treaty was signed by President George Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on July 31, 1991 in Moscow.

See also: anti-ballistic missile treaty; arms control; dÉtente; strategic defense initiative

bibliography

Kartchner, Kerry M. (1992). Negotiating START: Strategic Arms Reduction Talks and the Quest for Strategic Stability. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Mazarr, Michael J. (1991). START and the Future of Deterrence. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Matthew O'Gara

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Strategic Arms Limitation Talks

Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) Two phases of talks between the USA and the Soviet Union to limit the expansion of nuclear weapons. The talks began in 1969 between Lyndon B. Johnson and Leonid Brezhnev. In 1972, Richard Nixon and Brezhnev signed SALT I. This agreement limited anti-ballistic missile systems and produced an interim accord on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). A second phase of meetings between Gerald Ford and Brezhnev resulted in an agreement (1974) to limit ballistic missile launchers. SALT II, signed in Vienna between Jimmy Carter and Brezhnev, banned new ICBMs and limited other launchers. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan meant the US Senate never ratified the treaty. Nevertheless, the two superpowers observed its terms until Ronald Reagan began to increase the US nuclear arsenal. In 1986 START (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks) between Mikhail Gorbachev and Reagan superseded SALT. START ushered in a new era of disarmament.

http://www.fas.org/nuke/control/index.html

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Strategic Arms Limitation Talks

Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, see disarmament, nuclear.

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