Arms Control and Disarmament

views updated May 14 2018

Arms Control and Disarmament

Richard Dean Burns

Historians have been slow to grasp the significant, occasionally dominating, role that arms control negotiations played in Cold War diplomacya situation undoubtedly the result of the often mind-numbing technical aspects of these lengthy deliberations. In the prenuclear era, political disputes might spark threatening military buildups, but political dimensions remained the focus of subsequent negotiations. This changed after 1950 as weapons systems themselves took on a political character. "The arms race was both a result of the Cold War and a cause," as the former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev emphasized, "as it constantly provided new stimuli for continued rivalry." The arms control pacts that gradually emerged from various multilateral and bilateral negotiations helped neutralize the insecurities brought on by the constant arrival of new weapons systems. "The decision to reduce arms," Gorbachev concluded, "became an important step on the road to ending confrontation and creating healthier relations between East and West."

Arms control and disarmament agreements were traditionally designed to accomplish two essential purposes: to stabilize the military climate and to diminish the military violence in any subsequent hostilities. The various arrangements, which reduced, limited, and regulated armaments, provided a more stable international environment; but could not themselves resolve other threatening, contentious issues. Controlling armaments had to be coupled with diplomatic resolve so that in an atmosphere temporarily cleared of insecurities inspired by unregulated weaponry, statesmen might deal with critical political, social, and economic differences.


Although the terms "disarmament" and "arms control" have been widely used, there often has been, and still is, considerable confusion over their meanings. "Disarmament" became the fashionable term during the nineteenth century, particularly during and after the Hague Conference of 1899, to describe all efforts to limit, reduce, or control the implements of war. While some individuals may employ disarmament in the literal sensethe total elimination of armamentsmost diplomats and commentators do not. The United Nations and its subsidiary agencies use it as a generic term covering all measures, "from small steps to reduce tensions or build confidence, through regulation of armaments or arms control, up to general and complete disarmament."

In the early 1950s, academic specialists linking the technology of nuclear weaponry to the strategies of the Cold War began substituting the term "arms control." For them "disarmament" not only lacked semantic precision but carried utopian expectations, whereas "arms control" involved any cooperation between potential enemies designed to reduce the likelihood of conflict or, should it occur, its scope and violence. Most arms controllers sought to enhance the nuclear deterrence system, and only occasionally sought force reductions, while literal "disarmers" dismissed arms control as a chimera and supported proposals seeking general and complete disarmament.

From a historical perspective the basic techniques that comprise arms control and disarmament undertakings may be divided into six general categories:

  1. Limitation and Reduction of Armaments. These pacts put specified limits on the mobilization, possession, or construction of military forces and equipment, and may result in reductions. The restrictions may be qualitative, regulating weapons design, as well as quantitative, limiting numbers of specific weapons.
  2. Demilitarization, Denuclearization, and Neutralization. Demilitarization and denuclearization involve removing or placing restrictions on military forces, weapons, and fortifications within a prescribed area of land, water, or airspace. Neutralization is a special status that guarantees political independence and territorial integrity, subject to a pledge that the neutralized state will not engage in war except in defense. The essential feature of all three is the emphasis on geographical areas.
  3. Regulating or Outlawing Specific Weapons. These agreements regulate the military use or the possession of specific weapons. Their rationale is that the unrestricted use, or any use, of a particular weapon exceeds recognized "just use of force."
  4. Controlling Arms Manufacture and Traffic. This approach involves restrictions, including embargoes, on the sale or transfer of weapons and munitions. It may prohibit the manufacture of specific weapons.
  5. Laws of War. These efforts seek to lessen the violence and damage of war. The principles underlying the rules of war (or laws of war) are (a) the prohibition of weapons that cause unnecessary or disproportionate suffering; (b) the distinction between combatants and noncombatants; and (c) the realization that the demands of humanity should prevail over the perceived necessities of combat.
  6. Stabilizing the International Environment. This technique seeks to lower international tensions through lessening the possibility of an uncontrollable cause célèbre provoking an unwanted war. In addition, it seeks to protect the environment from lasting damage due to the testing or use of military weapons.

Obviously, the six categories are not exclusive. The outlawing of weapons has the same effect as limiting them. Thus, a treaty that prohibits placing weapons of mass destruction in outer space (1967) is also an example of geographic demilitarization. In addition, a treaty may incorporate several arms control techniques: the Treaty of Versailles (1919), for example, limited the number of German troops, demilitarized specific zones, and outlawed German manufacture of military aircraft, submarines, and tanks.

The methods of achieving arms control and disarmament objectives may be classified into three broad categoriesretributive measures, unilateral measures, and reciprocal measureswhich can be subdivided into six general methods:

  1. Extermination. A retributive measure, extermination is an ancient and drastic means of ensuring no future warlike response from one's opponent, dramatized by Rome's destruction of Carthage or the elimination of some American Indian tribes.
  2. Imposition. Also a retributive measure, imposition results when victors force arms limitation measures on the vanquished, such as the terms imposed upon Germany and other enemy states in 1919 and 1945.
  3. Unilateral Neglect. Often confused with unilateral decisions, unilateral neglect refers to a nation's decision not spend for defense, as in the U.S. unilateral reduction of army and naval forces after the Civil War (1866) or the British and U.S. self-imposed arms reductions between the world wars.
  4. Unilateral Decision. A consciously decided policy of self-imposed military restrictions or limitations, as in Japan's postWorld War II constitution and the Austrian Peace Treaty (1955), both restricting armaments to defensive purposes.
  5. Bilateral Negotiation. A reciprocal measure, bilateral negotiation is a traditional method by which two nations seek mutually acceptable solutions to tensions heightened by armaments, as with the Rush-Bagot Agreement (1817) and the SALT, START, and INF treaties.
  6. Multilateral Negotiation. Another reciprocal measure, multilateral negotiation is a common twentieth-century approach to regional and global military-political problems that involve the interests of several nations. The Hague treaties (1899, 1907) and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (1968) are multilateral agreements. The Latin American denuclearization treaty of 1967 is a regionally negotiated pact.


Most American leaders, at one time or another, have defined the United States as a "peace-loving nation" that deplores the existence of large military forces and believes that their reduction will lead to a more peaceful world. Yet while American diplomats have frequently supported arms control objectives, they also have opposed them. For example, they rejected the idea of naval reductions at the 1899 Hague Conference and refused to consider political-military "guarantees" that might have brought about arms reductions during the League of Nations negotiations. Thus, early U.S. involvement in the efforts to limit weapons and warfare has been mixed.

Apart from early efforts to halt the trading in arms with various Indian tribes, the United States pursued three major undertakings during this period: demilitarizing the Great Lakes; formulating "rules of war" to govern the actions of its armed forces; and participating in the two Hague peace conferences.

Rush-Bagot Agreement The War of 1812 demonstrated that the Great Lakes were of strategic importance to the United States and Britain's eastern Canadian provinces. At war's end, the British flagship on the lakes was a three-decker more powerful than Admiral Horatio Nelson's Victory, and two even larger vessels were being built at Kingston, Ontario. The Americans responded by beginning construction of two vessels that would be the world's largest warships.

These undertakings conflicted with the U.S. Congress's economy drive, so, on 27 February 1815, President James Madison was authorized "to cause all armed vessels of the United States on the lakes to be sold or laid up, except such as he may deem necessary to enforce proper execution of revenue laws." Economies also led Great Britain to curtail construction and dismantling of warships.

Despite these unilateral actions, many in Washington were concerned that minor border incidents between Canadians and Americans might lead to a renewed naval race. In November 1815, President Madison endorsed efforts to negotiate with the British to limit the number of armed ships on the lakes. If the building of warships began again, he feared, a "vast expence will be incurred" that might lead to "the danger of [a] collision" between the two countries. In London, Lord Castlereagh agreed that such a naval race was "ridiculous and absurd."

The 29 April 1817 bilateral agreement limited the naval forces of each party "on Lake Ontario, to one vessel, not exceeding one hundred tons burden, and armed with one eighteen pound cannon. On the upper lakes, to two vessels, not exceeding like burden each, and armed with like force," and "on the waters of Lake Champlain, to one vessel not exceeding like burden, and armed with like force." However, the pact did not end competitive armaments in the Great Lakes region. Fortifications continued to be built, and there were violations of the naval terms, and during the Civil War, the U.S. Senate voted to terminate the agreement. Despite these obstacles, the Rush-Bagot Agreement remains one of the most successful U.S. arms control undertakingsand certainly its most enduring, for it enhanced the security of both parties and saved them a great deal of money. Also, it paved the way for the Treaty of Washington (1871), which resolved remaining political issues between the parties and led to the "unguarded frontier" between Canada and the United States.

Rules of War In 1863 a Columbia University professor, Francis Lieber, submitted his Code for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field to the War Department. The Lieber Code, as it became known, was drawn from medieval jurists and was incorporated into the Union army's General Order No. 100. Among other things, it recognized the status of noncombatants, regulated treatment of prisoners of war, prohibited the use of poison, forbade the seizure of private property without compensation, and ordered that cultural treasures not be willfully destroyed. Lieber's contribution later influenced the Declaration of Brussels (1874) on the rules and customs of war.

Hague Conferences Peace advocates everywhere welcomed Czar Nicholas II's 1899 invitation for a meeting of the great powers at The Hague to deal with the threatening international arms race. The Americans were optimistic about the conference's prospects for peace even though their own government had recently concluded a war against Spain and was committed to a naval buildup and army modernization.

President William McKinley took the position that "it behooves us as a nation to lend countenance and aid to the beneficent project." Yet the active military force of the United States "in time of peace [is] so conspicuously less than that of the armed powers of Europe," he said, "that the question of limitations had little practical importance for the United States." Thus, while the U.S. peace movement collected petitions registering popular support for reducing armaments, at The Hague, Captain Alfred T. Mahan, the U.S. delegate, joined Admiral John A. Fisher, the British naval delegate, to prevent any limitation of naval forces. Other proposals sought to restrict military budgets, prohibit the use of new types of firearms and explosives, restrict the use of certain munitions, prohibit the dropping of projectiles or explosives, prohibit the use of submarines or similar engines of destruction, and revise and codify the laws and rules of war, especially those from the Conference of Brussels that were still unratified.

Secretary of State John Hay stated that the first four restrictions "seem lacking in practicability, and the discussion of these propositions would probably prove provocative. But it is doubtful if wars are to be diminished by rendering them less destructive, for it is the plain lesson of history that the periods of peace have been longer as the cost and destructiveness of war have increased." Despite Washington's lack of interest, declarations prohibiting the use of asphyxiating gas and expanding (dum-dum) bullets and the throwing of projectiles from balloons were approved. With the U.S. delegation's support, rules of war aimed at preventing armies from committing excessessuch as those at the expense of noncombatants and prisoners of waralso were endorsed by the conferees.

At the Second Hague Conference of 1907, some thirteen new declarations clarifying and codifying the law of war were agreed upon. These were revised in 1929 and 1949. The conventions relating to prisoners of war and noncombatants were the basis of considerable diplomatic activity during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

Prior to the Second Hague conference, President Theodore Roosevelt indicated that the United States might support naval limitations; however, none of the major European powers would consider reducing or limiting their military forces. In June 1910 both houses of Congress unanimously endorsed naval limitations, a decision sparked by the British launching of the dreadnoughts, a new class of battleship, which promised another round of expensive ship construction. The proposal failed to gain support abroad, but it pointed to new efforts a decade later.


The enormity of death and destruction wrought by World War I focused the attention of the American public and its government on ways of preventing future war. America's role in these interwar undertakings included the introduction of disarmament in the League of Nations Covenant, sponsorship of the Washington naval limitation system, 19221935, endorsement of the Kellogg-Briand Pact aimed at "outlawing" war, and belated, ambivalent support of the League of Nation's disarmament efforts.

League Covenant and Disarmament In January 1918, President Woodrow Wilson emphasized disarmament in Point Four of his Fourteen Points (a statement of the Allies' war aims) and in his endorsement of it as Article Eight of the League of Nations Covenant. Point Four called for "adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety." Wilson did not consider arms reduction a high priority, but he clearly saw it as in the U.S. interest. A commitment to general disarmament, no matter how ambiguous, would justify the imposition of arms restrictions on Germany and its allies.

At the Paris Peace Conference Wilson reduced his emphasis on arms reductions because of considerations of national sovereignty, the threat of Bolshevism, and demands of economic nationalism. He even threatened a new naval race by urging Congress to fund the construction of 156 warships, including ten super-dreadnoughts and six high-speed battle cruisers, called for in the Naval Appropriation Act of 1916, in order to obtain political concessions. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George was unwilling to accept U.S. naval parity, nor did he agree with Wilson's desire to append the Monroe Doctrine to the League Covenant. Unwilling to undertake a costly naval race, Lloyd George relented on the latter point and agreed to future negotiations on the former.

Wilson tried the same strategy during the Senate's ratification hearings (May 1919March 1920), insisting there were only two alternatives: the League of Nations and disarmament, or increased naval construction and higher taxes. The Senate rejected league membership on the grounds it impinged upon the nation's sovereignty and left the naval problems for the Harding administration.

The Washington Naval System In the spring of 1921, President Warren G. Harding and Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes confronted a burgeoning naval racebefore the year was out, more than 200 warships were under construction. Hughes invited the other major naval powersGreat Britain, Japan, France, and Italyto meet at Washington, D.C., on 12 November 1921. Over-ruling his admirals, Hughes developed a detailed plan grounded on two themes: an immediate halt of all capital ship construction and the defining of national strategies in terms of "relative security." By presenting his proposal for capital ship reductions and limitations in his opening speech, Hughes seized the diplomatic initiative and gained widespread public support.

The Washington Conference produced seven treaties and twelve resolutions, two of which contained arms control provisions. The most significant was the Five Power Naval Treaty of 6 February 1922, which established a reduction in battleships, quantitative limits (or ratiosUnited States 5:Britain 5:Japan 3) on capital ships and aircraft carriers, qualitative restrictions on future naval construction, and restrictions on fortifications and naval bases in the central Pacific. The ratios established battleship parity between the United States and Britain and acknowledged Japan's de facto preeminence in the western Pacific. Naval limitation was realized because the United States, Britain, and Japan had temporarily resolved their political differences, especially regarding China, and desired to reduce naval expenditures.

Attempts to abolish or restrict submarines failed, and the agreement to prohibit the "use in war of asphyxiations, poisonous or other gases" was not ratified, but the two concepts did reappearthe former in the London Naval Treaty of 1930, and the latter in the Geneva Protocol of 1925.

Since a formula for limiting smaller warships was not found, a new naval race appeared as admirals rushed to build cruisers that would fall just below the 10,000-ton limit that defined capital ships. Facing an expensive naval building program, Congress urged President Calvin Coolidge to negotiate limits on cruisers, destroyers, and submarines. At the Geneva Naval Conference (1927), the administration wanted to extend the Washington Treaty's Big Three capital ship ratios (5:5:3) to auxiliary categories. However, the U.S. delegation abandoned Hughes's earlier approach of considering naval armaments as one thread in existing political relationships, and instead focused on technical issues.

With Japanese negotiators on the sidelines, American and British naval experts agreed on the idea of parity, but could not define it because the British and U.S. fleets were structured quite differently. Whereas the British sought strategic equality that acknowledged commercial and imperial obligations, the Americans demanded mathematical parity. The U.S. insistence on fewer large cruisers with eight-inch guns and Britain's determination to have more, smaller cruisers with six-inch guns deadlocked negotiations.

The failed Geneva effort paved the way for the London Naval Conference of 1930. Herbert Hoover's election in 1928 coincided with that of British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, who, like Hoover, believed that the reduction of armaments could contribute to world peace. Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson indicated that he and the president, employing naval experts as advisers, would seek a "yardstick" to bridge the difficulties that had plagued the 1927 Geneva Conferencebut no yardstick was forthcoming. The yardstick episode emphasized a recurring dilemma that plagued U.S. arms control efforts well into the Cold War era: arms control requires a perspective beyond technical considerations, for by concentrating on mathematical or other engineering factors, U.S. policymakers often tended to obscure or avoid basic political problems.

The 1930 London Naval Treaty refined the Washington naval system by applying a 10:10:7 ratio to capital ships and aircraft carriers. All five powers agreed not to build their authorized capital ship replacements between 1931 and 1936, and to scrap a total of nine capital ships. By 1936 the United States would have eighteen battleships (462,400 tons), Britain eighteen battleships (474,750 tons), and Japan nine battleships (266,070 tons). Aircraft carrier tonnage remained unchanged, despite attempts to lower it.

While the United States and Britain ultimately reached an agreement on naval "equality," many senior Japanese naval officers believed that applying the "battleship ratio" to all classes of warships would be disastrous for their nation's security. Reluctantly, however, the Japanese government accepted negotiated ratios for cruisers, destroyers, and submarines.

Naval arms control pleased most American politicians and their constituents, and President Herbert Hoover estimated that the United States saved $1 billion. However, the limits outraged professional naval officers in all three countries. The Japanese lamented that they must stop cruiser construction; the British complained that fifty cruisers did not provide protection for long sea-lanes; and the Americans felt that Japan's higher cruiser ratio reduced the chance of a U.S. victory in a western Pacific war.

The years following the signing of the London Naval Treaty saw increased political tensions in the Mediterranean and undeclared wars in Ethiopia and Asia. Japan demanded naval parity, but Britain and the United States refused. Subsequently, Japan withdrew from the Second London Naval Conference (1935) and abrogated the Washington naval system. On 31 December 1936, the quantitative and qualitative limitations on naval armaments ended.

Naval arms control had rested on the assumption that Japan was satisfied with its world position. However, Japanese expansionists, both military and civilian, who dominated policy by 1934 believed that the United States and Britain were hindering Japan's economic expansion, and thus keeping that nation's industries depressed. Consequently, Japan's admirals argued that, if freed from treaty restrictions, they could build a strong fleet, dominate China and Southeast Asia, and become the leading power in Asia.

Throughout the interwar negotiations over naval limitations, U.S. policies were clearly motivated by a desire to reduce military expenditures and, at the same time, gain whatever strategic advantages were possible. The desire for the former drove most civilian policymakers, while efforts to achieve the latter were foremost in the minds of senior naval officers. Only the most single-minded analyst would suggest that U.S. negotiating positions involved any significant measure of altruism.

Outlawing War The Kellogg-Briand Pact, also known as the Pact of Paris for the Renunciation of War (1928), renounced offensive war as "an instrument" of national policy. It called on nations to settle their differences by pacific means. The idea originated with a Chicago lawyer, Salmon O. Levinson, who argued that international law should declare war a criminal act. While this idea appeared to be utopian, many opponents to the League of Nation's concept of collective security saw an alternative in the movement to outlaw war.

The Kellogg-Briand Pact emerged as an attempt by the Coolidge administration to induce Paris authorities to alter their position that France's security needed to be enhanced by British or U.S. political-military commitments before they agreed to arms limitations. Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg's offer to French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand acknowledged the virtue of a world tribunal to enforce the outlawry of war, but he was realistic enough to know that the Senate and the American people (and those of most other nations) were not ready for such a commitment.

Most historians have criticized the pact for its failure to provide for enforcement. Only a few believe it influenced international law, even though after World War II major war criminals were found guilty of violating the treaty. Any reappraisal of the Kellogg-Briand Pact should take into consideration that it did not abolish "defensive" war and that the United States and other nations made various reservations upon signing.

The League of Nations and Disarmament After several early committees failed to come up with a disarmament proposal, the League of Nations created an "independent" preparatory commission in 1926 to prepare a draft treaty. President Calvin Coolidge accepted the league's invitation to send a representative. In a message to Congress on 26 January 1926, he declared that "the general policy of this Government in favor of disarmament and limitation of armaments cannot be emphasized too frequently or too strongly. In accordance with that policy, any measure having a reasonable tendency to bring about these results should receive our sympathy and support."

The American delegation, headed by Hugh Gibson, U.S. minister to Switzerland, maintained a fairly consistent policy between 1926 and 1930. He emphasized that the U.S. Army had been unilaterally reduced after World War I from some 4 million men to 118,000, which he acknowledged America's geographical situation made possible. Gibson also emphasizedpointing to the Washington naval systemthat his government favored the limitation of naval forces by categories and approved qualitative restrictions only when accompanied by quantitative limitations. Still, the United States opposed budgetary limitations and any regulation that might restrict industrial potential.

The Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armamentsalso known as the World Disarmament Conferenceconvened in Geneva on 2 February 1932 and began negotiations on the preparatory commission's draft convention. Secretary of State Stimson declared that President Hoover would not authorize discussions involving political arrangements to facilitate arms control measures. Nevertheless, on 9 February 1932, Gibson assured the gathered diplomats that the United States wished to cooperate with them to achieve arms limitations. As the disarmament conference bogged down, President Hoover and, later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to stimulate negotiations. Citing the Kellogg-Briand Pact's outlawing of aggressive war, Hoover on 22 June 1932 proposed a one-third reduction in all armies and battle fleets. Additionally, he urged the abolition of tanks, large mobile guns, and chemical weapons and the prohibition of aerial bombardment.

When the French argued that his plan must be anchored to some kind of verification, Hoover reversed the earlier U.S. position. President Wilson initially rejected permanent supervision of German disarmament at Versailles because this precedent might run counter to America's future interests. "The United States," he declared, "will not tolerate the supervision of any outside body in [disarmament], nor be subjected to inspection or supervision by foreign agencies or individuals." Secretary of State Frank Kellogg restated this policy in January 1926. "The United States will not be a party to any sanctions of any kind for the enforcement of a treaty for the limitation of armaments," he asserted, "nor will it agree that such treaties to which it may be a party shall come under the supervision of any international bodywhether the League of Nations or otherwise." Arms limitation measures, he insisted, "so far as we are concerned, must depend upon the good faith of nations." On 30 June 1932, Stimson announced that the United States was prepared "to accept the right of inspection" if there was any likelihood of concluding "a treaty of real reduction." This belated change of policy was insufficient because the French now also demanded a guarantee of military assistance in case of attack.

On 16 May 1933, President Roosevelt proposed abolition of modern offensive weapons. He also announced America's willingness to consult with other states in the event of threatened conflict, but since the Senate showed little interest in abandoning neutrality for international cooperation, this initiative failed. Confronted by French intransigence and German aggressiveness, the World Disarmament Conference slowly dissolved without any accomplishments.


At the beginning of the Cold War, some American leaders were wary of entrusting any element of national security to arms control and disarmament, even if the agreements were linked to functioning international organizations. Harking back to the U.S. lack of military preparedness on the eve of World War II, these individuals believed that interwar disarmament activities had compromised national security. Bernard M. Baruch, who presented the initial U.S. proposal for international control of atomic weaponry, recalled that in preparing the plan "the [interwar] record of meaningless disarmament agreements and renunciations of war" was "very much in my mind."

Other policymakers believed that Japan's decision to challenge the United States was the result of naval limitation treaties that had left the United States with an inferior navy. After World War II, James Byrnes, President Harry Truman's secretary of state, recalled that as a young congressman he had approved of the Washington Naval Treaty and that "what happened thereafter influences my thinking today." Byrnes felt that "while America scrapped battleships, Japan scrapped blueprints. America will not again make that mistake." Secretary of State Dean Acheson, who assisted in developing the Baruch Plan, reportedly saw in international efforts to control atomic energy "a parallel with the Washington Disarmament Conference of 19211922. The idea of heading off a naval race had been a good one, but the content of the treaties was wrong. Worse, the United States did not build all the ships allowed by the treaty limits and the Japanese fortified their island bases."

"Policymakers ordinarily use history badly," Ernest R. May points out in "Lessons" of the Past (1973), because there is more assumption than analysis in their retrospective views. Even a brief analysis would have shown that at the Washington conference it was the United States that scrapped the most blueprints and uncompleted hulls. Congressional and public opposition to the expenditure necessary to complete the building program had made the treaty a virtue out of necessity. Later, Coolidge and Hoover were more interested in balancing the budget than in building ships, and their actions went unchallenged by legislators with little enthusiasm for increasing naval expenditures. While the notion that Japan secretly violated its pledge not to fortify the league-mandated Pacific islands has long persisted, historical investigations have revealed very little evidence to support such a conclusion.

Even more significantly, these critics and others failed to consider the relationship between naval limitation and its political setting. President Harding and the Republican Party oversold the system as one that would, by itself, bring about a new era of peace and considerable savings. Few leaders were willing to face the fact that the naval treaties were only first steps toward a more stable, mutually beneficial international system for the western Pacific region, and that additional political arrangements to resolve new issues were required to maintain that stability. Consequently, when extremistsisolationists in the United States and military expansionists in Japanthwarted political accommodation, it was impossible for the naval limitation treaties, by themselves, to prevent the oncoming conflict.


After World War II, as the new weapons technology threatened the very survival of American society and its people, its policymakers continued to pursue traditional objectives. They sought to enhance the nation's (and its allies') security through deterrence, to reduce military expenditures, to influence international public opinion, and to gain domestic partisan political advantage. Politics became more important when arms issues became embroiled in election campaigns.

American public opinion during the Cold War reflected an ambiguity regarding arms control and disarmament treaties, especially with the Soviet Union. Opinion polls invariably showed that a majority of Americans favored arms control agreements with the Soviets, but at the same time a majority also said that they expected the communists to cheat if given an opportunity. Many politicians sought to follow the polls: they claimed to favor arms limitations, yet they never hesitated to demonstrate to their constituents that they were "tougher on communists" than their opponents. Thus, as the Cold War lengthened, the politicians' desire to be seen as strong on national defense often resulted in misleading, even derogatory, appraisals of arms limitations.

The unstable political-military environment with increasingly accurate nuclear weapons systems capable of obliterating cities, equally worrisome to leaders and to the public, persuaded the United States to engage in talks with the Soviet Union. Each successive administration after 1945 found itselfdespite certain individual misgivingsengaged in protracted arms control negotiations. Washington's desire to sustain its influence in the United Nations and to maintain relations with its allies, especially in western Europe, often spurred arms control efforts.

The Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, nourished by Hubert Humphrey and sponsored by John F. Kennedy, was established on 26 September 1961 to facilitate these negotiations. Its director was to be the principal adviser to the president on arms control and to act under the direction of the president and the secretary of statea unique and often strained administrative arrangement. Despite limited staff and resources, the agency was instrumental in negotiating the Limited Nuclear Test Ban, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the treaties banning chemical and biological weapons. Perhaps because of its global approach, the agency was sacrificed to the new unilateralistsled by Senator Jesse Helmsin 1997; its transfer to the State Department was completed in March 1999.

The United Nations, United States, and Disarmament Government leaders, peace reformers, and the general public hoped that the new United Nations, with active U.S. participation, might provide the venue for controlling tensions and reducing the prospects of a nuclear war. The Atlantic Charter, issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill on 14 August 1941, declared that "all nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons must come to the abandonment of the use of force." It further envisaged the creation of "a permanent system of general security" as well as practicable measures to "lighten for peace-loving peoples the crushing burden of armaments." The United Nations Charter emphasized the maintenance of peace and security. The General Assembly was to consider the principles governing "disarmament and the regulation of armaments" (Article 11, paragraph 1), while the Security Council was responsible for developing plans for the establishment of a system for "the regulation of armaments" (Article 26).

Bernard Baruch presented the U.S. proposal dealing with atomic weapons at the initial meeting of the UN Atomic Energy Committee on 14 June 1946. Although he regarded his remarks as a basis for discussion, they came to be known as the Baruch Planthe definitive statement of U.S. policy. The plan called for the creation of the International Atomic Development Authority (IADA), which would control or own all activities associated with atomic energy, from raw materials to military applications, and would control, license, and inspect all other uses. In addition, it would foster peaceful uses of atomic energy by conducting research and development. When the IADA was established, the manufacturing of atomic bombs would cease and all existing weapons were to be destroyed. Baruch declared that sanctions must be imposed on nations possessing or building an atomic device without a license. Finally, he insisted that "there must be no veto to protect those who violate their solemn agreement not to develop or use atomic energy for destructive purposes."

From the outset, American and Soviet diplomats were at odds. The United States viewed the atomic bomb as an important source of its military power and insisted on extensive safeguards before destroying its atomic weapons or releasing information on their manufacture. The Soviets and others argued that the Americans were insincere, because they would not relinquish their atomic arsenal while expecting others to forgo developing their own atomic energy programs. And they were not far off target. "America can get what she wants if she insists on it," Baruch asserted in December 1946. "After all, we've got it and they haven't, and won't for a long time to come."

While some writers blame Washington for the failure of the negotiations, the historian Barton J. Bernstein suggests a more realistic perspective: "Neither the United States nor the Soviet Union was prepared in 1945 or 1946 to take the risks that the other power required for agreement. In this sense, the stalemate on atomic energy was a symbol of the mutual distrust in Soviet-American relations." Not until the ill-fated UN discussions focusing on general and complete disarmament in the 1960s were such broad-gauged approaches again examined.

In a September 1961 address to the General Assembly, President John F. Kennedy responded to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev's 1959 proposal for "general and complete disarmament" by offering one of his own. Both plans primarily sought to influence international and domestic opinion, since neither leader had any reason to expect their plan would gain approval. Extended discussions of the plans by the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee (ENDC) revealed that a major point of contention continued to be that of verification. The United States insisted that verification must not only ensure that agreed limitations and reductions had taken place, but also that retained forces and weapons never exceed established limits. The Soviet Union countered that continued verification of retained forces and weapons constituted espionage.

While a few arms control agreements have emerged from the General Assembly and its subordinate bodies, their debates have been more valuable for the discussion of practically every aspect of disarmament. Arthur H. Dean, who represented the United States at the ENDC, wrote: "The discussionsat Geneva, at the United Nations, and in confidential diplomatic conversationswere a necessary means whereby the nations of the world could become educated on disarmament questions and the ground could be broken for concrete agreements."

Nuclear Test Bans and Nonproliferation The nonnuclear states' search for a comprehensive test ban was closely linked to the major nuclear powers' desire to restrict the spread of nuclear weapons through a nonproliferation treaty. The inability to achieve a comprehensive test ban was a source of friction between the two groups for five decades, especially during the periodic nonproliferation treaty review conferences. Beginning with President Dwight Eisenhower, successive administrations declared that a comprehensive test ban was their goal although they varied greatly in efforts for its accomplishment.

Limited Test Ban The spread of radioactive fallout resulting from atmospheric nuclear tests aroused public protests in the 1950sled by Albert Schweitzer, Linus Pauling, and a host of "peace" groupsand put pressure upon President Eisenhower to halt the testing. When a 1957 Gallup Poll revealed that 63 percent of the American people favored banning tests, compared with 20 percent three years earlier, the president initiated the tripartite (U.S.BritishSoviet) test ban negotiations. Eisenhower turned to technical experts to develop a verification system, a move that was to have unexpected long-term results. With the advent of the nuclear age, even greater use was made of expertsincluding military officers, scientists, and technical specialists. Unquestionably, these experts were vital to the proper shaping of negotiating positions; however, they often complicated issues to a point where they become technically, and therefore politically, insoluble. A case in point is that during early test ban negotiations, seismologists sought a verification system that could distinguish between earthquakes and small underground nuclear explosions. After techniques acceptable to most were developed, technical experts kept searching for more and more refinements to reduce the already low error rate. As a result, it was impossible to negotiate a comprehensive test ban because critics would argue that one could not be absolutely certain that no cheating was going on.

While Eisenhower's efforts resulted only in obtaining an informal test moratorium, John F. Kennedy came to the presidency committed to obtaining a comprehensive ban on tests. His sobering encounter with Khrushchev at Vienna in 1961 and the subsequent Berlin crisis, however, derailed his plans. The October 1962 Cuban missile crisis, paradoxically, brought Kennedy and Khrushchev closer and led to the signing on 5 August 1963 of the Limited (or Partial) Nuclear Test Ban (LNTB).

The 1963 Moscow experience again suggests that successful arms control negotiations cannot be structured as an engineering or technical exercise; they must be essentially a political undertaking. When ambassador-at-large W. Averell Harriman was sent to Moscow to finalize the test ban, he took scientific advisers with him but deliberately excluded them from the negotiating team. He later explained, "The expert is to point out all the difficulties and dangers but it is for the political leaders to decide whether the political, psychological and other advantages offset such risks as there may be."

The Kennedy administration's inability to provide absolute guarantees of Soviet compliance resulted in the LNTB's banning all tests except those conducted underground. This provided the Department of Defense and its nuclear scientists with a "safeguard" or guarantee that the United States would continue underground testing, as they put it, to ensure the safety and reliability of nuclear weapons. From 1964 to 1998, the United States conducted 683 announced tests, compared with 494 for the Soviet Union. Washington's emphasis on the "safeguard" continued to be used to justify testing after the Cold War ended.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty The People's Republic of China's first nuclear test on 16 October 1964, focused President Lyndon B. Johnson's attention on the dangers of nuclear proliferation. In 1965 both the United States and Soviet Union responded to the UN call to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons by submitting their own draft treaties to ENDC, and, after resolving a few differences, became identical by 1967. The committee's nonaligned members argued that a nonproliferation treaty must not simply divide the world into nuclear "haves" and "have nots," but must balance mutual obligations. Thus, to stop states from engaging in "horizontal" proliferation (the acquisition of nuclear weapons), the nuclear powers should agree to end their "vertical" proliferation (increasing the quantity and quality of their weapons). The nonaligned nations specified the necessary steps, in order of priority: (1) signing a comprehensive test ban; (2) halting the production of fissionable materials designed for weapons; (3) freezing, and gradually reducing, nuclear weapons and delivery systems; (4) banning the use of nuclear weapons; and (5) assuring the security of nonnuclear states.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed on 1 July 1968, after the United States and Soviet Union reluctantly agreed "to pursue negotiations in good faith" to halt the nuclear arms race "at the earliest possible date" (the fig leaf they tried to hide behind), and to seek "a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control." The dubious adherence to this pledge has been a point of serious contention at each subsequent review conference.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty is the cornerstone of a carefully structured regime that emphasizes the banning of nuclear tests and several other elements. The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency was created in 1957as the coordinating body for Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace projectto promote and safeguard peaceful uses of atomic energy. It has established a system of international safeguards aimed at preventing nuclear materials from being diverted to military uses. During 1974 and 1975, the Nuclear Suppliers Group was established in London to further ensure that nuclear materials, equipment, and technology would not be used in weapons production. Finally, nuclear-weapons-free zones further extended the nonproliferation effort.

Comprehensive Test Ban The comprehensive test ban issue was dormant during the early years of Richard Nixon's presidency, largely so it would not interfere with U.S.Soviet negotiations on strategic arms limitations. At a Moscow summit meeting with Premier Leonid Brezhnev in July 1974, the two leaders resurrected the bilateral Threshold Test Ban Treaty, under which they agreed to hold underground tests to less than 150 kilotons, restrict the number of tests to a minimum, not interfere with the other's efforts at verification, and exchange detailed data on all tests and test sites. The Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty, signed by Brezhnev and President Gerald Ford in May 1976, allowed nuclear explosives under 150 kilotons to be used in a peaceful mannersuch as "digging" canals. The pact provided, for the first time, on-site inspections under certain circumstances.

President Jimmy Carter shifted his focus from the unratified threshold test ban back to a comprehensive test ban. In 1977 the Soviet Union indicated that it was willing to accept a verification system based on national technical means (each nation's intelligence-gathering system), supplemented by voluntary challenge inspections and automatic, tamperproof seismic monitoring stations known as "black boxes." When signs pointed to an agreement on a comprehensive ban, major opponentsincluding the weapons laboratories, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretary of Energy James Schlesingerkilled the effort by emphasizing America's need for periodic tests to assure the reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile.

In July 1982, President Ronald Reagan ended U.S. participation in the comprehensive test ban talks, arguing that the Soviet Union might be testing over the 150-kiloton threshold. He insisted that verification aspects of both the threshold ban and peaceful explosions treaties must be renegotiated before a comprehensive accord could be considered. Critics pointed out that proving a test had taken place was much easier than verifying a specific magnitude; therefore, the administration had things backward. When Premier Mikhail Gorbachev informed Reagan in December 1985 that he would accept on-site inspections as part of a comprehensive ban, Reagan's refusal to consider the offer made it clear that the administration's concern about verification was a sham and that it had been used to avoid any agreement.

President George H. W. Bush issued a policy statement in January 1990 that his administration had "not identified any further limitations on nuclear testing that would be in the United States' national security interest." Negotiations proceeded on verification protocols for the 1974 threshold treaty and the 1976 peaceful explosions pact; in June 1990, Bush and Gorbachev signed the new protocols clearing the way for their ratification.

The UN General Assembly, supported by the United States, overwhelmingly adopted a Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty on 10 September 1996. President William Jefferson Clinton signed the agreement and announced that its entry into force would be of the highest priority. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Republican chairman, Jesse Helms, a longtime opponent of the test ban, blocked its consideration until late in 1999, when Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott unexpectedly scheduled a ratification vote. After a bitter partisan battle, the Senate by a vote of 5148 on 13 October 1999 refused to ratify the treaty. Apart from political partisanship, opposition to the treaty centered on two old issues: whether the treaty's "zero-yield" test ban could be adequately verified; and the potential long-term impact of a permanent halt on America's nuclear arsenal.

Critics refused to place much confidence in the Clinton administration's plans for a U.S. nuclear weapon custodianship, which was to ensure the safety and reliability of aging nuclear weapons. The directors of the three national laboratories (Sandia, Lawrence Livermore, and Los Alamos) testifiednot at all surprisingly, since they are in the testing businessthat there was no guarantee the custodianship program would work, and it would take five to ten years to prove its effectiveness.


Bargaining between the United States and the Soviet Union (later Russia) began in the late 1960s, and eventually these efforts resulted in a series of bilateral agreements: the two SALT I pacts of 1972 (the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Interim Agreement on Strategic Offensive Weapons); the SALT II Treaty of 1979; the INF agreement of 1987; the START I Treaty of 1991; and the START II Treaty of 1993.

SALT I and II Negotiations In late 1966, President Lyndon Johnson notified Soviet leaders that he wanted to limit strategic nuclear arms. The explosion of China's first thermonuclear device on 17 June 1967 persuaded Soviet Premier Aleksey Kosygin to meet with Johnson a short time later at Glassboro, New Jersey. When Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara lectured Kosygin on the need to restrict antiballistic missiles (ABMs) because they lessened the deterrent effect of their strategic nuclear systems, the Soviet leader angrily pounded the table and exclaimed: "Defense is moral, offense is immoral!"

After failing to get his message across at Glassboro, McNamara bowed to demands for the construction of an ABM system in September 1967. Three months later he announced that the United States also had decided to develop a new multiple, independently targetable, reentry vehicle (MIRV), which, after being carried aloft on a single missile, was capable of delivering two or more warheads to different targets. In late June 1968, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrey Gromyko asked that discussions on limiting both offensive and defensive weapons begin on 30 September; unfortunately, Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces intervened in Czechoslovakia in August, causing Johnson to postpone the talks.

Shortly after his inauguration, President Richard Nixon announced that his administration would seek strategic nuclear "sufficiency." On 17 November 1969 delegates initiated the strategic arms limitation talks (SALT). But the two nuclear arsenals differed significantly. The United States had developed technologically sophisticated, accurate missiles with relatively small warheads of one to two megatons, while the Soviets had deployed a number of different types of weapons. Some were similar to American weapons, but others were larger and had a greater throw weightthe maximum weight that a missile is capable of lifting into a trajectorya difference that caused difficulties in negotiations for more than thirty years.

Nixon's national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, often met secretly with the Soviet ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Dobrynin, in late 1970 when the talks stalled. These "back-channel negotiations," carried on without informing the U.S. delegation, assisted in formulating a compromisenegotiations would focus on limitations of both defensive and offensive systemswhich permitted the formal delegations to reach two distinct agreements.

At the Moscow summit, 1822 May 1972, terms were agreed to on the Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and an Interim Agreement. Each side would deploy no more than 100 ABM launchers at each of two sites, one at the capital and the other at least 1,300 kilometers from the capital. The treaty called for verification by national technical means (satellite reconnaissance, electronic monitoring) without interference, and established a U.S.Soviet Standing Consultative Commission to considering questions about such issues as compliance and interference. The Interim Agreement established, among other restrictions, a quantitative limit on both intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)1,054 for the United States, 1,618 for the Sovietsand submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), but no limits on warheads. Using a formula that exchanged dismantled ICBMs for SLBMs, the United States could have up to 710 SLBMs on 44 submarines, and the Soviets 950 SLBMs on 62 submarines. The Interim Agreement's limits on strategic systems for each side were actually higher than what was currently possessed; but it did set ceilings on future deployments. The pact was to last five years (19721977), during which time both sides would work for a permanent treaty.

Nixon and Kissinger viewed the pacts as significant accomplishments. However, the Defense Department and Joint Chiefs of Staff had insisted on pursuing new strategic weapons systemsincluding the Trident submarine, an ABM site, a submarine-launched cruise missile, and multiple, independently targeted warheadsbefore giving their approval. Senator Henry Jackson, along with a former delegate to the talks, Paul Nitze, was concerned about Soviet retention of 308 heavy ICBMs, which conceivably might be fitted to carry forty warheads each. Jackson introduced an amendment that any future treaty would "not limit the U.S. to levels of intercontinental strategic forces inferior to the limits for the Soviet Union"thereby launching a search for a new "yardstick" that had a dampening effect on subsequent negotiations.

After ratification of SALT I, the second phase focused on "quantitative" limits, with delegates meeting at Geneva to seek "qualitative" restrictions on the capabilities of weapons systems, a very difficult assignment. After Nixon's resignation, President Gerald Ford and Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev met at Vladivostok in November 1974, to sign an "agreement in principle" that listed agreed-to objectiveseach side should be limited to 2,400 ICBMs, SLBMs, and long-range bombers, of which 1,320 could have multiple warheads. Both sides of the strategic weapons debate in America were unhappy with the terms: some Americans complained about the lack of reductions; others were critical because the Soviets could still protect their heavy ICBMs. Meanwhile, to improve the accuracy of its missiles, the United States developed a larger ICBM known as the MX and introduced a more sophisticated warhead, MARV (maneuverable reentry vehicle), which greatly multiplied the challenges facing any missile defense system.

Jimmy Carter entered the White House hoping to quickly conclude a SALT II treaty that included deeper cuts in nuclear weapons than previously endorsed by the Vladivostok Accord. The Soviets rejected his March 1977 proposal because it took them by surprise, and because Carter had publicly announced his plan before presenting it to them. Finally signed in Vienna on 18 June 1979, the SALT II Treaty initially limited each side to a total of 2,400 strategic nuclear launch vehicles within this ceiling no more than 1,320 ICBMs, SLBMs, and long-range bombers could carry MIRVs or air-to-surface cruise missiles; and within this sublimit no more than 1,200 ICBMs, SLBMs, and air-to-surface cruise missiles could be MIRVed; and within that sublimit no more than 820 ICBMs could be MIRVed. The seventy-eight-page treaty did require both parties to dismantle some systems to make room for new deployments, and it also included an extensive list of qualitative restrictions.

The SALT II agreement was a mix of an engineering document and a lawyer's briefthe text was extraordinarily complex, and extensive definitions and elaborate "counting rules" were appended. As a result, opponents could employ the "fine print" to justify their claims that Backfire bombers were not properly counted or that the allowed "heavy" missiles gave the Soviets an unacceptable advantage. Despite these problems, Carter might have obtained sufficient support for ratification but for two problems: the "discovery" of Soviet combat troops in Cuba and the Iranian seizure of U.S. embassy personnel in Tehran.

INF Proposals Early in his administration, President Ronald Reagan was primarily concerned with expanding and modernizing U.S. military forces and actively avoiding serious arms control negotiations. Under pressure in late 1981 from antinuclear protesters in NATO countries and the "nuclear freeze" movement at home, he opened the intermediate nuclear forces (INF) negotiations. These discussions were triggered by a NATO decision, late in the Carter presidency, to deploy 108 Pershing II and 464 ground-launched cruise missiles to West Germany, Belgium, Britain, the Netherlands, and Italy to offset the Soviet Union's superior intermediate nuclear force, especially the new SS-20 with its three warheads. Not wanting to bow to "pacifist" demonstrators, the Reagan administration offered its "zero option" conceptthe United States would cancel its scheduled deployment in the unlikely event the Soviets withdrew their intermediate-range missiles with l, 100 warheads. Moscow rejected the proposal, and U.S.Soviet relations deteriorated under the Reagan administration's abusive rhetoric.

After Secretary-General Mikhail Gorbachev assumed power in 1985, the two sides examined a variety of INF proposals until in 1987 he stunned NATO and Washington leaders by accepting the U.S. zero option with its disproportionate reductions and, ultimately, the removal of Soviet intermediate-range missiles from Asia. Gorbachev also agreed to America's extensive 1986 verification demands, and on 8 December 1987 he and Reagan signed the INF Treaty in Washington, D.C. To carry out the on-site inspections that would verify compliance with treaty provisions, the United States created a new umbrella organization, the On-Site Inspection Agency. Despite a few minor controversies, the verification process functioned successfully, and on 1 June 2001 inspections ended as both sides announced that all intermediate missiles had been removed and destroyed.

START I and II Negotiations During the 1980 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan denounced SALT II as "fatally flawed" and claimed it allowed a "window of vulnerability" during which the Soviet Union could easily overwhelm U.S. land-based nuclear forces. On 9 May 1982, Reagan outlined his plan for the "practical, phased reduction" of strategic nuclear weapons in two-stages. In phase I, warheads would be reduced by a third, with significant cuts in ballistic missiles; in phase II, a ceiling would be put on ballistic missile throw weights and other elements. While the public response was enthusiastic, analysts found the proposal, like the zero option, so one-sided that they considered it nonnegotiable. In phase I the Soviets would have to dismantle nearly all of their best strategic weapons, while the United States would be able to keep most of its Minutemen and proceed with its planned deployment of 100 heavier MX missiles. In addition, the United States would be allowed to go ahead with cruise missile deployments and the modernization of its submarine and bomber fleets. In phase II, the Soviets were to reduce the total aggregate throw weight of their strategic missiles by almost two-thirds, while the United States made no cuts at all.

Not until 1985, when Gorbachev got the START talks back on track, was there any progress in the on-and-off negotiations. In their first summit meeting in November, Reagan and Gorbachev shared a belief that "a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought," but Reagan's insistence on pursuing a ballistic missile defense system became a major sticking point. In March 1983 he had announced his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) proposal, which was to render nuclear weapons "impotent and obsolete." The Soviets, and many NATO allies, opposed SDI (also dubbed "Star Wars") because it threatened the existing mutual nuclear deterrent system. Although the Geneva summit made little progress, both men agreed to work for a 50 percent reduction in strategic forces.

The spring of 1986 found the Reagan administration embroiled in a fierce struggle over whether or not to ignore the SALT II limits. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and Central Intelligence Agency chief William Casey insisted that alleged Soviet noncompliance demanded a response; while State Department officials and Admiral William Crowe, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, argued that there was no operational reason for going over SALT limits. On 27 May, Reagan announced that the United States would no longer be bound by the unratified SALT II ceilings, a decision that caused a loud outcry in Congress, dismay among allied leaders, and a public uproar. Gorbachev was unperturbed because he was readying a new arms control package.

At the Reykjavik summit, on 1011 October 1986, Reagan suggested the elimination of all ballistic missiles within ten years. Gorbachev immediately countered with the elimination of all Soviet and U.S. strategic nuclear weapons within ten years and limits on SDI. Since Reagan refused to accept any limitations on his Star Wars system, these radical arms reduction proposals were droppedmuch to the relief of U.S. military leaders and the NATO allies, and undoubtedly to senior Soviet generals. In mid-1987 START negotiations began anew on reductions in strategic nuclear launch vehicles and ceilings on intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and air-launched cruise missile warheads.

When George Bush entered the White House in January 1989, the basic framework of START existed except for several unresolved details. While Moscow favored on-site inspections to determine whether ships were carrying sea-launched cruise missiles, the U.S. Navy rebelled at the idea of the Soviets snooping about its newest nuclear submarines. The United States now proposed that each side declare the number of submarine-launched cruise missiles it planned to deploy. At every meeting with Soviet leaders, Reagan had repeated the Russian proverb "Trust, but verify"; now, however, the United States wanted only trust.

The Soviets pressed for complex verification arrangements. Even though the basic procedures had been established in the INF treaty, verification continued to pose special problems. Congressional Cold War hawks still demanded intrusive inspections, but the Department of Defense and intelligence agencies did not want the Soviets prowling American defense plants. Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci admitted, "Verification has proven to be more complex than we thought it would be. The flip side of the coin is its application to us. The more we think about it, the more difficult it becomes."

After eight and a half frustrating years, President Bush and Soviet President Gorbachev signed the complex 750-page START I treaty on 31 July 1991. Basically, it limited each side to the deployment of 1,600 ballistic missiles and long-range bombers, carrying 6,000 "accountable" warheads by 5 December 2001, and established further sublimits. This was the first agreement that called upon each side to make significant cuts in its strategic arsenal. Almost 50 percent of the nuclear warheads carried on ballistic missiles were eliminated. The Lisbon Protocol, signed on 23 May 1992, created a five-state START I regime joining Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States. However, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine agreed to turn over the strategic nuclear weapons based on their territories to Russia. The verification regime under START I was complex and intrusive, with a Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission that served as a forum to facilitate implementation and to resolve compliance questions and ambiguities.

As the realization settled in that the Cold War was over, the START II treaty was quickly put in place on 3 January 1993 (although ratification was delayedthe United States took three years and Russia nearly seven years). This agreement further reduced the number of strategic nuclear warheads to be held by each party on 1 January 2003 to no more than 3,500. To persuade the Russian Duma to ratify SALT II, Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin met in Helsinki during March 1997 and drew up the so-called Helsinki Initiatives (Protocol to START II), which reassured Russia about the addition of former Warsaw Pact members to NATO and enhanced the prospects of further bilateral nuclear arms cooperation. These initiatives included a package of amendments to various SALT I terms designed to alleviate some the Duma's fears that since the Soviets could not afford to replace all their aging missiles, they would lose parity with U.S. forces. Most significant was that now the core of SALT II would be a ban on all land-based strategic ballistic missiles carrying MIRVs. The removal of the MIRVs eliminated what most experts considered to be the most destabilizing weapons in their mutual arsenals. They also reached agreement in principle on an outline for START III that would stipulate even deeper cuts. The United States and Russia were ahead of schedule in reducing their strategic nuclear arsenal in 1997, when the out-line for a START III pact would reduce the aggregate levels of strategic nuclear warheads to between 2,000 and 2,500 for each side by 31 December 2007.

The demise of the Soviet Union and the chaos that followed led to the sometimes controversial 1991 Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (often called the Nunn-Lugar Program), which provided U.S. funds to aid in consolidating the former Soviet arsenal and ensuring its custodial safety. Belatedly, the program was expanded to provide financial and technical assistance in disposal of chemical weapons and of fissile material extracted from nuclear warheads. The cost of disarming proved to be considerably more than expected.


In addition to the major agreements dealing with nuclear weapons, several other arms control activities were undertaken in the post-1945 era, including a multilateral treaty limiting the conventional forces in Europe, agreements on chemical and biological weapons, pacts creating nuclear-weapons-free zones, and protocols aimed at preventing accidental war.

Limiting Conventional Forces Immediately after World War II, the victors dismantled Germany's military forces and divided the nation. With the onset of the Cold War, however, the Western allies authorized controlled rearmament of (West) Germany and integration into NATO. In Japan the U.S. authorities endorsed, perhaps initiated, Article 9 in the 1946 constitution, which renounced war as an instrument of national policy and prohibited offensive military forces. Later, during and after the Korean War, the United States urged the development of Japanese "self-defense forces."

Negotiations seeking to limit conventional military forces in Europe began in the early 1970s and went on for nearly twenty years. The imbalance between the much greater Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces and U.S. and NATO forces meant that Moscow was reluctant to offer concessions. Under these circumstances, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) measure adopted in the Helsinki Final Act of 1975which called for regulating major military exerciseswas more easily achieved than arms limitations. Several critics belittled the CSCE or "Stockholm" conventional arms control accord; yet the reduced size of these exercises, force concentrations, and armaments involvedalong with the advance noticerealistically reduced concerns that "maneuvers" might become a surprise attack.

Negotiations in 19891990 finally resulted in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Agreement. Several factors contributed to their success: France joined the talks; Gorbachev unilaterally withdrew troops and equipment from forward areas; the Warsaw Pact disintegrated; and a reunited Germany agreed to troop limitations. The 11 November 1990 agreement limited five categories of conventional armed forces stationed in Europe from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains. These included three categories of ground equipment (tanks, artillery, and armored combat vehicles), aircraft, and helicopters. The process included a full of sharing conventional arms information among all parties and a joint consultative group to iron out differences. By 1998 more than 3,000 on-site inspections had been carried out, and the dismantling of 58,000 units of weapons and equipment had been verified.

Negotiations soon began to establish troop limits and to resolve or clarify other issues. A CFE 1A treaty signed on 10 July 1992 at Helsinki, Finland, spelled out national personnel limits, including restricting the United States to 250,000 personnel in Europe. Another parallel agreement was the "Open Skies" Accord, signed at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe ministerial meeting in Helsinki on 24 March 1992. In July 1955, President Eisenhower had proposed aerial reconnaissance to eliminate "the possibility of great surprise attack, thus lessening danger and relaxing tensions," and to "make more easily attainable a comprehensive and effective system of inspection and disarmament." The Soviets rejected the idea as an espionage plot. After it had lain dormant for three decades, President George H. W. Bush gave the Open Skies concept new life in 1989 because he needed a new arms control proposal; because aircraft, cheap and more flexible, complemented reconnaissance satellites; and because NATO could directly observe Soviet-bloc nations without relying on U.S. satellites.

Banning Land Mines The "humanitarian" approach won out in the efforts to negotiate a ban on the use of land mineswhich in 1997 were estimated to kill or maim 2,000 people each month, some 80 percent of whom were civilians. The ban's origins may be traced back to the little-known 1981 "inhumane weapons" convention that sought to prohibit the use of "mines, booby-traps and other devices." From the convention's 19951996 Review Conference emerged support from worldwide nongovernmental organizations.

The United States rejected the original Inhumane Weapons Pact because the Defense Department was reluctant to give up its stockpile of high-technology mines. According to Pentagon estimates, the use of these "smart mines" (with self-destruction or self-deactivation mechanisms) could reduce American casualties on the Korean Peninsula by one-third by limiting the mobility of enemy troops and provide an early warning of attack. Military officials argued that U.S. policy ought to focus on eliminating "dumb" mines and postpone negotiations on other antipersonnel mines.

In October 1996 the Canadian government launched an initiative (the Ottawa Process) aimed at banning antipersonnel mines. Washington announced on 17 January 1997 that it would permanently ban the export and transfer of land mines and would cap its own inventory at current levels. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy led the American campaign to ban land mines, against opposition from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and found a growing number of military officers, both retired generals and those holding commands, questioning the utility of battlefield antipersonnel mines. In June, fifty-six senators signed a resolution calling for a ban on the use of land mines by U.S. forces after 2000.

At the Oslo conference in the fall of 1997, the Clinton administration introduced "improvements" in the draft text in line with Pentagon wishes; however, this endeavor drew the unanimous response "no exceptions, no reservations and no loopholes." On 17 September 1997 the administration decided not to sign the final text; later, however, it decided to unilaterally cease using land mines outside of South Korea by 2003 and to sign the Anti-Personnel Mines Convention by 2006 if alternative mines and mixed antitank systems could be developed. Moreover, the Clinton administration promised to raise $1 billion to carry out a U.S.-led "Demining 2010 Initiative" to remove all land mines from more than sixty-four countries by the year 2010. Between 1993 and 1997, the United States spent $153 million and planned to spend $68 million in 1998 to assist in mine removal in seventeen countries.

Banning Chemical and Biological Weapons Although the United States had signed the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which prohibited the use of "asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases," the Army Chemical Warfare Service and the chemical industry prevented its ratification. Ignoring his Chemical Warfare Service's recommendations, President Franklin Roosevelt in June 1943 unilaterally announced a "no-first-use" policy: "I state categorically that we shall under no circumstances resort to the use of such weapons unless they are first used by our enemies."

During the first two decades of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union accumulated large stocks of chemical weapons and integrated them into their military planning. When a resolution to augment the 1925 Geneva Protocol was introduced in the UN General Assembly in 1966, the United States immediately objected to the addition of herbicides and riot-control agents. The Senate ratified the Geneva Protocol in January 1975fifty years after signingwith reservations: it did not apply to riot-control agents or herbicides (widely used by the United States in Vietnam), and the United States reserved the right to retaliate in kind should a foe violate the protocol.

On 25 November 1969, President Nixon reaffirmed the chemical warfare "no-first-use" policy. At the same time, he unilaterally renounced U.S. use of bacteriological or biological weapons, closed all facilities producing these offensive weapons, and ordered existing stockpiles of biological weapons and agents destroyed. At Geneva the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament had been preparing a convention that would ban production, acquisition, or stockpiling of biological weapons and would require destruction of stocks. Because of the complexities involved, there were no formal verification procedures. On 10 April 1972 the Biological Convention was signed; however, U.S. ratification was delayed until the Geneva Protocol was approved in 1975.

In 1989 a Soviet defector revealed that Moscow had possessed an extensive biological weapons program in violation of its treaty obligations. The 1979 accidental release of anthrax spores at Sverdlovsk, apparently leading to many deaths, had prompted U.S. officials to ask privately for an explanation. The Soviets were less than candid until President Yeltsin acknowledged in April 1992 that an illicit program had existed but had been terminated. While Iraq's biological weapons efforts were known, their surprising size and scope became known only in 1995 with Saddam Hussein's son-in-law's defection.

The threat of Iraq's biological arsenal during the Gulf War prompted the 1991 Biological Weapons Review Convention to search for a means of verification. The United States took the position that the convention was not verifiable, but other nations were not satisfied. The conference created the Group of Verification Experts, which began a protracted scientific and technical examination of potential measures, and was reviewing the verification techniques employed by the chemical weapons convention at the end of the twentieth century.

Following inconclusive bilateral negotiations from 1977 to 1980 for a chemical weapons convention, the United States and Soviet Union reluctantly agreed to let the UN Conference on Disarmament wrestle with the problems. As finally signed, on 13 January 1993, the Convention on Chemical Weapons eliminated an entire class of weapons and established the most elaborate verification regime in history. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons would collect declarations as to nations' stockpiles and oversee their destruction. In April 1997 the Senate finally granted its approval.

Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zones There is no authoritative definition of nuclear-weapons-free zones, but there are certain accepted elements implicit in the term. These include no manufacture or production of nuclear weapons within the zone, no importation of nuclear weapons by nations within the zone, no stationing or storing of nuclear weapons within the borders of nations within the zone, and preferably a pledge by nuclear weapons states not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear nations within the zone. Although early proposals were caught up in the Cold War rivalry, the United States agreed to three multilateral agreements that prohibited nuclear weapons in specific, nonpopulated areasAntarctica, outer space, and the seabed.

The Antarctic agreement (1959) has been acknowledged as the forerunner of nuclear-weapons-free zone treaties because of its demilitarizing provisions. An innovative verification system was established whereby the treaty parties might conduct aerial inspections and, at all times, have complete access to all areas and installations. Ten years of UN-sponsored, multilateral disarmament sessions resulted in the Outer Space Treaty (1967), in which the parties agree "not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction" or establish "military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military maneuvers on celestial bodies." The nuclear test ban accords and the ABM treaty (1972) also have constraints on testing or deploying various weapons in outer space, and the SALT and START treaties prohibit interference with the monitoring of space vehicles. The objective of the Seabed Treaty (1971) is to prevent the placing of nuclear weapons on the ocean floor beyond national territorial waters.

The Treaty of Tlatelolco (1967) pledged its Latin American signatories to keep their territories free of nuclear weapons; not to test, develop, or import such weapons; to prevent the establishment of foreign-controlled nuclear weapon bases in the region; and to negotiate International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. The United States ratified the protocols asking nations having territorial interests in the region "to apply the status of denuclearization in respect to warlike purposes" to these territories, and "not to use or threaten to use, nuclear weapons against" treaty signatories. Signatories of the Treaty of Rarotonga (1985), including Australia and New Zealand, along with other nearby island states, modeled their pact after the Tlatelolco Treaty. The motivation for creating this nuclear-weapons-free zone was the desire to pressure France to stop underground nuclear tests on Mururoa Atoll in the Tuamoto Archipelago and to prevent disposal of radioactive waste in the region. Many in Washington feared that Rarotonga might encourage additional nuclear-weapons-free zones in the South Pacific that would restrict the navy's freedom of movement; consequently, the United States signed but, as of 2001, had not ratified the agreement. The Reagan administration's talk of winnable nuclear wars aroused intense opposition in New Zealand and Australia. In February 1985, New Zealand's government banned a U.S. destroyer from its ports, because the United States refused to say whether or not it carried nuclear weapons. The episode caused a serious rift between New Zealand and Washington for nearly two decades.

In the mid-1990s, two postCold War nuclear-weapons-free zones emergedthe Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone (Treaty of Bangkok, 1995) and African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (Treaty of Pelindaba, 1996). Protocol I to both treaties states that the nuclear weapons states, including the United States, are "not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons" within these zones or against any treaty parties. The United States has argued that, regarding the innocent passage of its warships and aircraft, the Bangkok Treaty is "too restrictive" and has insisted on modifications before signing. The Treaty of Pelindaba apparently met with Washington's criteria and, although the United States signed it, as of 2001 ratification was still pending.


History may hold few examples of accidental wars, but the advent of nuclear weaponsand the premium placed on striking firstgave rise to concerns that miscalculation, misperception, and pressures for haste might bring about an "unintended" nuclear conflict. The desire to provide each side the opportunity to consider a situation fully before taking irreversible action led to diplomatic, usually bilateral, negotiations seeking to improve rapid, direct communication in times of high tension.

Hot-Line Systems The Washington-Moscow "hot line," established in 1963, consists of a group of machinesIBM terminals, encryption machines, and teleprinters. Informally known as Molink, it came into being because the Cuban missile crisis had pointed up the inadequate means of communication between Washington and Moscow. The initial hot-line system consisted of one cable routed across Europe and a backup circuit routed through North Africa. During the 1971 SALT talks it was agreed that two other links be added to the original cable by using an American commercial satellite (INTELSAT) and a Soviet government satellite (MOLNIYA). In 1984 the hot-line technology was further modernized when the system was upgraded for high-speed fax transmission. An urgent message from a Russian leader to the president's ear takes well under five minutesincluding translation.

Although the actual number of times Molink has been used is not known, the Defense Department indicates that it is used sparingly "but has proved invaluable in major crises." These include the June 1967 Israeli preemptive strike against Arab forces during the Six-Day War; in 1971 during the India-Pakistan War; during the 19731974 Arab-Israeli war; during the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus; in 19791980 during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; and in 19821984 when the Soviets needed to discuss Lebanon and the United States used it regarding Poland. Not surprisingly, other nations adopted the idea of direct communication systems. The British and French have their own direct links with Moscow; and Israel and Egypt have direct lines, North and South Korea are linked, and India and Pakistan have been connected since the 1971 war.

Preventing Untoward Incidents The Americans and Soviets were particularly active during the 1970s in seeking measures designed to prevent an isolated clash from sparking a much wider conflict. The Accidents Measures Agreement (1971) hoped to reduce the likelihood of nuclear accidents and to minimize the chance of war should such an accident occur. It urged both sides to undertake measures to improve the safety and security of their nuclear activities, and to notify one another immediately of unauthorized or accidental nuclear weapons detonations. Among other provisions, the agreement provided for advance notice of missile test launches in the direction of the other party.

The significance that Soviet diplomats placed on broad statements of principle is reflected in the Agreement on Prevention of Nuclear War (1973), which found the United States refusing to give a nonuse of nuclear weapons pledge or to renounce the option of "first use" of nuclear weapons. Consequently, the two nations agreed to consult with one another in crisis situations that posed a risk of nuclear war.

In contrast, the American emphasis on technical details may be found in the Agreement on the Prevention of Incidents at Sea (1972), which updated the existing international guidelines to prevent collisions at sea. During the 1960s and early 1970s, Soviet and American naval commanders engaged in various forms of harassment. These included an occasional game of "chicken" in which two rival warships threatened to ram one another, each waiting for the other to turn away; buzzing an enemy ship with aircraft; aiming one's large guns at an opponent's ship; and nudging or "shouldering" hostile ships. Both sides recognized the obvious need to expand the traditional "rules of the road" to reduce these incidents and prevent an actual military engagement. The 1989 Agreement on the Prevention of Dangerous Military Activities consisted of measures to improve military-to-military communication in times of crisis. It also created areas of "special caution," where U.S. and Soviet forces were operating in close proximity; outlawed the dangerous use of lasers; prohibited interfering with command and control communication networks by jamming; and agreed to treat minor territorial incursions as accidental rather than automatically threatening greater consequences.


The protracted Cold War arms control negotiations did result in a number of accordsfor example, the nonproliferation treaty system, the strategic arms pacts, and the hot linesthat stabilized the military climate and provided an avenue for easing political tensions. Although these were significant accomplishments, the tendency in American political circles and in the public mind during the Cold War era was to emphasizeeven dramatizethe military dimensions of national security while playing down the contributions of arms control agreements.

The headlines featured those individuals who frequently exaggerated the U.S. vulnerability to Soviet nuclear weaponry. "For more than four decades," Strobe Talbott concluded, "Western policy has been based on a grotesque exaggeration of what the USSR could do if it wanted, therefore what it might do, therefore what the West must be prepared to do in response. Worst-case assumptions about Soviet intentions have fed, and fed upon, worst-case assumptions about Soviet capabilities." Some Cold War hawks defended their frightening scenarios as a patriotic duty. "Democracies will not sacrifice to protect their security in the absence of a sense of danger," Richard Perle, a Reagan Defense Department official, explained in a Newsweek article (18 February 1983), "and every time we create the impression that we and the Soviets are cooperating and moderating the competition, we diminish the sense of apprehension."

Despite public pronouncements that America's continually growing nuclear arsenal would provide diplomatic "bargaining chips" or allow "negotiating from strength," U.S. leaders who were so inclined found it extremely difficult to put forth mutually negotiable proposals that could diminish the unthinkable threat posed by nuclear weapons. The interminable bickering between government agenciesespecially, the Defense Department, State Department, Arms Control Agency, and intelligence agenciesoften stymied presidents and diplomats. Such squabbling prompted a senior member of the National Security Council staff to declare, "Even if the Soviets did not exist, we might not get a START treaty because of disagreements on our side." Another high-ranking U.S. official complained that if the Soviets "came to us and said, 'You write it, we'll sign it,' we still couldn't do it."

America's proclivity to seek security almost exclusively through an ever-expanding nuclear arsenal allowed Defense Department officials, along with the cold warriors in Congress, to dominate arms control policies. Their frequent shortsighted objections to halting or placing limits on emerging weapons systemssuch as MIRVs, cruise missiles, and nuclear testingwhen the United States held a temporary technological lead often prevented agreements that could have fore-stalled another surge in the arms race. Not surprisingly, the SALT treaties, while establishing limitations, actually provided for both sides to expand their strategic nuclear forces. It was only with the INF accord and the START agreements that actual reduction of nuclear-armed weapons systems occurred, and these came about largely as a result of Gorbachev's initiative as he was terminating the Cold War.

During the pre-Gorbachev decades, hardy cold warriors argued that the authoritarian nature of the Soviet Union would most likely lead it to secretly violate arms control agreements in order to gain political or military advantage. Not surprisingly, the Reagan administration spent an extraordinary amount of time and energy in a persistent search for Soviet arms control violations. Three White House reports implied an accelerated pattern of Soviet noncomplianceseven alleged violations in 1984, thirteen in 1985, and eighteen in 1986. All but one of the allegations were found to be "inaccurate, ambiguous, or no longer relevant" by a 1988 report titled Compliance and the Future of Arms Control (Gloria Duffy, project director). "The overall pattern on the part of both the United States and the Soviet Union," the report declared, "has been one in which compliance with agreements has clearly far out-weighted noncompliance." But the report observed:

Through this politicization of the compliance issue in the United States, the Reagan administration has at times behaved as if it desired to withdraw from all existing strategic arms control agreements with the Soviet Union. The United States has acted in a fashion that undercuts the essential process of resolving disagreements that arise with regard to treaty compliance, rather than seeking to make the process work. This, combined with Soviet stretching of the terms of agreements and stubbornness in dealing with many of the compliance issues, has caused the arms control process to lose its give-and-take.

Dynamic changes in arms control and disarmament activities came about unexpectedly when in 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev began essentially unilateral steps to wind down the Cold War by accepting the political democratization of Soviet and Soviet bloc societies, and by seeking ways to end the nuclear arms race. There have been many claimants seeking credit for the demise of the Cold War. The "peace through strength" perspective of containment and confrontation has been cited as prompting Gorbachev's actions. However, this view, as Daniel Deudney and G. John Ikenberry noted in Foreign Affairs (1992), obscures "the nature of these momentous changes. Engagement and interdependence, rather than containment, are the ruling trends of the age. Mutual vulnerability, not strength, drives security politics. Accommodation and integration, not confrontation, are the motors of change." Recognition of mutual vulnerability, accommodation, and integration were, and are, the essence of the arms control process.

The old cold warriors were replaced in the 1990s by unilateralists who disdained accommodation, distrusted arms control and feared mutual vulnerability. Their doomsday scenarios featured North Korea, Iraq, and other "radical terrorists" as threatening adversaries against whom the United States must build a missileproof umbrella regardless of how detrimental it might be to its relations with China, Russia, or its friends. Those most ardently pushing in 2001 for a strategic defense system of doubtful reliabilitya Pentagon searching for missions, "defense" contractors, former cold warriors unwilling to recognize the changed world, and a woefully inexperienced President George W. Bushappeared to be little concerned with its impact on existing arms control agreements. Any treaty, including arms control pacts, must be kept in line with changing international realities; however, in this process mutuality of interests must be a significant consideration.


During the twentieth century arms control and disarmament issues, spurred by developments in weapons technology, emerged as fundamental political and policy considerations. Concerns with modern weaponry led to the Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907, which updated the laws of war and sought to focus attention on the dangers of poison gas and aerial bombardment. The decades between the two world wars saw the unilateral disarmament of Germany in 1919, the controversial naval limitation treaties, and the inability of the League of Nations to deal with a rearming world. And, with the emergence of the nuclear era after World War II, debates over arms control and disarmament occupied much of the United Nations' attention and stimulated bilateral superpower negotiations.

The process of negotiating arms control and disarmament agreements became increasingly complex. As policymakers prepared for negotiations, they wrestled with the objectives they wished to achieve and the risks they were willing to accept. Utopian aspirations or broadly gauged disarmament proposals rarely figured prominently in arms control objectives even when peace groups aroused public sentiment in support of such negotiationssuch as at the first Hague Conference and with the nuclear-freeze movement of the 1970s and 1980s.

While the bargaining was usually strenuous between teams of competing diplomats, it was often even more intense between competing bureaucracies at home. Indeed, chiefs of state frequently discovered that their latitude in negotiating specific issues had been sharply curtailed in the process of getting all major players at home to agree. In Washington, this was often referred to as the Battle of the Potomac, and a similar struggle usually took place in Moscow.

As weapon systems became more complicated, it was necessary to call upon experts for advice. At the unsuccessful Geneva Naval Conference of 1927, naval delegates completely bewildered the conferees with elaborate formulas comparing the relative merits of eight-inch versus six-inch guns and heavy versus light cruisers. The senior British diplomat returned home arguing that from then on, experts "should be on tap, but not on top." With the advent of the nuclear age, it was often the case that specialists could complicate issues to a point where they became technically, and hence politically, insoluble. During the early test ban negotiations, seismologists developed verification techniques that appeared to be acceptable to many scientists and diplomats; however, these experts kept refining the already low error rate so it would be even smaller. It took a long time to develop a comprehensive test ban because criticswho often had a vested interest in continuing underground testingargued that one could not be absolutely certain that there was no cheating. From all of this, there is one obvious lesson. To be successful, the negotiation of an arms control and disarmament agreement cannot be an engineering or technical exercise; it must be essentially a political undertaking.

Initial risks involved in arms control and disarmament agreements are sometimes difficult to perceive. Treaties that are termed controversial (that is, they involve some obvious risk) inevitably stimulate contemporary observers to judge the agreements consistent with their personal beliefs and values. The optimistic, enthusiastic supporters of the agreement usually tend to minimize the risks, whereas the pessimistic, suspicious opponents generally overestimate the risks.

Not all contemporary critics have been military officers, as some opponents of the London Naval Limitation Treaty of 1930 illustrate. As Fredrick Hale stated before the U.S. Senate: "The British by the terms of this treaty have us hamstrung and hog-tied and there will keep us as long as limitations of armaments are the order of the day." Winston Churchill stated before the House of Commons: "I am astonished that any Admiralty board of naval officers could have been found to accept responsibility for such a hamstringing stipulation." T Inukai, speaking before the Japanese Diet, stated that the government had "betrayed the country by entering into an agreement at the London Conference inadequate for Japan's defense needs."

These were three civilian statesmen from the three principal signatory nations each insisting that his country's security had been impaired by the treaty. Each was, of course, assessing the risks incurred in the naval treaty based on his own personal convictions and assumptions about the nature of a nation's security.

During the Cold War it was obvious that most American policymakers disregarded the admonishment of Truman's Secretary of State, General George C. Marshall, that if you define a political problem in military terms, it will soon become a military problem. As the cold warriors emphasized the military dimension of national security and scorned arms control and disarmament policies, their mantra was the old Roman preceptif you desire peace (security), prepare for war. A little historical insight might have given them pause, for the more Romans prepared for war, the more war they waged, until, in the end, Rome was conquered.

Clearly, national security cannot be defined simply in amounts of weaponry. Few in Washington reflected on the fact that during the nineteenth century the United States felt quite secure with its policy of political isolationism and its meager armed forces while, conversely, never had the United States felt so insecure as it did during the Cold War years when it possessed a vast peacetime nuclear arsenal, substantial military forces, and allies around the world. A nation's security, then, may rest as much on a sense of national well-beinga psychological stateas it does on the size of its military forces. It would appear, as H. A. L. Fisher wrote during the interwar years, that "in reality, security is a state of mind; so is insecurity."

Whether or not an arms control agreement might be violated was a matter of special concern in the nuclear era. Consequently, the search for effective means of verifying or supervising the compliance with arms control and disarmament agreements has been far more intense since 1945 than in earlier years. The verification or supervision process employs several methods of monitoring compliance that may be classified as "national means" and "cooperative/intrusive means."

The traditional method used to verify treaty compliance has been national means, in which human observersincluding military attachés assigned to foreign capitals; national intelligence agencies (for example, the CIA); international businessmen and tourists; and clandestine or undercover sources, including spieshave served as important sources of information. The naval limitation treaties of the 1920s and 1930s, as well as agreements dealing with the outlawing of weapons and demilitarization, used these methods. Prior to World War II, the reports of military attachés were considered to be particularly valuable because of the expertise of the observers; indeed, most of the treaty evasions reported were initially noted by the attachés. Equally important has been the analysis of foreign publications, especially commercial and industrial reports. In such documents, sharp-eyed readers could detect significant changes taking place in the allocation of resources and the establishment or conversion of factories. In this undramatic fashion, the allies learned in the mid-1920s of Germany's evasion of the Versailles Treaty clause forbidding a "general staff" by examining the telephone book of the German military headquarters, which listed the various offices and their functions.

With the advent of modern electronics, photography, space vehicles, and other devices, a new dimension called "national technical means" was added. Such devices have been employed to verify both the quantitative and the qualitative features of strategic weaponry, particularly the numbers and characteristics of ballistic missiles, information that was vital to negotiation of the SALT and START accords. The restrictions on nuclear testing have been monitoredquite effectively, according to private scientific groupsby specially devised seismic devices.

An obvious example of cooperative/intrusive supervision is on-site inspection employed to verify compliance. Such inspection has been used in the efforts to ensure that terms of, for example, the Treaty of Versailles, the Antarctic Treaty, the INF agreement, and the Iraqi armistice were carried out. They also have been used regularly by the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure that matériel employed in the peaceful use of nuclear energy is not illegally shifted to the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

The Antarctic and INF treaties and the International Atomic Energy Agency inspections have been carried out in cooperation with various treaty members because of the perceived mutual advantages. With the Treaty of Versailles and the Iraqi armistice, on the contrary, inspection teams attempting to verify that all imposed terms were carried out were unwelcome in countries whose governments viewed the terms as unfair and the inspection teams as intrusive.

The historical record of compliance is somewhat mixed, but on the whole, agreements in which a sense of mutuality was established have been honored. Often, evasions or violations that occurred were unintended and marginalwith the possible exception of the Soviet violation of the biological weapons pact. There is no evidence of any unknown treaty violation having had a significant impact on the outcome of a military engagement. Few, if any, governments have negotiated and signed an arms control agreement while deliberately planning to evade the terms of the agreement.

Finally, people in general, even quite sophisticated individuals, usually expect too much from arms control agreements. These techniques are designed to accomplish essentially two basic purposes: to reduce the feasibility of electing war as a means of resolving disputes by reducing the armaments available; and, if that should fail, to diminish the military violence in any subsequent hostilities. These agreements, which usually have been rather specific and technical, focused on armaments or the employment of weapons. The arms control process requires a minimum level of political cooperation and, even then, progress can be slow where suspicions and hatreds must be mitigated. Often the first steps to break down the wall of suspicion are measures that provide for exchanging verified information concerning each side's military forcesconfidence- and security-building measures. Rarely have arms control and disarmament accords sought to address the basic political, economic, social, and moral issues that are at the heart of the international disputes that have prompted nations to go to war.


Adams, Valerie. Chemical Warfare, Chemical Disarmament. Bloomington, Ind., 1990.

Adelman, Kenneth L. The Great Universal Embrace: Arms SummitryA Skeptic's Account. New York, 1989. Written by a director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency during the Reagan administration.

Almond, Harry A. "Demilitarization and Arms Control: Antarctica." Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law 17, no. 2 (1985): 229284.

Atwater, Elton. American Regulation of Arms Exports. Buffalo, N.Y., 2000.

Barnaby, Frank, ed. A Handbook of Verification Procedures. New York, 1990.

Barnhart, Michael, ed. Congress and United States Foreign Policy: Controlling the Use of Force in the Nuclear Age. Albany, N.Y., 1987.

Blechman, Barry, and Janine Nolan. The U.S.Soviet Conventional Arms Transfer Negotiations. Washington, D.C., 1987.

Borawski, John. From the Atlantic to the UralsNegotiating Arms Control at the Stockholm Conference. Washington, D.C., 1988. Confidence- and security-building process.

Borawski, John, ed. Avoiding War in the Nuclear Age. Boulder, Colo., 1986. Useful essays dealing with measures to prevent accidental war.

Brown, Frederic J. Chemical Warfare: A Study in Restraints. Princeton, N.J., 1968.

Bunn, George. Arms Control by Committee: Managing Negotiations with the Soviets. Stanford, Calif., 1992.

Burns, Richard Dean, comp. Arms Control and Disarmament: A Bibliography. Santa Barbara, Calif., 1977.

Burns, Richard Dean, ed. Encyclopedia of Arms Control and Disarmament. 3 vols. New York, 1993.

Burns, Richard Dean, and Donald Urquidi. Disarmament in Perspective: An Analysis of Selected Arms Control and Disarmament Agreements Between the World Wars, 19191939. 4 vols. Washington, D.C., 1968. Surveys most treaties of the interwar years.

Caldwell, Dan. The Dynamics of Domestic Politics and Arms Control: The SALT II Treaty Ratification Debate. Columbia, S.C., 1991.

Carnesale, Albert, and Richard N. Haass, eds. Superpower Arms Control: Setting the Record Straight. Cambridge, Mass., 1987. Looks at compliance.

Chatfield, Charles, with Robert Kleidman. The American Peace Movement: Ideals and Activism. New York, 1992.

Clarke, Duncan L. Politics of Arms Control: The Role and Effectiveness of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. New York, 1979.

Daadler, Ivo H. The CFE Treaty: An Overview and an Assessment. Washington, D.C., 1991.

Dean, Arthur H. Test Ban and Disarmament: The Path of Negotiation. New York, 1966.

Debenedetti, Charles. The Peace Reform in American History. Bloomington, Ind., 1980.

Dingman, Roger. Power in the Pacific: The Origins of Naval Arms Limitation, 19141922. Chicago, 1976. Explores the decision-making process.

Divine, Robert A. Blowing on the Wind: The Nuclear Test Ban Debate, 19541960. New York, 1978.

Duffy, Gloria. Compliance and the Future of Arms Control. Cambridge, Mass., 1988. Report of a project directed by Duffy and sponsored by the Center for International Security and Arms Control, Stanford University, and Global Outlook.

Dunn, Lewis A., and Amy E. Gordon, eds. Arms Control Verification and the New Role of On-Site Inspection: Challenges, Issues and Realities. Lexington, Mass., 1990.

Dyson, Freeman. Weapons and Hope. New York, 1984. Insight into the science and politics of Cold War arms control.

Fischer, David, and Paul Szasz. Safeguarding the Atom: A Critical Appraisal. Edited by Jozef Goldblat. Philadelphia, 1985. A study of the IAEA safeguards system.

Fitzgerald, Frances. Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars, and the End of the Cold War. New York, 2000.

Flowerree, Charles C., and Ricki Aberle. Multilaterial Negotiations for Chemical Weapons Ban. Washington, D.C., 1993.

Friedman, Leon, ed. The Law of War: A Documentary History. 2 vols. New York, 1972. Contains relevant documents.

Fry, Michael P., Patrick Keatinge, and Joseph Rotblat, eds. Nuclear Non-Proliferation and the Non-Proliferation Treaty. New York, 1990.

Garthoff, Raymond L. Policy Versus the Law: The Reinterpretation of the ABM Treaty. Washington, D.C., 1987.

. Détente and Confrontation: Soviet-American Relations from Nixon to Reagan. Rev. ed. Washington, D.C., 1994.

Graybeal, Sidney N., and Michael Krepon. "Making Better Use of the Standing Consultative Commission." International Security 10 (fall 1985): 183199. The commission deals with SALT and START problems.

Hall, Christopher G. L. Britain, America, and Arms Control, 19211937. New York, 1987.

Hirschfeld, Thomas J., ed. Intelligence and Arms Control: A Marriage of Convenience. Austin, Tex., 1987.

Katz, Milton S. Ban the Bomb: A History of SANE, the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, 19571985. Westport, Conn., 1986.

Kaufman, Robert G. Arms Control During the Pre-Nuclear Era: The United States and Naval Limitations Between the Two World Wars. New York, 1990.

Kelleher, Catherine M., and Joseph E. Naftzinger, eds. Intelligence in the Arms Control Process: Lessons from "INF." College Park, Md., 1990.

Kelleher, Catherine M., Jane M. O. Sharp, and Lawrence Freeman. The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. The Hague, 1996.

Krass, Allan S. The Verification Revolution. Cambridge, Mass., 1989.

Krepon, Michael, and Dan Caldwell, eds. The Politics of Arms Control Treaty Ratification. New York, 1991. Reviews problems associated with achieving ratification of selected treaties negotiated from World War I to the end of the Cold War.

Krepon, Michael, and Mary Umberger, eds. Verification and Compliance: A Problem-Solving Approach. Cambridge, Mass., 1988.

Mandelbaum, Michael, ed. The Other Side of the Table: The Soviet Approach to Arms Control. New York, 1990.

May, Ernest R. "Lessons" of the Past: The Use and Misuse of History in American Foreign Policy. New York, 1973.

Meyer, David S. A Winter of Discontent: The Nuclear Freeze and American Politics. New York, 1990.

Newhouse, John. Cold Dawn: The Story of SALT. New York, 1973. Negotiating SALT I.

Noel-Baker, Philip J. The First World Disarmament Conference, 19321933 and Why It Failed. Oxford and New York, 1979.

O'Connor, Raymond G. Perilous Equilibrium: The United States and the London Naval Conference of 1930. Lawrence, Kans., 1962.

Pelz, Steven E. Race to Pearl Harbor: The Failure of the Second London Naval Conference and the Onset of World War II. Cambridge, Mass., 1974. Examines the final phase of naval limitation efforts.

Ramberg, Bennett. The Seabed Arms Control Negotiation: A Study of Multilateral Arms Control Conference Diplomacy. Denver, Colo., 1978.

Roberts, Brad, ed. Chemical Disarmament and U.S. Security. Boulder, Colo., 1992.

Rose, William. U.S. Unilateral Arms Control Initiatives: When Do They Work? New York, 1988.

Royse, Morton W. Aerial Bombardment and the International Regulation of Warfare. London, 1928.

Scheer, Robert. With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush, and Nuclear War. New York, 1983. Insight into their attitudes toward arms control.

Seaborg, Glenn T., with Benjamin S. Loeb. Kennedy, Khrushchev and the Test Ban. Berkeley, Calif., 1981.

. Stemming the Tide: Arms Control in the Johnson Years. Lexington, Mass., 1987.

Sims, Nicholas Roger Alan. The Diplomacy of Biological Disarmament: Vicissitudes of a Treaty in Force. London, 1988.

Smith, Gerard. Doubletalk: The Story of the First Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. Garden City, N.Y., 1980. Written by the delegation head for SALT I.

Stares, Paul B. The Militarization of Space: U.S. Policy, 19451984. Ithaca, N.Y., 1985.

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. SIPRI Yearbook: World Armaments and Disarmament. Stockholm, 19681969. An excellent resource with worldwide coverage.

Talbott, Strobe. Endgame: The Inside Story of SALT II. New York, 1979.

. Deadly Gambits: The Reagan Administration and the Stalemate in Nuclear Arms Control. New York, 1984.

. The Master of the Game: Paul Nitze and the Nuclear Peace. New York, 1988. Survey of policymaking during the Reagan presidency.

Tate, Merze. The Disarmament Illusion: The Movement for a Limitation of Armaments to 1907. New York, 1942. Covers the Hague Conferences.

Tower, John G., James Brown, and William K. Cheek, eds. Verification: The Key to Arms Control in the 1990s. Washington, D.C., 1997.

Tsipis, Kosta, David W. Hafemeister, and Penny Janeway, eds. Arms Control Verification: The Technologies That Made It Possible. Washington, D.C., 1986.

United Nations. The United Nations Disarmament Yearbook, 1976. New York, 1977.

. The United Nations and Disarmament, 19451985. 2 vols. New York, 1985. These two volumes are surprisingly comprehensive accounts.

. The United Nations and Disarmament: A Short History. New York, 1988.

United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Arms Control and Disarmament Agreements. Washington, D.C., 1990.

Westing, Arthur H., ed. Environmental Warfare: A Technical, Legal and Policy Appraisal. London and Philadelphia, 1984.

Wheeler-Bennett, John W. Disarmament and Security Since Locarno, 19251931. London, 1932.

Wunsch, Charles R. "Environmental Modification Treaty." A.S.I.L.S. International Law Journal 4 (1980): 113131. Also known as the Enmod Convention.

York, Herbert F. Race to Oblivion: A Participant's View of the Arms Race. New York, 1970. Interesting for its particular insights into science and politics.

See also Armed Neutralities; Arms Transfers and Trade; Balance of Power; Cold War Evolution and Interpretations; Cold War Origins; Cold War Termination; Deterrence; North Atlantic Treaty Organization; Nuclear Strategy and Diplomacy; Outer Space; PostCold War Policy; Science and Technology; Superpower Diplomacy; Treaties.


"Most public attention in the area of arms control and disarmament has focused on the process of agreement negotiation. The news media emphasize the meetings of official delegations, the proposals and counterproposals, the compromises each side makes, and the debates over ratification that occur once an agreement has been reached. The negotiating process draws so much attention because it is dramatic, and because the personalities of national leaders and their prominent representatives are involved. In a negotiation, a clear objective is identified, and dramatic tension surrounds the question of whether the objective will be reached and what the terms of the deal will be.

"But the negotiating phase of an arms control agreement is only a prelude. The purpose of arms control pacts is to change or constrain the behavior of the parties in the realm of military security. While the terms of an agreement are important, the real substance of arms control lies in whether or not the parties are successful in accomplishing the objectives set out by the agreement; that is, whether they uphold the agreement over time. Arms control compliance is the actual implementation of the agreements that are concluded with such public fascination and dramatic flair. Compliance does not attract as much public attention as the process of negotiation, but it is arguably the most substantial and significant aspect of the arms control process.

"Arms control compliance has been surrounded by a considerable amount of controversy. Questions about compliance have often stirred states' deepest fears and insecurities about the intentions and military behavior of their adversaries, especially when tensions have been high and when international conflict or war has been imminent. Leaders are extremely uncomfortable with adherence to an arms control agreement when it is suspected that an adversary is gaining unfair advantage by violating the agreement.

"Charges of 'cheating' on arms control agreements have frequently been made, sometime on the basis of dubious evidence or arguments. The issue of arms control compliance was particularly politically charged in the 1930s and again in the l980s. In an atmosphere of high political tension, the distinction can be lost between legitimate obligations that are sanctioned by international agreements, and expectations, promises, or verbal statements."

From Gloria C. Duffy, "Arms Control Treaty Compliance," Encyclopedia of Arms Control and Disarmament, vol. 1, New York, 1993

Arms Control and Disarmament

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One of the major efforts to preserve international peace and security in the twenty-first century has been to control or limit the number of weapons and the ways in which weapons can be used. Two different means to achieve this goal have been disarmament and arms control. Disarmament is the reduction of the number of weapons and troops maintained by a state. Arms control refers to treaties made between potential adversaries that reduce the likelihood and scope of war, usually imposing limitations on military capability. Although disarmament always involves the reduction of military forces or weapons, arms control does not. In fact, arms control agreements sometimes allow for the increase of weapons by one or more parties to a treaty.


Arms control developed both in theory and in practice during the cold war, a period between the late 1940s and 1991 when the two military superpowers, the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), dealt with one another from a position of mutual mistrust. Arms control was devised consciously during the postwar period as an alternative to disarmament, which for many had fallen into discredit as a means of reducing the likelihood of war. Germany had been forced to disarm following world war i but became belligerent again during the 1930s, resulting in world war ii. Although Germany's weapons had been largely eliminated, the underlying causes of conflict had not. Germany's experience thus illustrated that no simple cause-and-effect relationship existed between the possession of weapons and a tendency to create war.

Following World War II, advocates of arms control as a new approach to limiting hostility between nations emphasized that military weapons and power would continue to remain a part of modern life. It was unrealistic and even dangerous, they felt, for a country to seek complete elimination of weapons, and it would not necessarily reduce the likelihood of war. Whereas disarmament had formerly been seen as an alternative to military strength, arms control was now viewed as an integral part of it. Arms control proponents sought to create a stable balance of power in which the forces that cause states to go to war could be controlled and regulated. The emphasis in arms control is thus upon overall stability rather than elimination of arms, and proponents recognize that an increase in weaponry is sometimes required to preserve a balance of power.

The development of arms control owes a great deal to the existence of nuclear weapons as well. By the 1950s, when both the United States and the Soviet Union possessed nuclear weapons, the superpowers became convinced that they could not safely disarm themselves of those weapons. In the absence of guaranteed verification—the process whereby participants in a treaty monitor each other's adherence to the agreement—neither side could disarm without making itself vulnerable to cheating by the other side. The goal of the superpowers and other nations possessing nuclear weapons therefore became not total elimination of those weapons, but control of them so that a stable nuclear deterrent might be maintained. According to the idea of nuclear deterrence, a state possessing nuclear weapons is deterred, or prevented, from using them against another nuclear power because of the threat of retaliation. No state is willing to attempt a first strike because it cannot prevent the other side from striking back. Nuclear deterrence is therefore predicated upon a mutual abhorrence of the destructive power of nuclear weapons. This idea has come to be called mutual assured destruction (MAD).Many experts see deterrence as the ultimate goal of nuclear arms control.

Because many civilians generally assume that arms control and disarmament are the same thing, there has often been public disappointment when treaties have resulted in an increase in the number or power of weapons. An advantage of arms control over disarmament, however, is that even states with a high degree of suspicion or hostility toward each other can still negotiate agreements. Disarmament agreements, on the other hand, require a high degree of trust, and their formation is unlikely between hostile nations.

Arms control is often used as a means to avoid an arms race—a competitive buildup of weapons between two or more powers. Such a race can be costly for both sides, and arms control treaties serve the useful purpose of limiting weapons stockpiles to a level that preserves deterrence while conserving the economic and social resources of a state for other uses.

Modern Arms Control

Although disarmament and arms control agreements were forged prior to World War II (1939–45), the modern arms control effort began in earnest after the cuban missile crisis of 1962. That situation erupted when the United States discovered that the Soviet Union was constructing launch sites for nuclear missiles on the island of Cuba, thereby threatening to put nuclear weapons very close to U.S. soil. Presidentjohn f. kennedy declared a naval blockade of the island, and for two weeks, the United States and the USSR existed in a state of heightened tension. Finally, the USSR and the USSR faced off in what became a white-hot international drama of brinksmanship, each side waiting to see who would blink first. With the United States' promise not to overthrow Fidel Castro's government in Cuba, the Soviets canceled plans to install the missiles. After the crisis, Kennedy wrote to Khrushchev, "I agree with you that we must devote urgent attention to the problem of disarmament. … Perhaps … we can togethermake real progress in this vital field."

Among the earliest arms control treaties were the limited test ban treaty (LTBT), an agreement that prohibited nuclear test explosions in the atmosphere, under water, or in space, which was signed in 1963 by the United States, Britain, and the USSR, and the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, a superpower treaty that banned biological weapons and provided for the destruction of existing stockpiles. The 1972 convention was the first and only example, since 1945, of true disarmament of an entire weapons category. Although negotiation on a comprehensive test ban—an agreement that would prohibit all nuclear testing—continued, this solution remained elusive. Nevertheless, in 1974, the superpowers signed the Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT), which limits nuclear tests to explosive yields of less than 150 kilotons. (A kiloton represents the explosive force of one thousand tons of TNT). But the TTBT did not prevent the superpowers from developing nuclear warheads (the bomb-carrying segments of a nuclear missile) with power exceeding 150 kilotons; warheads on the Soviet SS-17 missile possess as much as a 3.6-megaton capacity. (A megaton equals 1 million tons of TNT.) In 1976, the superpowers signed the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty (PNET), which banned so-called peaceful nuclear testing.

Numerous arms control agreements have been designed to improve communications between the superpowers. The first of these, coming just after the Cuban Missile Crisis, was the 1963 hot line agreement, setting up a special telegraph line between Moscow and Washington. In 1978, the hot line was updated by a satellite link between the two superpowers. The United States and the USSR also sought to create protocols designed to prevent an accidental nuclear war. This effort led to the 1971 agreement, Measures to Reduce the Risk of Outbreak of Nuclear War, which required advance warning for any missile tests and immediate notification of any accidents or missile warning alerts.

One highly celebrated arms control agreement is the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, or Non-Proliferation Treaty, designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries. The agreement involves well over one hundred states. Under it, countries not possessing nuclear weapons give up their right to acquire such weapons, and countries with nuclear weapons waive their rights to export nuclear weapons technology to countries lacking that technology.

Another class of arms control treaties seeks to ban weapons from as-yet-unmilitarized areas. These include the 1959 antarctic treaty, which prohibits military bases, maneuvers, and tests on the Antarctic Continent; the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, a ban on the testing or deployment of "weapons of mass destruction" in Earth's orbit or on other bodies in the solar system; the 1967 Tlatelolco Treaty, prohibiting nuclear weapons in Latin America; and the 1971 Seabed Treaty, banning the placement of weapons of mass destruction on or below the seabed.

SALT I and After

The strategic arms limitation talks (SALT I and SALT II) were first undertaken in the era of détente in the early 1970s, when relations between the United States and the USSR became more amicable. SALT I led to two agreements: the anti-ballistic-missile treaty of 1972 (ABM Treaty), which eventually limited each superpower to one site for antiballistic missiles (ABMs), the missiles designed to intercept and destroy incoming missiles; and an "interim" arms agreement limiting the number of inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) launchers and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) to those already deployed by specific dates in 1972. It also required that any modernization and replacement of ICBMs and SLBMs be on a one-for-one basis and prohibited any development of new, more powerful ICBMs. The agreement was meant to set limits before a more definitive SALT II treaty could be negotiated. When the SALT II Treaty was signed in 1979, it set a limit of 2,400 strategic missiles and bombers for each side. Although the U.S. Senate did not ratify this treaty, the United States abided by it for several years.

The ABM Treaty of SALT I was much more successful than the interim ICBM-SLBM agreement. Because the SALT agreements limited only the number of ICBM launchers, or missiles, both superpowers went on in the 1970s to develop missiles with multiple warheads, called multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs). Launcher totals thus remained constant, but the number of warheads increased dramatically. Adding warheads to missiles also made nuclear deterrence more unpredictable; a superpower with MIRVs could have enough warheads to destroy the opponent's retaliatory capability, thereby making MAD ineffective. Both superpowers felt that their land-based missile forces had become vulnerable to a first strike from the other side.

Compliance with the SALT treaties became a contentious issue in the 1980s when the United States accused the USSR of violating treaty provisions on the development of new missiles. The administration of President ronald reagan decided that alleged Soviet violations made it necessary to end U.S. compliance with the agreements. In 1986, the United States exceeded limits set by SALT II when a B-52 bomber equipped with cruise missiles (nuclear missiles that fly at a low altitude) entered active service. Another U.S. military proposal, the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), also complicated the ABM Treaty. In 1983, Reagan made a televised speech in which he announced plans to develop a space-based missile defense system. He presented SDI as an alternative to MAD. SDI would, he claimed, effectively shield the United States from a Soviet missile launch, including an accidental or third-party attack. SDI would also protect the land-based leg of the United States' nuclear triad, the other two legs of which are aircraft bombers and submarine-launched missiles. Many doubted whether such a missile defense system could actually be created, and others criticized SDI as a dangerous upset in the nuclear balance. A debate also arose as to whether SDI was in violation of the ABM Treaty.

Relations between the superpowers eventually warmed when Mikhail Gorbachev emerged as leader of the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s. Relatively young and dynamic compared with his predecessors, Gorbachev initiated reforms for increased openness in the Soviet Union that facilitated arms control agreements. In 1987, President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, another major step in arms control. The INF Treaty called for the elimination of an entire class of short- and intermediate-range (300- to 3,400-mile) nuclear missiles. These included 1,752 Soviet and 859U.S. missiles. It was the first treaty to result in a reduction in the number of nuclear weapons. The agreement also involved the most complete verification procedures ever for an arms control treaty. These included data exchanges, on-site inspections, and monitoring by surveillance satellites.

After the INF Treaty, the superpowers continued to try to work out a strategic arms reduction treaty that would cut the number of long-range missiles by 50 percent. By that time the superpowers each had nuclear arsenals that could destroy the other many times over, and a 50 percent reduction would still leave nuclear deterrence well intact.

A New World Order

Between 1989 and 1991, a number of significant events brought about the end of the Cold War. In 1989, Gorbachev surprised the world when he led the Soviet Union in its decision to give up its control over Eastern Europe. By the summer of 1991, not only had the Warsaw Pact—a unified group consisting of the Soviet Union and its allies in Eastern Europe—dissolved, but so had the Soviet Union itself. Soviet communism, one-half of the superpower equation for over 40 years, had imploded.

During this time of increasingly warm relations between the superpowers, a number of major arms control treaties were created. On November 19, 1990, the United States, the USSR, and 20 other countries signed the conventional forces in europe treaty (CFE Treaty), which President george h. w. bush called "the farthest-reaching arms agreement in history," an accord that "signals the new world order that is emerging." The treaty grew out of a 1989 proposal by Bush that the superpowers each be limited to 275,000 troops in Europe. As events unfolded in Eastern Europe, however, and the countries of the former Eastern Bloc became independent from the USSR, that number of troops began to seem high. Under the CFE Treaty, each side was allowed to deploy, in the area between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains, no more than 20,000 tanks, 30,000 armored troop carriers, 20,000 artillery pieces, 6,800 combat airplanes, and 2,000 attack helicopters. The treaty required the Soviet Union to disarm or destroy nearly 20,000 tanks, artillery pieces, and other weapons, to give a 27 percent reduction in Soviet armaments west of the Urals. That decrease was small, however, compared with the 59,000 weapons the USSR shipped east of the Urals to central Asia between 1989 and 1990 as it sought to realign its forces in response to world events. On the other side, the north atlantic treaty organization (NATO) forces—the postwar alliance of Western European and North American states, including the United States—were required to destroy fewer than 3,000 pieces of military equipment. In May 1991, NATO decided to reduce its forces even further. The United States, for its part, reduced the 320,000 troops it had in Europe by at least 50 percent.

Arms agreements on nuclear weapons were also reached during this period. On July 31, 1991, Bush and Gorbachev signed the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I). Negotiations on the technically complex accord had begun as early as 1982. The agreement required the USSR to reduce its nuclear arsenal by roughly 25 percent and the United States to reduce its arsenal by 15 percent, within seven years after ratification by both nations. Numerically speaking, the USSR would reduce its nuclear warheads from 10,841 to 8,040, and the United States would reduce its warheads from 12,081 to 10,395. These amounts would bring the nuclear arsenals of each nation roughly back to levels that existed in 1982, when START negotiations began. The agreement also limited the development of new missiles and required a number of verification procedures, including on-site inspections with spot checks, monitoring of missile production plants, and exchange of data tapes from missile tests.

Arms Control in the Post-Cold War Era

In June 1992, President George H. W. Bush met with Russian president Boris Yeltsin. In a "joint understanding," the two sides agreed to reductions of nuclear weapons beyond the levels provided for in the 1991 START agreement, with the ultimate goal of decreasing the total number

of warheads on each side to between 3,000 and 3,500 by the year 2003. The two presidents also agreed to eliminate MIRVs by 2003. This agreement was signed, as START II, in early 1993.

The administration of President bill clinton, who became president of the United States in 1993, revived the debate surrounding missile defense systems—and created fears that a new arms race might begin—when it developed proposals for the Theater High-Altitude Area-Defense System (THAAD). THAAD would be an elaborate missile defense system aimed at protecting allied nations from short-range missile attacks launched by countries such as North Korea. Critics maintained that THAAD would violate the ABM provisions of SALT I, widely believed to be the most successful arms control provisions ever; upset the nuclear balance; and possibly lead to an arms race. Proponents of THAAD maintained that the ABM Treaty was a relic of the Cold War and that missile defenses could protect against accidental nuclear launches.

As for Europe, the new structure of power there would also create new challenges for arms control. Agreements such as the CFE were made when the Soviet Union still existed, and did not necessarily conform to current realities. As the war in the former Yugoslavia demonstrated during the early 1990s, a new political situation posed new risks. Would certain states become regional powers and upset the balance of power? Would agreements that were stabilizing for the Soviet Union turn out to be destabilizing for Russia and other states of the former USSR? Would nationalism rise as a destructive force, as it had before and during previous wars?

Some experts were proposing that the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) develop conventional arms control agreements to replace the CFE Treaty. The CSCE was formed in 1973 in an attempt to promote détente between the United States and the USSR. It includes 52 countries—50 European nations plus the United States and Canada. European leaders hoped the CSCE would play a greater role in determining a peaceful, stable future for Europe, with efforts in arms control being one of its major goals. Formally declaring this goal, European leaders signed the Pact of Paris in November 1990. Some leaders were proposing that the CSCE replace NATO as the chief military and political organization in Europe.

During the early 2000s, U.S. defense policy changed dramatically. The election of President george w. bush signaled the rise of neo-conservative policy thinking about post-Cold War security, a framework that no longer prioritized defense against nuclear attack from Russia or the states of the former Soviet Union. Instead, terrorism and so-called rogue states were said to pose the greatest danger.

In a profound departure from the super-power analysis that had formed the basis of Cold War planning, the threat was now said to come from smaller, weaker nations. Defense planners identified potential threats from North Korea, Iraq, and Iran, which were said to be developing—or as in the case of Pakistan, had already developed—nuclear weapons. They pointed to the failure of international non-proliferation agreements as reasons for the United States to reconfigure its defenses and rethink its previous agreements.

Accordingly, the Bush administration moved swiftly on both fronts. In 1999, Bush had campaigned on the promise of reviving the Reagan-era SDI project to provide an anti-missile defense system. In 2001, the president unilaterally withdrew from the ABM Treaty of 1972 in order to remove any legal hindrance from testing and development of missile defense.

The end of the ABM Treaty proved controversial. Advocates of preserving the treaty praised it for preserving strategic stability, allowing for easy verification of each side's nuclear capacity, and maintaining the concept of deterrence. Sharply critical of U.S. unilateral withdrawal, both the Russians and Chinese announced they would respond by increasing their nuclear arsenals. Downplaying this threat, critics of the ABM Treaty doubted that either nation could afford to do so.

Great uncertainties began to cloud the future of arms control. Following the september 11th terrorist attacks on the United States, the White House announced its radical new doctrine of preemptive attack: departing from historical tradition, the Bush administration declared its intention of attacking enemy nations first. Accordingly, despite global objection to the doctrine, the Bush administration ordered the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Meanwhile, the risks of nuclear proliferation were starkly demonstrated in 2002 when Pakistan and India came to the brink of nuclear war, and again that year when North Korea, abrogating its non-proliferation agreement, defied the United States to stop it from developing nuclear weapons. With Washington laying out its largest defense spending in a quarter century, arms control and disarmament were clearly perceived to not be a priority of the Bush administration.

further readings

Dunn, Lewis A., and Sharon A. Squassoni. 1993. Arms Control: What Next? Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.

Laird, Melvin R. August 23, 2001. "Why Scrap the ABM Treaty?" Washington Post, A25.

Mufson, Steven. December 16, 2001. "ABM Treaty May Be History, But Deterrence Doctrine Lives." Washington Post, A37.

Sheehan, Michael. 1988. Arms Control: Theory and Practice. Oxford: Blackwell.

Weisman, Steven R. March 23, 2003. "A Nation at War: A New Doctrine, Pre-emption, Idea with a Lineage whose Time Has Come." New York Times, 1B.


Anti-Ballistic-Missile Treaty of 1972; Blockade; Hot Line Agreement, 1971; Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; International Law; NATO; Nixon, Richard Milhous; Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty; Nuclear Weapons; Terrorism; War.

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