More than 6 months have passed since the Soviets walked out of the INF (intermediate-range nuclear forces) talks in Geneva and refused to set a resumption date for START, the strategic arms reduction talks. These Soviet actions are as regrettable as they are unnecessary. They do, however, give us the opportunity to reflect upon the events of the past several years. Accordingly, le met review developments to date in START, discuss the impact which recent events have had on the NATO alliance, and, finally, give you my thoughts on where we should go from here.
Let me begin with a preview of these issues. The major thought I would like to leave with you is that throughout START the United States has negotiated seriously and flexibly. The Reagan Administration remains committed to the notion that the best way to increase strategic stability is through substantial reductions in nuclear arms. Next, we made a number of modifications to the original U.S. position in an effort to take account of reasonable Soviet concerns. Despite these efforts, a wide gulf continues to separate the U.S. and Soviet positions in START. Nevertheless, more progress was achieved in the course of the talks than is generally recognized. When the Soviets return to the negotiating table, it should be possible to build on that progress. I am convinced that their own self-interest will eventually impel the Soviets to return to the table. When they do, the best way to build on the progress already made is through the concept of trade-offs between areas of U.S. and Soviet advantage, which President Reagan enunciated as his plan for achieving an agreement in the interest of both nations.
In walking out of the negotiations on intermediate-range forces, the Soviets are clearly testing Western resolve. The Western democracies have met that test. The best way to encourage the Soviets to return to the table is to continue current programs designed to ensure our common defense, while simultaneously reiterating our readiness to resume negotiations toward balanced and verifiable agreements. One-sided cuts in our defense programs or failure to uphold alliance commitments would only reward the Soviets for their intransigence and make a return to the negotiating table less likely.
Achieving a high degree of Western unity, however, has not been without its price. In recent months, voices have been heard on both sides of the Atlantic which challenge some of the fundamentals of NATO defense plicy. Most Americans and Europeans recognize that the deployment of U.S. intermediate-range missiles in Europe and the modernization of U.S. strategic deterrent forces constitutes a necessary and measured response to the massive and continuing buildup of Soviet forces threatening Western Europe and the United States. At the same time, an understandable concern about the consequences of a strategy which relies for its ultimate sanction on the possible use of nuclear weapons has led many to ask if there is not some better alternative.
We cannot ignore these questions. It is patently obvious that we cannot "disinvent" nuclear weapons. For the foreseeable future, they will remain a crucial element of the deterrent forces necessary to preserve our liberties. We need, however, to look for ways to assure deterrence through reduced reliance on weapons of mass destruction. We must reduce the risk that nuclear war would occur for, as President Reagan has said, "A nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought." Strategic arms control agreements which are soundly conceived and firmly supported by our democratic societies can improve the stability of the nuclear balance between the superpowers. Stability can also be enhanced by upgrading NATO's conventional forces in Europe. Raising the nuclear threshold in Europe, in concert with increased strategic nuclear stability, reduces Soviet incentives to stimulate or exploit crises and, therefore, reduces the risk of nuclear war.
Developments in START
Let me briefly discuss the developments to date in STARt. On May 9, 1982, President Reagan outlined the basic elements of the U.S. START proposal in a speech at Eureka College. The President sought to break the mold of past negotiations which concentrated on limiting strategic offensive arms at high levels. He sought to improve strategic stability through substantial reductions in the more destabilizing strategic offensive arms. Specifically, he proposed to reduce the number of ballistic missile warheads on each side to 5,000, approximately a one-third reduction from existing U.S. and Soviet levels. He also proposed to reduce deployed ballistic missiles to no more than 850. This amounted to a 50% reduction from the prevailing U.S. level of such missiles, a level that was already considerably lower than the Soviet level.
To achieve the basic objective of increased stability, President Reagan sought to focus reductions on the most threatening strategic weapons--ballistic missiles and, particularly, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). These are the most dangerous systems because large numbers of powerful and highly accurate warheads can be deployed on them and because their fixed basing mode makes them vulnerable to attack. Our proposals also asked each nation to reduce its heavy bombers to lower equal levels.
The Soviets, for their part, proposed to limit the numbers of ballistic missiles and heavy bombers to a combined total of 1,800. It was encouraging that the Soviets joined us in departing from SALT II [strategic arms limitation talks] by proposing to limit not only launchers but their weapons. In most other respcts, however, the Soviet proposal closely paralleled the SALT II Treaty.
Nevertheless, by the spring of 1983, it was clear that the U.S. and the Soviet positions were still far apart. After an exhaustive reevaluation, President Reagan decided to make a number of changes in the U.S. position. These modifications were undertaken to meet the major concerns the Soviets had expressed with our original proposal.
* We offered to raise the proposed limit of 850 deployed ballistic missiles.
* We offered to drop the constraints we had proposed on the number of heavy and medium-sized ICBMs. We …