AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
The Early Years: Salt I and Salt II
The United States and Soviet Union signed their first formal agreements limiting nuclear offensive and defensive weapons in May 1972. The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, known as SALT, produced two agreements--the Interim Agreement ... on Certain Measures with Respect to the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms and the Treaty ... on the Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems. These were followed, in 1979, by the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, known as SALT II, which sought to codify equal limits on U.S. and Soviet strategic offensive nuclear forces.
The Interim Agreement on Offensive Arms
The Interim Agreement on Offensive Arms imposed a freeze on the number of launchers for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) that the United States and Soviet Union could deploy. The parties agreed that they would not begin construction of new ICBM launchers after July 1, 1972; at the time the United States had 1,054 ICBM launchers and the Soviet Union had 1,618 ICBM launchers. They also agreed to freeze their number of SLBM launchers and modern ballistic missile submarines, although they could add SLBM launchers if they retired old ICBM launchers. A protocol to the Treaty indicated that the United States could deploy up to 710 SLBM launchers on 44 submarines, and the Soviet Union could deploy up to 950 SLBM launchers on 62 submarines.
The inequality in these numbers raised serious concerns both in Congress and in the policy community in Washington. When approving the agreement, Congress adopted a provision, known as the Jackson amendment, that mandated that all future arms control agreements would have to contain equal limits for the United States and Soviet Union.
The Interim Agreement was to remain in force for five years, unless the parties replaced it with a more comprehensive agreement limiting strategic offensive weapons. In 1977, both nations agreed to observe the agreement until the completed the SALT II Treaty.
The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (Salt II)
The United States and Soviet Union completed the SALT II Treaty in June 1979, after seven years of negotiations. During these negotiations, the United States sought limits on quantitative and qualitative changes in Soviet forces. The U.S. negotiating position also reflected the congressional mandate for numerically equal limits on both nations' forces. As a result, the treaty limited each nation to a total of 2,400 ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers and heavy bombers, with this number declining to 2,250 by January 1, 1981. Within this total, the Treaty contained sublimits for the numbers launchers that could be deployed for ICBMs with multiple independent reentry vehicles (MIRVed ICBMs); MIRVed ICBMs and MIRVed SLBMs; and MIRVed ICBMs, MIRVed SLBMs, MIRVed air-to-surface ballistic missiles (ASBMs) and heavy bombers. The Treaty would not have limited the total number of warheads that could be carried on these delivery vehicles, which was a growing concern with the deployment of large numbers of multiple warhead missiles, but the nations did agree that they would not increase the numbers of warheads on existing types of missiles and would not test new types of ICBMs with more than 10 warheads and new types of SLBMs with more than 14 warheads. They also agreed to provisions that were designed to limit missile modernization programs, in an effort to restrain qualitative improvements in their strategic forces.
Although it contained equal limits on U.S. and Soviet forces, the SALT II Treaty still proved to be highly controversial. Some analysts argued that the Treaty would fail to curb the arms race because the limits on forces were equal to the numbers already deployed by the United States and Soviet Union; they argued for lower limits and actual reductions. Other analysts argued that the Treaty would allow the Soviet Union to maintain strategic superiority over the United States because the Soviet force of large, land-based ballistic missiles would be able to carry far greater numbers of warheads, even within the equal limits on delivery vehicles, than U.S. ballistic missiles. Some argued that, with this advantage, the Soviet Union would be able to target all U.S. land-based ICBMs in a first strike, which created a "window of vulnerability" for the United States. The Treaty's supporters argued that the Soviet advantage in large MIRVed ICBMs was more than offset by the U.S. advantage in SLBM warheads, which could not be destroyed in a first strike and could retaliate against Soviet targets, and the U.S. advantage in heavy bombers.
The continuing Soviet build-up of strategic nuclear forces, along with the taking of U.S. hostages in Iran and other challenges to the U.S. international position in the late 1970s, combined with the perceived weaknesses to the Treaty to raise questions about whether the Senate would muster the votes needed to consent to the Treaty's ratification. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, President Carter withdrew the Treaty from the Senate's consideration.
The 1972 ABM Treaty permitted the United States and Soviet Union to deploy ABM interceptors at two sites, one centered on the nation's capital and one containing ICBM silo launchers. Each site could contain up to 100 ground-based launchers for ABM interceptor missiles, along with specified radars and sensors. The ABM Treaty also obligated each nation not to develop, test, or deploy ABM systems for the "defense of the territory of its country" and not to provide a base for such a defense. It forbade testing and deployment of space-based, sea-based, or air-based ABM systems or components and it imposed a number of qualitative limits on missile defense programs. The Treaty, however, imposed no restrictions on defenses against aircraft, cruise missiles, or theater ballistic missiles.
In a Protocol signed in 1974, each side agreed that it would deploy an ABM system at only one site, either around the nation's capital or around an ICBM deployment area. The Soviet Union deployed its site around Moscow; this system has been maintained and upgraded over the years, and remains operational today. The United States deployed its ABM system around ICBM silo launchers located near Grand Forks North Dakota; it operated this facility briefly in 1974 before closing it down when it proved to be not cost effective. The ABM Treaty was the source of considerable controversy and debate for most of its history. Presidents Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Clinton all wrestled with the conflicting goals of defending the United States against ballistic missile attack while living within the confines of the ABM Treaty. President George W. Bush resolved this conflict in 2002, when he announced that the United States would withdraw from the ABM Treaty so that it could deploy ballistic missile defenses. The substance of this debate during the Clinton and Bush years is described in more detail below.
The Reagan and Bush Years: INF and START
During the election campaign of 1980, and after taking office in January 1981, President Ronald Reagan pledged to restore U.S. military capabilities, in general, and nuclear capabilities, in particular. He planned to expand U.S. nuclear forces and capabilities in an effort to counter the perceived Soviet advantages in nuclear weapons. Initially, at least, he rejected the use of arms control agreements to contain the Soviet threat. However, in 1982, after Congress and many analysts pressed for more diplomatic initiatives, the Reagan Administration outlined negotiating positions to address intermediate-range missiles, long-range strategic weapons, and ballistic missile defenses. These negotiations began to bear fruit in the latter half of President Reagan's second term, with the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987. President George H.W. Bush continued to pursue the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), with the United States and Soviet Union signing this Treaty in July 1991. The collapse of the Soviet Union later that year led to calls for deeper reductions in strategic offensive arms. As a result, the United States and Russia signed START II in January 2003, weeks before the end of the Bush Administration.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF Treaty)
In December 1979, NATO decided upon a "two track" approach to intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) in Europe: it would seek negotiations with the Soviets to eliminate such systems, and at the same time schedule deployments as a spur to such negotiations. Negotiating sessions began in the fall of 1980 and continued until November 1983, when the Soviets left the talks upon deployment of the first U.S. INF systems in Europe. The negotiations resumed in January 1985. At the negotiations, the Reagan Administration called for a "double zero" option, which would eliminate all short- as well as long-range INF systems, a position at the time viewed by most observers to be unattractive to the Soviets. Nevertheless, significant progress occurred during the Gorbachev regime. At the Reykjavik summit in October 1986, Gorbachev agreed to include reductions of Soviet INF systems in Asia. In June 1987, the Soviets proposed a global ban on short- and long-range INF systems, which was similar to the U.S. proposal for a double zero. Gorbachev also accepted the U.S. proposal for an intrusive verification regime.
The United States and the Soviet Union signed the Treaty on Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) on December 8, 1987. The INF Treaty was seen as a significant milestone in arms control because it established an intrusive verification regime and because it eliminated entire classes of weapons that both sides regarded as modern and effective. The United States and Soviet Union agreed to destroy all intermediate-range and shorter-range nuclear-armed ballistic missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles, …