Chapter 6 – Carter’s “Détente” Confusion, Soviet Violations, and Catalysts for Change - 1977 to 1981

available to Carter and his national security team. Yet his key policy statements and decisions downplayed such realistic appraisals and opposed core U.S. defense modernization programs and the strengthening of U.S. intelligence capabilities as proposed by the Ford administration.

Two Unclassified Official Assessments: Schlesinger and Ikle—1975, 1976. Several official assessments stand out as examples of unclassified analyses of growing Soviet military threats available to Carter and his team during his Presidential campaign as a basis for updated data assessments in the development of a serious U.S. national security strategy. Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger’s Annual DOD Report to the Congress—FY 1975, issued on March 4, 1974, details Soviet military programs and U.S. requirements and identifies key Ford Administration’s defense requests denied by the Democratic Party-controlled Congress. Perspective on the dangerous U.S.-Soviet nuclear asymmetries is also provided in the Fred Ikle Speech on New Threats to the Nuclear Balance as a challenge for arms control given on August 31, 1976. Ikle was Ford’s Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, who called for arms control based on “equal security” and warned of the Soviet Union’s “towering, dark cloud over Europe and Asia.”

Rumsfeld Reports—January 1976, January 1977. Of special interest to the Carter team, as they were to defense experts generally, should have been two unclassified reports issued by Donald Rumsfeld, formerly Ford’s White House Chief of Staff, who succeeded Schlesinger as Secretary of Defense in November 1975. The first was Rumsfeld’s Annual DOD Report to the Congress—FY 1977 (Uploaded in two parts, Part I and Part II), issued in January 1976. Rumsfeld’s second chart-based report on U.S. Defense Perspectives—FY 1978 was issued in January 1977 just before Carter’s inauguration. It provides a wide range of declassified data on Soviet programs that were increasingly asymmetric in numbers and capabilities when compared to U.S. and Allied systems and presented the troublesome prospect of U.S. inferiority in major categories of military power.

Rumsfeld: Soviet “First Strike” Ratios Against U.S. Rumsfeld’s FY 1978 defense report includes charts that review the U.S./Soviet “counterforce” ratio that those familiar with the U.S. Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine understood as signaling the accelerating development of destabilizing new Soviet “first strike” capabilities against U.S. Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) force. Chart texts and data include the following:

U.S. and Soviet ICBM Developments. . . . while the U.S. has developed only one new system since 1965, the Minuteman III, The Soviet Union has developed seven new ICBM’s in the same period.

More important than the numbers of new types . . . is the fact that three of the Soviet’s newest ICBMs, the SS–17, SS–18 and SS–19, are large throw-weight MIRVed ICBM’s that could, by the early 1980’s, provide a counterforce [counter-silo] capability far in excess of that possessed by our current Minuteman force.2

The chart indicates initial deployment year and RV’s/warheads per missile as: 1971 and 3 per Minuteman III; but 1974 and 6 warheads per Soviet SS–19; 1974/5 and 1:8 [10] warheads per SS–18; and 1975 and 4 warheads per SS–17; with new SS–16 ICBMs on the horizon. Further:

Changes in U.S.-U.S.S.R. Strategic Force Levels. . . . The Soviets have increased their ICBM’s from approximately 225 in 1965 to about 1,550 today, having overtaken the U.S. in the late 1960’s.

The number of Soviet Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles has grown from 29 to more than 800, while the U.S. leveled off at 656 in the late 1960’s.

In bomber forces, the U.S. maintains a lead [but U.S. numbers were dropping, and the Soviets were deploying new Backfires].3

Rumsfeld: Cold War Trends and Stakes. Other charts from Rumsfeld’s FY 1978 defense report portrayed growing U.S.-Soviet asymmetries in production and modernization of ground-, sea- and air-based systems and in trend lines for defense expenditures. Rumsfeld reflects on Second World War lessons and the high Cold War stakes involved if such trends continued, i.e.,

If the U.S. were to make a decision which allowed the U.S. to slip to a position of military inferiority, we would soon be living in an unstable world—a world fundamentally different and more dangerous than the one we have known during our lifetimes. It could be a decision as dangerous as the decision by the democracies prior to World War II not to arm and prepare as Hitler was mobilizing. It would be worse, because we are the nation that turned the tide and prevented a victory by fascism, and today there is no nation to do that for us. It is for us to do—we must do it. I believe we shall.4

[Book pg. 125]