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

implications of the U.S.-Soviet defense objectives, programs, and asymmetries. The book strongly influenced considerations of defense and foreign policy experts and institutes concerning U.S. national security requirements and strategy.

A Note on Key Official U.S. Intelligence Reports—1976–1980. Examples of the detailed official U.S. intelligence documents spelling out the Soviet military doctrine and threats and available to Carter and his national security team during the four years of his presidency, are the following reports subsequently redacted and declassified and available in this book’s Internet Document Library. They include: NI IIM 77–029 on Soviet Civil Defense: Objectives, Pace, and Effectiveness, December 1977; NIE 11–3/8–77 on Soviet Capabilities for Strategic Nuclear Conflict through the Late 1980s, February 21, 1978; NI IIM 78 100187 on Indications and Warning of Soviet Intentions to Use Chemical Weapons During a NATO-Warsaw Pact War, August 1978; NIE 11–6–78 on Soviet Strategic Forces for Peripheral Attack, September 12, 1978; NIE 11–01–80 on Soviet Military Capabilities and Intentions in Space, August 6, 1980; NIE 11–3/8–80 on Soviet Capabilities for Strategic Nuclear Conflict through 1990, December 16, 1980. Several of these and other such reports are also identified and cited in individual chapters throughout this book.

Secretary Brown Debunks “Arms Race” Realities. Regrettably, Carter largely ignored the key facts and implications of the Soviet record available to him and his team at both classified and unclassified levels. He ignored the insight and advice of those like his Secretary of Defense, Harold Brown, who once famously exposed in simple language the core truth about the Left’s claims about a Cold War “arms race” and the actually increasing asymmetries in U.S. and Soviet defense programs. In contrast to the thesis advanced by Warnke, most national media, and most self-styled U.S. arms control and peace groups, Secretary Brown declared that “when we build, they [the Soviets] build, and when we don’t build, they build.” The Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Congressional Research Service, and numerous independent defense experts and private institutional analyses of U.S. defense requirements agreed, but Carter did not.

Ignoring Cold War Realities, Cutting Defense, Providing Economic Rescues and Arms Control Concessions. Carter appeared unprepared to consider underlying Cold War realities about the militant Soviet ideology, détente violations and aggressive Soviet geopolitical objectives and military and intelligence programs that invariably intensified in the face of unilateral U.S. restraint. He did not recognize that dramatic post-Vietnam U.S. defense cuts, force drawdowns, and unilateral arms treaty compliance—all pushed by a Congress controlled by the Democratic Party since the 1974 elections—were seriously undercutting U.S. defense capabilities at the same time as the broader U.S. “détente” strategy was rescuing Soviet leaders from serious economic and political problems by providing Western technology, trade, financial flows, and arms control concessions to the Soviet regime.

Ignoring Defense Spending Realities. Among the realities to be considered in assessing Cold War “arms race” and arms control issues, was the following data about the steep decline in U.S. defense spending during the 1968–1978 period that was marked by the Soviet Union’s unprecedented military buildup. Thus U.S. defense spending:

                                                                                                1968                            1978

As a percentage of the U.S. federal budget:                              43.3%                          23.3%

As a percentage of the Gross National Product:                       9.5%                            5.3%

As measured in current dollars                                                 $79.4 billion                $107.6 billion

As measured in constant 1978 dollars:                                     $163.4 billion              $108.2 billion

Carter’s Unilateral Disarmament—Summary. Carter and the Democratic Party-controlled Congress (supported by much of the national media) built on his campaign statements and early pushed for major additional U.S. defense budget cuts and disarmament steps that were never matched by the Soviet Union. Carter’s defense agenda as president included force reductions, delays, and cancellations of core U.S. modernization programs that defense leaders considered essential for credible deterrence against mounting Soviet strategic “first-strike” capabilities. His decisions included killing the B–1 bomber program; closing the production line of the updated Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) program; slowing testing and development of the new mobile MX ICBM and new U.S. cruise missiles; and slowing the Trident Strategic Nuclear Submarine (SSN) program. Carter also vetoed a major weapons procurement authorization bill, postponed the “neutron” weapon decision, and curtailed programs for U.S. naval, ground, and air forces, even as senior U.S. military and Congressional leaders spoke of “hollow” U.S. forces and serious manpower problems. On

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