Chapter 10 - Reagan Combines U.S. Defense and Arms Control Strategies

The United States should reflect a national strategy of peace through strength; . . . to achieve overall military and technological superiority over the Soviet Union; . . . to create a strategic and civil defense which would protect the American people at least as well as the Soviet population is protected; to accept no arms control agreement which in any way jeopardizes the security of the United States or its allies, or which locks the United States into a position of military inferiority; to reestablish effective security and intelligence capabilities; . . . to help our allies and other non-communist countries defend themselves against Communist aggression; and to . . . protect our overseas sources of energy and other vital raw materials.2

Platform Section on “Arms Control in Defense Policy.” The Platform discusses Reagan’s arm control views in a section entitled “The Role of Arms Control in Defense Policy.” Hierarchically placing the arms control text as a subset of a broader defense section marked a significant shift from its more typical placement with foreign policy, a policy area normally led by the Department of State, rather than the Pentagon. Although generally ignored by the media, academia, and policy analysts, this deliberate shift was more than symbolic as it foreshadowed Reagan’s determination to integrate top-down direction from the President and his NSC in connecting defense and arms control areas within a broader national security context. The Arms Control section includes the following text:

The Republican approach to arms control has been markedly different from that of the Democratic Party. It has been based on three fundamental premises:

[Assured Defense] First, before arms control negotiations may be undertaken, the security of the United States must be assured by the funding and deployment of strong military forces sufficient to deter conflict at any level or to prevail in battle should aggression occur;

[Strict Reciprocity] Second, negotiations must be conducted on the basis of strict reciprocity of benefits—unilateral restraint by the U.S. has failed to bring reductions by the Soviet Union; and

[Geopolitical Linkage] Third, arms control negotiations, once entered, represent an important political and military undertaking that cannot be divorced from the broader political and military behavior of the parties.

[Reversing Carter’s Unilateral Cancellations and Concessions] A Republican Administration will pursue arms control solely on the principles outlined above . . . [while] during the past three and one-half years, the Carter Administration’s policy has been diametrically opposed to these principles. . . . Willful cancellation or delay of essential strategic military programs such as the B–1, the MX missile, and the Trident submarine . . . [has] seriously damaged the credibility and effectiveness of the U.S. deterrent force. . . . By not insisting upon corresponding concessions from the Soviet Union it has, in effect, practiced unilateral disarmament and removed any incentives for the Soviets to negotiate for what they could obviously achieve by waiting. The Republican Party rejects the fundamentally flawed SALT II treaty. . . .

[Exposing Soviet Violations and Carter’s Soviet Violations Cover Up] The Republican Party deplores the attempts of the Carter Administration to cover up Soviet non-compliance with arms control agreements including the now overwhelming evidence of blatant Soviet violation of the Biological Warfare Convention by secret production of biological agents at Sverdlovsk.

[Nuclear Non-Proliferation Safeguards] We called for the formation of new multilateral arrangements to control the export of sensitive nuclear technologies. Unfortunately, the Carter Administration has failed to provide the leadership and creative diplomacy essential to forging effective international safeguards and cooperation in this vital area. . . .

The Republican Party reaffirms its commitment to the early establishment of effective multilateral arrangements for the safe management and monitoring of all transfers and uses of nuclear materials in the international market. (headings added)3

A Note on Other Platform Sections on National Security and Foreign Policy. Following the above section on arms control, the Platform next turns to topics including: Defense Budget Trends, Nuclear Forces, Defense Strategy, Conventional Forces, Manpower and Draft, Reserve Forces, Readiness and Industrial Preparedness, Research and Development, Management and Organization, National Intelligence, and Terrorism. The Platform’s lengthy Foreign Policy discussion that follows next includes a section on U.S.-Soviet Relations that, along with topics like Afghanistan, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Reagan’s freedom strategy, is reviewed in Part IV of this book. Readers are encouraged to review Reagan’s Platform as an authoritative precursor of his official presidential U.S. national security strategy, especially in his critiques of President Carter’s policies and his pursuit of an election mandate for specific changes.

[Book pg. 221]