Chapter 11- Intermediate Nuclear Force (INF) Deployments and "Zero Option" vs. "Nuclear Freeze"


Reagan’s early decisions on Intermediate Nuclear Force (INF) issues presented a bold vision, imposed new national security criteria on his integrated defense and arms control policies, and rolled back years of massive unilateral Soviet deployments of new “first-strike” INF systems. The context and history of Reagan’s INF strategy mark a critical turning point in his new defense and arms control strategy and in pressing the Soviets toward an essentially peaceful outcome of the Cold War. His “zero option” INF proposal of November 1981 set new U.S. assumptions and terms for exposing aggressive Soviet actions, the folly of “nuclear freeze” proposals and the need for integrated U.S. defense, arms control, and diplomatic strategies.

Reagan’s “Zero-Zero,” New Criteria, and Public Diplomacy Stop the Soviet INF Game Plan. Reagan inherited NATO’s 1979 decision that, absent Soviet agreement on INF arms reductions to equal levels, NATO would counter Soviet deployment of SS–20 and other new INF systems through NATO force modernization. His radical “zero-zero” proposal was to have the U.S. and NATO forgo Pershing ballistic missiles and Ground-Launched Cruise Missiles in exchange for the asymmetric elimination (to zero) of four years of Soviet SS–20 deployments. However, this proposal was treated with disdain by Reagan’s critics and the Soviets. To change the Soviet “nyet” to “da,” Reagan had to hold fast to overcome strong opposition from the Congress, ”nuclear freeze” supporters, some of his own diplomats, NATO wavering, a “walk in the woods,” and a Soviet walkout from nuclear arms negotiations. Reagan’s intensive NSC-coordinated INF public diplomacy campaign was joined by staunch NATO allies, including Margaret Thatcher and Helmut Kohl, and effectively exposed Soviet military force asymmetries, attack doctrines, and deceptions and gained increasing support for his system-wide dual track strategy of U.S. force modernization and meaningful arms reductions in the most destabilizing weapons systems. What the Soviets and Reagan’s critics had rejected as a cynical U.S. Cold War "provocation" 

[Book pg.239]