PART III -- THE REAGAN REVOLUTION IN DEFENSE AND ARMS CONTROL

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

increased in the 1970s through the immense Soviet/Warsaw Pact production and deployment of advanced armor, artillery, aircraft, and other conventional forces, plus chemical and biological weapons, while comparable Western defense capabilities were falling further behind.

SS–20’s Global Strategic Impact. The destabilizing impact of the Soviet SS–20 missiles was quickly felt far beyond Europe, reaching throughout the globe. The SS–20s could be transported and based anywhere throughout the Warsaw Pact, including in any of the Soviet Union’s many time zones that reached from Eastern Europe to the Pacific. With their normal complement of three warheads, they had an estimated range up to 5,000 kilometers so that when deployed west of the Urals, they could readily reach strategic targets, including capitals, other cities, and military and industrial installations throughout Western Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. If deployed east of the Urals in Soviet Siberia, SS–20s could hit strategic targets in most of Asia (including Japan and China) as well as in Southeast Asia and in U.S. territory in Alaska and Hawaii. If deployed with only one or two warheads rather than three, SS–20 range increased to cover targets in most of the continental United States and the entire Northern Hemisphere.

NATO’s “Dual Track” INF Response—1979. As SS–20 deployments continued, NATO leaders were forced to respond to the expanding Soviet nuclear threat, which also included new Soviet Backfire bombers and new sea-based surface and submarine systems. NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group (NPG) was thus tasked to assess future force modernization requirements for NATO’s “flexible response” strategy in the face of mounting Soviet military power. Following extensive studies and consultations, NATO ministers on December 12, 1979 unanimously adopted a NATO INF “Dual Track” Resolution, confirmed by heads of state later that month, that established the “dual track” NATO strategy described below. At the same time the U.S. and its allies confirmed the decision to withdraw 1,000 (U.S.) nuclear warheads from the NATO stockpile in Europe, and this withdrawal was completed in 1980. NATO also decided that for each new Western missile deployed, one additional nuclear warhead would be withdrawn from Europe.

GLCM and Pershing Deployments. NATO’s first track called for an arms control agreement to reduce NATO-Warsaw Pact INF forces to the lowest possible levels. If the Soviet Union rejected such a step, the second track called for NATO counter-deployments of two U.S. weapons systems to begin in December 1983 to reduce the growing deterrence gap, although neither U.S. system approached the destructive capabilities of the SS–20 missiles. The first system consisted of Ground-Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCMs) on 116 mobile launchers, with four missiles per launcher, a total of 464 warheads. The GLCMs had a range of 2,500 kilometers, but were slow-flying cruise missiles, potentially vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire and carrying only a single, relatively small nuclear warhead. The second, substantially more capable, system consisted of 108 fast-flying Pershing II ballistic missiles, each with a 1,800 kilometer range and with one nuclear warhead that could accurately reach Moscow and other Soviet targets west of the Urals in 7–8 minutes.

Proposed NATO Deployment Locations and Phases—1983–1988. Absent Soviet agreement to INF arms control, the NATO decision called for the deployment of the GLCMs and Pershings to begin four years later in December 1983, and continuing until 1988. The GLCMS were to be deployed under U.S. control in five countries: Belgium, Italy, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), the Netherlands, and the U.K. The Pershing II missiles were to be deployed only in West Germany and under U.S. control. Up to 72 shorter-range (SRINF) Pershing I ballistic missiles were also to be deployed only in West Germany with these missiles to be under West German control and their warheads under U.S. control.

Soviet “Parity” and Propaganda: The Soviet “Zero” Option and the “Nuclear Freeze.” Before the 1979 NATO decision, at a time when the Soviet Union had deployed SS–20s with some 200 warheads, Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev had claimed in October 1979 that a “balance of forces . . . has taken shape in Europe.” To gain support to block NATO’s potential missile counter-deployments, while Moscow deployed even more SS–20s and still claimed a “balance,” the Soviet Union launched an intensive propaganda campaign. Working with Soviet front groups, they ran extensive “active measures” campaigns to influence Western peace activists, media, parliamentary debates, and street demonstrations pressing for unilateral Soviet-sponsored “moratoria.” As a precondition for any arms control negotiations, the Soviets demanded that NATO replace its dual-track decision with a moratorium (a freeze at zero) for U.S. INF missiles. However, they rejected any Soviet SS–20 reductions.

Soviet Build-up, “Zero,” and “Nuclear Freeze.” As a strong “nuclear freeze” movement developed in the U.S. after Carter’s failed Strategic Armed Limitation Treaty (SALT II) in 1979, Soviet “moratorium” proposals made political inroads in Western Europe and the U.S. among those who accepted Soviet claims to     

[Book pg. 241]

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