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

NSC Meeting Differences—April 1981. An NSC 8—Meeting on Theater Nuclear Forces Negotiations on April 30, 1981 reflects different emphases evident between the Department of State and Department of Defense on the core issue of when and on what basis to announce and to start negotiations on Intermediate or Theater Nuclear Forces (TNF). The meeting began with Security Advisor Richard Allen’s briefing on the asymmetric deployments, capabilities and plans of NATO and Warsaw Pact INF forces.

Secretary of State Alexander Haig next reported that his discussions with Allies made it “apparent that European leaders cannot maintain domestic consensus behind TNF modernization without a specific date for the start of TNF negotiations,” that “a date certain” for the start should be announced soon on the basis that “negotiations must be conducted using the ‘SALT framework’ language,” and that U.S. discussions with the Soviets (i.e., Haig-Gromyko) should begin soon. Deputy Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci (in Secretary Weinberger’s absence) emphasized that “any negotiations with the Soviet Union must be preceded [as a precondition] by a common [NATO] assessment of the threat and of our requirements . . . [and] develop a work plan based on these two studies.”1

The President generally supported Defense Department views on the linkage between INF modernization requirements, DoD/NATO studies, and the INF negotiations, when he stated that “we all agree that we need positive movement on modernization before we go into the negotiations. If we do not, then the Soviets will drag their feet because of their large advantage in TNF.” Haig asserted that a Defense “innuendo that we are attaching [studies] conditions to our willingness to negotiate is counterproductive. We must not point a pistol at the Allies’ head,” and at another point, asserts that “we know the answers to those questions now; we don’t need a threat assessment before we begin.” The President, however, simply noted that: “if the studies are not completed, we will not negotiate.” In dealing with Haig’s further insistence that the “SALT Framework” must be explicitly referenced in INF announcements, the President stated that: “The language ‘SALT framework’ is okay but needs to be clearly separated from an interpretation that we are resuming the Carter SALT approach.”2 Reagan thereby rejected a position still being pressed by some Allies, some Department of State officials, and many critics of Reagan in the U.S. Congress and the media. A year later, as reviewed in Chapter 12, Reagan firmly distinguishes his own “deep cuts” Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) approach from Carter’s SALT “caps” approach that Reagan considered fatally flawed.

Confirming the Dual Track Decision, Deciding on Scope. In May 1981, a NATO meeting of foreign ministers issued a declaration that U.S.-Soviet INF negotiations would begin in the fall. At the same time, NATO’s Special Consultative Group (SCG) began meetings on the specifics of an Allied INF negotiation position, while a second NATO body, the High Level Group (HLG) of NATO’s Nuclear Planning Groups (NPG), met to address military INF deployment plans. U.S. representation at the SCG was an Assistant Secretary of State. For the NPG, it was an Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle. The Administration’s Interdepartmental Group on INF Arms Control (IG) developed analyses and options papers for NSC review and presidential decisions on issues involving Congressional and Allied consultations, specific arms reduction proposals, and guidance for U.S. negotiators and public diplomacy.

U.S. Intelligence Reviews—1981. During the Administration’s review of INF options and consultations, U.S. National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) issued in July and September and subsequently declassified and included in this book’s Internet Document Library confirmed the existing NATO-Warsaw Pact force imbalances and threatening Soviet global objectives.

NIE 11–14–81—July 1981. NIE 11–14–81—Warsaw Pact Forces Opposite NATO, issued on July 7, 1981, investigates a wide range of comparable Warsaw Pact and NATO force categories that demonstrated the former’s clear superiority over the latter’s. The NIE’s extensive sections on conventional and chemical forces—ground-, sea-, and air-based—are reviewed in Chapter 14. The NIE’s section on Theater Nuclear Forces includes key facts about Soviet gains in the détente decade.

[Nuclear Elements] Warsaw Pact nuclear weapons that could be employed against NATO in Europe are of two distinct types: tactical weapons assigned to the Pact’s theater forces and elements of the Soviet strategic forces. Together, they provide a formidable strike capability and one that will continue to improve over the period of this Estimate. The SS–20 missile system and the Backfire bomber, which have prompted NATO to modernize its own theater nuclear forces, are two of the more important additions to an ongoing stream of improvements in this field. The Soviet drive for superiority in weapons of this type is not limited to numbers; their objectives also include greater tactical flexibility, accuracy, and a larger range of warhead yields.

[Book pg. 243]