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

tain the “dual track” decision and would increase pressure on Soviets leaders to reassess their hard-line policies. While the INF Interdepartmental Group focused on other options, the “zero-zero” concept was kept in very restricted channels and forwarded to President Reagan in October.

Reagan Tests NSC Waters for a “Zero Option.” At the October 13 NSC meeting (with INF negotiations scheduled to begin on November 30), the U.S. zero-zero option was activated when Reagan, who knew there were strong differences of view around the table, asked “Do we really want a ‘zero option’ for the battlefield?” The responses diverged, beginning with Secretary of State Alexander Haig, a former NATO Supreme Commander and opponent of zero-zero, who expressed serious concerns as follows:

The ‘zero option’ will not be viewed as the President’s initiative, . . . it is a subject of intense debate in Europe. There are also some serious problems with any ‘zero option.’ We should be looking for the hooker and must study this issue fully. . . . With such an option, the Europeans will surely reject any new deployments.

Next, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, gave strong support to the option:

The Soviets will certainly reject an American ‘zero option’ proposal. But whether they reject it or they accept it, they would be set back on their heels. We would be left in good shape and would be shown as the White Hats. As to the nuclear battlefield systems we need, we would not be including these shorter battlefield systems, e.g., the Enhanced Radiation Weapons (ERW) systems, only the longer-range ones. Also, we would be insisting on stringent verification criteria and on dismantling.7

Other NSC Senior Advisors’ Views. The other discussants included the representative of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Director Eugene Rostow and INF Ambassador Paul Nitze were both absent), who noted that “we believe it requires further study . . . we favor keeping the ‘lowest possible levels’ formula . . . [though] lowest possible’ includes zero.” A Reagan question about verification “in that vast country” (i.e., the 11 time-zone USSR) was answered by CIA Director William Casey (who supported the “zero option”) that “with a zero ban, it would be easier.” This point was reinforced when Reagan repeated the question and his White House counselor (Edwin Meese, who supported the option) stated that “With a zero ban, we would have an easier indicator of whether or not the Soviets were complying.”

NSC Meeting and Reagan Decision to Adopt “Zero Option”—November 1981. With the President’s strong interest and the backing of National Security Advisor Richard Allen, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the “zero-zero” option became an important step in the Reagan Revolution that redefined arms “control” to the point of effectively verifiable and truly “lowest possible equal levels” to include radical reductions and even included the asymmetric, but total elimination of particularly destabilizing systems. Following NSC 25—Meeting on Theater Nuclear Forces on November 12,1981, Reagan formally approved the “zero-zero” option, later authoritatively spelled out in presidential directive NSDD 15—Theater Nuclear Forces, issued on November 16, 1981. In the NSDD, Reagan stated that, on the basis of the November 12 NSC meeting, he had made decisions on the U.S. position for the INF negotiations to begin on November 30. Reagan’s directive fully incorporated the “zero option” and included the following major elements:

[1. a U.S. proposal to] remove and dismantle the Soviet Union’s SS–20 and retire SS–4 and SS–5 systems in return for no deployment of the U.S. Pershing II and GLCMs. [2.] . . . We are prepared to seek subsequent limits with significant reductions for other nuclear weapons systems. [3.] We will negotiate in good faith to achieve global, equal and verifiable levels of weapons. [4.] . . . [The Interdepartmental Group should] ensure that the negotiating instructions, including enumeration of objectives and principles, are fully congruent with the President’s decisions as expressed in this [NSDD].8

Reagan’s TV Address Proposing the “Zero Option”—November 18, 1981. In the nationally televised Address to the Nation on INF on November 18, 1981, Reagan presented his breakthrough “zero option” INF proposal in its historic Cold War context and as a major arms control proposal in accord with his new security-based and effective (high confidence) arms reduction principles. Reagan told the American people and the world that he and NATO would cancel the planned U.S. deployment of 108 Pershing II single-warhead ballistic missiles and 464 single-warhead Ground-Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCMs), totaling 572 U.S. war-

[Book pg. 246]