Chapter 12 - Strategic Offensive: Modernization, START Reductions, Nuclear Deterrence and Testing

Our challenge is to establish a framework in which sound East-West relations will endure. . . . To do so, however, we must understand the nature of the Soviet system and the lessons of the past.

The Soviet Union is a huge empire ruled by an elite that holds all power and all privilege. . . . The Soviet dictatorship has forged the largest armed force in the world.9

In the context of specific Soviet actions in which any U.S. arms control policies must be considered, Reagan pointed to the linked realities of Soviet human rights abuses, international aggression, arms control violations, and an unparalleled military buildup during the previous decade. He then turned to his own revolutionary arms control proposal as an important U.S. step to reduce Cold War dangers.

Eureka—Nuclear Cloud, Soviet Violations, and New Arms Control Criteria. Reagan began the arms control section of the Eureka speech with an invocation of “a nightmarish prospect . . . mushroom cloud.” He declared “my duty as President is to ensure that the ultimate nightmare never occurs, that the prairies and the cities and people who inhabit them remain free and untouched by nuclear conflict.” He noted “conclusive evidence” of Soviet treaty violations (especially concerning chemical and biological weapons treaties) and warned of “dangerous illusions” about previous arms control agreements. He signaled a systematic and far-reaching new U.S. arms control approach in saying: “The study and analysis required has been complex and difficult, . . . undertaken deliberately, thoroughly, and correctly. . . . We’re consulting with congressional leaders and with our allies, and we are now ready to proceed.”

Eureka-START Phases. Reagan’s address next outlined proposed phases for START reductions as follows:

I expect ballistic missile warheads, the most serious threat we face, to be reduced to equal levels, equal ceilings, at least a third below the current levels. To enhance stability, I would ask that no more than half of those warheads be land-based [i.e., prompt hard-target killers]. I hope that these warhead reductions, as well as significant reductions in missiles themselves, could be achieved as rapidly as possible.

In a second phase, we’ll seek to achieve an equal ceiling on other elements of our strategic nuclear forces, including limits on the ballistic missile throw-weight at less than current American levels. In both phases, we shall insist on verification procedures to ensure compliance. . . . I believe that it will be possible to reduce the risks of war by removing the instabilities that now exist and by dismantling the nuclear menace. . . . We hope negotiations will begin by the end of June.10

Two START Follow-on NSDDs—May 1982. Following his Eureka speech and additional NSC work, Reagan issued NSDD 33 and NSDD 36 to provide classified decisions on START. These NSDDs established the foundational policy framework for the U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms control negotiations that were launched on June 31, 1982 and were carried forward throughout Reagan’s presidency.

NSDD 33—May 1982. NSDD 33—U.S. Approach to START Negotiations, issued on May 14, 1982, addressed key START policy elements, beginning with a warning about increasingly unstable strategic nuclear weapons asymmetries, focused on destabilizing new Soviet systems.

[Nuclear Threat] The main threat to peace posed by nuclear weapons today is the growing instability of the nuclear balance. This is due to the increasing destructive potential and numbers of warheads delivered by the most inherently destabilizing Soviet systems, ballistic missiles, and especially ICBMs. The clear and primary focus of U.S. efforts should be to achieve a significant reduction in these systems, the number of warheads they carry, and their overall destructive potential [further cited as ‘throw weight’]. . . .

[START Phases] [The priority, first phase] goal the United States sets for itself in strategic arms negotiations is to enhance deterrence and to achieve stability through significant reductions in the most destabilizing nuclear systems . . . while maintaining an overall level of strategic nuclear capability sufficient to deter conflict, underwrite our national security, and meet our commitments to Allies and friends . . . [For a second phase, there will be reductions in throw weight to equal levels, further reductions in missiles and missile warhead levels and] separate constraints on slow-flying systems . . . [including] bombers and cruise missiles . . . [with] equal limits on bombers at roughly current levels, with [including the Soviet BACKFIRE; Bomber/cruise missile limits would also be discussed in the second phase].

[Verification] [The negotiations must] assure effective verification procedures for the above. (headings added)11

[Book pg. 272]