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

Note on Verification. In the context of the Reagan NSC’s other work on arms control verification and compliance issues, Reagan’s “effective” verification was a deliberate change from others’ use of the word “adequate” and meant high-confidence verification. Prior administrations had deemed on-site inspections or intrusive confidence-building measures inconceivable in view of the totalitarian Soviet Union’s traditional “nyet” [“no”] to such a provocative notion and had relied on National Technical Means, which provide only low confidence for deterring or detecting Soviet cheating.

START and MX. NSDD 33 went on to call for START consultations with the Congress and Allies, which were subsequently undertaken by senior administration officials. While many Democrats in the U.S. Congress balked, NATO foreign ministers endorsed the U.S. START proposal in May 1982 and NATO heads of government did so at a NATO summit in Bonn in June 1982. Meanwhile, NSDD 35—The MX Program, issued at about the same time, on May 17, 1982, was designed to assure progress on a core Reagan strategic modernization program essential for U.S. deterrence and important to provide negotiation leverage on the Soviet leaders long accustomed to unilateral U.S. strategic program cancellations and delays.

NSDD 36—U.S. “Interim Restraint Policy” and START Phases. NSDD 36—U.S. Approach to START Negotiations—II, issued on May 25, 1982, provided additional policy guidance prior to the START negotiations scheduled to begin at the end of June. Reagan’s guidance included two major points. First, he confirmed his “interim restraint” policy (also known as a “no undercut” policy), concerning the 1979 SALT II agreement, signed but withdrawn by President Carter. On this issue, the U.S. would take no action to undercut existing agreements, like SALT II if the Soviet Union exercised comparable restraint. Reagan’s second major point dealt with the relationship between particular START weapons systems and limitation phases.

[U.S. “Interim Restraint” Policy] The United States will not depart from current policy with respect to existing arms control agreements at this time. At the same time, we must recognize that continuing current policy prompts the argument that we are complying with SALT II and should, therefore, ratify it, even though it is seriously flawed. In addition, . . . our current policy may present problems for certain U.S. force modernization options, particularly for M-X basing. The United States will continue its policy of taking no actions that would undercut existing agreements as long as the Soviet Union shows equal restraint. . . . SALT II is not an acceptable foundation for a final, equal and verifiable arms reduction agreement. . . . It would be a major mistake to attempt to formalize the SALT II agreement’s high ceilings and serious inequalities. . . . [Finally], protecting the survivability of our ICBM force is an essential prerequisite to maintaining our security at reduced levels of forces. We believe that actions necessary to ensure survivability of our ICBM force are fully consistent with existing agreements. . . .

[Reduction Phases and Specific Weapons Limits] . . . [The NSDD called for] forces fully consistent with existing agreements. . . . [The NSDD further outlined] whether the results gained through this approach will be implemented in a series of agreements or in a single, comprehensive agreement. . . . [On mobile ICBMs the U.S. should continue to] explore the possibility of drawing a distinction between the degree of transportability needed for deceptive basing of M-X and the full mobility associated with an SS–16-type ICBM. . . . [On Air-Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCMs)] the U.S. should not seek special limits on ALCMs themselves . . . [or] limits on maximum ALCM loadings per [heavy] bomber. . . . [On verification telemetry] the U.S. should seek a ban on all telemetry encryption in flight test of START-limited systems. . . . [On missile flight tests] the U.S. should not seek . . . an annual quota. . . . [On depressed trajectory limits] because of verification problems and the implications for certain U.S. systems, . . . we should not propose a ban on such testing, pending further review. [On air defense] We do not envisage air defense limitations. . . . [On civil defense] we should not seek civil defense limitations. . . . [On Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)] there appears to be no compelling U.S. security requirement for ASW limitations. . . . (headings added)12

5. START Negotiations Begin—May 1982 to November 1983

In a Joint U.S.-U.S.S.R. Announcement on the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START), issued on May 31, 1982 by the White House, the two nuclear superpowers announced the opening of START negotiations on June 29, 1982 in Geneva, Switzerland. Ambassador Edward Rowny would head the U.S. delegation and Ambassador V. P. Karpov the Soviet delegation. Ambassador Rowny was a former a U.S. Army Lt. General, who

[Book pg. 273]