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

 high-confidence verification. A year of comprehensive NSC-coordinated Interdepartmental Group studies was launched on the basis of this new approach to assess options for strategic arms control reductions as integrated with U.S. strategic deterrence and defense priorities.

Early Private Correspondence with Brezhnev on START—1981. In his TV Address to the Nation on INF on November 18, 1981 on his “zero-zero” Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) initiative, Reagan revealed that he had written two letters to Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev early in 1981. He quoted an excerpt of his proposal for new U.S.-Soviet strategic arms control negotiations that emphasized reductions to begin early in 1982 on: “truly substantial reductions . . . [to] levels that are equal and verifiable. . . . To symbolize this fundamental change in direction we will call these negotiations START-Strategic Arms Reduction Talks.”5

NSSD 3–82—Preparing the U.S. START Position, JCS Certification—March 1982. An NSC study directive, NSSD 3–82—U.S. Policy and Negotiating Position for the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks, prepared by the Interdepartmental Group (IG) on START and issued by Reagan on March 3, 1982, called for expanding the extensive work by the START Interdepartmental Group carried out in the framework of Reagan’s strategic modernization priorities as set forth in his NSDD 12—Strategic Forces Modernization Program of October 1, 1981. As discussed below, the new directive adds a specific new JCS national security criterion and safeguard for an administration arms control strategy and sets a precise production schedule for a comprehensive draft directive for the president. The document demonstrates Reagan’s revolutionary integration of defense and arms control strategies to assure U.S. military capabilities required for U.S. security, even while reducing arms.

New JCS Certification Requirement on U.S. Military Sufficiency. For START arms control (as subsequently for all Reagan arms control proposals, including INF, nuclear testing, Chemical and Biological Weapons, etc.), NSSD 3–82 required for the first time that the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) must certify to the IG, NSC, and the President that all U.S. options to be considered must: “permit the U.S. to develop and possess sufficient military capability relative to that allowed to the Soviet Union to execute U.S. national military strategy with reasonable assurance of success.” Like the 1970s Jackson Amendment to SALT I (Chapter 5), Reagan’s new certification requirement would protect U.S. modernization requirements and other national security strategy elements necessary to reach and maintain levels of U.S. capabilities that would “provide for the common defense” against the Soviet nuclear superpower. The NSSD 3-82 directive specifies the:

Scope: [The review will include]: U.S. interests and objectives . . . factors that may constrain U.S. options . . . criteria appropriate for evaluating alternative U.S. approaches . . . evaluation of the alternative solutions for each issue and recommendations . . . integration of the resolution of the individual issues into a single, comprehensive U.S. approach, or alternative comprehensive approaches . . . assessment of the comprehensive approach(es) in terms of U.S. interests and objectives . . . U.S. negotiating position and strategies to implement the U.S. comprehensive alternative approach(es). This study will establish U.S. policy, the U.S. negotiating position, and U.S. strategies for the Strategic Arms Reductions Talks.

Administration: Management of the NSSD 3—82 review will be the responsibility of the existing START [IG] which should draw upon the significant work it has already completed. A timetable is provided at attachment . . . for [NSC] consideration no later than May 1, 1982.

[JCS Certification of Military Criteria:] Any approach or alternative approaches recommended to the [NSC] should, as a minimum, permit the U.S. to develop and possess sufficient military capability relative to that allowed to the Soviet Union to execute U.S. national military strategy with reasonable assurance of success. The Joint Chiefs of Staff will submit their timely assessments of the approach(es) in terms of this criterion to the [IG] for use in developing the proposed U.S. position and will certify to the military sufficiency of each approach as part of the report submitted to the [NSC]. (bracketed heading added)6

At about the same time as this JCSs certification was established, a comprehensive U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, issued in March 1982 and reviewed in Topic 6 of this chapter, made clear that acceleration of the Soviet strategic force buildup was related to the regime’s objectives for both military growth and the expansion of the Communist system in the global arena.

NSC Meeting—April 1982. An NSC meeting documented in NSC 46—Meeting on START, April 21, 1982, reviews the START IG’s response (not attached) to the NSSD 3—82 tasking above and indicates places of consensus or divergence of views. An opening survey of important issues identified by the IG, includes the following:

[Book pg. 270]