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

Objectives: 1) military sufficiency (NSDD—13); 2) strategic stability; 3) significant reductions (military useful and politically necessary); 4) politically plausible; and 5) verifiable . . .

Reduction Units: 1) ballistic missile warheads; 2) launchers; 3) missile throw-weight; 4) warhead weight; 5) bombers; and 6) bomber armament . . .

Criteria for Selecting Units of Account [for Reduction]: 1) easily understood (to gain wide support); 2) deal with important asymmetries (especially heavy missiles); 3) tough but plausible; 4) protect Allied interest; 5) generally consistent with INF; and 6) flexible and durable framework for negotiations.

Strategic Balance: [1] deployed missile warheads [USSR 7,500, U.S. 7,100] . . . [2] SALT-accountable missile warheads [USSR 8,800, U.S. 9,500]; [3] Strategic nuclear delivery vehicles [USSR 2,763 , U.S. 1,944] . . . [4] missile throw-weight [USSR 5.1 million kilograms, U.S. 1.9 million kilograms] . . . [5] bombers [USSR 415, U.S. 347] . . . [6] the U.S. leads in numbers of bomber weapons. . . .

[Meeting Notes Summary of Agency Views] . . . All agencies favor radical cuts in the number of warheads to levels of 4,000 to 5,000. 2) On launchers, State favors 1,500 limit, other agencies do not favor launcher limits. On throw weight, State favors reductions in heavy missiles and ICBM warheads; ACDA favors a warhead weight limit; and OSD favors reductions to U.S. level. On bombers, all favor levels of about 250. The chief Negotiator, Ambassador Rowny, has his own proposal and will make some comments later. We understand that JCS will also be expressing their own views.7

Further NSC discussion also reveals divergent opinions. The JCS Chairman indicates that the proposed cuts cannot be certified as still enabling U.S. military requirements mandated by national policy. The Secretary of Defense cites Reagan’s INF (zero-option) proposal to challenge a proposed State Department “political plausibility” requirement for START if State thereby required heeding Soviet and others’ objections to asymmetric (rather than equal) numerical reductions, even when the Soviet’s had higher numbers. He is seconded by the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. The CIA Director expresses concerns about verification problems, including refires, telemetry, concealment, etc. Several officials point to ICBMs as the most destabilizing (first-strike) systems to be reduced and constrained.

NSC Meeting on Verification—May 1982. A follow-up NSC 49—Meeting on START, May 3, 1982, reviews a number of issues of emerging interdepartmental consensus (e.g., on missile cuts and negotiation phases) and disagreement (e.g., on measurement of destructive capability in terms of throw-weight). There is also a discussion of an unprecedented arms control requirement (comparable to the JCS certification reviewed above) to replace the elastic, “adequate” verification term of earlier administrations with a firm Reagan requirement for Intelligence Community/CIA certification of its “confidence levels” for verification for all proposed options and provisions and “effective verification” identified as requiring “high confidence.”8

“Eureka”: Reagan’s Public Presentation of his START Proposal—May 9, 1982. After months of work and initial consultations with Congress and Western allies, Reagan was prepared to reveal the outlines of his revolutionary new arms reduction proposal on strategic offensive forces. He chose his alma mater, Eureka College, Illinois and its commencement ceremonies for a major national Address on Arms Control and East-West Relations on May 9, 1982. This was one month before he would leave for meetings involving major consultations in Versailles with leaders of the industrial powers, and in Bonn, Rome, and London with leaders of the thirty-seven nations of the Atlantic Alliance.

Comparable to his November 18, 1981 announcement of his unprecedented “zero-zero” proposal on Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) (Chapter 11), Reagan presented at Eureka a dramatic new strategic vision for deep, effectively verifiable asymmetric reductions of the most destabilizing U.S. and Soviet strategic nuclear weapons to lower, equal levels, while also assuring the U.S. would certifiably meet essential U.S. defense requirements. Reagan’s START criteria thus set conditions similar to those proposed by Senator Henry Jackson’s amendment to Nixon’s SALT Treaty of 1972 (Chapter 4) and later for Carter’s SALT-II proposal (Chapter 5). Years later, Reagan’s Eureka speech is a “must-read” for students of the Cold War, Reagan, and arms control, as it presents a clear overview of U.S.-Soviet relations, arms asymmetries, Cold War stakes, and a new START proposal for deep, far-reaching cuts in superpower nuclear arms.

Eureka—Cold War Stakes and Linked Soviet Imperial Realities. Reagan opened his Eureka speech with a reference to historic “similarities, and the 1980’s like the 1930’s may be . . . a crucial juncture in history that will determine the direction of the future.” He described the fundamental Cold War contrast between the superpower protagonists and the Free and Communist worlds as:

[Book pg. 271]