Chapter 13 - Strategic Defense: SDI, MAD, ASATs, Civil Defense

Article XII . . . Each Party shall use national technical means of verification . . . [and] not to interfere with the national technical means . . . [and] not to use deliberate concealment measures which impede verification. . . .

Article XIII . . . The Parties shall establish promptly a Standing Consultative Commission . . . [to] a) consider questions concerning compliance . . . d) consider possible changes in the strategic situation . . . g) consider, as appropriate, proposals for further measures aimed at limiting strategic arms. . . .

Article XV . . . Each Party shall . . . have the right to withdraw from this treaty if it decides that extraordinary events . . . have jeopardized its supreme interests. It shall give notice . . . six months prior to withdrawal.3

 Other articles of the ABM Treaty set limits on anti-aircraft missile upgrades, radars, transfers to allies, etc. The Agreed Statements, Common Understandings, and Unilateral Statements attached to the text of the ABM Treaty provides further elaborations, including different views held by the two superpowers on issues that invariably became a source of future disputes. That the Soviets in fact always supported vigorous national ABM programs is noted in a later Reagan Radio Address to the Nation on the Strategic Defense Initiative of July 13, 1985, citing Soviet Marshall Andrey Grechko as follows:

It was assumed that an effective defense would not be feasible in 1972. But in that very year, Soviet Marshal Grechko testified to the Supreme Soviet: “The treaty on limiting ABM systems imposes no limitations on the performance of research and experimental work aimed at resolving the problem of defending the country against nuclear missile attack.”4

In a subsequent effort to build momentum for their 1972 ABM Treaty, Nixon and Brezhnev signed an ABM Treaty Protocol—1974 on July 3, 1974 that reduced permitted national ABM sites from two to one. The U.S. subsequently designated the U.S. site to be at an ICBM base in Grand Forks, North Dakota while the Soviets designated Moscow. The Protocol reaffirmed the essential SALT-ABM link stated in the ABM Treaty’s preamble by noting that the superpowers were “proceeding from the premise that further limitation of anti-ballistic missile systems will create more favorable conditions for the completion of work on a permanent agreement on more complete measures for the limitation of strategic offensive arms.”5

Ford Administration ABM Constraints. Notwithstanding troublesome MAD issues and Soviet actions inconsistent with the Nixon-Brezhnev détente principles, the ABM Treaty became a near-sacred “cornerstone of strategic stability” for the U.S. arms control community and the Democratic Party leadership in the Congress. In the new administration of Gerald Ford, who became president upon Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974, the impact of the pro-ABM Treaty pressure was noticeable, although some senior officials were skeptical about the faltering U.S. détente strategy in the face of Soviet violations, and Ford withdrew the word “détente” from his 1976 presidential campaign rhetoric. In March 1976, Ford signed Nixon’s restrictive 1974 ABM Treaty Protocol as ratified by the Congress in November 1975 and the Protocol entered into force on May 24, 1976. At about the same time, Ford and his team decided to deactivate the permitted U.S. ABM site at Grand Forks and to accept reductions in U.S. ABM research. These U.S. ABM constraints were not reciprocated by the Soviet Union, which pocketed the U.S. unilateral steps and stepped up its own deployment and research programs to create a base for national anti-ballistic missile defenses.

3. The Madness of MAD—Soviet 1970s Actions Against MAD; Reagan’s MAD Choices at NORAD; and Reagan’s Early Announcements and Directives on U.S. ABMs

In the 1980s, Reagan inherited developments from the 1970s in which the Soviet Union paid lip service to MAD and the ABM Treaty of 1972 and denounced U.S. ABM systems, but in fact did not share American assumptions and faith about the supposed “stability” of MAD and ABM bans. To the Soviet Union, unilateral U.S. faith and compliance were fine; bilateral faith and compliance were not. As stated by Soviet Marshall Vasily Sokolovsky, Soviet military doctrine avoided differentiating nuclear and other forms of war and called for a rapid buildup of offensive and defense capabilities across the board. Chapter 5 on Nixon and Ford and Chapter 6 on Carter review the emerging critiques of such asymmetries in U.S. and Soviet military doctrines and programs. Catalytic mid-1970s critiques included those of the Team B Report, the Committee on the Present Danger, Richard Pipes’ article in Commentary on “Why the Soviet Union Thinks it Could Fight and Win a Nuclear War,” and Ronald Reagan.

[Book pg. 300]