Chapter 14 - NATO-Warsaw Pact Conventional and CBW Forces and Arms Control

1. Pre-Reagan Historical Context of Conventional and CBW Force Asymmetries and Arms Control

This section introduces the historical Cold War context inherited by Reagan in major issues and forums on conventional forces, including weapons data, arms control verification, and confidence-building measures. Chemical and Biological Weapons (CBW) issues and negotiation forums, notably the U.N.’s Conference on Disarmament (CD), are reviewed later in this chapter in Topics 7 to 9 and are also referenced in Chapter 17 on Afghanistan.

Department of State Report—1983. A key administration public diplomacy report on Security and Arms Control: The Search for a More Stable Peace, coordinated by the National Security Council and published by the Department of State in June 1983, includes a summary of the evolution of NATO-Warsaw Pact conventional force concerns, forums, and negotiations. It notes the severe arms control setbacks suffered when thirty-two Warsaw Pact divisions led by the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 to crush the “Prague Spring” uprising. Thus:

[Troop Asymmetries] Central Europe is the scene of the most massive concentration of conventional military power in the world: the ground forces of East and West in this area total some 1.75 million men. . . . Eastern manpower superiority of some 170,000 ground force personnel in this region is an element of instability in the East-West balance. Reductions to equal levels of conventional forces would do much to strengthen political and economic stability and to decrease the burden of maintaining such a large numbers of troops.

[NATO Endorses Mutual Troop Reductions] NATO’s attempt through negotiations to reduce these troop levels began in 1967, with the adoption by NATO of the Harmel Report on “The Future Tasks of the Alliance.” This report declared that relations with the Soviet Union should be based on a strong defense and deterrent capability as well as a readiness for dialogue and detente. The report examined the prospect for force reductions in Central Europe and concluded that as long as balanced reductions in Warsaw Pact forces in Central Europe could be obtained, NATO could safely make limited cuts in its own conventional strength there.

[Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 Sets Back MBFR] The NATO allies, at their June 1968 ministerial meeting at Reykjavik, Iceland, expressed interest in “a process leading to a mutual force reductions” in Europe. “Balanced and mutual force reductions,” the declaration stated, “can contribute significantly to the lessening of tension and to further reducing the danger of war. . . . Negotiations were delayed, however, by the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. Just 2 months after the Reykjavik meeting, 32 Warsaw Pact divisions invaded Czechoslovakia. Five Soviet divisions remained permanently behind when the other forces departed. By increasing the number of Soviet divisions in Central Europe from 22 to 27—an addition of 70,000 Soviet soldiers—the invasion made an agreement establishing force parity harder to achieve.

[MBFR and CSCE Negotiations Begin—1973] The NATO allies, at their Rome ministerial meeting on May 27, 1970, renewed the offer to the Warsaw Pact. For 2 years, however, the Soviet Union insisted that the “reduction of foreign troops” could be considered only in the context of its proposal for a European security conference. Finally, in May 1972, Soviet leader Brezhnev dropped this condition and agreed to begin exploratory negotiations. (The Soviet proposal for a security conference eventually evolved into the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe [CSCE] which convened at Helsinki in 1973. That month, at the signing of . . . [SALT I], Brezhnev and President Nixon endorsed “the goal of ensuring stability and security to Europe through reciprocal reduction of forces.” Representatives of 12 members of NATO and the 7 Warsaw Pact members met in a preparatory conference on January 31, 1973. . . . On October 30 of that year, the first negotiating round of the MBFR began. . . . They were 5 years in gestation and have been going on for 10 more.

[Ten Years Later] The goal [in 1983] is the reduction of each side’s military manpower in the “zone of reductions” to parity at a level of 700,000 ground force personnel and a maximum of 900,000 air and ground force personnel combined. The zone of reductions consists of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Benelux countries on the Western side, and East Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia on the Eastern side. In addition to these reductions, the West seeks certain “associated measures” that would enhance stability and facilitate verification. These measures would give each side confidence that the other is observing the agreed manpower limits and is not assuming a threatening posture with residual forces. . . . [Yet] the Soviet Union has steadfastly resisted agreement on the data relating to its [own] force levels. (headings added)1

[Book pg. 322]