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

The Department of State report references a range of Western proposals, which by 1979 involved enhanced associated confidence-building and verification measures and no longer maintained earlier insistence on initial withdrawal of a full 3-division Soviet tank army with 30,000 Soviet soldiers. Also noted are Soviet proposals of 1973, 1976, and 1979 that sought phased withdrawals of U.S. and Soviet ground and air forces to their home national territories.

Soviet MBFR “Moratoria,” “Freezes,” and Other Deceits. The Soviet MBFR return-to-home-territory proposal, like other standard Soviet proposals for moratoria or freezes, was intended to legitimize existing Soviet numerical and geographic advantages or even to increase them. In any case, the lack of an agreement on the accuracy of the East’s data, such a deal would not be effectively verifiable. The Soviets understood the great differences, difficulties, and vulnerabilities for the West in trying to monitor Soviet compliance or to move U.S. reinforcements across the Atlantic Ocean in a European crisis compared to the existing Pact advantages in deployed forces and the ready use of rail and highway routes by Soviet forces near the Iron Curtain front. Standard Soviet practices of secrecy and deception would deny Western confidence in verifying Soviet baseline and reduction data and treaty compliance, especially for mobile weapon systems.

Conventional Forces and Nuclear Thresholds. Often neglected by those who downplayed the massive Soviet conventional force advantages was the fact that any Western acceptance of the Soviet asymmetries in the conventional area would inevitably force a dramatic lowering of the West’s nuclear threshold in the case of an attack by the vastly larger Soviet conventional forces. Readers particularly interested in Soviet conventional and nuclear weapon doctrines and in thresholds involving NATO will find of special interest a U.S. Strategic Institute study on Soviet Theater Strategy: Implications for NATO, published in 1978.

2. Reagan’s Early Warnings on Conventional Force Asymmetries and U.S. Modernization and Defense Requirements—1980 to 1981

Conventional force asymmetries were a core element of Reagan’s 1980 election campaign warnings about the Soviet military buildup, President Carter’s severe U.S. defense cuts, and Reagan’s own determination to rebuild U.S. capabilities through conventional force funding.

Reagan’s Republican Campaign Platform—1980. Reagan’s platform, as approved at the July 1980 Republican Party convention, addresses the overall strategic and conventional force situation as follows:

[U.S. Survival, Soviet Imperialism, Carter Cuts] At the start of the 1980s, the United States faces the most serious challenge to its survival in the two centuries of its existence. . . . The Administration’s neglect of America’s defense posture in the face of overwhelming evidence of a threatening military buildup is without parallel since the 1930s. . . . Candidate Carter ran on a promise of massive cuts in U.S. defense spending . . . [even as] the four chiefs of the armed services have each characterized the Carter defense program as “inadequate” to meet the military threat. . . .

[Aggressive Soviet, Required U.S. Responses] The greatest single result of our loss of nuclear parity has been the manifest increase in the willingness of the Soviet Union to take risks at the conventional level. . . . The Soviets for the first time in post-war history, employed their own army units outside of the Soviet bloc in a brutal invasion of Afghanistan. . . . The [U.S.] forces essential . . . must include a much-improved Navy, the force most suitable for maintaining U.S. presence in threatened areas and protecting sea lines of communication. In addition, we will require a substantial improvement in the air and sea mobility forces and improved access to regional installations . . . to include the establishment of a permanent fleet in the Indian Ocean. We will also improve contingency planning for the use and expansion of our commercial maritime fleet and a new rational approach of emergency use of our civil aircraft fleet.

The budget cuts imposed by Mr. Carter on the Army and his restoration of the supremacy of systems analysis in the Pentagon have resulted in slowdowns, deferrals, and cost increases in nine vitally needed Army procurement programs in armor, firepower, air defense, and helicopters. These critical and long-delayed modernization programs must be restored to economical production rates and must be speeded into the field. Of equal importance need is the need to bring our stocks of ammunition, spare parts, and supplies—now at woefully inadequate levels—to a standard that will enable us to sustain our forces in conflict.

[Air Force, a 600-Ship Navy, Marines] . . . We pledge to restore tactical aircraft development and procurement to economical levels and to speed the achievement of 26 modernized wings of aircraft able to conduct missions at night, in all weather conditions, and against the most sophisticated adversary.

[Book pg. 323]