Chapter 15 - Soviet Arms Treaty Violations

1. The Historical Context and Defense and Arms Control Impact of Reagan’s Revolutionary Policy on Soviet Arms Control Violations

A core element of Reagan’s revolutionary new Cold War strategy of “peace through strength” was to transform the arms control process by combining key defense and arms control criteria to assure U.S. national security capabilities necessary “to provide for the common defense” and “secure the blessings of liberty.” It was therefore essential to identify and protect against threatening Soviet military programs and aggressive diplomatic practices that routinely included Soviet deception and cheating on international agreements. Throughout his campaign and presidency, Reagan rejected his predecessors’ illusory arms control “caps,” “freezes,” and “moratoria” that had loose standards of verification, did not deter or protect against likely Soviet violations of the SALT, ABM, and CBW agreements, and yet were often unilaterally applied by Congress and presidents in restricting U.S. defense and arms control programs and policies.

Breaking “Détente” Taboos. Reagan sought to ensure that any U.S. arms control efforts would actually control and reduce arms threats and would effectively strengthen U.S. national security and global stability, not undermine them as had too often been the case before his presidency. He was a rare realist in exposing and countering the Soviet treaty violations that should have consistently shattered illusory U.S. assumptions on Cold War “containment,” and détente forms of arms control that relied on Soviet compliance with international treaties and/or the questionable U.S. deterrence doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). Reagan directed systematic intelligence assessments and programmatically and diplomatically exposed and countered Soviet arms control deceptions and violations. He broke deep-seated U.S. diplomatic taboos by calling public attention, in addition to using confidential diplomacy, to take on Soviet arms control treaty violations. He also authorized major changes in the administrative and interagency process of U.S. arms control policy to enhance national security and to achieve unprecedented negotiations pressure, and breakthroughs.

Arms Control, Soviet Treaty Compliance, and National Security. From their first days in office early in 1981, Reagan and his National Security Council team moved to assess the defense and arms control implications of the linkage between the Soviet Union’s unprecedented arms build-up and its record of arms control deceptions and treaty violations. The assessments required systematic study of the facts, record, verification issues, legal aspects, and serious U.S. defense implications of Soviet noncompliance, including U.S. national security risks and costs of continued unilateral U.S. compliance with treaties being violated by the Soviet Union.

To thwart Soviet exploitation of U.S. trust, Reagan’s new arms control strategy required not only deep reductions (versus “caps” and “freezes”) to equal levels of capability in the most destabilizing systems but also new changes in U.S. arms control compliance and verification standards from elastic concepts of “adequate” verification based on overhead “national technical means” (NTM). Major focus was placed on the effects of Soviet deception and interference with NTM as setting new U.S. requirements for “effective” verification—defined as “high-confidence” data assurance and monitoring, including on-site inspections. Finally, new U.S. defense programs, notably including Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (Chapter 13) and Strategic Forces modernization (Chapter 12) were seen as essential U.S. defense insurance policies and important arms control leverage in the face of likely Soviet arms control cheating and the reality that the Cold War’s MAD deterrence policy had proved ineffective in restraining the Soviet military buildup and its aggressive global reach or in stopping global proliferation.

Reagan’s Realism. During the 1970s period of the U.S. “détente” strategy, Reagan often pointed to the high risks of entrusting U.S. security and diplomacy to any Soviet promises, including those made at summit meetings. He was fully aware of the decades of violations by the totalitarian Soviet regime of the promises to its own people about fundamental political, social, and economic rights. He understood these violations, domestic and international, as inevitable in Communist states that lacked any democratic assurance of transparency, accountability, and constitutionally secured checks and balances within their totalitarian experience.

During his political career, Reagan often addressed Lenin’s totalitarian revolution and the abysmal Soviet record of international agreements broken by Joseph Stalin and his successors before and after the Second World War, including the Yalta Declaration, Potsdam Declaration, and the United Nations Charter as reviewed in Chapter 3. During the 1970s, he also often referenced Soviet violations of key détente agreements including the Agreement on Strategic Arms Limitations (SALT), the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, the

[Book pg. 354]