Chapter 15 - Soviet Arms Treaty Violations

Principles of Detente Agreement of 1972, the Vietnam Armistice Agreement of 1973, The Helsinki Agreement of 1975, and other agreements signed by Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev and presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter to control arms and armed conflicts (Chapters 5 and 6).

Reagan’s Republican Platform—1980 of July 1980 included the then diplomatically taboo topic of Soviet treaty violations, in stating that “Republicans deplore the attempts of the Carter Administration to cover up the Soviet non-compliance with arms control agreements.” This was a strong policy signal and it was reinforced by Reagan’s strong and unrehearsed words at his first presidential Press Conference—January 20, 1981. He startled the world when he answered a question about the Soviet Union by pointing to its aggressive global goals and its deceptive methods and practices. Thus:

I know of no leader of the Soviet Union since the revolution, and including the present leadership, that has not more than once repeated in the various Communist congresses they hold their determination that their goal must be the promotion of world revolution and a one-world Socialist or Communist state, whichever word you want to use. . . . They reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that . . . and we operate on a different set of standards.1

Reagan Faces Outrage and Resistance. Opponents of Reagan’s emerging arms control strategy in Congress, the media, academia, and leading private policy institutions greeted Reagan’s historically truthful, but “politically incorrect,” press conference remarks with outrage. They instructed Reagan that in order to be serious about arms control, he must not make charges about Soviet violations or draw any linkage between arms control and possible U.S. concerns about Soviet violations of treaties whether for arms control, human rights, or trade. Abroad, European intelligentsia protested that America’s “hawks” and “anti-Communists” (both intended as pejorative phrases) had taken power in Washington. In Moscow, angry Soviet officials, accustomed to years of U.S. self-censorship and accommodation, denied any treaty violations, issued false countercharges, and intensified their denunciations, even as the Soviet violations increased.

Reviewing the Soviet Record. Within the new U.S. Administration, some of Reagan’s own diplomats and inherited arms control bureaucracy expressed shock at his statements and sought to soften and reinterpret them while warning of strong Soviet reactions and heightened Cold War dangers. At this early point in the Reagan Administration, NSC arms control staff at interagency meetings countered that Reagan’s platform, press conference remarks, and other statements actually reflected his carefully considered policy. The president really wanted systematic reviews of the mounting evidence of Soviet SALT, ABM, Chemical Weapons (CW), Biological Weapons (BW), nuclear testing, and other treaty violations. Pushed particularly by the NSC and the Office Secretary of Defense, a reluctant interagency system slowly began to initiate assessments of Soviet violations and to accept the prospect of more realistic U.S. arms control criteria and U.S. modernization requirements to deter and protect against a pattern of Soviet cheating that was likely to continue, and even to increase, as long as it was largely covered up or ignored by U.S. arms control and defense strategies and organizations. The same was true in the areas of human rights and international law.

2. Soviet Arms and Arms Control Deception Practices and Administration Reports on Soviet CW and BW Programs and Violations—1982 and Beyond

Reagan’s new arms control strategy and its core concern about Soviet treaty violations had to overcome existing inherited U.S. policy taboos on reviewing weak U.S. verification criteria, supplementing exclusive U.S. reliance on overhead verification systems by adding new data and on-site measures, and raising compliance issues in discussions with the Soviet Union. Before Reagan, it was considered politically incorrect to press such subjects even in confidential diplomatic channels, let alone in public discourse.

NTM Verification Limitations and Soviet Deception. A serious obstacle to assessing and addressing Soviet non-compliance with arms control treaties was that existing U.S. arms control verification practice relied essentially on Soviet-supplied arms control data bases and on U.S. National Technical Means (NTM), such as signals intercepts and overhead aircraft and satellite systems. Yet the Soviet databases were inherently suspect and U.S. NTM could not readily achieve unambiguous clarity about covert practices of a nation covering many time zones with many concealed military programs and sites deliberately disguised by a secretive totalitarian regime. The Soviet Government routinely treated all of its military programs, budgets, and decision processes as tightly compartmented “state secrets” involving practices of major camouflage, deception, and

[Book pg. 355]