Chapter 15 - Soviet Arms Treaty Violations

denial. The top Soviet leaders routinely withheld basic facts on all governmental, military, intelligence, and arms control programs. They practiced this secrecy not only toward the Soviet population and media, but also toward Communist Party parliamentarians in the Soviet Duma and toward high-ranking Soviet diplomats and civilians, including those on its arms control negotiating teams that provided data to the U.S. delegations.

Soviet Denials of Facts and Linkages and the U.S.-Soviet SCC Forum. During the Cold War, as during all of Soviet history, Soviet officials automatically denied all charges by the U.S., other Western nations, and international organizations that the Soviet Union was in violation of any international obligations. It did not matter whether human rights, trade, or arms control issues were involved. The Kremlin typically claimed a pristine record and denounced all charges as outrageous provocations and lies destructive of U.S.-Soviet relations, “peaceful coexistence,” and “détente.” Crude Soviet countercharges normally followed about U.S. “imperialist propaganda,” even when the U.S. referenced and backed up its concerns in confidential diplomatic channels like the U.S.-Soviet Standing Consultative Commission (SCC), established as part of the ABM and SALT Agreements of 1972 (see Chapters 5, 12, and 13).

NSC Meeting—May 1981. Readers can gain exceptional insights into the Reagan team’s early discussion of serious Soviet noncompliance issues in a May 22, 1981 NSC meeting, as reported in declassified notes on NSC 9—U.S.-USSR Consultative Commission. The notes list key Soviet compliance issues and Senior Interdepartmental Group (SIG) and arms control Interagency Group (IG) draft instructions to the U.S. delegation to a meeting of the SCC and further NSC tasking of analyses; and a reference to arms reductions (vs. limitations). The notes include Reagan’s reference to “the illusion of SALT” and Secretary of Defense Weinberger’s statement that, “we should also be looking at ABM defense as arms control.” (The notes go on to the subject of U.S. policy in the Caribbean addressed in Chapter 18.)

Early Reagan Studies on Soviet Chemical Weapons (CW) and Biological Weapons (BW) Violations. Bureaucratic opposition continued to the President’s and his NSC team’s pursuit of comprehensive examinations of the Soviet compliance record, especially when it involved nuclear arms and nuclear test limitation treaties. However, significant headway was made in publicizing the Administration’s initial assessments of ongoing Soviet battlefield use and testing of Chemical and Biological Weapons (CBW). As detailed in Chapter 14 on Conventional and CBW forces and Chapter 17 on Afghanistan, extensive U.S. Special National Intelligence Estimates (SNIEs) paired with the Interdepartmental Group’s assessments presented compelling evidence of CBW warfare used by the Soviet Union and its Communist proxies in Afghanistan and Southeast Asia and in test programs at Soviet sites like Sverdlovsk.

CBW Agreements Violated. The evidence confirmed serious Soviet violations of two international CBW arms control agreements. The first was the Geneva CBW Protocol of 1925, whose full title is “Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous, or Other Gases, and Bacteriological Methods of Warfare” that banned the use of chemical and biological weapons. Second was the Biological and Toxin Weapons Treaty of 1972, whose full title is “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and their Destruction. “NSDD 18—CBW Arms Control,” issued on January 4, 1982, approved an Interagency Arms Control Group assessment on such Soviet violations and reflected a strong early policy consensus in support of a vigorous U.S. diplomatic and public diplomacy campaign to expose and end Soviet CBW violations.

Early Administration Public Reports on “Yellow Rain” in Afghanistan, Laos, and Cambodia—1982, 1983. Early public CBW reports focused on Afghanistan and Southeast Asia are reviewed in Chapters 14 and 17, beginning with several by the Department of State. Among these reports were Chemical Warfare in Southeast Asia and Afghanistan, sent on March 22, 1982 to the U.S. Congress by Secretary of State Alexander Haig, and Chemical Warfare in Southeast Asia and Afghanistan: An Update, sent to Congress in November 1982 by Haig’s successor, George Shultz. Also informative is Under Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger’s testimony to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on Yellow Rain, The Arms Control Implications, published by the Department of State on February 24, 1983. His testimony was followed by a graphic Interdepartmental report on Yellow Rain, jointly published later in 1983 by the Department of State and the U.S. Information Agency for domestic and international distribution.

Later U.S. Reports on Soviet CW and BW Programs and Violations—1985, 1986. Subsequent Administration reports on Soviet CBW programs and violations were often published in conjunction with innovative new U.S. proposals for CBW arms control at the U.N. Committee on Disarmament calling for greatly strengthened verification provisions and compliance mechanisms. Such reports are extensively cited in

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