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Cold War Disarmament Talks

Oct 08, 1999 2170 Words
<center><b>Impact of Disarmament Talks on Cold War Tensions from 1963 to 1991</b></center> <br>
<br>Disarmament talks between the two powers during the period of 1963 to 1991 improved the relationship between Soviet Union and United States by providing the necessary spirit of cooperation. The two most significant examples of arms control talks positively impacting the superpower relationship are the SALT I and INF treaties. Negotiations for SALT I played a part in bringing the two countries from the nuclear ‘brinkmanship' of the Cuban missile crisis to détente. Gorbachev realising the importance of arms control in mutual political accommodation, initiated INF. INF and NST alleviated secrecy and suspicion and began a spirit of cooperation that could not have been achieved without successful talks. The interactions also helped the two sides to understand each other better. Through the frequent summit-meetings between Gorbachev and Reagan and Gorbachev and Bush the American public got to know the face of their enemy. This encouraged greater tolerance between the two nations which was necessary if the cold war was to end. <br>

<br>The Cuban missile crisis led to the end of a period of nuclear ‘brinkmanship' as both sides became very aware of how close they came to nuclear war. In 1963 the US and the USSR made important agreements that contributed to arms control. In June a direct ‘hot line' was established between Washington and Moscow. This communication link between the head of states was established to reduce the risk of a nuclear war arising from accident, misunderstanding, miscalculation, or surprise attack. And in August, after an offer made by Kennedy to come to terms with the USSR about testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, the United States, Soviet Union and Great Britain signed a Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. This treaty prohibited tests in the atmosphere, outer space, and beneath the surface of the seas. However these agreements came into being due to the fear brought on by the Cuban missile crisis and did little dissuade tensions that were part of a period of ‘oscillatory antagonism'. <br>

<br>The Vietnam War, the invasion of Czechoslovakia, and the Arab-Israeli War tested the relationship between the superpowers during 1967 and 68. In the background of such cold war tension the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was signed. This treaty asked for nuclear powers and non-nuclear powers to help limit the spreading of nuclear weapons. The Outer Space Treaty, which limited the use of space for military purposes, was also signed by USA, USSR and sixty other nations. It was also during this period that a series of conferences were initiated for the purposes of constructing the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I). <br>

<br>After 1968 the relationship between the two superpowers improved and the United States and Soviet Union were able to hold preliminary talks in November of 1969 at Helsinki to discuss limitations on strategic nuclear offensive weapons and anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems. In December they reached an agreement to begin the SALT talks in 1970 (Vienna). <br>

<br>In May 1972 Nixon and Brezhnev formally sanctioned SALT I, which consisted of two basic documents: 1) the ABM Treaty limiting strategic ABM defense systems. And 2) the Interim Agreement limiting strategic offensive weapons limiting the number of intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers (both ICBMs and SLBMs) at existing levels (1,710 for the United States and 2,347 for the Soviet Union). <br>

<br>In addition to these two documents the treaty also limited each side's total missile production and spending on ABM systems. The treaty was made simultaneously with two other treaties, which were: <br><li>The Nuclear Accident Agreement (September 1971), which limited the risks of accidental war by requiring from the signatories "A pledge to maintain and improve safeguards against the accidental or unauthorised use of nuclear weapons. Immediate notification should a risk of nuclear war arise from the detection of unidentified objects or any other unexplained incident involving a possible detonation of a nuclear weapon. And advance notice of any planned missile launches beyond the territory of the launching party and in the direction of the other party." <br><li>And the Sea Bed Treaty (1972), which banned any nuclear activity on the sea floor outside territorial waters. <br>

<br>These treaties entailed positive progress towards wide ranging disarmament agreements and to further the work of SALT I, Ford and Brezhnev agreed to the outline of SALT II. Another major factor was that these treaties were built upon ‘positive incentives' and not a policy of containment, and this was recognised as being important for permanent improvement in relationships between United States and Soviet Union. Disarmament talks and agreements encouraged détente and usually had a positive effect on the relationship. These agreements had taken the world from nuclear ‘brinkmanship' to relative safety. <br>

<br>In spite of this the spirit of détente was wearing thin after Watergate. Nixon's successors, Ford and Carter were seen by the Soviets as weak and indecisive, unreliable for any serious agreements. Conservatives in the US who believed that the treaty had weakened United States' position attacked SALT I. SALT II (1979), the intended concrete extension for the Interim SALT I was signed by Brezhnev and Carter but was never ratified. It called for limits on ICBMs, SLBMs, heavy bombers and sub-limits on heavy bombers equipped with multiple cruise or multiple-warhead ballistic missiles. None of these limits were put into place. <br>

<br>Détente finally fell apart when Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Although the Soviets viewed this as a defensive measure to ensure that it's borders are safe from capitalist infiltration the US believed it is another one of Soviet attempts to impose their influence. The period between 1979 and 1985 sees no real agreements or any significant progress towards disarmament. This is due to the increase in hostility and the rapid changing of Soviet leaders, which made it hard for the US to establish a workable link. <br>

<br>The first session of Strategic Arms Reductions Talks (START) between the United States and the Soviet Union began in June 29 1982 at Geneva. At this session the United States presented a proposal for two phases of armament reductions. The fist phase included the bilateral reductions in all ballistic missile warheads to 5,000, ICBMs to 2500, deployed strategic ballistic missiles to 850, no more than 110 heavy ICBMs and also reductions in ballistic missile throw-weight. The second phase focused on placing limits on heavy bombers and other strategic systems. <br>

<br>However the year 1983 marked a breakdown of US-Soviet relations. The Soviets suspended talks in reaction to Reagan's Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI) alleging that the SDI had "changed the strategic situation" making aspects of START irrelevant or unfair. To see why, it is necessary to look at the implications of SDI (the ‘star wars' program). It was to be a shield that would protect US from any incoming missiles. Even though American scientists later realised that such a shield could not, in practical terms, be totally effective, the Soviets took it seriously since it rendered all their superior offensive missiles impotent. This shifted the military equilibrium and deterrence by MAD (mutually assured destruction that had kept both sides from going to war) was not employable any more. <br>

<br>The accession of Mikhail Gorbachev signalled the beginning of the end of the cold war. Finally Reagan had found someone with whom he could develop a workable relationship. Gorbachev felt the arms control was the basis on which the new phase of US-Soviet relationship would be built and that arms reduction would be at the heart of political accommodation. Gorbachev and Reagan met in four summit meetings between 1985 and 1988. <br>

<br>Instigated by the stalled arms reduction talks and seeing the need for an "umbrella framework" in talks between US and Soviet Union, U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko met in Geneva (January 7, 1985) to set the agenda for new Nuclear and Space Talks (NST). These talks were to cover strategic nuclear arms, intermediate-range nuclear forces, and space defence. <br>

<br>Negotiations began on March 12 but the stumbling block of SDI remained. At the first Reagan-Gorbachev summit meeting in November no results were reached due to this. The second summit meeting at Reykjavik, Iceland, in October 1986, seemed to open up a new perspective in disarmament talks. The key agenda of the talks turned out to be not just arms control or arms reduction but rather complete disarmament. Reagan, however, was not prepared to make concessions over SDI and again the summit ended in failure. <br>

<br>Realising that, in the current situation, agreement on reduction of long and intermediate range weapons depended on an agreement over SDI, Gorbachev opened the INF (Intermediate-range Nuclear Force) talks at the third summit meeting in Washington in December 1987 to eliminate an entirely unlinked class of nuclear weapons: land based shorter-than-intermediate-range missiles. The INF treaty was the first important step in arms control. It proved to the world that not only could the arms race be restrained but also it could actually be reversed. <br>

<br>Another positive outcome of the INF treaty was the agreement on a "comprehensive process of verification". With this agreement, inspectors from either country could witness the destruction of missiles and acquire data from each other opening up an opportunity for trust to develop through glasnost between the two previously secretive states. <br>

<br>Even though the fourth summit meeting in Moscow in May 1988 was a failure it did not stop the momentum of arms reduction negotiations. The Moscow summit failed because agreement still could not be formed over the SDI and therefore START remained on the table. But both parties, encouraged by the success of the Washington summit, kept searching for cooperation. This joint effort in disarmament negotiations also positively effected the overall relationship between the US and Soviet Union. Gorbachev, with his INF initiative, had single handedly erased the American perception of USSR as the ‘evil empire.' This proved that Gorbachev was right in assuming that arms control would be the key to better relations between the superpowers. <br>

<br>In 1989, in the background of East European revolutions, the Soviet Union decides to sever the linkage between SDI and START. This opens up the doorway to reduction of all ballistic warheads as outlined in 1982. The Soviets do however warn that they will withdraw from the treaty if the US fail to comply by the ABM treaty of 1972. At the Washington summit of May 31-June 3, 1990 George Bush and Gorbachev sign an agreement for the above START provisions and also other arms control provision. <br>

<br>Presidents Bush and Gorbachev finally sign the "Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms" (START I), in July 31 1991. It calls for both sides to reduce their strategic nuclear forces over seven years to 1,600 strategic nuclear delivery vehicles (SNDVs) and 6,000 "accountable" warheads, and a sub-limit of 4,900 may be on ballistic missiles. This meant reducing 25 to 35 percent of all strategic warheads. <br>

<br>In 1989 Gorbachev's reforms led to revolutions in the countries of the soviet bloc and the Soviet Empire crumbled. December 25 1991, the Soviet Union dissolves to form the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Cold War is officially over. It is difficult to assess the extent to which disarmament talks led to the end of cold war. After the INF agreements, the US public was able to see through the images built up by McCarthysim at the real USSR. ‘Gobymania' replaced McCarthysim as Gorbachev's reforms became popular with the west and as he built stronger relationships with the US. Frequent summit meeting and disarmament talks helped achieve this. It is generally agreed that arms control and reduction and even the cooperation of negotiations had destroyed many barriers of political accommodation. <br>

<br><b>Bibliography</b>
<br><li>Mason WJ, The Cold War 1945-1991, Routledge, London 1996 <br><li>Dalziel S, The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Empire, Magna Books, London 1993 <br><li>Pike J, START Chronology, <a href="http://www.fas.org/nuke/control/start1/chron.htm">http://www.fas.org/nuke/control/start1/chron.htm</a>, Federation of American

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