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Underpinning any list of enduring arms control criteria is the idea that nations do not mistrust one another because they have arms; they have arms because they mistrust one another.
While some elements of U.S. arms control policy will undergo major changes in response to the break-up of the Soviet empire, certain principles will endure. Our arms control concepts are fundamental and must be applied to each of the multitude of arms reduction and confidence-building proposals that the United States is considering in various negotiations around the world.
Underpinning any list of enduring arms control criteria is the idea that nations do not mistrust one another because they have arms; they have arms because they mistrust one another. History and the events of the (President Mikhail) Gorbachev era of U.S.- Soviet relations amply support
The past also validates the companion principle that the most carefully crafted agreements can wither away during periods of heightened tension. The postWorld War I Washington and London Naval Disarmament Conferences of 1921-22 and 1930 illustrate this point. One postwar historian, Louis J. Halle, called the 1922 Washington Treaty “a strategic disaster” that “did not serve the cause of peace,” because it contributed to Japan’s unchallenged rise to power prior in World War II.1 Yet, at the time the two interwar naval treaties were ratified, they seemed like good ideas. Foreign policy expert Giovanni Engely wrote in 1932
By Edward L. Rowny
that “at [the] Washington [Naval Disarmament Conference] possible conflict between the United States and Japan was eliminated.”2 Regarding the 1930 London Naval Treaty, he observed “that [the possibility] of a Japanese-American conflict is no longer credible, even in imaginative romances.”3 Given the poor arms control track record exemplified by these pre-World War II naval treaties, there is little wonder that the United States had to wait until the Strategic Arms Limitation Agreements of 1972 (SALT I) before the Senate would ratify another agreement limiting weapons central to U.S. national security. Not coincidently, the decade of the 1970s was widely viewed as an era of detente in U.S.-Soviet relations.
Since history aptly demonstrates that arms control cannot be isolated from broader international political considerations, how should the United States approach today’s ever changing arms control scene? Even as we seek to build upon points of mutual advantage, which fundamental principles will endure and be applicable, regardless of all these changes? Simply put, it is U.S. policy that our arms control agreements shall be equitable, verifiable, and must accomplish the following:
- Enhance the national security of the United States and its allies
- Reduce the risk of war
- Strengthen global stability4
CFE is off to a better start than any other arms control negotiation in modem times. This is one of the best examples of the principle that improved relations enhance the prospects of arms control. We have basic agreements on the broad terms of what arms are to be reduced, on the need for effective verification, and on the important concept of assymetrical reductions. And we seem to have a confluence of interests: we want the Soviets to reduce their conventional force preponderance, and they are under considerable economic and political pressure to do so.
Derived from these broad policy requirements are specific U.S. arms control goals for the 1990s. They include commitments to seek agreements that:
- Secure a stable balance of conventional land and air forces at the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) reduction talks
- Strengthen strategic stability and reduce the risk of war by reducing strategic nuclear force levels at the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START)
- Strengthen deterrence by increasing reliance on effective defensive systems: should defenses prove feasible, at the Defense and Space Talks (DST)
- Promote openness and predictability in the military-security field at the confidence-and-security- building measures (CSBM) negotiations.5
The United States is engaged in many other arms control forums. These include talks on chemical weapons, missile and nuclear nonproliferation, Open Skies, and nuclear testing, to name a few.6 Though not all inclusive, the negotiations outlined here represent a wide range of U.S. interests.
Conventional Forces in Europe
Like all other arms control agreements, the CFE Treaty involves a devilishly complex web of details. Agreeing on common definitions for the major categories of weapons being limited (main battle tanks, artillery, armored combat vehicles, combat aircraft, and combat helicopters) has proved difficult. For example, negotiators must develop guidelines for determining how much and what type of armament it would take to convert a commercial helicopter to a treaty-limited combat helicopter.
Recently, the issue of troop reductions has been making headlines. The current NATO-Warsaw Pact agreed position is that the reductions should involve only U.S. and Soviet ground and air force personnel stationed outside their respective national territories. This proposed ceiling would reduce troop levels to parity in a carefully defined central zone.
This proposal would require much greater cuts on the part of the Soviet Union (reductions of about 360,000 Soviet troops, compared to about 80,000 U.S. troops). In the remainder of the region, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains, outside the central zone, the United States may station no more than 30,000 troops.
The transformation of the political climate in the Warsaw Pact nations enhances the prospects for completing a sound CFE treaty. It also gives the task more urgency. Indeed, the new Eastern European leaders are calling for the removal of Soviet troops stationed within their borders. They are anxious to reduce Warsaw Pact military forces through bilateral negotiations with the Soviet Union. We applaud these efforts, since they complement the CFE process.
The Western objective is to codify and uphold the total withdrawal of all Soviet forces from Eastern Europe. CFE supports this goal and furthers the fundamental principle of strengthening longterm stability.
President George Bush has challenged the nations of NATO and the Warsaw Pact to complete the CFE negotiations this year. Because this pact so greatly reduces the levels of military forces confronting one another in central Europe, probably never before has an arms control agreement held such potential immediate benefit for enhancing the security interests of the United States, its allies, and all Europe.
Strategic Arms Reductions Talks
The Bush administration’s proposals in START call for creating a more stable nuclear balance with deep reductions in strategic nuclear forces. The reductions are designed to support the U.S. goal of strengthening deterrence by reducing the capability to launch a first strike, even in a crisis. Developers of the U.S. draft meticulously adhered to the fundamental principles of equality and verifiability.
The positions of the two sides on some of the key START issues can be summarized as follows:
- Delivery Vehicles: An agreed ceiling of 1,600 strategic nuclear delivery vehicles (SNDVs), which include deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and their associated launchers, deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and their launchers, and heavy bombers.
- Warheads: An agreed ceiling of 6,000 warheads. The ceiling includes deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs), with each heavy bomber equipped only for nuclear-armed gravity bombs and short-range attack missiles (SRAMs) counting as one warhead.
- Warhead Sublimits: The sides have agreed on a sublimit of 4,900 ballistic-missile warheads. Within this sublimit the Soviets will be required to reduce their heavy ICBM force to 1,540 warheads on 154 missiles.
- Mobile ICBMs: The United States announced it would drop its demand for a ban on mobile ICBMs of which the Soviets already have two types deployed.
Congressional support for the President’s mobile ICBM program has become increasingly important.
- ALCMs: On the subject of ALCMs, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed on counting rules (ALCMs attributed to each type bomber) and nuclear/ conventional distinguishability. However, the ALCM range issue (i.e., above what range threshold do nuclear ALCMs count) was left unresolved.
- SLCMs: Though the sea- launched cruise missile (SLCM) is not considered a strategic weapon subject to START constraints by U.S. definition, the sides agreed at the December 1987 Washington Summit to find a mutually acceptable solution to the question of limiting the nuclear-armed missiles. Further, these limitations would not involve counting SLCMs within the START 6,000-warhead and 1,600-SNDV limits. At the February 1990 Moscow Ministerial (between U.S. Secretary of State James Baker III and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze), it appears that the Soviet Union generally agreed to the concept of a declaratory approach as a basis for involving SLCM in arms control (i.e., the issuance of politically binding statements regarding the number of SLCMs of a specified type and range each side plans to deploy).
The START draft treaty text contains many other elements. Some issues are still contested and will require additional attention prior to the planned May- June 1990 U.S.-Soviet summit.
Concurrent with, but separate from, START are the Defense and Space Talks (DST) being held in Geneva, Switzerland. The goal of DST is a treaty for the cooperative deployment of future strategic ballistic-missile defenses, should such defenses prove feasible. Throughout these discussions we continue to make clear to the Soviets our commitment to the
Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).
In a significant breakthrough, the Soviets dropped their formal linkage between signing a START agreement and completing a defense and space agreement—a ploy that would have allowed them to claim a right to withdraw from the START treaty at some future date, if they had determined the other side had gone beyond the 1972 Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty (as they define it).
In December 1989, U.S. negotiators tabled a revised draft DST text in response to the results of the Wyoming Ministerial. Under the revised draft treaty, if a party announces its intention to deploy strategic ballistic-missile defenses beyond those permitted by the ABM Treaty, the parties shall begin three years of discussions on specific measures for a cooperative transition. If, after that three-year period, either party wishes to undertake such deployment it shall give six months’ notice, after which the ABM Treaty shall be terminated, unless the parties agree otherwise.
Strategic defenses have the potential for contributing significantly to our national security. Contrary to what the Soviets and some other critics say, SDI strengthens global stability and will greatly reduce the risk of war. Any nation possessing, or thinking of acquiring ballistic missiles would have insurmountable difficulties trying to plan around U.S. strategic defenses.
Because of the promising outlook for developing SDI technology, which meets our defense needs and that of our Allies, the DST negotiations will increase in importance over time.
Whereas agreements such as CFE, DST, and a properly drafted START Treaty meet our arms control criteria of enhancing national security, reducing the risk of war, and strengthening global stability, recent Soviet arms con
Contrary to what the Soviets and some other critics say, SDI strengthens global stability and will greatly reduce the risk of war. Any nation possessing, or thinking of acquiring, ballistic missiles would have insurmountable difficulties trying to plan around U.S. strategic defenses.
trol proposals for limiting general-purpose naval forces and operations simply do not meet these standards.
Nevertheless, the Soviet Union continues to push naval arms control at every opportunity. Recent discussions with U.S. allies in both Europe and in the Pacific reveal that the Soviet Union is continuing a full-court press on the issue of extending ground force-type limitations to the sea.
Confidence-and-security-build- ing measures (known as CSBMs) in particular are gaining visibility in the naval arms control arena. Among the range of potential limitations that may affect naval forces, CSBMs may evolve as the most immediate arms control challenge to U.S. employment of maritime forces.
At the outset, two important points must be underscored. One is that the United States has already subjected its naval forces to various cooperative regimes.
These include the bilateral U.S.- Soviet Incidents at Sea and Dangerous Military Activities Agreements as well as the inclusion of SLBMs and associated launchers in the START talks. On a multilateral basis, Notices to Airmen and Notices to Mariners (NOTAMs and NOMARs) are distributed worldwide every day. These notices are used extensively to ensure the safety of all vessels and aircraft in international waters and airspace.
The second point to be emphasized concerns the formal CSBM talks now being held in Vienna, Austria. Without getting into a detailed history of these negotiations, the 35 members of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (an organization that includes North America and the Soviet Union) agreed to a mandate that specifically excludes naval activities from the CSBM process unless they are “functionally linked” to a notifiable ground activity (e.g., amphibious operations).
Despite this mandate to include naval forces, some naval arms control proposals have been tabled in Vienna. In addition, the Soviets and others have been proposing maritime-related measures for many years. A sampling of these includes:
- Zones of peace
- Nuclear free zones
- Geographic restrictions on operations
- Limits on exercises
- Advance notification of exercises A main objective of confidence-building measures is said to be the prevention of surprise attack. Another related objective is to avoid inadvertent conflict that could result from large-scale exercises being misread as preparations for an invasion. At sea, such measures are not necessary, because the concept of freedom of the seas already permits either side to observe and monitor the other’s activities so that no surprise or misinterpretation should occur. In today’s world, naval forces on the surface of the sea do not readily lend themselves to the initiation of surprise attacks. Besides being relatively slow, ships can be tracked easily, either visually or through modem technical means.
Ultimately, the final vote will be based on a positive answer to the fundamental question, "Does this treaty contribute to the national security of the United States?"
In addition to CSBMs, additional arms control forums will likely be proposed by the Soviet Union in the future for negotiating limitations on naval forces. The best answer to any call for formal talks specifically designed to develop arms control agreements involving naval forces is just to say “No.”
If the case for naval CSBMs is weak, the arguments for formal naval arms reduction talks outside the CSBM process are totally unpersuasive.
► In terms of geography alone, the United States as a maritime nation must maintain its ability to operate freely in critical ocean areas in order to reinforce and sustain U.S. and allied forces around the world and to ensure our economic survival. In contrast, the Soviet Union is a dominant land power, physically located on the Eurasian land mass with internal lines of communica
tion to service its economic and security interests.
► The relaxation of tensions and successful completion of CFE will permit the United States to reduce its land-based forces in Europe. However, it is certain that U.S. global interests outside the superpower relationship will continue to grow. As the world becomes increasingly polycentric, the traditional naval missions of peacetime presence and crisis response will not change. Regional conflicts, as well as nonstate actions, such as international terrorism and drug trafficking, will require employment of U.S. naval forces for missions unrelated to the U.S.- Soviet balance. In addition, the proliferation of increasingly sophisticated high-technology weapons throughout the Third World (such as ballistic missiles and chemical weapons) will require a modern navy capable of defending against threats to the United States and our Allies without being hampered by unnecessary arms control measures.
► Glasnost does not change the fact that an average of more than 25 civil and international conflicts have erupted in the developing world every year since the end of World War II. The United States has used military force in response to more than 200 of these incidents. The U.S. Navy played a dominant role in 188 of those conflicts when the United States brought naval power to bear to prevent war, to limit its escalation, or to protect American citizens or America’s allies or trading partners. Only ten of the 188 incidents were direct results of confrontation between the United
States and the Soviet Union. Consequently, the fact that the Soviet Union may appear less threatening does not lessen the need for a strong U.S. Navy. Neither does it reduce U.S. global commitments.
Finally, while negotiating the reduction of U.S. naval forces is a nonstarter, it would behoove those trying to involve the United States in naval arms control to assess the impact of budget constraints on the future shape of Western naval forces. The recent Pentagon announcement on the decommissioning of two battleships is a good example. Some easily observed arms reductions will likely occur without formal arms control agreements.
This is an exciting era. In the
area of arms control, more meaningful negotiations are under way at one time now than ever before. The current situation could significantly affect U.S. national security posture. In this changing world it is increasingly important that arms control efforts be based upon principles that have stood the test of time.
Not all arms control concepts are created equal—some are better than others. On one extreme are proposals (such as those directed at U.S. naval forces) that undermine U.S. deterrent capability and weaken our ability to fulfill long-standing U.S. commitments around the world. At the other end of the spectrum is the promise held out by the CFE talks—negotiations that, as presently construed, can meet the enduring U.S. arms control objectives of improving security, enhancing stability, and reducing the risk of war.
Whether at the START negotiations, at CFE, at the CSBM talks, or at DST, all U.S. negotiators know that they, and the President they represent, must answer to the American people for the treaties they bring home. Ultimately, the final vote will be based on a positive answer to the fundamental question, “Does this treaty contribute to the national security of the United States?”
Louis J. Halle, The Elements of International Strategy (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc., 1984), p. 95.
2Giovanni Engely, The Politics of Naval Disarmament (London: Williams and Norgate, Ltd., 1932), p. 7.
3Ibid, p. 163.
4U.S. Congress, Joint Foreign Affairs and Foreign Relations Committee, FY 1990 Arms Control Impact Statement, by ACDA, Joint Committee Print (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1989), p. 2.
6Chemical weapons (CW) arms control is being addressed at both the multilateral level and through bilateral negotiations with the Soviets. These very complicated talks have been given extremely high priority by the President. On the table now is a U.S. proposal to the Soviets that the two countries destroy a major portion of their respective CW stockpiles down to equal levels.
Ambassador Rowny is presently the Special Adviser to the President and Secretary of State for Arms Control Matters.