From Nuclear Military Strategy to a World without War: A History and a Proposal

By Roger Hilsman | Go to book overview
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Chapter 16
The Prospects for Arms Control

The reason that the Soviet Union and the United States made such little progress in reaching meaningful arms control agreements was that both sides looked at any proposal in the context of its own overall military strategy. The Soviets would accept an agreement only if the particular agreement fit with Soviet military strategy in a way that would enhance Soviet security. The United States would accept an agreement only if the agreement fit with American military strategy in a way that would enhance American security.

What made it difficult to craft an agreement that satisfied both sides was that the Soviet and American strategic forces were as difficult to compare as apples and oranges. The Soviet Union relied mainly on heavy, fixed, land-based missiles while the United States relied on the so-called triad of (1) land-based ballistic and cruise missiles, (2) submarine-based ballistic and cruise missiles, and (3) manned bombers carrying both bombs and cruise missiles.

Because of these difficulties there was no easy or obvious solution. Clearly, however, Gorbachev was much more flexible than his predecessors. Hints out of Moscow in 1988 indicated that the Soviets might agree to a number of things that they would not accept in the past, including some of the testing in space that Reagan's Star Wars required. On the U.S. side, Reagan's successor, George Bush, seemed likely to be less rigidly ideological and more flexible than Reagan was. The fate of any particular arms control proposal depended on the political struggle inside each of the two countries.

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