US, Soviets Turn Summit Snags to Progress Arms Control Accords Mark Step Away from Cold War Series: GORBACHEV in AMERICA

By Peter Grier, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, June 4, 1990 | Go to article overview
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US, Soviets Turn Summit Snags to Progress Arms Control Accords Mark Step Away from Cold War Series: GORBACHEV in AMERICA


Peter Grier, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


THE arms control measures signed by President Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in a half-hour long summit ceremony are the culmination of years of tough and sometimes frustrating negotiations between the superpowers.

The START strategic nuclear talks have been going on for eight years, but it was not until this weekend that a United States and Soviet leader put pen to paper and agreed to basic provisions of a landmark START treaty. The protocols on nuclear test verification signed at the same time go with treaties that were negotiated in the mid-1970s, but never ratified.

That so much could be codified so quickly after so long illustrates the old proverb that progress in arms control becomes possible only after warming political relations make it less necessary. But by helping make the improvement in the US-Soviet relationship concrete, and by calling for destruction of many weapons of mass destruction, the arms measures signed last weekend represent an important step on the road away from the cold war.

"As we move forward, our job will be not so much to avoid war as to build peace," said Secretary of State James Baker III at a briefing for reporters.

Not that progress was foreordained. Last-minute snags turned Friday into a slog for Secretary Baker and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze as they readied agreements for signing.

For some hours it was questionable whether the long-awaited outline of major START provisions would go forward after all. Besides problems with START itself, negotiators were hung up on phrasing of the statement of goals for follow-on, START 2 negotiations.

Eventually the two sides agreed that any START 2 talks will try to enhance stability by controlling threatening, multi-warhead missiles. Earlier in the week, the US rebuffed an attempt by the Soviets to change present arms talks structure and get strategic defense and space weapons added to the list of things to talk about in START 2.

Finally, an hour late, the START outline was produced for signing along with other agreements. Since Bush and Gorbachev said from the time the summit was announced that shaking hands on nuclear arms was a big reason for the meeting, they would have both been embarrassed if in the end no such document was produced.

Details of summit arms control progress include:

START. In pledging their agreement on major issues concerning a START treaty that will reduce strategic arsenals for the first time in the nuclear age, Bush and Gorbachev said they felt a full treaty could be ready for signing later this year. A US official said START, after eight years was now "97 percent" done.

Under the treaty, both sides will be held to 1,600 nuclear delivery vehicles - missiles and bombers.

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