Stepping Back: Nuclear Arms Control and the End of the Cold War

By William B. Vogele | Go to book overview

4
Negotiating Limits on Nuclear Testing: 1981-1992

At the beginning of his presidency, Ronald Reagan rejected the continuation of bilateral or multilateral negotiations to limit nuclear testing. The administration stepped back even further from accepting restrictions on the U.S. test program than had the Carter administration at the end of its tenure. Policy toward test ban negotiations under Carter operated under the assumption that some security benefits for the United States could be derived from a treaty. The two treaties of the mid-1970s--the Threshold Test Ban Treaty and the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty--although set aside and overshadowed by negotiations for a comprehensive agreement, were not rejected by Carter.

Policy in the Reagan administration, however, not only rejected the TTBT and the PNET agreements but questioned the strategic wisdom of limiting nuclear testing at all. In June 1981, during a speech to the cadets at West Point, Reagan pledged to restore American military strength through a military buildup and to oppose any arms control measures that would impede that policy. Eugene Rostow, the new director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, stated at the United Nations in October that the United States was committed to a comprehensive test ban as a "long-term goal" but claimed that the international situation at the time was "not propitious." Almost a year later, in July 1982, President Reagan formally withdrew the United States from the standing tripartite negotiations on nuclear testing. Through the end of the Bush administration in 1993, U.S. policy maintained the position that a comprehensive cessation of nuclear testing was counter to American security interests.

Unlike negotiations to limit and reduce offensive strategic arms and intermediate-range nuclear forces, test ban talks did not move from impasse to dramatic agreement. Additional protocols specifying new verification procedures for the

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