The Superpowers and Nuclear Arms Control: Rhetoric and Reality

By Dennis Menos | Go to book overview
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6
The Endless Negotiations

The superpowers have been negotiating reductions in their strategic arsenals for more than twenty years. They have been negotiating the cessation of nuclear testing even longer (since the mid-1950s). With success eluding them on both accounts, the question logically arises: are the issues involved in these negotiations really so complex as to require this inordinate amount of time to reach a successful conclusion? Or is it possible that the superpowers are merely going through the motions, that their heart is not really in it.


STRATEGIC REDUCTIONS

Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) I

For the origins of the SALT process (predecessor to the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks [START]) one must look to the days of the Johnson administration. 1 It was President Johnson who, on prodding by then Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, first suggested to the Soviet Union in December 1966 the possibility of bilateral talks on strategic arms limitations. The Soviets seemed interested, but it was not until three years later that negotiations toward a treaty to restrain strategic arms (both offensive and defensive) actually got under way. Not surprisingly, in the intervening years it was business as usual in the weapons laboratories of the superpowers. In the United States, the process of MIRVing warheads was being perfected (MIRV stands for multiple, independently targeted reentry vehicle) and tested, and a decision was made to deploy a "thin" antiballistic missile (ABM) defense against the possibility of a Chinese missile attack. In the

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