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
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. …