US Faces More-Complex Arms Control Talks Discussions on Chemical Weapons and Nuclear Proliferation Involve Many Nations

Article excerpt

THE long-range START pact focused on readily defined large weapons, and was negotiated between two parties. The next US arms control concerns - chemical weapons, nuclear proliferation, third-world weapons sales - involve multination talks and inherently concealable technologies.

"We're getting into the hard part of arms control now," says a United States official. "The big bilaterals were duck soup compared to the multilateral chemical negotiations, for instance."

Traditional arms talks between the US and the Soviet Union will likely continue in the near future. President Bush and Soviet President Gorbachev issued a statement saying as much after their June 1990 summit. But they will also probably coast for some time, as both sides recuperate from the long START negotiations.

"Once we've signed the treaty we sit down and talk about having talks. My sense is we will not immediately jump into START 2," says the official.

Few dispute the historic nature of the START pact. It is the first agreement that would result in the actual destruction of some long-range weapons, instead of just capping future growth. It is expected to pass muster with the US Senate relatively easily, despite some criticism from Sen. Jesse Helms (R) and other conservatives.

Some liberal proponents of arms control, while they support the treaty, complain it doesn't go far enough. They point out that reductions in long-range warheads would total about 30 percent of US and Soviet stockpiles, rather than the 50 percent advertised as the treaty's original goal. Modernization of nuclear weapon systems would continue.

The START treaty is "a relic of the cold war," judges a Natural Resources Defense Council analysis, "an overly complex and technical approach to arms control." Cutting stockpiles

START will reduce superpower nuclear weapons down to an estimated combined total of about 16,000 warheads. Many private arms control analysts would like to see much deeper reductions, plus constraints on such threatening weapons as mobile multiwarhead missiles, or perhaps antisatellite weapons. …


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