JUST this summer it seemed big arms control negotiations were a
thing of the past. The START treaty on long-range weaponry had
taken nine years and hundreds of pages to complete.
The conventional wisdom was that both superpowers were too tired
of haggling to bring up major new arms deals, at least for a while.
What a difference 12 days make. In barely more time than it
takes to turn on TV lights, Presidents Bush and Gorbachev have
between them decreed the virtual extinction of short-range tactical
What's more, they've opened wide the door to talks on some of
their most intractable nuclear differences, including the question
of "star wars" strategic defenses.
Arms negotiators are not yet brushing off their pinstripes and
making plane reservations for Geneva. But it's clear that for the
near future arms control is once again playing a central role in
the relationship between the United States and Soviet Union.
After a US delegation headed by Undersecretary of State Reginald
Bartholomew returns Oct. 9 from its trip to Moscow, d expect a
flurry of activity" in the halls of the Pentagon and State
Department in preparation for new kinds of talks, says a
knowledgeable US official.
Whether President Bush intended to set off such a chain of
events when he announced his unilateral arms proposals on Sept. 27
Gorbachev has embraced Bush's approach with enthusiasm, however.
Undoubtedly one reason for the response is that Gorbachev knows
that, like Bush, foreign affairs is an area in which he does best.
And considering the political situation in Moscow, anything he can
do to look forceful will be of immense help.
"One of the consequences of the Bush initiative is that it tends
to elevate the status of Mr. Gorbachev and tends to elevate the
status of the central government," says Max Kampleman, a chief US
arms negotiator from 1985 to 1989.
Gorbachev's detailed response to Bush's proposals contains much
agreement on the central question of tactical nuclear weapons. The
Soviet leader pledged to unilaterally eliminate nuclear artillery
and short-range rockets, as Bush had. This is no surprise, as the
Soviets have long called for pulling tactical nuclear arms out of
But in the first of what might be called the "see you, and raise
your bid" aspects of Gorbachev's outline, the Soviet leader also
called on the US to negotiate a withdrawal of the last remaining
kinds of tactical nukes: atom bombs for tactical fighter-bombers.
In his own speech Bush had made a point of emphasizing that NATO
wanted to retain these weapons.
Until now tactical nuclear bombs have been a part of the NATO
deterrent that was relatively uncontroversial with European publics. …