Enhancing strategic stability has been—and continues to be—the central motivation for engaging in nuclear arms control with the Soviet Union during the Cold War and the Russian Federation today. 1 The ABM Treaty, the INF Treaty, and the SALT and START treaties were all heavily influenced by this objective. The contribution to strategic stability comes from the treaty limitations themselves, and less tangibly from the associated verification regimes, implementation experiences, and increased mutual understanding achieved through the decades of negotiations that led to these treaties.
Notwithstanding its imminent demise in June 2002, the ABM Treaty’s prohibition of a national missile defense made an incalculable contribution to strategic stability during the Cold War by averting an offense–defense arms race and by setting the stage for the SALT and START Treaties which first slowed, then reversed the strategic offensive arms buildup. By banning all intermediate-range nuclear missiles, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty allayed Soviet fears of surprise attack made feasible by short times of flight of Pershing II missiles based in Germany and similar Western European fears of Soviet SS-20 and other intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Data exchanges and onsite inspections associated with the INF Treaty instilled confidence that these missiles were in fact eliminated and no replacement missiles produced. 2
The START I Treaty’s major contributions to stability include a reduction by 50% of Soviet/Russian heavy ICBMs, accountability of mobile ICBMs, and greater predictability in strategic arms associated with its ma-