The treaty signed between the United States and the Soviet Union in Washington on 8 December 1987, on the elimination of their intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles (INF Treaty), is significant in a number of ways. For a start, it represented the first major American - Soviet arms control agreement in nearly 10 years; second, it was the first substantive outcome of the Geneva ‘Nuclear and Space Arms Talks’; and, third, it was the first nuclear arms control agreement to incorporate a substantial measure of disarmament. The verification procedures that are built into the treaty and its associated protocols were path breaking, and established clear precedents for future arms control agreements. Finally, the adoption of the global ‘zero-zero’ formula for the weapons covered by the treaty linked deployments in Asia and Europe, with consequent implications for American ‘extended deterrence’ postures globally. As will be argued below, this latter aspect of the treaty is compatible with a trend towards the increasing ‘regionalization’ of US security policy.
This chapter is concerned primarily with the political and strategic implications of the treaty, rather than with its character as a formal arms control agreement. The position taken here is that the character of any arms control agreement is determined by the political and strategic context in which it is negotiated, and that its significance is determined by the political and strategic consequences that flow from it. From this perspective the INF Treaty is an important one, in that it is both a measure of political and strategic change in NATO, and in East-West relations generally, and an augury of a transformed environment for European security. The Washington Treaty is symptomatic of trends in the East-West strategic relationship that go back a decade or more, and it may be seen as evidence of underlying pressures for political strategic change in the arrangements presently supporting European security.