Five years ago, when the first Pershing II missiles arrived in West Germany, almost nobody would have forecast that in August 1988 Soviet inspectors would visit the operating bases for intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) in Western Europe in order to verify the data base of the INF treaty. Least of all would one have predicted that this agreement would result in the complete elimination of all SS-20, Pershing II and ground-launched cruise missiles, as well as in the global disarmament of all land-based missiles with ranges between 500 and 1000 km (‘double zero’). Finally, who would have suggested by 1983, when nuclear weapons were among the most divisive issues in the domestic political debate, that 5 years later a new (anti-)nuclear consensus would apparently emerge which would put West Germany in the unique position of opposing the modernization of NATO’s short-range nuclear arsenals while her most important allies support it?
In retrospect, five factors seem to have been crucial in bringing about the INF treaty. 1 First, INF became an alliance issue and, later on, found its way on to the agenda of superpower relations largely because of West European concerns about the impact which the American SALT policy might have on allied security (the ‘coupling’ issue) and about the Soviet SS-20 build-up. Second, NATO’s dual-track decision in 1979 combined modernization of long-range INF with an offer to negotiate. Third, without the mass opposition against the deployment of Pershing II and cruise missiles by peace movements and large factions of the social democratic and labour parties in Western Europe, neither NATO nor the United States would have adopted the zero option as their official negotiating position in 1981. Fourth, the deployment of Western INF in late 1983 indicated to the