SOVIET CONDUCT OF
NUCLEAR ARMS TALKS
New thinking, which mandated reduced Soviet reliance on military power and increased cooperation with the West, impelled the Soviet Union to compromise substantially with the United States to forge progress in nuclear disarmament. The Gorbachev leadership offered the bulk of the concessions required to reach agreement on arms reduction but proved more reluctant to compromise on some issues than others, depending on military and foreign policy objectives. Changes in nuclear strategy and international aims shaped specific Soviet positions on disarmament, determining the way in which the USSR strove to enhance stability.
Gorbachev and his associates gave up Soviet advantages in the number of missiles in the European theater to scale back the U.S. nuclear presence on the continent, thereby lowering the risk of escalation in a European conflict and creating conditions under which European security structures could be rebuilt. They cut first-strike potentials under the START accord, particularly by reducing land-based missiles and placing ceilings on warheads, to strengthen the survivability of retaliatory forces, and they set limits on weapon programs, such as cruise missiles, which they feared might upset the strategic equilibrium. The threat of a continued race to develop technologically advanced arms was diminished by forestalling competition in ballistic missile defenses.