Nuclear Arms: Positions of the 'Super-Powers'

UN Chronicle, February 1984 | Go to article overview

Nuclear Arms: Positions of the 'Super-Powers'


USSR: The United States was speeding up the arms race in many areas of the world in an attempt to attain military superiority and attain first-strike capability. The Soviet Union had never sought military superiority and would in no circumstances permit others to have military superiority over it. The United States was justfying its development and production of new armaments as "bargaining chips" in negotiations. The notion of arming in order to disarm was absurd.

The higher the level of military opposition and confrontation, even where there was a strategic balance, the less stable and more uncertain that balance was. Thus a greater potential existed for sliding into a nuclear war. The United States had selected 40,000 targets in the USSR for nuclear attack. It intended to allocate $2 trillion to the arms race over the next five years, $450 billion of which was for preparations for a nuclear war.

Although the United States had allegedly been "passive" regarding an arms buildup during the past 15 years, it actually had equipped its strategic forces with multiple independently-targeted re-entry vehicles (MIRVs); it had added to its forces new Minuteman-3 missiles, Poseidon C-3s, Trident 1s and 2s, increasing the number of nuclear warheads by 2.5 times. The greater accuracy of Poseidon C-3 and Minuteman-3 systems had further increased United States strike capacity.

Work was also being carried out on nuclear submarines armed with new Ohio-type missiles, B-1 and Stealth bombers, armament-strategic cruise missiles, the neutron bomb, the cosmic laser beam and radiological and chemical weapons and on developing nuclear weapons of a new generation. American strategic potential and forward-based systems in Europe were to be expanded with the addition of medium-range nuclear missiles, cruise missiles and Pershing 2s. The overall number of strategic nuclear warheads was to increase from 15,000 to 20,000 by 1990.

United States: It sought only to restore a stable military balance, assure deterrence and reduce the risk of war. It found unacceptable a perpetuation of the present situation, in which it was compelled to maintain a large strategic arsenal, and favoured "a more stable strategic balance at much lower levels of armaments".

Effective deterrence and arms control had been difficult to achieve because of the Soviet weapons buildup over the last decade. Since 1972, Soviet nuclear weapons had increased threefold. An estimated 12 to 14 per cent of Soviet GNP was devoted to defence, as compared to 8 per cent in the United States.

The West had unilaterally retired more than 1,000 nuclear warheads in Europe since 1979. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) decided in October 1983 to withdraw 1,400 more nuclear warheads over the next several years, bringing to 2,400 the total to be removed from Europe since 1979, and reducing NATO's stockpile to its lowest level in 20 years. One old warhead would be removed for each Pershing-2 or ground-launched cruise missile deployed.

By contrast, the Soviets had increased its missiles in Europe, deploying SS-20 missiles at the rate of one per week in recent years. Its missile force had expanded on all levels. At least three new SS-20 bases were under construction east of the Urals, in addition to the already deployed 351 operational SS-20 launchers, comprising 1,053 warheads. Large numbers of SS-4 and SS-5 missiles had been retained. New, more accurate shorter-range missile systems--the SS-21, 22 and 23--were being deployed.

Since the mid 1960s, the United States stockpile quantity had declined considerably. The number of nuclear weapons in its total inventory was one third less now than in 1967; some 8,000 fewer nuclear weapons were deployed now than in the late 1960s; its total megatonnage was one fourth of the 1960 total.

USSR: It advocated the immediate and specific elaboration of a nuclear disarmament programme leading to the 100 per cent elimination of nuclear weapons. …

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