Arms Control and Gorbachev: The View From the Public
Werner J. Feld
From the signing of the SALT II agreement in June 1979 to the signing of the INF treaty by President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev in December 1987, more than eight years passed without an arms-control agreement, though negotiations were conducted intermittently with respect to conventional forces in central Europe, chemical and biological weapons, strategic arms reductions, and--of course--intermediate- range nuclear forces. It was only after Mikhail Gorbachev assumed the position of general secretary of the CPSU on March 10, 1985, following the short-lived tenures of Yuri Andropov and Constantin Chernenko, that new life was instilled in the arms-control agenda (as, indeed, a new era of domestic and foreign policy appeared to have begun in the Soviet Union). Since 1985 the leaders of the two superpowers have held summit meetings at Geneva, Reykjavík, Washington, and Moscow; the INF treaty has become law; the Soviet Union has set in motion its withdrawal from Afghanistan; Gorbachev has twice visited the United States; and the general secretary has announced--in his December 1988 speech to the U.N. General Assembly--a significant unilateral cutback of conventional forces.
Not surprisingly, then, there has been considerable speculation about the impact of Gorbachevs polices and personality on arms control and the course of East-West relations. His January 15, 1986 call for the elimination of all nuclear weapons by the year 2000 in three stages ( 1990,