The INF Imbalance in Europe
The INF Treaty is a bilateral U.S.-USSR agreement, but its origins are deeply rooted in European post-war security anxieties. It was the Western Europeans, not the Americans, who first pressed for INF negotiations. The INF negotiations resulted from a multitude of military and political factors. Above all, they stemmed from a growing fear that Soviet deployments of new intermediate-range nuclear weapons in the mid-1970s--particularly SS-20 ballistic missiles--could upset the military balance in Central Europe. The new Soviet nuclear deployments began as the United States and the Soviet Union were codifying parity in strategic intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in the SALT process. The Soviet SS-20 and other INF deployments created an imbalance in the European theater which many observers feared would undermine the credibility of the U.S. nuclear deterrent in Europe and thus increase the possibility of a limited nuclear war in Europe or, at least, lead to the political and military intimidation of NATO countries. Numerically superior Soviet and Warsaw Pact conventional forces and declining Western European confidence in U.S. nuclear leadership and resolve in the post-Vietnam and Watergate periods added to these European security concerns.
Following the stunning success of Sputnik in 1957, Western analysts expected the Soviets to move rapidly to build a force of ICBMs aimed at