Negotiating the 1987 Treaty on Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces
The first major arms control achievement of the 1980s was the 1987 Treaty on Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces. 1 Signed by Presidents Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan in Washington on 8 December 1987, the INF Treaty marked a dramatic departure from both the tenor of arms control bargaining only a few years earlier and from the major treaties of the past. Unlike SALT II, which sought primarily to regulate the arms race in strategic offensive weapons, the INF Treaty committed both sides to dismantle and destroy all land-based nuclear missiles with flight ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. This meant eliminating a total of 2,695 missiles, plus their launchers and support facilities. Many of these missiles were no more than ten years old. For the United States, the 689 Pershing 2 IRBMs and ground launched cruise missiles that were to be destroyed had only been deployed since December 1983. These American missiles, plus the Soviet SS-20 intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), had been at the heart of tension and controversy between the United States and the Soviet Union, and among the American and West European publics, for the first half of the decade. The Soviet missiles had become evidence to conservative political forces in the United States and Europe that Soviet leaders would exploit the loopholes of political détente and would actively seek military advantage over NATO. Imminent deployment of the American missiles rallied a quiescent peace movement in the United States and Western Europe, the activists being concerned with the missiles as symbols of the dangerous excesses of a continuing nuclear arms race. Politically, conservative parties controlled the governments of the three key NATO countries, the United States, Great Britain, and West Germany. Peace movements mobilized popular power in the streets and through local politics and referendum campaigns. In the end, no small amount of political capital was spent to deploy the very missiles that were to be systematically destroyed under the INF Treaty.