Nuclear America: Military and Civilian Nuclear Power in the United States, 1940-1980

By Gerard H. Clarfield; William M. Wiecek | Go to book overview

13
"A Wolf Playing a Cello"
THE ARMS RACE AND THE DEMISE OF SALT II

WHILE PUBLIC OPPOSITION AND economic stagnation during the 1970s combined to bring development of civilian nuclear power to a near standstill, the arms race sped along. Henry Kissinger had originally hoped that the SALT I agreement to freeze offensive weapons for five years would provide a breathing space during which the two nuclear giants might be able to arrive at a more effective program. But it did not work out that way. SALT I left a gaping loophole that both superpowers used to modernize and augment existing strategic nuclear forces. Confronted by Soviet suspicions, potent opposition from the military-industrial complex, and technological developments that threatened the nuclear balance, first Kissinger and then Jimmy Carter tried and failed in separate attempts to find some method of checking the arms race. Salt II, which was at best only a modest step in the right direction, was never ratified. While both the Soviet Union and the United States have so far found it convenient to continue observing its terms, nothing binds them. The nuclear arms race continues to be a major feature of life in the second half of the twentieth century. Meanwhile, policymakers on both sides remain trapped in their nuclear dilemma, unwilling to divest themselves of these weapons of genocide.

SALT I demonstrated that it was possible for the superpowers to agree on arms control measures. The treaty banning full-scale deployment of ABM systems was a significant accomplishment.

-390-

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