Courtesy Reuters

Strategic Weapons


The central fact today in the confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union is that progress in technology has made it both necessary and possible to place restraints on the nuclear arms race. The technological stars and planets are now in favorable conjunction, so to speak-and they will not stay that way for long.

In considering the strategic situation in which we find ourselves, it may be useful to recall briefly some of the ways in which we got where we are. In 1961, the Soviets had a small number of ICBMs. We in the United States did not know whether they planned to keep things that way or to deploy a greater number; so we went ahead on the assumption that they would deploy a greater number. We undertook a very sizeable build-up of Minutemen and Polaris forces. We thus ended up with a considerably larger arsenal of missiles and warheads than we actually required. But then the Soviets also began an extensive deployment-probably in response to our efforts-and so they have been catching up in ICBMs, and have begun to build up their force of Polaris-type missile submarines.

Today we still have a considerably larger number of deliverable nuclear warheads than they have; but either side, experts agree, could probably inflict 100 million casualties on the other, even after absorbing a first strike. This mutual balance of deterrence is perhaps not the happiest situation one might imagine, but it has afforded a certain stability thus far.

Another factor in today's equation is the design of our weapons. On the whole, the strategic arsenals of both sides have in recent years become increasingly invulnerable, nonprovocative, geared to a second strike. Their design has thus tended to minimize factors which could give either side an incentive to strike first. Needless to say, this has considerably enhanced the stability of the situation.

However, several of the weapons systems now being contemplated for deployment in the next few years

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