Wikimedia Commons Gerald Ford and Leonid Brezhnev at the Vladivostok Summit, November 24, 1974.

SALT II and American Security

A new strategic arms limitation treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union (SALT II) is now essentially complete. As is always the case with a complicated negotiation, each side has conditioned acceptance of key provisions on the successful resolution of remaining open issues. Thus, it is always possible that the process will break down as each side plays out its end game. But at this stage, it seems extremely unlikely that the basic provisions of the agreement will change further.

The ensuing ratification debate will be one of the major foreign policy debates of the decade, and one of the most intellectually challenging. The complexities of nuclear strategy, weapons technology and our overall policy toward the Soviet Union all come together in SALT. Some will evaluate the treaty primarily from a political perspective, assessing its role in both domestic and international politics; others will focus on predominantly technical questions, such as the extent to which the treaty actually limits the nuclear deployments of the two sides. Yet SALT is much more than either a political exercise or arms control for its own sake. To be successful, SALT must improve our security by helping to stabilize the strategic balance between the United States and the Soviet Union. Evaluating strategic stability involves complex technical questions, and even among the experts there is no consensus on how to measure the strategic balance. But, in the end, no final judgment on the new treaty's worth can be rendered without considering the projected stability of the U.S.-U.S.S.R. strategic relationship during the next decade.

Other considerations, such as the success of our negotiators in obtaining Soviet agreement to our positions, our ability to verify Soviet compliance, and the agreement's effect on our allies are also important in assessing the worth of the new treaty. The following sections contain analyses of the new agreement according to each of these criteria, as well as an evaluation of its likely effect on the

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