Courtesy Reuters

Nuclear Arms Control: Where Do We Stand?

Negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union on nuclear arms control are at an impasse. Following the deployment in Europe of the first U.S. Pershing II and cruise missiles in the fall of 1983, the Soviet Union walked out of the negotiations on intermediate-range forces (INF) and refused to agree to a resumption date for the negotiations on strategic nuclear forces (START). Whether and under what conditions the negotiations will resume is uncertain.

Both the United States and the Soviet Union indicate that they are abiding by the unratified SALT II treaty, but that treaty will expire at the end of 1985. The Reagan Administration has been unwilling to say that it would then continue to observe the SALT II limits, as it is currently doing for the expired SALT I agreement on offensive forces. In both the START and INF negotiations, the approaches embodied in the U.S. and Soviet proposals differ fundamentally. And within the United States, the arms control debate-on the freeze, the build-down, deep reductions-has polarized rather than reconciled differences. Congressional support for new strategic programs, including the MX, has been conditioned on a serious arms control effort. Political figures have sought to achieve public and legislative consensus by combining as many of the various arms control proposals as possible.

The hiatus in the negotiations provides an opportunity to step back and reconsider the overall utility of nuclear arms control and the objectives the United States should seek in negotiations with the Soviet Union.

The prospective utility of arms control is reflected in the many objectives that agreements can be designed to serve. They can provide greater confidence as to the future characteristics and size of the nuclear force postures of each side than would exist in the absence of any agreements. They can reduce the number of nuclear weapons, to decrease both the cost of maintaining a nuclear balance and the reliance of governments on nuclear weapons in their foreign and defense policies. They can

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