Courtesy Reuters

Beyond Salt One

Although President Nixon's goal of achieving an initial agreement at the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) before the end of 1971 failed to be realized, it still appears likely that at least some limitations will be negotiated by the time that he and Premier Kosygin meet in Moscow in May. After SALT recessed in Vienna the President reported in his state of the world message on February ninth that a consensus is developing that there should be a treaty setting comprehensive limitations on anti-ballistic missiles (ABMs) and an interim agreement to freeze certain offensive arms.

The primary objective of an ABM limitation is to foreclose the acquisition of missile defenses with nationwide coverage, which might raise fears about the continued viability of a mutual deterrent posture. The treaty will probably be constructed along the following lines. The number of ABM interceptor missiles will be restricted to between 100 and 300. The lower value would be more satisfactory from security, arms control and economic points of view, but even the higher value would prevent the acquisition of ABM systems which could threaten either nation's deterrent. The argument about whether to retain 100 or 300 interceptors is spurious, since neither level will provide any realistic protection. More important would be limits on the location and perhaps also the number of large, high-performance ABM radars, which are most critical for a nationwide defense because of their size, time for construction, and expense. They would be almost impossible to deploy secretly. Under a treaty, their locations would probably have to be restricted to the Moscow area for the Soviet Union and the neighborhood of Minuteman sites for the United States; otherwise fears could be generated over a possible clandestine deployment of a nationwide ABM system.

The nature of a possible agreement on offensive weapons is much less clear, and the details may even be left for further negotiation. Former Deputy Secretary of Defense David Packard, in a press conference on October 21, 1971, said that an agreement on ABMs by themselves might

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