Courtesy Reuters

Assuring Strategic Stability: An Alternate View

In the coming months, the Ford Administration must decide either to offer the Soviet Union compromises on the Vladivostok SALT Accord, permitting completion of the agreement as a permanent treaty, or to face the prospect of a prolonged period of strategic competition with the U.S.S.R., unconstrained by formal limits on strategic offensive forces. If the agreement is completed, the Congress must then decide on ratification or rejection. While this issue will occupy center stage in the strategic debate until it is resolved, the United States also faces a second major decision regarding its strategic program: whether to respond to the ongoing Soviet deployment of new, large, land-based missiles equipped with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs). This Soviet deployment is not affected by the Vladivostok Accord. Thus, if it is important to respond by adjusting our strategic program, we will have to do so whether the agreement is completed or not.

In the January issue of Foreign Affairs, Paul Nitze recommends that, in addition to ongoing programs to improve accuracy, two specific major actions be taken by the United States to ensure strategic stability in the next decade: the deployment of a "multiple launch-point" land-based intercontinental ballistic missile system (more frequently called a mobile ICBM), and a greatly expanded civil defense program.1 He bases these recommendations on a series of considerations, including the nature of recent Soviet strategic force deployments, his view of Soviet motives concerning détente, and his view of the overriding importance of missile throw-weight in determining overall strategic force capability.

With regard to the Vladivostok Accord, Mr. Nitze points out that the agreement will not change the basic nature of the current Soviet force buildup. While apparently resigned to its completion, he nevertheless implies that the Accord is probably worse than no SALT agreement at all; he clearly believes it to be worse than the type of agreement he would have preferred-primarily because it fails to limit Soviet missile throw-weight-and finds "without adequate foundation" "

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