What Is China Learning From Russia’s War in Ukraine?
America and Taiwan Need to Grasp—and Influence—Chinese Views of the Conflict
A recent, rather startling poll indicated that 71 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of Democrats believe that the United States can trust the general secretary of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. Trust in what sense?
Trust that Mr. Gorbachev will turn his back on the goals of the Soviet state? Trust that he is becoming more like us in terms of democratic values? Trust that the Soviet Union will never violate an agreement with the United States (the historical record notwithstanding)? Trust that Mr. Gorbachev is diametrically opposed to the precepts of the Communist Party that he leads—precepts which are of course diametrically opposed to Western values and principles?
All of this is highly unlikely. Mr. Gorbachev does appear to be committed to some significant, perhaps even historic, internal economic reforms: his perestroika. Many of these reforms are truly significant in that, taken at their face value, they represent major revisions in Soviet domestic policies. Mr. Gorbachev is clearly adept at public relations in international politics. There is great danger, however, that his approach will obscure the fundamental and unchanging nature of the Soviet system. Indeed, the poll results are testimony to the effectiveness of Mr. Gorbachev’s courtship of Western public opinion. Just because General Secretary Gorbachev wears a smile and dresses fashionably does not mean there is any fundamental change in Soviet goals. To be sure, Mr. Gorbachev is making changes—and most likely he does want to buy some time from the West in order to stimulate his country’s moribund economy—but perestroika aimed at constructing a more effective socialist regime, which is clearly the general secretary’s goal, does not by any means translate into a move toward Western-style democracy.
A nineteenth-century Frenchman who traveled to Russia, the Marquis de Custine (a contemporary of Alexis de Tocqueville), remarked in his journal: "I do not blame the Russians for being what they are, I blame them for pretending to be what we are." That thought is particularly appropriate today.
Mr. Gorbachev may be in power for a short or long period. But no general secretary will be allowed to alter in any fundamental way the never-changing Soviet goal of world domination, or the nature of the Soviet regime. By the same token, nothing has happened that changes the measures the West must take if it wishes to preserve its freedom.
President Reagan came into office with the explicit intention of restoring our military and political strength, and doing so without apology. The United States has made enormous progress toward that vital goal. One of the primary results of that restoration became a reality with the signing of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty last December. This restoration to the West’s security must not be abandoned to an overly optimistic view of East-West relations.
It is of course necessary, particularly in the nuclear age, to negotiate on arms and to work toward a more constructive and stable relationship with the Soviet Union. President Reagan is firmly committed to that course. It should not be abandoned because of euphoric reactions or public opinion polls about the popularity of the current Soviet general secretary. Nor should America’s security suffer because of the pressures of the approaching elections.
There is not a better example of the importance of negotiating from strength than the recently signed INF treaty. This lesson takes on great significance for the next discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union to cut strategic nuclear arsenals in half (the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks, or START). There is not a better argument for President Reagan’s defense policies than the INF treaty, which the president and I proposed in 1981. At the time the Soviets held this same proposal—the so-called zero option—up to scorn, knowing that America was weak militarily after a decade of neglect, and believing that we lacked the will to regain our strength.
In this regard, the opposition to the INF treaty has really missed the point. Most of the opposition seems to be based on fears of what may come next. Few have objected to the treaty itself. The INF treaty shows that the Reagan Administration’s policies are correct. It shows negotiations and peace through strength works. It shows that by sticking with a negotiating position, refusing to be intimidated by Soviet walkouts, and not permitting America’s goals to be linked to Soviet demands that weaken strategic defense, we can successfully achieve our security goals in a negotiation.
Verifiable agreements reducing armaments are an integral part of national security, but they are not an end in themselves. This should be self-evident, but it is often overlooked in the pressures of summitry, politics and the desire to achieve results. A START agreement may be within grasp, but as questions about our long-term security surface during this critical period, we must ensure that the mistakes of the 1970s—the "decade of neglect" and "détente"—are never repeated. The new relationship with the Soviets presents great opportunities as well as some great hazards. As we confront the new challenges ahead, we must draw upon some of the lessons we should have learned from the past.
George Orwell once said: "We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men." As we are poised on the eve of a potentially new relationship with the Soviet Union, it is critical that we take stock of the lessons we have learned over the last two or three decades. My purpose in this article is to restate the obvious—and the not-so-obvious—lessons for the role of arms reduction agreements as an element of U.S. national security.
A great paradox of our national security posture is that without military strength, we have little leverage to secure real arms reductions. The Reagan Administration’s goal when it took office was to demonstrate the will to rearm and to do so—rearm so that the United States could secure genuine arms reductions, and not the kinds of limits reached in the two Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) agreements, which allowed the Soviets to add another 4,000 nuclear warheads to their existing arsenal.
National defense is, admittedly, expensive. It is also usually unpopular. As a former secretary of health, education and welfare, I understand the need for some social programs. However, for ten years we had been force-feeding social programs and starving defense. By 1981 America’s deterrent capabilities were eroding. We could not risk further delay. The question was not whether we could afford to defend our nation, but whether we could afford not to.
Rebuilding U.S. military strength was a major theme of the 1980 presidential campaign, and from that campaign came a clear mandate: public support for increased military strength was at a postwar high. The Reagan Administration was given a clear mandate by the American electorate to carry out a massive, admittedly costly, defense program. The reason was readily apparent. In the 1970s the nation, trusting overly in the spirit of "détente," debated while the Soviet Union continued inexorably to arm. By 1981 the Soviet Union had not only matched our previous nuclear superiority—it had far exceeded our conventional military strength and was rapidly projecting its power beyond the needs of legitimate defense. The Soviet Union was succeeding because no one was challenging it. One need only cite the examples of its invasion of Afghanistan and its activities in Ethiopia, Angola, South Yemen and Cuba.
By 1981 we had to face the fact that we could not steadily cut defense investment, as we had throughout the 1970s, without serious consequences. We had neglected every category: ammunition, readiness, manpower, all major weapon systems, and research and development for new systems. Manpower reductions were particularly disastrous, putting at risk the all-volunteer system. Many felt it was time to resume the draft.
The West’s decade-long reduction of military expenditures, and its good-faith effort to achieve stabilizing arms control, had been answered by unremitting Soviet actions increasing its military capabilities. The West could not allow the military balance to swing further in favor of the Soviets.
No one doubted that the NATO alliance could provide the forces necessary to meet the Soviet threat and to execute agreed NATO strategy. Collectively, the alliance had more than adequate resources—human, industrial, technological and financial—to provide a reasonable margin of security. What it often had lacked in the past was the will to provide the resources for the common defense.
In 1981 there was a new sense of resolve in America: the new Administration, which had campaigned on the issue of regaining and maintaining Western security, was determined to turn its mandate into a safer future for all.
The Reagan Administration was also committed to equitable and verifiable arms reduction. But the Soviet’s steady addition of new SS-20 intermediate-range missiles made it imperative that the United States carry out the December 1979 NATO mandate to proceed with the deployment of the theater nuclear weapons while seeking by negotiations to eliminate those systems. Our experience over the last two decades had demonstrated that we could not limit Soviet nuclear weapons unless they had an incentive to reduce. We knew we needed "to arm, to parlay" in Churchill’s words.
The term "arms race" is very misleading. It clouds the distinction between why the United States builds arms and why the Soviet Union builds arms. We arm to protect our freedoms and, where we can, to extend them to others. We arm to deter attack upon us or our allies. The Soviets, with vastly more than is needed for self-defense and with continual additions, seem to arm for intimidation and aggression against free peoples.
The paradox of deterrence has been with us since our beginnings as a nation. The first principle and fundamental goal of our military accepts George Washington’s notion: "To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual ways of preserving peace." The problem is that if we are to lessen the likelihood of nuclear war, we must maintain the equation of deterrence.
There is nothing new about the idea of deterrence. The only thing that has changed over thousands of years of human history is that the stakes of deterrence have risen with the destructive power of war. Today mankind lives in the shadow of nuclear weapons. But to prevent nuclear war in a world that contains thousands of Soviet nuclear weapons, an adequate and credible nuclear deterrent must be maintained. This may be an uncomfortable form of keeping the peace, but at the moment it is the only way.
Arms control agreements or unilateral actions that do nothing to lessen the likelihood of war are empty and meaningless. In fact, they are worse: they undermine the balance which is the basis of deterrence and they lead the public to think that further defense investment is no longer needed.
Many claim that arms control is a more ethically justifiable course of action than rearming or attempting to strengthen deterrence through defensive weapons. But how can arms control in itself be either good or bad? It is obviously the consequences of arms control that are of concern, and not simply the process of negotiation. The "arms control process" can and has produced bad agreements, such as SALT II. So we must be realistic and learn from our mistakes.
We can learn some valuable lessons from our historical experience with arms control. These lessons go far beyond just how to negotiate with the Soviets. They should help to determine the very structure of the West’s defenses over the coming decades.
This Administration understood the historical record. It was not willing to accept a form of arms control that lulled the United States into a false sense of security. As a result, it took the somewhat radical approach of trying to negotiate arms reductions with the Soviet Union. This approach has paid great dividends, and can continue to do so if America sustains its resolve. Arms control has been transformed, and the old and, I think it is fair to say, bankrupt concept of arms agreements has been discarded.
The Reagan Administration’s approach reflects a return to more idealistic notions of disarmament. But it is an idealism based upon realism. Past American agreements have failed to recognize that reciprocity must be part of any sound agreement. There literally developed a feeling among many in the United States that any agreement was good, simply because it was an agreement with the Soviet Union. And in order to get an agreement all obstacles had to be removed—but "obstacles" in this context were Soviet objections. Now this cycle of wishful thinking and self-deception is being broken.
From the start the Administration insisted that it would settle for nothing less than genuine reductions. However, because it has been willing to take as long as necessary to conclude an agreement that would be in the interests of America and our allies, "experts" in the arms control lobby have labeled the Administration, until recently, as anti-arms control, suggesting that Moscow would never accept the new approach.
Indeed, critics viewed the goal of real cuts as disingenuous and unrealistic. They have pointed to their own arms control model: the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. Yet those talks and the resulting agreements did little more than codify the highest levels of nuclear weapons the world has ever seen.
These very same "experts" must have been greatly surprised when, by the autumn of 1985, the media began reporting a Soviet willingness to consider a 25-percent, then 40-percent, and finally a 50-percent reduction in strategic arms. Moreover, at the Reykjavik summit conference, deep cuts became the heart of the agenda. The contrast with the Soviet attitude toward Secretary of State Cyrus Vance’s offer of deep cuts to Moscow in 1977 could not be more stark. Then, the United States had not demonstrated the resolve to modernize its strategic nuclear forces. The United States had little leverage and less respect. The result: the Soviets rejected the 1977 offer out of hand. This is not surprising, given the fact that during the 1976 campaign, candidate Jimmy Carter had pledged as president to cut the military budget by as much as seven billion dollars.
The Reagan Administration took a different approach from the start because it recognized that the United States had made a series of mistakes over the years in negotiating with the Soviets. Some of these errors had to do with how we negotiated with the Soviets. Other mistakes had to do with what we negotiated.
The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and SALT I are good examples of the problems of the substance of what we negotiated. The ABM treaty constrained defenses against enemy attack, and neither treaty required any reductions in offensive forces—indeed they permitted increases. These agreements codified vulnerability and attempted to put "limits" on the continuing growth of nuclear weapons, rather than reducing them. But the limits were far higher than existing arsenals. In fact, since SALT I, the Soviets, without violating the treaties, quadrupled the number of their strategic ballistic missile warheads.
The ABM treaty is a prime example of a flawed strategic concept designed to enhance nuclear stability between the United States and the Soviet Union. The treaty was based upon at least two assumptions which were not borne out: that there would soon be deep reductions in offensive weapons, and that both parties would give up defenses (except for specifically permitted narrow and basically not very effective systems). The Soviets upset both assumptions. They never stopped their buildup and modernization of nuclear offensive arms, and never abandoned defensive strategies. In fact, immediately after signing the ABM treaty they began working to develop the same strategic defenses they so violently object to when we pursue them. They also deployed and then modernized all of the defensive systems permitted under the ABM treaty, and violated it by the construction of a huge radar system at Krasnoyarsk.
These developments threaten the basic strategic concept the United States brought to the ABM bargaining table in the early 1970s: that defenses were destabilizing because retaliatory missiles must be able to retaliate. Given these assumptions in 1972 when the treaty was signed, the hope was that the Soviets would then agree to deep reductions of their offensive missiles, and would not violate the treaty itself.
The preamble to the ABM treaty stated that its underlying premise was "that effective measures to limit anti-ballistic missile systems would be a substantial factor in curbing the race in strategic offensive arms." Moreover, both parties declared "their intention to achieve at the earliest possible date the cessation of the nuclear arms race and to take effective measures toward reductions in strategic arms, nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament." Gerard Smith, then head of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and chief U.S. negotiator of the ABM treaty, made it clear in a unilateral statement appended to the treaty that the United States expected progress in offensive weapons reductions within five years. It was a vain hope.
As the text of the ABM treaty suggests, the important issue—real reductions in offensive arms—was put off to some future date. That was perhaps the gravest error the United States has made over the past two decades.
Another serious misjudgment was Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s belief that the Soviet Union would be satisfied with the concept of deterrence based on parity once it achieved nuclear equality with the United States. The decade of neglect—the 1970s—when our investment in defense declined 20 percent, had its roots in these errors of judgment. This was also the decade when we neglected, to the point of danger, to modernize adequately our strategic offensive forces. These misjudgments have cost America dearly.
Not only have the Soviets greatly expanded their nuclear arsenal but, almost from the day the ABM treaty was signed, they have been working intensively to secure strategic defenses for themselves, including work on advanced defensive technologies. This experience points to specific lessons about arms control, nuclear weapons and what constitutes stability.
There has been a continuing debate—a somewhat arcane and largely irrelevant one—about what the ABM treaty allowed and did not allow with respect to testing and development of defensive systems. This has the potential of tying our vital Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) in knots. Indeed I believe that is the primary purpose of most of those who urge "strict construction" of the treaty.
The real focus of the ABM debate should be on whether the strategic conditions upon which the treaty was concluded have been materially altered, and whether it is in our national interest to exercise the withdrawal clause in the treaty itself.
As we look toward another summit, we must confront the issue of the future of the ABM treaty. The Soviets will try to lock us into a flawed treaty that does not serve our "supreme" interests and which they have violated. In fact, the Soviets are using the ABM treaty as a weapon to kill SDI. We should be discussing amending the agreement or withdrawing from it altogether. Under the provisions of Article XV of the treaty, the United States has a right to withdraw by giving six months’ notice, "if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests." We should be discussing opening up a new strategic relationship and a defensive transition, not quibbling over legalistic, hazy interpretations which effectively preserve the mistakes of the past and endanger our future security. Withdrawal clauses in treaties are not unusable. A signatory country should of course observe treaties, but conditions and assumptions on which treaties are based change. Hence we have withdrawal clauses.
There have been similar debates in the past, the most pointless of which was over the merits of SALT II. To characterize the president’s decision to end observance of SALT II as a violation of a treaty, as many did, is truly Orwellian. The treaty was never ratified. Even if it had been, it would have expired in December 1985. And the Soviets repeatedly and flagrantly violated the major provisions of the treaty during the period in which it would have been in effect. Under international law, actions of the type undertaken by the Kremlin would be more than sufficient to release the United States from any obligation to observe the treaty—even if it had been ratified.
The Reagan Administration shared the view of the Senate Armed Services Committee in 1980 that the treaty, by permitting the continued growth of Soviet strategic forces, gave the appearance but not the reality of moderation and restraint. The SALT II "limits," like the SALT I "limits" before them, were so high that they did not constrain the momentum of the Soviet strategic buildup. The forces permitted on the Soviet side were more than enough to leave our land-based missiles vulnerable to Soviet attack. The apparent constraint on their deployment of "new" missiles was little more than an elaborate loophole through which two new generations of Soviet missiles then under development could easily pass.
Nevertheless, Congress has continued to try to mandate American compliance with various aspects of this treaty. For example, the House of Representatives fought to force the United States to comply with the SALT II sublimits on ballistic missiles armed with multiple warheads "as long as the Soviet Union did not violate them." For the first time in history, a legislative body of a democracy attempted to mandate compliance with an unratified treaty that was never honored by the other party to that agreement.
This moves us into the realm of how we negotiate. A broad lesson can be gleaned: too often America’s bargaining positions are revised and altered because we continually negotiate among ourselves. Bureaucratic battles among agencies, disputes among allies and micromanaging by Congress all hurt our bargaining ability. All these players have a legitimate role, of course, and our problem reflects the fundamental differences between a democratic government and a totalitarian regime. Americans take a problem-solving approach to the exercise; the Soviets view negotiations as part of their endless competition with noncommunist forces. Another part of the problem is that our many competing agencies can rarely make up their minds as to what they really want; the Soviets talk only with one voice—since other voices there are crushed, literally or figuratively. We have no desire to emulate such a system. But we should be able to come to decisions, after debate, that will enable the United States to negotiate successfully with such a foe.
An old cliché encapsulates the Soviet approach to negotiations: "What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable." The former director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Eugene Rostow, has a colorful metaphor to describe Soviet negotiating tactics: "They would bring a cow into the parlor and then offer to negotiate to take it out."
This brings to mind an especially ineffective Soviet attempt to employ this negotiating device at Reykjavik with SDI, relinking it to all other progress at the summit. They were, in short, bringing the cow into the parlor, taking it out, then bringing it in again. The president understood this fully and, as a result, the SDI program was saved. But when Secretary of State George Shultz visited Moscow last fall to finalize the details of the INF treaty, the cow again reappeared. The Soviets again linked any agreement to the emasculation of the SDI program—despite the fact that the Soviets themselves had given assurances that they were separate issues. Soon thereafter, realizing the president’s resolve and that international public opinion was against them, they dropped this eleventh-hour tactic. But, lo and behold, as we negotiate with the Soviets over a START agreement, we find that the cow is back in the parlor.
After Reykjavik, some "experts" believed that the Soviet SDI ploy had some success. In fact, one former arms negotiator, Paul Warnke, confidently predicted that there would be no strategic or intermediate-range nuclear weapons agreements without U.S. concessions on SDI. Further, he commented: "There’s no question that SDI is a good bargaining chip. The question is when to play it. . . . We’ll never get more for SDI than we could have gotten at Reykjavik. As a matter of fact, as the essential ludicrousness of the system becomes clear, we’ll get less for it. We ought to play it now while it’s still worth something." But once again the "experts" and conventional wisdom proved to be unwise. What they said would never happen did. Moscow had to recognize America’s firmness on the SDI issue, and they dropped their insistence that SDI be part of the INF talks. They also dropped all of their other "non-negotiable" demands once they recognized that that was the price of a treaty they wanted.
These and other examples of Soviet tactics point to some rather obvious—but often forgotten—lessons about how to negotiate with the Soviets.
First, the United States must bargain from strength. In 1950 Secretary of State Dean Acheson said: "The only way to deal with the Soviet Union, we have found from hard experience, is to create situations of strength." The INF treaty confirms that basic truth. The NATO alliance remained united, and successfully deployed the Pershing 2 and cruise missiles. This move was a prerequisite to successful diplomacy, for it demonstrated the West’s ability to stand firm in the face of Soviet intimidation and blandishments aimed at forcing a deal that would have ensured Soviet global dominance in intermediate-range nuclear forces. Had NATO submitted to such tactics, had we listened to calls within our own countries for unilateral restraint or a freeze, we would face the wholly unstable and dangerous situation of overwhelming and worldwide Soviet superiority in intermediate-range nuclear missiles. Clearly, if the United States continues to engage in the kind of defense cuts seen in the last two years, mirroring those of the decade of neglect, we cannot expect to repeat in the START negotiations the kind of diplomatic success reflected in the INF treaty.
Second, patience is another essential in negotiations with the Soviets. It is instructive to recall that there were those in the Carter Administration who held the view that failure to get a SALT treaty in the president’s first four years would be a "blemish on his record forever." Such an attitude gives all the leverage to the Soviets.
When President Reagan proposed the complete elimination of American and Soviet intermediate-range nuclear missiles—the zero option—in 1981, critics said he was naïve. They said Moscow would never accept such an approach if French and British nuclear forces were not included. Eventually the Soviets gave up their cherished position on the inclusion of the French and British missiles, just as they also gave up their insistence that the United States kill strategic defense as a precondition for an agreement. They also gave up their "non-negotiable" demand to keep 100 SS-20s in Asia and their "non-negotiable" position against any on-site verification.
Even within this Administration some lacked patience at times during the INF negotiations. Some, for example, preferred the "walk in the woods" agreement that precluded deployment of the Pershing 2s and would have frozen Soviet INF deployments at higher levels. Had the United States settled for this type of "freeze," we would merely have locked in Soviet nuclear dominance of the European and Asian theaters.
The Asian missile issue was one of the most difficult internal bureaucratic battles during my time in office. Some officials believed that our "global zero" position—our demand that the Soviets remove their 100 mobile SS-20 intermediate-range missiles directed toward Asia—had to be dropped because the Soviets insisted on keeping these missiles. Fortunately, the right side won this internal disagreement, and the Soviets eventually accepted our insistence that the 100 SS-20s be removed as part of the broader INF agreement.
Those who now make the argument that a quick START agreement would be a fitting capstone for the Reagan Administration, and must be signed by June, also forfeit leverage to the Soviets. We must not be pressured by the fact of a forthcoming summit, elections or political efforts to secure the president’s place in history. That place is already assured. It must be understood that even if the next president—and not this one, due to Soviet intransigence—is successful in achieving a START agreement, the credit will belong to President Reagan. If an agreement is reached it will be as a result of his patience and his resolve to strengthen the U.S. military over the last eight years, and his determination to take as long as necessary to ensure that any agreement represents American interests.
Third, we must not forget that the decision-making system in the Soviet Union is very different from ours. General Secretary Gorbachev can make plans now for the year 2000 with at least a reasonable expectation that he will still be in power when they come to fruition. He does not have to worry about Congress, with its 535 defense strategists, nor does he have to worry about public opinion in his own country—none is permitted there. Most important of all, he does not have to worry about the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. There are no real elections in the Soviet Union, and there is no public opinion there that dares express itself. The only things written, printed or said in the Soviet Union are those the government allows. These are not enviable attributes, but they can give the Kremlin an immense advantage in negotiations.
Fourth, the fact that the Soviets have violated previous accords and exploited ambiguities and loopholes makes it clear that the United States must demand strict compliance measures in any agreement with them.
Verification is not a substitute for compliance. It is vital to know what the Soviets are doing and to be able to judge when violations take place. But verification does not guarantee compliance. Some of the most troubling violations are also the most easily verified. The Krasnoyarsk radar and the SS-25 intercontinental ballistic missile are examples of violations that the Soviets must have known we would detect.
It was once assumed that the Soviets would not violate arms control agreements because of the political repercussions. This has been proven false, and Soviet noncompliance with arms agreements has been well documented in reports to Congress.
American negotiators must build the most strict and rigid verification and compliance provisions into any agreement into which we enter. Given the historical record, it is the only prudent course. We must take particular care in those areas where verifying compliance of an agreement poses great difficulties. The president is fond of quoting the Russian proverb, "trust but verify." It is an absolute prerequisite for any agreement.
There will always be very strong pressures to ignore violations rather than abandon treaties—or even to respond proportionally. The Soviets know this. A failure to respond immediately to small infractions often encourages larger ones. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick recognized this lesson when she told Congress that the INF treaty should be ratified but amended to allow for automatic termination if its terms were violated. This may not be the only mechanism available, but she has raised an important and often overlooked point.
If the Soviets should violate an agreement, the United States must be prepared to take the military steps that are necessary to protect our interests. Where possible, there should be an agreement with Congress on this in advance, so that we can respond to violations more quickly and effectively. In a democracy, such a quick response requires quick appropriations by Congress—and that, in turn, requires some kind of advance agreement.
Violations can only be deterred by responding to them in ways that are more costly to the Soviets than the gains they expect to achieve through cheating. Establishing in advance that the United States will respond, that we will impose costs to offset the benefits they hope to gain, has been made more difficult by years of indifference and congressional preoccupation with defense cuts. Even the decision to respond proportionally to Soviet violations requires great political courage, particularly if violations are not challenged early.
The Standing Consultative Commission, the body assigned by earlier agreements to deal with violations, has failed miserably to gain Soviet compliance. Nothing has happened to suggest that it will become more effective. Indeed, this approach for pushing compliance issues into the recesses of a confidential and ineffective forum has generally discouraged more effective measures to gain Soviet compliance.
It may appear paradoxical that a key to improving the prospects for real arms reductions is a vigorous American response to violations. But until we achieve the insurance we need by deploying the Strategic Defense Initiative, the advantages to the Soviets to be gained by cheating will become proportionally greater if we proceed with deep reductions in offensive forces.
SDI is the boldest strategic concept since the Baruch Plan. It offers the hope of real and lasting reductions, greater stability between the United States and the Soviet Union, and a safer world. It provides a real solution to some of the risks of arms reductions and questions of verification and compliance. It also offers the United States some insurance against Soviet violations after the deep cuts envisioned in the START discussions.
The transition from our present posture to a deterrence that focuses more on defense than offense holds great promise. There can be an orderly transition to a defense-oriented world as the United States and the Soviet Union start to cut offensive nuclear forces. If both sides agreed to destroy a certain percentage of their nuclear strategic missiles as strategic defenses are deployed, it would signal that neither side is seeking a strategic advantage. In the long run, strategic defenses, combined with balanced and verifiable reductions in conventional forces, could help rid this world of the specter of nuclear holocaust. The vision of such a new strategic order must not be compromised by allowing the Soviets to force us to negotiate SDI away.
People have talked of this "grand compromise," but it has all been tried before with SALT I, SALT II and the ABM treaty. The primary purpose of the ABM treaty was to create an environment for scaling back offensive forces. The idea was that by giving up the right to deploy a nationwide defense against ballistic missiles, an arms race in offensive weapons could be avoided. Limits on defenses were viewed as the key to reductions in offensive nuclear arms.
The Soviets tried the more current form of the "grand compromise" at Reykjavik, when all the arms cuts were held hostage to limits on SDI. Without doubt, they will try it again during the START negotiations, recognizing that this Administration has less than a year left in office. They will also continue to try to divide the American people, noting the differences of opinion on this matter that exist in the Congress and in our society today.
Moscow’s aim is to keep its own strategic defense work hidden from view until it is ready to deploy, while waging a propaganda war using Western public opinion to pressure the United States into halting SDI. If that campaign were to succeed, it would be a nightmare for the West. We would face the massive offensive nuclear arsenal the U.S.S.R. now possesses, shielded by a defense against any retaliatory response—currently our sole means of deterring nuclear war. And without SDI, we would be utterly defenseless.
That nightmare need not become a reality. SDI technology gives us the opportunity to defend ourselves against a missile attack. We know that whatever we do, the Soviets will continue their own efforts to develop defenses. Our task, simply put, is to use our best minds as well as our material resources to defend our democratic society. It would be gross criminal negligence if we failed to deploy SDI, or if we bargained it away for some agreement the Soviets would violate whenever a few men in the Kremlin determined it was in their interest to do so.
The technological developments that make SDI possible will continue to move forward. The only question is whether we will provide the resources and sustain the will and the clarity of vision necessary to strengthen our security through SDI. A world in which both the United States and the Soviet Union came to rely more on defenses against nuclear attack and less on the mutually suicidal threat of massive retaliation would be a far safer place.
Agreements to reduce nuclear arms raise a simple question: When the missiles go, what is left? This is a particularly relevant and immediate question to ask as we examine the security requirements of a post-INF Europe. The INF treaty does not alter NATO’s flexible strategy; that strategy remains intact and strong. But strategies are not self-sustaining. Since the birth of NATO in 1949, the alliance has been concerned with maintaining the proper mix of forces—both conventional and nuclear—that makes flexible response a credible deterrence strategy. Those concerns remain today, whether or not there is an INF treaty.
NATO cannot allow its force structure to stagnate, thinking that all problems have been solved with this treaty. We must, for example, go forward with the 1983 Montebello decision of the NATO defense ministers, which called for modernization of NATO’s nuclear and dual-capable weapons.
Nothing in the INF treaty prevents NATO from fulfilling the Montebello decision, nor indeed does the treaty limit us from taking the host of other measures necessary to ensure our security, such as strengthening conventional forces. In fact, the conventional force imbalances between NATO and the Warsaw Pact take on greater significance in a post-INF world.
Negotiating conventional force reductions could increase stability in Europe. But these reductions would have to require very much larger Soviet cuts than Western reductions. Warsaw Pact forces hold a great advantage in numbers; only massive reductions of Soviet offensive ground forces in Eastern Europe could help create a balance between Warsaw Pact and NATO standing forces. In this connection one should be particularly wary of accounting tricks used by those who for whatever reason are determined to prove that the Soviets’ four-and-a-half to one predominance in tanks over NATO, to take one example, does not give the Soviets an advantage.
These conventional reductions and verifiable agreements banning the use of chemical weapons are of at least equal importance to the West as the possible 50-percent reduction in nuclear arms, but the Soviets have never been willing to agree to the only type of conventional reductions that would be in the interests of the West. Our historical experience with the Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions talks in Vienna, and other attempts to secure acceptable conventional reductions, suggests that NATO should not depend upon such conventional force cuts for its security. Unilateral NATO action to improve and modernize its present defenses is the only dependable path to security. Innovative approaches to improving NATO’s defenses must complement a negotiated approach to eliminating the conventional imbalance.
A recent Pentagon initiative holds great promise as a creative means to make the most of Western strengths while exploiting Soviet weaknesses in the conventional theater in Europe. In short, it would seek to develop and fund those technologies and tactics that would provide the greatest advantage in deterring the Soviets on the central front and elsewhere. This initiative has the potential to disrupt Warsaw Pact operational concepts, as a recent study on how to improve the West’s defenses in Europe demonstrated.
This "competitive strategies" program has the potential to minimize the risks associated with the INF agreement. To cite one example, "smart," stand-off munitions, which take advantage of the West’s technological prowess, are being given a high priority under the aegis of the competitive strategies program. The recent report of The Commission On Integrated Long-Term Strategy also argues the value of this type of approach. The study holds that "when we have identified an innovative, high-priority project that combines new technology with new operating concepts, we may want to set up a special ‘fast track’."
An example could be the unmanned "Tacit Rainbow" missile which could help compensate for NATO’s quantitative inferiority vis-à-vis the Warsaw Pact. It has the ability to linger over targets, such as enemy radar systems, waiting for them to be turned on so that the missile can hunt them down. It attests to the value of selected advanced, stand-off technologies as force multipliers in countering the threat.
Admiral William J. Crowe, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, approves of competitive strategies. In recent testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, he argued: "The United States did make certain that the INF treaty would leave the door open for NATO to exploit fully emergent technologies. . . . It is imperative for the alliance to take stock of its military posture and to reassess the way it is preparing for the long haul." He is indeed right.
After coming so far in improving America’s defenses and reaching a meaningful arms reduction agreement, we cannot afford to return to the mistakes of the past. My real worry concerns what is happening now to the defense budget. We have made very considerable progress in regaining for America what was a vitally needed renewed military strength. It is responsible not only for bringing the Soviets back to the negotiating table but forcing serious negotiations. It has given us an arms reduction agreement.
None of this would have occurred without the major additions to our defenses that are a direct result of the president’s leadership. To wash those all away and let our security erode again, as Congress is now doing, because of fears about a deficit that could be cured if our domestic expenditures were cut, puts at risk our security as a nation. Most people who attack defense spending as the cause of the deficit do not understand that Administration domestic spending requests to Congress have been increased by the Congress by over $250 billion since 1982. But the president’s defense requests have been cut $125 billion by Congress during that same time.
The problem of sustaining the consensus on defense spending involves more than just the deficit. It is basically an unpopular endeavor for a democracy. Alexis de Tocqueville pointed this out more than 150 years ago:
The ever increasing numbers of men of property who are lovers of peace, the growth of personal wealth which war so rapidly consumes, the mildness of manners, the gentleness of heart, those tendencies to pity which are produced by the equality of conditions, that coolness of understanding which renders men comparatively insensible to the violent and poetical excitement of arms, all these causes concur to quench the military spirit [in a democracy].
The phenomenon De Tocqueville observed is understandable in a democracy. Yet we must recognize that nothing more nor less than our freedom is at stake. If we still value that freedom, and if we want to secure peace with freedom, we must be willing to make the really small sacrifices entailed in keeping our military strong and never letting our guard down.
As Congress reduces the defense budget, the Soviets will be watching. The Soviets will continue to watch to see if the United States will shortchange defense as we did in the 1970s. What they see will play a large role in their own calculations during the START negotiations. We cannot take $33 billion out of a presidential request for a modest three-percent increase in defense without very real harm to our security, and without adding substantially to the risks we face. These deep reductions are neither necessary nor safe. They are precisely what the Soviets want us to do.
There will be those within the Administration and in the West who will counsel compromise in order to reach some agreement during the next summit. But I know that President Reagan, as he has in the past, will walk away from such blandishments if the proposed agreement is not in our nation’s interest.
The United States must remember what is needed to conclude a meaningful and verifiable agreement with the Soviet Union. The lessons of the past must not be ignored. We must take a realistic approach both to the requirements of Western security and the nature of the Soviet state. To believe that the U.S.S.R. has ceased to be a threat because it is making some effort to respond to its own internal economic difficulties would be dangerously naïve.
This brings us back to my opening question of whether we should "trust" Mikhail Gorbachev. Do I trust General Secretary Gorbachev? No. But in light of the realities of the Soviet regime, both the question and the answer are largely irrelevant. We must do what is necessary to keep peace with freedom—and this has little to do with whether the general secretary is trustworthy or not. If we ever allow ourselves to be dependent upon having to trust a general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union for our security, we will have already lost our security.
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