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Soviet Union


The Soviet Union has championed arms control, in the guise of its extreme variant--universal and complete disarmament--since the founding of the Soviet state. Lenin stated that worldwide disarmament could occur after the victory of socialism but that before that time it would be a tactical device to foster pacifism in the capitalist world.

The Soviet Union has proposed various nuclear disarmament plans since the development of nuclear weapons during World War II. In 1946 the Soviet Union rejected the Acheson-Lilienthal-Baruch Plan proposed by the United States (calling for international control of nuclear weapons) and counterproposed that all nuclear weapons be destroyed. The United States rejected this proposal because of lack of adequate verification provisions. The Soviet Union continued to push for total nuclear disarmament, in 1950 launching the worldwide "Stockholm Appeal" propaganda campaign.

The Soviet Union did not seriously contemplate nuclear disarmament or arms reductions while it was in the process of developing and deploying nuclear weapons in the 1940s, 1950s, and most of the 1960s. During the early to mid-1960s, however, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to ban nuclear and other weapons from Antarctica and nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere, outer space, and under water (see Objectives in Space , ch. 17). Except for these tentative measures, during the 1960s the Soviet Union built up its strategic nuclear armaments. By the late 1960s, the Soviet Union had reached a rough parity with the United States in some categories of strategic weaponry and at that time offered to negotiate limits on strategic nuclear weapons deployments. Also, the Soviet Union wished to constrain American deployment of an antiballistic missile (ABM) system and retain the ability to place multiple independently-targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) on missiles (see Arms Control and Military Objectives , ch. 17).

The Soviet-American Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), initially delayed by the United States in protest of the August 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, began in November 1969 in Helsinki. The Interim Agreement on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, signed in Moscow in May 1972, froze existing levels of deployment of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and regulated the growth of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). As part of the SALT process, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty was also signed, allowing two ABM deployment areas in each country (a protocol to the treaty later reduced the number of deployment areas to one).

The SALT agreements were generally considered in the West as having codified the concept of mutual assured destruction, or deterrence. Both the United States and the Soviet Union recognized their mutual vulnerability to massive destruction, no matter which state launched nuclear weapons first. A second SALT agreement was signed in June 1979 in Vienna. Among other provisions, it placed an aggregate ceiling on ICBM and SLBM launchers. The second SALT agreement was never ratified by the United States Senate, however, in large part because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. Both the Soviet Union and the United States nonetheless pledged to abide by the provisions of the agreement. Follow-on talks, termed the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START), began in June 1982 but as of 1989 had not resulted in agreement.

In January 1986, Gorbachev announced a three-stage proposal for nuclear disarmament. His plan called for initial strategic nuclear weapons cuts of 50 percent and the banning of space-based defenses, followed by second- and third-stage cuts that would include elimination of British and French nuclear arsenals. He also agreed to the United States position on the total elimination of intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) in Europe and indicated a new openness to consideration of wide-ranging verification procedures. Parts of the proposal were subsequently mentioned in Gorbachev's political report to the Twenty-Seventh Party Congress in February 1986. Although the proposal as a whole was rejected by the Western nuclear powers, elements of the proposal were included in the START negotiations and in the final round of the INF negotiations, which had begun in 1981.

In November 1981, the Reagan administration proposed the elimination of intermediate (1,000 to 5,500 kilometers) and shorter range (500 to 1,000 kilometers) ballistic and cruise missiles from Europe and Asia. The Soviet Union rejected this proposal and attempted to influence public opinion in Western Europe to prevent the NATO deployment of missiles that would counter the Soviet SS4s , SS-5s, and SS-20s targeted on Western Europe. According to some Western analysts, the Soviet Union hoped that through manipulation of European and American public opinion Western governments would be forced to cancel the deployments, a policy that the Soviet Union had successfully used in the late 1970s to force cancellation of NATO plans to deploy enhanced radiation warheads (neutron bombs). The Soviet Union walked out of the INF and other arms control negotiations in November 1983 as a result of the NATO deployment of countervailing intermediate-range nuclear forces. The Soviet Union returned to the INF negotiations around the time that Gorbachev became general secretary. Negotiations proceeded relatively quickly and resulted in the conclusion of the INF Treaty signed in Washington in December 1987. The INF Treaty called for the elimination of all American and Soviet INF and shorter-range nuclear forces from Europe and Asia within three years (see Soviet-United States Relations , this ch.). The treaty was ratified by the United States Senate and the Supreme Soviet in May 1988.

On December 7, 1988, Gorbachev made a major foreign policy speech to the UN General Assembly, announcing arms reductions that, if fully implemented, would reduce military tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States and between the Warsaw Pact and NATO. He pledged that the Soviet Union would unilaterally cut its armed forces by 500,000 troops over a two-year period and would significantly cut its deployments of conventional arms, including over 10,000 tanks. He also announced the withdrawal of six tank divisions from East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary by 1991. In early 1989, Gorbachev also announced cuts in the military budget, and several Warsaw Pact states also announced reductions in their armed forces and military budgets.

Data as of May 1989

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