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Soviet Union

Threat Reduction

Since the 1950s, the Soviet Union has viewed United States nuclear weapons deployed in Europe and capable of striking the Soviet Union as being particularly threatening. The Soviet military first formulated its preemptive nuclear strategy in the l950s to neutralize the threat of United States strategic bombers armed with nuclear weapons and stationed in Europe. In l979 NATO decided to offset Soviet deployments of the new intermediate-range SS-20 missiles by deploying new United States nuclear systems in Western Europe. These systems--l08 Pershing II missiles and 464 groundlaunched cruise missiles (GLCMs)--could reach Soviet territory. The Soviet military regarded both systems as a grave threat because of their high accuracy and because of the Pershing II's short flying time (under ten minutes). The Soviet Union asserted that both the Pershing IIs and the hard-to-detect GLCMs could make a surprise strike against the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union tried both antinuclear propaganda and negotiations to forestall the NATO deployments. Formal negotiations began in November l98l, at which time the United States proposed the "global zero option," banning or eliminating all United States and Soviet longer-range intermediate nuclear forces (LRINF), including Soviet SS-4s, SS-5s, and SS-20s, and the United States Pershing IIs and GLCMs. The Soviet Union rejected the "global zero option" and insisted on including the British and French nuclear components in INF reductions.

In October l986, at the Reykjavik Summit, the Soviet Union ceased insisting on including British and French weapons in an INF agreement. Nevertheless, it attempted to link an INF agreement to strategic arms reductions and to the renunciation of the SDI. Only after Soviet negotiators abandoned all linkages and agreed to destroy all Soviet longer-range and shorter-range INF in Europe and Asia and to permit on-site inspection were they able to achieve their goal: the eventual removal of the Pershing IIs and GLCMs that are capable of reaching Soviet territory.

The INF Treaty, signed on December 8, l987, in Washington by President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev, stipulated that each party would eliminate all of its intermediate-range missiles and their launchers. These missiles included Soviet SS-4, SS-5, SS20 longer-range INF (with ranges between 1,000 and 5,500 kilometers), and SS-l2 and SS-23 shorter-range missiles (with ranges between 500 and 1,000 kilometers). The treaty called for the destruction of about 2,700 United States and Soviet missiles.

Data as of May 1989