Abstract result of the symmetry between the strategic forces






















   This research paper examines
the problem of the Soviet missiles on the European territory of the Soviet
Union, that began in 1979 and continued until 1983.  It tries to explain why the talks between the
Soviets and the Americans failed despite the many proposals on both sides that
could have solved the problem. The role of strategy and politics in those talks
is the main element on which this paper depends in finding an answer to the problem
in question.

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   During the cold war period the
two poles of world system, the Soviet Union and the United States, were at a
continuous game of negotiations and talks to try limit the expansion and
capabilities of each other. The
nuclear and military power of both sides created the need to limit the arms
race in order to avoid any increased tension that could lead to war.

   It is worth mentioning that
other arms limitation talks were in process even before the SS-20 deployment;
the SALT I and SALT II (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) came as a result of
the symmetry between the strategic forces of the Soviet Union and the United
States. SALT talks began in the late 1960s. Both sides had developed massive
numbers of strategic weapons and there was a need to stop the manufacturing and
deployment of more weapons. The SALT talks called for the limitation and ban on
the production or stockpiling of different weapons. As a result of round one of
SALT, limits were placed on submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), and
inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBM), bombers and other weapons. Bans
were placed on heavy ICBM, SLBM and other weapons. Between 1969 and 1972 the
first round of SALT talks (SALT I) took place and resulted in the ABM treaty.

   After that began the second
round of talks. SALT II 1972-1979 was a 7-year labour that “produced an arms
control mouse” as Leslie H. Gelb a senior US Defense and State Department
official puts it.  Gelb explains that the
“soviets never gained military superiority against … the Americans, but it
was part of the psychodrama in America to use that issue to galvanise Americans
about this larger legitimate question of the strategic competition between …
the two countries and two philosophies”. The second round of SALT talks was a
failure. Ronald Regan, who carried out a clear anti-carter policy, saw that

 “SALT II is not
a strategic arms limitation; it is a strategic arms buildup with the Soviet
Union authorised to add a minimum of 3000 nuclear warheads to their already
massive inventory. The Carter administration’s principle argument for ratifying
SALT II more is like ‘no one will like us if we don’t’. You know? it is time we
made … Carter understand that we don’t really care whether they like us or
not! We want to be respected!”


Eventually, the SALT II treaty was submitted to the US Senate but was
never ratified, and President Jimmy Carter removed it from the Senate
consideration in January 1980 after the Soviets had entered Afghanistan in

  That period was one of the most
sensitive periods of the Cold War as negotiations were not leading anyone
anywhere and there seemed to be no hope of a solution. Military figures,
diplomats, experts, and politicians were involved, but strategic thinking was
not the moving force of that period of time.


European Missiles Problem


   During the late 70s, the
relation between the Soviet Union and the NATO in Europe seemed to be stable to
some extent, but the United States was not considerate of the Soviet-American
strategic balance of advanced nuclear capabilities of the United States’
European allies in the NATO like France and Great Britain. 

In that context, the Soviet Union started in the late 1970s to modernize
its intermediate-range missiles.  The
Soviets deployed hundreds of intermediate range missiles that  were an improved version of intermediate
range ballistic missiles; they had better accuracy than
the older missiles which carried one warhead each and were immobile. However,
the Soviet new missile system in Europe could not reach American territory by
any means, while the American missiles system in Europe could hit the Soviet
territory, namely Moscow region.  In the
light of the technological advancement of the American missiles in Europe and
their accuracy, the Soviet administration found a reasonable basis for its
fears of a geostrategic imbalance that pushed them to play a pressure card on
Europe by deploying their new missiles to deter the danger of the American
missiles in Europe.

   In 1976 the Soviet Union
deployed hundreds of intermediate-range SS-20 missiles. Before that, the SS-4
and SS-5 missiles that carried one warhead each and were immobile, were already
there on soviet territory- both in Asia and Europe- but the new developed
missiles were more advanced and could carry 3 warheads per-missile with longer
range and were road mobile. Such an advanced mobile system was seen by the NATO
as a war-fighting nuclear threat and as a Soviet attempt to dominate Western
Europe. Those new missiles were capable of reaching almost any target in
Western Europe and were thus considered as a threat to European territory as
they could possibly delink NATO from the United Sates and this in turn would
make it difficult for Washington to reassure its allies. In this sense, the
strategic balance was altered with this deployment.

   The number of Soviet intermediate-range
missiles was approximately 600, 500 of them in Europe alone with three warheads
each, while Britain and France together had a total of 178 missiles with one
warhead each. The SS-20 could carry three warheads in addition to having a
mobile launching platform. The fact that those new SS-20 missiles were mobile
meant that targeting them by NATO was almost impossible. This modernization and
expansion of the nuclear missiles made the NATO feel threatened. Although those
missiles could not reach the United States, but the United States felt alarmed
as well as it was in a position where it was not capable of protecting its
Allies.  The pressure was big and the
problem of the Soviet European nuclear weapons pushed the United States and the
Soviet Union to start negotiations. The negotiations process was complicated
and did not lead to any results.




   It was in 1977, when the West
German Chancellor Helmut Shcmidt in a lecture at the International Institute of
Strategic Studies in London brought forward the issue of the Soviet deployment
of the SS-20 and called for a response on the part of the NATO. With that
deployment and European pressure, the Americans met with the Allies early 1979
to reach a clear stand, and they did agree that the NATO needed to modernize
and install its intermediate-range ballistic missiles in response to the Soviet
development of USSR’s nuclear systems.

   On 12 December 1979, a special
meeting for Western Foreign and Defense ministers –except for those of France–
was held in Brussels. They very first point in the official text of that
meeting is the “Warsaw Pact military build-up” which had “developed a large and
growing capability in nuclear systems that directly threaten Western Europe.”

   It is obvious from the record
of that meeting that the trends of modernization and expansion in Soviet theatre
nuclear forces (TNFs) worried the alliance, they “prompted serious concerns”
towards the “Soviet superiority in theatre nuclear systems” as they could
possibly subvert “the stability achieved in inter-continental systems and cast
doubt on the credibility of the Alliances deterrent strategy by highlighting
the gap in the spectrum of NATO’s available nuclear response to aggression.”

   In that December meeting, the
ministers made what came to be known as the NATO Double-Track Decision. This
decision implicated that the NATO would modernize its long range theatre
nuclear force (LRTNF) by deploying Pershing II missiles and GLCMs with a single
warhead each, and at the same time the NATO would hold negotiations with the
Soviets to limit their theatre nuclear arms in Europe. Those negotiations had a
4-year deadline by the end of which there were two options: either the soviet
“threat” is eliminated diplomatically, or 572 medium-range NATO missiles would
be deployed in western Europe. During the whole negotiations period, preparations
by the Americans and the NATO for deployment was ongoing. Preparing
infrastructure, improving the missile system, launching system etc. all that
was proceeding apace; Washington was at that time developing a parallel system,
extending the range of West Germany’s Pershing missile while simultaneously
pushing negotiations with the Soviet Union over intermediate range missiles.

   Negotiating teams were formed
on both sides, the Soviet side was headed by Yuli A. Kvitsinsky, and on the
other side was Paul Nitze, the chief American negotiating team. The negotiations
system was based on the SALT talks, the negotiators held 6 rounds in total,
each round was two months long. Negotiations were in a race with the 4-year
deadline for arms control progress, but both sides looked at each other as
negotiating in bad faith so to speak.

   This double-track decision
started a wave of anti-nuclear weapons campaigns across Europe against the NATO
decision that reached their peak in 1983. People took to the streets in western
Europe demanding to end the arms race pressuring European governments to close
American military basis in Europe by 1983 when the negotiations failed and
Western Governments suffered to keep the unity of the Alliance in the middle of
public protests and the Soviet propaganda supporting it.


Suggested Solutions for the European Missiles Problem


   Both sides proposed possible
options to reach an agreement that would end this missiles crisis. However,
each and every suggestion put forward by all sides was obstructed be either
sides. By 1980, the Soviet Union suggested the “freezing” of the deployment
process on its side and on the side of the NATO. Later in 1981 they proposed decreasing
the number of intermediate-range missiles in Europe to 300 missiles on each
side. After that followed the suggestion of establishing an equal number of
missile launchers in Europe conditioning that the number of the Soviet missiles
in Europe would be equal to that of France and Britain together.  Along with many other suggestions put forward
by the Soviets, the American administration rejected all the aforementioned

   On the other side, the
Americans proposed what was known as the “Zero-option”.   Ronald Regan came to office in January 1981
and he continued with the double-track decision and proposed the complete
elimination of Soviet intermediate-range missile in Europe. In this proposal,
Ragan called for a complete disposal of all Soviet SS-20, SS-4 and SS-5 in
Europe and Asia, in return the United States would not continue headway with
the preparations for the deployment of the 572 new GLCMs and the Pershing IIs
in Europe, but that would not include the British and French forces as part of
the NATO forces. This proposal was not even thinkable for the Soviets for the
facts that first, the Soviets had to dismantle all their missiles while the
Americans would only promise not to deploy the ones that they already have.
Second, it would violate the principle of equality and equal security as
Gromyko put it. Third, this option was not acceptable because it would not
include the French and the British forces.

Many propose that Regan seemed to be trying to gain public sympathy as
he was suggesting a total annihilation of nuclear force. It did not really
matter how many Soviet missiles were there, the Americans were trading zero for
whatever number of missiles really existed. The Soviet side took this
suggestion to be putting sticks in the wheels since it was too clear that the
Soviets would not accept it whatsoever.

   Another proposal that was
presented was the Zero-plus option. It was put forward by the west Germans and
it indicated that the dismantling of all missiles would be preferable, but
keeping some would be acceptable also. In other words, some but not all of the Soviet
SS-20s would be dismantled, and some but not all of the planned NATO missiles
would be deployed. Again, this solution was rejected by the Soviets, and even
when it was made the Americans were always stressing that the “zero” would be
still the best option to consider.

   Later came the “interim
solution”. This one proposed equal ceiling for both sides at a level higher
than zero but lower than 572 on the NATO side, but still the French and British
missiles were not included. This ceiling was not only to be imposed on the
Soviet missiles in Europe, but also those in Asia were included in the European
arms control. This solution was declined in a press conference conducted by
Gromyko with a clear restatement that unless the proposed solution would fit
into the Soviet terms they would still be rejected.

   Public exchange of proposals
and rejections became a casual practice, and the Soviets negotiating tactics
which went down to small details and numbers exhausted the American side that
in his book Deadly Gambits, Strobe Talbott mentions the anecdote that
Nitze took on reading the history of negotiations of Jesuits’ endeavors to talk
on the part of the Poles with Ivan the Terrible. Talbott writes that “Nitze
was finding it harder to derive even the compensatory intellectual pleasure of out-arguing
the Soviets: the arguments themselves had become so familiar, tedious, and
sterile; the Soviet position was becoming in some respects more subtle, in
other respects more blatant, but in all respects more unyielding.”

   As negotiations got stuck at
the point of including the British and the French forces as NATO forces or not,
two men from both negotiating teams proved to be more rational than everyone
else. The head of the Soviet negotiating Yuli Kvitsinsky, and the head of the
American negotiating team took the initiative and held a meeting on their own
and set on reaching a proposal that they would later present to their
governments. That package deal was later known as the “Walk in the Woods”. It called
for an equal reduction in intermediate range forces with an equal ceiling for
both sides for submarine systems and a reduction in aircraft bombers. They
reached a solution where the United States would not deploy the Pershing IIs,
but would have a number of GLCMs, and the Soviets in their turn would have
SS-20s in equal numbers to those cruise missiles but the British and the French
systems would not count. Nitze later said that his and Kvitsinsky’s goal was to
agree to certain concessions that would allow for a summit meeting Brezhnev and
Reagan later in 1982. While the “walk in the woods” deal was never implemented,
it gave many other countries hope that there could be a defrosting in the Cold
War. Nitze, was attacked by  points
out, went even beyond his instructions to work out a deal with his Soviet
counterpart, Yuli A. Kvitsinsky, but the working document they produced was never
official, and also not accepted by either governments when it was passed in the

 The White House was skeptical
about Nitze’s initiative, and many turned against him suggesting that he was
undermining the authority and person of the President taking on the endeavor to
work individually.  Interestingly enough,
Nitze was of the biggest opponents to SALT II, yet he came to a leading figure
who worked wholeheartedly to make a compromise to solve the European missiles

In a declassified document from president Regan’s library was found a
document which reported on the Nitze-Kvitsinsky deal. In this document, Nitze’s
“unorthodox route” by going beyond the instructions given to him by President
Regan. His walk in the woods with Kvitsinsky and their package deal seemed to
be undercutting the proposal toward which the Americans were negotiating toward
from the very beginning, namely the “zero option”.

   Although Nitze was against SALT
II ratification in 1979, he worked so hard to make negations over the European
missiles problem succeed. He together with Kvitsinsky were the only ones who
thought strategically. Their “walk in the woods” proposal would have solved the
whole problem before reaching the deadline, but participants in the negotioans
apparently did not want that to happen. Even when the Americans yielded and
considered taking the “walk in the woods” package deal, the Soviet reply was
that there was no official proposal of that deal in the first place.

   Negotiaions where moving toward
a closed end that in a dinner at Nitze’s apartment Kvitsinsky even told he wife
of one of the American delegation’s members as she was complaining how annoying
it has become moving between the United States and Geneva not knowing when
would the negotiations end. According to Talbott, Kvitsinsky’s answer simply
came out thath the Soviet walk out would happen between November 15 and 22,
which were the dates of the expected arrival of the American missiles to

   Looking at the details of the
negotioans, all the proposals, all the rejections and arguments, and the
attitude from Nitze’s and Kvitsinsky’s strategic deal that was presented in the
summer of 1982, more than a year before the deployment, that those negotiations
were doomed to fail even before they began.


Why did the negotiations fail?


   With the complicated negotiations
between 1979 and 1983, there were many points at which the European missiles
problem could have been solved with both sides remaining satisfied. All
American proposals were met by Soviet military objection because the aimed at
the belittling Soviet capacities. On the other hand, Americans viewed the Soviet
proposals as a monopoly of the missiles as mere attempts to postpone the
deployment of the Pershing IIs and cruise missiles in Western Europe and to
dominate Europe and undermine the capacities of NATO. The Nitze-Kvitsinsky
package- could have ended the dilemma and put an end to all that nuclear
tension, but did not. Eventually the talks sopped in November 1983 when the West
German parliament, the Bundestag approved the deployment of the Pershing IIs.  

   Although the missiles were
still not fully ready and there were some technical problems to solve, but the
American administration was running toward that deadline. The deployment of the
American missiles was no longer a military issue but a political one as
everyone was aware that chances of war are almost null. It was Richard Burt,
the Assistant Secretary of State for the European and Eurasian Affairs, who
said that “We don’t care if the goddamn things work or not. After all, that
doesn’t matter unless there’s war. What we care about is getting them

   The United States pursued the
deployment of its missile system in Europe, the Soviets walked out of the
negotiations as a result of failing to reach an agreement or even to answer the
question put to discussion. As a counter action, the Soviet Union unilaterally announced
cancelling the suspension of the deployment of intermediate- range missiles in
Europe and even worked on increasing the numbers its tactical missiles Temp-S
in Czechoslovakia and East Germany and announced the decision to develop new
mobile intermediate missiles to place in them in Europe, and to relocate some
of its missiles to new locations from which it can target the North-Western
parts of the United States.  Ideologies
of both the Soviet Union and the United States, failed to lead to arms
reduction by the end of the assigned deadline, on the contrary it led to a
buildup on armaments. Both sides were aware of how things would end up and saw
the closing scene pretty much before it came, simply because they were both
aware of the path they were taking by allowing politics over-rule strategic
thinking.  In the European missiles
problem, politics had power over strategy, not strategy over politics.
Kvitsinsky and Nitze were the only ones to think strategically but in the end
their solution was not adopted and they themselves ended their “relationship”
on bad terms that was nothing like their walk in the woods earlier. Ironically
enough, Moscow under Gorbachev eventually realized that it would rather
eliminate the SS-20s than have to deal with the Pershing IIs, therefore both
sides ended up signing the Zero-option in 1987 which.




   In that period, the Soviet
Union and the United States did not manage to resolve their contradictions on
the arms race and tension through negotiations while there was an opportunity
to find a compromise.  Negotiators who
handled the problem of missiles in Europe managed to elaborate an agreement
which was mutually accepted, but the governments did not accept those
compromises. While Nitze and Kvitsinsky were artefully paving the way for a
strategic solution, politicians thought the opposite and stood in the way of
any compromise.

The nuclear arms control negotiations in this period reveal the struggle
between politics and strategy and give an exceptional example of how ideology
and politics were behind the failure or stalemate of negotiations between the
Soviets and the Americans at that time.






























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