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The Hilltop Review

Volume 5
Issue 1 Fall 2011

Article 5

December 2011

Trust, but Verify: Reagan, Gorbachev, and the INF


Treaty
William D. Watson
Western Michigan University

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Recommended Citation
Watson, William D. (2011) "Trust, but Verify: Reagan, Gorbachev, and the INF Treaty," The Hilltop Review: Vol. 5: Iss. 1, Article 5.
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22

TRUST,BUTVERIFY:REAGAN,GORBACHEV,ANDTHE
INFTREATY

ByWilliamD.Watson
DepartmentofHistory
william.d.watson@wmich.edu

Everyman,womanandchildlivesunderanuclearswordofDamocles,hangingbytheslen
derestofthreads,capableofbeingcutatanymomentbymiscalculation,oraccident,orby
madness.Theweaponsofwarmustbeabolishedbeforetheyabolishus.1
JohnF.Kennedy

OnDecember8,1987,PresidentRonaldReaganandGeneralSecretaryMikhail
GorbachevsignedtheIntermediateNuclearForceTreaty(INF),whichaimedtoeliminate
shortandmediumrangenuclearweaponsfromtheirrespectivenationalarsenals.Itwasa
smallbutsignificantstepinthelongprocessofeasingColdWartensionsbetweentheUnited
StatesandtheSovietUnion.However,whenReaganfirsttookofficein1981,thisoutcome
wasfarfrominevitable,andbytheendof1983,relationsbetweentheUnitedStatesandthe
SovietUnionwereasfragileastheyhadbeensincetheCubanMissileCrisisin1962.The
potentialforbrinksmanshipenduredwellintoReaganstenure,despitepreviouseffortsat
dtentebybothgovernments.ThegreatsuccessofReaganandGorbachevwastheiragree
mentinGeneva,Switzerlandin1985toputasideallotherpolicyissuesandagreethat,since
itcannotbewon,nuclearwarmustneverbefought.Thismayseetobeanobviousconclu
sion,buttoputsuchanagreementintopracticerequiredeliminatingthemeansofdeterrence.
Thispaperisadiscussionoftherelationshipbetweenthedeploymentoftwotypesof
intermediate(medium)rangemissilesystemsinEurope,howleadersonbothsidesviewed
thesituation,andhowthepotentialuseofsuchweaponsaffectedsuperpowerrelationsduring
thelastdecadeoftheColdWar.TheseeventsledtothesigningoftheINFTreaty.Iargue
thattheINFTreatyrepresentsanagreementthattheprospectofintercontinentalannihilation
trumpstherealityofregionalprovocation.Thereisnoneedforshortormediumrangenucle
arweaponswhenmutuallyassureddestruction(MAD)isthefoundationofaglobalnuclear
peace.Asaresult,bothleadersagreedtoaverificationschedulebackedupbythepotential
forunilateralnuclearactionifthetreatywasviolated.Byeliminatinganentireclassofnucle
arweapons,andsignificantlyreducingthetotalnumberinexistence,ReaganandGorbachev
decreasedthelikelihoodofanucleardominoeffectexchangewherebyatacticalormedium
rangeattackmightleadtofullscaleretaliation.Inamodernretellingoftheoldparadox,to
securelawfulenforcementoftheINFTreaty,whichaimedatpreventingwar,bothnations
reservedtherightofmutuallyassureddestruction.
ThemostrecentColdWarscholarshiptendstoportraythepositivepersonalrelation
shipbetweenReaganandGorbachevaskeytobuildingtrustandunderstandingbetweenthe
USandSovietgovernments.Gorbachevisfurthersingledoutforhisroleinthepartnership
fortworeasons.Thefirstreasonischronological.GorbachevwasthelastleaderoftheSovi
etUnion,andhistimeinofficebeganafterReaganhadalreadybeenelectedforthesecond
time.Bythisreasoning,Gorbachevisthedifferencemakerbecausechangehappenedonhis
watch.SimilarargumentshavebeenmadeaboutReagan,too.Thislineofthinkingisbased
ontheideathatReaganandGorbachevweresimplyinofficeattheculminationofdecades
1JohnF.Kennedy,AddresstotheUnitedNationsGeneralAssemblySeptember25,1961,
AmericanRhetoricOnlineSpeechBank,http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/
jfkunitednations.htm(accessedJanuary27,2011).

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23WilliamD.Watson

worthofpoliciesonbothsides,thetotalityofwhichinitiatedashockinglyabruptendtothe
ColdWarunderGorbachev,andthebreakupoftheformerSovietempirelessthreeyears

afterReaganssuccessorGeorgeH.W.Bushtookoffice.2
ThesecondreasonGorbachevscontributionisemphasizedismorecomplicatedto
isolate,butismoreorlessaresultofGorbachevspersonality,hisintellect,andanopennessto
change.IndescribingtheatmospherejustaftertheGenevaSummit,preeminentColdWar
historianJohnLewisGaddiswrote:
Twoyearsearlier[Yuri]AndropovhadthoughtReagancapableoflaunch
ingasurpriseattack.NowGorbachevfeltconfidentthattheUnitedStates
would never do this. Reagans position had not changed: he had always
askedSovietleaderstotrustme.AftermeetingReagan,Gorbachevbegan
todoso.3

ByarguingthatReaganhadnotchanged,Gaddisimplicitlymakesthecasethat
Gorbachevwastheonlyoneofthetwowhocouldbreakthedeadlockofmutualantagonism.
OnGorbachevasanindividual,Gaddiswrote,Hechoseloveoverfear,violatingMachiavel
lisadviceforprincesandtherebyensuringthatheceasedtobeone.Itmadelittlesensein
traditionalgeopoliticalterms.Butitdidmakehimthemostdeservingrecipienteverofthe
NobelPeacePrize.4

HistorianMelvynP.LeffleralsoportraysGorbachevasthecentralfigure,highlight
inghisintellectandinternationalism.Duringthe1970sGorbachevworkedfortheCom
munistPartyonimprovingtheSovietagriculturalinfrastructure,whichallowedhimtherare
freedomtotraveloutsidethecountry,and,inparticular,totheWest.Gorbachev,Lefflerex
plains,Likedtalkingtoforeigners,exchangingideas,andmakingcomparisonsbetweenhis
wayoflifeandtheirs.HefeltprideintheSovieteducationalsystem.Hebelievedhiscoun
trymenhadbetteraccesstomedicalcareandsuperiorpublictransportsystem.Buthistravels
abroadbreddoubt.5LefflerdescribesGorbachevasextremelypersonableandengaging,but
hewasalsotoughandintelligent.Hisintellectallowedhimtorecognizefromtheoutset,
thathisdomesticgoalscouldnotbeachievedwithoutreadjustingSovietforeignpolicy.6
Inthisobservation,LefflerandGaddisareinagreement.GaddisarguesthatGorbachevs
openmindednessfreedhimto[sweep]awaycommunismsemphasisontheclassstruggle,
itsinsistenceontheinevitabilityofaworldproletarianrevolution,andhenceitsclaimsofhis
toricalinfallibility.7GorbachevscuriositydidnotgounnoticedbyWesternleaders.
2HistoriansMelvynP.LefflerandJohnLewisGaddisdiscusstheimportanceofGorbachev
asanindividualwithintheSovietsystembasedonhisuniquecombinationofintelligenceand
opportunity.LefflerandGaddiseachnotethatGorbachevsaccesstoeducation,andforeign
travelinparticular,allowedhimtomakecomparisonsbetweenlifeintheSovietUnionand
lifeabroad.TheobservationsGorbachevmadewhentravelingspurredhisopennessto
changeinanefforttoraisethestandardoflivingwithintheSovietUnion.Afterhavingseen
threeconsecutiveSovietleadersdieinoffice,RonaldReaganfinallyfoundanenthusiastic
negotiatingpartnerinGorbachev.BothLefflerandGaddisarguethatthetwomentrulyliked
oneanother.See:JohnLewisGaddis,TheColdWar:ANewHistory(NewYork:Penguin
Press,2005)andMelvynP.Leffler,FortheSoulofMankind:TheUnitedStates,TheSoviet
Union,andtheColdWar(NewYork:HillandWang,2007).
3JohnLewisGaddis,TheColdWar:ANewHistory(NewYork:PenguinPress,2005),231.
4Gaddis,TheColdWar,257.
5MelvynP.Leffler,FortheSoulofMankind:TheUnitedStates,TheSovietUnion,andthe
ColdWar(NewYork:HillandWang,2007),370.
6Leffler,FortheSoulofMankind,381and376.
7Gaddis,TheColdWar,197.

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Trust,butVerify24

AftermeetingGorbachevin1984,BritishPrimeMinisterMargaretThatcherfamouslyob

served,ThisisamanwithwhomIcoulddobusiness.8
GaddisandLefflerarerepresentativeofrevisionistColdWarhistorianswhohave
madetheleaptopostrevisionism.TheopeningofEasternEuropeanarchives,inadditiontoa
runningstreamofmemoirs,andthereleaseofSovietinternaldocumentsforpublicconsump
tion,hasinfusedatangiblesenseofexcitementtorecentColdWarresearch.Todaysscholars
havemuchgreateraccesstoinformationthaneverbefore.Combinedwithanewemphasison
globalizationinwritingAmericanHistory,thataccesshasfedagrowingnumberofColdWar
reexaminations.
HistorianJeremiSurihasalsowrittenabouttheendoftheColdWar.Ina2002arti
cle,SuriexplainedtheendoftheColdWarbyborrowingaconcentriccircleanalogyfrom
JamesJoll.Inhisdescription,SurinotedthatReaganwas,themanlargelyresponsiblefor
thecrisisatmosphereof1983,butthatafteraseriesoftenseeventsthroughouttheyear,
ReaganmadeadecisiveturntowardimprovedSovietAmericanrelations.9LikeGaddisand
Leffler,however,SurialsoholdsaspecialplaceforGorbachev,arguingthat:
GorbachevunderstoodthathishopesforimprovingtheSovieteconomyand
thequalityofdomesticlifeingeneralrequiredapeacefulinternationalcon
text.ContinuedColdWarcompetitionwouldperpetuatethatsocialstagna
tionhe wantedtoeliminate. Onlyextensiveand unprecedentedEastWest
cooperationcouldpermittheallocationofresourcesnecessaryfordomestic
restructuring(perestroika).10
Suriframedtherelationshipasonebetweentwoindividualswhowantthesamething,but
approachitfromtwodifferentdirections.Reaganistheparanoidideologuealwayssearching
forpeacethroughstrength,whileGorbachevisthepragmatist,willingtoexpendpoliticalcap
italinordertobringaboutchange.

WhatallofthesehistorianshaveincommonisthebeliefthatReaganandGorbachev
werebothmenoftheirtimeandcircumstance.Theywerebothmoralandrational,andthey
sincerelylikedoneanother.Theabsenceofpretensionincombinationwithanopenstyleof
dialoguehelpedfosteranhonestrapportbetweenthetwo,whichinturnhelpedthawCold
Wartensionfromthetopdown.Theirmeeting,however,wasfarfrominevitable,andthe
pathleadingtotheINFsigningdateinDecember1987wasfraughtwithnearmissesandreal
tragedy.FromReaganspointofview,theSovietSS20deploymentduringthelate1970s
wasaclearattempttotipthebalanceofpowerinEuropeawayfromtheWest.Onceinoffice,
heworkedtorespondmultilaterallythroughtheNorthAtlanticTreatyOrganization(NATO)
bysupportingaplantomatchtheSovietnuclearthreat.

FirstMoverAdvantage
Properbalanceisthekeytoenduringpowerrelationships.ForEuropeintheearly
yearsoftheColdWar,balancewasmaintainedbymeasuringtheoverwhelmingnumberof
conventionalSovietforcesagainsttheAmericannuclearumbrellawhichprotectedNATO
allies.Thatis,ifleadersintheKremlindecidedtochallengethestatusquobyadvancingmili
tarilyagainstWesternEurope,AmericanandNATOleaderscouldretaliatewithnuclear
weaponstooffsettheirnumericaldisadvantageversustheoncomingforce.However,this
balancewasbasedupontheideathattheSovietmilitarywouldbetheaggressor.FromMos
cowspointofview,NATOleadersfirststrikeoptionwasalwaysnuclear,whichmeanta
Sovietconventionalforceadvantagewasonlyasgoodasanenemysreluctancetousenuclear
8MargaretThatcher,TheDowningStreetYears(NewYork:HarperCollins,1993),463.
9JeremiSuri,ExplainingtheEndoftheColdWar:ANewHistoricalConsensus?,Journal
ofColdWarStudiesVol4No4(Fall2002):6092.
10Suri,Explaining,78.

TheHilltopReview,Fall2011

25WilliamD.Watson

weapons.
AsweaponstechnologyimprovedduringtheColdWar,thisconceptualbalanceitself
wasshakenbytheintroductionofintercontinentalballisticmissiles(ICBMs).Sinceitwasno
longernecessarytobeanywherenearatargetinordertohitit,conventionalforceswereno
longerafirststrikeoptionwhentheexpectedretaliationisoverwhelmingmissileretaliation.
UnderthethreatofintercontinentalMAD,thenumberofdivisionstheSovietshadintheEuro
peantheatrewasirrelevant,sinceICBMscouldbeusedasthegreatequalizerofthe20thcentu
ry.ThedebateoverwhatconstitutedbalanceandsecurityinEurope,andwhetherornot
thetwowerelinked,wasanongoingonethroughouttheColdWar.Onegroupofhistorians
putisthisway:
Thirty years of successful containment in Europe had never resolved the
perenniallydivisivemilitarydilemmasinherentinthe[NATO]alliance.The
heavyrelianceonnuclearweapons,astheonlyeffectiveandaffordablede
terrentandguaranteeofpeace,placedEuropecompletelyunderthedecision
making power of the United States. Washington alone would determine
howEuropewouldbedefendedduringanyhostilities.11

ThelimitedtechnologyofjetbombersandartilleryhelpedsecuretheinitialNATOviewofthe
balance,butconsideringtheacceleratedrateofresearchanddevelopmentinthepostWorld
WarIIworld,itcouldneverlast.
ThesteadilyincreasingtotalnumberofnuclearweaponsledtoanotherseriousCold
Warconcern:antiballisticmissiletechnology(ABM).ThedesiretopossessareliableABM
systemisdirectlyrelatedtothesizeofanenemysnucleararsenal.Ifonesidebelievedit
couldeliminatetheothersabilitytocounterattackbylaunchingafirststrike,thenitwouldbe
rationaltostrikefirst.Itistheabilitytoretaliatewhichmaintainsbalance.Ifonenationbe
gandevelopingtheabilitytodefendagainstafirststrike,itwouldbeinthebestinterestofa
belligerentnationtolaunchanattackbeforethedefensesystemwasoperational.Otherwise,
oncethedefendersshieldisinplace,theycouldstrikewithimpunity.Thisisthelogicbehind
theAntiBallisticMissileTreatyof1972banningsuchtechnology,signedbyRichardNixon
andSovietPremierLeonidBrezhnev.TheABMtreatyrepresentsthespiritofdtente,aless
eningoftensionbetweenthesuperpowers.TheUSinterpretationofdtentewasovertlyshat
teredduringtheJimmyCarterLeonidBrezhnevyearsbySovietinterventionismintheThird
World,andbythetimeReagantookofficeinJanuary1981,therewereproxywarsinAfghani
stan,Nicaragua,andAngola.
InEuropeduringthedtenteperiod,Sovietleaderschosetodeployanewkindof
missile,theSS20.Itscapabilitieswereastonishing:theSS20hadatargetrangeofthree
thousandmiles,carriedmultiplenuclearwarheads,andwascapableofbeinglaunchedfrom
highlymobileplatforms.TheSS20deploymentwasastrategicmove,athreat,thatifeither
theUSoranyofitsNATOalliesattackedtheSovietUnionoranyofitsWarsawPactallies,
massiveretaliationcouldbearealityforanyorallofthem,somewithinjustafewminutes.In
ordertomaketheirthreatcredible,theSovietgovernmentmadesurethatthedeploymentwas
observable.Thereisnobenefittodevelopingweaponsofdeterrenceiftheenemyyouhopeto
detercannotconfirmthedanger.ThethreatwasthenbackedupbyapromisethattheSS20s
weredefensiveinnature,butwouldbelaunchedinretaliationofanuclearfirststrikeagainst
theSovietUnionoranyoftheWarsawPactnations.Thepromiseofretaliationisapromiseto
dosomethingthatarationalormoralleaderwouldnotnormallydo:participateinnuclearwar.
11NormanA.Graebner,RichardDeanBurns,andJosephM.Siracusa,Reagan,Bush,Gor
bachev:RevisitingtheEndoftheColdWar(Westport,CT:PraegerSecurityInternational,
2008),23.

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Trust,butVerify26

ThepromisetouseSS20swasanobservable,crediblethreattoregionalsecurityin
Europe,andtheworld.IndeployingtheSS20,theSovietgovernmentshiftedthebalance.In
1981,formerNationalSecurityAdvisorMcGeorgeBundywrote:
ExpertshavebeenfoundtodoubtthecomfortforEuropeineachsuccessive
Americandoctrine, whetherof massiveretaliation,orflexibleresponse,or
theseamlessNATOTriad.AndSovietthreatsofallsorts,politicalandmil
itary,conventionalandnuclear,actualandhypothetical,haveintermittently
strainedthebalance.Itendures.12

ByNovember1987,Moscowhaddeployed470mediumrangemissiles,capableofstriking
fromNorthAfricatoScandinavia,fromeithersideoftheUralMountains.13

IndependentoftheSovietdevelopmentoftheSS20,Americanmilitarycontractors
designedanearlyequivalentmissilesystem:thePershingII.ThehistoryofthePershingII
researchanddevelopmentdatesbackto1974,buttherealimportofthesystemwasnotrele
vantuntil1979whenNATOapprovedbasingofthePershingIIsinWestGermanyinre
sponsetotheSS20threat.However,twoyearspassedbeforetheprogramenteredthepro
ductionphase.BythattimetheSovietmilitarywasintegratingtwonewSS20sperweekinto
theirarsenal.14
WhenviewedfromtheSovietperspective,thePershingIIsystemwasjustasunset
tlingastheSS20systemwastoNATOallies.ThePershingIIisalsoagroundmobile,sur
facetosurface,nuclearweaponsystem,buthasarangeofonlyonethousandmiles.Byde
ployingthePershingIIsinWestGermany,thetargetzoneincludedeveryWarsawPactna
tion,aswellasthehighestconcentrationofSovietcivilians(westoftheUrals),andMoscow
itself.FormerSecretaryofStateAlexanderHaigrecalledthatSovietForeignMinisterAndrei
Gromyko,madetheexpectedpointthattheSS20sandotherSovietnuclearsystemstargeted
onEuropedidnotthreatenUSterritory,butthePershingIIwouldbewithinrangeofmajor
Sovietcities.15ThissituationissimilartoputtingtheAmericaneasternseaboardwithinrange
ofSovietnuclearforceswhichWashingtonarguedwasunacceptableduringtheCubanMis
sileCrisis.
Becauseoftheunevenresearchanddevelopmenttimelinesofthetwomissilesys
tems,theactualdeploymentofthePershingIIcanbeviewed,bylogicofchronology,asa
reactiontothedeploymentoftheSS20s,butthisdeploymentwasnotguaranteed.

12McGeorgeBundy,StrategicDeterrenceThirtyYearsLater:WhatHasChanged?,inThe
FutureOfStrategicDeterrence,ed.ChristopherBertram,(Hamden,CT:ArchonBooks,
1981),10.
13MemorandumofUnderstandingRegardingtheEstablishmentoftheDataBaseforthe
TreatyBetweentheUnionofSovietSocialistRepublicsandtheUnitedStatesofAmericaon
theEliminationofTheirIntermediateRangeandShorterRangeMissiles,December8,1987,
http://www.fas.org/nuke/control/inf/text/inf3.htm(accessedDecember14,2010).Thisdocu
mentincludesinformationonthetotalnumber,andthemaximumrange,ofbothAmerican
andSovietmissiles,includingtheSS20andPershingII.Thegeographicrangementionedin
thispapersimplyfitsthelistedrangecapabilities.
14AlexanderHaig,Caveat:Realism,Reagan,andForeignPolicy(NewYork:MacMillan,
1984),225.ConsideringthisstatisticcomesfromaformerUSSecretaryofState,itshouldbe
readwithsomecaution.However,theMemorandumofUnderstandingwhichaccompanies
theINFTreatyconfirmsthatarateoftwodeploymentsperweek,startinginthelate1970s,
couldadduptothetotalof470byNovember1987outlinedtherein.
15Haig,Caveat,231.

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27WilliamD.William

Thereare,ofcourse,atleasttwowaystoreacttoanysequentialmovesituation:actionorinac
tion.Sincetheresearchanddevelopmentofthetwomissilesystemswasindependent,their
existencealonecannotbeconsideredasareactiontotheother.Inmilitaryterms,Washington
wantedtheoptionofpeacefuldestructionoftheSS20sasamilitarythreat.Inpoliticalterms,
byarguingfortheeliminationoftheSS20s,WashingtonwasaskingMoscowtoretractits
retaliatorypromiseimplicitinthethreat,whichwouldreturnthebalanceinEuropebacktothe
predtentestatusquo.Inordertoachievethatend,Washingtonhadthechoicetorespondto
theSS20deploymentbyeitherbasingPershingIIsinWesternEurope(action,orhardline
approach),orrelyingontheexistingcountermeasuresalreadyinplace(inaction,softlineap
proach)andnegotiatetheeliminationoftheSS20sfromtheexistingposition.Thedebate
overhowtoreturntotheNATOpreferreddefinitionofbalanceinEuropesplitReaganscabi
net.

SoftLinevs.HardLine

ThesoftlineapproachtoremovaloftheSS20threatwascalledtheZeroOption.
ThedebateovertheZeroOptioneffectivelypittedSecretaryofStateAlexanderHaigagainst
SecretaryofDefenseCasparWeinberger.Inhismemoir,Haigwrotethat:
ThefatalflawintheZeroOptionasabasisfornegotiationswasthatitwas
notnegotiable.ItwasabsurdtoexpecttheSovietstodismantleanexisting
forceof1,100warheads,whichtheyhadalreadyputintothefieldatthecost
ofbillionsofrubles,inexchangeforapromisefromtheUnitedStatesnotto
deploy a missile force that we had not yet begun to build and that had
arousedsuchviolentcontroversyinWesternEurope.CasparWeinberger,in
hisenthusiasmfortheZeroOption,couldnotconcedethispoint.16

HaigsuggestedanaggressiveresponsetotheSS20sasquicklyaspossible.IftheUSgovern
mentwereabletocounterwithdeploymentofthePershingIIsysteminashortperiodoftime,
thentheSovietgovernmentwouldbeforcedtoreactinkind,continuingthecycleoftheexist
ingarmsrace.ByemphasizingthefinancialcostofSS20deploymentoverthedangeritrep
resentedasaweapon,HaigshowsthathewaswillingtoacceptthestatusquoMADinorderto
fighttheSovietseconomically.HefeltthatMoscowcouldnolongermatchtheUSinfinanc
ingtheColdWararmsrace,andthiswasaclearopportunitytoattacktheirrationalityoftheir
economicsystem,ratherthantherationalityoftheirleaders.Haigfeltthattheonlywaythe
SovietswouldnotcheataverificationtreatywasiftheUShadacomparablethreattotheSS
20inthefield.17
Earlyinthedebate,Weinbergerclearlysawthesituationdifferently.LikeHaig,he
neverdoubtedthattheKremlinwouldneedsomesortofincentivetodestroyitsSS20s,but
Weinbergerfeltthatthemereexistenceofacomparablemissilesystemwouldbeenough,and
thatactualdeploymentwouldbeunnecessary.However,Weinbergerspositionwascontin
gentontwopoints.Hewrites:
Bythe firstofthe two,theSoviets wouldnotonlyremovetheSS20s,but
wouldactuallydestroythem.ThatwasimportantbecausetheSS20swere
mobile.Theotheressential,Ifelt,toanytreatyonanysubjectwiththeSo
vietUnion, wasthroughonsiteverification.Meanwhile,Ididnotfeel we
should stop our work on the Pershing IIs or the cruise missiles. I felt that
there would be no possibility of the Soviets agreeing to take out their SS
20s,unless,anduntil,theyhadthekindofinducementthatdeploymentof
16Haig,Caveat,229.
17Haig,Caveat,229.

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Trust,butVerify28

thePershingIIswouldbring.18

Weinbergerfeltthatexistingsystemswereenoughdeterrenceinthefield,butwantedtopre
parefor,ratherthancommitto,futuremissiledeployment.Hehadfaiththatsubmarinebased
missiles,F111bombers,andInterContinentalBallisticMissilesystems(ICBMs)wouldbe
enoughincentiveforMoscowtobackdownfromthisparticularengagement,providedthat
WashingtoncontinuedmovingforwardwiththeresearchanddevelopmentofthePershing
II.19

HaigwarnedReaganthattheZeroOption,wasamistakethathewouldhaveto
modifywithintheyear.20WeinbergerwaspleasedthatReaganatfirstfavoredtheZeroOp
tion,butlaterrecalled,Haigneednothavefeared,becausetothePresidentsdisappointment
andmine,theimmediatereactionwasalmostallnegative.21
IftheZeroOptionbestrepresentsthesoftlineapproach,thentheNATODualTrack
policybestrepresentsthehardlinepointofview,withacaveat.TheDualTrackwasanat
tempttocombinebothmilitary(hardline)andpolitical(softline)policies.Trackonewasa
directdeploymentresponsetotheSS20.InDecember1979,asnotedabove,NATOleaders
approvedthebasingofPershingIImissilesinWestGermany,andgroundlaunchedcruise
missiles(GLCMs)intheNetherlands,Belgium,England,andItaly.InDecember1981,the
PershingIIprogramenteredtheproductionphase,andbyJune1984,deploymentofthefirst
PershingIIbattalionwascomplete.
TracktwowasanaccompanyingpolicytoTrackone.Throughoutthelatterprocess
WesternleadersmaintainedanopenpositiononnegotiatingtheeliminationofSS20swith
leadersfromtheKremlin.ByleavingtheSoftLineapproachopen,bothReaganadministra
tionandNATOofficialscouldclaimtobeadvocatesofpragmaticarmscontrolattheleast,
andbenevolentarmsreductionatthebest.Ifsuccessful,theTwoTrackpolicywouldachieve
theNATOdefinitionofbalanceeitherway.FromtheSovietpointofview,thiswasanag
gressivemovewhichputMoscowatriskoftotaldestructionwithintenminutesofalaunch.

ThePublicSphere

TheDualTrackpolicyostensiblyshowedthatleadersinbothWashingtonand
NATOsawnochangeintheoverallprecariousnatureofColdWardeterrence.Theultimate
deterrencewastheabilitytoretaliateagainstanyfirststrike,whetheritoccurredinEuropeor
elsewhere.However,thispositionwasterrifyingtomanyEuropeans,aswellaspeoplewho
heldphilosophicaldisagreementswiththeexistenceofnuclearweaponsaltogether.Theonly
waytotestifWashingtonwouldsacrificeNewYorkforParisisforParistobedestroyedfirst
everytime.
SincebothSovietandAmericangovernmentsmadethreatsoffullscaleretaliationif
anallywereattacked,MADhadtobeconsideredacrediblethreatbecauseofthecostoftest
inganopponentsresolve.Thislineofthinkingputanextraordinaryamountofpressureon
theUSgovernmenttobackupitsallieswithindependentdeterrents.IfWesternEuropewasa
target,thenNATOalliesneededtobeabletostrikebackindependentlyoftheUS,hencethe
necessityofNATOcountrieshavingPershingIImissilesandGLCMsonsite.Thequestion
ofwhetherornotAmericanleaderswerewillingtoriskNewYorktodefendPariscouldbe
eliminatedbygivingNATOleaderstheabilitytoretaliateontheirown.FailurebyNATOto
retaliate,ortheincapabilityofretaliation,couldstillbeoverriddenbythepotentialofWash
18CasparWeinberger,FightingforPeace:SevenCriticalYearsinthePentagon(NewYork:
WarnerBooks,1990),337.
19Weinberger,Fighting,340.
20Haig,Caveat,229.
21Weinberger,Fighting,341.Italicsintheoriginal.

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29WilliamD.Watson

ingtontostrikeontheirbehalfwithICBMs.ThebasingofPershingIImissilesinWestern
Europemerelyresettheregionalbalanceofterror.

Palpableconcernsovertheuseofnuclearweaponsdrovemanypeopletodemon
strateagainsttheirveryexistence.By1982peopleweremarchingbythethousandsinChica
go,andhundredsofthousandsinNewYork.TheCatholicBishopsofAmericaspokeout
againstthearmsraceasimmoral.Andbytheendof1982,theantinuclearmovementwas
activeinfortythreestates.22Europeanswerejustasconcerned,ifnotmoreso,considering
firststrikepossibilities.Injustonemonth,thenumberofprotestersinBonn,London,and
Parisnumberedoverhalfamillionpeople.23

Avisualrepresentationofthenuclearfreezemovementwaspublishedinnewspapers
acrosstheUSinJuly1985.Theimageshowsasmall,singlemissilesilhouetterepresenting
allthebombsdroppedinWWIIcontrastedagainst6,667tinysilhouettesrepresentingthecur
rentcollectivenucleararsenaloftheworld.Theaccompanyingtextincludedsoberingstatis
ticsaboutthepotentialdestructivepoweroftheUSandSovietarsenals,encouragedpeopleto
contactbothPresidentReaganandSecretaryGorbachevinsupportofupcomingsummittalks,
andasked,Howlongcanwelivewiththearmsrace?24
IfReaganshardlineapproachtotheColdWarwasterrifyingtothepeople
inthefreezemovement,itwasreassuringtopeoplewhobelievedinhiscon
cept of a position of strength. In a letter to the President in 1984, Charls
Walker of the private interest group Committee on the Present Danger ex
pressedhissupportforReaganandhispolicies:
As youhave longrecognized,badarmscontrolagreementsareworsethan
noneatall.Equitablearmscontrolagreementscouldplayapartininsuring
U.S.security butwhethertheSovietsarepreparedtoenterintoequitable
agreementsissubjecttodoubt.Today,withthemilitarybalanceprecarious
ly tipped against us, Americas security is directly dependent on growing
strengthinourdefenseforces.25
Theideathatbadarmscontrolagreementsareworsethannoneatallwassharedbymany,
butthisconceptholdsinherentlogicalfallacies.Thisideaisamoralisticone,inwhichtheUS
onlyparticipatesinthearmsraceinareactiveway,ratherthanasthefirstcause.Ifthereisa
legallybindingtreaty,thenbothpartiesmustanswertotheletterofthelaw.Butintheab
senceofatreaty,valuejudgmentsruletheday,feedingthenuclearhysteriaratherthanfoster
ingpeacefulnegotiation.
ManyCongressmen,bothRepublicansandDemocrats,recognizedthisproblem,and
encouragedReagantomakethenecessaryeffortstofindcommongroundwithSovietleaders.
RepublicanSenatorLarryPresslerwrotetoReagan,pleading,weoweittotheworldtone
gotiate,andthatsuspendedtalkswouldnotbeintheinterestofanynation.26Shortlythereaf
ter,agroupofDemocraticHouseRepresentativesencouragedReagantobelessconfronta
tional,andmorediplomatic.Theyarguedthatitwas,intheinterestofallmankindthatseri
ousbilateralnegotiationsberesumed.27
22Graebner,etal,Reagan,Bush,Gorbachev,32.
23Graebner,etal,Reagan,Bush,Gorbachev,33.
24Letter,JoanB.KroctoRonaldReagan,July12,1985,WHORM:F00603,RonaldReagan
Library.
25Letter,CharlsE.WalkertoRonaldReagan,January11,1984,WHORM:F00603,Ronald
ReaganLibrary.
26Letter,LarryPresslertoRonaldReagan,November25,1983,WHORM:F00603,Ronald
ReaganLibrary.
27Letter,BillGreentoRonaldReagan,February10,1984,WHORM:F00603,Ronald
ReaganLibrary.

TheHilltopReview,Fall2011

Trust,butVerify30

AgroupofRepublicanSenatorsledbyMalcolmWallopandJesseHelmscosigned
alettertoReaganregardingtheadministrationspolicyofrecognizingtheparametersofthe
unratifiedSALTIItreaty.Theyasked,Shallyoucontinuetoabideunilaterallybytreaties
andagreementsthattheSovietshaveviolatedandthathaveexpiredanyhow?Unilateralcom
plianceisunilateraldisarmament.TheseSenatorsarguedforthenegative,andtheyrejected
thetitfortatstrategyofmatchingSoviettreatyinfractions.Wallop,Helms,andtheothers
agreed,thatoptionwouldgivetheSovietUnioncontroloverwhatwedoanddontdo,and,
aboveall,keepourdefenseplanningwithinaframeworkthatisfundamentallywrong.28
Reagan,ofcourse,agreedthataworldfreeofnuclearweaponswouldbeaworld
muchimproved.Yettherealitywasthatnoone,nomatterhowmuchpowertheywielded,
hadtheabilitytosimplycallforthedestructionofanucleararsenal.Thereweretoomany
overlappinginterestsinvolved,andalwaysthebalanceofpowertoconsider.
ThispointisperhapsbestsummedupbyformerdiplomatMilesCopelandinhis
seminalwork,TheGameofNations.Hewrites,whenvitalnationalinterestsareatstake,
andwhenitisaquestionofseeingthemendangeredorbowingtosomehighmoralprinciple,
thereisnoquestionbutthatitisthehighmoralprinciplewhichwillsuffer.29Theendangered
highmoralprincipleinthiscaseisthatthemereexistenceofnuclearweaponsisimmoral.
Theparadoxisthatifjustonebelligerentnationpossessesnuclearweapons,itisimmoralnot
topossessthemforyourownnation.Thisparadoxofpoliticsandmoralsisasoldastime.In
tryingtoservethebestinterestofanationinaworldinwhichsomeotherleadersbehaveim
morally,behavingmorallymayputyouatadisadvantage,andthereforethreatensthebest
interestofyournation.Thosewhowouldbehaveimmorallycanmanipulatepredictablemoral
behavior.ReaganconfirmedasmuchinhisStateoftheUnionaddressin1985,stating,We
cannotplayinnocentsabroadinaworldthatsnotinnocent. 30Whenitcomestothenuclear
armsrace,behavingmorallyisimmoralwhenyouareinapositionofpower,unlessanduntil
anothernationhasthecapabilityofMAD,atwhichpointmoralityonceagaintakesover.
Thiskindoftheoreticalwordplayisdifficulttoimparttothemasseswhentheconsequences
ofmiscalculationcouldmeantheendofcivilizationastheyknowit.Fearismucheasierto
conveythanreason.Inlookingacrosstheoceansatoneanother,bothnationssawdanger.

TheMirrorImage

TheyearsbetweenReagansfirstelectionandtheascendancyofGorbachevtoGen
eralSecretaryweresomeofthedarkestdaysoftheColdWar.Theatmosphereledmanypeo
pletobelievethatescalationwastheonlyconstant,andthatthecruelteleologicalpathofa
nucleararmsracecouldonlyleadononehorrifyingconclusion.Reflectingonthetensionin
early1980s,Gorbachevwrote,Thiswasatimewhenmanypeopleinthemilitaryandamong
thepoliticalestablishmentregardedawarinvolvingweaponsofmassdestructionasconceiva
bleandevenacceptable,andweredevelopingvariousscenariosofnuclearescalation.31Inhis
memoirs,Reaganrecalledthat,Icarriedasmallplasticcoatedcardwithme,[which]listed
thecodesIwouldissuetothePentagonconfirmingthatitwasactuallythepresidentofthe
UnitedStateswhowasorderingtheunleashingofournuclearweapons.Thedecisionto
28Letter,MalcolmWalloptoRonaldReagan,June4,1985,WHORM:F00603,Ronald
ReaganLibrary.
29MilesCopeland,TheGameofNations(NewYork:CollegeNotes&Texts,Inc,1969),28.
30RonaldReagan,PublicPapersofthePresidentoftheUnitedStates:RonaldReagan,1985
VolumeI(WashingtonDC:GovernmentPrintingOffice,1988),135.
31MikhailGorbachev,TheNuclearThreat,inImplicationsoftheReykjavikSummitonIts
TwentiethAnniversary,edSydneyD.DrellandGeorgeP.Schultz(Stanford:HooverInstitu
tion,2007),9.

TheHilltopReview,Fall2011

31WilliamD.Watson

launchtheweaponswasminealonetomake.32
AssumeforamomentthatReagansstatementaboutbeingsolelyresponsiblefor
orderinganuclearstrikeistrue,andthateveryonefromthetopdownwouldfollowsuchan
order.IftheSovietswithdrewtheirSS20swithoutsomecombinationofthreatorconcession
fromWashington,theywouldappearweak,andlosecredibilityintheirreputationashardlin
ers.Intheabsenceofeconomicpower,politicalwillbackedbymilitaryreputationisthe
strongestfeatureofanygovernment,andthereforeindispensable.WhatevertheNATOre
sponsewouldbetotheSS20deployment,shortofnuclearwar,Moscowcouldnotblink.To
dosowouldindicatelessthantotalfaithinthechoicetodeploytheSS20s.Intheresulting
geopoliticalatmosphere,everysituationinvolvingeithertheUSorSovietUnionwashighly
scrutinizedandpresentedasproofoftheothersaggressionorintransigence.
InthecollaborativeeffortTheSwordandtheShield,historianChristopherAndrewdescribes
theSovietpositionearlyintheReaganadministration.Andrewwrites,Inasecretspeechto
amajorKGBconferenceinMay1981,avisiblyailingBrezhnevdenouncedReaganspolicies
asaseriousthreattoworldpeace.33Atthesameconference,KGBDirectorYuriAndropov
announcedoperationRYAN(RaketnoYadernoyeNapadenie,NuclearMissileAttack).
Andrewcontinues,RYANspurposewastocollectintelligenceonthepresumed,butnon
existent,plansoftheReaganadministrationtolaunchanuclearfirststrikeagainsttheSoviet
UnionadelusionwhichreflectedboththeKGBscontinuingfailuretopenetratethepolicy
makingoftheMainAdversaryanditsrecurrenttendencytowardsconspiracytheory.34
By1983,BrezhnevhadpassedawayandAndropovwasthenewGeneralSecretary.
Unfortunately,Andropovshealthuponenteringofficewasnotmuchofanimprovementover
Brezhnevslateryears,andtheparanoidviewofWashingtoncontinuedunabated.Indescrib
ingAndropovandthepoliticalclimateof1983,historianVladislovZubokwrites,OnSep
tember29,PravdapublishedhisfarewelladdressonSovietAmericanrelations.Andropov
informedtheSovietpeoplethattheReaganadministrationwassetuponadangerouscourse
toensureadominatingpositionintheworldfortheUnitedStatesofAmerica.35Previousto
hisdutiesasGeneralSecretary,AndropovhadbeenthelongestservingheadoftheKGB,and
hewaswellawareoftheAmericangovernmentsgeopoliticalstrategyandcapability.Based
onAmericanactions,notwords,Andropovmadeagoodpoint.

Forhispart,Reaganwasalltoohappytoplaytheinsultgame,andconsistentlyde
ridedtheSovietUnioninpublic.InaspeechtotheBritishHouseofCommons,Reagan
warnedthat,themarchoffreedomanddemocracywillleaveMarxismLeninismontheash
heapofhistory.36Inhisfirstterm,ReaganfamouslylabeledtheSovietUnionanevilem
pireandwarnedpeoplenottoremoveyourselffromthestrugglebetweenrightandwrong
andgoodandevil.37GeorgeKennan,thefatherofUScontainmentpolicycalledReagans
viewstowardtheSovietUnionintellectualprimitivism.38
32RonaldReagan,AnAmericanLife(NewYork:SimonandSchuster,1990),257.
33ChristopherAndrewandVasiliMitrokhin,TheSwordandtheShield:TheMitrokhinAr
chiveandtheSecretHistoryoftheKGB(NewYork:BasicBooks,1999),213.
34AndrewandMitrokhin,SwordandtheShield,213.
35VladislovZubok,AFailedEmpire:TheSovietUnionintheColdWarfromStalintoGor
bachev(ChapelHill:UniversityofNorthCarolinaPress,2007),274.
36RonaldReagan,PublicPapersofthePresidentoftheUnitedStates:RonaldReagan,1982
(Washington,DC:GPO,1983),747.
37Reagan,PublicPapersofthePresidentoftheUnitedStates:RonaldReagan,1983
(Washington,DC:GPO,1984),364.
38MarkA.Stoler,IdeologyAnew,Readbyauthor,TheTeachingCompany,2008.

TheHilltopReview,Fall2011

Trust,butVerify32

ReaganalsocomparedSovietleaderstotheirmostbitterofantagonists,theNazis.
FortheSoviets,thegreatestsourceofnationaltragedyandpridewaswinningtheGreatPatri
oticWar.InaMarch1981interviewwithWalterCronkite,Reagansaid,Irememberwhen
Hitlerwasarmingandhadbuilthimselfupnoonescreatedquitethemilitarypowerthatthe
SovietUnionhas,butcomparativelyhewasinthatway.39ItwasnottheonlytimeReagan
associatedtheSovietswiththeirWorldWarIIadversary.InaspeechtoCongress,Reagan
comparedtheSovietcommunistinfluencesinCentralAmericaandtheCaribbeanwithGer
manUboatsoperatingintheGulfofMexicoduringtheearly1940s.40Indescribingthecur
rentSovietleadershipassimilartoNazileadership,Reaganwasverballysaltingthepsychic
woundsincurredbymillionsofcivilians.Asonehistorianhasnoted,ProbablynoAmerican
policymakeratanytimeduringtheColdWarinspiredquiteasmuchfearandloathinginMos
cowasRonaldReaganduringhisfirsttermaspresident.41

TheYearofLivingDangerously

InJanuary1983,ReaganmadeantagonizingtheSovietsofficialpolicywhenhe
signedNationalSecurityDecisionDirective75(NSDD75),titledUSRelationswiththe
USSR.NSDD75isthewrittenrepresentationofReagansconceptofapositionofstrength.
ThepolicycallsfortheUStochallengetheSovietUnionmilitarily,subverttheauthorityof
theKremlinwithintheUSSR,andatthesametimealwaysextendanolivebranchtonegotiate
shouldthefirsttwopointsaggravateSovietleaderstothepointofexhaustiononanyparticular
issue.42
Themostsuccessfulportionofthispolicy,andalsopotentiallythemostdangerous,
wasitsmilitarystrategy.Inpart,NSDD75reads:
TheUSmustmodernizeitsmilitaryforcesbothnuclearandconventional
sothattheSovietleadersperceivethattheUSisdeterminednevertoac
ceptasecondplaceoradeterioratingmilitaryposture.Sovietcalculations
ofpossiblewaroutcomesunderanycontingencymustalwaysresultinout
comessounfavorabletotheUSSRthattherewouldbenoincentiveforSo
vietleaderstoinitiateanattack.43
Thislineofthinkingiscontingentupontwoveryprecariousassumptions,thefirstofwhichis
beingabletoguesshowSovietleadersperceiveasituation,and,second,whattheir
calculationsmightbeifUSpolicymakerscorrectlydeterminedtheanswertothefirstas
sumption.ReaganaddedtothispolicyinastatementtoCongressinJune1985,whenhesaid
itwasnecessaryto,makeitcleartoMoscowthatviolationsofarmscontrolobligationsentail
realcosts,andthattheUSshouldcontinuewithstrategicmodernizationprogramsasa
hedgeagainstthemilitaryconsequencesof[]Sovietviolationsofexistingarmsagreements
whichtheSovietsfailtocorrect.44

Whenthetwodoctrinesarecombined,thesituationreadslikethis:ifWashington
guesseswrongonSovietperceptionsofanygivensituation,andthenMoscowreactsinaway
thatUSofficialsdidnotanticipate,thenUSofficialsreservetherighttorespondinatitfortat
fashionbasedontheSovietreaction,eventhoughitwasWashingtonsfailedmodelthatal
39RonaldReagan,PublicPapersofthePresidentoftheUnitedStates:RonaldReagan,1981
(Washington,DC:GPO,1982),194.
40Reagan,PPP1983,601.
41AndrewandMitrokhin,SwordandtheShield,242.
42NationalSecurityDecisionDirectiveNumber75,FederationofAmericanScientists,
http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/nsdd/index.html(accessedMarch27,2011).
43NationalSecurityDecisionDirectiveNumber75.
44USDepartmentofState,BuildinganInterimFrameworkforMutualRestraint,Special
ReportNo.131,June10,1985.

TheHilltopReview,Fall2011

33WilliamD.Watson

lowedfortheunanticipatedreaction.ThismiscalculationportionofKennedys1961warn
ingwasarealpossibilityin1983.

Growingconcernsoverthearmsracecombinedwithabrutaleconomicrecessionled
toverylowpublicapprovalnumbersforReaganduringthisperiod.Aftertwoyearsinoffice,
thefinancialslowdownthatReaganhadblamedonCarterwasstilllingering,whichledsome
toquestionwhetherornotincurringalargenationaldebttofinanceamilitarymodernization
projectwasgoodpolicy.AccordingtoaGallupPoll,Reaganbegan1983withapaltry35%
approvalrating.45InJuly1983,RepublicanSenatorArlenSpectoraddressedthisconcernina
lettertooneofReagansnationalsecurityassistants,WilliamP.Clark.Regardingthepro
spectsofanewarmscontrolsummitwiththeSoviets,Spectorwrote:
Evenifthesummitdidnotproduceanagreement,Idonotbelieveitwould
dash expectations, as some suggest. Rather, a meeting between the two
leaderswoulddemonstratethatbothnationsareseriousaboutarmscontrol.
Sucha demonstrationiscrucial,inmyopinion,tomaintainingpublicsup
port for our defense buildup, strategic modernization, including the MX
missile,anddeploymentoftheEuromissiles.46
Bytakingthisposition,Specterwaseffectivelyarguingthat,inademocracy,informedpublic
opinionislessdesirablethanmanipulatedpublicopinion.Specterfeltthatamerefaadeof
goodfaithnegotiationswouldbeenoughtodrumuppublicsupportfortherealbargaining
targetoftheadministration:apositionofstrength.

ThetensioncontinuedtoriseintolatesummerofthatyearwhenaSovietfighterpi
lotshotdownKoreanAirlineFlight007overtheKamchatkapeninsulainfareasternRussia.
KAL007hadgoneoffcourseandmistakenlyenteredRussianairspace.Thefighterpilotdid
notintendtokillcivilians,andinfactthoughthewasshootingatanAmericanmilitaryplane.
TheUSregularlyprobedSovietradardefenses,includingintheareaaroundKamchatka
whereamajorSovietnavalbasewaslocated.Tragically,afteraseriesoftechnicalandcom
municationsproblems,intheblackofnight,thefighterpilotwasorderedtoshootdownthe
plane.Onlyafterwardswastherealidentityofthecraftknown.Westernjournalistsandpoli
ticiansalikecriticizedtheattackasnakedaggression,andarepresentationofthecontemptfor
humanlifeheldbyleadersinMoscow.47
Thetimingcouldnothavebeenworse.TheKALincidentoccurredinSeptember,
followedbyweeksofdemagogueryinthepress.Inthemidstofalltheposturing,bothpublic
andprivate,ReaganapprovedatendayNATOmilitaryexercisecalledAbleArcher83from
November211.AuthorDavidHoffmanexplains:
Theexercise,AbleArcher83,wasdesignedtopracticetheproceduresfora
fullscalesimulatedreleaseofnuclearweaponsinaEuropeanconflict.The
Sovietshadlong fearedthattrainingexercisescouldbeusedasadisguise
forarealattacktheirownwarplansenvisionedthesamedeception.48
AbleArcherwasexactlythekindofoperationthatRYANwasmeanttodetectandcounter,
whichonlyheightenedtensionsbetweenthetwonations,aswellastheapprehensivenessof
45FrankNewport,JeffreyM.Jones,andLydiaSaad,RonaldReaganFromthePeoples
Perspective:AGallupPollReview,GallupNewsServicehttp://www.gallup.com/
poll/11887/ronaldreaganfrompeoplesperspectivegalluppollreview.aspx(accessedMarch
29,2011).
46Letter,ArlenSpectertoWilliamP.Clark,July27,1983,WHORM:F00603,Ronald
ReaganLibrary.
47DavidE.Hoffman,TheDeadHand:TheUntoldStoryoftheColdWarArmsRaceandIts
DangerousLegacy(NewYork:Doubleday,2009),94.
48Hoffman,TheDeadHand,7279.

TheHilltopReview,Fall2011

Trust,butVerify34

34

34
34

Europeanalliesonbothsides.Incarryingouttheexercise,NATOforcesalteredtheirmessage
formatsandmovednonexistentforcestohighalertstatus.KGBagentsmonitoringthecom
municationsandtheexerciseasawholewereshocked,andforatimebelievedthatNATOwas
ontheprecipiceofafirststrikeagainsttheSovietUnion.49cInresponse,duringtheexercise,
theSovietFourthAirArmywasalsoplacedonanincreasedreadinesslevel,andcombatair
operationswerecalledoffforsevendaysinanticipationofNATOmoves.Reaganwasinitial
lyscheduledtoparticipatepersonally,butafterwordofSovietandalliedapprehensiongotto
theWhiteHouse,hedecidedagainstit.50Thesuccessfulcompletionofamocknuclearmissile
attackonlyreinforcedtheideathatthescenariowasaviableoptionforpolicymakers.Both
sidesbelievedtheotherwascapableofafirststrike.

Despitethemountingfearandpolarizationcausedbytheeventsof1983,Reaganstill
clungtotheNATODualTrackpolicy,whichnecessitatedPershingIIdeployment.Inre
sponsetoalettersignedbysixteenCongressmenwarningoftheincreasinglydangerous
situation,aWhiteHouseaidewroteonbehalfoftheReagan,thatthePresidentbelievesthat
makingconcessionsjusttogettheSovietsbacktothenegotiationsthattheythemselvesbroke
offwouldonlyencouragefurtherintransigence.51Reagansnegotiatingpolicyneverchanged.
ItwasnotoanyproposalbytheSovietgovernmentthatwaslessthantheAmericanstarting
position.Gorbachev,ontheotherhand,wasthefirstofthetwoleaderstoactontherecogni
tionofbothmenthattheexorbitantamountoftime,money,andresourcesbeingusedforan
internationalarmsracecouldbeoffarbetterusewithinthebordersoftheirowncountry.Gor
bachevbelievedthebenefitstotheSovietUnionfromendingthearmsracewouldoutweigh
anysecurityconcernsinherentindisarmament.Thisrecognition,andacceptance,iswhat
madeGorbachevsoimportantintheINFTreatynegotiations.

PersonalityGoesaLongWay
TheinabilityofWashingtonandMoscowtofostersomeleveloftrustbetweenthe
twogovernmentsintheearly1980sisclear.Bothnationswerescaredofwhattheysawonthe
othersideoftheworld.Theonlyreasonthatneithernationactedontheirfearistheconceptof
MAD.AnAmericaneconomistandprofessor,ThomasSchelling,articulatedthispointinhis
bookTheStrategyofConflict.Schellingwrote:
There is a difference between a balance of terror in which either side can
obliterate the other and one in which both sides can do it no matter who
strikesfirst.Itisnotthebalancethesheerequalityorsymmetryinthe
situation that constitutes mutual deterrence it is the stability of the bal
ance.Thebalanceisstableonlywhenneither,instrikingfirst,candestroy
theothersabilitytostrikeback.52
ThechoicebySovietleaderstodeploySS20swithinrangeofWesternEurope,whentaken
fromtheNATOpointofview,upsettheregionalstabilityofthatbalance.Opencriticismon
bothsides,coupledwithmassiveintelligenceandmilitaryexerciseslikeRYANandAble
Archer,onlyservedtoexacerbatetheimbalanceandinflamefearofanuclearconfrontation.
HistorianMelvynLefflerexplains,Brezhnevhadwarnedagainstanotherescalationofthe
armsraceandevenofferedtoreducethenumberofSovietSS20siftheWestwouldtalkand
notact.ButNATOleadersmovedaheadon12December[1979],sayingtheywerewilingto
49JamesMann,TheRebellionofRonaldReagan:AHistoryoftheEndoftheColdWar
(NewYork:Viking,2009),7778.
50Hoffman,TheDeadHand,95.
51Letter,LawrenceCoughlintoRonaldReagan,June15,1984andRobertF.TurnertoLaw
renceCoughlin,July10,1984,WHORM:F00603,RonaldReaganLibrary.
52ThomasC.Schelling,TheStrategyofConflict(Cambridge:HarvardUniversityPress,
1980),232.

TheHilltopReview,Fall2011

35WilliamD.Watson

talkbutwouldnotstoptheirplanstodeploy464groundlaunchedTomahawkcruisemissiles
inWesternEuropealongwith108PershingIIintermediaterangeballisticmissiles.Brezhnev
andhiscolleaguesweredismayed.TheAmericanswereagainseekingtonegotiatefrom
strength.53UnderReagan,officialUSnationalsecuritypolicyoutlinedinNSDD75meant
that,inreactiontotheSS20deployment,theonlyoptionforAmericanpolicymakerswasto
respondinkind,andmoveforwardwiththePershingIIproductionanddeployment.
Evenbeforehetookoffice,thiswasapointwhichGorbachevunderstoodalltoo
well.Inhismemoirs,Gorbachevwrote:
The decisiontodeploySS20 missilesinEasternEuropehadreflectedthe
style of the Soviet leadership at the time, decisionmaking fraught with
graveconsequencesforthecountry.Ihadarrivedatthesadconclusionthat
this step, fateful both for our country and Europe and for the rest of the
world,hadbeentakenwithoutthenecessarypoliticalandstrategicanalysis
ofitspossibleconsequences.Whatevertheargumentsadvancedatthetime
to justify the deployment of such missiles, the Soviet leadership failed to
take into account the probable reaction of the Western countries. I would
evengosofarastocharacterizeitasanunforgivableadventure,embarked
on by the previous Soviet leadership under pressure from the military
industrialcomplex.Theymighthaveassumedthat,whilewedeployedour
missiles,Westerncountermeasureswouldbeimpededbythepeacemove
ment.Ifso,suchacalculationwasmorethannave.54

Inthissinglepassage,Gorbachevdemonstrateshowhistoryisneverinevitable,butinhind
sight,canseemoverdetermined.BeforetheNATODualTrackpolicyof1979,beforeNSDD
75in1983,andbeforeReagansstatementtoCongressin1985,Gorbachevcouldseewhathe
feltwasinevitableunfoldingbeforehiseyes.WhenReagantookoffice,henotonlyupheld
theUSagreementwithNATOtoresponddirectlytotheSS20deployment,heencourageda
massivemilitarybuildupinordertoshowtheSovietleadersthathewashappytoplaythetit
fortatgame.ToReagansgreatcredit,by1985,hewasalsowillingtoplaytitfortatonarms
reductions.
Inthisway,itreallydidtakeGorbachevtobreakthecycleofcounterdeployments,
warscares,andparanoidliving.BothReaganandGorbachevrecognizedthedangerofper
petuallytestingtherationalityoftheirgovernmentsinresponsetocrisis.Unfortunately,Gor
bachevwasnottheGeneralSecretaryuntilthreeconsecutiveSovietleadersdiedwhileinof
fice.Assuch,thepossibilityofcontinuityinalreadystrainedrelationswasmadeevenmore
difficultbytherealityofhumanfrailty.BetweenthetimeReagantookofficeinJanuary
1981tothetimeGorbachevtookofficeinMarch1985,Brezhnev,Andropov,andConstantine
Chernenkoallpassedaway.

TherapidsuccessionofSovietleadersmadeitnearlyimpossibletobuildanykindof
rapportbetweenReaganandhisKremlincounterparts.Thestabilityofrelationsbetween
WashingtonandMoscowwas,fromacertainpointofview,dangerouslyreliantonthehealth
oftwomenatanygiventime.Inbothpoliticalphilosophyandphysicalvitality,Gorbachev
representedaclearchangewithintheKremlin.AtfiftyfourGorbachevwaseasilytheyoung
estmemberofthePolitburo.WhenhebecameGeneralSecretary,Gorbachevwasthirteen
yearsyoungerthantheaverageageofthevotingmembership.55TheINFTreatyismorethan
53MelvynP.Leffler,FortheSoulofMankind:TheUnitedStates,TheSovietUnion,andthe
ColdWar(NewYork:HillandWang,2007),332
54MikhailGorbachev,Memoirs(NewYork:Doubleday,1996),443444.
55Hoffman,TheDeadHand,187.

TheHilltopReview,Fall2011

Trust,butVerify36

justadocument:itisthewrittenembodimentofGorbachevspoliciesandpersonality,based
onalifespentinandoutoftheSovietUnion.

TheINFTreaty
Treatiesarecontractsbetweennations,enforceablebywar.Inthenuclearage,
breakingatreatycouldmeandisasterforeverylivingthingonEarth.MADisthefoundation
oftheINFTreaty,andthefoundationofMADisrationality.ThroughouttheColdWarboth
governmentstestedtherationalityoftheirpolicymakersbypracticingbrinksmanship.The
KoreanWar,TaiwanStraitsCrisis,CubanMissileCrisis,andevenAbleArcherwerealltests
ofrationality,whichthankfullybothgovernmentscontinuedtopass,atleastonamacrolevel.
Followingthisanalogy,ifMADisthefoundationoftheINFTreaty,thenverification
istheframework.Asnotedabove,boththreatsandpromisesarestrategicmovesinagame
ofnations.Butstrategicmoves,bydefinition,mustalsobedecisionsthataplayer,orinthis
caseanationalgovernment,wouldnotnormallymake.InitiatingMADisnotinthebestin
terestofarationalpolicymaker,andisthereforeacrediblethreat.
Thepromisetoeliminatenuclearweaponsaltogetherisalsosomethingthatarational
policymakerwouldnotnormallydo,inpart,becausetheUnitedStatesandSovietUnionwere
nottheonlytwonationswithnuclearweapons.AlthoughtheINFTreatyisbilateral,thepa
rameterstakeintoconsiderationtheglobalbalancenecessarybeyondtheirownnationalinter
ests.Mostnotablyatthetime,China,India,Pakistan,andIsraelalsopossessednuclearweap
ons.ItwouldnotbeinthebestinterestofeithertheUSorSovietUniontocompletelydis
mantletheirnucleararsenalinaworldwherethelackofsuchweaponswouldbeageopoliti
caldisadvantage.
TheagreementbyReaganandGorbachevthatnuclearwarcouldnotbewononly
reinforcedwhatgenerationsofleadersbeforethemunderstood.Thiscanbeconfirmedby
analyzingtheINFpreamble.Thetreatyreads:
TheUnitedStatesofAmericaandtheUnionofSovietSocialistRepublics,
hereinafterreferredtoastheParties,Consciousthatnuclearwarwouldhave
devastating consequences for all mankind, Guided by the objective of
strengthening strategic stability, Convinced that the measures set forth in
thisTreatywillhelpreducetheriskofoutbreakofwarandstrengtheninter
nationalpeaceandsecurity,andMindfuloftheirobligationsunderArticle
VIoftheTreatyontheNonProliferationofNuclearWeapons,haveagreed
asfollows:56
WhilebothPartiesagreedthatnuclearwarwouldbeterribleforallpeople,theyarenotnego
tiatingtheeliminationofallnuclearweapons.Theyarenegotiatingastrategicstability
whichwillreducetheriskofnuclearconfrontation.Byeliminatingshortandmediumrange
missilesfromtheirarsenals,bothPartiesreducedtheamountofcontingenciesavailableto
policymakerswhowouldotherwiseconsidernuclearwarapossibility.

TheINFTreatyisalsoloadedwithlanguagethatspeakstotheparanoidatmosphere
thatcametoacrescendoduringReagansfirstterm.ArticleV,SectionThreereads:
Shorterrangemissilesandlaunchersofsuchmissilesshallnotbelocatedat
thesameeliminationfacility.Suchfacilitiesshallbeseparatedbynoless

56TreatyBetweentheUnitedStatesofAmericaandtheUnionofSovietSocialistRepublics
ontheEliminationoftheirIntermediateRangeandShorterRangeMissiles,December8,
1987,http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/acda/treaties/inf2.htm(accessedDecember10,2010).

TheHilltopReview,Fall2011

37WilliamD.Watson

than1000kilometers.57

ThisprovisionisespeciallyimportantbecauseofthecontentfoundintheMemorandumof
Understanding,whichaccompaniestheINFtreaty.TheMemorandumcontainsalistofde
ploymentareasandmissileoperatingbases,completewithlatitudeandlongitudelocations.
Thelocationinformationmakestargetingsuchfacilitiesamatterofdataentry.Thisinfor
mationcouldbeutilizedtoplanafirststrikeagainsttheotherparty.Ifpolicymakersbelieved
afirststrikebasedonthelocationinformation,incombinationwiththecapabilityofnon
theaterweaponstotakeoutICBMlocations,werelikelytoresultintheinabilityoftheenemy
toretaliate,thenitwouldberationaltoattack.Byoutlawingthepossibilityofaconfluenceof
weaponsinonetheatre,thepossibilityofachievingafirststrikeadvantageislost,thereby
maintainingbalance.

FurtherproofofdistrustisevidentinArticleXII,whichdealswithinterferenceand
obfuscation.ArticleXII,SectionTworeads:
NeitherPartyshall:
(a)interferewithnationaltechnicalmeansofverificationoftheotherParty
operatinginaccordancewithparagraph1ofthisArticleor
(b) use concealment measures which impede verification of compliance
withtheprovisionsofthisTreatybynationaltechnicalmeansofverification
carriedoutinaccordancewithparagraph1ofthisArticle.58

BothWashingtonandMoscowwereclearlyconcernedthattheirtrackrecordsregardingespi
onagemightrevealthemselvesinmanipulatingtheverificationprocess.Ifitcouldbeproven
thateithersidechosetoactcontrarytotheprovisionsofthissection,thetreatywouldbebro
ken,andanotherescalationofnucleartensionwouldbelikelytooccur.Neitherpartywanted
suchanoutcome,buttheonlywaytoenforcesucharuleisembodiedinthespiritofthetreaty
tobeginwith.Thatis,thepointofthetreatyistoreducenucleartensionandthepossibilityof
war,butonlyifsufficientnonEuropeantheatreICBMsareheldinescrow.

TheescrowofICBMsisguaranteedbyonesimpleconcept:theeliminationofall
nuclearweaponsintheworlddoesnotprecludetheabilitytorearm.Becauseoftheriskin
volvedincompletebilateraldisarmament,andthecostintimeandmoneytorearm,itisnot
rationaltoeliminateallnuclearweaponsfromanationalarsenalunlessanduntilallnuclear
weaponsarebannedanddestroyedunderunanimousinternationalverificationtreaties.Itis
onlyrationaltoholdasmanyweaponsasisabsolutelynecessarytodeterafirststrikeattempt
againstagovernmentsownretaliatorycapabilities.ThiswasthegoalofbothReaganand
Gorbachev.TheverificationpromisesintheINFTreaty,backedupbynuclearcapabilitiesin
escrow,ensuredthattheonlyrationalchoiceforbothReaganandGorbachevwouldbetosign
thetreatyandreapthemoralandpoliticalbenefits.
Tofurtherguaranteethatthetreatycouldnotbesuperseded,ArticleXIVreads:The
PartiesshallcomplywiththisTreatyandshallnotassumeanyinternationalobligationsor
undertakingswhichwouldconflictwithitsprovisions.59TheINFwasgivenmostfavored
treatystatus.

RegardingtheinternaldebatebetweenHaigandWeinberger,theybothgotwhatthey
wanted.HaigsargumentthattheSovietgovernmentwouldnotnegotiateuntiltheyfaceda
crediblethreatprovedtobetrue.ButWeinbergergotwhathewantedwiththepromiseof
verification.TheNATODualTrackpolicywasvindicated.BydeployingthePershingII
57INFTreaty,ArticleVSection3.
58INFTreaty,ArticleXII,Section2.
59INFTreaty,ArticleXIV.

TheHilltopReview,Fall2011

Trust,butVerify38

missilestoWesternEurope,andsimultaneouslyextendingtheofferofbilateralarmsreduc
tion,ReagangavetheSovietsincentivetoremovetheSS20s.Agreementonverificationdid
eliminateINFweaponsfromtheEuropeantheatre,therebyreturningtheColdWartothed
tenteerastatusquoofproxywarsandinterventionism.ThisallowedReagantomaintainthe
policiesofNSDD75withoutfearofnuclearconfrontation.Thestrategicmodernizationpro
cess,incombinationwiththeINFTreaty,meantthattheUShadachievedunquestionedmili
taryhegemonyintheworld,confirmingReagansvisionofapositionofstrength.

TheINFTreatywassignedintheEastroomoftheWhiteHouseonDecember8,
1987.Intime,thetreatyledtotheeliminationof1,846SovietSS20s,and846American
PershingIIs.Atthesigning,Reagansaid,WehavelistenedtothewisdomofanoldRussian
maxim,doveryai,noproveryaitrust,butverify.
Yourepeatthatateverymeeting,Gorbachevreplied.
Ilikeit,Reagansaid,smiling.60

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