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Statement on Soviet and United States Compliance With Arms Control Agreements

May 27, 1986

On the eve of the strategic arms reductions talks (START) in 1982, I decided that the United States would not undercut the expired SALT I Interim Offensive Agreement or the unratified SALT II agreement as long as the Soviet Union exercised equal restraint. I took this action, despite my concerns about the flaws inherent in those agreements, to foster an atmosphere of mutual restraint conducive to serious negotiations on arms reductions. I made clear that our policy required reciprocity and that it must not adversely affect our national security interests in the face of the continuing Soviet military buildup.

Last June I reviewed the status of U.S. interim restraint policy. I found that the United States had fully kept its part of the bargain. As I have documented in three detailed reports to the Congress, most recently in December 1985, the Soviet Union, regrettably, has not. I noted last June that the pattern of Soviet noncompliance with their existing arms control commitments increasingly affected our national security. This pattern also raised fundamental concerns about the integrity of the arms control process itself. A country simply cannot be serious about effective arms control unless it is equally serious about compliance. In spite of the regrettable Soviet record, I concluded last June that it remained in the interest of the United States and its allies to try, once more, to establish an interim framework of truly mutual restraint on strategic offensive arms as we pursued, with renewed vigor, our objective of deep reductions in existing U.S. and Soviet nuclear arsenals through the Geneva negotiations.

Therefore, I undertook to go the extra mile, dismantling a Poseidon submarine, U.S.S. Sam Rayburn, to give the Soviet Union adequate time to take the steps necessary to join us in establishing an interim framework of truly mutual restraint. However, I made it clear that, as subsequent U.S. deployment milestones were reached, I would assess the overall situation and determine future U.S. actions on a case-by-case basis in light of Soviet behavior in exercising restraint comparable to our own, correcting their noncompliance, reversing their unwarranted military buildup, and seriously pursuing equitable and verifiable arms reduction agreements. Later this month the eighth Trident submarine, U.S.S. Nevada, begins sea trials. In accordance with our announced policy, I have assessed our options with respect to that milestone. I have considered Soviet actions since my June 1985 decision and U.S. and allied security interests in light of both those actions and our programmatic options. The situation is not encouraging.

While we have seen some modest indications of improvement in one or two areas, there has been no real progress toward meeting U.S. concerns with respect to the general pattern of Soviet noncompliance with major arms control commitments, particularly in those areas of most obvious and direct Soviet noncompliance with the SALT and ABM agreements. The deployment of the SS - 25, a forbidden second new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) type, continues apace. The Soviet Union continues to encrypt telemetry associated with its ballistic missile testing in a manner which impedes verification. The Krasnoyarsk radar remains a clear violation. We see no abatement of the Soviet strategic force buildup. Finally, since the November summit, we have yet to see the Soviets follow up constructively on the commitment made by General Secretary Gorbachev and myself to achieve early progress in the Geneva negotiations, in particular in areas where there is common ground, including the principle of 50-percent reductions in the strategic nuclear arms of both countries, appropriately applied, as well as an interim agreement on intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF).

Based on Soviet conduct since my June 1985 decision, I can only conclude that the Soviet Union has not, as yet, taken those actions that would indicate its readiness to join us in an interim framework of truly mutual restraint. At the same time, I have also considered the programmatic options available to the United States in terms of their overall net impact on U.S. and allied security. When I issued guidance on U.S. policy on June 10, 1985, the military plans and programs for fiscal year 1986 were about to be implemented. The amount of flexibility that any nation has in the near term for altering its planning is modest at best. Our military planning will take more time to move out from under the shadow of previous assumptions, especially in the budgetary conditions which we now face. These budgetary conditions make it essential that we make the very best possible use of our resources.

The United States had long planned to retire and dismantle two of the oldest Poseidon submarines when their reactor cores were exhausted. Had I been persuaded that refueling and retaining these two Poseidon submarines would have contributed significantly and cost-effectively to the national security, I would have directed that these two Poseidon submarines not be dismantled but be overhauled and retained. However, in view of present circumstances, including current military and economic realities, I have directed their retirement and dismantlement as planned. As part of the same decision last June, I also announced that we would take appropriate and proportionate responses when needed to protect our own security in the face of continuing Soviet noncompliance. It is my view that certain steps are now required by continued Soviet disregard of their obligations.

Needless to say, the most essential near-term response to Soviet noncompliance remains the implementation of our full strategic modernization program, to underwrite deterrence today, and the continued pursuit of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) research program, to see if it is possible to provide a safer and more stable basis for our future security and that of our allies. The strategic modernization program, including the deployment of the second 50 Peacekeeper missiles, is the foundation for all future U.S. offensive force options. It provides a solid basis which can and will be adjusted over time to respond most efficiently to continued Soviet noncompliance. The SDI program represents our best hope for a future in which our security can rest on the increasing contribution of defensive systems that threaten no one.

It is absolutely essential that we maintain full support for these programs. To fail to do so would be the worst response to Soviet noncompliance. It would immediately and seriously undercut our negotiators in Geneva by removing the leverage that they must have to negotiate equitable reductions in both U.S. and Soviet forces. It would send precisely the wrong signal to the leadership of the Soviet Union about the seriousness of our resolve concerning their noncompliance. And it would significantly increase the risk to our security for years to come. Therefore, our highest priority must remain the full implementation of these programs.

Secondly, the development by the Soviet Union of its massive ICBM forces continues to challenge seriously the essential balance which has deterred both conflict and coercion. Last June I cited the Soviet Union's SS - 25 missile, a second new type of ICBM prohibited under SALT II, as a clear and irreversible violation. With the number of deployed SS - 25 mobile ICBM's growing, I now call upon the Congress to restore bipartisan support for a balanced, cost-effective, long-term program to restore both the survivability and effectiveness of the U.S. ICBM program. This program should include the full deployment of the 100 Peacekeeper ICBM's. But it must also look beyond the Peacekeeper and toward additional U.S. ICBM requirements in the future, including the small ICBM to complement Peacekeeper. Therefore, I have directed the Department of Defense to provide to me by November 1986 an assessment of the best options for carrying out such a comprehensive ICBM program. This assessment will address the basing of the second 50 Peacekeeper missiles and specific alternative configurations for the small ICBM in terms of size, number of warheads, and production rates.

Finally, I have also directed that the advanced cruise missile program be accelerated. This would not direct any increase in the total program procurement at this time, but rather would establish a more efficient program that both saves money and accelerates the availability of additional options for the future. This brings us to the question of the SALT agreements. SALT II was a fundamentally flawed and unratified treaty. Even if ratified, it would have expired on December 31, 1985. When presented to the U.S. Senate in 1979, it was considered by a broad range of critics, including the Senate Armed Services Committee, to be unequal and unverifiable in important provisions. It was, therefore, judged by many to be inimical to genuine arms control, to the security interests of the United States and its allies, and to global stability. The proposed treaty was clearly headed for defeat before my predecessor asked the Senate not to act on it.

The most basic problem with SALT II was that it codified major arms buildups rather than reductions. For example, even though at the time the treaty was signed in 1979, the U.S. had, and only planned for, 550 MIRV'ed ICBM launchers, and the Soviet Union possessed only about 600, SALT II permitted each side to increase the number of such launchers to 820. It also permitted a buildup to 1,200 MIRV'ed ballistic launchers (both ICBM's and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, SLBM's) even though the United States had only about 1,050 and the Soviet Union had only about 750 when the treaty was signed. It permitted the Soviet Union to retain all of its heavy ballistic missiles. Finally, it limited ballistic missile launchers, not the missiles or the warheads carried by the ballistic missiles. Since the signing of SALT II, Soviet ballistic missile forces have grown to within a few launchers of each of the 820 and 1,200 MIRV'ed limits and from about 7,000 to over 9,000 warheads today. What is worse, given the failure of SALT II to constrain ballistic missile warheads, the number of warheads on Soviet ballistic missiles will continue to grow very significantly, even under the treaty's limits, in the continued absence of Soviet restraint.

In 1982 on the eve of the START negotiations, I undertook not to undercut existing arms control agreements to the extent that the Soviet Union demonstrated comparable restraint. Unfortunately the Soviet Union did not exercise comparable restraint, and uncorrected Soviet violations have seriously undermined the SALT structure. Last June I once again laid out our legitimate concerns but decided to go the extra mile, dismantling a Poseidon submarine, not to comply with or abide by a flawed and unratified treaty, but rather to give the Soviet Union one more chance and adequate time to take the steps necessary to join us in establishing an interim framework of truly mutual restraint. The Soviet Union has not used the past year for this purpose.

Given this situation, I have determined that in the future the United States must base decisions regarding its strategic force structure on the nature and magnitude of the threat posed by Soviet strategic forces and not on standards contained in the SALT structure, which has been undermined by Soviet noncompliance, and especially in a flawed SALT II treaty, which was never ratified, would have expired if it had been ratified, and has been violated by the Soviet Union.

Since the United States will retire and dismantle two Poseidon submarines this summer, we will remain technically in observance of the terms of the SALT II treaty until the United States equips its 131st B - 52 heavy bomber for cruise missile carriage near the end of this year. However, given the decision that I have been forced to make, I intend at that time to continue deployment of U.S. B - 52 heavy bombers with cruise missiles beyond the 131st aircraft as an appropriate response without dismantling additional U.S. systems as compensation under the terms of the SALT II treaty. Of course, since we will remain in technical compliance with the terms of the expired SALT II treaty for some months, I continue to hope that the Soviet Union will use this time to take the constructive steps necessary to alter the current situation. Should they do so, we will certainly take this into account.

The United States seeks to meet its strategic needs, given the Soviet buildup, by means that minimize incentives for continuing Soviet offensive force growth. In the longer term, this is one of the major motives in our pursuit of the Strategic Defense Initiative. As we modernize we will continue to retire older forces as our national security requirements permit. I do not anticipate any appreciable numerical growth in U.S. strategic offensive forces. Assuming no significant change in the threat we face as we implement the strategic modernization program, the United States will not deploy more strategic nuclear delivery vehicles than does the Soviet Union. Furthermore, the United States will not deploy more strategic ballistic missile warheads than does the Soviet Union.

In sum, we will continue to exercise the utmost restraint, while protecting strategic deterrence, in order to help foster the necessary atmosphere for significant reductions in the strategic arsenals of both sides. This is the urgent task which faces us. I call on the Soviet Union to seize the opportunity to join us now in establishing an interim framework of truly mutual restraint.

Finally, I want to emphasize that no policy of interim restraint is a substitute for an agreement on deep and equitable reductions in offensive nuclear arms, provided that we can be confident of Soviet compliance with it. Achieving such reductions has received, and continues to receive, my highest priority. I hope the Soviet Union will act to give substance to the agreement I reached with General Secretary Gorbachev in Geneva to achieve early progress, in particular in areas where there is common ground, including the principle of 50-percent reductions in the strategic nuclear arms of both countries, appropriately applied, as well as an interim INF agreement. If the Soviet Union carries out this agreement, we can move now to achieve greater stability and a safer world.