374. Paper Prepared in the Department of State1



Our priority goal in the upcoming Geneva talks is to move toward radical reductions in the numbers and destructive power of nuclear arms and the establishment of a more stable balance in which the incentives for either side to strike first are substantially diminished. These objectives are integral to the long-range goal of the Strategic Defense Initiative—to shift away from “mutual assured destruction” to a transition phase in which both we and the Soviets rely more on defense as the basis for deterrence, and to lay the groundwork for an ultimate phase in which we might accomplish our objective of eliminating all nuclear weapons.

In the near term, however, the Soviets will attempt to exploit the tension between our objectives in offensive arms reductions and strategic defense. They have linked progress on nuclear arms reductions to progress on “demilitarizing” space, and can be expected to resist substantial reductions—both to hedge their bets against future US defenses, and to put pressure on us to be more forthcoming on space arms limits. For our part, we are not now prepared to negotiate restrictions beyond those contained in the ABM and Outer Space treaties that [Page 1377] would significantly impede SDI research or foreclose future defensive deployment options. (We are, however, prepared now to discuss the implications of possible new defensive technologies, and ways in which defenses might be cooperatively introduced into force structures.)

Our objective at Geneva will be to defeat the Soviet attempt to assert a rigid linkage between offensive reductions and SDI, and to insist on the necessity and possibility of agreements providing for significant offensive force reductions in the near term, even while the future of SDI remains uncertain. We will need to counter Soviet attempts to achieve leverage through their massive propaganda campaign against SDI. Further, we will have to demonstrate that Soviet arguments against offensive arms reductions are unfounded and damaging to mutual security.

A strong and credible US negotiating position on offensive nuclear arms, one that demonstrates convincingly that militarily meaningful and mutually beneficial agreements are achievable, would put the onus on the Soviets to weaken the link they have established between space and nuclear arms. It would also help fend off near-term public, Allied and Congressional pressures to accept broad-gauged restrictions on space weapons that would impede the SDI research program. Thus, in the first round of negotiations, we should:

—lay out basic concerns and objectives, and present our long-term strategic concept, elaborating on the Secretary’s presentation to Gromyko in Geneva;

—introduce concrete proposals for reductions in strategic and intermediate-range nuclear arms, while seeking to gain a sense of the Soviet position in both areas; and

—begin a more detailed discussion of the offense-defense relationship in the defensive and space forum.

Interrelationships at Geneva

In conceptual terms, the US has taken the view that the three negotiating areas at Geneva are inherently interrelated. Indeed, from the beginning of the US-Soviet strategic arms dialogue in the late 1960s, we have maintained that the nature of the relationship between offensive nuclear and defensive systems has a direct bearing on the stability of the strategic balance. Our goal in the near term—to reverse the erosion that has occurred since 1972 in the existing offense-dominant regime—does not require any direct linkage between our negotiating approaches in the offensive and defense/space areas. If new defensive technologies should prove feasible and we decide to move toward a more defense-reliant posture, however, careful management of offensive arms reductions and concurrent deployment of non-nuclear defensive systems would be necessary to ensure that deterrence were not undermined at any point during the transition phase.

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In addition to the offense-defense relationship, the US has maintained that there is a relationship between strategic and intermediate-range nuclear forces. Soviet intermediate-range systems constitute a strategic threat to our European and East Asian allies; US LRINF deployments are intended as a mechanism for “coupling” the US strategic deterrent to the defense of NATO. The 1979 NATO decision stated, moreover, that arms control talks on INF would take place within the strategic arms control framework. In this case as well, however, we and our allies have agreed that we should avoid formally linking these issues in the negotiations, and that it is more practical to pursue reductions in strategic forces and INF in separate fora.

While the US has emphasized the conceptual rather than negotiating relationship among all these issues, it is the Soviets who have made clear their intention firmly to link the three areas in negotiating terms. However, Gromyko’s proposal for three separate groups within a single “complex” suggests that the Soviets have a circumscribed notion of the interrelationships in negotiating terms as well: although they reserve the right to hold potential agreements in individual areas hostage to agreement in all three (in particular, to link offensive arms reductions to US concessions on space, as well as their long-standing linkage of strategic forces to INF), there is no evidence that they are planning to propose explicit trade-offs among systems that cut across the three groups.

Interrelationships at Geneva, therefore, will most likely be a factor underlying the sides’ efforts in the three areas rather than an issue central to the give-and-take of the negotiating process. In procedural terms, we expect the Delegations will meet periodically in joint session; these joint meetings will provide an opportunity for US negotiators to set forth our overall conceptual approach to the strategic relationship and to explain how our proposals in the individual areas reinforce one another in moving toward radical reductions in, and ultimately total elimination of, nuclear arms. In the meetings of the three separate groups, we would also tie our specific proposals to our long-term strategic concept, but make clear that we oppose artificial linkages among the groups that would deny us the possibility of moving toward agreements in individual areas where possible, and that we do not (at least in the initial stages of the talks) envisage any cross-cutting trade-offs.

As the negotiations evolve, of course, we will want to consider whether there may be linkages or trade-offs which would be consistent with our fundamental objectives, and which might help to break logjams in the talks. For example:

—In the offensive arms area, we may want to consider shifting Backfire from the strategic to the INF agenda in exchange for Soviet [Page 1379] flexibility on an issue of importance to us (such as exclusion of B–52s that have been retired from their nuclear role). Some believe that we could conceivably consider a similar shift of nuclear-armed SLCMs from the strategic to the INF category, in view of the multiple roles they perform on both sides—although this would run counter to US statements to our Allies emphasizing SLCM’s primarily non-theater role, and risk suggesting that SLCMs are an acceptable substitute for land-based INF. In the longer term, we may want to consider more closely relating limits on intercontinental- and intermediate-range systems.

—With regard to possible offense-defense or offense-space linkages, the Soviets may well hold firm in resisting a long-term commitment to substantial reductions in offensive arms absent a similarly long-term US commitment to eschew testing and deployment of new strategic defensive systems. The positions below take this eventuality into account.

Although Soviet rhetoric would suggest that their offense-defense linkage will be the most troublesome, in the longer term the strategic-INF linkage may prove to be equally difficult for us to manage. As noted, strong and credible US positions on strategic and INF systems could lead the Soviets to conclude that self-denying linkages run counter to their interest in constraining US offensive forces, and induce them either to drop the space linkage or settle for more modest measures in the defense/space area. In the case of the strategic-INF linkage, the Soviets have for more than a decade harped on the “strategic” threat posed by US “forward-based systems.” While Moscow eventually backed down in SALT (claiming that their unilateral right to heavy ICBMs represented compensation for FBS), US LRINF do, in fact, represent an increased US forward-based capability; in addition, the number of UK and French warheads will increase fourfold by the late 1990s. Thus, progress toward strategic arms reductions may depend on movement toward some satisfactory solution of the INF problem.

Substance of the US Approach in the Three Areas

The remainder of this paper sets forth the Department’s views on the approach the US should take in each of the three negotiating groups during the first round of talks beginning March 12, followed by a discussion of the relationship of these approaches to our long-term strategic concept.

Strategic Arms Reductions

Although the formal US and Soviet positions at the end of the START negotiations remained far apart, the concept of trade-offs provided a promising basis for a solution that would reconcile the US objective of substantial reductions in the most destabilizing categories of ballistic missile warheads with Soviet concerns about avoiding a fundamental restructuring of their strategic forces. NSDD–153 stated [Page 1380] that we will be prepared to explore a variety of potential trade-offs, including “different aggregation of the elements” of an agreement and “asymmetrical limits.”2 The Secretary told Gromyko that we will be prepared to go beyond where we left off in the final round of START.

The common framework represents the most promising means of implementing the concept of trade-offs. It would be politically advantageous in that it incorporates elements of both sides’ previous positions in START. In substantive terms, it provides a mechanism for achieving real reductions in overall strategic warheads and in the categories we consider most destabilizing (warheads on MIRVed ballistic missiles, heavy ICBMs), while allowing some asymmetry in the structure of the two sides’ forces.

The framework allows for a wide range of opening positions in terms of the scope and pace of reductions in warheads and throw-weight. Under the approach we recommend, the US would propose an agreement of long or even unlimited duration, providing for early reductions to equal levels in warheads and SNDVs, after which the sides would be obliged to carry out annual reductions in warheads to progressively lower levels. Initial reductions to equal levels would be implemented over the first 2–4 years. Illustrative levels would be:

8000 warheads on ballistic missiles and ALCMs3 1800 strategic nuclear delivery vehicles (ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers)
6000 warheads on MIRVed ballistic missiles 200 heavy ICBMs.

After the initial equal levels were established, the ceiling on ballistic missile warheads plus ALCMs and the subceiling on MIRVed missile warheads would be reduced annually by an agreed percentage (e.g. 4–5% per year) or an absolute amount (e.g. 300–400 total warheads per year, and 250–350 MIRVed missile warheads per year); we would also seek a further reduction in the permitted level of heavy ICBMs (e.g. 25 per year). The overall ceiling on SNDVs, however, would be held constant, to encourage a shift away from highly-MIRVed systems and to permit deployment of sizeable numbers of single-RV ICBMs. In the longer term, as warhead levels reached substantially lower levels, we would propose some reduction in SNDVs as well, albeit at a slower rate than warheads.

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We would propose that the annual reductions scheme be open-ended in terms of duration, consistent with our goal of eventually eliminating all nuclear weapons. We would, however, propose that there be a mechanism for periodic review at agreed intervals (e.g. every 5 years), to provide the sides a means of amending or halting the reductions schedule. The review mechanism would be an effort to deal with the Soviets’ certain reluctance to commit themselves to a long-term schedule for deep reductions without restrictions on SDI. For our part, the review mechanism would ensure that we had the opportunity ten years hence—when we might be ready to begin the transition period toward a more defense-reliant balance—to reassess the offensive nuclear arms regime in light of the decisions we have taken flowing out of SDI.

Tactically, we could either table specific levels for the ceilings and subceilings, or propose the framework concept with many or all levels left blank (thereby deferring negotiation on numbers until the Soviets evidenced interest in the structure). Either way, the framework has the advantage of permitting genuine bargaining on levels within the terms of its basic structure.

In order to minimize Soviet breakout potential, ensure greater reductions in throw-weight, and increase ICBM survivability over the long term, we would propose constraints on the weight of RVs on future types of ballistic missiles and a minimum ratio of RV weight to throw-weight (this would prevent deployment of new types of heavy missiles with artificially low numbers of RVs). We would also seek to limit the number of warheads that can be tested or deployed on each type of ballistic missile. Finally, we would express a willingness in principle to place limits on nuclear-armed SLCMs if it proves possible to resolve the enormous verification problems.

Apart from the foregoing, modernization of strategic forces would be permitted without constraint within the quantitative ceilings. We would seek to ensure that the agreement did not impede new ICBM deployment concepts that enhance survivability, including superhardening, closely-spaced basing, multiple protective shelters, or the introduction of fixed or mobile single-RV ICBMs. We would avoid constraints on missile characteristics that cannot be monitored effectively when the Soviets encrypt most of their telemetry, as they are doing now.

At a later stage in the negotiations, we will need to come up with concrete proposals on SLCMs and other difficult issues such as verification of mobile ICBM deployments. We will also have to revisit problematic elements of our previous START position, such as the limits on non-deployed missiles (which may no longer be in our net interest) and treatment of Backfire. We should avoid discussion of these issues in the first round, however, and focus on the basic question of a framework for reductions.

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Likely Soviet Reaction: This approach provides a basis for strategic arms reductions that the Soviets could live with, while meeting basic US criteria: it recognizes asymmetries in force structures and offers the prospect of real reductions in US systems in exchange for commensurate reductions in Soviet systems of principal concern to us. The Soviets have, however, resisted deep reductions in the past, and this position is likely to be reinforced by the prospect of future US strategic defenses. Even with a periodic review mechanism, they may well refuse to commit themselves to reductions in strategic forces for a longer period than we are prepared to commit ourselves to adhere to the ABM Treaty unamended. Moreover, as noted above, they are likely to continue to link reductions in strategic forces to a solution in INF.

Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces

Of the three general areas, INF is the one in which an early US move might be the easiest to accomplish:

—we can move in INF without prejudging how we will want larger offense/defense issues to come out;

—there are steps available which should not require debilitating interagency battles, but which would be a tangible demonstration of flexibility;

—it would do much to reassure the Allies that their interests will not be neglected in any new US-Soviet negotiations (while at the same time, it could put pressure on Moscow vis-à-vis its own East European allies eager for agreement in this area); and finally,

—the Soviets are unlikely to make any serious moves on strategic forces in the absence of some sense of how the LRINF missile issue might be resolved.

By the same token, it is possible that the Soviets will indicate a readiness to accept an INF deal on terms favorable to the West, and then seek to hold the accord hostage to US concessions on SDI.

In crafting a 50-percent reduction offer, we could use either warheads or launchers as the basis for reductions—with end results that would likely have much in common. Based on the Secretary’s guidance, we have adopted the latter.

The US would propose that the Soviets halve the existing global total of operationally deployed SS–20 launchers as of a certain date—for example, some 400 launchers with 1200 warheads). They would also halve their European and Asian levels as well (to about 120 and 80 launchers respectively).

The Soviets would not be allowed to change the relative allocation of SS–20s between Europe and Asia, i.e., they would be permitted no more than 120 launchers (with 360 warheads) in Europe and no more than 80 launchers (with 240 warheads) in Asia. For purposes of delineating Europe from Asia, we would accept the Soviets’ 80 degrees east [Page 1383] longitude line, as modified during the course of the INF talks (SS–20s based in the area around Novosibirsk would thus count under the Asian subceiling).

For its part, the US would be prepared to halve its planned total of 224 operational LRINF launchers (with 572 warheads) to 112. The US LRINF warhead level in Europe would depend on the mix between P–II (one warhead per launcher) and GLCM (four warheads per launcher) that we chose to deploy. Were only GLCM deployed, the US warhead level in Europe would be 448; were only P–II deployed, the US warhead level would be 112; were a mix of P–II and GLCM deployed in the proportion now planned for the entire force, the US warhead level would be 286; and were a mix of 36 P–IIs (one battalion) and 76 GLCM launchers (19 flights) deployed, the US warhead level would be 340, roughly equal to the Soviet level after they halved their force in Europe.

In any event, the US would retain the right to make LRINF deployments outside of Europe so as to match the global total of Soviet SS-20 warheads. We have no current plans to deploy outside of Europe or the continental US, and could so indicate to the Soviets (as was done informally in the fall 1983 INF round). The primary limitation of this proposal would be the global ceiling of 600 warheads for each side.

Since an INF move will require thorough and visible Alliance consultations, we may need to decide upon such a move in advance of determining our opening position in the other two areas and begin the process of alerting key Allies to the direction of our thinking early on.

The possibility has been raised of having a draft treaty ready to table during the first round. This would demonstrate our readiness to press ahead quickly on INF and could be a vehicle to force resolution within the USG of a number of outstanding secondary substantive issues. However, some of these issues—such as treatment of aircraft—are likely to be very contentious within the USG, and focusing on them during the first round could hamper our efforts to move toward agreement on the central issue of equal percentage reductions.

Likely Soviet Reaction: Judging from Gromyko’s remarks in Geneva and his January “interview” on Soviet television,4 we do not expect the Soviets to come to the talks with a new INF proposal acceptable to the US. At the same time, Gromyko’s formulation at Geneva was ambiguous on whether the Soviets could eventually accept some level of US deployments in exchange for reductions from our planned total.

The proposal outlined above would be designed to display flexibility within established INF criteria and to test Soviet willingness to [Page 1384] accept some US deployments. A 50 percent equal reductions proposal could serve as the basis for negotiating a final agreement that would grant the Soviets a de facto global warhead advantage, while preserving a US de jure right to match the Soviet global total. At the same time, the Soviets are likely to resist accepting an offer that makes substantial reductions in existing Soviet systems with no commensurate reduction in existing (versus planned) US systems. Moreover, it does not directly address Soviet demands for compensation for UK/French systems.

Defense and Space Arms

The defense and space arms forum may be the most difficult and contentious of the three. We will want to address the more general issue of the overall offense-defense relationship; the Soviets, by contrast, will likely come in with specific but sweeping proposals to ban “space-attack” weapons.

We should elaborate on our views of the offense-defense relationship, in terms of both current problems and how—should new defensive technologies prove feasible and cost-effective—we would like to see it evolve in the future, i.e., toward a more defense-reliant balance and, ultimately, the elimination of nuclear weapons. This would be an expanded version of the Secretary’s presentation to Gromyko in Geneva.

With regard to the near term, we would raise our concern about the erosion of the ABM Treaty regime, citing issues such as the Krasnoyarsk radar.5 We would raise these more as political concerns than as issues for negotiation in this forum. Technical compliance issues would be left to the SCC, and we would indicate that we look to the Soviets to come forward with solutions. We would not in the near term suggest amending the ABM Treaty; doing so could prompt charges that we were trying to dismantle it or, conversely, Soviet proposals designed to inhibit SDI. (This would not, however, preclude the SCC from working out additional understandings to alleviate ambiguities in the Treaty.)

Given the need to protect SDI until we know what is and is not feasible with new defensive technologies, there is little of significance that we can offer or accept in the way of new limits on defense and space arms. It may be somewhat awkward in a tactical sense to have no concrete proposals, but we are not the demandeurs on space; it is logical for us to be in a listening mode, prepared to hear out and discuss Soviet proposals. Combined with credible proposals on offen[Page 1385]sive nuclear arms reductions, this approach should suffice to keep us off the defensive—at least for the first round.

While offering no proposals initially, we should be prepared to state, if pressed by the Soviets on the meaning of previous US statements regarding “mutual restraints” on ASATs, that we might consider areas of mutual restraint in the context of a broader range of agreements providing for stabilizing offensive arms reductions (per NSDD–153). We should not wholly preclude the possibility of negotiating some limits in this area in future rounds. Whether or not we do so should depend in part on the price the Soviets offer in terms of offensive arms cuts, and on the public, Allied and Congressional pressures we may come under to show forthcomingness. (We do not expect that Soviet offers or public, Allied and Congressional pressures will be such that we need consider concrete space arms proposals for round one.)

In later rounds, we might propose a reaffirmation of our adherence to the basic provisions of the ABM Treaty and/or a statement that we would not seek to amend the ABM Treaty for SDI purposes for X years. We may also want to consider other measures as the negotiations develop.

Likely Soviet Reaction: The Soviets will not be prepared for a serious discussion of the offense-defense relationship and its possible evolution. Consistent with their propaganda campaign to force us to abort our SDI and ASAT programs, we anticipate they will instead introduce sweeping proposals to ban “space-attack” weapons and for the “non-militarization” of space; they may also press for a termination of SDI research.

After we have completed our own presentations in the defense and space forum, we could react to and point out the problems in their position. In response to the likely attack on SDI, we will want to emphasize its research nature, and our belief that any transition—which could not begin for some years—should be a cooperative effort, e.g., we would consult with the Soviets before taking steps not permitted by existing limitations.

Long-term Considerations

Each of these positions must be seen in a broader context, namely, the strategic concept outlined in NSDD–153 which guides our long-term planning in these negotiations. We must have a way of relating the immediate positions we take into the talks to our mid-term goal—should defensive technologies prove feasible—of a transition to a more defense-reliant strategic relationship, as well as to our long-term objective of eliminating nuclear weapons. The attached chart outlines an [Page 1386] illustrative scheme for relating the three fora over the longer term, based on our central objectives.6

In the near term, if the Soviets were to accept our concept and proposals, we would envisage reductions in offensive strategic forces down to a level of, say, 8000 RVs and ALCMs over a period of 2–4 years, and to about 5000 by the middle of the next decade. In INF, 50 percent launcher/warhead reductions would also occur during this timeframe. Finally, we would use this period to explore with the Soviets possible mechanisms by which we can make a stable transition to a defense-dominant strategic relationship.

As SDI proceeds, we will face decisions on whether to amend the ABM Treaty to permit, first, testing of new defensive technologies and, ultimately, deployment of defensive systems. If defensive technologies prove feasible and we move into the transitional period, we would continue to seek to reduce strategic offensive forces within the established framework. At the same time, we would have to recognize that reductions to very low levels could not be undertaken without the involvement in some manner of other nuclear powers. We would also want to begin consideration of limits on other nuclear weapons not dealt with in our initial proposals, including in particular shorter-range systems in Europe of special interest to NATO.

In the final, long-term, stage, we envisage bringing nuclear forces of all types—offensive and defensive—down to zero, under a regime in which effective, stable non-nuclear defenses serve as the ultimate guarantor of deterrence.

It should be clear, however, that such a plan can only be illustrative. Indeed, many questions cannot be answered for many years. For example, we do not know how our research program in SDI will affect our near-term ability to reach agreements on offensive nuclear force reductions. Nor do we know how we will deal with the many verification problems which will become increasingly important as we move to reduce or eliminate nuclear weapons. However, keeping this general scheme in mind as we move through these negotiations will be essential for maintaining an overall rationale for our efforts.

  1. Source: Department of State, Paul Nitze Files, 1953, 1972–1989, Lot 90D397, January–February 1985. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Vershbow, Pifer, S. Coffey (PM/TMP), D. Schwartz (PM/SNP), and Dunkerley; cleared by O. Grobel (PM/TMP), R. Davis (PM/SNP), J.H. Hawes/J. Gordon (PM), Dobbins/Palmer, Courtney, Timbie, and E.M. Ifft (PM/DEL). Vershbow initialed for all drafting and clearing officials. In a covering memorandum to Shultz on a February 1 draft of this paper, Burt, Chain, and Nitze explained: “Mr. Secretary: The attached paper outlines our views on the substance of our positions on strategic arms reductions, intermediate-range nuclear forces reductions, and defense and space arms. We would like to discuss these ideas with you at an early opportunity, in order that we might have your guidance on how we should proceed in the interagency process underway.” (Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Box 3, 1985—Geneva)
  2. See Document 348.
  3. We would condition this framework on Soviet agreement to ALCM counting rules that preserved sufficient flexibility for structuring our heavy bomber/ALCM force. [Footnote is in the original.]
  4. See Document 366.
  5. See footnote 3, Document 355.
  6. The chart, attached but not printed, describes reductions in the “Near-Term,” “Transitional Period,” and “Long-Term” in each of the three negotiating fora.