Summary of "Nuclear Arms Control: Background and Issues"

Summary of

Nuclear Arms Control: Background and Issues

by Committee on International Security and Arms Control National Academy of Science

Summary written by: Mariya Yevsyukova, Conflict Research Consortium

Citation: "Nuclear Arms Control: Background and Issues." Committee on International Security and Arms Control National Academy of Science. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1985. Pp. 20-21.

It has been very hard to design a negotiable arms control agreement which would satisfy both parties. It is difficult to exercise the tactics of persuasion and coercion with a powerful adversary. There should be some common interest to negotiate an arms control agreement.

The main question is how "negotiable" the initial proposals should be. Negotiable proposals are directed at mutual satisfaction. Despite this objective, negotiations can still take a long time. For example, SALT II negotiations went on for seven years.

Under the Reagan administration, the approach of pursuing legitimate US interests in the proposals, without considering Soviet perspective, was chosen. It was believed that "if the U.S. positions were right the Soviet Union might be persuaded; if the Soviet Union could not be persuaded, the United States would be in the strongest bargaining position in dealing with Soviet counterproposals" (p. 21). The notion of "negotiability" was dismissed.

It is always advantageous to be in a strong position, which means not just having military superiority, but also domestic and international support. However, military superiority of one of the parties can block the negotiation process. The Reagan Administration tried to increase US military capabilities to be able to negotiate with the Soviet Union from the position of strength.

"Bargaining chips" ("military assets that can be traded . . . against present or future components of an adversary's forces" [p. 21]) have to have military significance to be useful in negotiations. However, they can become valued so much as to make them nonnegotiable. For example, the MIRV technology in SALT I negotiations was considered a good bargaining chip, but later it was understood that it was nonnegotiable. The MX program was also believed to be a bargaining chip in SALT and START, but was actually never used this way. On the other hand, the ABM Treaty of 1972 became possible, partly due to US plans for deploying of ballistic missile defense systems.

The question remains open on the success of unilateral initiatives in stimulating the negotiation process.