July 28, 1982

July 28, 1982 | Executive Memorandum on National Security and Defense

A Freeze Makes No Sense

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The rhetorical appeal of "nuclear freeze" is almost irresist- ible. Congress is now being temp ted by this alluring--but poten- tially destrudtive--siren. It takes the form of the Zablocki- Bingham Resolution cailling-for a mutual and verifiable freeze on and reductions in nuclear weapons and for approval of the SALT II agreement. This was introduc e d in the House of Representatives on June 23, 1982, and was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs. It may soon'be debated on the House Floor as H.J. Res. .521. Although the Resolution's seven findings vary in importance, two are worth close examina t ion. The first asserts that "the increasing stockpiles of nuclear weapons and nuclear delivery. systems by both the United States and the Soviet Union have not strengthened international peace and security but in fact (have) enhance[d] the prospect of mut u al destruction." Actually, whatever else one may say about it, strategic nuclear deterrence over-the past 37 years has prevented war between the two superpowers, and this in a century which has been wracked by two World Wars and numerous smaller regional c onflicts. The second finding worth studking lists the benefits which the Resolution's sponsors feel accrue from the SALT II-Treaty. These include SALT !I's mandating of "the prompt reduction of Soviet strategic forces by 254 deployable strategic nuclear d e livery systems" and the.imposition of "significant restrictions on Soviet multiple-warhead deployable intercontinental ballistic missiles, and on warheads for these missiles, in terms of numbers and throwweight.11 The clear implication of this finding is t hat ratification of the SALT II Treaty would benefit the United States. This view, however, is based upon,an extremely selective reading of the Treaty. For example, while SALT II would require Soviet dismantling of some 250 strategic nuclear delivery vehi c les, it does not specify which systems are to'be dismantled. Experience shows that the Soviet Union almost certainly would make reductions from among its older and less-ca-pable systems--those nuclear delivery systems in its current arsenal that are least worrisome to the United States and thus least important to reduce. The Resolution's listing of SALT II provisions, moreover, simply ignores such negative aspects of the Treaty as its failure to constrain the Soviet Union's modern large ballistic missiles (the SS-18s), which directly threaten the survivability 6f the U.S. land-based ICBM force and its exclusion of the Soviet inter- .continental-range Backfire bomber from its ceilings.


According to the language of the Resolution, the United States and th e Soviet Union "should immediately begin the strategic arms reduction talks" (they began June 29), and these talks should pursue objectives including "pursuing a complete halt to the nuclear arms race," "deciding when and how to achieve a mutual and verif i able freeze" on nuclear weapons testing, produc- tion and deployment, and "giving special attention to destabiliz- ing weapons whose deployment would make such a freeze more diffi- cult to'achieve." These points would pose great difficulties in the curren t U.S..-Soviet arms negotiations. A nuclear freeze is simply incompatible.with serious arms reduction.talks. Given the Soviet'Union's advantages in such areas as heavy missiles, a freeze solidifying this suprerbacy would give the U.S.S.R. little reason to n egotiate reductions seriously. Further complicating this picture is the Resolution's recom- mendation that the intermediate-range nuclear force talks (INF) be subsumed under START, since despite an additional recommendation to "make every effort to reach a common position" with our NATO allies on elements of such an agreement inconsistent with our NATO commitments, such a merging of the two negotiations would immeasurably increase the possibility that no worthwhile arms agreement could ever be reached. Fin a lly, the Zablocki-Bingham Resolution's recommendation that the United States "promptly approve the SALT II agreement provided adequate verification capabilitie's are maintained" is'a call for ratifying a treaty which the Senate, by its actions in failing t o ratify it earlier despite intense pressure from the Carter Administration, obviously found disadvantageous to U.S. national interests. In sum, House Joint Resolution 521 is replete with language reflecting an extreme position--language which fails to ap p raise realistically either the SALT II Treaty or the problems for serious U.S.-Soviet attempts to reduce nuclear weapons. It makes no sense to impose a nuclear freeze when the U.S.S.R. maintains .critical strategic force advantages. Arms reductions are ve ry desirable. But-they must occur in a way consistent with the needs of U.S. national security. The resolution now before Congress fails to do this.

Jeffrey G. Barlow, Ph.D. Policy Analyst

F or further information, see: "The Flawed Premises Behind a Nuclear Freeze," National Security Record (The Heritage Foundation), April 1982; "Soviet Violations of Arms Agreements," National Security Record, May 1982; and Jeffrey G. Barlow, "Moscow and The Peace Offensive," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder #184, May 14., 1982. See also, Edward L. Rowny, "A Nuclear Freeze--- Or a Cut?" Washington Post, March 21, 1982, p. A13.


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