Key Issues for the Strategic Offensive Force Reduction Portion of the Nuclear and Space Talks in Geneva

by Edward L. Warner, Glenn A. Kent, Randall J. DeValk


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This Note discusses approaches for the limitation and reduction of U.S. and Soviet strategic attack forces. It identifies three national security objectives that the United States and, arguably, the Soviet Union seek to obtain through a combination of strategic nuclear force deployments, arms control, and diplomacy. Those objectives are credible deterrence, strategic/crisis stability, and essential equivalence. It defines three measures that can be controlled to constrain the destructive capacity of intercontinental strategic attack forces: the amount of ballistic missile throwweight; the number of ballistic missile reentry vehicles; and the number of bomber-carried weapons, a value that can most reasonably be estimated by linking it to the gross takeoff weight of the strategic bombers on both sides. It also considers a weighted-measure approach that yields a smaller initial difference between U.S. and Soviet ballistic missile forces than does the pure throwweight approach, thus providing better prospects for successful compromise in negotiation. The Note reviews several recent proposals for U.S.-Soviet strategic arms reductions and concludes that the United States cannot reasonably expect to gain significant cuts in Soviet ballistic missile capabilities without being prepared to accept substantial constraints on the growth of the U.S. bomber force's weapon-carrying potential.

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