An Assessment Of Future Requirements For US Strategic Forces And Strategic Arms Control

The following analysis and recommendations for future U.S. strategic requirements are set against an appraisal of Soviet strategic investments and the purposes to which the Soviets put arms control.

The dangerous reality is that, notwithstanding the optimism generated by Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika, the Soviet Union continues to make massive investments in its strategic offensive and defensive systems. Not only is the scale of the Soviet military effort substantially beyond that of the United States; it is also greatly in excess of reasonable Soviet defense needs.

Such developments — combined with the direct and indirect adverse effects of the prevailing arms control regime since 1972, including repeated violations of that regime by the Soviet Union — have transformed Soviet military power and increasingly call into question the adequacy of the U.S. strategic deterrent. At this point, their cumulative effect is to challenge the United States’ ability to sustain the required strategic balance into the mid-nineties.

As a result, robust strategic deterrence will require in the future a different approach than that just proposed by the Bush Administration. Its central elements would be: a deterrent posture comprised of modern nuclear arms and deployed strategic defenses; exploitation of competitive advantages to achieve cost-effective survivability for the U.S. deterrent; and a revised approach to the negotiation of strategic arms reductions.

Soviet Strategic Developments

Soviet strategic developments directly affect the strategic offensive and defensive forces required by the United States — as well as the objectives and strategy we should employ in negotiating arms control agreements affecting our strategic forces. Several points are clear:


  • There is a continuing requirement to deter Soviet capabilities for global aggression.

  • Effective deterrence in the future will require a resilient U.S. capability to counter the effects of sustained past growth in Soviet strategic forces and to address the future dynamism of the Soviet threat (as well as the impact of missile proliferation around the globe).

  • Whatever Gorbachev’s proposals and personal intentions may be, actual Soviet military programs have continued to increase the Soviet Union’s capability for intimidation and, if necessary, for strategic war. This is true both in absolute terms and, strikingly, relative to the improvements made to U.S. forces over the past decade.



Soviet Strategic Offensive Forces


  • The Soviet Union’s strategic offensive forces have recently seen dramatic improvements in quantity and quality — with no apparent diminution in the priority they enjoy at the highest levels of the Soviet government under Gorbachev.


    • New Soviet systems include the road-mobile SS-25 and rail-mobile SS-24 ICBMs, a follow-on to the SS-18 silo-based ICBM, the Delta IV submarine and SS-N-23 SLBM, the Blackjack bomber and new air- and sea-based long-range cruise missiles.

    • The Soviet Union’s offensive forces (measured in ballistic missile warheads) are today approximately four times larger than in 1972 (SALT I) and roughly twice as large as in l979 (SALT II).

      The USSR’s fifth generation Soviet ICBMs have far greater accuracy than their predecessors.

      What is more, these systems increasingly incorporate features designed to enhance their survivability (e.g., mobile launchers).

      Such features will greatly complicate efforts to monitor these weapons, particularly in connection with limits that might be imposed upon them in a future arms control regime.

Soviet Strategic Defense


  • The Soviet Union has invested approximately as much in strategic defense over the past twenty years as it has in strategic offense arms. Spending an estimated $20 billion a year and $200 billion over the last decade, the Soviets’ efforts dwarf comparable U.S. programs. The cumulative effect of this investment has been to develop a multifaceted ability to reduce the effects of a retaliatory nuclear attack.


    • The USSR has deployed modern ABM defenses around Moscow.

    • The Soviets have fielded an array of powerful radars well suited to supporting a territorial defense against ballistic missile.

    • Moscow is investing heavily in laser and space-oriented strategic defense activities.

    • In addition, the Soviet Union has constructed extensive deep underground shelters, designed to permit their senior political and military cadres to survive and conduct protracted nuclear war.

  • The Soviets clearly have never agreed with the traditional American view that the ABM Treaty was intended to assure mutual vulnerability. On the contrary, the Soviet Union’s extensive strategic defense programs — including some that violate the ABM Treaty itself — suggest a determined effort methodically to develop and deploy elements of a wide-spread ABM system, which points, in due course, to a Soviet break-out from the Treaty.

Soviet Arms Control Violations


  • The United States government has determined that the Soviet Union has, in addition to the ABM Treaty, also violated a number of other major arms control accords. The U.S. findings demonstrate a pattern of Soviet activity designed to secure for the Soviet Union maximum strategic advantage from the arms control process.


U.S. Deterrent Endangered

Such Soviet actions — in addition to potential new threats from third countries — will have profound security consequences for the United States should America prove either unwilling or unable to maintain appropriate deterrent forces.


  • U.S. national security cannot rest on hopes about a potential adversary’s benign intentions, but on his actual capabilities.

  • The fact is, Soviet (or, for that matter, others’) willingness to undertake aggression can occur much more quickly than effective U.S. deterrents to such aggression can be put into place.

The Implications for Strategic Arms Control

These factors have important implications for the type and capabilities of strategic forces the United States must field — and for any arms control agreements to which the U.S. could responsibly subscribe. For example:


  • A START agreement based on deep reductions inherently raises serious problems:


    • Verification is radically more difficult and expensive, and militarily significant Soviet violations can occur more quickly and with greater impact at lower levels of forces even as the Soviet incentive for cheating rises. This is especially so in the continued absence of an effective U.S. compliance policy.

    • The U.S. margin for ensuring deterrence or responding to violations is greatly reduced at lower levels of strategic arms.

  • The emerging draft START accord is seriously flawed:


    • It will not ensure that existing strategic problems are actually reduced;

    • SDI, a vital strategic program for future U.S. security, will be made even more difficult to realize than it already is given current arms control circumstances;

    • START counting rules that have been negotiated to date or are in prospect do not reflect reality and perpetrate a fiction of deep reductions;

    • Serious and, in some cases, immutable verification problems exist; and

    • Ensuring the survivability and effectiveness of the U.S. deterrent under a START-induced regime will almost certainly prove more costly than the existing force posture.

The Need for an Integrated U.S. Strategic Package

In light of the foregoing, several recommendations are in order:


  • The credibility of the U.S. deterrent posture will be substantially enhanced if the Administration adopts a new approach to strategic arms — an approach that would simultaneously, and in an integrated fashion, restructure current offensive force modernization plans, implement defensive deployment options and make appropriate adjustments in U.S. arms control negotiating strategies.

  • The recommended approach for ensuring the future effectiveness of U.S. strategic forces would include (among other steps): redirection of the current program for modernizing the land-based ballistic missile program; the introduction of the first phases of strategic defenses; and complementary changes to U.S. arms control negotiating positions, notably in the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START).

  • If implemented, the package of recommended changes offers the prospect of greater robustness and credibility for U.S. strategic forces, possibly at lower cost than the current program and with greater public support. It also features strategic arms control objectives which — if incorporated into a U.S.-Soviet treaty — would result in a more satisfactory strategic balance than that likely to arise under the START treaty currently being pursued.

The Elements of the Recommended Strategic Package


  • Land-based ballistic missiles: As part of the recommended package approach, the present U.S. ICBM modernization program — with its emphasis on highly mobile systems — would be revised.


    • Survivability, Deterrence, and Cost: The Bush Administration’s preferred approach is unlikely to produce forces whose survivability is insensitive to warning or will not be severely compromised by problems with public opposition to dispersal activities.

      Such forces will, moreover, likely prove extremely expensive when compared with the benefits provided.

      This is particularly true when mobile missile forces are compared to the costs versus the strategic value added by deployment of the first phases of U.S. strategic defense systems.

      After all, defenses can contribute far more to deterrence — for example, providing protection to people, strategic offensive forces and space assets — than can mobile missiles.


    • Verification: U.S. intelligence has found that the mobile Soviet ICBMs cannot be effectively verified with high confidence. If — as the Soviet Union has insisted — mobile ICBMs were to be permitted under a START regime, they would offer the Soviets a simple, inexpensive way to circumvent the treaty’s limitations, perhaps to the point of neutralizing the mandated reductions.


    • This approach offers enhanced survivability in a manner that lends itself to verification under an arms control regime — in stark contrast to the mobile ICBM programs being deployed by the USSR.


    • A ban on mobile missiles (as opposed to systems with limited transportability within confined deployment areas) should be a prerequisite for any START agreement.

    The current effort, intended to make a substantial number of American ICBMs survivable by striving for the sort of road- and rail-mobility characteristic of some new generation Soviet ballistic missiles (e.g. the SS-24 and SS-25 ICBMs) involves severe problems:

    A Redirected ICBM Program: In view of the above, the Bush Administration’s plan to develop rail-mobile and road-mobile launchers for the MX and Midgetman missiles respectively should be redirected. The United States should, instead, pursue an ICBM basing configuration featuring limited transportability, i.e., the so-called "carry-hard" concept for deploying a relatively small number of missiles among a larger number of vertical, underground shelters.

    START Ban on Mobiles Reaffirmed: The Bush Administra- tion should also reaffirm its predecessor’s proposal in START for a ban on genuinely mobile systems. Absent Soviet agreement to such a ban (like the one that ultimately emerged in the INF Treaty with respect to medium-range ballistic missiles), any reductions agreed to in START could be readily circumvented without detection.

    Advantages: By combining this ban with deployment of ICBMs featuring limited, carry-hard transportability, the United States could field strategic forces that — when operated with preferential defenses — would: provide robust deterrents to attack; allow reallocation of funds to provide for the deployment of strategic defenses; permit the replacement of aging Minuteman ICBMs with modern missiles; and establish a basis for a START agreement that does not force the United States to choose between unverifiable Soviet reductions and survivable post-agreement forces.


  • Sea- and Air-based Deterrents:

    The United States should preserve the survivability of its sea-based deterrent by retaining the largest possible number of ballistic missile submarines and by deploying long-range nuclear-armed cruise missiles among a large number of naval platforms.

    The U.S. should continue to enhance the flexibility and assured penetrativity of its airborne deterrent forces by fielding modern bombers and cruise missiles. In this regard, the United States should initiate production and deployment of the B-2 "stealth" bomber — whose "low observable" technology represents an area of significant competitive advantage for the United States.

    Both sea-launched and air-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs and ALCMs) should incorporate, to the extent possible, stealth technology and offer nuclear and conventional variants. It would be counterproductive –and in any case ineffectual — to try to limit such systems under START. They are systems not suited to preemptive warfare and their deployments are impossible to verify effectively.


  • Strategic Defense: The United States should, as a critical part of this strategic package approach, begin preparations at once for deployment of the first phases of defenses against ballistic missiles.


    • SDI deployment will greatly complicate attack planning by any adversary and serve as a powerful disincentive to a ballistic missile strike against the United States and its allies.


    • U.S. compliance policy has proved ineffective in preventing or responding to Soviet arms control violations including SALT I, SALT II, the ABM Treaty, the Limited Test Ban Treaty and the Threshold Test Ban Treaty.

    • The reality is recognized by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, among others, who appreciate that the Soviet Union is currently better positioned to break out of the ABM Treaty than is the United States — if the Soviets are not actively doing so.

    • Such a reality should lead the United States to accelerate SDI deployment, rather than continue to remain in unilateral ABM Treaty compliance and restricting or delaying the program. Were it to commit to deploy defenses rapidly, the United States would be much less strategically disadvantaged when the Soviet breakout does occur.

    • A first-phase defense need not — and should not — be constrained to comply with the ABM Treaty, which has been broken by the Soviets and from which they threaten full-scale breakout.

      Even if the Soviet Union were to return to full compliance with the accord, the treaty’s prohibition on effective U.S. defenses is no longer in the nation’s security interest.


    • SDI can be used for preferential defense of critical C3, the National Command Authority (NCA) and selected U.S. retaliatory forces — thereby uniquely contributing to security and stability during an extended crisis.

    Deterrence: The first phase system should be comprised of ground and space-based sensors and interceptor systems. A perfect defense is neither required nor likely for such a system to enhance deterrence.

    Insurance Against Noncompliance: SDI will provide essential insurance against Soviet noncompliance with START or full-scale breakout from the ABM Treaty as well as against potential third country missile threats.

    Contribution to Enduring Deterrence: SDI provides a sound alternative to present concerns about "using or losing" strategic forces in a crisis and it can help assure the survival of the most critical and most endangered element of our strategic forces — the C3 systems.

    Regional, Conventional Dimensions: SDI can enhance regional and conventional security and deter adventurism by providing protection against ballistic missiles and high-flying aircraft to U.S. and allied forward-based ground and naval assets — including conventional forces — throughout the world.

    In sum, strategic defenses can fulfill more, and more critical, defense missions than mobile missile deployments can –and do so more cost effectively. For that matter, deployed defenses can provide more robust security for the United States and its allies than would an agreement on fifty-percent reductions in Soviet strategic forces. SDI without START is far preferable to START without SDI, and SDI without mobile missiles is far to be preferred over the fielding of mobile missiles without SDI.


  • Strategic Arms Control


    • Compliance: The U.S. should undertake no new agreements until the Soviet Union fully complies with all existing agreements.

    • SDI: The deployment of strategic defenses should be a precondition for START — in contrast to the present mind-set which makes constraints on SDI the price for reductions in START.

      SDI is essential as insurance against Soviet breakout and increased offensive potential at lower force levels.

      The United States must desist from efforts to "reinforce" the ABM Treaty broken by the Soviets. Such efforts include extending the non-withdrawal period or negotiating new limits or definitions further constraining U.S. ability rapidly to develop, test and deploy defenses against ballistic missiles.


    • START Terms: Force structure implications and counting and verification principles must be thoroughly reassessed and revised as necessary.


      • Given the underlying differences in the societies being monitored, especially the secretive character of the Soviet system, the United States must have greater access to the Soviet Union than the Soviets have to this country.

      • Accordingly, the United States should negotiate asymmetric verification provisions designed to increase confidence the Soviets are complying with the Treaty.

      • In addition, the United States must develop a systematic approach to the security of its sensitive installations under on-site inspection regimes.

      Mobiles: Soviet-style mobile, land-based ballistic missiles of intercontinental range (ICBMs) should be banned.

      Counting Rules: The emerging counting rules for ballistic missiles should be revised so as to reflect the number of weapons each missile can actually carry. This should be done even if doing so results in higher sublimits. The shallower reductions that would ensue would mitigate somewhat the stability, verification and break-out problems inherent with deep reductions.

      Verification: Verification of any START accord will be uncertain and expensive at best. It will also likely tax U.S. intelligence and counter-intelligence assets severely.


    A new, altered approach should be adopted for START:


  • Related Arms Control


    • A Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB): would make it impossible over time to field the safe, reliable and effective nuclear deterrent required by the United States.

    • Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT) Changes: Even arms control limitations on nuclear testing that fall short of a CTB, but imposed more restrictions on underground test than those currently in effect in the TTBT (e.g., reducing permitted numbers of nuclear tests and/or lowering yield levels), would make it appreciably more difficult for the United States to maintain the requisite confidence in the efficacy and safety of its deterrent forces.

    Nuclear Testing: The Administration must be alert to the insidious effect other arms control initiatives would have on the U.S. ability to maintain effective deterrent forces:


  • Other U.S. Strategic Capabilities:


    • Strategic Command, Control and Communications (C3): The United States must ensure that the C3 systems that operate and integrate its strategic offensive and defensive forces effectively are given no less budgetary priority than is accorded those forces.

    • A Viable Nuclear Weapons Production Complex: It is imperative that the United States make the investment of capital needed to restore the capacity to make and maintain the nuclear weapons and related materials required for its deterrent forces.

    • Intelligence Systems: The United States requires priority emphasis on deployment of improved, multiple-sensor intelligence systems — including those for wide-area surveillance — for military , intelligence and arms control purposes.

    • Space Programs: The United States must eliminate the current Soviet advantage in key areas: heavy lift; a healthy pipeline for satellite production enabling the assured reconstitution of vital constellations; anti-satellite systems; and space station programs. The scope of the Soviet programs indicates that the Soviet Union is seeking the military and commercial domination of space.

    As part of an integrated strategic policy approach including offensive forces, SDI and arms control, the United States must also modernize related strategic capabilities.

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