Today's date:
Fall-Winter 1984-1985

A New Cycle of the Arms Race?

During a meeting in Moscow last September, Academician Yevgeni Velikhov, Vice-President of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, agreed to comment on the debate between Stanford physicist Sidney Drell and the President's Science Advisor, George Keyworth, carried in the Summer issue of NEW PERSPECTIVES.

Velikhov's article was sent from Moscow in late October, just as the U. S. and Soviet governments announced that a new set of talks would begin at Geneva in January, 1985.

The article is co-authored by Dr. A. A. Kokoshin, Deputy Director of the Institute of U. S. and Canada Studies. They are the most prominent Soviet experts on strategic weapons in space.

By Academician E. P. Velikhov and Dr. A. A. Kokoshin

Yevgeni Velikhov

One of the main ideas presented in Dr. Keyworth's statement in NEW PERSPECTIVES is that it is impossible simply to stop the arms race, as demanded, for instance, by the participants of the nuclear freeze movement.
But, the arms race process is not of a superhuman nature. It is not some kind of abstract force but precisely the will of various political circles in the West who have initiated several cycles of the arms race during the post-WWII period in search of their specific political goals - that of achieving military superiority and establishing the position of strength.

In 1945 the United States became the first state to create and use nuclear weapons, while the Soviet Union developed nuclear weapons as a retaliatory measure at the end of the forties.

The United States was the one to first equip their missiles with Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs) and develop long-range cruise missiles, hoping once again to achieve in this way strategic superiority over the Soviet Union.

Each new arms race cycle resulted in a less, not a more secure situation for the United States - in spite of the hopes cherished in the beginning of each new phase by those who initiated and supported it. The same will happen again if the United States starts deploying the anti-missile system, as well as the new generation of anti-satellite weapons (i.e. the Strategic Defense Initiative). Why not stop this process and put an end to the development of new types and systems of weapons'?

We are convinced that we can and should not only stop, but reverse the arms race with mutual and profound understanding of the unacceptability of further accumulation of weapons. A study made by the Committee of Soviet Scientists on the Nuclear Freeze shows that to solve a number of technical, political and legal questions connected with the nuclear freeze would be far more realistic and less expensive than to seek solution of the problems of security and strategic stability by further building up arms and developing new weapon systems.

Dr. Keyworth claims that just freezing or even significantly reducing the levels of the nuclear stockpiles of both sides diminishes neither the risks nor the consequences of nuclear war.

Reduce the Stockpile of Nuclear Weapons
As for us, we believe that the limitation and reduction of nuclear arsenals would reduce the probability of an accidental nuclear conflict. It could significantly improve mutual confidence, ameliorate the politico-psychological atmosphere and thus reduce the probability of military-political confrontation leading to nuclear war. It would increase the distance between the normal functioning of the international system and the crisis situation. The actions of the USSR and the USA in this direction would also contribute to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The reduction of nuclear stockpiles to a certain, mutually acceptable level should be considered as merely an intermediate step on the way to complete deliverance from nuclear arms as well as from all other weapons of mass destruction. However remote this goal may seem today, it highlights, in our opinion, the only feasible and practical way to promote international security. It stands to reason that one must proceed to the reduction of supplies of nuclear weapons so as not to disturb the strategic stability and to preserve the equality and equal security of the two sides.

Strategic Instability
While speaking about strategic balance, Dr. Keyworth takes a stand that Soviet heavy ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) with MIRVs present a special threat to the strategic stability. The effort to include the Soviet ICBMs into a separate category of allegedly "particularly destabilizing" systems, what Dr. Keyworth is essentially doing, is completely unfounded. This is a heavily one-sided, inadequate approach to the issue of strategic stability. In fact, to grasp such a complex and manifold problem, it is necessary to bear in mind that it includes many elements: political, military-technological, doctrinal, etc.
If we single out the military-technological aspects of the strategic stability, then it is necessary to cite a number of factors usually ignored by many American experts along with the characteristics of the Soviet missiles that are underlined by Dr. Keyworth (and that are, incidentally, also intrinsic to a significant portion of the American ICBMs and Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles, or SLBMs).

- The presence of a significant number of American nuclear forward-based systems near the borders of the USSR and its allies. The Soviet territory is practically under the threat of a double nuclear strike posed by both the U. S. centered nuclear systems and the forward-based systems in Western Europe.

- Probability of launch of contemporary and future American SLBMs on low trajectories;

- Lower possibility of radar detection for strategic cruise missiles and future SLBMs (due to uncertainties in their trajectories) and because of the "Stealth" equipment;

- Difficulties in securing reliable two-way communication with command centers inherent to the sea-based component of the "strategic triad" (land, air, sea).

In the direction of further diminishing strategic stability, the USA continues to deploy Pershing-2 missiles in Western Europe. The shortening of flight time (in the case of Pershing-2 missiles, down to 8-10 minutes in comparison to 25-30 minutes needed for the American ICBMs) not only complicates the detection and notification, but practically reduces to a minimum the time when the side under attack can make a decision, thus endangering stability.

All this increases the role of a chance, increases uncertainty and the danger of the unsanctioned use of nuclear weapons.

Soviet Fears of a First Strike
Trying to prove the advantage of a large-scale antimissile system, Dr. Keyworth asserts that it will force the Soviet Union to give up the alleged pre-emptive "first strike option" which he maintains to be inherent to the Soviet doctrine.

What the Presidential advisor is doing is pushing an open door: the Soviet military doctrine comprehends as its integral part the rejection of the first use of nuclear weapons.

In June, 1982, considering the special importance of strengthening stability in the aggravated international conditions, the Soviet Union assumed unilateral obligation for the non-first use of nuclear weapons.

In accordance with this commitment, the Soviet Union, in developing its armed forces pays still great attention to the need to prevent the transformation of a military conflict into a nuclear one. This sets up a strict framework for the training of troops and staffs, determines the structure of the armed forces, and contributes to stronger control precluding the possibility of unsanctioned launch of nuclear weapons in a wide range from tactical to strategic.

As for the United States, notwithstanding mass public actions, this side refuses to undertake a likewise clear and unambiguous obligation and to include it in its military doctrine.

Conventional Weapons
We would also like to comment on Dr. Keyworth's remark that conventional forces must inevitably be strengthened so as to make up for the potential reductions in nuclear arms.

We believe that to put it this way is absolutely unacceptable - especially taking into account the hasty development of most modern non-nuclear arms that are currently being supplied to American troops. The development of conventional forces, whipped up by the efforts of the USA, could produce new types of weapons, many of which will be close in their destructive potential to weapons of mass destruction.

And the conventional war in modern circumstances (with giant stockpiles of hydrocarbons, nuclear power stations, storages of chemical industry wastes) in Europe, for instance, would bring about a catastrophe similar in its disastrous effects to a nuclear war. That is precisely what makes us insist that security must be ensured by the reduction of conventional weapons along with nuclear.

A First Strike Capacity?
In his interview, Dr. Drell rightly draws attention to the fact that the U. S. activities aimed at the development of a comprehensive anti-ballistic missile system may very well be perceived by the Soviet Union as preparation for acquisition of a first-strike capability. Dr. Keyworth in his reasoning omits this most important question. A whole number of factors contribute to the assumption of the large-scale antiballistic system as a means to acquire first-strike capability.
In the first place, it is being created at the same time as the rapid development and deployment of offensive nuclear first-strike missile systems such as the "MX", Trident 2, D-5, Pershing-2 and forces of strategic anti-submarine warfare.

The creation of an antimissile shield would allow the U.S. to wage under its protection different types of wars, including nuclear wars, and to end them on conditions advantageous for the US

Both the meant-to-be entirely effective antimissile system and the so-to-say transitional system called stabilizing by Dr. Keyworth should be considered as first-strike weapons.

Our interpretation of the Administration's position on antimissile system is further confirmed by the fact that, as we already mentioned, the USA, opposite to the Soviet Union, refuses to undertake a clear and unambiguous obligation for non-first use of nuclear weapons.

It goes without saying that the Soviet Union will do all that is needed to preserve the existing strategic parity to demonstrate to the opposite side that it should have no illusions whatsoever that it is possible to acquire the capability of an unpunished first strike.

Keep the ABM Treaty in Force
We completely agree with Dr. Drell and other American scholars who find it essential to keep in force the termless Soviet-American treaty on the limitation of antiballistic missile systems of 1972. This treaty constitutes a major achievement in Soviet-American relations, an important factor in maintaining strategic stability. It is an example of how an expensive and destabilizing weapon system can be effectively blocked. The development of a large-scale ABM system with space-based elements virtually torpedoes all treaties and agreements that are now in force and to a certain extent hold back the arms race.

Dr. Drell's comment seems appropriate that the solution of the problem of security and strategic stability cannot be found in the sole field of science and technology.

To entrust the fate of mankind to computers and various automatic systems that very frequently fail and give erroneous information is a highly irresponsible and dangerous choice that can lead to tragic consequences.

What we need in the first place is to find a political solution to the problem of ensuring security and for this purpose engage in equitable and constructive negotiations including the negotiations on prevention of the arms race in space.

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