Sunday, May 27, 2007

Happy Birthday SALT I!

Thirty-five years ago yesterday, the first round of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I) was brought to a close after two and a half years of negotiations when U.S. President Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev signed the ABM Treaty and the Interim Agreement on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms.

The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which entered into force on October 3, 1972, barred the U.S. and the USSR from deploying nationwide defenses against strategic ballistic missiles. President Bush withdrew the U.S. from the treaty on June 13, 2002 in order to pursue a comprehensive national missile defense system to ostensibly protect the U.S. against an attack by terrorists and “rogue states.” So far the system hasn’t panned out very well, to say the least.

The ABM Treaty originally allowed both countries to deploy two fixed, ground-based defenses of 100 missile interceptors each, but a June 1974 accord later cut that number in half. The Soviet Union decided to keep its existing missile defense system around Moscow, while the U.S. opted to field missile interceptors in North Dakota to protect an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) base there. The permitted ABM system was scuttled only months after it was activated in October 1975, however, due to concerns that it was too expensive for the limited protection it offered. Sound familiar?

The other outcome of SALT I was the Interim Agreement, which froze the number of strategic ballistic missile launchers at 1972 levels, prohibited the construction of new land-based ICBM silos, and allowed for increases in submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launcher levels only if a corresponding number of older ICBM or SLBM launchers were dismantled.

Happy 35th birthday SALT I!

No comments: