Arms control and MIRVs


in Bombs and rockets, Law, Politics, Security

President George H.W. Bush followed up these arms control initiatives. In 1991, he signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), which called for reducing the number of ICBMs and warheads on both sides; ICBMs were reduced to 1,600 and deployed warheads to 6,000. In January 1993, just before President Bush left office, he signed another Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II), of enormous significance for strategic stability because it banned MIRVs on ICBMs. Considering the well-known theory that a MIRV might “invite” a surprise attack because of the economy-of-destruction of one attacking Soviet warhead taking out a US missile (still in its silo) armed with ten warheads, the ban on MIRVs was seen as enhancing strategic stability by eroding any incentive for an “out-of-the-blue” attack. Hence this treaty solved the problem that all the MX mobile-basing modes [including missiles on airplanes; trains; trucks; submerged on the continental shelf; or always moving between a huge number of shelters (p. 49-50)] of the past had eventually been judged incapable of solving. (Unfortunately, START II is no longer in effect. As I will discuss later, the Russians withdrew from the treaty and began building a new class of MIRVed ICBMs after the George W. Bush administration withdrew the United States from the ABM Treaty with the Russians.)

Perry, William. My Journey at the Nuclear Brink. Stanford Security Studies. 2015. p.72-3 (paperback)

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. August 9, 2016 at 4:11 pm

“But even the hard-fought victories of arms control don’t ensure success. The Russian Duma finally ratified START II almost four years later in April 2000, but the treaty never really took force. It was hobbled by Russia’s negative reaction to NATO’s war in Kosovo and by Russian concerns over US plans to deploy a BMD system in Europe. In June 2002, President George W. Bush withdrew the United States from the ABM Treaty, and the following day Russia declared START II null and void. A few years later, no longer restrained by START II, the Russians began building a new class of MIRVed missiles, a huge step backward in reducing the danger of nuclear weapons.”

p. 112

. August 12, 2016 at 4:41 am

Former diplomat Richard Burt told an enlightening story to Politico about Trump’s notion of a tough negotiator. Around 1990, when Burt was U.S. ambassador to the Soviet-American nuclear arms talks, he ran into Trump at a reception in New York:

“According to Burt, Trump expressed envy of Burt’s position and proceeded to offer advice on how best to cut a “terrific” deal with the Soviets. Trump told Burt to arrive late to the next negotiating session, walk into the room where his fuming counterpart sits waiting impatiently, remain standing and looking down at him, stick his finger into his chest and say, “Fuck you!””

Needless to say, that is not how Burt maneuvered the talks so that presidents George H.W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin came to sign the START II arms-reduction treaty in 1991. One wonders if Trump thinks it might have been how it happened and if he thinks that’s how to handle adversaries today. Trump has said, “I know more about ISIS than the generals” and, just in August, “I know far more about foreign policy” than Obama.

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