Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
  Space Travel News  

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

A World No Longer MAD

President Nixon and Soviet Premier Brezhnev began the modern arms control era with the signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, or SALT bilateral agreement.
by Alexander Khramchikhin
Moscow (RIA Novosti) May 30, 2007
On May 26, 1972, U.S. President Richard Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev signed the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, or SALT, the first bilateral agreement of its kind. It included an interim agreement on certain measures with respect to the limitation of strategic offensive arms.

The two leaders also signed the ABM Treaty. The former treaty sealed the alignment of forces in ground-based and sea-launched ballistic missiles, while in the latter the sides voluntarily renounced development of defense against these missiles.

In a way, SALT-1 was brought into being by the Vietnam War. Before it, the United States had an overwhelming albeit decreasing superiority over the Soviet Union in strategic nuclear weapons. But the adventure in South-East Asia depleted America of its strength. The Pentagon budget was blown out of all proportion. The bulk of the money went into conventional arms. They were sent to Vietnam and quickly perished in anti-Vietcong battles (the U.S. lost 8,600 aircraft and helicopters in eight and a half years).

The Soviet investment into Vietcong paled into insignificance when compared to what the United States was spending on its troops in Vietnam and its Vietnamese allies. But nonetheless Moscow inflicted a heavy defeat on Washington. At the same time, the Soviet Union made a breakthrough in strategic nuclear arms and caught up with America, which had to neglect them because of heavy Vietnamese spending. This country successfully tested its first anti-ballistic missile in 1961 - 23 years before America did.

When SALT-1 was signed, the United States was still fighting in Vietnam. The war was escalating domestic tensions. America could not afford to restore its strategic arms superiority. This is why despite resistance from the conservatives and some MIC (military-industrial complex) representatives, the U.S. leadership decided it was good enough to seal the parity.

Renunciation of nationwide ABM systems (two ABM-protected regions were allowed, and later reduced to one) was more important than offensive arms limitations. Lack of self-defense was supposed to curb a desire to attack - this was a situation of mutual assured destruction (MAD).

The ABM Treaty had a pragmatic side. Developing effective anti-ballistic weapons was much more difficult and expensive than missiles. Besides, each side could break through enemy ABM at a much smaller cost. Thus, the treaty provided an excuse to renounce exorbitant spending with very dubious results. The United States did not even go for the allowed ABM area unlike the Soviet Union, which protected Moscow against a ballistic missile attack.

During the past 35 years, the sides signed SALT-2, START-1, START-2, and finally the Strategic Potentials Treaty. For brevity's sake, they cannot be described in a short article.

Eventually, the United States walked out on the ABM Treaty when it no longer suited it.

Today, the United States is again waging a war that is likely to cost it more than the Vietnam War both financially and politically. The Pentagon budget has reached skyrocketing heights once again. As before, there is no time or money for strategic arms, but America is developing a militarily bizarre ABM system.

As during the Vietnam War, Russia can exploit America's problems but has not done this so far. The U.S. strategic nuclear force has remained unchanged for the past 15 years with a few insignificant exceptions (withdrawal of MX missiles and a portion of B-52 bombers, and replacement of ballistic weapons with cruise missiles on four Ohio nuclear submarines).

Russia is reducing its strategic nuclear weapons quickly. Interestingly, in the moneyless 1990s Moscow managed to maintain its strategic nuclear potential almost at the same level as it was immediately after the Soviet Union's disintegration; in the 21st century strategic arms are rapidly dwindling even despite a sharp growth in defense expenditures.

Unlike the United States, which has not acquired new strategic carriers for a long time, Russia has been building its mobile, and since the late 1990s, silo-based Topol ICBMs. However, the problem is that the Topol missile has only one warhead, whereas the old Soviet models carried from six to 10 warheads, but they are now being decommissioned as their service life expires.

This means that the number of warheads on sea- and ground-based missiles has been halved in 2000-2007. Russia is trying to upgrade the sea leg of its strategic nuclear arsenal, but the new Bulava SLBM has not passed a single successful test.

Substantial cuts in offensive arms are creating an entirely new military-strategic situation not only in Russian-U.S. relations but also in the world as a whole.

First, with fewer strategic carriers and warheads, the ABM system may prove effective. The current ABM systems - either Russian, or even less so, the half-virtual American - are incapable of parrying a massive nuclear strike. In fact, there is no sense in trying to do this. But a tangible reduction in the number of potential targets may prompt some people to think that the game is worth the candle.

One can invest in the development of a really effective ABM system and first-strike weapons, for example, in conventional high-accuracy systems. The final goal is to create a capability for a disarming first strike (nuclear, non-nuclear or mixed) at the enemy's strategic nuclear potential. ABM will finish off whatever survives the first blow.

To sum up, reduction of offensive arms, lack of restrictions on defensive weapons and rapid development of non-nuclear high accuracy systems may destabilize the world situation.

Second, 35 years ago, either the Soviet or the American potential were many times bigger than the British, French and Chinese nuclear arsenals put together. Now the situation has changed. More countries have nuclear weapons, whereas both Russia and the United States now have fewer carriers and warheads than before. Moreover, only these two countries are bound by a treaty on medium and shorter-range missiles. This makes further bilateral treaties pointless.

Any new nuclear arms reduction agreements should cover all nuclear countries, including unofficial members of the club (Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea). This is a much bigger problem for Russia than for the United States. All other nuclear countries are in Eurasia and the bulk of nuclear weapons are targeted at Russia. China, for instance, has a few ICBMs that can reach America, but many more medium-range missiles that are aimed at Russia and India (maybe, this is how the Moscow-Delhi-Beijing triangle manifests itself).

Today, mutual security requires an entirely new approach but nobody is likely to adopt it. Moreover, the bad situation is getting worse. Having become the world's only leader in the early 1990s, the United States has uprooted a system of international law, thereby inflicting heavy damage on itself. We are watching the demise of the unipolar world. It is not becoming multipolar and is only breeding chaos.

Russia does not have a clear-cut foreign policy concept and is clinging to the old Soviet line in a completely different geopolitical situation. None of the other countries are ready to play first fiddle in world affairs. Under the circumstances, many countries may be tempted to take part in the new race for nuclear missiles and other weapons.

Alexander Khramchikhin heads the analytical department at the Institute of Political and Military Analysis.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

Source: RIA Novosti

Related Links
Institute of Political and Military Analysis
Learn about nuclear weapons doctrine and defense at
Learn about missile defense at
All about missiles at
Learn about the Superpowers of the 21st Century at

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Britain Orders Fourth New Nuclear Submarine
London (AFP) May 21, 2007
Britain's defence ministry said Monday it had placed a 200-million-pound (295-million-euro, 395-million-dollar) contract to construct a new nuclear-powered attack submarine, it said Monday. The 7,800-tonne vessel, to be named HMS Audacious, will be the fourth in the Astute class of submarines, which are the largest and most powerful of their type ever built in Britain for the Royal Navy.

  • ATK Conducts Successful Test Firing Of Space Shuttle Reusable Solid Rocket Motor
  • Progress Being Made On Next US Man-Rated Spacecraft
  • Airborne Systems Selected To Design Parachutes For SpaceX Rocket
  • Team America Rocketry Challenge Crowns New Champion

  • Proton-M Carrier With US Telecom Satellite To Lift Off In June
  • Arianespace Maintains Launch Campaign Pace As Another Ariane 5 GEO Truck Takes Form
  • Microgravity Enterprises Launches Commercial Payload From New Mexico Spaceport
  • Energia Posts 220 Percent Rise In 2006 Net Profit

  • US Shuttle Atlantis Back On Launch Pad
  • Atlantis Is Go For Rollout
  • Shuttle Atlantis To Hit Launchpad Next Week
  • No Launch Delay After Train With Shuttle Booster Derails In US

  • Expedition 15 Prepares For Upcoming Spacewalks
  • Station Crew Unpack Progress 25
  • Another Russian Automated Space Truck Docks At Space Station
  • ISS Crew Size Could Be Doubled By 2009

  • Science Subcommittees Focus On Ensuring Health And Vitality Of NASA Workforce
  • Malaysian Astronauts Head To NASA For Training
  • Using History To Design The Future
  • Amid Turtles And Sharks, Astronauts Train For Lunar Mission

  • China Aims To Launch Moon Probe This Year
  • China Approves Five-Year Space Development plan
  • US Said To Block US-China Deal On Asian Satellite Operator
  • Space Peonies Blooming In Heze

  • Boeing Orbital Express Completes First Autonomous Free Flight And Capture
  • Robot Teams Handle Hazardous Jobs
  • Mr Roboto
  • Carnegie Mellon Unveils Internet-Controlled Robots Anyone Can Build

  • Mars Science Laboratory Less Than A Year From Assembly And Testing Phase
  • Spirit Continues Soil Analysis
  • Opportunity Turns Up The Amps
  • Seeking Mars Survival Secrets

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright Space.TV Corporation. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space.TV Corp on any Web page published or hosted by Space.TV Corp. Privacy Statement