Hooray for the INF Treaty?

Three opinions

By Anne Adelson, Barry Stevens, Canadian Centre for Arms Control and Disarmament | 1988-02-01 12:00:00

Opinion 1:

By Anne Adelson

Surely the elimination of an entire class of nuclear weapons is good news for the peace movement? Well, yes and no. As a barometer of public opinion, it is encouraging, and it will be useful to have the historical precedent of a treaty that actually agrees to reduce nuclear weapons.

Beyond that, nothing has changed. Far from being a real step toward eliminating weapons, the treaty will allow the arms build-up to continue. It was politically necessary to sign a treaty reducing nuclear weapons to give credence to the Orwellian logic that we must build up to build down.

The deal has no military significance and we will be no safer. At best, the margin of overkill will be fractionally lower, but there is nothing to suggest the end of the arms build-up. The most devastating fallout from the summit will surely be the agreement to continue developing Star Wars technology. Pressure is already beginning to increase conventional weapons and with NATO's renewed pledge to our "flexible response," this route is not a viable alternative.

We in the peace movement must not delude ourselves. The military establishment has sophisticated methods of protecting its supposed interests. Our ad hoc responses to government decisions, while appropriate during the initial stage of our renewal as a movement, are no longer adequate. The time has come to develop a comprehensive critique of the entire threat and to work toward an alternative system of common security. We should set the agenda and evaluate government actions according to how well they serve genuine public needs.

A final point. The INF agreement raises particular challenges for us in the Canadian peace movement. All the weapons to be eliminated are European; focus will shift from the European front line to continental defence. Many recent developments have been in this direction -- Star Wars, increased reliance on cruise missiles, and now the impending free trade agreement. Reagan acknowledged that shift when he told the Centre for Strategic and International Studies recently that NATO must now become "an alliance between two continents." We must point out the dangers to Canada of this trend and encourage public discussion of alternatives.

Anne Adelson is a member of North York for Peace and Voice of Women

Opinion 2:

.By Barry Stevens

NOW THAT OUR EMPTY CHAMPAGNE BOTTLES ARE in the recycling bins and Ronald Reagan's peace movement membership card is in the mail, it is time to look at just how much disarmament was actually accomplished at the December summit.

The mainstream press has enthusiastically repeated a number of claims about the issue either as quotes or straight assertions, which have been generally accepted as fact. But those who care about peace and disarmament need to look at what is being said with a critical eye.

Even if NATO warheads are reduced, the loss will be made up by expanding British and French stockpiles. The British are replacing their current submarine-launched missiles with Trident II's, which have more warheads per missile. In ten years, they could almost double their levels. (Currently they have over 500, not counting reloads.) The French are likewise expanding their killing power. The new order books include the Hades short-range missile (with a neutron warhead), a new mobile, land-based missile, and new subs deploying new missiles with more warheads and greater accuracy. By the turn of the century, France may also double her nuclear force to more than 900. So, a few years after the Pershings and GLCM's are gone, there may well be a net gain of nuclear warheads in the NATO inventory.

Because the Soviets have given up between three and four times as many warheads as the U.S., they may have a tougher time making up the numerical loss -- if they intend to. They have bargained away weapons with a limited range, but the same targets can easily be covered (and always have been) by longer range missiles. The newer SS-25, for instance, will take over some of the tasks assigned the SS-20.

This does not mean that the INF Treaty is a charade. It achieved several things: it got the two sides acting friendly; it shows that nuclear weapons can be scrapped; it lays to rest the nonsense that verification is impossible; and it sets a precedent for verifying future treaties. It gets rid of the Pershing II missile and its capacity to decapitate the Soviet leadership in less than ten minutes. Peace activists do indeed have something to celebrate in this treaty. But we must keep our eyes open andstay ready to oppose the inevitable attempts to subvert its spirit.

Barry Stevens is an actor, screenwriter, and an Associate Editor

Opinion 3:

By Canadian Centre for Arms Control and Disarmament

WITH THE REDUCTION IN THE NUMBERS of ballistic missiles under a START agreement, long-range cruise missiles and strategic bombers will acquire greater importance on both sides. Consequently, there may be greater pressure within the context of North American aerospace defence (NORAD) to build up Canadian air defences against a possibly bolstered Soviet "air-breathing" threat, comprised of strategic bombers and long-range cruise missiles.

Canada's European allies did not hesitate to advance their own interests during the INF negotiations. Canada has every reason to attempt to influence the START negotiations to ensure that the superpower arms race in ballistic missiles is not diverted into a competition in cruise missiles. Surely, the testing of the ALCM in Canada provides an opportunity to press Canadian security interests as they are affected by the START talks.

A looming concern is the balance in East-West conventional forces and short-range nuclear weapons in Europe. Voices have already been calling for increasing conventional forces and adding new short-range nuclear systems to compensate for the perceived Warsaw Pact conventional advantage, and the soon-to-be-withdrawn INF missiles. The U.S. joint Chiefs of Staff have judged that NATO forces are now, and probably will remain, robust enough to deter a Warsaw Pact attack in Europe. A recent study by Jonathan Dean, former head negotiator at the conventional force reduction talks (MBFR) talks in Vienna, concluded that "the widely accepted notion that the Warsaw Pact enjoys overwhelming superiority in Europe is wrong."

Canada should resist calls for compensating conventional and nuclear forces. Instead, Canada should push for a negotiated, verifiable build-down in conventional forces for both NATO and the Warsaw Pact, addressing those military doctrines and deployments that inspire fear of surprise attack, such as forward-based tank armies.

Canada should help keep the momentum of the INF Treaty from being frittered away. The impetus can be directed towards achieving reductions in the most destructive weapons, strategic nuclear forces.

The Canadian Centre for Arms Control and Disarmament is an Ottawa non-government organization.

Peace Magazine Feb-Mar 1988

Peace Magazine Feb-Mar 1988, page 8. Some rights reserved.

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