EVEN though the translation of the Vladivostok Accord on strategic arms into a SALT II Treaty has not yet been resolved, I believe it is now timely to take stock of the strategic arms balance toward which the United States and the Soviet Union would be headed under the terms of such a treaty. To that end it is necessary to raise certain basic questions about the maintenance of strategic stability-in terms of minimizing both the possibility of nuclear war and the possibility that nuclear arms may be used by either side as a means of decisive pressure in key areas of the world.
It appears to be the general belief that while such strategic stability may not be assured by the SALT agreements, it is not and will not be substantially endangered-that on the contrary it has been furthered by the SALT negotiations and agreements since 1969-and that in any event the best hope of stability lies in further pursuit of negotiations with the aim of reducing the level of strategic weapons and delivery systems on both sides. Unfortunately-and to the profound regret of one who has participated both in the SALT negotiations and in a series of earlier U.S. decisions designed to stabilize the nuclear balance-I believe that each of these conclusions is today without adequate foundation.
On the contrary, there is every prospect that under the terms of the SALT agreements the Soviet Union will continue to pursue a nuclear superiority that is not merely quantitative but designed to produce a theoretical war-winning capability. Further, there is a major risk that, if such a condition were achieved, the Soviet Union would adjust its policies and actions in ways that would undermine the present détente situation, with results that could only resurrect the danger of nuclear confrontation or, alternatively, increase the prospect of Soviet expansion through other means of pressure.
While this highly disturbing prospect does not mean that strategic arms limitation should for a moment be abandoned as a U.S. (and world) goal, the practical fact we now face is that a SALT II treaty based on the Vladivostok Accord would not provide a sound foundation for follow-on negotiations under present trends. If, and only if, the United States now takes action to redress the impending strategic imbalance, can the Soviet Union be persuaded to abandon its quest for superiority and to resume the path of meaningful limitations and reductions through negotiation.
Finally, I believe that such corrective action can be taken: (a) within the framework of the Vladivostok Accord; (b) with costs that would increase the strategic arms budget marginally above present levels (themselves less than half the strategic arms budget we supported from 1956 through 1962, if the dollar values are made comparable); (c) with results that would encourage the diversion of the Soviet effort from its present thrust and in directions compatible with long-range strategic stability. At the close of this article I shall outline the key elements in such a corrective program.
Let us start with a brief review of the overall state of Soviet-American relations. The use of the word “détente,” in its current sense, began in 1971. U.S. efforts to improve its relations with the Soviet Union go back to 1933. They dominated the War and the immediate postwar period, and the early years of the Eisenhower Administration. They formed an important strand of U.S. foreign policy in both the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations. The word “détente” as currently used implies something different from these efforts; it implies that their goal has now been achieved and that all that remains to be done is to make détente “irreversible.”
The chain of events leading to the present situation goes back to the Sino-Soviet split and the great buildup of Soviet forces facing China. There were about 15 Soviet divisions facing China in the mid-1960s; between 1968 and 1972 the number grew to at least 45 divisions. This caused the Chinese Communists to be deeply concerned about the danger of an attack by the Soviet Union on China. The Chinese turned to the one power that could help deter such an attack; they opened the ping-pong diplomacy that resulted in the so-called normalization of U.S. relations with China.
Mr. Nixon was, I think, correct in taking the position that he wished good relations with both China and the U.S.S.R. and did not want an alliance with either. Moscow, however, wanted to be sure that the new relationship between China and ourselves did not deepen into something closer to an alliance and thus impede Soviet policy toward China. For this and other reasons the Russians began to go out of their way to be friendly to Mr. Nixon and Mr. Kissinger. They opened up a vista of relaxation of tensions and of a growing collaboration between the United States and the Soviet Union. In 1972 not only were the SALT I agreements-the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and the Interim Agreement-entered into, but also there was signed at Moscow a document called Basic Principles of Relations Between the United States and the Soviet Union. Together with a subsequent agreement signed in Washington in 1973, this laid out what appeared to be a good basis for continuing relations between the U.S.S.R. and ourselves. Among other things, these agreements called for collaboration to see to it that crisis situations in other parts of the world did not build up into confrontations which could increase the risk of war between the two countries. It was understood that this collaboration was to have special reference to Southeast Asia and to the Middle East. These bilateral agreements were accompanied by the Paris Agreements with respect to Vietnam, and the Soviet Union was among those guaranteeing that the Paris Agreements would be implemented and abided by.
These understandings, however, produced no positive Soviet actions. With respect to the final North Vietnamese takeover in Southeast Asia, the Soviets actually took actions to help the North Vietnamese violate the agreements. With respect to the Middle East, it is hard to sustain the argument that is often made that the Soviets exercised restraint in the October 1973 crisis. There appears to have been little that they refrained from doing to encourage and make possible the attack by Egypt and Syria on Israel and the OPEC action on oil prices and the embargo. The Soviets not only trained and equipped the Egyptians and the Syrians for their surprise attack, but also failed to warn us when they knew that an attack was imminent. When the battle turned against the attackers, they threatened to intervene with their forces.
These two experiences in Southeast Asia and in the Middle East are bound to make us skeptical that the Soviet leaders are in fact moving toward any lasting reduction in tensions, or any abandonment of expansionist aims. A further ground for skepticism comes from what Soviet leaders are saying to their own people, and especially what they are saying in authoritative pronouncements aimed at leadership circles. Here readings of the past year are all too clear. To take but one example, there were published in January 1975 companion articles, one by Boris Ponomarev, a deputy member of the Politburo, the other by Aleksandr Sobolev, a leading theoretician, each arguing that the evolution of the correlation of forces-in which they include not only military but economic and social forces-has moved very favorably from the standpoint of the Soviet Union over recent years.1 Hence, they say, it is now possible to shift the target of communist action from the formerly colonial world to the developed world-particularly Europe. This shift in target is made possible by two things: one of them is “détente” and the other is “nuclear parity” (as they interpret the term, in a way we shall examine shortly).
In the sum total there are strong grounds for concluding that in Soviet eyes “détente” is not that different from what we used to call the “cold war.” When we talked about the “cold war” we were in part emphasizing the fact that despite the deep hostility of the U.S.S.R. to the West in general and to the United States in particular, it would be a terrible thing if there were to be a “hot war” with the Soviet Union. When the Soviets use the word “détente” in their internal writings, they make it clear that they intend “détente” to mean the same thing as “peaceful coexistence.” Peaceful coexistence, they make it clear, implies no change in their basic objectives, while they expect that current tactics will weaken the West and strengthen the socialist states.2
However one reads these broader signs of present Soviet behavior, a prime touchstone of the reality of détente-not only now but for the future-must lie in the area of strategic arms. If the Soviets are acting (and negotiating) in a way that gives promise of a stable nuclear balance (with meaningful reduction in due course), then the future of détente is clearly much brighter. If they are not, however, then the disturbing signs must be taken more seriously, and the long-term dangers are great indeed.
Let us begin by discussing the similarities and contrasts between Soviet and American views on certain strategic questions.
“Is the avoidance of war-particularly a nuclear war-between the two countries desirable?” On this question I think both sides are in agreement. However, there is a certain difference of approach. Clausewitz once said that the aggressor never wants war; he would prefer to achieve his objectives without having to fight for them. The Soviets take seriously their doctrine that the eventual worldwide triumph of socialism is inevitable; that they are duty bound to assist this process; and that, as the process progresses, the potential losers may stand at some point and feel impelled to fight back. On the U.S. side some say that there is no alternative to peace and therefore to détente. This attitude misses two points. The first is that capitulation is too high a price for free men. The second is that high-quality deterrence, not unilateral restraint to the point of eroding deterrence, is the surest way of avoiding a nuclear war.
This thus leads to a second pair of questions: “Is nuclear war unthinkable? Would it mean the end of civilization as we know it?” We in the United States tend to think that it is, and this view prevailed (except for a small group of believers in preventive war, who never had strong policy influence) even in the periods when the United States enjoyed a nuclear monopoly and, at a later time, a clear theoretical war-winning capability.3 When the effort was made in the late 1950s and early 1960s to create a significant civil defense capability, public resistance soon aborted the effort, so that today the United States has only the most minute preparations in this area. Rather, Americans have thought throughout the last 30 years in terms of deterring nuclear war, with the debate centering on how much effort is necessary to maintain deterrence, to keep nuclear war unthinkable.
In the Soviet Union, the view has been quite different. Perhaps initially because of the U.S. monopoly, Soviet leaders from the outset discounted the impact of nuclear weapons to their people. But as the Soviet nuclear capability grew, the Soviet leaders still declined to depict nuclear war as unthinkable or the end of civilization. On the contrary, they directed, and still direct, a massive and meticulously planned civil defense effort, with expenditures that run at approximately a billion dollars a year (compared to U.S. civil defense expenditures of approximately $80 million a year).4 The average Soviet citizen is necessarily drawn into this effort, and the thinking it represents appears to permeate the Soviet leadership. In the Soviet Civil Defense Manual issued in large numbers beginning in 1969 and 1970, the estimate is made that implementation of the prescribed evacuation and civil defense procedures would limit the civilian casualties to five to eight percent of urban population or three to four percent of the total population-even after a direct U.S. attack on Soviet cities. The Soviets may well overestimate the effectiveness of their civil defense program, but what is plain is that they have made, for 20 years or more, an approach to the problem of nuclear war that does assume, to a degree incomprehensible to Americans (or other Westerners), that nuclear war could happen, and that the Soviet Union could survive.
These differences in approach and attitude appear to be basic and deeply rooted. In essence, Americans think in terms of deterring nuclear war almost exclusively. The Soviet leaders think much more of what might happen in such a war. To the extent that humanitarian and moral objections to the use of nuclear weapons exist in the Soviet Union-as of course they do-such objections are subordinated for practical planning purposes to what Soviet leaders believe to be a realistic view.
It may be argued that these differences are more apparent than real, and that with the passage of time and the emergence of near-equality in the respective nuclear capabilities the differences are today less significant. Unfortunately, as the civil defense picture suggests, the trend in comparative nuclear weapons capabilities has if anything accentuated them.
That this is so can be seen in the more concrete realm of nuclear strategic concepts, and the postures that result from them. Often over-refined or expressed in terms hard for the layman to grasp, the range of strategic nuclear concepts available to any nuclear-weapons nation in fact boils down roughly to five:
1. Minimum Deterrence. This means a capacity to destroy a few key cities with little if any counterforce capacity to attack a hostile nation’s military forces. In essence, it relies on the threat alone to deter. As between the Soviet Union and the United States, in the event deterrence failed, this level of American capacity would concede to the Soviet Union the potential for a military and political victory. The Soviets would risk U.S. retaliation against a portion of their industry and population, if our action policy in the event deterrence failed turned out to be the same as our declaratory policy before deterrence failed. To reduce this risk of retaliation, the Soviets could limit their attack to U.S. forces and continue to hold the U.S. population as hostage. In sum, the effect of this level of deterrence would be to provide limited deterrence of a full-scale attack on the U.S. population. It would have less strength in deterring a Soviet attack on U.S. forces or on allies whose security is essential to our own.
2. Massive Urban/Industrial Retaliation. As the name implies, this posture is designed to destroy many cities, many millions of people and much productive capacity, and to do so on an assured second-strike basis. This level of deterrence, sometimes called “Assured Destruction,” would concede to the Soviet Union the potential for a military victory if deterrence failed, but (it would be anticipated) would make any such victory worthless in political terms. This form of deterrence differs from minimum deterrence largely in the degree of damage to Soviet industry and population it would threaten.
3. Flexible Response. In this form of deterrence the United States would have the capability to react to a Soviet counterforce attack without going immediately to a counter-city attack. It would thus increase the credibility of deterrence. The question of military or political victory if deterrence fails would depend upon the net surviving destructive capacity of the two sides after the initial counterforce exchanges. If the net surviving capacity after such a flexible response were grossly to favor the Soviet Union, or if each limited exchange placed the United States in a progressively weaker relative position, we are back to the minimum deterrence or massive urban/industrial retaliation situation, depending on the amount of surviving effective nuclear capability on the U.S. side.
4. Denial of a Nuclear-War-Winning Capability to the Other Side. This means a nuclear posture such that, even if the other side attacked first and sought to destroy one’s own strategic striking power, the result of such a counterforce exchange would be sufficiently even and inconclusive that the duel would be extremely unattractive to the other side. This level of deterrence, in addition to deterring an attack on U.S. population centers, should also deter a Soviet attack on U.S. forces or those of its allies. In practice, against any major nuclear nation, the posture would also include a capacity for effective massive urban/industrial retaliation if such a strategy were called for.
5. A Nuclear-War-Winning Capability. This would be a position so superior that, whatever the initial forms of nuclear exchange, one’s own surviving capacity would be enough to destroy the war-making ability of the other nation without comparable return damage. Such a U.S. posture would deter any Soviet attack on the United States and could also limit other serious Soviet military initiatives contrary to U.S. and allied interests. However, Soviet weapons technology and program momentum are such that the United States probably could not obtain this capability.
A review of the choices made by the United States and the Soviet Union among these five concepts goes, I believe, further than any other form of analysis in explaining and clarifying the changes in the strategic balance since 1945. Until roughly 1954, the United States retained nuclear superiority without extraordinary effort. By the late 1950s, the vulnerability of American bomber bases (bombers then being the only effective delivery method) emerged as a serious weakness in the American posture.5 This weakness, and the rapid advances in missile technology of the period, led the United States between 1956 and 1962 to place great emphasis on ensuring the survivability of its nuclear striking power; average strategic obligational authority during these years was about $18 billion a year in 1974 dollars.6 As a result the feared intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) “gap” of the 1960 presidential campaign never in fact became reality, but on the contrary the United States re-established a clearly superior nuclear capability by 1961-62. This was the situation at the time of the only true nuclear confrontation of the postwar period, the Cuban missile crisis of the fall of 1962.
Up to that point something approaching a war-winning capability seemed to most Americans the best possible form of deterrence, and thus desirable. However, as it became clear that the Soviet Union, too, was developing massive and survivable missile delivery capabilities, this view changed to the belief that even though a nuclear war might be won in a purely military sense, it could not be won in a political sense. That led to the further view that mutual deterrence through mutually assured destruction was the best feasible objective.
I have explained elsewhere at greater length the decisions of the early 1960s, in which I was one of those who participated with Robert McNamara, then Secretary of Defense.7 In essence, the United States opted at that point to stress technological improvement rather than expanded force levels. While numerical comparisons were not ignored, the basic aim was an underlying condition of what may be called “crisis stability,” a situation where neither side could gain from a first strike, and of “mutual assured destruction,” where each side would have a fully adequate second-strike capability to deter the other. In such a condition it was believed that neither could realistically threaten the other in the area of strategic weapons, and that the result would be much greater stability and higher chances of the peaceful resolution of crises if they did occur. While nuclear weapons would always be a major deterrent, the conventional arms balance at any point of confrontation would remain important (as it had been in the Berlin crisis of 1958-62 and also in the Cuban missile crisis itself). In short, the aim was to downgrade nuclear weapons as an element in U.S.-Soviet competition and to prepare the way for systematic reductions in nuclear arms. If both sides were to adopt such a concept, it should be possible, over time, to move from what might be called a “high deterrent” posture to a “low deterrent” posture, with the deterrent remaining essentially equivalent on both sides but at successively lower levels.
As the United States thus adjusted its posture, the invitation for the Soviet Union likewise to seek a similar posture-and stop there-was patent both from statements of American policy and from the always-visible American actions. Unfortunately, however, the Soviet Union chose to pursue a course that was ambiguous: it could be interpreted as being aimed at overtaking the United States but then stopping at parity; it could, however, be interpreted as being aimed at establishing superiority in numbers of launchers and in throw-weight8 and, perhaps ultimately, a nuclear-war-winning capability on the Soviet side.
It is important to consider the reasons that may have entered into this choice. In part, the Soviet leaders may have been motivated by technological factors-that they had already moved to heavy rockets but were behind in other areas, such as solid propellant technology, accuracy and MIRVing (the development of multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles). In part, there may have been an element of traditional Soviet emphasis on mass and size. But it is hard to avoid the conclusion that an important factor was the reading the Soviet leaders gave to the Cuban missile crisis and, to a lesser extent, the Berlin crisis. In the latter case, Khrushchev had briefly sought to exploit the first Soviet rocket firings of 1957-by a series of threats to Berlin beginning in late 1958-but then found that the West stood firm and that the United States quickly moved to reestablish its strategic superiority beyond doubt. And in the Cuban missile case, the very introduction of the missiles into Cuba in the fall of 1962 must have reflected a desire to redress the balance by quick and drastic action, while the actual outcome of the crisis seemed to the Soviet leaders to spell out that nuclear superiority in a crunch would be an important factor in determining who prevailed.
Harking back to the Soviet penchant for actually visualizing what would happen in the event of nuclear war, it seems highly likely that the Soviet leaders, in those hectic October days of 1962, did something that U.S. leaders, as I know from my participation, did only in more general terms-that is, ask their military just how a nuclear exchange would come out. They must have been told that the United States would be able to achieve what they construed as victory, that the U.S. nuclear posture was such as to be able to destroy a major portion of Soviet striking power and still itself survive in a greatly superior condition for further strikes if needed. And they must have concluded that such a superior capability provided a unique and vital tool for pressure in a confrontation situation. It was a reading markedly different from the American internal one, which laid much less stress on American nuclear superiority and much more on the fact that the United States controlled the sea lanes to Cuba and could also have expected to prevail in any conflict over Cuba waged with conventional arms.9
One cannot prove that this was the Soviet reasoning. But the programs they set under way about 1962-above all the new family of weapons systems, embodying not only numbers and size but also greatly advanced technology, the development and deployment of which began to be evident beginning in 1971 but which must have been decided upon some years earlier-seem to reflect a fundamental state of mind on the Soviet side that contains no doubt as to the desirability of a war-winning capability, if feasible. Believing that evacuation, civil defense and recuperation measures can minimize the amount of damage sustained in a war, they conclude that they should be prepared if necessary to accept the unavoidable casualties. On the other hand, the loss of a war would be irretrievable. Therefore, the best deterrent is a war-winning capability, if that is attainable.
There have been, and I believe still are, divisions of opinion on the Soviet side as to whether such a capability is feasible. There are those who have argued that the United States is a tough opponent with great technical expertise and that the United States can be expected to do whatever is necessary to deny such a war-winning capability to the Soviet side. Others have taken the view that the developing correlation of forces-social, economic and political as well as military and what they call the deepening crisis of capitalism-may prevent the United States and its allies from taking the necessary countermeasures and that the target of a war-winning capability, therefore, is both desirable and feasible. Again, this is not to say that Soviet leaders would desire to initiate a nuclear war even if they had a war-winning capability. They would, however, consider themselves duty bound by Soviet doctrine to exploit fully that strategic advantage through political or limited military means.
The SALT negotiations got under way in late 1969. As a participant in those talks from then until mid-1974, I have described elsewhere some of the difficulties that attended the U.S. side.10 What was most fundamental was that the U.S. delegation sought at every level and through every form of contact to bring home to the Soviet delegation, and the leaders behind it, the desirability of limitations which would assure “crisis stability” and “essential equivalence”-and that the Soviet side stoutly resisted these efforts.
Indeed, the negotiations very early revealed other major stumbling blocks. One, in particular, revolved around the Soviet conception of “strategic parity.” In the SALT negotiations the U.S. delegation consistently argued for the acceptance by both sides of the concept of “essential equivalence.” By that we meant that both sides did not have to be exactly equal in each Component of their nuclear capabilities but that overall the nuclear strategic capability of each side should be essentially equal to that of the other and at a level, one could hope, lower than that programmed by the United States. The Soviets have never accepted this concept, but have argued instead for the concept of “equal security taking into account geographic and other considerations.” In explaining what they meant by “geographic and other considerations,” they said that, “The U.S. is surrounded by friendly countries. You have friends all around the oceans. We, the U.S.S.R., are surrounded by enemies. China is an enemy and Europe is a potential enemy. What we are asking for is that our security be equal to yours taking into account these considerations.” They never went so far as to say that this really amounts to a requirement for Soviet superiority in capabilities over the United States, the U.K., France and China simultaneously, but watching the way they added things up and how they justified their position, this is what it boiled down to.
Yet the two sides were able to reach agreement in May of 1972 on stringent limitations on the deployment of ABM interceptor missiles, ABM launchers and ABM radars and on an Interim Agreement temporarily freezing new offensive missile-launcher starts.
After the May 1972 signing of the ABM Treaty and the Interim Agreement, it turned out that the two sides had quite different views as to how the negotiating situation had been left. On the U.S. side, we told the Congress that the Interim Agreement was intended to be merely a short-term freeze on new missile-launcher starts, and that this, together with the ABM Treaty, should create favorable conditions for the prompt negotiation of a more complete and balanced long-term agreement on offensive strategic arms to replace the Interim Agreement and be a complement to the ABM Treaty. Both sides had agreed promptly to negotiate a more complete agreement to replace the Interim Agreement. And the Interim Agreement specifically provided that its provisions were not to prejudice the scope or terms of such a replacement agreement. We thought such a replacement agreement should be based, as was the ABM Treaty, on the principles of equality in capabilities, greater stability in the nuclear relationship between the two sides, and a mutual desire to reduce the resources committed to strategic arms.
However, the Soviet Union had a quite different view. Its negotiators held that in accepting the Interim Agreement we had conceded that the Soviet Union was entitled to an advantage for an indefinite time of some 40 percent in the number of missile launchers and something better than double the average effective size, or throw-weight, of their missiles over ours. In working out a more complete and longer term agreement, in their view, all that was necessary was to add strict and equal limits on bombers and their armaments, provide for the withdrawal of our nuclear forces deployed in support of our allies capable of striking Soviet territory, and halt our B-1 and Trident programs but not the “modernization” of their systems. The difference of position between the two sides was such that it was difficult to see how agreement could be reached.
In the Vladivostok Accord of December 1974 the Soviets did make concessions from their past extremely one-sided negotiating demands. Those concessions were greater than many in the U.S. executive branch expected. However, does the Accord promise to result in achieving the objectives which the United States has for many years thought should be achieved by a long-term agreement on offensive forces? Those objectives were parity, or essential equivalence, between the offensive capabilities on the two sides, the maintenance of high-quality mutual deterrence and a basis for reducing strategic arms expenditures. I believe it does not.
The Vladivostok Accord, in essence, limits the total number of strategic launchers-ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and heavy strategic bombers, to 2,400 on both sides, and the number of MIRVed missile launchers to 1,320 on both sides. It limits the Soviet Union to the number of modern large ballistic launchers (MLBMs) that they now have, while prohibiting the United States from deploying any modern launchers in this category.11 The Accord calls for air-to-surface missiles with a range greater than 600 kilometers, carried by heavy bombers, to be counted against the 2,400 ceiling. The treaty would allow freedom to mix between the various systems subject to these limitations.
As this article goes to press, there still remain some things to be cleared up: Secretary Kissinger has said that there was a misunderstanding concerning air-to-surface missiles (ASMs), that our understanding was that only ballistic air-to-surface missiles of greater than 600-kilometer range are to be included in the 2,400 launcher limit, not cruise missiles.12 That is being argued between the two sides at the present time. There is also a question about mobile missiles, particularly land-mobile missiles: Should they be banned or should they be permitted and counted against the 1,320 and 2,400 ceilings? And there is the open question of what constitutes a “heavy bomber.” The Soviets are building a plane called the “Backfire” whose gross take-off weight is three-quarters that of the B-1 and which is two and a half times as big as our FB-111. It is a very competent plane, more competent than some of the planes they now agree should be defined to be heavy bombers. The Soviets say the Backfire should not be included in the category of heavy bombers because “we don’t intend to use it in that role.” However, it can in fact carry, even without refueling (and it is equipped to be refueled), a significant payload to intercontinental distances if the aircraft is recovered in a third country. The way the Vladivostok Accord reads, air-to-surface missiles in excess of 600 kilometers in range, if not carried on a heavy bomber, are not required to be counted at all. So Backfires and FB-111s with long-range missiles would not count in any way against anything. These problems must be resolved in order to have a meaningful agreement.
Then there are the problems of verification. Messrs. Kissinger and Gromyko have been trying to work out a compromise on the verification issue. I personally take the verification issue less seriously than most because the limits are so high that what could be gained by cheating against them would not appear to be strategically significant.13 However, we should be careful not to establish a precedent which would cause trouble if more meaningful limitations were agreed upon.
A notable feature of the Vladivostok Accord is that it does not deal with throw-weight. The agreement would not effectively check the deployment of the new Soviet family of large, technically improved and MIRVed offensive missiles. While both sides are permitted equal numbers of MIRVed missiles, the new Soviet SS-19s have three times the throw-weight of the U.S. Minuteman III, and the new SS-18s, seven times. What this comes down to is that under the Accord the Soviets can be expected to have a total of about 15 million pounds of missile throw-weight and bomber throw-weight equivalent. If the Congress goes forward with the B-1 and the Trident system but the United States does not add further strategic programs, the Soviets can be expected to end up with an advantage of at least three-to-one in missile throw-weight and of at least two-to-one in overall throw-weight, including a generous allowance for the throw-weight equivalent of heavy bombers, and two-to-one or three-to-one in MIRVed missile throw-weight. This disparity leaves out of consideration the Backfire, the FB-111, and the highly asymmetrical advantage in air defenses that the Soviet Union enjoys.14
Thus, the Vladivostok Accord, while a considerable improvement upon the prior negotiating positions presented by the Soviet Union, continues to codify a potentially unstable situation caused by the large disparity in throw-weight, now being exploited by Soviet technological improvements.
The prospects for SALT III center on reductions in the strategic forces on both sides, an aim of the SALT talks since their inception. My personal view is that meaningful reductions are highly desirable, and that the aim of reductions should be to increase strategic stability. But this aim is not served by reducing numbers of launchers, unless throw-weight is also reduced and made more equal.15
The agreed reduction of the throw-weight of large, land-based MIRVed missiles, however, would increase stability. I see no reason why the Soviet Union needs to replace its SS-9s with SS-18s, nor why it needs to replace a large number of its SS-11s with SS-19s. Although it is perfectly feasible and permissible under the Vladivostok Accord for us to develop missiles of equally large or even greater throw-weight than the SS-19s and fit them in Minuteman III silos, would it not be far better for both sides if there were sub-limits of, say, 50 on the number of SS-18s the Soviets were permitted to deploy and 500 or less on the number of SS-19 and SS-17 class ICBMs that either side was permitted to deploy? Even in a context of no other changes in the postures of the two countries, the reduction in missiles to these numbers would change the missile throw-weight asymmetry to one-and-a-half to one.
It might then be more feasible to work out subsequent reductions in numbers of vehicles which would include the Soviet older un-MIRVed missiles, such as the SS-9, along with our Minuteman II and Titan. But in the absence of throw-weight limitations of some sort, reduction per se will not improve stability.
However, the Russians are opposed to considering throw-weight limitations and have also taken the position that a future negotiation for reductions has to take into account all forward-based systems-all the systems we have in Europe and in East Asia, and on aircraft carriers. Thus, it is hard to see how we can have high hopes of getting anything in SALT III that will provide relief for the anticipated strain on the U.S. strategic posture as the Soviet deployments proceed and as their accuracy improves.
The country as a whole has looked at strategic nuclear problems during the last six years in the context of SALT, hoping to make the maintenance of our national security easier through negotiations. It now appears, however, for the reasons outlined above, that we are not likely to get relief from our nuclear strategic problems through this route. Therefore, we have to look at our strategic nuclear posture in much the way we used to look at it before the SALT negotiations began and determine what is needed in the way of a nuclear strategy for the United States and what kind of posture is needed to support it. A fundamental aim of nuclear strategy and the military posture to back it up must be deterrence: the failure to deter would be of enormous cost to the United States and to the world.
Once again, two important distinctions should be borne in mind: the distinction between the concept of “deterrence” and the concept of “military strategy,” and the accompanying distinction between “declaratory policy” and “action policy.” Deterrence is a political concept; it deals with attempts by indications of capability and will to dissuade the potential enemy from taking certain actions. Military strategy deals with the military actions one would, in fact, take if deterrence fails. A responsible objective of military strategy in this event would be to bring the war to an end in circumstances least damaging to the future of our society.
From the U.S. standpoint, just to level a number of Soviet cities with the anticipation that most of our cities would then be destroyed would not necessarily be the implementation of a rational military strategy. Deterrence through the threat of such destruction thus rests on the belief that in that kind of crisis the United States would act irrationally and in revenge. Yet serious dangers can arise if there is such a disparity between declaratory deterrence policy and the actual military strategy a nation’s leaders would adopt if deterrence fails-or if there is a belief by the other side that such a disparity would be likely. I think former Secretary James Schlesinger’s flexible response program was, in effect, an attempt to get our declaratory policy closer to a credible action policy and thus improve deterrence.
Ultimately, the quality of that deterrence depends importantly on the character and strength of the U.S. nuclear posture versus that of the Soviet Union. In assessing its adequacy, one may start by considering our ability to hold Soviet population and industry as hostages, in the face of Soviet measures to deter or hedge against U.S. retaliation directed at such targets.
In 1970 and 1971-when the focus was almost exclusively on “mutual assured destruction”-the congressional debates on whether or not to deploy a U.S. anti-ballistic missile system recognized clearly the importance to deterrence of hostage populations. Critics of the ABM argued-and with decisive impact on the outcome of the debate-that an effective ABM defense of urban/industrial centers could be destabilizing to the nuclear balance: if side A (whether the United States or the U.S.S.R) deployed an ABM defense of its cities, side B could no longer hold side A’s population as a hostage to deter an attack by A on B. And in 1972 the same argument carried weight in the negotiation and ratification of the ABM limits in the SALT I agreements.
Yet today the Soviet Union has adopted programs that have much the same effect on the situation as an ABM program would have. And as the Soviet civil defense program becomes more effective it tends to destabilize the deterrent relationship for the same reason: the United States can then no longer hold as significant a proportion of the Soviet population as a hostage to deter a Soviet attack. Concurrently, Soviet industrial vulnerability has been reduced by deliberate policies, apparently adopted largely for military reasons, of locating three-quarters of new Soviet industry in small and medium-sized towns. The civil defense program also provides for evacuation of some industry and materials in time of crisis.
In sum, the ability of U.S. nuclear power to destroy without question the bulk of Soviet industry and a large proportion of the Soviet population is by no means as clear as it once was, even if one assumes most of U.S. striking power to be available and directed to this end.
A more crucial test, however, is to consider the possible results of a large-scale nuclear exchange in which one side sought to destroy as much of the other side’s striking power as possible, in order to leave itself in the strongest possible position after the exchange. As already noted, such a counterforce strategy appears to fit with Soviet ways of thinking and planning; it is a strategy we must take into account.
Soviet – U.S. Throw-Weight Ratios
Tables I and II, on these two pages, apply this test over a period of years running from 1960 to (as it happens) 1984. For past periods, fairly assured estimates are available for both sides. For future years, a median estimate of U.S. programs, based on published data, has been used, while on the Soviet side there are two alternative projections-an “A-threat” based on a representative estimate of Soviet force deployments and accuracy capabilities, and a “B-threat” reflecting the possibility of increased Soviet emphasis on accuracy and other strategic force factors. Both forces are assessed in terms of total available throw-weight, measuring this directly for assumed missile inventories and making full allowance for the bomber equivalent of missile throw-weight for both sides.16
The Tables assume an exchange in which the Soviet Union has attacked U.S. forces, and the United States has retaliated by trying to reduce Soviet strategic throw-weight to the greatest extent possible. To assess the opposing forces before attack in terms of their relative throw-weight is of course only a partial measure of their comparative original capability. In working out what would actually happen in the assumed exchange, full account has been taken of all relevant factors-in particular the number, yield, accuracy and reliability of the reentry vehicles associated with that throw-weight, and the hardness of the targets against which they are assumed to have been targeted.
Soviet – U.S. Throw-Weight Differentials
It is the situation after attack, of course, that is most important. And here, since the targets remaining after the exchange would almost all be soft ones, missile accuracy and other refinements in the original postures no longer have the same significance. Surviving throw-weight thus becomes an appropriate total measure of the residual capability on both sides.
As worked out by Mr. T. K. Jones, who served as my senior technical advisor when I was a member of the U.S. SALT delegation, the results of such an assessment are shown in Table I, expressed in terms of the ratios, and Table II, expressed in terms of the absolute units of weight-by which one side exceeds the other before and after attack in the various periods and alternative cases examined.17
Based on this method of assessment, the United States in 1960 held a slight but increasing advantage over the Soviet Union, and this advantage became greatest in about mid-1964. Thereafter, however, Soviet programs-greatly accelerated, as earlier noted, after the Cuban missile crisis-started to reverse the trend, so that by mid-1968 the total deployed throw-weights on both sides, before a hypothetical nuclear exchange, were roughly equal. However, as the “after” curve shows, the U.S. operational military advantage persisted for some time thereafter, offsetting the Soviet superiority in deployed throw-weight. For example, if in 1970 the Soviets had attacked U.S. forces, their entire prewar advantage would have been eliminated, leaving the United States with substantial superiority at the end of the exchange. However, this situation began to be reversed in 1973, with the Soviets gaining the military capability to end an exchange with an advantage in their favor. Moreover, in 1976 the “before” and “after” curves of Table I cross, signifying that the Soviets could, by initiating such an exchange, increase the ratio of advantage they held at the start of the exchange. By 1977, after a Soviet-initiated counter-force strike against the United States to which the United States responded with a counterforce strike, the Soviet Union would have remaining forces sufficient to destroy Chinese and European NATO nuclear capability, attack U.S. population and conventional military targets, and still have a remaining force throw-weight in excess of that of the United States. And after 1977 the Soviet advantage after the assumed attack mounts rapidly.
In addition to the ratios and absolute differences that apply to the remaining throw-weights of the two sides, there is a third factor which should be borne in mind. That factor is the absolute level of the forces remaining to the weaker side. If that absolute level is high, continues under effective command and control, and is comprised of a number of reentry vehicles (RVs) adequate to threaten a major portion of the other side’s military and urban/industrial targets, this will be conducive to continued effective deterrence even if the ratios are unfavorable. These considerations reinforce the desirability of survivable systems and methods of deployment.
In sum, the trends in relative military strength are such that, unless we move promptly to reverse them, the United States is moving toward a posture of minimum deterrence in which we would be conceding to the Soviet Union the potential for a military and political victory if deterrence failed. While it is probably not possible and may not be politically desirable for the United States to strive for a nuclear-war-winning capability, there are courses of action available to the United States whereby we could deny to the Soviets such a capability and remove the one-sided instability caused by their throw-weight advantage and by their civil defense program.
To restore stability and the effectiveness of the U.S. deterrent: (1) the survivability and capability of the U.S. strategic forces must be such that the Soviet Union could not foresee a military advantage in attacking our forces, and (2) we must eliminate or compensate for the one-sided instability caused by the Soviet civil defense program. Specifically, we must remove the possibility that the Soviet Union could profitably attack U.S. forces with a fraction of their forces and still maintain reserves adequate for other contingencies.
As to the civil-defense aspect, the absence of a U.S. capability to protect its own population gives the Soviet Union an asymmetrical possibility of holding the U.S. population as a hostage to deter retaliation following a Soviet attack on U.S. forces. Although the most economical and rapidly implementable approach to removing this one-sided instability would be for the United States to pursue a more active civil defense program of its own, such a program does not appear to be politically possible at this time. Its future political acceptability will be a function of the emerging threat and its appreciation by U.S. leadership and by the public.
Two more practicable avenues of action suggest themselves. First, all of the options which would be effective in diminishing the one-sided Soviet advantage involve some improvement in the accuracy of U.S. missiles. Differential accuracy improvements can, at least temporarily, compensate for throw-weight inequality.
This is a controversial issue which has been studied extensively. The results of one such study by a member of Congress are shown in the Congressional Record of May 20, 1975. According to that study the United States presently holds a 4:1 superiority in the hard-target kill capability of missile forces. The Congressman notes in his opposition to a U.S. high-accuracy maneuvering reentry vehicle (MaRV) program that MaRV would by the late 1980s improve U.S. accuracy to .02 n.m. (120 feet), incorrectly estimating that this would increase the U.S. advantage to 7:1 over the U.S.S.R.-assuming the latter was unable to develop MaRV by that time. However, the Congressman’s data also predict that the hard-target kill capability of the Soviet missile force will by the 1980s have increased 100-fold, so that if the United States took no action to improve the accuracy of its missiles, the Soviet Union would have an advantage of 25:1. While it is unnecessary to equip more than a portion of U.S. missiles with high-accuracy RVs, it is clear that substantial accuracy improvements are essential to avoid major Soviet superiority in a critical respect.
Others argue that improvements in U.S. missile accuracy would be “destabilizing.” More specifically, such programs “could spur Soviet countermeasures such as new programs to increase their second-strike capabilities by going to (1) more sea-launched strategic missiles, (2) air-and sea-launched cruise missiles, (3) expanded strategic bomber forces, and (4) mobile ICBMs.”18 These arguments ignore the central fact that deterrence is already being seriously undermined by unilateral actions of the Soviet Union. Hence, further self-restraint by the United States cannot but worsen this condition.
Moreover, the Soviet programs cited as consequences of U.S. accuracy improvement are in fact stabilizing rather than destabilizing. Under the SALT agreements on force ceilings, such reactions would compel offsetting reductions in the Soviet silo-based ICBM force, thereby reducing their total force throw-weight. Moreover, the replacement ICBM systems are not likely to achieve accuracy equal to that of the silo-based ICBMs, while throw-weight moved to bombers and cruise missiles, because of the long flight time to targets, cannot be effectively used in a first-strike counterforce role.
In sum, even on the information furnished by those generally opposing improved accuracy of U.S. missiles, improvement is necessary to avoid a major Soviet advantage, and the logical Soviet counter to such improvements would move the Soviets in a direction which would stabilize the strategic relationship and reduce the Soviet throw-weight advantage.
Second, the prospective Soviet advantage could be offset by measures to decrease the vulnerability of U.S. strategic nuclear forces. Here there are several ongoing programs already under way, notably the development of the Trident submarine and the B-1 bomber; both these delivery systems will be inherently less vulnerable to a counter-force attack than fixed ICBM installations, the submarine by reason of its mobility at sea and the B-1 by virtue of its mobility and escape speed as well as the potential capacity to maintain a portion of the B-1 force airborne in time of crisis. In addition, programs to increase the pre-launch survivability of U.S. bomber forces generally, as well as programs to increase air defense capability through the so-called AWACS system, operate to reduce vulnerability of the total U.S. force. To a considerable extent, however, these programs are already taken into account in the calculations shown on Tables I and II-if they were to be delayed, the effect would be negative, and the contrary if they were to be stepped up and accelerated.
I believe, however, that these measures do not go far enough. The most vulnerable U.S. delivery system today is that of our fixed and hardened ICBM installations, including Minuteman silos. Under present trends, it is only a question of time until a combination of the large throw-weight available to the Soviets and improved accuracy will threaten the destruction of a high percentage of these installations-so that today there is considerable talk in some quarters of actually phasing out U.S. ICBM installations.
I believe such action would be unwise, and that it is entirely feasible, at not excessive cost, to adopt a new system of deployment that would not only permit the retention of our ICBMs-which contribute heavily to the total U.S. throw-weight-but would actually make these a more critical and effective component of the U.S. striking force. The system that would accomplish these ends would be a proliferation of low-cost shelters for what is called a multiple launch-point system. The essence of such a system would be to construct a large number of shelter installations, so that the smaller number of actual missile launchers could be readily moved and deployed among these installations on a random pattern deliberately varied at adequate intervals of time.
The ingredients for such a system are, I believe, already in existence, notably through the availability of sufficiently large areas of western desert land now owned by the Department of Defense. On this land there could be created a large number of hardened shelters, or alternatively the missiles themselves could be encased in hardened capsules redeployable among a large number of “soft” shelters. Preliminary study indicates that the research, development and procurement costs of a system along these lines would average approximately $1.5 billion a year in 1975 dollars over the next eight to ten years. Inasmuch as the current level of obligational authority for strategic weapons systems is on the order of $7 billion per year-much less, as already noted, than the comparable amounts obligated annually in 1956-62-I believe this is a cost we should be prepared to accept.
The objective of creating such a new system of deployment would be to greatly increase the throw-weight costs to the Soviets of destroying a substantial portion of our deterrent forces. This is achieved with a multiple launch-point system, since in order to destroy the system virtually all of the relevant shelter installations would need to be destroyed. There would be many more hardened shelters or encapsulated missiles than the present number of fixed installations, so that the Soviets would be required to commit a larger portion of their throw-weight to this task than they would to the task of attacking fixed installations-the trade-off of U.S. throw-weight destroyed to Soviet throw-weight used would greatly favor the United States. Thus the Soviet advantage in a counterforce exchange would be drastically reduced or eliminated.
Furthermore, I believe that such a U.S. move would be likely to lead to Soviet countermoves that would have a constructive impact on the overall balance. The logical answer to such a U.S. move would be for the Soviet side to substitute either multiple launch-point missiles or SLBMs for a portion of their large fixed ICBMs. They would thereby increase the survivability of their systems, but at the cost of substantially reducing their throw-weight advantage. Such moves by both sides would greatly improve crisis stability and thus significantly reduce the risk of a nuclear war.
In essence, the multiple launch-point idea is a method of preserving and increasing the effectiveness of land-based systems by making them partially mobile. It is, however, necessary to take account of the usual argument advanced for banning land-based mobile missile systems. This argument is that it is more difficult to verify with confidence the number of mobile and thus redeployable launchers deployed by either side than it is to verify the number of fixed silos. The merit of this argument fades in a situation where up to 10 or 12 million pounds of MIRVed throw-weight can be expected to be available to the Soviet side under the limits contemplated by the Vladivostok Accord. With improved accuracy, less than four million pounds of MIRVed throw-weight could threaten the destruction of a high percentage of the fixed silos on the U.S. side. No practicable addition through unverified mobile launchers to the 10 to 12 million pounds of throw-weight permitted the Soviet side would compensate strategically for the additional throw-weight requirement that a U.S. multiple launch-point system would impose. A significant portion of a U.S. multiple launch-point system should survive even if the Soviet Union were to devote to the task of attacking it double the four million pounds of MIRVed throw-weight it would have to allocate to the destruction of our Minuteman silos.19
Undoubtedly, there are other programs which would also be necessary. In particular, it would seem to be essential, if the Soviet Union is to be permitted an unlimited number of Backfires, that we not grant them a free ride for their bomber forces. This would require a reversal of congressional action limiting support for the AWACS program. But taking everything into consideration, the magnitude of the U.S. effort required would be far less than that which we undertook in the 1957-1962 period in response to Sputnik and the then-threatened vulnerability of our bomber force.
Some of my friends argue that those knowledgeable about such matters should bear in mind the horrors of a nuclear war, and should call for U.S. restraint in the hope the U.S.S.R. will follow our lead. Having been in charge of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey team of 500 physicists and engineers who measured the detailed effects of the two nuclear weapons used at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the only two such weapons ever used in anger, and having been associated with many of the subsequent studies of the probable effects of the more modern weapons, I am fully sensitive to the first point. But to minimize the risks of nuclear war, it would seem to me wise to assure that no enemy could believe he could profit from such a war.
As to the second point, Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor for the State Department, recently described the preconditions for the U.S. détente policy in the following terms:
The course on which we embarked requires toughness of mind and steadfastness of purpose. It demands a sober view not only of Soviet strengths but of our own. It is an attempt to evolve a balance of incentives for positive behavior and penalties for belligerence; the objective being to instill in the minds of our potential adversaries an appreciation of the benefits of cooperation rather than conflict and thus lessen the threat of war . . . . Interests will be respected only if it is clear that they can be defended. Restraint will prevail only if its absence is known to carry heavy risks.20
Unfortunately, I believe the record shows that neither negotiations nor unilateral restraint have operated to dissuade Soviet leaders from seeking a nuclear-war-winning capability-or from the view that with such a capability they could effectively use pressure tactics to get their way in crisis situations.
Hence it is urgent that the United States take positive steps to maintain strategic stability and high-quality deterrence. If the trends in Soviet thinking continue to evolve in the manner indicated by the internal statements of Soviet leaders, and if the trends in relative military capability continue to evolve in the fashion suggested by the prior analysis, the foundations for hope in the evolution of a true relaxation of tensions between the U.S.S.R. and much of the rest of the world will be seriously in doubt.
2 See comments by Aleksey Rumiantsev, at a conference sponsored by Problemy Mira i Sotsializma, Summer 1975.
3 To see how top officials viewed American nuclear power even in the period of American monopoly, one can now consult the recently declassified text of the NSC 68 policy paper dated in the spring of 1950. Even though Soviet nuclear capacity (after the first Soviet test of August 1949) was assessed as small for some years to come, that paper rejected any idea of reliance on American nuclear power for the defense of key areas. To be sure, in the 1950s under John Foster Dulles, the United States had a declaratory policy of “massive retaliation.” But in the actual confrontations of that period, this declaratory policy was not in fact followed; instead, conventional force was used, for example in the Lebanon crisis of 1958 and, less directly, in the Offshore Islands crisis of the same year. After 1961 massive retaliation was abandoned.
4 Eugene Wigner, “The Atom and the Bomb,” Christian Science Monitor, November 13, 1974, p. 4.
6 It should be noted that this figure refers to the amounts obligated annually for equipment, materiel, and personnel that can be directly attributed to the program mission, including all support costs that follow directly from the number of combat units. It does not include allocable costs of such related activities as communications, general support, and intelligence.
8 “Throw-weight” is a measure of the weight of effective payload that can be delivered to an intended distance. In the case of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), the throw-weight is a direct measure of such a payload in terms of the potential power of the missiles’ boosters. In view of the more variable loads carried by heavy bombers, a formula for equivalence is needed to take account of all factors including explosive power. This point is addressed in footnote 16.
9 See Maxwell D. Taylor, “The Legitimate Claims of National Security,” Foreign Affairs, April 1974, p. 582.
11 There has been no agreed definition of a heavy ballistic missile. However, both sides acknowledge that the SS-9 and the SS-18 are MLBMs and that the U.S. Titan missile, while it is considered heavy, does not fall within the definition of “modern.” The U.S. has no launchers for MLBMs and is prohibited from converting any of its silos to such launchers. The Soviets are estimated to have had 308 launchers for MLBMs and are permitted to convert the SS-9 launchers into launchers for the even larger and much more capable SS-18s.
12 There are several relevant points on the 600-km. range and cruise vs. ballistic ASM questions. The inclusion of cruise missiles as well as ballistic missiles in the aggregate would offer a distinct advantage to the U.S.S.R. In the first place, cruise missiles with a range greater than 600 km. would significantly contribute to U.S. bomber penetration in the face of the strong Soviet antiaircraft defenses. Furthermore, the United States needs longer range cruise missiles to reach meaningful targets within the opponent’s interior than does the Soviet Union. Secondly, the Soviets now have cruise missiles of large size with large conventional warheads having a range close to 600 km. With smaller nuclear warheads their range could be more than doubled. It is not possible to verify the substitution of nuclear warheads for conventional ones, or to tell armed cruise missiles from unarmed ones. In any case, a single cruise missile cannot be equated with a Soviet ICBM carrying 50 times as much warhead weight.
13 The significance of verifiability is a function not only of the confidence one can have in verifying a particular number but of the strategic significance of the number being verified. Fixed ICBM silos are large and the number deployed is therefore readily verifiable; however, the throw-weight of the missiles which can be launched from such silos can vary by a factor of ten.
The provision in the SALT I Interim Agreement that the interior dimensions of silos not be increased by more than 15 percent was an attempt to get at this problem. However, the volume of a missile which can be launched from a silo of given interior dimensions can still vary by a factor of two or three, and the throw-weight of a missile with a given volume can vary by a factor of two. Even if the probable error in directly verifying a throw-weight limitation were 20 percent, such a limitation would be strategically far more significant than any of the preceding limitations.
In addition to throw-weight, there are other significant strategic factors, such as the survivability of the launcher through mobility or hardening, and the accuracy, reliability, and number of RVs (reentry vehicles) carried by a MIRVed missile. None of these other factors is limited under the Vladivostok Accord and, in any case, they are inherently difficult to verify.
14 In mid-1973 the United States had 602 fighter interceptors and 481 surface-to-air missiles, compared to the Soviet Union’s 3,000 fighter interceptors and 10,000 surface-to-air missiles. Edward Luttwak, The U.S.-U.S.S.R. Nuclear Weapons Balance, The Washington Papers, Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1974.
15 Indeed, if total throw-weight is not reduced while the number of launchers is, the fewer launchers become more vulnerable and critical to each side and crisis stability is actually lessened. See Lt. Gen. (then Col.) Glenn A. Kent, “On the Interaction of Opposing Forces under Possible Arms Agreements,” Occasional Papers in International Affairs, No. 5, Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, March 1963.
16 A B-52 has been assigned an equivalent throw-weight of 10,000 lbs. and a B-1 about 19,000 lbs. The SRAM air-to-surface missile has a yield about equal to that of a Minuteman III warhead; hence, for every three SRAMs carried by a bomber, that bomber is given a throw-weight equivalent equal to the throw-weight of one Minuteman III. Laydown bombs are assumed to have roughly the yield of Minuteman II; hence, for each laydown bomb carried by a bomber it is given a throw-weight equivalent equal to the throw-weight of a Minuteman II. The alert bomber force is assumed to be 40 percent of the B-52 inventory and 60 percent of the B-1 inventory, degraded to incorporate penetration factors.
17 I regret that, even if space permitted, the full assumptions used in Mr. Jones’ study cannot be spelled out here. Security considerations necessarily enter in for some of the underlying data. I have myself gone over Mr. Jones’ data and assumptions with care and believe that they represent a careful and objective analysis of the relevant factors. Above all, since his methods are self-consistent from one period to the next, they show a valid trend-line and pace of change-which I believe the more expert readers of this article will find conform to their more general judgments.
18 Additional views of Representative Schroeder, “Alternative Defense Posture Statement,” Report 94-199 of House Armed Services Committee, May 10, 1975, p. 130.
19 Under the Vladivostok Accord, both sides are permitted 1,320 MIRVed missile launchers. The maximum MIRVed throw-weight the Soviets could obtain within this limit with the missiles they are currently testing and beginning to deploy is:
4,500,000 pounds on 308 SS-18s (about 15,000 pounds each)
7,100,000 pounds on 1,012 SS-19s (about 7,000 pounds each)
for a total MIRVed throw-weight of 11.6 million pounds. However, it is unlikely that the Soviets will reach this maximum, as they are currently deploying some SS-17s, which will have a throw-weight of about 5,000 pounds, and they may choose not to MIRV all of their SS-18s. A more likely figure is less than ten million pounds of MIRVed throw-weight.
A reliable megaton-range RV with a CEP (circular error probable, a measure of accuracy) of 0.125 nautical miles has a probability of damage of 85 percent against a silo of 1,500 psi (pounds per square inch) hardness. The targeting of two such RVs on the silo would give a probability of damage of about 92 percent taking into account both reliability and accuracy. An SS-18 missile may have up to eight megaton-range RVs (International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance, 1974-75); thus a megaton-range RV may require around 2,000 pounds of throw-weight. The net throw-weight required, then, to threaten 92 percent destruction of 1,000 hard silos would be approximately four million pounds, assuming the Soviets achieve CEPs averaging an eighth of a mile.
A multiple launch-point ICBM system with 600-psi hard shelters or encapsulated missiles in soft shelters would require considerably more throw-weight for its destruction. To barrage attack such a mobile system deployed on 6,000 square nautical miles of land as an area target would require about 19,000 megaton-range RVs to achieve a 92 percent damage level. The throw-weight required for this force would be considerably above the Soviet available force. Even as low a damage level as 20 percent would require almost 4,000 megaton-range RVs, a throw-weight of at least eight million pounds.
Assuming the same factors for accuracy and reliability as used above in calculating the potential results of an attack on silo-based ICBMs, an equal probability of damage (85 percent for a single reliable RV) can be achieved against a 600-psi shelter with a 290-kiloton weapon. Since a Minuteman III, with a total of three RVs of less than 200-kt yield, has a throw-weight of about 2,000 pounds, an RV of 290-kt yield might require about 800 pounds of throw-weight. Thus a U.S. deployment of some 10,000 shelters would require eight million pounds of Soviet MIRVed throw-weight to threaten destruction of 72 percent of the multiple launch-point system. The entire ten million pound force would raise the level of destruction to only 77 percent. The cost of adding RVs to the Soviet attack force should be substantially greater than the cost to the United States of adding shelters. In any case, it would appear technologically infeasible to reduce the throw-weight required per RV to less than 300 pounds, even if accuracies were eventually to approach zero CEP.