As the 1988 presidential campaign moves into full swing, the Arms Control Association is pleased to present an exclusive ACT feature: a forum in which the major Democratic and Republican candidates give their views on key arms control and national security issues. As in the last three presidential campaigns, ACA believes that providing this opportunity for the candidates to describe their positions can only raise the level of debate on this crucial area. Hopefully, the opportunity to compare the candidates’ views, in writing, will help the interested public to understand the candidates’ areas of agreement and disagreement, their relative emphases, in more specific, programmatic detail than is usually found in campaign material.
In November, ACA sent identical questionnaires to both major candidates, Democrat Michael Dukakis and Republican George H.W. Bush. Only five questions were included, each dealing with a major concern in the arms control arena. Each candidate was asked to discuss not only his basic goals and perspectives on national security, but also the arms control initiatives he would undertake if elected. Their statements are presented here.
Following are the questions addressed to the candidates:
1) What would you do with the Strategic Defense Initiative program, and would your SDI policy be guided by the narrow or broad interpretation of the ABM Treaty?
2) How would your approach to limiting strategic offensive arms differ from that of the present administration?
3) Would you seek to negotiate a comprehensive test ban or other nuclear testing limits?
4) What strategic concept would govern your procurement of strategic weapon systems and what new programs would you support?
5) What new initiatives would your administration undertake to control nuclear arms and reduce the risk of nuclear war?
Democratic Response: Michael S. Dukakis
SDI/ABM Treaty Reinterpretation: The administration’s SDI program is a fantasy—a technological illusion which most scientists say cannot be achieved in the foreseeable future. The defenses they envision won’t make the United States more secure—they will simply fuel the arms race, as each new system produces a counter-system, with no increased security. Deploying defenses could make nuclear war more, not less, likely. At a time when the defense budget will remain stable at best in the coming years, the United States cannot afford to waste billions and billions for a system we don’t need and which can’t work.
The United States and the Soviet Union should abide by the traditional, correct interpretation of the ABM Treaty. The treaty is clear: “Each party undertakes not to develop, test or deploy ABM systems or components which are…space-based.” Period. Congress, under the leadership of Senator Sam Nunn, has affirmed the importance of abiding by the correct interpretation of the treaty; it is time for the administration to reverse the dangerous precedent it has set, which could seriously harm future efforts to gain Senate support for arms control treaties.
Only if the United States and the Soviets agree to maintain the treaty can we hope to achieve durable cuts in strategic nuclear weapons. The administration’s attempt to sidestep the issue at the Washington summit, and to base an agreement for deep cuts in strategic weapons on an unresolved ambiguity over the meaning of the treaty, could increase superpower tensions in the future.
Rather than creating new ambiguities, we should work through the mechanism established in the treaty—the Standing Consultative Commission (SCC)—to resolve differences over interpretation and compliance and to make sure that new technology does not undermine the treaty.
The SCC has been effective in the past, but the current administration has been unwilling to take advantage of the procedures established for settling these disputes.
I support continued research on strategic defenses at about the funding level in 1983—before the President announced the Strategic Defense Initiative-as long as the research is consistent with the ABM Treaty. This will permit the United States to guard against a Soviet breakout from the treaty, and to conduct basic scientific research, without threatening the treaty itself.
Strategic Arms Limitations: The framework agreed upon by the United States and the Soviet Union in the Washington summit is a good beginning. It would put a brake on the growth of each side’s nuclear arsenal and bring the number of warheads to about the level that existed when President Reagan took office. It would cut in half the number of SS-18s—the Soviets’ most dangerous and destabilizing strategic nuclear weapon. The agreement also acknowledges the need to place limits on sea-launched cruise missiles.
But the agreement would not by itself stop or slow the race to build new, highly accurate, multiple-warhead ballistic missiles. Over time, unlimited development of new nuclear weapons could make both sides worse off.
We need to go beyond the framework outlined during the summit:
• agree to respect the traditional interpretation of the ABM Treaty;
• negotiate an end to testing and development of antisatellite weapons that threaten satellites on which we rely for communication and early warning of nuclear attack;
• negotiate a comprehensive test ban;
• stop the never-ending spiral of new, more accurate systems until both sides can agree on what systems, if any, will make the nuclear balance more stable in a world with far fewer nuclear warheads than we have today.
Nuclear Testing Limits: I place high priority on negotiating a comprehensive nuclear test ban—an agreement which was nearly reached at the end of the Carter administration. A test ban is essential if we are to end the nuclear arms race, and concentrate instead on ways of reducing the risk of nuclear war. A test ban would put a halt to third-generation nuclear weapons, including the x-ray laser, and new battlefield systems, such as the neutron bomb. A CTB would end the illusion that nuclear security can be achieved through ever more sophisticated nuclear weapons.
Strategic Concept/New Programs: My approach is quite straightforward—we should pursue a strategy to prevent the use of a single nuclear weapon, by calculation or miscalculation, by a superpower or a regional power or terrorists.
A sound approach to strategic weapons and strategic arms control is one component of that strategy. Both superpowers must realize that ever increasing numbers of sophisticated nuclear weapons will not guarantee our security—but will bankrupt us and increase the risk of nuclear war.
We need a strong and survivable nuclear deterrent. We have it today. Our goal must be to reduce significantly the number of nuclear weapons, especially the highly accurate, MIRVed ICBMs which pose the greatest threat of unleashing nuclear war, while retaining a survivable retaliatory force so that neither side perceives any advantage in launching a preemptive first strike against the other.
I believe we should maintain the triad of land-based, sea- based and air-delivered nuclear weapons, because it complicates Soviet attack planning and thus contributes to deterrence. I oppose developing the Midgetman missile—which will cost $50 billion over the next 15 years. It’s a question of priorities. Midgetman is not essential to maintaining an effective deterrent; investing in our conventional forces will do more to reduce the risk of nuclear war—because conventional weakness invites conventional war, and conventional war can lead to nuclear war.
I support continued research on the D-5 missile, but I would withhold deploying the D-5 pending the outcome of arms control negotiations. If we can agree with the Soviet Union to eliminate multiple-warhead, hard target missiles on both sides, we will not need to deploy the D-5.
I also support continued development of the Stealth bomber. I believe that the United States should maintain an effective bomber force. But a final decision on Stealth production will depend on its affordability, on a careful assessment of whether the Stealth can perform its mission effectively and our relative need for another new bomber in the context of an arms control agreement reducing the number of nuclear warheads.
We must begin to explore with the Soviet Union more effective ways of controlling sea-launched cruise missiles. Unlimited increases in cruise missiles could create new risks of nuclear war in a world with far fewer ballistic missiles, particularly as the new generations of cruise missiles become more “stealthy” and provide little or no warning of attack.
We must continue efforts to assure the survivability of our strategic command, control and communications, an important element of deterrence. Our program should not seek to develop a nuclear warfighting capability, but to demonstrate to the Soviet Union that they could not destroy, with a nuclear first strike, our ability to retaliate.
Arms Control Initiatives: I would begin by giving priority to two arms control initiatives which have been all but abandoned by the current administration: a mutual ban on antisatellite weapon testing and a comprehensive test ban treaty.
I would seek a mutual moratorium on flight testing of strategic ballistic missiles, to set the stage for an agreement on deep reductions of strategic weapons.
I would convene a meeting of experts from both the United States and the Soviet Union under the aegis of the Standing Consultative Commission to develop guidelines and common understandings on how to prevent the erosion of the ABM Treaty as a result of technological developments which could have an impact on the ABM Treaty (such as improved anti-tactical ballistic missiles).
I would strengthen the new risk reduction centers, by initiating discussions (involving both government and nongovernment experts) on how both sides should restructure their strategic nuclear forces as part of deep reductions to reduce the risk of nuclear war and enhance stability. We should also accept the Soviet offer to discuss military doctrine—conventional and nuclear—as a way of increasing confidence in each other’s intentions, and to pave the way for reductions and restructuring of our forces.
I would move quickly, in concert with our European allies, to propose large, asymmetrical reductions in conventional forces in Europe, focusing on the Warsaw Pact’s advantage in armored units, which pose the greatest threat to NATO, and which could trigger a nuclear conflict.
I would place high priority on efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons, by strengthening and enforcing the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), by tightening safeguards against transferring nuclear technology, and working with other countries to do the same. I would insist on strict interpretation and enforcement of our nuclear export laws and would halt military aid to countries which violate our laws. As President, I will ask Secretary Gorbachev to issue with me a joint invitation: on the day we sign an agreement banning underground nuclear tests, France, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, Brazil, Argentina, and South Africa should sign the NPT, as well.
Republican Response: George Bush
SDI/ABM Treaty Interpretation: We must actively support the Strategic Defense Initiative. It is our best hope to reduce the nuclear danger. The principle underlying SDI is important: to develop a defensive shield that targets weapons, not people.
Since the time I was director of the CIA, we have known that the Soviets were working on an SDI-type system. Gorbachev admitted that in his recent interview. We are playing catch up. But we are doing a good job—and that’s got the Soviets worried.
The Democrats say we cannot afford SDI. I say we cannot afford to lag behind the Soviets in this important technology. I do not believe for a moment the Soviets’ rhetoric that they are spending billions on a program that they do not plan to deploy.
We must vigorously pursue development and testing of SDI. And as soon as it is ready, it must be deployed.
We should abide by the ABM Treaty—and so should the Soviets. While it has not been in all instances honored by the Soviets, the ABM Treaty nonetheless provides some controls and stability with respect to the strategic arms race. As to SDI, the ABM Treaty permits research, development, and testing work on new and advanced technologies, including SDI.
Strategic Arms Limitations: The INF Treaty President Reagan signed in December was a major step forward in our relations with the Soviet Union. It is not the millennium. But it is something we can build on, and it is a victory of will and determination. The President first proposed the so-called “zero option” six years ago, when the Soviets had a monopoly on these intermediate-range missiles in Europe. They said no to our offer—and so we countered their missiles with our missiles. Then they changed their mind.
Just as important as our strength was our steadiness—our refusal to be stampeded into unwise concessions by our desire for peace. Now the President may go to Moscow this spring for another summit. We must maintain that same resolve. While we should be willing to take bold steps for peace, we must not do so under artificial deadlines.
I believe the INF Treaty will be looked upon some day as a watershed agreement—the first to actually reduce—not just limit, but reduce—the number of nuclear weapons in the world; one that achieves a balance through asymmetrical reductions—1600 of their warheads to 400 of ours; one that breaks new ground on verification and puts us on a new track toward a more stable and enduring deterrence. I hope the Senate gives the treaty its full support, and I am confident it will.
What is significant is not just that we are eliminating a small percentage of our nuclear arsenal, but that we are reversing the patterns of the past—away from more and more weapons and toward greater stability and safety.
The verification requirements are a major achievement in themselves. The Soviets have agreed to a new level of openness— openness we have sought for many years. Our scientists will now be allowed to visit Soviet weapons plants that were completely shut off to the West. Soviet inspectors will have equivalent access to our installations.
These on-site, on-demand inspection procedures are major steps forward—ones that will reveal far more about the Soviets than simply whether they are willing to abide by the terms of the treaty. They will, in my view, demonstrate just how far the Soviets are willing to go in seeking a new kind of relationship with us, and they may be the beginning of a whole new chapter in East-West relations.
But we must be realistic. From my days at the U.N. and the CIA to the White House, I have observed that the Soviets test every president and push every agreement to its limits and beyond. We must be vigilant, and we must be tough, and we must stand up for the values that define us as a nation.
Nuclear Testing Limits: I do not support the nuclear test ban recently proposed by the Soviets. As I noted earlier, the INF Treaty President Reagan signed in December was a major step forward in our relations with the Soviet Union. At the end of the summit, we issued a detailed joint statement that built on the INF breakthrough and instructed our negotiators to push for similar progress on the START treaty. Success in these talks would bring a measurably safer world.
Strategic Concept/New Programs: We must always deal with the Soviets from a position of strength—which means we must maintain a strong balance in nuclear capabilities and conventional forces, and must continue to develop strategic defenses for the future.
Arms Control Initiatives: We have taken the first step toward a more stable nuclear balance. What is the next step, and how will it move us toward our destination?
We have proposed to the Soviets that we cut in half the number of weapons in our strategic forces—with a particular eye on the Soviets’ destabilizing, multiple-warhead, land-based missiles.
Such substantial reductions in our nuclear arsenals would move us away from a deterrence strategy of Mutual Assured Destruction, toward a more stable balance based on fewer missiles and the development of a strategic shield.
The INF Treaty and a START treaty will give us a way to measure Soviet intentions more concretely, and to reduce our forces, step by cautious step, without compromising our security That’s why the verification process is so important. We will be breaking down the Soviets’ wall of secrecy and observing whether the reality matches the rhetoric—laying the groundwork for future negotiations.
In the coming months and years, we must seek reductions in the Soviets’ substantial advantage in conventional and chemical weapons. The Warsaw Pact has half again as many combat divisions as NATO. It has more than twice as many tanks and artillery pieces. Our commitment to the defense of Western Europe is at the very heart of our defense strategy, and it is absolutely essential that we maintain a deterrent to aggression. To do so, we must properly equip and modernize our conventional forces, and that will not be cheap.
We must also move toward the verifiable elimination of chemical and biological weapons. On the President’s instructions, I put such a proposal on the table in Geneva in 1984, and it would be a top priority of my administration. Our allies and the Soviets both support the elimination of these weapons in principle.
We can start by reducing their numbers to much lower levels. We must develop stringent new verification techniques to prevent cheating—a very difficult assignment, but a critical one. Ultimately’ these terrible weapons should be banned from the face of the earth.
Overshadowing this arms control agenda, however, is the inescapable fact that the threat of nuclear attack comes not only from the Soviets. In the 1990s, more and more countries will have the capability of building a nuclear bomb.
Many of us have concluded that such weapons are more likely to be used in a regional conflict or in a terrorist attack than in a standoff between the superpowers. Yet any use poses enormous dangers to us all.
Nuclear proliferation is even tougher to restrain by negotiation than the arms race. But it is our moral obligation to do everything we can to keep nuclear blackmail out of the hands of madmen like Qaddafi or Khomeini.
Our strategy depends on multiple sources of nuclear restraint. Bilaterally, we have a very effective process in place to screen U.S. technology exports for nuclear-related technology. Our participation in multilateral nonproliferation agreements, even with our adversaries, has also been a model of effective restraint. We can exercise through our formal agreements very effective impediments to proliferation.
We should spearhead a new effort to commit every nation to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and we should push more countries to be open to on-site inspection. We must also strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency—one U.N. agency that does its work well.
We must promote the perception among populations and leaders of non-nuclear countries that nuclear weapons are simply not useful to them. Their acquisition requires an expensive and difficult cycle of maintenance and testing and gives them no security benefit commensurate with the costs or dangers.
It is this last negative aspect of proliferation that I think is the most persuasive. That it is well understood accounts, I believe, for most of our success to date in restraining proliferation.
In the years ahead, we will face challenge and change in our dealings with the Soviets. If Gorbachev can transform Soviet society—not just economically, but in terms of human rights as well—we will be waiting for him, at the door of a new century, ready to move from an era of confrontation to one of cooperation.
In the meantime, we must remain ever watchful. We must act with high resolve as well as high hopes—with a strength that is real and that is recognized by the world as real.
As we move ahead, the question remains unanswered: What will prevail—the voices of hostility and fear that counsel us never to bargain, the voices of trust and faith that tell us to deal at any price, or the voices of confidence and hope that call us to seize the opportunity to make the world safer for generations to come?
I promise you, I will be a voice for freedom and peace.