An Era of Negotiations: SALT in the Nixon Administration, 1969-1972
Painter, David S
The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) represented a decisive shift in the Cold War, replacing unbridled strategic competition with a process of superpower bargaining. Despite its importance, however, the Nixon Administration was divided over the purpose of arms control. The State Department and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) promoted the Cambridge Approach to arms control, which sought to bolster mutual assured destruction by limiting dangerous weapons technologies. The Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) promoted the Philadelphia Approach to arms control, which sought to gain competitive nuclear advantage over the Soviets through a combination of competition and negotiation.Newly-available archival sources allow us to examine how Nixon and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger mediated these competing viewpoints to produce SALT policy. Nixon and Kissinger redefined deeper political divisions over the purpose of arms control in terms of technical questions of verification, while delaying any final SALT decision that would alienate proponents of either arms control approach. Facing mounting pressure to conclude an arms control agreement, Nixon and Kissinger resorted to secret backchannel negotiations with the Soviets to present fait accompli bargains to the US foreign policy bureaucracy.The resulting arms control agreements, the 1972 ABM Treaty and Interim Agreement on Offensive Forces, were shaped by the internal bargaining of the Nixon Administration. Proponents of both the Cambridge and Philadelphia Approaches could agree, albeit for very different reasons, that limiting large intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defenses was beneficial to US security. As a result, ICBMs and ABM were both limited under the 1972 agreements. Conversely, proponents of the two arms control approaches could not agree over the desirability of MIRV. As a result, the 1972 agreements did not limit the deployment of MIRV technology.
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