Testimony of Graham Allison: Lessons Learned From Past WMD Negotiations
[ Page 5 ]
From the record of arms control negotiations and agreements by both Republican and Democrat presidents – from Nixon and Reagan and both Bushes, to Kennedy, Johnson, Clinton and Obama – one brute take-away is hard to deny: agreements have reduced risks of war, reduced the numbers of nuclear weapons, reduced uncertainties in estimating threats, and enhanced predictability.
As Henry Kissinger said to this committee five years ago, “A number of objectives characterize arms control negotiations: to reduce or eliminate the danger of war by miscalculation, which requires transparency of design and deployment; to bring about the maximum stability in the balance of forces to reduce incentives for nuclear war by design, especially by reducing incentives for surprise attack; to overcome the danger of accidents fostered by the automaticity of the new technology.”
[ Page 3 ]
Claims that the US cannot reach agreements to constrain nuclear arms in ways that advance our interests in dealing with states that are actively engaged in terrorism against us or our allies, or even actively killing Americans in on-going military conflict, have a ring of plausibility—but on the historical record are incorrect.
- During the Vietnam War, Soviet-manned surface-to-air missiles shot down American pilots over Vietnam, and Americans bombed Soviet air defense units. Despite these realities, President Nixon negotiated and concluded SALT I, imposing quantitative limits on the US-Soviet missile buildup, and creating, as Henry Kissinger described it, “a platform of coexistence.”
[ Page 3-4 ]
Claims that the US cannot reach advantageous agreements to constrain nuclear arms with governments that cannot be trusted, that inherently lie and cheat, and who will undoubtedly seek to deceive the US and violate the agreement sound right—but are wrong.
. No regime was more inherently devious than the Soviet Union. According to Lenin’s operational codes, it was the Soviet leader’s duty to deceive capitalists and out-maneuver them. True to character, the Soviet Union cheated, for example, in placing radars in locations excluded by the ABM Treaty. But reviewing the history, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the cheating was marginal rather than material. The US discovered the cheating, called the Soviets out for it, and engaged in a process that produced compliance good enough to achieve our objectives.
. To minimize cheating, agreements focused on parameters that could be verified by US intelligence. Thus SALT and START limited not nuclear warheads, which we could not monitor, but launchers, which we could. While other nations’ intelligence committees and international organizations like the IAEA have been important supplements, the US has wisely not subcontracted verification to others.