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Letter to Congressional Leaders Transmitting a Report on Soviet and United States Compliance With Arms Control Agreements

June 19, 1986

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:) (Dear Mr. Chairman:)

The FY 1986 Department of Defense Authorization Bill (Senate Report 99-118, pp. 466/7) requested a report to the Congress addressing both policy and programmatic responses, including possible weapons system developments and procurements, designed to reduce the implications of Soviet noncompliance for U.S. national security. Additionally, the FY 1986 Department of Defense Authorization Act (Title X, Section 1001) also requested a report containing a comprehensive range of projections and comparisons of U.S. and Soviet strategic force dismantlements, inventories, and negotiation responses, in terms of adherence to existing strategic arms control agreements, etc., as well as any measures proposed as necessary to protect the security of the United States in responding to Soviet noncompliance.

During the past several months, my senior advisors and I have considered the implications of Soviet noncompliance for U.S. and Allied security, as well as the Soviet strategic arms buildup, and Soviet behavior at the Geneva negotiations. We consulted with key Allies and members of Congress. We also took account of the sense of the Congress expressed in the above legislation concerning changes in U.S. interim restraint policy.

To fulfill the first legislative request above, I am forwarding my major statement of May 27, as well as an accompanying White House fact sheet reflecting the Administration's assessment of the implications of Soviet behavior and of the corresponding requirements for programmatic U.S. responses.

To satisfy the second legislative request cited above, I am also providing a separate classified report concerning Soviet and U.S. force dismantlements and projections with and without SALT I and II limits. This report makes clear that SALT II and I codified a very major arms buildup including a quadrupling of Soviet strategic weapons (warheads and bombs) since SALT I was signed in 1972 and a near doubling of Soviet ballistic missile warheads from about 5,000 to more than 9,000 since SALT II was signed in 1979.

The report further finds that the SALT I and II agreements, even if fully complied with, would not prevent a very substantial further expansion of Soviet capabilities. We believe that, absent SALT II, the Soviets would not necessarily expand their forces significantly beyond the increases already projected with SALT II since the Soviet forces are very large and would appear, in our judgment, more than enough to meet reasonable military requirements.

My belief that U.S. restraint requires Soviet reciprocity has long been clear. I announced in 1982 that in spite of the serious flaws in the SALT agreements, the U.S., in an effort to foster mutual restraint conducive to negotiating arms reductions agreements, would not undercut the SALT agreements so long as the USSR exercised equal restraint. In three comprehensive reports to the Congress, I have detailed the facts and adverse implications of Soviet noncompliance for our security and the integrity of the arms control process.

In June of last year, I went the extra mile. Regrettably, the Soviets did not alter their behavior. Given this situation, I determined that, in the future, the United States must base decisions regarding its strategic force structure on the nature and magnitude of the threat posed by Soviet strategic forces, and not on standards contained in the SALT structure which has been undermined by Soviet noncompliance, and especially in a flawed SALT II treaty which was never ratified, would have expired if it had been ratified, and has been violated by the Soviet Union.

The full implementation of the Strategic Modernization Program is critical both to meeting our future national security needs and to appropriately responding to Soviet noncompliance. However, we will exercise utmost restraint. As we modernize, we will continue to retire older forces as national security requirements permit. We do not anticipate any appreciable growth in the size of U.S. strategic forces. Assuming no significant change in the threat, we will not deploy more strategic nuclear delivery vehicles or more strategic ballistic missile warheads than does the Soviet Union.

As a result of my decision to retire two POSEIDON submarines, the United States will remain technically in observance of the terms of the SALT II Treaty for some months. We continue to hope that the Soviet Union will use this additional time to take the constructive steps needed to alter the current situation. Should they do so, we will take this into account.

I want to emphasize that no policy of interim restraint is a substitute for an agreement on deep and equitable reductions in offensive nuclear arms, provided that we can be confident of Soviet compliance with it. Achieving such reductions continues to receive my highest priority. This is the most direct path to achieving greater stability and a safer world.



Note: Identical letters were sent to Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr., Speaker of the House of Representatives; George Bush, President of the Senate; Barry Goldwater, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee; and Les Aspin, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Ronald Reagan, Letter to Congressional Leaders Transmitting a Report on Soviet and United States Compliance With Arms Control Agreements Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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