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Former negotiator lists reasons for continuing arms control talks

STANFORD -- Arms-control negotiations with the Soviet Union's successor states can keep the number of nuclear powers among them to one - Russia - and produce far greater reductions in nuclear weapons capable of reaching the United States, says a former member of U.S. negotiating teams.

There are still more nuclear weapons in the former Soviet republics than there were during much of the Cold War, George Bunn notes in Arms Control by Committee: Managing Negotiations with the Russians, a new book published by Stanford University Press.

"No one can be sure whether the successors to the Soviet Union will be friendly or hostile over the next decade," Bunn said.

Four republics have nuclear weapons that can reach the United States: Russia, Belarus (formerly Byelorussia), Kazakhstan and Ukraine. Of those, Russia has 70 percent of the former Soviet arsenal.

Whether Gorbachev's or Yeltsin's statements cutting Soviet weaponry and deployment will be fully implemented by those with physical control over the weapons remains to be seen," he said.

As general counsel for the U.S. Arms Control Agency from 1961 to 1969, Bunn was involved in negotiating the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963 and the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968. He later taught at the University of Wisconsin and the U.S. Naval War College, and is now a visiting scholar at Stanford and a member in residence of the university's Center for International Security and Arms Control.

His book provides case histories of important arms- control negotiations from 1945 through 1991, as seen from the American side, and is used in arms-control courses at Stanford and the Naval Postgraduate School.

Bunn concludes from the case histories that "arms control negotiators are messengers, not movers," who must maneuver in Washington's "four-ring circus" of decision-making.

"One ring is to resolve interagency disputes; another, differences with key members of Congress; another, with important allies; and a fourth with the Russians," he said.

He makes five predictions about the future of arms- control negotiations:

  • U.S. negotiations with Russia and the other three republics holding intercontinental nuclear weapons will continue, along with more reciprocated, unilateral controls of the type that then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and President George Bush began in late 1991.

Doubts about whether the republics' negotiators are in a position to make commitments is "likely to produce major delays, greater caution in Russian [or] other republic . . . bargaining, and increased frustration on the American side - like that the Soviets experienced earlier when a new American administration with different views took office or when consensus was lacking in NATO," Bunn said.

  • Treaties requiring a two-thirds vote in the Senate will remain more important than unilateral cuts or even executive agreements because they can lock in important commitments more effectively.
  • Third parties will be more important in future negotiations. Especially as the former superpowers reduce their long-range war-making capabilities, the long-range warheads of Britain, China and France will become important.

"The major American preoccupation with U.S.-Soviet arms control is probably a thing of the past," Bunn said. "A united Germany may now be as important a negotiating partner in international security matters as Russia and the other major republics."

  • U.S. negotiators should be able to be faster and more flexible because "the Pentagon's ability to prevent change by mustering 34 votes in the Senate could end."

In the past, key Pentagon officials could barter for new weapons systems or testing in exchange for their testimony in support of arms-control proposals, Bunn said. This "logrolling linkage between arms control and strategic modernization" broke down in 1990 and 1991, because of the revolutionary changes in central and Eastern Europe and "activism in Congress on arms control, in part, because of pressures to cut the military budget."

  • White House, congressional and allied committees will continue to influence decision-making in the U.S. government and may develop more ambitious goals, such as cutting the defense budget and improving strategic stability, Bunn said.

Bunn cautions against putting too much faith for long- term commitments in the unilateral cutbacks by Bush and Gorbachev. When he was part of the negotiation team in 1963 and 1964, Bunn said, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Nikita Khrushchev also tried a series of unilateral steps. The only changes that remain in effect are those that were eventually codified by agreements: the Limited Test Ban Treaty, the Hot Line Agreement and the Outer Space Treaty.

"Continued U.S. reciprocation of Soviet military budget cuts begun in 1964 was prevented by growing U.S. expenditures for the Vietnam War," he said. "Soviet reciprocation of U.S. production cuts in fissionable materials was discredited in U.S. congressional and interagency negotiating committee debates because of a lack of verifiable evidence that the Soviet Union had done anything. The reciprocated troop cuts in Europe were so secret and ambiguous at the time that I cannot find evidence today to show any continuing effect."

When Ronald Reagan wanted to end limits imposed by SALT II and the ratified ABM treaty, he could have terminated both without the permission of Congress and the Soviets," Bunn said. "But the political costs would have been greater with the ABM treaty because it had been ratified," he said.

To get around those costs, Reagan's administration tried to reinterpret the treaty. Congress balked by denying funds for tests of strategic-defensive weapons that would have violated the old interpretation.

These examples, Bunn said, suggest that "to lock in arms limits as explicit obligations can clearly make them less vulnerable to events, changes of heart or new leaders."

Asymmetrical cuts also are not likely to come about without negotiations, Bunn said. Neither Bush nor Gorbachev undertook asymmetrical, unilateral steps to eliminate multiple, independently targeted re-entry vehicles on strategic missiles.



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