STAR WARS AND GENEVA by Richard L. Garwin IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center P.O. Box 218 Yorktown Heights, NY 10598 (914) 945-2555 (also Adjunct Professor of Physics, Columbia University; Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large, Cornell University; Adjunct Research Fellow, CENTER FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Kennedy School of Government Harvard University) September 9, 1985 Abstract: Unlike President Reagan's 1983 vision of strategic defense which would protect us so well from Soviet missiles that we could give up our nuclear weapons, the SDI program is now oriented toward strengthening deterrence by preserving our ICBMs and other military targets. To negotiate over the SDI in Geneva would be to end the 1972 ABM treaty and all limits on Soviet forces, but to proceed with the SDI without negotiation would do the same. The summit meeting would be a good opportunity for President Reagan to reassert his leadership by announcing the reorientation of the SDI toward theoretical and laboratory research only, toward the discovery of new phenomena which might hold the hope of realizing the President's dream of a defense so complete that nuclear weapons of any kind would lose their terror. 252|SWAG 090985SWAG DRAFT 1 09/09/85 Views of the author, not of his organizations In his speech of March 1983 launching the SDI program, President Reagan presented the hope of "countering the awesome Soviet missile threat with measures that are defensive"-- protection rather than retaliation (call this SDI-1). But the SDI program itself and its participants and supporters, now offer only the hope of strengthening deterrence by threat of retaliation, rather than replacing deterrence by the President's dream of an impenetrable shield. The President's announcement emphasized the continuing effectiveness of our nuclear weapons in deterring attack by the Soviet Union; it launched an SDI in the hope sometime in the next century of giving the American people a means of preventing attack with which they would be more comfortable than the threat of retaliation against an entire society. SDI-1 is the President's noble dream; its announcement surprised the Defense Department and the State department, and no analysis before or since shows it to be feasible with anything we now know or imagine. The Reagan dream is of a magic spell to disable nuclear warheads worldwide, or turn them into dust; such magic (and many scientific advances would have been regarded as "magic" if they could have been clearly foreseen in full operation) would pose no threat of offensive use. But by eliminating the threat of nuclear weapons, it would "make the world safe for conventional war," biological warfare, or the like. In any case, the real SDI (SDI-2) is not pursuing the President's dream, and it may well make it even farther from reality, since studies done for the Defense Department after the President's speech conclude that an effective defense against Soviet ballistic missiles cannot be achieved unless the Soviets limit (do not expand greatly) their strategic forces. SDI-2 is demanding $26 B over the first 5 years (some $70 billion in 10 years) for research and demonstration; its strongest advocates claim it is necessary to preserve our deterrent and because the Soviets are ahead of us in Star Wars research; and some of its most powerful participants see the key to success in an x-ray laser powered by a large nuclear explosion in space. In contrast, the Scowcroft commission, apppointed by President Reagan in January, 1983, reported in April 1983 and March 1984, emphasizing that our deterrent was sound and would remain so, without strategic defense, if we took prudent steps to develop and deploy small single-warhead ICBMs to supplant the present multiple-warhead missiles, and smaller submarines with fewer missiles aboard to succeed the 24-missile Trident ships. We are modernizing our nuclear weapons, explicitly seeking the ability to destroy in their silos the Soviet ICBMs that contain 80% of Soviet strategic weapons; to this, SDI-2 adds the threat of destroying a large fraction of those which have been launched. Without the hope of defeating a first strike by the Soviet Union against U.S. society, and without the necessity of intercepting nuclear warheads launched by the Soviet Union against our own ICBM silos, the SDI is seen by the Soviets as a threat to their survival-- seen as leaving the U.S. with a powerful nuclear attack capability, while disarming the Soviet Union. Our conduct of SDI-2 will drive the Soviets to an urgent expansion of their nuclear force, from the present 9000 warheads to 50,000 or more, some of this expansion being on small ICBMs carrying a single warhead just as deadly to our society as a warhead on a large missile and peculiarly suited to attacking or escaping from space- based defenses, if we ever learn how to build them. The Soviets will perfect and test new antisatellite weapons, including "space mines" to accompany U.S. satellites from the moment they go into orbit, ready to destroy them in an instant in case of war. The most important fact about the SDI is that no system yet imagined can protect our society against Soviet nuclear weapons or their society against our retaliation, if a nation chooses to employ existing technology to counter the defense; the SDI program will further expand the ability to defeat the defense. Among our concerns as a nation are: 1. The Soviet nuclear threat to our society. 2. The potential spread of nuclear weapons to other nations. 3. Soviet expansionism, Soviet denial of human rights in the USSR, their doctrine of state supremacy, the suppression of minorities. The first is an urgent problem for our survival; the second a problem which is of vital importance for our future security, and one in which the interests of the Soviet Union and the U.S. are aligned; and the third is one in which our interests are opposed. We cannot depend on the Soviets to solve these problems for us-- we can and should make sound decisions in defense management; we should join with allies and neutrals to pursue our goals; and we can attempt to persuade the Soviet Union, by promise of reward or punishment, to strengthen our security and to save us money. Formal negotiations in Geneva are a small and inefficient part of this process; in this age of telecommunications and after more than a decade of working-level contact between the Soviet Union and the United States, Geneva negotiations are the Potemkin village of bilateral relations-- a false front covering the reluctance of one or both sides to conclude a formal agreement. SDI advocates do the President a disservice. The road to realizing the President's dream lies not in SDI-2 but much more in limiting and reducing offensive forces on earth; in removing the rough edges from the 1983 Soviet draft treaty to ban the stationing of all weapons in space, to ban the test of weapons from earth to space, space to earth or space to space; in strengthening rather than undermining the ABM treaty of 1972; and in moving toward acceptance of a companion principle which would permit a truly major reduction in nuclear weapons from the present 25,000 on each side to some 2000-- the agreement not to produce or test weapons to threaten the retaliatory force on the other side. Since SDI-1 is in any case a decades-long research program, in the mind and in the laboratory, we would have plenty of time to invite the Soviet Union to join us in a new defensive era in case we discovered some new phenomenon which could lead to an effective and durable defense of society, or, if they did not agree, we could then abandon the treaty. An early major reduction in the Soviet threat would not only be a triumphant legacy for the President (never mind the tortuous path followed to its achievement), but it would allow the principal nuclear weapons states, together with the great majority of the world's nations that have promised under the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1967 never to acquire nuclear weapons, to concentrate their efforts to ensure that no other nation would see any benefit in nuclear weapons in the face of this determined opposition. I played an important role in the creation of the first hydrogen bomb, tested in 1952, in bringing the air-launched cruise missile into the U.S. strategic forces (the most modern and most accurate strategic retaliatory weapon in the world), in helping the government with arms control agreements and analyses since 1958, and in the development of defenses against aircraft and missiles from 1953 up to the present day. To those who say arms control in general (and the ABM treaty in particular) is a failure, I recall that in the few years before the ABM treaty of May 1972, we were planning our missile forces to penetrate a nationwide Soviet ABM system equipped with with 5000 or more nuclear-armed defensive missiles. Contrast this with the 32 actual defensive missiles around Moscow, of the 100 permitted nationwide by the ABM treaty. This is why the Joint Chiefs of Staff have supported strategic arms control as an important contribution to our security; building the 50,000 strategic nuclear warheads viewed in the 1960s by Secretary of Defense McNamara as our likely response to a nationwide Soviet ABM system might have cost less than the defense that provoked it, but would not have improved our security at all. The Reagan administration argues that the SDI is not up for negotiation in Geneva. Defense Secretary Weinberger said (01/14/85), "I am ruling out the possibility of giving up a strategic defense either in the research phase, or, if it becomes feasible, in the deployable stage." But the U.S. has bound itself by the 1972 ABM Treaty not to deploy a defense against strategic ballistic missiles; to negotiate over the SDI would be to destroy the ABM treaty and all limits on offensive weapons. The summit meeting would be a good opportunity for President Reagan to reassert his leadership by announcing the reorientation of the SDI toward theoretical and laboratory research only, toward the discovery of new phenomena which might hold the hope of realizing the President's dream of a defense so complete that nuclear weapons of any kind would lose their terror. An SDI-2 program spending $3 billion this year and demanding perhaps $5 billion next year will soon collide with our obligations under the ABM treaty and thus destroy all limits on Soviet weapons programs. By throwing money at the problem, SDI-2 steals scarce defense research funds from fields in which they can better aid our security; in the words of Harold M. Agnew, Vice-Chairman of the Fletcher Committee which outlined the SDI program, the present program risks having the "hogs trample the piglets on the way to the (Defense Research and Engineering funding) trough."