Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) were two rounds of bilateral conferences and corresponding international treaties involving the United States and the Soviet Union, the Cold War superpowers, on the issue of arms control. The two rounds of talks and agreements were SALT I and SALT II.
Negotiations commenced in Helsinki, Finland, in November 1969. SALT I led to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and an interim agreement between the two countries. Although SALT II resulted in an agreement in 1979, the United States Senate chose not to ratify the treaty in response to the Soviet war in Afghanistan, which took place later that year. The Soviet legislature also did not ratify it. The agreement expired on December 31, 1985 and was not renewed.
The talks led to the STARTs, or Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties, which consisted of START I (a 1991 completed agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union) and START II (a 1993 agreement between the United States and Russia, which was never ratified by the United States), both of which proposed limits on multiple-warhead capacities and other restrictions on each side's number of nuclear weapons. A successor to START I, New START, was proposed and was eventually ratified in February 2011.
SALT I Treaty
SALT I is the common name for the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks Agreement signed on May 26, 1972. SALT I froze the number of strategic ballistic missile launchers at existing levels and provided for the addition of new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers only after the same number of older intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and SLBM launchers had been dismantled. SALT I also limited land-based ICBMs that were in range from the northeastern border of the continental United States to the northwestern border of the continental USSR. In addition to that, SALT I limited the number of SLBM capable submarines that NATO and the United States could operate to 50 with a maximum of 800 SLBM launchers between them. If the United States or NATO were to increase that number, the USSR could respond with increasing their arsenal by the same amount.
The strategic nuclear forces of the Soviet Union and the United States were changing in character in 1968. The total number of missiles held by the United States had been static since 1967 at 1,054 ICBMs and 656 SLBMs but there was an increasing number of missiles with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) warheads being deployed. MIRVs carried multiple nuclear warheads, often with dummies, to confuse ABM systems, making MIRV defense by ABM systems increasingly difficult and expensive. Both sides were also permitted to increase their number of SLBM forces, but only after disassembling an equivalent number of older ICBMs or SLBM launchers on older submarines.
One clause of the treaty required both countries to limit the number of deployment sites protected by an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system to one each. The idea of this system was that it would prevent a competition in ABM deployment between the US and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union had deployed such a system around Moscow in 1966 and the United States announced an ABM program to protect twelve ICBM sites in 1967. After 1968, the Soviet Union tested a system for the SS-9 missile, otherwise known as the R-36 missile. A modified two-tier Moscow ABM system is still used. The United States built only one ABM site to protect a Minuteman base in North Dakota where the "Safeguard" Program was deployed. This base was increasingly more vulnerable to attacks by the Soviet ICBMs, because of the advancement in Soviet missile technology.
Negotiations lasted from November 17, 1969, until May 1972 in a series of meetings beginning in Helsinki, with the US delegation headed by Gerard C. Smith, director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Subsequent sessions alternated between Vienna and Helsinki. After a long deadlock, the first results of SALT I came in May 1971, when an agreement was reached over ABM systems. Further discussion brought the negotiations to an end on May 26, 1972, in Moscow when Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev signed both the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Interim Agreement Between The United States of America and The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on Certain Measures With Respect to the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. A number of agreed statements were also made. This helped improve relations between the United States and the USSR.
SALT II was a series of talks between United States and Soviet negotiators from 1972 to 1979 which sought to curtail the manufacture of strategic nuclear weapons. It was a continuation of the SALT I talks and was led by representatives from both countries. SALT II was the first nuclear arms treaty which assumed real reductions in strategic forces to 2,250 of all categories of delivery vehicles on both sides.
The SALT II Treaty banned new missile programs (a new missile defined as one with any key parameter 5% better than in currently deployed missiles), so both sides were forced to limit their new strategic missile types development and construction, such as the development of additional fixed ICBM launchers. Likewise, this agreement would limit the number of MIRVed ballistic missiles and long range missiles to 1,320. However, the United States preserved their most essential programs like the Trident missile, along with the cruise missiles President Jimmy Carter wished to use as his main defensive weapon as they were too slow to have first strike capability. In return, the USSR could exclusively retain 308 of its so-called "heavy ICBM" launchers of the SS-18 type.
A major breakthrough for this agreement occurred at the Vladivostok Summit meeting in November 1974, when President Gerald Ford and General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev came to an agreement on the basic framework for the SALT II agreement. The elements of this agreement were stated to be in effect through 1985.
Six months after the signing, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, and in September of the same year, the United States discovered that a Soviet combat brigade was stationed in Cuba. Although President Carter claimed this Soviet brigade had only recently been deployed to Cuba, the unit had been stationed on the island since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. In light of these developments, the treaty was never ratified by the United States Senate. Its terms were, nonetheless, honored by the U.S. until 1986. SALT II was superseded by START I in 1991.
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- Text of SALT I
- Text of SALT II
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