Date of Award

Spring 1980

Document Type



Political Science & International Relations

First Advisor

Donald Roy

Second Advisor

Dennis Wiedmann

Third Advisor

Richard Lambert


This thesis will discuss the major nuclear arms control efforts that have materialized between the United States and the Soviet Union. The discussion will be both an historical account of and a commentary on these nuclear arms control attempts. First, a sketch of the major efforts from 1946 to 1969 will be presented to the reader. The trials and tribulations of the Soviet Union and the United States during this period will become very apparent. The conclusion that is drawn is that the failure to control nuclear armaments during these nascent stages was due to a lack of technological development in terms of national technical means of verification (NTM) and due to the absence of nuclear arms parity between the two countries. This dismal environment that prevailed abated with the development t of NTM and with the realization that any nuclear war, no matter the scale would be very destructive. The Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT) were born out of these latter realities. In 1969, SALT I was the first ® step made by the Soviet Union and the United States that seriously considered the reduction of nuclear armaments. SALT I was signed by both parties in Moscow in May of 1972. Many Americans, however, were not satisfied with the quantitative advantages that were given to the Soviet Union in the treaty. Quantitative advantages were thought to be equivalent to an overall strategic advantage. This persistent belief, however, was contrary to the actual strategic environment. The United States still maintained a position of nuclear superiority vis-a-vis the Soviet Union. And, indeed, this was the Soviet perception. The Soviet Union regarded the quantitative advantages as necessary advantages, advantages in the long run that would allow the Soviet Union and the United States to ultimately codify the principle of parity or equality. This position of parity or nuclear equality is defended in this thesis. This type of environment is really the only one that is conducive to significant cuts in the nuclear stockpiles of both the United States and the Soviet Union. This is the case because a position of nuclear superiority breeds a lethal nuclear arms competition--a competition that the world cannot afford. On the contrary, parity breeds security, parity sets the stage for meaningful nuclear arms reductions. Hence SALT I was necessary to allow the Soviet Union to "catch-up" with the United States. SALT I, however, was not a panacea for all of the problems that were extant between the United States and the Soviet Union. SALT I, as it was inherently designed to do, eased the nuclear arms threat; it was designed to do nothing else. But Henry Kissinger, President Nixon's national security advisor and later Nixon's Secretary of State, believed that SALT I could be linked to the overall improvement of Soviet-American relations. Thus a very important principle had made its debut. The linkage of a SALT treaty to the overall Soviet-American relationship would continue to plague these nuclear arms negotiations through the Carter Administration. Specifically, many individuals like Kissinger would continue to advocate after SALT I a linkage designed to enhance the overall Soviet-American relationship. On the other hand, individuals such as Senator Henry Jackson would advocate a type of linkage that makes the passage of a SALT treaty contingent upon the good deportment of the Soviet Union. Finally, others, like President Carter, at least at the beginning of his administration, would advocate a non-linkage policy. This position, advocated in this thesis, espouses the belief that a SALT treaty should be considered on its own merits regardless of Soviet geo-political behavior.