Maynard W. 'Mike' Glitman, key negotiator in 1987 U.S.-Russia nuclear arms treaty, dies at 77

Maynard "Mike" Glitman holds a sketch of a Pershing missile during testimony in Washington in 1988. (James K.w. Atherton/the Washington Post)
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By T. Rees Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 15, 2010; 8:21 PM

Maynard W. "Mike" Glitman, who led U.S. negotiations with Soviet officials that formed the basis of a game-changing nuclear arms treaty and a new era of Russian-American relations, died Dec. 14 at a nursing home in Shelburne, Vt. He was 77 and had dementia.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles.

Although the document had a long name, its thesis was simple, yet radical: Both countries agreed to ban ground-launched missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

The accord also marked the first time both sides agreed to allow weapons experts to conduct on-site inspections of their arsenals to verify compliance. That breakthrough, in particular, set an international precedent that remains active.

The negotiations spanned more than 72 months with several interruptions and disagreements between the Soviets and Americans.

Initially, the talks were intended to cover three separate but related aspects of nuclear weapons and development. Two of the parts involved strategic nuclear bombs, such as the larger "last resort" deterrent weapons, and space-deployed nuclear devices.

Mr. Glitman was part of the U.S. team that handled the third arm of negotiations, which covered a select group of nuclear missiles designed for quick, first-strike attacks.

After several unsuccessful attempts at reaching agreements on all three fronts, the conversations stalled in 1983.

In 1985, Mr. Glitman, who had served as a deputy, was promoted to lead the restarted negotiations with Soviet officials, this time on one issue alone: the mutual eradication of intermediate and short-range missiles.

At the time, the U.S. military had deployed many of these types of weapons in Europe for easy and rapid launch against any communist threat. Likewise, the Soviet military had its limited-range missiles on alert in Asia near the U.S. West Coast.

A 1987 Time magazine summed up the issue: "The man in the White House said to the man in the Kremlin, 'Hey, you've got a whole category of weapons we don't like. We've got a whole category of weapons you don't like. Why don't we just wipe the slate clean?' "

The new treaty talks, led by Mr. Glitman, called for a "zero option," in which both sides would agree to immediately remove their missiles from Europe and Asia and, by a future date, to dismantle and destroy the weapons entirely.

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