The United States, absent an arms agreement in the Geneva talks which would make such a step unneccessary, is to begin deployment to Europe of a new intermediate-range missile later this year, the Pershing II. Like the ground-launched cruise missile, which is also scheduled for deployment this year, the Pershing II has a range sufficient to reach targets in the Soviet Union.
The deployment of the Pershing II would fulfill an American commitment to our NATO allies to respond to the massive Soviet buildup of SS20 missiles. It would, of course, be unnecessary if the Soviets accepted President Reagan's offer to eliminate this entire category of nuclear weaponry. The Soviet Union, not surprisingly, would prefer a different outcome: the Soviets keep their missiles, while we not deploy our own. The Soviets have mounted a major political and propaganda effort to forestall deployment of the Pershing II. They have alleged that this missile is a uniquely dangerous terror weapon, that it has a "first-strike" capability against Soviet strategic forces, and that, in consequence, the Soviet Union will have to adopt a "launch-on-warning" policy if the Pershing is deployed.
None of these charges bears serious scrutiny. The Soviet Union's choice of this line of argument, however, does reveal a good deal about its view of Western Europe and about the relationship it would like to establish between European security and that of the Soviet Union.
Any nuclear-armed missile is, of course, a terrifyingly destructive weapon. Therefore, alleged Soviet concerns over the Pershing II have to be put into some persepective. This American missile is considerably less destructive than the
10,3.6,10,6,10,7,10,7.6,10,7.9>SS20. It has a much shorter range,
1,800 vs. 5,000 kilometers. It
has only one warhead, as
compared with the
three warheads on
each SS20. That single Pershing warhead is less powerful that any one of those on the SS20. The Pershing flies no faster than the SS20. It could reach targets in the Soviet Union no more quickly than Soviet land-based missiles can presently reach targets anywhere in Western Europe, or than Soviet sea-based missiles can presently reach targets in the United States. Finally, there will be, at the conclusion of U.S. deployment, only 108 Pershing II missiles and 108 warheads deployed. There are 351 SS20s deployed today, with 1,053 warheads, and the number continues to grow. Clearly, then, there is nothing uniquely threatening about the Pershing II.
The Soviet claim that the Pershing II represents a first-strike threat has even less substance. Ninety percent of Soviet strategic forces will be out of range of the Pershing II. Soviet strategic command and control links, centered on Moscow, will also be out of range of the Pershing II. In any case, the 108 Pershing IIs to be deployed are so few, when compared with the 2,350 currently deployed Soviet strategic ballistic missiles, that the concept of the Pershing II's use for a preemptive strike against the Soviet strategic force is ludicrous.
It is consequently difficult to take seriously the Soviet threat to move to a launch-on-warning policy as a result of Pershing II deployments. Given the much greater vulnerability of the U.S. ICBM force to Soviet strategic missiles, it also seems unlikely that Americans will feel much sympathy for the comparatively minor complications that the Pershing II will introduce for Soviet strategic planners.
Soviet arguments are not designed, however, to persuade Americans to cancel production of the Pershing II. Rather, their arguments are designed to persuade Europeans to halt its deployment. The Pershing has been singled out in this effort because, unlike the cruise missiles, which are intended to go into Italy and the United Kingdom this year, and into Belgium, the Netherlands and West Germany in subsequent years, Pershing II will be deployed in only one country, West Germany. If the Soviets can succeed in blocking Pershing II deployments in Germany, they will knock out a major element of NATO's December 1979 decision, and put themselves in a much stronger position to then block deployment of cruise missiles in all these countries, including West Germany.
The essence of Soviet arguments against the Pershing II, and against the whole concept of NATO's INF deployment, is that it is unacceptable for them to have to face a threat from Western Europe comparable to the threat they pose to Western Europe. For the Soviets to build and deploy new missiles with the mission of targeting all Western Europe from Soviet territory is, they imply, a fact of life, to which Western Europe must acquiesce. For NATO to respond by stationing missiles in Western Europe of comparable capability somehow is a "provocation" that the Soviet Union cannot accept. Western Europe must realize, the Soviet Union insists, that its security is less important than that of the Soviet Union. European security is explicitly subordinated, in Soviet thinking, to that of the Soviet Union.
This Soviet view of European security makes the Soviet reaction to the NATO decision of 1979 to deploy American intermediate-range missiles to Europe much more comprehensible. The current objective of Soviet policy is to employ its geopolitical advantage and its regional nuclear superiority to intimidate Western Europe and force Western European accommodation to Soviet interests. The deployment of 572 new American missiles, capable of reaching only limited areas of the Soviet Union, has little impact upon the U.S.-Soviet balance, at a time when both sides have over 10,000 warheads, deliverable on short notice, to any location in the other's country. Yet by firmly linking American power to European security, this deployment will prevent the Soviet Union from making Western Europe a nuclear hostage, and thus achieving its objective of enforcing the subordination of European security to that of the Soviet Union.
This is why the Soviet Union has reacted so strongly against NATO's 1979 decision. This is why the Soviet Union has put forward its implausible, and otherwise inexplicable, case against deployment of 108 Pershing II missiles. This is why Western European leaders, recognizing true Soviet motivations, have invested so much of their own political capital in maintaining the decision agreed upon in 1979. The Soviet Union seeks to force its view of European security upon Europe. Europe's leaders, on the other hand, are determined, whether through arms control or deployment, to ensure that the security of Europe is not accorded a lower priority than that of either of the superpowers.