If President Carter is facing opposition from hawks to the new SALT terms he has negotiated with the Kremlin is Leonid Brezhnev likely to face similar opposition from his own hawks? It would be a useful exercise to put ourselves in the position of the men in th Kremlin to see what some of the Soviet objections to the new terms may be.
The three-tier agreement is to compromise a treaty limiting the numbers of certain strategic weapons for a period of eight years, a protocol imposing certain limits on other weapons for three years and a statement of principles looking toward major arms reductions in the future. The eight-year treaty is straightforward enough, in that it deals with numbers of weapons that are to be allowed to each side. Numbers can be counted. The statement of principles could also be comparatively easy to agree upon. It is the three-year protocol that would pose the greatest problem for the Russians.
Critics of the agreement in the United States may complain that the protocol limits the range of the air launched cruise missile to 2,500 kilometers (about 1,550 miles). This range has been acceptable to the Russinas for sometime, and it may therefore appear to be a concession to them. But critics of the agreement in the Soviet Union may complain that as soon as the three-year period is over, the United States could double the range. Indeed, this is precisely what the Pentagon is demanding for the 1980s. And anything that gives the Pentagon what it asks would hardly be viewed by the Kremlin hawks as a major victory for the Soviet Union.
The three-year protocol would also limit the testing and development of the ground-launched and sea-launched cruise missiles to a range of 600 kilometers (373 miles), which again has been acceptable to the Russians for some time. But the testing and development of the cruise missiles cannot be easily verified by the other side.
In the earlier U.S. debates, the hawks who argued against including the cruise missile in an arms-control agreement maintained that the Russians could cheat and get away with it. This is the argument that the Russian hawks could now use. Thus, ballistic missiles must be tested repeatedly before those who expect to use them can be sure of their range, and such tests can be observed by the other side's satellites and other detection devices. But a cruise missile, it was argued, can be tested in a wind tunnel.
Moreover, a cruise missile ostensibly designed for a shorter range can be "stretched" without making any alteration in its external design. By reducing the size of its warhead while increasing the amount of fuel it carries, the range of a cruise missile could be greatly extended - or so it was argued in the United States by those who maintained that a ban or a moratorium on testing would be worthless. But now the shoe is on the other foot, and the same argument could be used by those in the Soviet Union who believe that the new terms concede too much to the United States.
U.S. hawks have always argued that the United States has a superior technology and that the Russians have greater numbers. Therefore, they have maintained, the United States should seek to limit the numbers of weapons on both sides, while concentrating on improving their quality and in this way retaining or even increasing the U.S. advantage. The Russian hawks can now argue that the new terms in SALT do precisely that.
The number of ICBMs is to be limited and in some cases even reduced. But the new Minuteman warheads and guidance systems, which double the missile's yield and improve its accuracy to a degree far greater than anything the Russians how have, are not to be restricted.
The Kremlin wants a promise from the United States that it will not pass on its cruise technology to its European allies, but the Soviet hawks may object that, even if such assurance are given, they cannot be policed. They could maintain that, even if the U.S. government observes the ban on the transfer of such technology, the collaboration between the arms manufacturers in the United States and the other NATO countries has been so close that some "seepage" is bound to occur. And they could point to European work on cruise missiles, which suggests that American allies could acquire the new weapons without U.S. help. The United States, they could argue, could easily afford to agree to restrictions on itw own cruise missiles, so long as the other NATO members are not similarly restricted.
The Soviet general staff has no doubt thought of all these objections, and of many others. Some of its objections have obviously been taken into account by the Politburo in the negotiations that have led to the present tentative agreement while others still remain to be resolved. The terms of the agreement that have been disclosed so far certainly represent a breakthrough - but so did the terms of the Vladivostok agreement between Ford and Brezhnev in 1974.
Henry Kissinger warned that any serious delay in consummating the Vladivostok agreement would cause it to become involved in the U.S. election campaign. He was right, and the breakthrough he had negotiated proved to be to no avail. the Soviet Union has no election campaign, but it has a succession problem. Few analysts give Brezhnev more that a year at the helm, even though the deterioration in his health seems for the time being to have been arrested.
Indeed, there are signs that the struggle for the succession is already under way. Unless the remaining SALT issues are speedily resolved, and the negotiations concluded, the agreement that President Carter now believes to be "within sight" could become involved with the Kremlin succession struggle and could come to nothing.