I note with regret, but not amazement, that those who are advocating a mutual U.S.-Soviet "freeze" of nuclear arsenals are not like Albert Einstein, who said: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." Simplicity makes the freeze proposal politically attractive, and irresponsible.
In the 1970s, while the Soviets raced ahead, America unilaterally practiced a semi-freeze. It deployed multiple warheads (MIRVs) on some existing missiles, but deployed not a single new ICBM. America deployed not a single new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in the 1970s.
Applied to intermediate-range missiles in Europe, the freeze proposal is the Soviet negotiating position: accept the Soviet's 300 SS20s and permit no comparable U.S. missiles. Furthermore, if their general superiority in offensive systems were secured by a freeze, the Soviets could further refine their destabilizing counter-force capabilities.
For example, a freeze would prohibit new SLBMs but not new attack submarines that hunt SLBM submarines. These could eventually give the Soviets a destabilizing capability for destroying the U.S. sea-based deterrent.
A freeze would kill the B1 bomber, but would not inhibit the air defenses by which the Soviets degrade the effectiveness of America's ancient B52s. To try to preserve even a shadow of this leg of the strategic triad, America would have to spend heavily. The B52's "escape time" (the time it takes to get out of range of nuclear effects from incoming missiles) is inferior to the B1's and inadequate to the threat of Soviet SLBMs off the U.S. coast. Therefore, B52s would have to be rebuilt for better escape capability and would have to be more dispersed (B52s can use fewer airfields than B1s, so airfield modernizations would be necessary) at prohibitive cost.
The budgetary impact of a freeze would be modest. Strategic programs--weapons, command, control, communications--account for just 15 percent of the defense budget. The freeze would prevent some procurements, but would make other spending necessary to ameliorate the freeze's destabilizing effects.
(The freeze proposal makes it timely to note that some aspects of existing arms-control agreements are destabilizing. The ban on missile defenses (ABMs) is one example. Another is the ban on new silos. This prevents, for example, deploying any of our permitted number of ICBMs on the south sides of mesas. Given the inherent limits on ballistic missile trajectories, such basing would make America's land-based deterrent more survivable, and the world safer.)
The proposed freeze would extend to "testing, production and further deployment of nuclear warheads, missiles and other delivery systems." But proponents cannot explain how they will provide for verification of, say, a freeze prohibiting improved yields of warheads, or improved throw-weights of missiles, or even new missiles. How, for example, will they verify whether new Soviet cruise missiles are nuclear- armed? Such verification is beyond the capability of our national technical means, and the Soviets will not permit the necessary on-site inspection.
The freeze proposal illustrates the dangerous asymmetry inherent in U.S.-Soviet arms negotiations. Such seductively simple panaceas pander to the widespread desire to believe that there can be an easy, cheap escape from the dangers posed by modern physics and the modern Soviet state. In the only superpower where public opinion matters, the freeze proposal will undermine support for modernization of strategic weapons. The argument will be: any new U.S. program will "provoke" the Soviets to reject a freeze.
But the Soviets are serious about arms limitations only when America's ongoing programs compel Soviet seriousness. The Soviets rejected the idea of limits on defensive systems --until the Nixon administration won congressional approval for ABMs. Then the Soviets reversed themselves. However, the fact that congressional support for the ABM was so fragile (a one-vote margin in the Senate) encouraged the Nixon administration to accept a destabilizing result in SALT I: a temporary (five-year) and ineffective restraint on offensive systems, but, effectively, a ban in perpetuity on ABMs.
Proponents of a freeze advertise it as a first step toward President Reagan's more ambitious goal of reductions in force levels. But were the Soviets to agree to a freeze, it would remove the only incentive--ongoing U.S. programs--for the Soviets to negotiate reductions.
The freeze proposal is popular with many who supported, and served in, the previous administration. That administration wasted four precious years killing and retarding U.S. strategic programs, and--not coincidentally--negotiating arms control agreements so imbalanced and porous that a Democratic-controlled Senate would not ratify them. The freeze proposal is another example of posturing and wasted motion that the world can ill afford.