Journal Article - International Security

Arms Control Enters the Gray Area

| Winter 1978-1979

If a Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty is reached and ratified, ceilings and subceilings will have been placed on the number of launchers from which the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. could attack each other over intercontinental distances. If the SALT process is then to continue, the reductions in such ceilings and subceilings become an obvious goal of further negotiations. Since both national leaders have endorsed reductions in numbers on numerous occasions, it is even more likely that this will be a central feature of negotiations when they resume after SALT II.

Yet, progress in reductions could be an illusion if at least a start is not made in bringing weapons of lesser range under control. These are the gray area weapons that can reach targets 400 to 2,000 miles or more distant from the point of launch. For the most part these weapons are concentrated in Europe and the western military districts of the Soviet Union. These gray area weapons unconstrained by either SALT or MBFR consist of a wide array of medium bombers, fighter- bombers, carrier aircraft, intermediate and medium range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. With these each side can deliver several thousand nuclear weapons against the other. Although these forces are small compared to the central strategic forces of the U.S. and U.S.S.R., their destructive potential, military relevance and political impact are enormous. Moreover, the further growth of these gray area systems could obviously outrun reductions that might be negotiated in the central balance. Finally, Soviet spokesmen have made it known that the Soviet acceptance of equal ceilings for central strategic weapons at Vladivostok and in the SALT II Draft Treaty while neglecting limits on forward based NATO air- craft or compensation for the nuclear forces of the United Kingdom and France- was possible only because of the relatively high ceilings involved: subsequent reductions would require agreed upon limits on weapons systems of intermediate range that could reach their homeland.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Doty, Paul, Robert Metzger. Arms Control Enters the Gray Area.” International Security, vol. 3. no. 3. (Winter 1978-1979):

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