Index The Garwin Archive

                   STAR WARS AND GENEVA


                       Richard L. Garwin

              IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center
                          P.O. Box 218
                   Yorktown Heights, NY 10598

                         (914) 945-2555

                 Adjunct Professor of Physics,
                      Columbia University;

              Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large,
                      Cornell University;

                    Adjunct Research Fellow,
                  Kennedy School of Government
                      Harvard University)

                       September 9, 1985

  Unlike  President  Reagan's 1983 vision of strategic defense
  which would protect us so well from Soviet missiles that  we
  could give up our nuclear weapons, the  SDI  program is  now
  oriented toward strengthening deterrence by  preserving
  our ICBMs and other military targets. To negotiate over the SDI
  in Geneva would be to end the 1972 ABM treaty and all limits
  on  Soviet  forces,  but  to  proceed  with  the SDI without
  negotiation would do the same.  The summit meeting would  be
  a  good  opportunity  for  President  Reagan to reassert his
  leadership by announcing the reorientation of the SDI toward
  theoretical  and  laboratory  research  only,   toward   the
  discovery  of  new  phenomena  which  might hold the hope of
  realizing the President's dream of  a  defense  so  complete
  that nuclear weapons of any kind would lose their terror.

  252|SWAG             090985SWAG DRAFT 1             09/09/85
         Views of the author, not of his organizations

  In  his  speech  of  March  1983  launching the SDI program,
  President Reagan  presented  the  hope  of  "countering  the
  awesome   Soviet  missile  threat  with  measures  that  are
  defensive"-- protection rather than retaliation  (call  this
  SDI-1).  But the SDI program itself and its participants and
  supporters, now  offer only  the  hope  of strengthening
  deterrence by threat of retaliation, rather than replacing
  deterrence  by  the  President's  dream  of  an impenetrable

  The  President's  announcement  emphasized  the   continuing
  effectiveness  of our nuclear weapons in deterring attack by
  the Soviet Union; it launched an SDI in the hope sometime in
  the next century of giving the American people  a  means  of
  preventing  attack with which they would be more comfortable
  than the threat of retaliation against  an  entire  society.
  SDI-1  is  the  President's  noble  dream;  its announcement
  surprised the Defense Department and the  State  department,
  and no analysis before or since shows it to be feasible with
  anything  we  now know or imagine.  The Reagan dream is of a
  magic spell to disable nuclear warheads worldwide,  or  turn
  them  into  dust;  such  magic (and many scientific advances
  would have been regarded as "magic" if they could have  been
  clearly  foreseen in full operation) would pose no threat of
  offensive use.   But by eliminating the  threat  of  nuclear
  weapons,  it  would  "make  the  world safe for conventional
  war," biological warfare, or the like.   In  any  case,  the
  real  SDI (SDI-2) is not pursuing the President's dream, and
  it may well make it even farther from reality, since studies
  done for the Defense Department after the President's speech
  conclude that an effective defense against Soviet  ballistic
  missiles cannot be achieved unless the Soviets limit (do not
  expand greatly) their strategic forces.

  SDI-2  is  demanding  $26 B over the first 5 years (some $70
  billion in 10 years) for  research  and  demonstration;  its
  strongest  advocates  claim  it is necessary to preserve our
  deterrent and because the Soviets are ahead of  us  in  Star
  Wars  research;  and  some of its most powerful participants
  see the key to success in an x-ray laser powered by a  large
  nuclear  explosion  in  space.    In contrast, the Scowcroft
  commission, apppointed by President Reagan in January, 1983,
  reported in April 1983 and March 1984, emphasizing that  our
  deterrent  was  sound and would remain so, without strategic
  defense, if we took prudent  steps  to  develop  and  deploy
  small   single-warhead   ICBMs   to   supplant  the  present
  multiple-warhead missiles, and smaller submarines with fewer
  missiles aboard to succeed the 24-missile Trident ships.

  We are modernizing our nuclear weapons,  explicitly  seeking
  the  ability to destroy in their silos the Soviet ICBMs that
  contain 80% of Soviet strategic weapons; to this, SDI-2 adds
  the threat of destroying a large  fraction  of  those  which
  have  been launched.   Without the hope of defeating a first
  strike by the  Soviet  Union  against  U.S.    society,  and
  without  the  necessity  of  intercepting  nuclear  warheads
  launched by the Soviet Union against our own ICBM silos, the
  SDI is seen by the Soviets as a threat to  their  survival--
  seen  as  leaving  the U.S.   with a powerful nuclear attack
  capability, while disarming the Soviet Union.   Our  conduct
  of  SDI-2  will  drive the Soviets to an urgent expansion of
  their nuclear force,  from  the  present  9000  warheads  to
  50,000  or more, some of this expansion being on small ICBMs
  carrying a single warhead just as deadly to our society as a
  warhead  on  a  large  missile  and  peculiarly  suited   to
  attacking or escaping from space- based defenses, if we ever
  learn  how to build them.  The Soviets will perfect and test
  new  antisatellite  weapons,  including  "space  mines"   to
  accompany  U.S.    satellites  from  the moment they go into
  orbit, ready to destroy them in an instant in case of war.

  The most important fact about the SDI is that no system  yet
  imagined  can  protect  our  society  against Soviet nuclear
  weapons or their  society  against  our  retaliation,  if  a
  nation  chooses to employ existing technology to counter the
  defense; the SDI program will further expand the ability  to
  defeat the defense.

  Among our concerns as a nation are:

    1.  The Soviet nuclear threat to our society.

    2.    The  potential  spread  of  nuclear weapons to other

    3.  Soviet expansionism, Soviet denial of human rights  in
  the USSR, their doctrine of state supremacy, the suppression
  of minorities.

  The  first is an urgent problem for our survival; the second
  a problem which  is  of  vital  importance  for  our  future
  security, and one in which the interests of the Soviet Union
  and the U.S.  are aligned; and the third is one in which our
  interests are opposed.

  We  cannot depend on the Soviets to solve these problems for
  us-- we can and  should  make  sound  decisions  in  defense
  management;  we  should  join  with  allies  and neutrals to
  pursue our goals; and we can attempt to persuade the  Soviet
  Union, by promise of reward or punishment, to strengthen our
  security  and  to  save  us  money.   Formal negotiations in
  Geneva are a small and inefficient part of this process;  in
  this  age of telecommunications and after more than a decade
  of working-level contact between the Soviet  Union  and  the
  United  States, Geneva negotiations are the Potemkin village
  of  bilateral  relations--  a  false  front   covering   the
  reluctance  of  one  or  both  sides  to  conclude  a formal

  SDI advocates do the President a disservice.   The  road  to
  realizing  the  President's dream lies not in SDI-2 but much
  more in limiting and reducing offensive forces on earth;  in
  removing  the  rough edges from the 1983 Soviet draft treaty
  to ban the stationing of all weapons in space,  to  ban  the
  test of weapons from earth to space, space to earth or space
  to  space;  in strengthening rather than undermining the ABM
  treaty of  1972;  and  in  moving  toward  acceptance  of  a
  companion   principle  which  would  permit  a  truly  major
  reduction in nuclear weapons from the present 25,000 on each
  side to some 2000-- the agreement not  to  produce  or  test
  weapons to threaten the retaliatory force on the other side.
  Since  SDI-1 is in any case a decades-long research program,
  in the mind and in the laboratory, we would have  plenty  of
  time  to  invite  the  Soviet  Union  to  join  us  in a new
  defensive era in case  we  discovered  some  new  phenomenon
  which  could  lead  to  an  effective and durable defense of
  society, or, if they did not agree, we  could  then  abandon
  the treaty.

  An early major reduction in the Soviet threat would not only
  be  a  triumphant  legacy  for the President (never mind the
  tortuous path followed to its  achievement),  but  it  would
  allow  the  principal  nuclear weapons states, together with
  the great majority of the world's nations that have promised
  under the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1967 never to  acquire
  nuclear weapons, to concentrate their efforts to ensure that
  no  other nation would see any benefit in nuclear weapons in
  the face of this determined opposition.

  I played an important role in  the  creation  of  the  first
  hydrogen  bomb, tested in 1952, in bringing the air-launched
  cruise missile into the U.S.   strategic  forces  (the  most
  modern and most accurate strategic retaliatory weapon in the
  world),   in   helping  the  government  with  arms  control
  agreements and analyses since 1958, and in  the  development
  of  defenses  against  aircraft and missiles from 1953 up to
  the present day.  To those who say arms control  in  general
  (and  the  ABM  treaty in particular) is a failure, I recall
  that in the few years before the ABM treaty of May 1972,  we
  were  planning  our missile forces to penetrate a nationwide
  Soviet  ABM  system  equipped  with  with   5000   or   more
  nuclear-armed defensive missiles.  Contrast this with the 32
  actual   defensive   missiles  around  Moscow,  of  the  100
  permitted nationwide by the ABM treaty.   This  is  why  the
  Joint  Chiefs of Staff have supported strategic arms control
  as an important contribution to our security;  building  the
  50,000  strategic  nuclear  warheads  viewed in the 1960s by
  Secretary of Defense McNamara as our likely  response  to  a
  nationwide  Soviet  ABM system might have cost less than the
  defense that provoked it, but would not  have  improved  our
  security at all.

  The  Reagan administration argues that the SDI is not up for
  negotiation in Geneva.   Defense Secretary  Weinberger  said
  (01/14/85),  "I am ruling out the possibility of giving up a
  strategic defense either in the research phase,  or,  if  it
  becomes  feasible,  in  the deployable stage."  But the U.S.
  has bound itself by the 1972 ABM  Treaty  not  to  deploy  a
  defense  against  strategic ballistic missiles; to negotiate
  over the SDI would be to destroy  the  ABM  treaty  and  all
  limits on offensive weapons.

  The summit meeting would be a good opportunity for President
  Reagan   to   reassert  his  leadership  by  announcing  the
  reorientation of the SDI toward theoretical  and  laboratory
  research  only,  toward the discovery of new phenomena which
  might hold the hope of realizing the President's dream of  a
  defense  so  complete that nuclear weapons of any kind would
  lose their terror.   An SDI-2 program  spending  $3  billion
  this  year  and  demanding perhaps $5 billion next year will
  soon collide with our obligations under the ABM  treaty  and
  thus  destroy  all  limits  on Soviet weapons programs.   By
  throwing money at the problem, SDI-2 steals  scarce  defense
  research  funds from fields in which they can better aid our
  security; in the words of Harold M.  Agnew, Vice-Chairman of
  the Fletcher Committee which outlined the SDI  program,  the
  present  program  risks having the "hogs trample the piglets
  on the way to the (Defense Research and Engineering funding)