Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions in Europe

Last year I indicated that we needed to study caretully mutual force reductions in Europe as one of the most fruitful areas for East West dialogue. Accordingly, I directed that our government reinforce the preliminary work done in NATO with an intensive analysis of the issues in an agreement to reduce NATO and Warsaw Pact forces. Problems. In many respects this subject poses even more complex problems than strategic arms limitation:

The principal objective should be a more stable military balance at lower levels of forces and costs. Therefore, reductions should have the effect of enhancing defensive capabilities, so as to diminish the incentives for attacking forces. Even if defensive capabilities were not actually improved, force reductions, as a minimum, should not create offensive advantages greater than those already existing. Yet, reductions would tend to favor offensive capabilities, since attacking forces could concentrate while reduced defensive forces were compelled to spread along a given line.

Achieving reductions that leave the balance unaffected or, preferably, improve stability, raises a number of intricate technical problems. For example, how do we establish equivalency between opposing forces? This is already difficult enough with respect to strategic arms limitations which involve relatively few weapons systems. In reducing conventional ground and air or tactical nuclear forces a great variety of national forces and materiel would have to be considered. Furthermore, there are marked differences in the equipment, organization and strength both within and between the opposing NATO and Warsaw Pact forces.

Following the pattern developed for SALT, we first assembled detailed data on manpower, conventional weapons, tactical nuclear weapons and aircraft for both sides. We compared them in areas ranging from a narrow zone in Central Europe to ones extending up to the Western U.S.S.R. We had to determine: Our preliminary analysis pointed up a central problem. The Warsaw Pact can mobilize and reinforce more rapidly than NATO, primarily with divisions from the U.S.S.R. Thus, in judging force reductions we must consider not only the balance of standing forces but what each side could do following various periods of mobilization and reinforcement. There are two broad approaches to reductions: proportionately equal ones applying the same percentage of reductions to both sides; asymmetrical ones in which reductions by the two sides would be made in differing amounts in different categories so that one side would make larger cuts in one category in return for larger cuts by the other side in another category to create a stable military equation at lower force levels.

The first has the advantage of simplicity but would tend to magnify the effects of any imbalances which exist at the outset. The second, because of its complexity, would pose difficult analytical and negotiating problems, but would have the advantage of providing a firmer basis for a stable relationship between the two sides. We are studying these questions with our allies.

Our preliminary conclusions suggest that the pattern of the SALT negotiations might be valid as an approach to discussions of mutual force reductions in Europe. Rather than exchanging concrete proposals at the outset we could first explore major substantive issues and their relation to specific problems. Within this common framework we could move to more detailed discussion of individual issues. This building block approach could resolve the complex technical issues and lead to an agreement.