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Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

December 15, 1986

The article by Robert Toth (Nov. 21), discussing the proposals made at Reykjavik for elimination of all nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles and all strategic nuclear weapons in the next 10 years, brought back the sense of dismay, outrage, and disbelief that I experienced when the story first broke.

The article states that United States' allies, Congress, and "arms control experts" all objected to the Reykjavik proposals on the merits, because (1) elimination of all ballistic missiles would leave the United States and its allies vulnerable to Soviet bombers and cruise missiles, and France and China "probably" would refuse to destroy their own missiles, and (2) elimination of all strategic nuclear weapons, including bombers and cruise missiles, would leave the United States and its allies, particularly the NATO countries, vulnerable to superior Soviet conventional forces.

The objections of these critics indicate that they have no intention of ever dismantling our nuclear arsenal.

Putting aside the procedural objections (that President Reagan should not have discussed such far-reaching proposals without all the normal, extensive planning, etc.), the Reykjavik proposals should have been greeted with delight, not derision. The objections, even assuming they reflect reality, should have been seen as hurdles to overcome to make the startling proposals workable, not as fatal flaws.

For example, if we are worried about being vulnerable to Soviet bombers and cruise missiles, we should build the anti-missile defense the Soviets purportedly have, or go forward with the second proposal and eliminate the bombers and cruise missiles. We should involve France and China--and all other actual or potential nuclear powers--in the negotiations.

Over 10 years, the savings on the unbuilt nuclear weapons could be redirected to building United States and European conventional forces to counter the Soviet forces. (If this path is rejected because the Soviets also could continue to build conventional forces and maintain their superiority over NATO, then we are trapped; nuclear weapons are here to stay and will cause our death.)

The prospect of eliminating all nuclear weapons from the planet in 10 years is so enormously important for our survival beyond those 10 years that Reagan's and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's proposals should have been--and, if it is not too late, should be--embraced, analyzed, negotiated, and, at all costs, kept alive.


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