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INF Treaty

September 11, 1987

Edwin Yoder (Op-Ed Page, Sept. 4) asks if we should sign an intermediate-range nuclear missiles treaty since it may "lower nuclear thresholds, weaken deterrence and initiate adventurism."

To be sure, the INF treaty will not by itself reduce the probability nor the destructiveness of a nuclear war. INF weapons constitute less than 10% of all nuclear arsenals. If they were gone, the nuclear weapons still left would amount to over 5,000 times the explosive power of all the allied bombs dropped in both theaters of war during World War II.

Maintaining the INF arsenals would give us, Yoder states, the flexibility of a "ladder of response." This means we use a few nuclear weapons in order to reverse a presumed impending defeat in a conventional battle. The Soviets, perceiving our resolute intent, then become sensible, forgo retaliation and rush to the conference table.

Could such a scenario happen? It could, but nobody knows; we have no experience. Yoder would have us embrace this possibility as the basis for our security--the way to prevent a nuclear holocaust affecting not just the belligerents, but the innocent bystanders on distant continents. It is foolhardy.

We should sign an INF treaty not because it is a panacea or because it is risk-free. We should sign it because it is a start, a symbol, a demonstration that the two superpowers who will continue to differ on many counts can recognize an overriding common interest in preventing the annihilation of the human race.

DONALD E. MUELLER

Long Beach

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