Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Geneva parley: Brezhnev's move

In chess, which Russians love with a passion, the player who moves first has the advantage. Ronald Reagan has just moved first. Leonid Brezhnev, making his countermove on a Nov. 23-25 visit to Bonn in West Germany, was a man clearly thrown on the defensive.

The Reagan-Brezhnev match promises to be long, and complex.

About these ads

At issue is the level of medium-and long-range nuclear weapons in East and West Europe. The US and Soviet Presidents will be transmitting their key moves in the Swiss lakeside city of Geneva Nov. 30 for the first serious superpower arms talks in more than two years.

Ronald Reagan wants to talk, first of all, about the superpowers' land-based nuclear missiles. The Soviets have more and better such projectiles -- particularly the triple-warheaded SS-20, which Moscow has been deploying at the rate of about one per week.

Leonid Brezhnev wants to count in the Americans' "forward-based systems" (nuclear-capable jet planes) as well as French and British nuclear forces.

By counting these, (but, the Americans say, excluding Soviet relevant Soviet aircraft) Moscow says "essential parity" now exists in European nuclear forces.

At the very least, Mr. Brezhnev argues, the Soviets can't dismantle their SS- 20's in reply to subtraction of comparable missiles the US plans to deploy in West Europe. This would leave his country open to attack by the "forward-based systems."

"As in all arms talks," says one arms-control expert, "one of the first tasks will be to define the scope of negotiations. . . to agree on precisely what systems are being measured against what other systems."

Mere mortals, particularly those who have been protesting in West European capitals in support of European disarmament, tend to be baffled by the numbers' dispute.

About these ads

But they are also crucially important to the coming arms-control contest as they increase the pressure on their governments, and thus upon the US, to search for an early Geneva agreement.

Mr. Reagan's "first move," in this regard, was a stroke of genius.

In his first major foreign-policy address Nov. 18, Reagan said the US was prepared to shelve plans to deploy nearly 600 new nuclear missiles on West European soil if the Soviet Union dismantles the more than 500 SS-20 warheads it has pointed at Western Europe.

Mr. Brezhnev, playing second, was at an automatic disadvantage.

For months, he had been portraying his nation as the only superpower really serious about the Geneva negotiations. And as had no doubt been the plan from the start, Mr. Brezhnev used the Bonn visit to repeat an offer to reduce the number of SS-20's in the European part of the USSR if the US freezes its plan to add new missiles in Western Europe.

But there was now a US proposal on the table. Mr. Brezhnev's speech writers rejected it as a trade-off that would leave US "forward-based systems" and West European missiles untouched.

Mr. Brezhnev is right on that point. But the Americans want to focus, at least initially, on missiles of the SS-20 breed. Besides, US officials argue, the Soviets have an advantage that must be reckoned with.

Mr. Reagan made his move first. Mr. Brezhnev, hoping to play peacemaker, was instead cast in the role of a naysayer.

There can be little doubt that the Brezhnev strategy will now be to reverse that situation -- if not before the Nov. 30 talks begin, then as they slowly zigzag forward.

THE EUROPEAN (MEDIUM-RANGE) NUCLEAR BALANCE Range- Accuracy & combat flight time Weapon radius of most in km [A] precise weapons Soviet SS-20 missile 5000 10-15 min. 320 meters [E] SS-5 missile 4100 SS-4 missile 1900 SS-12 missile 900 SS-N-5 missile 1120 Missile subtotal Backfire B bomber 4025 Badger bomber 2800 Blinder bomber 3100 Fencer fighter-bomber 1600 Flogger D fighter-bomber 720 Warsaw Pact total weapons NATO Pershing 1A missile 720 400 meters [M] Pershing II missile (planned)1667 10-15 min. 20-40m [M] Cruise missile 2500 1 3/4-2 hrs. > 80m [M] British Polaris missile 4600 French sub missile 3000 French land-based missile 3000 Missile subtotal US F-111 E/F fighter-bomber 1900 US FB-111 A 4700 US F-4 750 US A-6E/A-7E 900-1000 British Vulcan B-Z bomber 2800 French Mirage IV-A bomber 1600 NATO total weapons Warsaw Pact/NATO ratio

INVENTORY Warheads Weapon per system [A] Brezhnev [B] Soviet SS-20 missile 3 (87) [F] SS-5 missile 1 (40) SS-4 missile 1 (340) SS-12 missile 1 uncounted SS-N-5 missile 1 uncounted Missile subtotal (467) Backfire B bomber 4 (65) Badger bomber 2 (310) Blinder bomber 2 (125) Fencer fighter-bomber 2 uncounted Flogger D fighter-bomber 1 uncounted Warsaw Pact 975 total weapons (according to itemized tally 967) NATO Pershing 1A missile 1 (0 or 180) [N] Pershing II missile (planned)1 Cruise missile 1 British Polaris missile 1 64 French sub missile 1 98 French land-based missile 1 98 Missile subtotal (162 or 342) US F-111 E/F fighter-bomber 2 (156) US FB-111 A (60) US F-4 1 (324) US A-6E/A-7E 2 (60) British Vulcan B-Z bomber 2 55 French Mirage IV-A bomber 1 46 NATO 986 total weapons (acc. to itemized tally 863 or 1043) [J] Warsaw Pact/NATO ratio 1:1

INVENTORY Weapon IISS Economist [C] Soviet SS-20 missile 175 [G] 175 SS-5 missile 40 40 SS-4 missile 340 340 SS-12 missile 65 [I] 350 SS-N-5 missile 39 [K] 57 Missile subtotal 659 962 Backfire B bomber 65 65 Badger bomber 310 310 Blinder bomber 125 125 Fencer fighter-bomber 480 480 Flogger D fighter-bomber 0 or 500 [J] 500 Warsaw Pact 1639 2442, total weapons or 2139 [J] with 3502 warheads NATO Pershing 1A missile 0 or 180 180 Pershing II missile (planned) Cruise missile British Polaris missile 64 64 French sub missile 80 80 French land-based missile 18 18 Missile subtotal 162 or 342 [J] 342 US F-111 E/F fighter-bomber 156 156 US FB-111 A uncounted, since based in US US F-4 324 244 [P] US A-6E/A-7E 60 33 [Q] British Vulcan B-Z bomber 57 56 French Mirage IV-A bomber 33 33 NATO 792 864, total weapons or 972 [J] with 1109 warheads Warsaw Pact/NATO ratio 2.1:1 weapons 2.2:1 or 2.2:1 warheads 3.2:1

WARHEADS [A] Weapon Available Arriving Soviet SS-20 missile 525 [H] 337 [H] SS-5 missile 40 13 SS-4 missile 340 77 SS-12 missile 65 27 [L] SS-N-5 missile 39 8 [L] Missile subtotal 1009 462 Backfire B bomber 104 [R] 35 Badger bomber 248 [R] 46 Blinder bomber 100 [R] 22 Fencer fighter-bomber 192 [R] 44 Flogger D fighter-bomber 0 or 200 [J, R] 0 or 50 [J] Warsaw Pact 1653 609 total weapons or 1853 [J] or 659 [J] NATO Pershing 1A missile 0 or 180 0 or 91 Pershing II missile (planned) Cruise missile British Polaris missile 64 20 French sub missile 80 26 French land-based missile 18 8 Missile subtotal 162 or 342 [J] 54 or 145 [J] US F-111 E/F fighter-bomber 312 45 US FB-111 A uncounted, since based in US US F-4 97 [R] 14 US A-6E/A-7E 30 [R] 10 British Vulcan B-Z bomber 112 [H] 19 French Mirage IV-A bomber 33 6 NATO 746 148 total weapons or 926 [J] or 239 [J] Warsaw Pact/NATO ratio 2.2:1 4.1:1 or 2:1 or 2.8:1


*2*Estimated inventory 1989

*2*if full implementation

*2*NATO plans [D] Weapon

Weapons Warheads


SS-20 missile 200 600

SS-5 missile 50-200 + 50-200 +

SS-4 missile 50-200 + 50-200 +

SS-12 missile 50-200 + 50-200 +

SS-N-5 missile 50-200 + 50-200 +

Missile subtotal 250-500 + 650-850 +

Backfire B bomber 100 400

Badger bomber 300 600

Blinder bomber 300 600

Fencer fighter-bomber

Flogger D fighter-bomber Warsaw Pact 650 1650 total weapons to 900 + to 1850 +


Pershing 1A missile

Pershing II missile (planned) 108 108

Cruise missile 464 464

British Polaris missile 64 64

French sub missile 80 80

French land-based missile 18 18

Missile subtotal 734 734

US F-111 E/F fighter-bomber 170 340

US FB-111 A

US F-4

US A-6E/A-7E

British Vulcan B-Z bomber

French Mirage IV-A bomber NATO 904 1074 total weapons

Warsaw Pact/NATO ratio 0.7:1 1.5:1

to 1:1 to 1.7:1 Footnotes

Chart includes only those categories of European-theater weapons covered by Brezhnev in his Nov. 2 interview in Der Spiegel. It excludes any warheads diverted to European theater from central (superpower to superpower intercontinental) systems under SALT. It also excludes weapons under 750- or 720-km. range.

A. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) information, mainly from The Military Balance 1981-1982, unless otherwise noted.

B. Der Spiegel. Figures for systems apparently included in Soviet reckoning but unquantified are taken from The Military Balance unless indicated, and put in parentheses.

C. October 17, 1981 issue of Der Spiegel.

D. Lawrence Freedman, "Arms Control in Europe," pp. 23 and 51, published by The Royal Institute of International Affairs, London. British and French missiles added on assumption of stability in present deployment.

E. West German Defense Ministry.

F. Brezhnev appears to include only SS-20s based west of Urals, excluded SS- 20s east of Urals but able to hit Europe. Hence Brezhnev figure half of IISS and Economist.

G. Economist figure substituted for outdated IISS figure, since IISS Military Balance lists SS-20 numbers at press time, and new deployments added in meantime at rate of one every five days. The Military Balance listed total SS-20s targeted on Europe and China, and Economist used rule-of-thumb Western calculation of two-thirds of total targeted on Europe.

H. Extrapolated from The Military Balance with Economist update.

I. The Military Balance, P. 12.

J. Lower figure if 720-km, range systems excluded, higher figure if included.

K. IISS oral examination. The Military Balance lists both G- and H-class subs, but H-class is counted as central strategic system under SALT, so only the G-class is listed here.

L. Extrapolated from The Military Balance.

M. The Modernization of NATO's Medium-Range Theater Nuclear Forces, Congressional report Library of Congress, Dec. 31, 1980, and West German Defense Ministry.

N. Pershing 1A unable to reach Soviet territory from West German bases. Unclear if it is counted in Brezhnev's numbers, so both variants given here in Brezhnev and IISS listings.Higher number includes 108 US Pershing 1A's plus 72 1 A's from West Germany.

P. Deducts 80 aircraft actually based in US rather than Europe.

Q. Deducts 27 aircraft on second carrier that has not been in Mediterranean for past two years.

R. Lower figure than mathematical result of multiplying weapons by warheads, since IISS assumes only partial utilization.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.