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To start arms control before it's too late

As Roger Molander, the leader of the Ground Zero movement recently stated, the American people are not likely to wait much longer while we in Washington carry on yet another quixotic search for that elusive combination of weapons and arms control agreements that will make us all feel safer. They know that we simply do not have time to experiment with that hope for another generation - and then come up empty-handed in a world stocked with 50,000 more nuclear weapons. It goes against the grain of common sense. This may well be the time to reexamine the path we've been on, to paraphrase Robert Frost, and consider paths not taken.

I recommend to President Reagan and the leaders of Congress the following course of actions:

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A. Joint congressional resolution. The resolution could be worded as follows:

''Pending the successful conclusion of the new START negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union, be it resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that the United States shall continue to abide by the terms and provisions of the SALT II treaty so long as the Soviet Union fully abides by the terms and provisions of the SALT II treaty.''

This joint resolution approach, requiring action by both houses of Congress, and presidential signature, is a way of avoiding a full-fledged formal consent-to-ratification battle over the treaty in the Senate. It would not necessarily require any formal action by the Soviet Union, whereas deeds - reductions in strategic delivery vehicles in the short run - would be required. Actions would speak louder than words. Further, we would be taking a step now that gave promise of more reductions to come in a START I treaty to be negotiated no later than 1985 - when SALT II expires. The burden would be upon the Soviets, both to comply fully with the terms of SALT II and to agree to major reductions in the next three years.

B. A one-third reduction in warheads and a one-half reduction in missiles in the context of SALT II - by 1985.

I believe there is a way to realize the President's ''phase one'' goals for warhead and missile reductions in the span of a three-year negotiation, rather than a negotiation stretching over many years.

My idea, in general terms, is to pursue in annual reductions, over 5-10 years , an overall reduction of 50 percent in the SALT II limits and sublimits. This will lead the Soviet Union, with such additional constraints as may be required, to make both the one-third cut in ballistic missile warheads and the approximate 50 percent cut in ballistic missiles which the President has advocated.

It is true that the SALT II treaty does not directly constrain either warheads or ballistic missiles per se, but instead restricts such things as MIRVed missiles, strategic launchers, and heavy missiles. But, in my considered judgment, a 50 percent cut in the limits and sublimits of SALT II would, indeed, move the Soviet Union into the ballpark of the Reagan plan - albeit with some collateral restraints (for example, either no new light missile or a limit on warheads on a new missile).

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SALT II's provisions offer a ready agreed-upon context for reductions and make possible a less time-consuming START negotiation. In addition, such an approach could go a long way in achieving the other goal of holding Soviet missile warheads on land to half of their reduced total.

I believe that the course I have outlined would command broad, bipartisan support in Congress and in the country. I also believe that it would be supported by every former president, secretary of state, and secretary of defense - as well as former national security advisers and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


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