How a nuclear freeze would squeeze the Russians
Now that it has returned from Easter recess, the House of Representatives will again resume debate on the nuclear freeze issue in preparation for the expected vote on House adoption of a freeze resolution. The battle lines have been drawn between the Reagan administration and pro-freeze groups with each side vigorously lobbying to sway the hearts and minds of members of Congress. Last week President Reagan, during a speech in Los Angeles on arms control, again took the opportunity to condemn a bilateral nuclear freeze.
In addition to the President's renewed verbal attacks on the freeze, the administration's latest assault in the propaganda war included the release last month of the 1983 edition of ''Soviet Military Power,'' the Pentagon's slick publication that portrays the size and growth of Soviet military forces. The Reagan administration has used ''Soviet Military Power'' to support its claim that the United States is falling into a position of nuclear inferiority and must build up its nuclear forces, at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars.
Reagan officials, in their briefings to Congress and the news media, have gone to great lengths to explain that a freeze on US and Soviet nuclear forces would preclude the US from this buildup and harm national security. But a careful examination of ''Soviet Military Power'' leads to a conclusion different from that of President Reagan. For ''Soviet Military Power'' not only documents Soviet weapons systems already constructed and operational, but also those that are now being tested or are on the drawing board.
This dramatic evidence of Soviet development of new weapons systems graphically demonstrates how a bilateral freeze would actually benefit the US. A freeze would prevent the next generation of Soviet nuclear weapons and their delivery systems from being deployed. A few of the new Soviet weapons systems a bilateral freeze would halt include:
* The Blackjack long-range nuclear bomber (the Soviet counterpart to the US B-1);
* The Typhoon missile submarine (scheduled to begin operations on the heels of the US Trident submarine);
* The SS-N-20 submarine-launched missile (SLBM) and one other new type of SLBM that will begin testing this year;
* At least two and possibly four new types of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs);
* Two new types of long-range cruise missiles, one air-launched and one sea-launched;
* A whole range of medium- and short-range missiles to be deployed against China and Western Europe.
''Soviet Military Power'' also demonstrates the utility of other types of arms agreements which could complement a nuclear freeze. The Pentagon document reveals that the USSR has tested and deployed a weapon to attack and destroy low-orbiting satellites. While the present Soviet antisatellite (ASAT) weapon is relatively crude, the Soviets are working on a more sophisticated system, though it is probably not as advanced as the one the US is developing.
The best way to prevent the Soviets from building these weapons is through arms agreements prohibiting their deployment. Talks on such a treaty were conducted with the Soviets by the Carter administration but President Reagan has declined to resume those negotiations. Further, Secretary of Defense Weinberger has emphasized that no treaty on ASAT weapons will be permitted to interfere with US development plans for these weapons.
''Soviet Military Power'' mentions a Soviet effort to modernize its antiballistic missile (ABM) site around Moscow with new radars and interceptors. The US is also spending over a billion dollars each year to develop new antimissile technologies to protect its ICBMs. Though the ABM treaty allows each nation to maintain one site and to modernize its ABM system within certain strict limits, it prohibits large-scale ABM systems and mobile, space-based, sea-based or air-based ones.
If the administration is so concerned about Soviet modernization of their one permitted site, it should seek to amend the treaty and prohibit all ABM deployments. Such a decision would be far wiser than beginning an expensive race with the USSR to build new ABM systems.
Partisans for and against the nuclear freeze would probably agree that the Americans would like to stop Soviet weapons programs without giving up anything in return. We would all like to get something for nothing. Unfortunately, successful arms negotiations do not work that way. Each side must make concessions in order to extract concessions in return. While a bilateral freeze would force the US to abandon plans for more nuclear weapons, this recent release of US military intelligence provides further evidence of the comprehensive Soviet modernization that would also be brought to a halt.
Knowledgeable individuals may disagree over particular aspects of a bilateral freeze on the testing, production, and deployment of new nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. But with its rhetoric the Reagan administration has distorted the effects of a freeze by emphasizing only what the US would have to give up. The government's own information makes a strong case for favoring a nuclear freeze, if only to stop the next phase of Soviet nuclear weapons building.