SALT II

From Academic Kids

SALT II was a second round of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks from 1972-1979 between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which sought to curtail the manufacture of strategic nuclear weapons. It was a continuation of progress made during the SALT I talks.

An agreement to limit strategic launchers was reached in Vienna on June 18, 1979, and was signed by Leonid Brezhnev and President Jimmy Carter. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and the treaty was never formally ratified by the United States Senate, but its terms were honored by both sides.

Subsequent discussions took place under Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Larger Historical Context

The nuclear arms race was an outgrowth of the Cold War and was very expensive for both sides, both in money and by diverting resources from other, more useful weapons. Producing more and more weapons and delivery systems had reached a point of diminishing returns by the early 1970s. Additional arms were of decreasing usefulness given that each side could quite assuredly cripple the economy, infrastructure, populace (etc.) of the other side even if only a small fraction of the weapons launched managed to strike their intended targets.

There was starting to be a further cost that probably had not been factored in during earlier eras - maintenance. Each missile, warhead, silo, launcher, ship, and other system had to be maintained with spare parts, expertise, and consequently, money.

The combination of these factors meant that the military and political leadership on both sides had an incentive to reduce their arsenals. Factoring in the industrial complex, if the talks led to allowances for fewer but more advanced systems, this would allow for further expenditures and thus keep the military-industrial complex happy.

Massive amounts of mistrust on both sides contributed to difficulties with the treaty process, however. The U.S. Senate never passed the treaty due to arguments about the terms of the treaty not being enforceable due to cheating by the other side and the U.S. government's ability to detect if cheating was occurring. The process of ratification lost momentum after time and was never picked up, although the terms were apparently honored anyway.

Further talks were picked up by President Ronald Reagan and Premier of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev in the mid-1980s.

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