Created: 8/1/1983

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The Strategic Weapons Spiral: Soviet Reactions to US Initiatives?

National Iit'tlligcnce Council


The Strategic Weapons Spiral: Soviet Reactions to US Initiatives?

National Intelligence Councill urn

ThU Memorandum hai been coordinated within the National lotcllifence Council^



The Strategic Weapons Spiral: Soviet Reactions to US Initiatives'

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Aetal /Ac WW* Aa. onAfew types of weapons, and fhasf produced them onlyesponse to their appearance in the United States.

To Avert the Threat to Europe3

The Soviets have long characterized their strategic nuclear programs as reaciions to the US initiatives that have fueled the arms race, and as necessary to prevent the United Stales from achieving its goal of strategic fupenority over the USSR.

The relationship of US and Soviet strategic developments is complex. At the level of grand strategy, there is clearly an action-reaction pattern. Western concepts of containment and miliury planning have been mainly reactions to Soviet expansionist objectives. The SovieU" strategy and their miliury developments have been in large part intended to break out from what theycerved as Western enablement. At tbc level of miliury strategy and plans, strategic defenses of cither side are obviously reactions to theerceived offensive capabilities

In their strategic programs, lhe two sides have also followed different pains. US strategic forces, influenced by World War II experience, began with an emphasis on strategic bombers, andumbcr of reasons,f ihem relatedI to the Soviet threal.oughly balanced triad of nuclear forces. The Soviets, with their continental land warfare orienU-ton. have given primary emphasis lo land-based ballistic missiles. Thc long-range plans for both sides' strategic forces, in numbers and were set down in thend. After surging ahead of he SovicU the Untied States faltered in. The Soviets adhered to Iheir plans for continuing modernization, unaffected by US unilateral restrain! and only modestly restrained by arms limitation agreement

Recently, in their efforts to slow or hall US and NATO strategic force mcdernization programs, the Soviets have stepped up their rhetoric in lhend in official communications about US initiatives as the cause of lhe arms race. They have become more specific in pom tin, out their to match thc United Stala. program for proeram. and have

become more threatening in asserting iheir intention! to do so; they are abo asserting that they can now compete as an equal in weapons technology. Tbcii propaganda campaign,imple, easilymessage, hus had some effect in furthering their cause.

It is difficult to refute the Soviets claims aboul tbe nature of the arms competitionublic forum since information on their weapons plans andare conceived, decided upon, and developed in totalalso considered classified in this country. Because USoften reach public awareness early in their development (years before comparable Sovietajor US weapons appear to predate similar Soviet syslems. giving support to Soviet assertions of having to react to US initiatives. Analysis of intelligence on Sovietituation quite different from Soviet claims. The lack of awareness of the falsity of these Soviet claimsajor competitive advantage for thc Soviets in their efforts lo restrain US weapons programs.


'flic Strategic Weapons Spiral: Soviet Reactions lei US Initiatives?

Proposals (oi new weapons program* in the United Stales invariablyhealed prop'Canda Irom the Soviet Union as heme the start ol another round af ihe "armso which ihey must reluctantly respond. This message, -Inch is echoed in the West, uses new weapons programsetaphor for lhe "armshis formulation works lo the advantage of tlic Soviels since the initiation of iheir programs is shrouded in secrecy, and it disregards other indicators of tbe Soviets" miliurynumbers, weapon procurement rate, and level of research and development.

With the implensenution of the preseni US strategic force modernization program. Soviet props.gandiils have trumpeted new warnings aboul US stimulationew action-reaction cycle of the armsew twitt has been added to their rhetoric: they are buttressing their claims of US action-Soviet reaction by ticking off specific Soviet weapons, such as thehe Typhoon, and the cruise missile that were developed supposedly in response to specific US weapons. They arc also threatening lhal ihey will continue to copy our weapons. According lo DcTentc Ministcr Ustinov. "The economy, science, and tech no lot* of the Soviet Union have attainedevel that tliey can Guarantee the creation of any kind of weapon Uiat our enemies -ish lo gamble of

jtskes theil further. He has stated that, utimic in thc past, Soviet programs will not lag behind those of lhc United States by five lo seven years; instead they will bc simultaneous

The purpose of this Memorandum is to evaluate Ihe Soviets* claims thai they are reacting to US initiatives based on what wc know from inielligence sources Bbout iheir strategic offensive weapons in develop, ment and testing. It addresses Soviet competition with

thc United States in weapons technologies and Soviet ptojrams to acquire weapons like (hose lhe United States ha< proposed or developed, ll also addresses those initiatives by lhc Soviets thai do noi appear in their propaganda about arms race andost of other programs for strategic offensive weapons that have no US counterparts Tbe Memorandum does not address lhe many factors oilin than US weapons developments that figure in Soviet forceand polilical factors, or miliury factors such as force restructuring and command, control, and communicationsNor docs il assess the adjustments in defenses resulting from the appearance of new offensiveand the cycle of countermeasures and counter-counter incisures in both tides' weapons design.

Competition in Weapons Technologr

The Uniied Stales is generally recognized as being in the forefront in research of many weaponsIn some important cases, however, (for example.omb. Sputnik, liquid-propellant SI.BMs) lhe Soviets have successfully taken technology paths independent from those of the United States In many areas, however, the Soviets pursue efforts similar io those in the United Stales Their pursuits, aidedell-organired. centrally directed,nd covert lechnology acquisition program, have not been reluc tani reactions to US initiatives, as thc Sovicis would have us believe Rather, the Soviets' access lo the results of successful technologicali by ihe United States has eased their technology choices and shortened their weapon development times.

The Soviei military RAD organizations are aware of most US weapons programs and technologiesery early stage in development, and ihey are imbued


trong scntc of technical compeiiiioo in tJod opine comparable sysiems. Thij cnmi>clilion is sup-pottedolitical leadership commiiiedoc tunc which hai espoused Ihc necessity fo' Soviet "miliury technical superiority"the Wcsi.peech not lone before his death. Oicthnc. said. "Compclition in mililnry technology has sharplyoften,ne in this competition is inadmissible."

.Tlie Soviets require ihat every major civilianproject be measured against the bestbefore it is approved to proceed. Onceis in development, government Standardsthe continued comparison ol the character ithardwire, al different design sUges, with

petition wiih the United Statesrimary aspect ic the development of Soviet missile technologies;





W,ihccessany deiails of US weaponselative lack of competition within ihc> community. Soviet designers are. in effect, competing -uh US weapons designers. US systemare useda.dsiick aeainst which Soviet technical are judged and presumably. of Comparable Weapons Systems

Intellieence on development of Soviet systems ihat are counter pain to those of the Uniled Statesifferent impression lhan tbe Soviets' claim lhat they are simply reactingS iniualivea. Using their responsive, centrally planned RAD establishment and with virtually unrestricted access to many details of Our future weapons, the Soviets Apparently program some counterpart weapons sysiems to be elevdeped and appear at about the time our systems appear. Such systems might bave been developed without tbe stimulusS program, as tbe Soviets exploit ihe latest technology to improve ibeir weapons. They also claim as responses similar Soviet systems thai were already under way when US program! were aulho riied. The result of ihis rxoceaioviet "counter part" to every maior strategic weapons lysltm the. United States hasubliciied development or deployment program, wiih tbc probable, except ton oi the Stealth bomber.

J Defense Minister Ustinov has claimed publicly an their new ICBM. theill not be inferiorny way" to ihc MX. Despite such claims, lhe Soviets almost certainly do not realistically capect to maich thc Uniled Slates in weapons technologies across lhe board, f

ompares US systems no* in development wiihoviet systems

' Ii aoftta aw pauMc laialraeoaarwiai tSci hiilory al US and So*id weaponS procram wis

lagOfuiUc lor lhe lUrt olprnJoiUr Soviet

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ti tbe.eeirriincu itlMuiaiu rigWj ia ih* Sonet >capoapriuui

I ;itill I

Sovicl Systems Under Development With US Counterparts

' Initialonal capability.

'Eaumiled year of dcxlopmoai deration by ibe Politburo. 'Claimed or imp) indesponse by tbe Sonaii.

Thb (able it Top Seer.

may be responses, some clearly are not:

The Soviet prof rams for ibe Typhoon submarine and itsLBM. Blackjack bomber, and long-range cruise missile probably beganafter comparable US programs. Allhough on this basis the Soviet weapons can be categoored asc do not know how long the Soviet systems were under consideration prior to program initiation or the actual reason for their initiation They are weapons syslemshe Soviel military could justify as needing on tbe basis of their require-menis. regardless of the status of US programs for similar systems, and they haveormal developmenl process. Justification for the systems wis made much easier because lhc United Slates was developing like systems.

Thend theollow-on missiles are clearly not responses to US program initiatives The Soviet syslems were decided upoo, began their development, and will bc deployed prior to the US MXissiles to which lhc Soviets claim Ihey are responses. Thc concept of both US missiles

was well publicized, however, prior to the US decision to begin iheir actual developmenl.

The system lhat responds to thc Pershing II isclear In March of this year, Sovietmi lice member Zagladin stated lhat if ihedeployed, thc Soviets would have toodified version ofSS-20


once in Februaiy prior to lhc Zagladirt statement, bul noi since This system F

i] Use only "new" intermediate-range ballislK nussTTcin flight-icsling, is apparenUy Ihe result of an unusually high-priority prcflighl developmenl program. Developmenl probably began al about the time of9 NATO decision on INFul we are not confident aboul thc relative dates. Al one point, tbe developers were probably working on the missile on an around-the clock basis. The apparent objective was lo quickly reach flight-testing, so that il could be available to provide, as anossible Soviet claim thai

they haveisiile in response toarc disaircementsilhin iheho-ever, about ihis interpretationdevelopment program

In thc USSR. Ihe very existence of programs to develop weapons syslems. let alone their technical and operational details, are stale secrets. Secrecy allows them ihe advantage of being atle to conirol when and how io play ihe US action-Soviei reaction siory ihai best fils their political needs. For eiample. the Soviets have had programs under way since lheo develop long-range land-attack cruise missiles. The fact ol their existence was noi made public untilhen (hey were well inlo nighl-testing. By delaying thc announcement until then, the Sovietsable to sharpen their "reaction" claim and also give the impression ofechnological "sleeping bear" thai, when aroused, can quickly develop any system the United States has. They will similarly control information concerning deployment of the cruise missiles until and unless their deployment plans can be played for maximum political advantage in the INF arena. Also, if il serves the SovieU' political ends, syslems that are not necessarily equal into US syslems will be played as if ihey are.

Curiously, the Soviets do not normally publicize (be eaislence of their counterpartnd hence potential bargainingboth nations*are in lhe full-scale development phase. Tbis could reflect Ihc normal secrecy lhe Soviels atlach to their programs, ll could alsoeluctance by lhe Soviet military to offer to giveew system, even if it could lead to halting an important US program.[

has noiedTTiai. once itarlcd. Soviet programs arc bard to stop because people develop vested inicrests in Ihem.

Soriel Rationale lor Dcreloping Some Similar Weapons

The Soviets' primary reason for developing strategic weapons systems is lo meet Ihe miliiary requirements of their strategy for nuclear conflict, which of course

includes consideration of eiisting and likely future militaiy capabilities uf all their potential adversaries In developing some syslems tbat arc similar to those of lhc United Stales, lhe Soviets probably have other tnotivalions. including:

- To assure piogram approval. Programs for weapons like the United Stales is developing are probably easier to gel authorized than ihose for weapons of unique Soviet design

portray themselves as being the technological equal of lhe United Stales. Their leaders have historicallyechnological inferiority complex.

hedgeS technological breakthrough. The Soviets ire paranoid aboul US potential for lechnological breakthrough arid probably rouiinely work on anything the United States is interested in.

take advantage or US technical progress. Devel-opmenial problems are cased by knowledge of US lechnology and the technical requirements the United Stales is working to fulfill. They can save lime, money, and uncertainty by having the United Sutcs make the appropriate design and techhoices, especially if they can then obtain informa-lion or hardware thiough technology transfer. Also, il is easier for ihe Soviets to measure qualitative progressimilar system

The inherent poteniial of such syslems for use as arms control bargaining chips.

To support Soviet propaganda. Thc Uniied Stales can be accused -using selectivebeing the initiator of the arms race

Soriet Systems Wllh No US Counterparts

Thc entire Soviet formulation ofalient aspeci of lhcir weapons procurementsimply develop far more weapons than we do. This was particularly evident innd continues today. In additionhc

Table 2



Sorici Systems Under Oe.elopn.cni Wifh No US Counterparts








Improved tmiN wtid

Improved SS^'

' :

Urge GLCM larreSLCM

Improve: SS-NX-rO wiih MaRV


This lable ii Top Secre<

systems listed in Uble I. lhe SovieU have at leastther new or modcfmred missiles in developmeoi for

initial lesting in, which they do not talk about. These systems, listed in ubleannot be claimedopies of US systems or as reactions io US initiatives because there are no US counterparts The array of lyslemsompelling case againsi lhc Sovici claim of being caught up in lhe strategic weapons spiral by US challenges.


testing will probably be initially deployed5 io silos,6obile

It is the latesteries of Soviel land-mobile ICBM programs, dating back to lhc. In contrast, ihe smaller USecent proposal, is being developed for possible deployment in the. The SovieU are already making claims about the need to respond to it.

The Soeietsbeen trying to slop lbc deployf (he USnd cruise missiles, and now Pershing II. in pun by threatening lo deploy counter pari systems The Soviets have proposed thaihange for halting US weapons deployments they would not deploy similar sysiems which have ilrcady been revcakd io ihe pablic This approach isio those who believe il would halt the strategic weapons spiral, and reinforces their notion thai the United States must be at fault. It is evident, however, thai even if the Soviets did not deploy systems aboul which the public has knowledge, in trade for stopping their US counterparts, they would (tillarge number of other missile improvements under way. li is also evident lhat they will only go public with information about their "counterpart'* systems claimed to be developed in "reaction" to USand not about the rest of their strategic weapons programs


Jand two liquid-propellanl SLBMs to be de-i'9 on Dclla-ciassSSBNs. The

Their SLBM rkveloprncnt effortase study of bow thc Sovieu attempt to use Ihe secrecy of their programs to theii advantage io the arms control arena. Tbey have four programs underolid-propellant. MIRVedollow-on system for the Typhoon SSBN, to be deployedecondand


Soviets would be willing io forgo tbeollow-oni for non development of the. while retaining their programs for new liquid-propelLBMs. Until recenlly, such considerations were implicit in Iheir START proposals on future SLBM modernization The first of the liquid-propel!!will have raage and throw-weight characteristics similar to, or greater than, the; the tecond may be similar in size to. These two sysiems would offer ihe Soviets significant advantages over the United Sutes ifs not deployed; atoviet SSBNs could be equipped to cany them. They cannot tout these systemsresponse" to US programs,ublic dialog aboul the extent of ihcir efforts would huit their effort to stop oreplormeats In Jane, tbe Sonets backed off their posilion in START, which would have disallowednd the improvedhU change,greater "flexibility" retarding deployment of the


y also have been intended lo deflectcriticism of [he Soviet approach lo armslhat same month, they

flight test nf the first of their new liquit^rupdlanl hc Hidden Soviet "flexibility" on thc SLUM modernization issue would therefore seem to be relatedf"

systems This commitment to both qu-mtiiy and ouali-ly may tic .Ircssing SdViCI defense industry as today's higli-icchnoIugy systems reach the production state. Therefore, more capable fuiure Soviet weapons will probably <ir. produced in smaller quantities than has been Uie case, and quality control problems may lead lo delays and lo maintenance woes

.s. Quality: Problems Ahead?

Unfortunately, comrades, as you all know it is the introduction of the achievements of science and technology into practice thatnag for ut.


While more appropriate for Soviet civilian industry. Andropov's statement at thc3 party plenum also has relevance for defense programs. Thc Sovietrgsuiiations have probably Ijeeome more capable in developing high-technology weapons systems than industry has become in producing them. If the Soviets plan lo produce Wcslenvslyle high-technology weapons syslems in Soviet-style quantities, they could have serious

"JSoviet industries lack the capability to produce highly sophisticated weapon*

__fl'lic Soviets are apparentlyng lhcir foreign lechnology acquisilion efforts on produclion technologies Also, many of the more recent Soviet programs, including thc Typhoon sub marine.LBM. theurfacc-io-air missile sysiem. and theomber, have encountered produclion-related problems.

The traditional requirement to have quantities of forces equivalent lo tlie combination of all potential adversaries-which they have been able to fulfill in ihcled lhe Soviet to make large-scaleey resiraining factor on Ihe level of icehnotc-gy incorporated in their systems. Now.they seem committed to deploy syslems at ihc same lime and with the same quality as Western


Soviets have far more weapons programs under way Ihan wc do and arc committed io military-lechnical superiority over lhe West in their weapons planning and procurement policy

They apparently feel that every US strategicsystem mustoviet counterpart. Even so. most will be justified primarily on grounds of miliiary requirements. Some weapons systems,being developed in support of normal Soviet miliiary requirements, will be claimed as reactions. Still others may in fact be reactions to US programs. Historical precedent and programs now under way strongly suggest lhat actual mirror-image programs willt of the motivalions for Soviei weapons development!

proposal by thc Soviets to give up an analogous program loS deployment will probably meannderS mint her system -in iKjrWn- ,imission

Thc apparent requirement for responses io US programs may mean tnat ihc Soviets could be susceptible to deceptive efforts thai indicate that we are succeeding tn developing advanced technological concepts or weapons systems, and could beto US cost-imposing sirategies.

Deployment of high-technology weapons to match those of the United Stales will probably contribute to smaller produclion runs than has been theSoviet preference, and may also lead to more widespread production and maintenance problem*

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