SALT I and II
Amidst the Cold War, a series of treaties was issued under the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty to curtail the build up of nuclear weapons. SALT I, as it is commonly known, was the first of the Strategic Arms Limitation talks between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. Communist leader Leonid Brezhnev, who was the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, met with U.S. President Richard Nixon in November of 1969 to come up with a treaty that would contain the arms race. The negotiations lasted until January of 1972, and by May 26 of that same year the treaty was finalized. The two treaties signed that day were the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, or ABM, and the Interim Agreement on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. Provisions of the ABM treaty included regulation of antiballistic missiles that could possibly be used to destroy incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM’s) launched by other countries. Also each side was limited to only one launching area for ABM’s and 100 interceptor missiles. This treaty was ratified by the U.S. Senate on August 3, 1972. The Interim Agreement on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms was to have a five year duration that would freeze the number of strategic ballistic missiles, such as the ICBM’s and the submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM’s), at the current 1972 level.
In late 1972, negotiations began for SALT II and continued for seven years. Finally on June 18, 1979, in Vienna, Brezhnev and President Jimmy Carter signed the SALT II treaty. Since the two countries had developed different strategies, with the U.S.S.R. focusing on larger warheads and the U.S. concentrating on missiles with a greater accuracy, specifications of the previous treaties had to be changed. SALT II set more specific regulations on the different missiles. Limits were set on the number of strategic launchers, and the various types of missiles. Each side was limited to no more then 2400 weapons systems.
SALT II was sent to the Senate to be ratified, but due to tensions between the two countries, Carter pushed the treaty aside. In the years following, some of the standards set in SALT II were voluntarily being observed by the two sides, but the treaty was never ratified. Later negotiations took place in Geneva that were known as the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks, or START. Tensions continued up until the end of the Cold War, but war never broke out again and the race to stockpile weapons finally ended in the early 1990’s.
Research by Lindsey Murad
Volunteer for the Cold War Museum
Cosby High School
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