THE GENEVA TALKS : WHAT'S AT STAKE

STRATEGIC OFFENSIVE NUCLEAR WEAPONS

AIM--To reduce intercontinental-range missiles and bombers.

HISTORY--The first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, signed in 1972, set limits on land- and submarine-based offensive weapons and established a verification system that did not require on-site inspections. The ancillary Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, also signed in 1972, barred the development of nationwide missile defense systems. The SALT II agreement, signed in 1979, put long-term limits on the aggregate number of nuclear missile delivery vehicles, including bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, limited the number of missiles with multiple warheads and banned the development of new ICBMs (except for one new system on each side). The treaty was not ratified, but both sides agreed "not to undercut" its provisions; the most important provisions were to expire Dec. 31, 1985. START talks began in 1982, but the Soviets walked out after 18 months.

U.S. POSITION--Huge Soviet land-based missiles, with high accuracy, could destroy all U.S. land-based ICBMs, as well as submarines in port and bombers on the ground in a surprise attack; the first priority is to get these reduced. Its START offer was essentially to cut Soviet land-based missile warheads to 2,500 (from more than 6,000), while initially refusing to discuss cuts in U.S. bomber and cruise missile forces.

SOVIET POSITION--Cuts of about one-fourth in both sides' total force to 1,800 missiles and bombers, with each side largely free to pick which kinds of weapons it wants to keep (i.e., allowing Soviets to retain huge advantage in big ICBMs).

CHIEF ISSUES--How to compromise on weapon ceilings; whether to put limits on new weapons, such as sea-launched cruise missiles; how to verify reductions.

INTERMEDIATE NUCLEAR OFFENSIVE WEAPONS

AIM--To limit these medium-range missiles, primarily in Europe.

HISTORY--Soviet deployment of three-warhead SS-20 missiles led to a North Atlantic Treaty Organization decision in 1979 to base 572 U.S. Pershing 2 and cruise missiles (each with one warhead) in five European nations between 1983 and 1987 unless concurrent talks with Soviets produced cuts in the SS-20 force. Talks began in 1981, but the Soviets walked out in Nov., 1983, after initial U.S. deployments.

U.S. POSITION--Equal Soviet and U.S. ceilings of between 50 and 450 warheads on both sides. Hint of equal numbers in Europe, but Soviets could have extra SS-20s in the Far East to compensate for 162 nuclear missiles in British and French arsenals.

SOVIET POSITION--SS-20 force at least equal to the British and French combined total, but no U.S. missiles at all in Europe. Hint that SS-20s in Far East could be frozen at about 135, but no formal ceiling for Asia. Wants to count U.S. nuclear-capable aircraft in or near Europe.

CHIEF ISSUES--Compensating Soviets for British and French systems; preventing Soviet buildup in Far East; codifying some U.S. deployments in Europe; including bombers as well as missiles in negotiations.

SPACE WEAPONS

AIM--To discuss prevention of an arms race in space, including limits on anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty signed in 1972 and the U.S. "Star Wars" space defense research program.

HISTORY--Soviet-American ASAT talks began in 1977, but the Soviets showed little interest initially, and then the Reagan Administration preferred to wait. Last June, Moscow proposed broader space arms talks, but Washington wanted offensive nuclear arms included, too. The Soviets finally agreed, with the new Geneva talks the result.

U.S. POSITION--Halt "erosion" of the ABM treaty by Soviet violations, while endorsing the space defense research program to determine if defensive systems can make an effective shield against offensive nuclear weapons.

SOVIET POSITION--To get the United States to "abandon" "Star Wars" projects, according to Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko, but more realistically, probably to ban ASATs and restrict space defense research, perhaps by tightening the ABM treaty.

CHIEF ISSUES--ASAT limits; future of the ABM treaty; restraints on applied research on space-based defense systems.

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