The story behind START and other abbreviations

The leaders of the two most powerful nations in the world are talking about getting together to discuss ways in which they might be able to stop the buildup of nuclear arms.

These two leaders are President Ronald Reagan of the United States and President Leonid Brezhnev of the Soviet Union.

They may even decide that both their countries should cut back on the number of nuclear arms they already have.

There have been other talks between the United States and the Soviet Union on this topic.

These were known as the SALT talks. SALT, like CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board), is an acronym. Acronym is pronounced a'-cro-nim. Acronyms are words formed from the first syllable or letter of other words. Radar is a good example of an acronym. It really stands for ''radio detecting and ranging.'' The ''ra'' in radar is taken from the ra in radio; the ''d'' from the next word, detecting; the ''a'' from and; and the ''r'' from the last word, ranging.

In the case of SALT, the four initials are taken from the first four letters of strategic arms limitation talks. That is what SALT is all about -- an opportunity for the United States and the Soviet Union to sit down and talk about limiting the amount of strategic arms they possess.

Strategic nuclear arms are not weapons like helicopters, rifles, or tanks. Strategic arms mean the very destructive weapons that use atomic power. They include vehicles that carry the weapons -- missile launchers based on land, bombers, and submarines. They also include the missiles themselves and the warheads on the missiles.

If talks do get under way between President Reagan and President Brezhnev on this subject, they may become known not as the SALT talks but the START talks. START again is an acronym. It stands for strategic arms reduction talks. It was President Reagan's suggestion that the talks be given a new acronym.

Here are some other well-known abbreviations:

CIA: Central Intelligence Agency. This is an agency of the US government. Its job is to gather intelligence. Intelligence gathering is just a fancy term for spying. The CIA protects the United States from possible enemies who might want to sabotage the country or steal secrets or wreck the reputation of the nation.

KGB: Soviet State Security Committee. At least that is the English translation of the Soviet spy network. It is also a government agency and does for the Soviet Union what the CIA does for the US.

USSR: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. This is the full and correct name for the Soviet Union. People often call the Soviet Union Russia, but Russia is only one part of the Soviet Union.

NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This is the organization that brings together most of the Western industrial countries in a defense pact or agreement. The idea is to stand up and meet any military challenge or threat from the Soviets or any other communist countries. NATO consists of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and West Germany.

OPEC: Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. When people talk of OPEC prices going up and down they are usually talking about whether the gasoline at the pump is going to increase or decrease in price. This is because the price is to a large extent fixed by OPEC, which consists of the following oil-producing countries: Algeria, Ecuador, Gabon, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.

Not all oil-producing states belong to OPEC. Some striking examples are the United States, the Soviet Union, Mexico, Britain, and Bahrain.

UN: United Nations. This is the organization that most represents the world today. It consists of 156 countries. The UN was set up after World War II to maintain peace in the world. The man who heads the UN is called the secretary-general. The person who holds this high position is a Peruvian, Javier Perez de Cuellar. For the last few weeks he has been working hard trying to settle the dispute over the Falklands between two countries, Britain and Argentina.

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