A different kind of freeze

The nuclear freeze movement has had a success. President Reagan has affirmed that the United States will not undercut SALT I and SALT II as long as the Soviets show equal restraint. And these agreements put a cap or freeze on the number of American and Soviet strategic missiles and bombers.

But this freeze is partial and incomplete. It imposes a ceiling on delivery means - on strategic missiles and bombers - but it does not stop what could be a vast expansion in the number of deployed strategic warheads that could strike the other superpower. And, of course, it is the warheads that cause the damage, not the missiles or bombers. Even though the number of missiles and bombers remained the same, the number of warheads deployed on them could rise dramatically and still remain within the limits of the SALT II agreement.

Under these circumstances and even though talks to reduce strategic arms have begun with the Soviets, the madness of the nuclear arms race, the threat to the US, and the danger to peace and even to mankind's survival would remain undiminished and virtually unchecked.

President Reagan has a choice. He says he wants to reduce nuclear weapons but he acts to increase them. He cannot do both. He can - with the Soviets - stop increasing them as he negotiates for their reduction. He can extend the freeze on to warheads.

Mr. Reagan should propose to the Soviets that the US and the Soviet Union would announce in parallel that they would not deploy additional strategic warheads pending the negotiation of a strategic arms reduction treaty at Geneva. This freeze could be effective immediately since it would not require prolonged negotiation. It could be arranged through diplomatic channels. American observance of the freeze would depend on parallel observance by the Soviet Union.

The freeze would stop the deployment of additional warheads. It would not stop the testing or production of warheads. The freeze proposal backed by Senator Kennedy, Senator Hatfield, and others calls for the cessation of tests and production as well as deployment of warheads and delivery means - a more ambitious and difficult objective, which could involve protracted negotiation.

The freeze on additional warheads would permit the replacement of existing ones. The submarine modernization programs of the US and the Soviet Union could go forward. The US has one Trident submarine on sea trials and six under construction. The Sovet Union has several new missile submarines under construction. The US could proceed with the deployment of the air-launched cruise missile by reducing an equivalent number of other weapons.

The freeze could be verified by national technical means, using the counting rules of SALT II. All missiles are assumed to have the maximum number of warheads flight-tested from that type of missile. This rule yields a worst-case number, assuring maximum protection for both sides.

The Reagan administration has rejected a nuclear freeze on two grounds: it would - allegedly - freeze the US into a position of inferiority; and it would deny the US the bargaining leverage of the threat of new deploy-ments.

But a time-limited freeze on numbers of deployed warheads - the simplest and most significant single measure of strategic capability - would overcome both of these objections. The US leads the Soviets in numbers of warheads so it would not be frozen into an inferior position. And the US would retain the bargaining leverage of the threat of additional deployments if START should fail.

A freeze on strategic warheads would stop the nuclear arms race at its most lethal point. And stopping the arms race is a necessary prelude to reducing arms.

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