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24 March

Secretary General Gorbachev announces his intention to eliminate medium-range nuclear missiles from Europe and to grant a major concession to the US Chief Arms Negotiator, Max Kapelman, by excluding the Strategic Defence Initiative (“Star Wars”) from the first round of negotiations in Geneva. The move undermines support among the wider Western alliance for the development and deployment of the MX Missile, and jeopardises ongoing support for the program in the US Congress.

30 March

The MX Missile program is narrowly approved by the narrowest of margins in the US Senate (51-49), despite the best efforts of Senator Gary Hart (D-Colorado) to destroy the legislation. It has been a reluctant majority, many of whom have had their arms twisted by the White House. However, Californian Democrat, Representative Tony Coelho, suggests that, given the narrow margin of victory, the MX Missile will not receive approval in the House of Representatives.

4 April

NATO leaders, as well as the leaders of France, Spain, Japan, Australia and Israel, receive invitations to join the Strategic Defence Initiative. Given that it is not under immediate threat from the peace talks in Geneva, President Reagan has decided to press ahead with his pet project. Each of the nations will talk about the need for further study and consideration, although Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain states that she will do so “urgently”. The French government attacks the program, while Thatcher’s Foreign Secretary, Sir Geoffrey Howe, leaks his opposition to the program.

27 April

The US Congress rejects the MX Missile Program. The former National Security Advisor to President Ford, Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, is recalled to public service to head up a Presidential Commission into a new strategic direction. He recommends that the United States invest in redevelopment of the Midgetman missile to be single-headed and mobile, similar to the reported specifications of the Soviet RT-23 Molodets.

1 May

In his May Day Address, Soviet Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev announces that he has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Americans, allowing both countries to begin the practical changes necessary to commence implementation on the terms of the treaty on intermediate nuclear weapons before it is formally signed in October. It is consented that French and British weapons will not be counted for the purpose of the treaty, but establishes that MIRV and single-headed missiles must be treated as separate categories.

4 May

It emerges that there has been a fire in the rocket motor of a Pershing II missile in West Germany and that investigators have determined that sabotage was the cause. The US Congress allocates $2 million per annum to upgrade security at its missile sites.

23 May

The Israeli government admits that it has illegally imported high speed electronic switches, used in the construction of nuclear weapons, from the United States. They claim to be unaware of the illegal nature of their purchase and state that the switches were not used in nuclear weapons. However, the purchasing agency, the Bureau for Scientific Coordination, is the agency responsible for the management of the Israeli weapon program.

27 May

At a meeting of NATO, the alliance agrees not to participate directly in the US Strategic Defence Initiative, but allows companies incorporated within their countries to sign research contracts with the Pentagon on the issue. With $2.5 billion in contracts, this allows European business to participate in the program without obliging European countries.

2 June

Soviet jets strike and destroy portions of the Kahuta Research Laboratories, outside Islamabad in Pakistan. They manage to hit the gas centrifuge plant, destroying Pakistan’s capacity to build a nuclear weapon. CIA intelligence estimate that it will be 1991 before Pakistan can recover its previous capacity and will be unable to build a nuclear weapon until at least 2005.

4 June

In a meeting on Lake Constance, French President Francois Mitterrand and the Chancellor of West Germany, Helmut Kohl, fail to reach an agreement on European participation in the Strategic Defence Initiative. Mitterrand cites West Germany’s demands for an early date for a new round of global trade negotiations and their refusal to agree to changes in agricultural prices recently recommended by the European Community.

13 June

In a heated debate in the Oval Office, US Defence Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Secretary of State George Schultz discuss the future of the SALT II Treaty, originally signed by President Carter and Secretary General Brezhnev in 1979. Under current construction plans, the United States will be in violation of the treaty by September. The Senate has voted overwhelmingly to call upon the President to refrain from undercutting provisions of the treaty, as they are fearful of a possible withdrawal of arms concessions in Geneva.

18 June

The Reagan Administration announces that it will continue to abide by the provisions of the SALT II Treaty, but will reserve the right to engage in selective retaliation against any future Soviet violations. The Soviet Secretary General, Mikhail Gorbachev, states that the Americans “have failed in their attempts to crawl out of arms control agreements”, depicting it as a major victory for Soviet foreign policy.

26 June

Sources within NASA leak that the first tests of the Strategic Defence Initiative, involving the space shuttle Discovery, have been a complete flop, with the wrong numbers fed into the computer at the Johnson Space Centre. Both NASA and the Administration are embarrassed by the setback.

27 June

The US Congress approves finances for chemical weapons, but adds provisos that the money will only be made available in 1987 and that the cooperation of all NATO partners is necessary before that occurs, something unlikely to be achieved. Chief opponent, Congressman John Porter (R-IL) is pleased with the outcome, stating the money will probably never be spent.

28 June

Soviet Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev states that his projected cuts in offensive weapons make the Strategic Defence Initiative increasingly irrelevant and dangerous to the cause of disarmament. He calls for a moratorium on the testing and development of new defensive technologies in return for this planned significant reduction in Soviet offensive weapons, potentially reducing the vulnerabilities of American forces and avoiding escalation of the arms race.

12 August

US Secretary of State George Schultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Schevardnadze meet in Helsinki, Finland for three hours of private talks. The Soviets propose an arms control verification framework to oversee future cuts and a moratorium on the testing of nuclear weapons, beginning immediately. They agree that the summit in October will discuss ideas relating to arms control, the establishment of new trade and cultural relations, and addressing regional conflicts. There will be no discussion on human rights, with the Soviets vetoing any conversation in this area.

17 August

The Soviet government announces that it will allow representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect two civilian nuclear reactors as a first step towards indicating its sincerity on issues of non-proliferation. Foreign Minister Eduard Schevardnadze also states that there will be no further nuclear tests by the USSR and offers seismic technology to test whether the Soviet Union is meeting this commitment. The US National Security Council spokesperson, Edward Djerejian, express belief that the proposal is propaganda designed to put America on the back foot with the Europeans.

19 August

Australia, New Zealand and six other Pacific nations sign the Treaty of Rarotonga, which prohibits members from acquiring nuclear weapons, bans all atomic weapon testing and prohibits the dumping of nuclear fuels within the border of any signatory. This is a major concession from Australia to New Zealand, in light of the latter’s decision to refuse port calls to US warships, and keeps the Australia/New Zealand defence relationship intact.

13 September

It is confirmed that the United States has undertaken testing of a new anti-satellite weapon. While not in violation of any agreement, it does indicate the hostile intent of the US Administration. The Soviet Prime Minister, Yegor Ligachev, announces a response: the 1986 budget for “space development and research” would be sixty percent higher than 1985.

18 September

The Soviet Union diplomatic team in Geneva proposes the removal of chemical weapons from Europe, but this is rejected by the Pentagon, who have a stockpile of chemical weapons from the 1960’s and nothing newer. They have been pressing Congress for an update of their chemical weapon stockpiles and this idea would prevent that update. The Pentagon therefore alleges new intelligence that the Soviets are using chemical weapons in Afghanistan.

26 September

Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Schevardnadze visits Washington to converse with US President Ronald Reagan on the upcoming superpower summit, to be held in a little under three weeks. He tells the President that no further compromises can be made on arms control and that the Strategic Defence Initiative is actually only possible if the US and Soviets form a joint research team. He pledges a 35% cut in Soviet weapons over five years if the US is prepared to either abandon or compromise their SDI approach.

10 October

During a television interview in France, which includes questions on the US Strategic Defence Initiative, Secretary General Gorbachev of the Soviet Union states that there is “no identifiable lead” to either of the superpowers in applied energy research, but that the USSR has a scientific lead and the USA a technological lead.

14 October

The first Summit between the leaders of the USA and the USSR, Reagan and Gorbachev, is marked by the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. It commits that, over four years, the Soviet Union will have abolished six missile classes, and the USA will abolish two – the Pershing and the Tomahawk. French and British arsenals are excluded from considerations. The two superpowers officially resume cultural and humanitarian exchanges, along with direct air services. While it appears that there is a degree of hostility between the two leaders, they state they have agreed, in principle, to a reduction of trade barriers between the two countries.

17 October

During his address to the UN General Assembly, Soviet Secretary General Gorbachev proposes a global nuclear test ban treaty, but it is categorically rejected by the US. He also calls for fundamental reforms to the United Nations and other international institutions as part of a post-Cold War world, but expresses a belief that “economic consensus may need to precede political consensus”, pressing the projected 20% cut in various trade barriers, with a pledge to cut them by a further 10% over the next four years.

25 October

US National Security Advisor, Admiral John Poindexter, reinterprets the articles of the ABM Treaty on national television, claiming it allows for development and testing of the Strategic Defence Initiative. US diplomats and NATO allies are appalled and will make their displeasure known, but it is generally accepted by the Administration and strengthens the position of the policy author, Assistant Secretary of Defence Richard Perle.


3 January

The mock-up of the Polyus battle lab is delivered to Baikonur Cosmodrome for testing with the interface on the Energia rockets.

5 January

Soviet representatives in Geneva announce that, in return for a nuclear test-ban treaty, they are prepared to open to consider on-site inspection of Soviet nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The most recent US test was only two days ago in Nevada. While US President Ronald Reagan is reluctant, the Senate passes a resolution calling for talks on the issue.

17 January

Senator Daniel Moynihan (NY – D) declares that the Strategic Defence Initiative is a “$26 billion white elephant”. US President Ronald Reagan is unable to abandon the project due to domestic considerations with his own support base, but there are demands that more cuts be found in the new budgetary year.

8 March

US President Ronald Reagan wins a concession from the Congress, a commitment to allow the Midgetman project, a mobile ICBM, to be constructed. Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft is appointed as head of the project.

29 March

The United States conducts a nuclear test in Nevada. Moscow announces the cancellation of the Reykjavik Summit in retaliation for the tests and warns that it will enforce a no-fly zone over the Gulf of Sidra.

13 April

During a visit to Algeria, Soviet Communist Party Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev states the Americans are responsible for the breakdown of plans for a Reykjavik summit. “The light of peace has so frightened the militarists who control the US Government that they have launched a coordinated campaign of hostility,” he said. “The Soviet Union has no choice but to consider a resumption of nuclear weapons testing.” He also warns that the world should watch US compliance with SALT II. “We have no desire to resume the arms race, but, if we are challenged, we must reconsider that position.”

16 April

Soviet Politburo nominee, Anatoly Dobrynin, tells US officials that the cancellation of the Reykjavik summit, announced by TASS nearly three weeks ago, was “not a firm commitment”. It reflects “Soviet confusion over US willingness to engage”. He advises that Foreign Minister Eduard Schevardnadze will attempt to re-instate the summit during his visit to Washington next month. US Secretary of State George Schultz publicly advises the Soviets to cease their “megaphone diplomacy”.

26 April

An announcement is made by Soviet Premier Yegor Ligachev that a major overhaul has been undertaken to correct “dangerous design flaws” in the RBMK reactor model. This results in brownouts and cold across the country while essential maintenance is undertaken. Once they were returned to safety, they will return to the grid. He also pledges that all these reactors will be taken offline over the next twenty-five years. Instead, he announces that the Soviet Navy will be cooperating with the government to develop high-temperature, gas cooled reactors, which are “completely safe”. He admits that this will mean gradual demise of nuclear warhead creation by the Soviet Union until 2010, but he expresses confidence that the Red Army is more focused on missile technology anyway.

2 May

In a significant victory for US Secretary of State George Schultz, President Ronald Reagan agrees to immediately scrap two Poseidon submarines in order to remain in compliance with the unratified SALT II Treaty. The new Trident submarine, which will slip into the sea on 20 May, would have put the United States in breach of the treaty.

18 May

There are leaks that US President Ronald Reagan told the Group of Seven leaders that he intended to abandon the SALT II Treaty. It is said that the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl were particularly upset by the decision.

29 May

Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands join West Germany in protesting the US decision to resume the production of chemical weapons next year, with US President Ronald Reagan arguing that it is necessary to modernise to counter the Soviet superiority in such weapons.

3 June

The US President, Ronald Reagan, citing Soviet actions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, cancels the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. Pundits express concern that Defence Secretary Caspar Weinberger may again be on the ascendancy in the White House, as Secretary of State George Schultz is on the record as opposing the move. Canada’s External Affairs Minister Joe Clark calls it “a profoundly disturbing development”, while Britain’s Sir Geoffrey Howe states that Britain would “very much regret” if the Americans felt the need to proceed. NATO foreign ministers are united in their opposition to Reagan’s decision.

4 June

The US Congress is advised that the cost of airlift alone for the Strategic Defence Initiative will be $6 billion per annum over the next decade. A group of Senators move a motion to cut the SDI budget from $5.4 billion to $3 billion per annum, and to slowly wind down the project, instead focusing the money on the development of new US launchers.

30 August

Soviet Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev calls upon the US Administration to take steps toward a complete nuclear test ban, while recognising that President Reagan will not agree to an immediate treaty. It is suggested that an agreement be reached that will establish a test ban ceiling at 15 kilotons, and/or place a limit on the number of tests.

31 August

The White House rejects any limitations on nuclear testing, while refusing to comment on suggestions that it will breach the SALT II treaty limits in mid-November. Some Democrats in the House of Representatives begin to circulate the idea that they will cut off any money for the Pentagon if they fail to take concrete steps toward peace with the Soviet.

10 September

The first successful launch from the Cape Canaveral since March sparks outrage by the Soviet Ambassador to the United States, Alexander Bovin, who expresses “extreme disappointment” at the decision to continue the Delta Project, the emerging name for the Strategic Defence Initiative. Bovin also states that the United States has illegally transferred a commando group into Pakistan and failure to withdraw the team within seven days would be a considered a “grave threat” to Soviet security.

1 October

With nearly thirteen thousand delegates at the party conference, the Liberal Party of Britain votes 665 to 612 to oppose an independent nuclear deterrent for their nation. The defeat is humiliating for party leader David Steel and Social Democratic Party leader David Owen states this is a “dangerous blow” to the unity of the Alliance. The Thatcher government is pushing for larger and faster Trident missile submarines, at a cost of nearly $12 billion. Steel condemns comments by US Defence Secretary Caspar Weinberger criticising the British Labour Party and stating that they have produced a backlash within his own party against US defence doctrine.

11 October

Early morning polls in Britain indicate that the Labour Party, led by Neil Kinnock, is eight points ahead of the Tory Party. While this result will not be repeated before the leadership vote, every poll shows the Labour Party at least four points ahead. CIA officials meet with Director William Webster to discuss the possibility that a change of government in Britain (elections are due within the next nine months) and the potential of a return to the Social Democrats in West Germany could change the security outlook in Europe. Meanwhile, the Labour Party holds its annual conference in Blackpool, where crowds acclaim a man they believe has saved them from political oblivion.


11 May

The Western European Union meets in Luxembourg to discuss “holes in the security umbrella” resulting from the withdrawal of medium-range missiles by the United States and the USSR. They agree that, unless the Soviets are prepared to undertake wide cuts in chemical weapons, they will need to increase the number of low-range missiles available to their forces. However, they also state that the ongoing presence of US troops in Europe is indispensable to their alliance.

12 May

Responding to the recent address by President George Bush, Soviet Defence Minister Sergei Sokholov states that his nation is willing to divert up to 80% of all Asian missiles if the United States is prepared to withdraw some of their three hundred thousand troops in Western Europe.

9 September

US President George Bush and Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney meet with Soviet General Nikolai Chervov in Washington to resume discussions on nuclear weapon reductions. The idea is circulated once again of a nuclear test ban. Unlike his predecessor, Bush is prepared to discuss the idea, but states that negotiations would not be able to commence until after the 1988 presidential election.

15 September

US Defense Secretary Richard Cheney releases photos of a Soviet installation at Krasnoyarsk, in Siberia, insisting that it is an active anti-missile installation which violates the ABM Treaty. Soviet Defence Minister Viktor Kulikov responds by inviting four members of the House Armed Services Committee to inspect the site.

18 September

US members of the House Armed Services Committee, along with a technical expert, arrive at the Krasnoyarsk site. It is determined to be an incomplete radar facility with capabilities technically incapable of tracking missiles. The experts state that the facility will not be completed until at least 1989 and will then only have the ability to communicate with deep space satellites. The US Defense Secretary defends his intelligence, stating that a change of frequency in the radar and moving the incomplete satellite dish would put the site in violation of the ABM Treaty.

23 September

President George Bush suggests that, five months into government, he is ready to have another summit with the Soviet leader to discuss cuts to long-range nuclear missiles. Responding from his Black Sea retreat, Premier Mikhail Gorbachev states that he agrees in principle to cut and would be interested in seeing Bush’s proposals. Bush announces that Secretary of State James Baker will be dispatched to Moscow next month for three days of preliminary talks.

3 November

US President George Bush confirms that he will travel to the USSR in the second week of December to meet with Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev in order to “lay the groundwork for a fifty percent cut in long-range nuclear missiles”. He states that he expects an agreement will be achieved and will be finalised during a return visit to the United States by Gorbachev in January. He admits that the effort has required a “significant investment of political capital on both sides”.

6 November

For the first time since August 1985, the United States stages a successful space launch, sending up an unmanned Titan rocket. On board is a photo-reconnaissance spy satellite to monitor the Soviet compliance with arms agreements. It has been the first time that the US has had capacity to directly observe the Soviets in nearly two years after previous satellites have malfunctioned.

24 November

Former US President Richard Nixon arrives in Valletta for a meeting with Soviet Poliburo member Anatoly Dobrynin. The men issue a joint statement saying they are “enormously excited” about the planned agreement for a major deal in strategic arms and that both parties have “a vital stake” in the conclusion of agreement to meet their economic goals. Nixon depicts the relationship as one of “warm affection” and Dobrynin states that the US and the USSR have reached “an area of substantive common ground”.

2 December

US President George Bush confirms that the “operational” component of the Strategic Defence Initiative has been shelved, but that research will be continuing into anti-missile programs. The announcement, coming five days before the summit between Bush and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, is indicative that the sacred cow of the Reagan White House has become a bargaining chip in the latest arms deal.

8 December

US President George Bush and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev begin a summit in the Maltese capital of Valletta. On the evening of the first day, the press are advised of the agreement to begin negotiations on a Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, based on a proposal outlined by President Ronald Reagan in 1982 and it is generally understood that both sides will reduce their arsenal by half.


11 January

US Secretary of State James Baker announces that the United States and the USSR are close to reaching an international convention for the prevention of chemical weapons proliferation, followed by the elimination of the superpower stockpile. He expresses the belief that the convention will be open for signature within twelve months.

28 February

The last nuclear missile is moved off German soil, with both the American Pershings and the Soviet SS-12s having now been dismantled. UN supervisors ratify that the terms of the INF Treaty are now close to being completed.

3 March

The United States and the Soviet Union open talks in Geneva, with an “in principle” agreement already reached on the creation of a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. It is stated that there is strong hope that an agreement will be presented to both leaders when they convene in Helsinki in May.

3 May

US President George Bush visits Leningrad to sign the long-awaited Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty, restoring the treaty overturned in times of a more uncertain relationship and expanding it further. President Mikhail Gorbachev announces that the cuts will lead to a peace dividend, predicting that the savings will allow a net rise in GDP over the next decade of 8.5%.

3 September

US Secretary of State James Baker and Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovlev sign the Chemical Weapons Protocol in Paris. It is submitted to the UN General Assembly for approval to allow for other countries to sign up to the Protocol and it will open for signatories in less than four months, when it will obtain almost universal acceptance. The only exception will be North Korea.

30 November

The UN General Assembly votes to approve the Chemical Weapons Protocol for general acceptance by the international community. The most surprising expression of interest comes from Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, who declares the protocol as “full of promise” and pledges to have it approved by his government within six weeks.

1989 3 January

EU negotiators in Geneva report an early military negotiations breakthrough, having convinced the Soviets of the need to chemically mark all plastic explosives. They are now confident that the European Union can establish a worldwide tracking system for these dangerous products to ensure they do not end up in terrorist hands. It also means that the goods cannot be sold on the black market. The United States agrees to come on board.

16 January

French President Laurent Fabius endorses the new Chemical Weapons Convention, stating that he will immediately end all exports of precursor chemicals unless there is a clear commitment by the recipient nation not to use them inappropriately. He advises, however, that France will not ratify the CWC until it is clear that universal acceptance is clear.

8 February

US Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney admits that the United States sold Iraq the technology and precursors for its biological and chemical weapons program. However, he insists that the companies involved acted without government authorisation and will be prosecuted for violation of US export laws.

21 February

The deep space and missile tracking station opens at Krasnoyarsk, with the Soviets continuing to insist that the phased array radar does not violate the ABM Treaty and, even if it did, the treaty is currently in abeyance due to the Asclepius threat. President Mikhail Gorbachev states that he is still prepared to arrange for an exchange of inspectors with the United States, and he particularly draws attention to a previously unknown radar system at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, pointing out that, “for some reason”, it is being run by US Space Command.

22 February

US Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney insists that the radar station in the state of Georgia is not being administered by space authorities, and is designed to detect missiles, but only those launched from land surfaces or submarines, not those in space. He admits that, during his inspection at Krasnoyarsk, he saw nothing to indicate ABM Treaty violation, but that, with the treaty currently suspended, this may be an opportunity for the Soviet Commonwealth and the United States to review the treaty and come up with potential improvements to its operations.

15 March

US Secretary of State James Baker and Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovlev meet in Vienna to discuss the future of the ABM Treaty and to discuss the possibility for further cuts in strategic nuclear warheads. The general concensus is that both powers are prepared to withdraw from the ABM Treaty and that both are preparing a deal to end nuclear weapons tests, cut total nuclear weapons to 6000 on each side and eliminate multiple independently target re-entry vehicles.

28 March

US President George Bush announces the cancellation of the Minuteman project, arguing that further missiles would add nothing to the US strategic advantage and that the current missiles do not need to be replaced, as suggested by the Pentagon. He states that this will add a further $39 billion to the budgetary bottom line, but that he will ensure that a proportion of it ($8 billion) is retained for the defence budget.

14 May

US President George Bush announces that he will sign the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty when he meets Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev later this month, taking each side to six thousand warheads. He states that the treaty will be a first step and that he will raise with Gorbachev the potential for a complete ban on multiple impact re-entry vehicles (MIRVs). The announcement is seen as a response to Chancellor Kohl’s recent speech.

16 May

French President Laurent Fabius arrives in the United States for a three-day visit. He will spend most of the time in Maine at the Bush family compound at Kennebunkport and states that the majority of discussions with the US President relate to “issues of European security”. A later-public diary entry records that he wanted Bush to hold off on making any commitments on nuclear weapons which might embarrass the French or bring their right to hold nuclear warheads into question.

6 June

US President George Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev announce that their nations will open negotiations for the elimination of all MIRVs, with the objective of having a treaty in place within Bush’s current term. Bush states that the US must “be quick to act” and not “incapacitated by political nervousness”. His words are interpreted as an attack on the extreme right of his party, particularly former White House Communications Director Pat Buchanan, who has said that Bush is “backsliding into the bad old days of detente and not pressing ahead on human rights”.

timelines/nbc-sdi.txt · Last modified: 2011/01/21 06:09 by Inaki