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Jerry Everard


Standing Consultative Commission on Arms Limitation

2.1 Introduction
To study any aspect of the SCC is a study in [re]constructing a centre from its margins. Indeed the publicly available texts bound a 'centre' that is largely [and literally] erased. This leaves the student of the SCC with a project that is a study in marginality, marked by deletions in the official documentation, leaving only traces and glimpses of the organisation's, arguably central, role in the arms control process.

The secrecy provisions of the SCC, that, arguably allow it to function relatively successfully, permit, at best, only small glimpses of the procedures and accomplishments of the SCC. Although each government announces the conclusion of Agreed Statements and Common Understandings, the texts of these, and of the processes used to obtain them, remain classified. As Duffy points out:

[o]ne can sketch a picture of the SCC's internal functions, only by assembling scattered pieces of evidence and relying on the recollections of people who have participated in the process.17

This serves to foreground the view that if, as postmodernists suggest, there is no unmediated, objective history in any field, this is especially the case when applied to any attempt to study the workings of the SCC and in trying to unravel the changes in its effectiveness from 1975-85.

To construct a framework for the analysis of the SCC and its relations to the shifting political landscape marked by the transition from the Carter administration to the early Reagan administration it becomes necessary to consider several strands of political life each of which borders to a greater or lesser extent on the operations of the SCC. The methodological problem faced by the student of the SCC is that of how to move away from the frameworks of traditional political historians who may be characterised as being presented with an object of knowledge, pre-formed and relatively unitary in character, a centre, which in the course of its operation produces, publicly, the symptoms of its existence. Documented in reports and discussion papers, position papers, accounts, newspaper stories and in the interactions with other agencies, many US government institutions present themselves openly and unproblematically. The SCC, by contrast presents itself as an enigma.

A rebus. The symptoms of its existence and functioning are represented by and mediated through such flotsam and jetsam as are projected into the semiotic chora 18 of Senate committees, House committees and most especially in the chora of the SALT process.

2.2 Origins/Traces As early as 1969, during the opening negotiation session on the limitation of strategic arms, the issue of a consultative body or process for consultation was raised. Harlan Cleveland, President Johnson's NATO Ambassador, described one of Clark Clifford's December 15 negotiation objectives as: improve US-Soviet understanding by establishing a continuing process of discussion of issues arising from the strategic situation.19

R.W. Buchheim20 maintained, from the outset, the usefulness of establishing a permanent bilateral body as a mechanism for discussing and resolving any problems that might arise in order to make arms control agreements more viable. Such a body, it was argued, would serve the functions of:

The Standing Consultative Commission on Arms Limitation (SCC) was formally called into being on May 26, 1972 under Article XIII of the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty22 (ABM) in order to "promote the objectives and implementation of the provisions of the [ABM] Treaty" and to promote the 'objectives and implementation of the provisions' of the InterimÊAgreement.'23 The commission was established to consider, among other things, 'questions of compliance'; to volunteer 'such information' that either Party considers 'necessary to assure confidence in compliance; to look at questions of interference with national technical means of verification; to consider the overall strategic situation and possible changes to it; to find agreement upon procedures and dates for destruction or dismantling ABM systems or their components as provided for in the treaty; and to consider proposals 'for further measures' to limit strategic arms.

Even before the Commission was formally established, its existence was invoked in the 'initialled statements pertaining to the Interim Agreement', where, in discussing the procedures for updating of ballistic missile launchers on older submarines, that these were to be carried out "under procedures to be agreed in the Standing Consultative Commission."24 The timing of the establishment of the SCC was indicated in a statement made by Ambassador Smith (May 24, 1972), in which he suggested that such arrangements (for the establishment of the Commission) be made early in the follow-on SALT negotiations, but that earlier consultation may be made between the two SALT delegations. He further suggested that when SALT was not in session, that normal diplomatic channels would suffice.25 In his eyes, the purpose of the Commission, is to:

... act as a surveying agent that will watch over the operation of the agreement, to which ambiguous situations can be referred, which will be a forum for further discussion of the possible amendments to see how the treaty is working, and to make sure that it stays viable over the years.26

The Commission was formally created in a Memorandum of Understanding seven months after the SALT I Agreement was signed.27 This Memorandum, while establishing the SCC, already marked the beginning of a process to extend the responsibilities of the SCC beyond those initially proposed.28 The establishment of the Commission represented a marked shift in relations between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. and may be counted as one of the high points of the DŽtente period. Ambassador Gerard C. Smith described the setting up of this Commission as "Éunprecedented in Soviet-American relations."29 Henry Kissinger supported this in his statement on the basic principles of the relationship between the U.S. and the Soviet Union where he saw the establishment of the SCC as an 'important precedent' and a useful mechanism that could be carried over into other fields of the U.S.-Soviet Union security relationship.30

The centrality of the SCC to the future of the arms control process lies in the fluid nature of the arms control process itself. That is to say that the establishment of the SCC demonstrated a formal recognition of the need for a mechanism for the ongoing maintenance of a treaty, if that treaty was, and is, to stand the test of time. As Duffy31 points out:

That the United States and the Soviet Union provided for the SCC through SALT I indicated their recognition that the strategic situation is dynamic and that there is an ongoing need to adapt agreements so that they may endure despite technological change or other developments unforeseen when they were negotiated.

2.3 Composition In its earliest proposed form, the Commission was to be a compact unit with 'a structure comprising four or five individuals on both sides' (Smith,1972). It was envisioned that it would be headed by civilians with high level military and technical advisers.32 The body would meet three or four times a year depending on needs.33 As the negotiations surrounding the establishment of the SCC developed, by the time it was formally constituted, the Memorandum of Understanding indicated that the Commission would consist, for each government, of: a Commissioner, a Deputy Commissioner, and 'such staff as deemed necessary' (Caldwell, 1985/2189).

Duffy (1988:164) points out that it was left to the discretion of each country to construct bureaucratic support for the SCC in line with its respective governmental structure or style. For the U.S. such staff would include, besides the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, an executive secretary, a deputy executive secretary, and advisers from appropriate departments and agencies. These departments have included: The Department of State, the Office of the Secretary of Defence, the Organisation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the intelligence community, along with civilian and military advisers to both Delegations.34

The intelligence community liaison is conducted by a senior intelligence officer, representing the Directorate of Central Intelligence (DCI) on the Delegation who provides guidance to the Commissioner and the US Delegation on the protection of sources and methods by which information, relevant to compliance issues, is gathered.35 According to Rowell,36 the Commissioner for the United States to the Standing Consultative Commission is appointed by the President on unanimous recommendation of the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defence, chairman of the Joint chiefs of Staff, director of the CIA, ACDA director, and the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs.

Table 1 U.S. Commissioners and Deputies to the SCC
Commissioners Year
U. Alexis Johnson (while SCC was being established) 1972
Sydney Graybeal (ACDA) 1973-Nov76
Ambassador Robert W.Buchheim(Acting from Jan,77) August 1977-81
Brig. General John R. Lasater (acting) 1981
General Richard Ellis (Fmr Cmndr SAC) 1981+
Robert Joseph 1990+
Brigadier General William F.Georgi (USAF)(DepCom) 1973-5
Brigadier General Frank E. Serio (USA)(Dep.Comm) 1975-7
RADM Edward F. Welch, Jr., (USN)(Dep.Comm) 1977-8
BrigadierGeneral HarryA.Goodall(USAF)(Dep.Comm) 1978+
Mr. Benson Adams 1990+
[Sources: Briefing on SALT I Compliance (see Note1) and G.Duffy Compliance and the Future of Arms Control Stanford University/Global Outlook, 1988, p.164 and information supplied by ACDA 24/1/92] On the Soviet side, the SCC is taken equally seriously, but with a different emphasis on the civilian/military balance.

Figure 2.2 The Structure of the Soviet Standing Consultative Commission of Arms Limitation37
Duffy (1988:165) suggests, that while the Soviet Deputy Commissioners are appointed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Commissioners and their supporting military staff have been more dominant in SCC negotiations. (seeÊTableÊ2.)

The InterAgency Group, to which the Soviet side of the SCC reports, is fairly stable. This is the group that makes decisions on the working, operational and day-to-day level of the SCC. The group formulates decisions on a consensus basis, and has an input into both arms control negotiations and on matters of compliance.

The SCC Delegation itself is usually quite small, consisting of the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, some support staff consisting of some diplomats and their ciphering/deciphering experts. Together, they use the facilities of the permanently based Nuclear and Space Talks Delegation. They send their information from Geneva to Moscow, reporting the positions, arguments and proposals from the other side. In turn, they deliver the replies they receive from the Moscow-based Inter-Agency Group. This process continues on a daily basis for a week or two, twice a year. Each meeting is conducted formally, such that each Commissioner has their directives written for them, with all positions and statements already formulated.

The SCC therefore could be said to function more as a channel for communication, rather than for negotiation, on the Soviet side, since the delegates are given little room to act on their own behalf. That is to say, that the formality of the contact is such that the delegates are not at liberty to discuss things which are not included in their directives.

Table 2 Soviet Commissioners and Deputies to the SCC
Commissioners Years
General Major (Brigadier General) G.I. Ustinov 1973
General-Major Viktor P. Starodubov Mar.1979-86
General Vladimir Medvedev 1986+
Maj Gen Vladimir Kuklev (CIS) 1991+
Victor P. Karpov (Deputy Commissioner) 1973
Vladim S. Chulitsky (Deputy Commissioner) Mar.1979
Dr. Victor Shabannikov (CIS) until Nov 1991
Sources: Briefing on SALT I Compliance (see Note1) and G.Duffy Compliance and the Future of Arms Control Stanford University/Global Outlook, 1988, p.164 and information supplied by US ACDA 24/1/92. After November 1991, Dr. Shabannikov became the first CIS Representative to the START Joint Comission on Inspection and Compliance (JCIC).

2.4 Functions Under the terms of its mandate, the commission has no decisional or juridical authority with respect to whether 'supreme interests' are involved in any dispute concerning the treaties to which the SCC has responsibilities,38 being purely consultative in its function. Thus, as a consultative forum, the SCC lacks power or authority to "enforce either compliance with treaties or joint interpretations of agreements reached through the SCC."39 In any given dispute over compliance issues within the competence of the SCC, the Commission is not empowered to formulate a juridical judgement as to which Party may be at fault. Nor is the SCC empowered to formulate means of ending or correcting any non-conforming behaviour - in this sense the SCC does not have a 'policing' role. Neither is the SCC responsible for resolving specific ambiguities. Its Commissioners' brief is perhaps best described, depending on the instructions received, as to "act as representatives of their respective Governments," and may "intervene as plaintiff, defendant, or negotiator." (Calvo-Goller and Calvo:1987/302).

Its initial intention (since broadened slightly by the provisions of Article XVII of the SALT II Treaty) was merely to look into the questions indicated by the seven sub-paragraphs of Article XIII of the ABM Treaty.40 This was mirrored in the corresponding Article VI of the Interim Agreement Limiting Strategic Offensive Arms. Subsequently, its functions were broadened to include: responsibility for reviewing the ABM Treaty41 (1977&1982); to promote the obligations and implementation of the SALT II Treaty (under Article XVII of that treaty); to maintain an agreed database on the numbers of strategic offensive weapons subject to the limitations of the SALT II treaty.42

In the Report of Secretary of State William Rogers to President Nixon on the SALT I Agreements, 10 June 1972, Rogers outlined the functions of the SCC.43 Besides monitoring compliance issues between the Parties, the Commission would be charged with a number of other responsibilities. These responsibilities fall broadly into the areas of:

The expansion of the Commission's role under the provisions of Article XVII of the SALT II Treaty devolves partly through the added complexity and extent of that Agreement. The SALT II Treaty introduces the complexities of qualitative and quantitative provisions on weapon systems, in addition to the quantitative scope of the ABM Treaty and the Interim Agreement.

The SCC is neither a judicial44 body, nor is its function to monitor45 agreements although monitoring information may be brought in to SCC proceedings46 where appropriate. As Buchheim and Caldwell point out, the chief purpose of the SCC is to provide a consultative forum to which the parties can come in order to clarify ambiguous behaviours47 before they lead to irretrievable breakdown of an agreement.48

Critics of the SALT process in general and of the SCC in particular charge that of the fifteen articles in the ABM Treaty (eight characterised by Senator Humphrey as 'significant'), as of 1980, serious questions have been raised with respect to Soviet compliance with five:

These critics of SALT charge the Carter regime of unseemly delays in raising questions with the Soviets over the issue of Soviet compliance with SALT.49 Senator Humphreys charges that with respect to the construction of Soviet launch control silos (III-X Silos), these were first constructed in 1970, and challenged by the US in 1973, and not resolved until 1977, representing a 'delay' of seven years. As Senator Gordon Humphrey puts it:

...while III-X launch control silos first appeared in 1970, we did not question the Soviets about them until mid-1973, and we did not resolve the question to our satisfaction until 1977. Nevertheless, the Administration claims that on detection, all SALT compliance problems have been immediately protested to the Soviets, and then have been promptly resolved in the Standing Consultative Commission (SCC). ... From first construction of the X-III Silos, it took three years before we detected a problem and even questioned the Soviets, and seven years before we "resolved" the question. And our resolution amounted to nothing more than accepting the Soviet position.50

The strident tone of Senator Humphrey's accusations requires closer inspection. Firstly, the silos were detected at least as early as 1972, and had been erroneously counted among existing ICBM silos for the purposes of SALT I. Secondly, when additional silos were added in early 1973, these were questioned in June 1973 - only 3-6 months after detection. The collection and analysis of intelligence evidence is a time consuming process, requiring judgement and skill to work with often ambiguous data.

To present a case through the SCC requires reasonable certainty that an ambiguous or questionable compliance behaviour is occurring. During the four years in which this question (among a number of others) was discussed, there were just eight routine meetings of the SCC, between which, respective replies to questions would have been analysed by the appropriate organisation (see organisational chart Figure 2.1). That the issue was resolved by 'accepting the Soviet position' reflects and confirms that launch control silos are not restricted by the ABM Treaty and therefore was not a violation in the first instance.

The idea that ambiguous (and in fact not a compliance issue) behaviours should be immediately "protested" to the Soviets completely fails to recognise the purely consultative and non-judicial function of the SCC. Finally, to rush in to protest without proper evaluation of the intelligence data would be nothing short of irresponsible. This and other issues will be raised later under the¾gis of the respective administrations under review. The point I want to make here, is that any evaluation of the performance of the SCC must keep in mind its purely consultative function. The compliance agenda, however, represents only part of the SCC's function.

Importantly, as Buchheim (1979) points out, the SCC was given a wide brief from the outset as authorised in Article XIII of the ABM Treaty. In addition to its responsibilities relating directly to the raising of compliance questions arising from the ABM Treaty itself, the SCC was also charged with:

consideration of possible changes in the strategic situation, consideration of amendments to the Treaty, and consideration of proposal for further measures aimed at limiting strategic arms.51

By incorporating such provisions into a treaty of unlimited duration, Buchheim notes, a channel of communication between the parties on the issue of arms control in strategic weapons has become chartered and institutionalised in an arrangement that will always be available to them.

Furthermore, by emphasising the distinct and separate character of the SCC from the SALT process, a channel of communication remains available even during times when a difficult negotiating climate prevails.

2.5 Privacy The SCC has been described as "a silent service of our time."52 The resolution of compliance issues is, by nature, a delicate and sensitive process. Recognising this, the Regulations of the SCC53 (number 8) stipulate that:

The proceedings of the Standing Consultative Commission shall be conducted in private. The Standing Consultative Commission may not make its proceedings public except with the express consent of both Commissioners.54

This allows the SCC considerable flexibility in its dealings, permitting issues to be raised with a degree of frankness unavailable to many official channels of communication. Buchheim55 (1979) points out that the privacy provisions prevent the SCC from degenerating into a conduit for propaganda while permitting greater scope for exchanging ideas for problem-solving. This way, potentially prejudicial ideas and explorations will not be made public prematurely. Any reports issuing from the SCC are restricted, under ArticleÊ7 of the Regulations, to the substantive results of the proceedings. Such results are to be made public only with the consent of the Commissioners of both parties.

Ê Ambassador Buchheim points out that the privacy provisions engage with the U.S. political discourse56 in two ways, the first of which, is the enhancement of the effectiveness of the SCC through the 'candid and direct' exchanges that make possible a degree of understanding of each side's negotiating problems and an ability to break down misperceptions and false assumptions that can hinder more formal forums. Such candor, allowed by the privacy provisions comes at the expense of the United States penchant for open, public debate on international dealings. Recognising the dialogism57 of the public/private conversation surrounding the privacy provision, Buchheim points to three aspects of the usefulness of the provision:58

  1. current success of the SCC(1979) to which confidentiality has substantially contributed.
  2. Public requirements already met by the reports on the specific understandings resulting from SCC negotiations to several congressional committees: The Committee on Foreign Relations, The Senate Armed Services Committee, The Committee on Foreign Affairs and its predecessor committees, and the Committee on Armed Services of the House of Representatives, The Joint Committee on Atomic Energy until its disestablishment and the Select Committees on Intelligence of both the Senate and the House of Representatives since their establishment.
  3. Historical precedent in other negotiations, arguing that negotiations towards international agreements are usually conducted in private, that the SCC is engaged in negotiations aimed at the continuing maintenance and implementation of international agreements, therefore the SCC has every right to conduct its proceedings in private.

Sydney Graybeal, in his testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, while emphasising the privacy clause of the Regulations, pointed out that the SCC has no veto power over either government. Under this provision, he points out that, should the U.S. government consider it to be in its interest to do so, the results and activities of the SCC may be made public, despite the clause in Paragraph 8 of the regulations which states that the results of the proceedings may only be made public under the consent of both Commissioners.59

Sydney Graybeal, in support of Ambassador Buchheim's comments on privacy, maintains that the privacy provisions have allowed for the exchange of considerable useful information in the process of clarifying ambiguous situations. Under the cloak of privacy:

[a]mbiguous situations can be raised, discussed and clarified without outsiders immediately drawing the conclusion that there is a SALT "violation" and that the agreements are coming unglued...The SCC has proven that sensitive issues can be raised, discussed and clarified without revealing intelligence sources and methods.60

Graybeal cites the SA-5 radar issue as an example of this.61 This point is further borne out on the Soviet side. Alexei Arbatov emphasises the importance of privacy on the grounds that it prevents the SCC from being used for political grandstanding out of technical details.62 He argues that technical misunderstandings are common and normal within the complexities of applying arms control agreements to specific circumstances. as he puts it:

[privacy] ... is important so as not to create political problems out of technical details ... every treaty of this kind is so complicated, so technically arcane that misunderstandings are unavoidable, but those misunderstandings are primarily technical.63 Placing these technical misunderstandings in the public arena would serve to make arms control "the enemy of itself."64

He argues that arms control is designed to improve relations between states, so it is important that arms control details do not become "an aggravation of relations between states" that can turn into "a source of permanent political conflicts."65

2.6 Procedures
Between 1973 and 1986 the SCC has held 28 semiannual sessions. In addition, there have been two special sessions66 and two ABM Treaty Reviews (1977&1982). R.W. Buchheim points out that from day to day, the procedures of the SCC resemble most other international negotiations, insofar as there are:

The meetings have been held in Geneva (with provision to hold meetings elsewhere by agreement between the two Commissioners in the Memorandum of Understanding, December 21, 197268) generally alternating between the mission of the USSR and an Annex building of the U.S. Mission.69 These meetings are generally held in Spring and Autumn each year and each last around two months.70

The internal review process, by which information pertaining to possible compliance questions is evaluated, includes all concerned members of the executive branch [see figure 2.1]. Sydney Graybeal71 emphasises the autonomy of the SCC from the SALT negotiation process, stressing that the U.S. Commissioner to the SCC should be kept informed over SALT issues (negotiations and proposed language), in order to have the background to the origins and purposes of each Article, Agreed Statement and Common Understanding, so that they can be assessed in terms of their implementation. This way, he argues, the U.S. Commissioner to the SCC can advise on issues likely to arise from the proposed language. It also ensures that the SCC does not become a forum for resolving problems more appropriately dealt with by the SALT body.

U.S. Procedure
The United States Department of State Bureau of Public Affairs notes that since the signing of the 1972 SALT agreements, procedures for monitoring Soviet compliance and dealing with related matters:

All intelligence information is carefully analysed in the context of the provisions of those [SALT] agreements, and recommendations on questions which arise are developed by interagency intelligence and policy/advisory groups within the NSC [National Security Council] system.72

These comprise an Intelligence Community Steering Group on Monitoring Strategic Arms Limitations and the Standing Consultative Commission Working Group of the NSC Special Coordination Committee. In the event of intelligence analysis indicating a question concerning compliance the latter group:

... reviews and analyses the available information and provides recommendations. The President decides whether a particular question or issue is to be raised with the USSR based on the study and recommendations of the Working Group and, if necessary, the department and agency principals who comprise the Special Coordination Committee or the NSC itself.73

Once a question is raised with the USSR through the SCC the positions and actions taken by the US representatives follow the same course. Procedurally, when the Soviets raise an issue with the United States, it goes to the President's office by priority cable from the delegation. There, it is discussed and the monitoring capabilities of the intelligence community are brought in. The political decision is then made as to the appropriate response, which is then relayed to the U.S. delegation for discussion with the Soviet counterparts.74

Soviet Procedure
The Soviet Commissioners, according to Sydney Graybeal,75 take compliance questions equally seriously, but differently, insofar as for sensitive issues, the two Commissioners would work privately and with the Deputy Commissioners, while still formally passing statements. There are indications that these communications reached the highest levels of Soviet leadership including the Politburo and Premier Brezhnev.76 The reciprocity, or mirror-imaging of the SCC bureaucratic procedures is emphasised by Buchheim in terms of the image of balance. As he points out:

... [a]n agreement must not only be good, but it must look good. It must look bilateral.77

The importance of bilateral forms is taken very seriously, as signifiers of discursive78 equality. One instance of the extent of this emerged during the course of a session called by the US Commissioner. The Commissioners generally host the sessions on a rotating basis. At one of these sessions, the usual room at the US Mission was unavailable, and the US Commissioner asked the Soviet counterpart to host the session. This meant that the Soviets would have hosted the session twice running. Then, according to the former US Commissioner to the SCC, Sydney Graybeal:

"Immediately they were suspect. 'What is Graybeal up to? Normally the guest speaks first. Does he want to get something on the table before we have a chance to speak?'"79

Such close reading of forms suggest that forms themselves are meaningful, in addition to the 'contents' of negotiations. This further supports the view that the analyst must attend to the 'economy of discourse' - the contextual features, the materiality of discourse, - which structures and underwrites the essential features of what is said between states as surely as between individuals.

2.7 Political Functions

Morton Kaplan sustains the thesis that attention to the 'trifling' technical details of strategic armaments cannot be ignored, and that failure to do so "involves a genuine and definite major cost with respect to other important values," He nevertheless quotes Freeman Dyson, pointing out that "political factors are more important than strategic."80

It is a theme pursued on the Soviet side too, As Arbatov notes: ... arms control is really an instrument - of some peripheral limitations, peripherally improving predictability, transparency, - for the symbolic nature of arms control.81

In other words, arms control is a symbolic operation82 played out through the negotiation of relatively minor technical details that in themselves do not significantly alter the strategic position of either country, but rather, they signal an intention to engage in the negotiation process, and this is the chief value of negotiating arms control.

The issue here, is one of the political significance of any country's willingness to violate agreements on arms control. As Lowenthal and Wit point out:

political significance, refers to the intentions of the non-complying power, regardless of the military significance of the violation. ... in fact the smaller the military significance, the more troubling the political significance becomes. Violating a treaty for some military advantage may make sense, depending on the calculation of risks and benefits. Risking a treaty, or perhaps an entire regime of treaties, for a small military advantage sends a troubling message about the intentions of that party. In essence then, all cases of non-compliance have political significance; some also have military significance. The amount of importance attached to these two factors is a function of political orientation.83

Hedley Bull argues that, in negotiating strategic arms limitation, attention needs to be given, not only to the technical capabilities of the weapons systems themselves, but that there should also be negotiation on the issue of defence doctrine and force-posture. In the past, arms control agreements have been arrived at, he argues, "essentially by a process of bargaining, in which the rationale of the positions adopted, if not actually an obstruction, has been irrelevant to the outcome."84

This view of the relative irrelevance of the rationale behind the bargaining positions can be explained insofar as this occurs between actors that themselves have to be constituted and empowered so that they can actually strike such bargains. Moreover, insofar as he argues for negotiation on force posture and defence doctrine, rather than for some technical fine-tuning performed with all the theoretical aplomb of horse traders, he is also arguing that arms control is more correctly represented as a political, rather than merely technical, process that performs the function of defining in overt terms the relations between nations. Once again it is the symbolic/discursive (articulated as the political) aspect of arms control, notwithstanding the technical limitations placed upon actual weapons systems, that forms the driving force behind arms control. By concentrating on the defence doctrine and force posture, Bull strikes at the heart of the intentionality of the treaty parties. With respect to SALT, he asks:

[s]hould questions of strategic and arms control doctrine (e.g., defence vs mutual deterrence as a goal) and questions of the computation of appropriate force levels enter into the substance of the negotiations? It is important that SALT should be an exchange of strategic ideas and a process of mutual education about the bases of strategic thinking85 in the two countries. ... the issue is ... to explore by negotiation whether there is common ground between two positions arrived at by necessarily separate processes of decision.86 [emphasis mine.]

Indeed in the SALT SCC there is precisely the mechanism for such discussion and negotiation. Under the terms of the ABM Treaty, Sections (d) and (g) of Article XIII state that within the SCC's area of competence is the ability to:

(d) consider possible changes in the strategic situation which have a bearing on the Treaty. [And] (g) consider, as appropriate, proposals for further measures aimed at limiting strategic arms. And in the Memorandum of Understanding which established the SCC its terms of reference state in part: "The Commission may also consider changes in the general strategic situation ..." and "Related to this is the Commission's authority to consider proposals to further increase the viability of the Treaty..."

In other words, the terms of reference granted to the SCC upon its establishment by the ABM Treaty and the Interim Agreement allow the SCC to 'exchange strategic ideas and engage in a process of mutual education'87 about the bases for strategic thinking in the two countries. The decision to do so or not is a political one, and presents a set of options that arguably have not as yet been utilised. [I shall explore the political uses of the SCC in subsequent chapters when dealing with specific compliance questions raised, and the responses to them, by different administrations.]

Nevertheless, the fact remains that, interwoven with the institutional structures of the Regulations and designated 'areas of competence' the SCC represents a remarkable political achievement given the climate between the superpowers at its inception. Former SALT negotiator, Gerard Smith, characterised the pre-SALT U.S.-Soviet relationship as "not unlike two boxers in a ring."88 The SCC, beyond clearing up ambiguities in the implementation of the SALT Treaties, has, arguably, an important political role as a conduit for addressing misperceptions and de-fusing tensions between the Parties. Gerard Smith makes this point:

[I]f talk is a prime tool of international politics, [the SCC] is an ever-ready instrument for talking things out, not just about clarifying the past, but also about how to avoid future dangers. In past years the United States has often tried to signal the Kremlin, through speeches, budgetary actions and private communications between Washington and Moscow, about its interest in mutual restraint and its concern about certain Soviet moves. This has been a somewhat random process without clear results. The Standing Consultative Commission could be used for this purpose, permitting a degree of precision and continuity not possible in ad hoc communication.89

This point is taken up by Strobe Talbot,90 where he emphasises that, not only substantively, but symbolically too, the SCC remains important to the extent to which it is able to raise matters in ways unavailable to traditional diplomatic means. He describes the SCC as:

[a] unique forum in which military officers, intelligence officials, and diplomats from the two sides could sit down with each other on a regular basis and talk about subjects that used to qualify as military secrets-and, in other contexts, still did.91

Despite the interagency process which formulates the instructions of the US delegation to the SCC, the instructions are ultimately filtered through the National Security Council under the advice of the White House. Insofar as the White House represents the highest authority from which the US Commissioners to the SCC receive their instructions, the SCC cannot be seen as a purely autonomous body, but is, rather, a 'pit-face' of political contact between the US and the Soviet Union.

The effectiveness of the SCC therefore depends, to a large extent on the quality of instructions issued to the delegations from their respective governments,92 and, more importantly, on the political will of both governments to utilise this channel of communication. As we shall see in later chapters, this has led to variable use and effectiveness, according to the political climate of the time.

Both sides agree that within a limited, or restricted definition of its functions, the SCC has been a very successful channel of communication on technical 'book-keeping' matters. For Robert Buchheim and Dan Caldwell, as for Alexei Arbatov93, where problems have arisen over the effectiveness of the SCC, these have occurred at a higher level of policymaking, rather than with the SCC itself. As Buchheim and Caldwell state, among those features of the SCC which are basic to its record of success is the fact that it:

...does not get involved in aspects of relations between the two governments that lie outside its field of assigned responsibilities.94

Gloria Duffy makes this point on the extent to which the SCC has been used in relation to its designated areas of competence:

The mandate of the SCC is broad, leaving to the US and Soviet governments the choice of whether to use the SCC minimally or maximally as a joint consultative forum to implement the terms of arms control agreements. Historically, the two countries have chosen to invoke only a small portion of the SCC's mandate, employing it almost solely to discuss technical compliance issues and to negotiate practical measures for the implementation of agreements.95 [emphasis mine]

Variations in the quality and style of instructions in many senses reflects the imprecision of the whole arms control process, insofar as clear violations of agreements are rare and the products of verification technologies themselves require interpretation. In other words the choice as to whether or not to bring matters up in the SCC rests upon the political choice of standard of verification (adequate vs effective), interpretive choices made on ambiguous verification data, intelligence community decisions as to whether or not the type of non-compliance charge would reveal too much about the methods used to obtain the evidential data and decisions about whether marginal infringements are worthy of the term 'violation'. All these, at one level or another constitute 'political' choices that may, ultimately be seen to owe more to the mechanisms of, that which in earlier times was called, political 'signalling' and in less monologic times may be referred-to as political discourse.96

Such a view reflects the U.S. position. It is a position that desires the mandate of the SCC to have a broad interpretation. That is, as (notably) Sydney Graybeal and Robert Buchheim have suggested, the SCC has the potential under a wide interpretation of its mandate to engage in a wide range of activities: to discuss ways of improving security, to develop positive ways of improving the effectiveness of the treaties under its charge. The Soviet view, however militates against this as there is a strong preference on the Soviet side to keep the mandate of the SCC focussed upon purely technical details of treaty implementation. While this remains the case it seems unlikely that unilateral efforts on the U.S.' behalf will enjoy either success or reciprocity with the Soviets. The Soviets clearly see the SCC as merely a conduit for communication and not for any form of initiating dialogue that may extend the domain or application of the treaty with which it is principally concerned.

In the following chapters I shall outline the U.S.'s shift in emphasis on the SCC;

  1. through the shift in standard of verification,
  2. through the increase in the technical complexity of agreements and their verifiable elements,
  3. through the changes in verification technologies and the constitution of the verification community from intelligence analysts to the intelligence community decisionmakers and decisionmaking context that made possible and problematic certain compliance issues,
  4. through the coupling of the deterioration of detente with the perception of deterioration of deterrence through the work of the Committee on the Present Danger,
  5. and finally, [and related to the latter] through changes in the political perceptions of and by, the Carter regime.

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