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Arms Control and Disarmament

A New World Order

Between 1989 and 1991, a number of significant events brought about the end of the Cold War. In 1989, Gorbachev surprised the world when he led the Soviet Union in its decision to give up its control over Eastern Europe. By the summer of 1991, not only had the Warsaw Pact—a unified group consisting of the Soviet Union and its allies in Eastern Europe—dissolved, but so had the Soviet Union itself. Soviet COMMUNISM, one-half of the superpower equation for over 40 years, had imploded.

During this time of increasingly warm relations between the superpowers, a number of major arms control treaties were created. On November 19, 1990, the United States, the USSR, and 20 other countries signed the CONVENTIONAL FORCES IN EUROPE TREATY (CFE Treaty), which President GEORGE H. W. BUSH called "the farthest-reaching arms agreement in history," an accord that "signals the new world order that is emerging." The treaty grew out of a 1989 proposal by Bush that the superpowers each be limited to 275,000 troops in Europe. As events unfolded in Eastern Europe, however, and the countries of the former Eastern Bloc became independent from the USSR, that number of troops began to seem high. Under the CFE Treaty, each side was allowed to deploy, in the area between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains, no more than 20,000 tanks, 30,000 armored troop carriers, 20,000 artillery pieces, 6,800 combat airplanes, and 2,000 attack helicopters. The treaty required the Soviet Union to disarm or destroy nearly 20,000 tanks, artillery pieces, and other weapons, to give a 27 percent reduction in Soviet armaments west of the Urals. That decrease was small, however, compared with the 59,000 weapons the USSR shipped east of the Urals to central Asia between 1989 and 1990 as it sought to realign its forces in response to world events. On the other side, the NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANIZATION (NATO) forces—the postwar alliance of Western European and North American states, including the United States—were required to destroy fewer than 3,000 pieces of military equipment. In May 1991, NATO decided to reduce its forces even further. The United States, for its part, reduced the 320,000 troops it had in Europe by at least 50 percent.

Arms agreements on nuclear weapons were also reached during this period. On July 31, 1991, Bush and Gorbachev signed the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I). Negotiations on the technically complex accord had begun as early as 1982. The agreement required the USSR to reduce its nuclear arsenal by roughly 25 percent and the United States to reduce its arsenal by 15 percent, within seven years after ratification by both nations. Numerically speaking, the USSR would reduce its nuclear warheads from 10,841 to 8,040, and the United States would reduce its warheads from 12,081 to 10,395. These amounts would bring the nuclear arsenals of each nation roughly back to levels that existed in 1982, when START negotiations began. The agreement also limited the development of new missiles and required a number of verification procedures, including on-site inspections with spot checks, monitoring of missile production plants, and exchange of data tapes from missile tests.

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