Anti-nuclear protesters in Germany.

Anti-nuclear protesters in Germany.

In 1976, the Soviet Union began stationing a new generation of Medium-Range Nuclear Missiles (SS-20s), aimed at Western Europe. Already  the U.S. and NATO had been talking about modernizing theater nuclear forces.

French President Giscard d’Estaing and German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt put pressure on President Jimmy Carter to counter the Soviet SS-20 nuclear threat by stationing American medium range missiles in Western Europe. In mid-December 1979, NATO adopted the “dual track” decision (negotiations with Moscow to remove the SS-20,  or deployment of American missiles).

With the deterioration of U.S.  – Soviet relations, President Reagan decided to station 108 “Pershing” missiles and 464 “Cruise” missiles on the territory of NATO allies Great Britain, West Germany, and Italy. When the American missiles started arriving in Europe in 1983, a considerable peace movement emerged in Europe (in part financed by the Kremlin).

This was mirrored by the “nuclear freeze” movement in the United States, protesting and trying to block the stationing of the missiles and the launching of a new arms race. The stationing of the missiles signaled Western firmness and eventually induced disarmament talks with the Soviets. Therefore, the Pershing and Cruise missiles have been nicknamed “the weapons that won the Cold War.”

 This cover of TIME magazines reflects the growing public Angst over the new INF missile race on the European continent.

This cover of TIME magazines reflects the growing public Angst over the new INF missile race on the European continent.

 Defending Western Europe against the SS-20 intermediate missile threat, NATO started stationing mobile Pershing missiles in Germany, Great Britain and Italy.

Defending Western Europe against the SS-20 intermediate missile threat, NATO started stationing mobile Pershing missiles in Germany, Great Britain and Italy.

PHOTO CREDITS: CLOCKWISE FROM TOP Votava; TIME-LIFE Archives; Votava.