Nuclear disarmament, including the stationing of Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) in Western Europe, was the most urgent Cold War issue.

Formal INF-talks began in September 1981 with the US “zero-zero offer”, namely the complete elimination of all Western Pershing and Cruise, as well as Soviet SS-20, SS-4 and SS-5 missiles. The talks were suspended by the Soviet delegation in November 1983. In 1983/84, despite public protest, the US deployed INF systems in Western Europe.

In March 1986 negotiations between the US and the Soviet Union resumed, covering not only the INF issue but also separate discussions on reducing strategic weapon arsenals (Start 1) and space issues. In July 1985, Gorbachev announced a unilateral moratorium on testing nuclear weapons. In late 1985 both sides were moving towards limiting INF systems in Europe and Asia. On January 1, 1986, Gorbachev announced a Soviet proposal for a ban on all nuclear weapons by 2000, which included INF missiles in Europe.

This was dismissed by the US and countered with a phased reduction of INF launchers in Europe and Asia to none by 1989. A series of meetings in August and September 1986 culminated in the Reykjavik Summit between Reagan and Gorbachev  in October 1986. Both agreed in principle to remove INF systems from Europe. Gorbachev also proposed deeper and more fundamental changes in the strategic relationship.

More detailed negotiations extended throughout 1987. The treaty text was finally agreed and signed during the Washington Summit. Meanwhile the ground was prepared  for the reduction of strategic nuclear forces and conventional forces  in Europe. Conventional force reduction talks were going on in Vienna.

President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev are signing the INF treaty ratification at the Grand Kremlin Palace during the Moscow Summit on June 1, 1988. By the treaty’s deadline of June 1, 1991, a total of 2,692 of short and intermediate range ground launched missiles had been destroyed, 846 by the U.S. and 1,846 by the Soviet Union. This was much more unequal in number of INF warheads destroyed. Under the treaty both nations were allowed to inspect each other’s military installations.

President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev are signing the INF treaty ratification at the Grand Kremlin Palace during the Moscow Summit on June 1, 1988. By the treaty’s deadline of June 1, 1991, a total of 2,692 of short and intermediate range ground launched missiles had been destroyed, 846 by the U.S. and 1,846 by the Soviet Union.

This was much more unequal in number of INF warheads destroyed. Under the treaty both nations were allowed to inspect each other’s military installations.

During their Washington Summit meeting President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev are signing the INF Treaty in the East Room of the White House on August 12, 1987.

During their Washington Summit meeting President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev are signing the INF Treaty in the East Room of the White House on August 12, 1987.

PHOTO CREDITS: ALL Courtesy of Ronald Reagan Library and Museum.