You, too, can kiss off Carter


In ’76, Democratic nominee for president, Jimmy Carter criticized detente and claimed he would drive harder bargains with Leonid Brezhnev than Gerald Ford had done. Ronald Reagan, who was contesting the Republican nomination, said the same thing, only more vociferously. Going into a defensive crouch, Ford passed up a chance for a strategic-arms pact that year and may have cost himself the election. Jimmy Carter won the election, but continued the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks started by the previous Republican administrations.

SALT II was a nuclear arms treaty which attempted to reduce all categories of delivery vehicles on both sides to 2,250. SALT II helped the U.S. to discourage the Soviets from arming their third generation ICBMs. An agreement was reached in Vienna on June 18, 1979, and was signed by Leonid Brezhnev and Carter. This opened a “window of vulnerability”, opposed by many hawks from the both sides of the aisle in Congress. [Sidenote: in response to the refusal of the U.S. Congress to ratify the treaty, then a junior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, met with the Soviet Foreign Minister Andrey Gromyko, “educated him about American concerns and interests” and secured several changes that neither the Secretary of State nor President could obtain.] Carter had to appease the conservatives with 200 MX missiles in 4600 silos costing the government $33 billion.

Six months after the signing, the Soviet Union deployed troops to Afghanistan, and in September of the same year, senators including Henry M. Jackson and Frank Church discovered the so-called “Soviet brigade” on Cuba. In light of these developments, the treaty was withdrawn by Carter from the Senate consideration. When the 1980 Presidential Election came, the Reagan campaign made devastating use of the above photograph of Carter embracing Brezhnev at the summit meeting where the arms pact was finally signed, adding a caption, YOU, TOO, CAN KISS OFF CARTER. The irony here was that when the pact was signed inside the ornate Hofburg Palace in Austria, the hearty embrace between two leaders symbolized a new Soviet-Western rapprochement for millions of television viewers around the globe.

The SALT II’s terms were, nonetheless, honored by both sides until 1986 when the Reagan Administration withdrew from SALT II after accusing the Soviets of violating the pact.


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