News & Comment

An Upheaval in U.S. Strategic Thought

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Science  02 Apr 1982:
Vol. 216, Issue 4541, pp. 30-34
DOI: 10.1126/science.216.4541.30


Early this year, the U.S. land-based force of nuclear missiles became vulnerable to a preemptive attack by the Soviet Union, as the Soviets deployed a large number of highly accurate warheads on their own missiles. They first demonstrated this capability in 1977. Since then, U.S. missile vulnerability has come to assume great importance in superpower relations. Western observers have portrayed the Soviet achievement as a sign of aggression, and made missile vulnerability into a symbol of declining American military strength. The government has proposed a vast military buildup of nuclear weapons, supposedly made necessary by this new threat. But the public is increasingly skeptical, and support for some form of arms control is growing.

The first article in this series examines how the United States learned of the Soviet accuracy, and why it caused such great alarm. The next article will examine the Reagan Administration's response to this threat.