Past Speakers of the: LANDON LECTURES

Landon Lecture by Vice President Walter F. Mondale,

Vice President of the United States
Jul. 17, 1979

SALT II: An American Decision
by Walter F. Mondale

It's an honor for me to be permitted to address this distinguished body at this great land-grant institution. For more than a century, Kansas State University has fulfilled that great and noble dream that President Lincoln had in mind when he signed the Land-Grant Act. Its purpose was to bring the blessing of learning to all of our people, rich and poor, old and young alike. That great objective is being served, and has been served throughout the years, by Kansas State University. I myself am a recipient of the privilege of attendance at a land-grant university, and I think we are all privileged to be a part of one of the most magnificent, successful ventures in the history of a free people anywhere—through the success and the blessings that flow from these great universities. And I am delighted to be here.

I am honored, deeply, to deliver this Alf Landon Lecture. As I said, this is a part of a series of speeches that I'm giving around the country to urge Americans to support the ratification of the SALT II treaty now pending before the United States Senate. I have come to ask your help—the help of students and faculty, civic leaders and concerned citizens of this community and of this state.

The president's speeches on Sunday and Monday remind us of other challenges that face our nation—none more compelling than the energy crisis. It is many things. But among others, the energy crisis is nothing less than a challenge to this nation's independence and to this nation's security. Our dependence on foreign oil threatens more than unemployment and more than inflation. Those perils are real. But even more profound is the challenge that if our dependence on oil continues to grow, one day this beloved country of ours could become hostage and dependent and subject to the blackmail of foreign countries who hold essential supplies of oil for this nation. Americans reject that prospect absolutely.

American policy—domestic and foreign—should never be determined by anybody except Americans, and no one else. And we must solve this energy crisis.

But our nation, which I consider to be the greatest nation on earth, must deal almost always with more than one great issue at the same time. In fact, we have no alternative. The unchecked and wasteful nuclear arms race also threatens the country's national security. And that's why I am with you today, to talk about it.

I think a little background about the treaty-making power is good to have in mind, because it goes to the basis of American democracy, and how fundamentally all great decisions are first of all made by the American people, and then the government responds as they dictate. And nowhere is that more entrenched in our system and in our Constitution than in the treaty-making responsibilities. The founders of our nation, the drafters of that Constitution wanted that responsibility to be above region, above parties, or factions as they called it, and beyond partisanship.

Toward the end of the hot summer in 1787, they were arguing about many of the provisions of the proposed Constitution. But the provision on treaty-making involved no debate at all, because everyone agreed that in order to agree to a treaty with a foreign nation two-thirds of the Senate must vote in affirmation. As John Jay wrote in the Federalist Papers: "The power of making treaties is an important one, especially as it relates to war, peace, and commerce; and it should be delegated . . . with such precautions, as will afford the highest security. (It must) be exercised ... in the manner most conducive to the public good."

These words speak to us today nearly 200 years later. And that is the reason that the sober decision before us must be made not just in Washington alone, but as in so many other instances of basic decisions about our land, in the states, and the cities, and the homes and the farms, by the American people throughout this nation. Because the American future will be shaped by this treaty, the American people must shape the debate about it.

And as we do we must remove our party badges. "We must follow the example of the first speaker before this forum, Alf Landon himself. In that inaugural lecture, Governor Landon scanned the horizon of American international relations and declared clearly the momentous changes that were afoot. Much of what he saw came about. The wrenching changes of nationalism, the danger of nuclear arms proliferation. But the point is not just that he understood the present so well that he could see the future. It is that he spent his whole life serving his country.

There are times when this nation demands that we all be our larger selves. There are times when issues face us that are so important that we can't allow differences that might otherwise divide us to do so. There are no winners if we fail to solve the energy crisis in America. And there are no winners in the world if we fail to control nuclear armaments. We all lose when we fail on issues of that character.

Governor Landon had been out of office for only one year when, in Lima, Peru, he helped Franklin Roosevelt rally the republics of the Americas in the cause of security. He had been out of office for thirty years when he delivered his lecture in this series. And even today he lends his support, as he did to me in his advice this morning, to an honorable and bi-partisan foreign policy. He has given his advice, his wisdom, and his years of insight to all of our presidents, Republicans and Democrats alike. Alf Landon is such a good and a wise man he makes you feel good about your country.

I have been in elected office now for nearly 20 years. I've been in politics for nearly 30 years. And if you ask me what concerns me most about the life our children and grandchildren will live I have no difficulty at all in saying what it is. And I believe most everyone in this room would agree with me—it is the fear that somehow, some way, for some reason that no one will remember, the world would resort to that final madness of a nuclear holocaust. And in the process, destroy everything that mankind and civilization and religious belief, and all of us have tried to build throughout the history of mankind, and throughout the 200 years history of our beloved nation.

This decision on SALT is our generation's chance to confront that icy dread, so that our children might be spared that ultimate terror. The SALT debate is going to be difficult to follow. It is a fiendishly complex document. It bristles with technical jargon and acronyms. And its cool detachment belies the murderous realities with which it deals. But beneath the complexity and beneath all the descriptions of hardware the fundamental questions the treaty addresses are as clear as they could possibly be.

What are they? First of all, we and the Soviets today possess enough nuclear arms to destroy one another several times over. We have improved, deployed and stockpiled those weapons for over three decades.

Let me give you just one example of the massive nuclear power that we possess. One warhead on a Poseidon missile has more than twice the explosive power than the bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. On one Poseidon submarine there are 140 such warheads. One submarine carries more explosive power than all the bombs, conventional and nuclear, dropped throughout World War II. And we have not one such submarine, we have 31 such submarines. And they carry only a portion of the 10 thousand warheads in our arsenal. And that's not the end of our strength.

Not only militarily, but economically, politically, socially and morally, I believe there's no stronger nation on earth than the United States.

In nuclear power alone, today we and the Soviets are in a position of what is called rough strategic equivalence. That means that neither side can hope to win a nuclear war, and therefore there is no point in starting one. It means that neither side can add the threat of strategic superiority to the chemistry of global confrontation. It means that if we're forced to go eyeball to eyeball with the Soviets in some grim crisis, neither of us can gain any advantage by brandishing the threat of the use of nuclear muscle.

But to remain on that knife-edge balance, we are driven to build when they build and they are forced to do the same in a spiral of ever-increasing risk and cost. In a strange way, the more we build, the more we spend, the less secure we are. Each side, seeking temporary advantage, sees it evaporate and both become less capable of taking care of other needs and both become less secure.

Sheer reason and common sense, and a decent respect for humanity, demand that we put a stall to this race—stall this race—before it bankrupts and destroys us all.

As this debate intensifies, I'd like to recall the words of one of your great Kansas newsmen, William Allen White, who once said, "Put fear out of your heart. This nation will survive. The state will prosper. The orderly business of life will go forward, if only men can speak what their hearts hold. By voice, by card, by letter, or by press, reason has never failed us. Only force and oppression have made the wrecks in the world." And thank God, we are a completely free people. And he was right.

Americans respect reason. We reject demagoguery. We prize sober debate. We spurn personal attacks. We listen carefully. And we can smell a phony argument a mile away. Today as the Senate commences its debate on these historic accords, I am confident that the common sense of the American people will cut through to the core of this debate, as it has every time in our nation's history. And I believe it will lead to the ratification of the SALT treaty.

Here are some of the issues that have been raised in that debate. First, it is claimed that the SALT II accords will undermine our national security. These critics point to weapons the Soviets are permitted under the treaty, like the Backfire bomber and the so-called heavy SS-18 missiles. Because the Soviets can keep their Backfire and because we do not possess heavy missiles, it is claimed that the treaty jeopardizes our national security.

But that criticism does not stand the test of common sense. It is totally misleading to single out one or two aspects of Soviet strategic forces and claim that the treaty gives them superiority. You have to look at the total picture. And that's what I would like to do for a moment.

The Backfire bomber is clearly designed for what we call theatre missions. And I think that's code for Europe, against Western Europe, China, and our Navy. But because the Backfire can just barely reach the United States, we are concerned that the Soviets might use it against us in a war. To decrease that possibility we insisted that the Soviets freeze the Backfire production and limit its improvements.

At the same time, we have airplanes of our own—FB-111s, F-111s in Europe, aircraft on our aircraft carriers—all of which can strike Soviet territory. And we can build as many of them as we want and we can keep improving them any way we wish and we are explicitly reserved in the treaty the right to build a Backfire-type plane if we should want.

As for the heavy SS-18 missiles, we haven't built any because we don't want them. The Defense Department has said repeatedly that it does not wish to build that kind of missile.

The president has ordered full-scale development of the new MX missile. That is explicitly available to us under the treaty. This missile is smaller than the 18, but it is absolutely equal to the biggest Soviet missile in military capability. And moreover, it is mobile. And that means it is much more survivable than the 18, because the 18s are found in fixed land-based silos. And they can be hit easily and destroyed. Because the MX is mobile the Russians would have no confidence that they could hit it if they aimed at it. There is not a single defense planner anywhere, military or civilian, who would trade the MX for the SS-18.

And that isn't the end of it. While the Soviets have put 70 percent of their forces on these fixed land-based ICBM systems, we have what we call a triad in which we split our forces—some on land, some in the air, and some at sea. We put three-fourths of our strategic warheads in our essentially invulnerable and greatly superior submarines and bombers.

In the water alone, we have nearly four times as many warheads as do the Soviets on our less vulnerable and far superior submarines. And this fall, we will be fitting our Poseidon submarines with Trident I missiles, and by the middle of 1981, the new Trident submarine will be deployed.

In the air, we have five times as many warheads as the Soviets. We are fitting our B-52 bombers with cruise missiles and we are, five to ten years ahead of the Soviet Union in the cruise missile technology. Our B-52 forces eclipse what the Soviets invest in air defenses. When our total nuclear capacity is measured against the Soviets, strategic equivalence between us is absolutely indisputable.

With or without SALT we must maintain it. Nothing in SALT undermines our capacity to do so. Nothing in this treaty forecloses any option we wish to pursue. But without SALT, everything will be far more costly and less secure.

And that is why the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I want to underscore this, every one of the leaders of the nation's defense forces has testified in favor of the ratification, without amendment, of this treaty. The army, the navy, the air force, the marine leadership support this treaty. The current strategic air commander has spoken out in favor of this treaty. The secretary of defense, an expert in this field and one of the most gifted Americans to hold that post, supports it.

Every one of our Western allies—Germany, France, England, Italy, the other allies in NATO, the Scandinavian countries where I've just visited—unanimously support the ratification of the SALT treaty because it serves our security interests.

I think the argument about that is as solid as anything could possibly be.

The second major argument against the treaty is that it's based on trust. It is not. It is based on hard-nosed reality, suspicion, and experience. It is based on technology. For 30 years—this is not new to us—for 30 years we have been monitoring Soviet activity with unbelievable accuracy. Every day we take extraordinary pictures of Soviet military activity. We have a multi-billion dollar intelligence network, by far the best in the world. We have photographic satellites, radar, and other highly sophisticated monitoring devices.

And one of the crucial elements in SALT is that under its terms the Soviets may not encrypt their telemetry or camouflage or obstruct our national technical means—a very crucial part of strategic enforcement and stability. What is critical in verification is that we be able to identify any violations before they can affect the strategic balance.

And the treaty is built on seven years of experience as well, with Soviet behavior in SALT I. And I think this point has to be understood. In that agreement, a standing body was established to which complaints could be brought from either side concerning compliance with the SALT I treaty. Every question that was brought before that commission was satisfactorily resolved from the standpoint of both nations.

Can SALT be verified? I serve on all of the bodies that deal with this highly classified, super-secret effort to protect this nation. I say it can, and I have absolutely no doubt about it.

And that is the testimony of every leader of the American intelligence community. These are men and women who are not in the political process at all. They are long-time specialists, gifted, often geniuses who deal with this highly sensitive intelligence program, and they have testified. All of the leaders of those agencies have testified that this treaty is verifiable and we can protect our country against violations. To a person, including the secretary of defense, and once again every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, they agree that this treaty is verifiable. And I think there can be no doubt about it.

The third major argument comes from critics on both ends of the political spectrum. It is said that the treaty does not limit the arms race, or does not limit it enough, or in fact encourages an arms buildup. But I believe once again the evidence is on the other side.

Today the Russians have 2500 strategic missile launchers and bombers. Under the treaty they have to dismantle 250 of them. Without the treaty we estimate they would have about 3000 of them by the completion of the treaty years in 1985, or about a launcher force one third larger than it would be under the treaty.

Under SALT the number of warheads permitted on their heavy missiles is limited to 10, but the missile is capable of carrying 20 or 30, not the 10 limited under the treaty. Thus SALT means that six thousand fewer warheads would be on this one system alone than would be the case if the treaty is ratified.

Without SALT the Soviets could continue developing newer and more deadly land-based missiles. In the past, they've usually had three and sometimes four new missiles under development at the same time. With SALT they are limited as are we to only one completely new system.

SALT II closes many other areas of competition that could be most dangerous. It bans long range missiles from ships other than submarines. It bans ballistic and cruise missile launchers from ocean floors. It bans systems that would send nuclear weapons in orbit around the earth. And it bans the Soviets from making heavy missiles mobile.

Do these limitations go far enough? Of course they don't. We tried to go farther and these were the most restrictive limitations we could get.

Do these totals and sub-totals cut deeply enough into the world's nuclear arsenal? Of course not.

The point is that arms control is a continuing process. Ever since nuclear power has been unleashed, and there are a few of you in this room as old as I who can remember the day when it was first unleashed, since that day we have worked to contain it. Every president —of both political parties since World War II—has pressed for arms control. No single step is enough. But no SALT II, failure to ratify this treaty, could well mean no further steps at all.

All of the last three administrations sought much deeper cuts from the Russians in SALT II and we will press for them again in the negotiations that will follow, known as SALT III. But we must build on what's been done.

To ratify this treaty is to continue the progress. To reject it is to turn our back on the work of a generation and to render the ideals expressed for SALT III nullified.

I have heard from some that the SALT treaty somehow appeases the Russians, that it's a gift to the Soviet Union. It is not. This is an agreement that your leaders are doing for the American people and for this nation. In diplomacy, as in business, a good agreement for us is not a bad one merely because it is also good for the other side.

We drove a hard bargain in this treaty. It took us seven years to grind down the terms and to negotiate the treaty now before the Senate. The Soviets wanted SALT II to ban the transfer of American scientific technology to our European allies, which would be a fateful blow to NATO. We refused, and our view prevailed.

The Soviets wanted to carry into this treaty the numerical advantages from SALT I. Under SALT I they were permitted 40 percent more launchers than we were. We demanded equal numbers, and our view prevailed.

We insisted in counting rules to verify the compliance with the treaty that we know will work. And we said whenever you test a missile with more than one warhead on it, we will count that missile when deployed as a MIRVed missile, whether you've got one or more missiles on it or not. They said, "Oh no." And we held our ground, and our view prevailed.

Behind every provision of this treaty—in fact, every word—are years of painstaking negotiation. We didn't get everything we wanted, nor did the Soviets. But at no time—not at all—did we once compromise this nation's security.

It is futile to compare this treaty to one we might have produced had we been negotiating only with ourselves. We must compare it with the sober reality of what happens if there is no treaty at all.

With SALT II we take another important step down the road to arms control. Without SALT II everything is worse.

The SALT process will collapse. The insane cycle of action and reaction I described earlier and that you've seen over the years will resume. Money, precious money, billions of dollars, talent and commitment will be mobilized to construct an even more costly stalemate, an even more dangerous draw. Without SALT II we estimate that we would have to spend an additional 30 billion dollars just to keep the same equivalence that we would have if SALT II was ratified. It would buy us nothing in new security.

Without SALT II the rules of verification would dissolve. And that would be a crucial loss for your nation. A vital window for our defense planning would be boarded up.

Without this agreement our national leadership would be undermined. It would be immeasurably more difficult to convince other nations to join or observe the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The longer I'm in public life and the more I've been privileged to serve in this high national office, the more I am convinced that we underestimate the importance of the moral authority of our nation as a world leader. There are many things that you can do through power. But fundamentally in this world you lead if the example you provide is worthy of followership.

And what is so blessed about this nation is that our values and our system of justice and freedom, our laws against discrimination, our traditional sense of humanity, such as PL-480 Food for Peace which this state has provided all these years and fed millions of people, is the envy of the earth. And it's got to remain that way.

And if we're going to lead in the field of restraining and reducing the possibilities of a nuclear holocaust, we have to have the moral authority to persuade other countries to follow our example, and that begins with dealing responsibly with our own strategic weaponry. Because it goes this way: There are many nations that would like, or are thinking about having, their own nuclear weapons. And God forbid the day that some nut gets a hold of one of those bombs. And I think we all know enough about human nature to know that that could happen. And what we need to do is to keep the availability of such weapons as restricted as possible.

And we go to these nations and we say, "Please don't deploy nuclear weapons. Don't use technology that produces weapons—grade material." And they point to us and they say "Look, buster, you've got all these nuclear weapons and you're producing all this power. What right do you have to tell us not to do the same in our own country?" And the argument we use is this, "That is true. We've had to do it. But the United States has been up front, leading the on-going decade-long effort to restrain and reduce the deployment of strategic weaponry. And this nation would be the happiest nation on earth if every nuclear bomb were eliminated once and for all."

But defeat this treaty and you will rob us of the most powerful argument we've got against nuclear proliferation.

Without SALT II, the efforts to halt the conventional arms race will also run aground. The world, I think, this year will spend something like 350 billion dollars on arms sales. With people starving, with all the tragedy that we see around the world, to be spending 350 billion dollars on the stuff of war can't make sense. And we need arguments to reduce and slow down that waste of human resources.

Without this agreement, the structure of East-West detente would be shaken. The NATO leadership which supports this treaty would be severely strained, our capacity for international leadership called into question.

These are risks we can't afford. These are risks we shouldn't take.

The chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee told me the other day, "All my Senate career, most of the things I've done have been for my constituents." He said, "My work on this treaty is for my grandchildren.” And that's the right attitude to have.

Nine years ago, my beloved friend Hubert Humphrey had the honor of delivering the Alf Landon Lecture here. And in that address he said this: "I look to the decade of the seventies with optimism. For just as war has its own built-in escalation, so does the process of peace have its built-in escalation. The first priority of this nation must be the search—and not only the search, but the attainment, of peace."

Today let us work together toward that goal. Let us stay on the escalator of arms control. Let us ratify this treaty and pursue the course of peace. Thank you very much.

The transcription of this Landon Lecture was accomplished through the cooperation of the Kansas State University Libraries and the Office of Mediated Education.

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