The main problem negotiators encounter in reaching bilateral agreements for nuclear arms reductions is not the difficulty of verification (that's fairly easy) but rather this: The stockpiles of weaponry held by the two sides are composed of altogether different inventories. That makes it hard to measure the "value" of the existing weapons well enough to be sure that whatever one bloc offers to dismantle is equivalent in "military value" to the other bloc's offer.
A University of Edinburgh professor, Stephen H. Salter, has proposed a solution to this problem that has captured the interest of nuclear experts Salter's idea is not a new one, but he has worked it out better than anyone else before. It's based on a rule some wise parent must have discovered eons ago--how to get the kids to share in a fair way. The principle is simple: Tommy may cut the cake and Andrew will choose the first piece. Or vice versa, since the logic of the situation itself is a guarantee that fairness will result, how ever greedy and rivalrous the children may be
Salter's disarmament proposal contains the same guarantee of fairness. In fact, the more the superpowers disagree about the comparative value of the weapons they are bargaining to dismantle, the better both sides will feel about the bargain they strike. Here's how the process would work:
Salter advises, "A successful disarmament process should be totally symmetrical and the need for dialogue minimized.... The disarmament steps are so small as not to affect the overall balance. If cheating is suspected, further reductions can be stopped until the matter is cleared up.... A series of small reductions is more likely to be accepted than a 'zero option' plan The relaxation of tension after the first reduction will be out of all proportion to its military significance." The slow pace of the disarmament will give time for verification. Money can be diverted from weapons to the production of surveillance satellites, which along with inspections by verification teams from neutral countries, will assure that the promised reductions are carried out.
To date, no arms control negotiations have been organized on these principles, nor are any likely to be done this way until public opinion begins to effectively demand some real breakthroughs.
Readers may contribute to the energizing of political pressure by spreading this idea in general conversations and promoting it in visits with politicians.
For further details of this proposal, written in non-technical English, you can mail away for a copy of Leading Edge newsletter, April 1, 1985. $1.50, Box 42050, Los Angeles, Ca. 90042, USA. Or for a mathematical analysis, contact Professor Stephen Salter himself: Mechanical Engineering Department, University of Edinburgh, Mayfield Road, Edinburgh 9, Scotland, UK.