(March 1, 1983)
Is our Government telling us the truth about the cruise missile tests?
Our Department of External Affairs has released on February 10, 1982, a “Communique” and “Background Notes” on the testing of defence systems in Canada. A careful study of these documents raises serious questions. The communique states that the system to be tested could include “guidance systems for unarmed cruise missiles”. In fact the sole purpose of these systems is to guide armed missiles to their targets (which may be the populations of large cities). The fact that for purposes of flight testing bombs are replaced by dummies is completely irrelevant.
On Page 2 the communique states: “NATO members have been deeply concerned about the Soviet Union’s SS-20’s, which pose a very serious treat to many of the European states”. It is of course true that the Soviet Union could completely destroy Western Europe by launching these missiles. But it could do the same by launching its SS-4’s and SS-5’s, or by launching 3% of its 7000 “strategic” warheads on these same targets. It will not do this for two reasons; first, Western Europe is its most valued trade partner with whom it desperately seeks increased co-operation; second, it knows perfectly well that a nuclear war would mean the complete destruction of its own country, as well as those of its enemies. Neither reason is in any way modified by the presence or absence of SS-20’s, nor is the danger to Europe. This danger can be eliminated only by detente and disarmament.
The background notes provide no background to the development of “intermediate range” missiles. Land-based missiles of this range, called “Jupiter”, were first stationed in Europe by the U.S. in the 1950’s. The Soviets replied by developing the SS-4’s and SS-5’s. In the 1960’s the Pentagon decided that land-based missiles close to enemy territory were too vulnerable and replaced them by missiles launched from submarines stationed in European waters; some 400 of these are there today.
The Soviets, not controlling European waters, did not have this option and had to rely on their equally vulnerable SS-4’s and SS-5’s; only in the last few years had they begun to replace them by SS-20’s, which are mobile and therefore less vulnerable. They consider them as a “balance” to the U.S. Intermediate sea-and air-based missiles as well as to the British and French ones. However, they have now agreed to discount the former and to accept parity with the British-French partners of NATO. This would mean a reduction from the present level of 1250 warheads to 486. It is misleading for the background notes to call this “some” reduction; a reduction of over 60% must be called substantial.
The Soviets have meanwhile gone farther in proposing the abolition of all “tactical” nuclear weapons: a true “zero” solution. This would leave both sides with only their “strategic” intercontinental missiles which, as both sides have always claimed, are intended never to be used, but to “deter” the other side from using theirs in a “first Strike”. A first strike makes sense only if it can knock out the other side so far that it can not answer with a totally devastating second strike. This is a pipe dream; the Soviets know this and have unilaterally renounced any first strike. Unfortunately, the Reagan administration has so completely lost touch with reality that it believes it can “prevail” in a nuclear war by striking first. It is for this that the Cruise is being developed, to be launched from the air as well as from sea and land. The tests at Cold Lake are to be made from the air. This incidentally shows that they have nothing to do with the alleged need of “balancing” the SS-20’s in Europe; this is merely a smokescreen.
The background notes deny that the cruise is a first-strike weapon because it “would take two to three hours to reach its target”. This is true, but irrelevant: the critical time is not from launching but from detection to arrival at the target. The sole purpose of the elaborate guidance system is to avoid detection by radar. If the Pentagon believed that the cruise missile could be detected by other means, there would be no point in having a missile that hugs the ground. Nor can the cruise be detected before it is launched; it is so small that it can be hidden in a truck. It is a sneak weapon for a sneak attack. It must be stopped if we are to survive.
Will our government tell us the truth? or does it believe that it can fool all of the people all of the time?
Toronto, 1 March, 1983. Hans Blumenfeld, O.C.
ISSN 1925-170X (Print) | ISSN 1925-1718 (Online)