On this day, June 18, 1979, Presidents Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev signed the SALT II strategic arms limitation treaty between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. in Vienna.
The SALT II Treaty established clear rules and limits on nuclear weapons. Although SALT II did not end the arms race, the treaty and its protocol:
- Limited the number of strategic nuclear delivery systems (bombers and missile launchers) after January 1, 1981.
- Restricted the number of warheads that could be put on each ICBM and SLBM.
- Banned the deployment of mobile ICBMs or the flight testing of ICBMs from mobile launchers.
- Limited the range of land or sea-based cruise missiles, and
- Banned the testing or deployment of Air to Surface Ballistic Missiles.
Though the Treaty had been signed, it still had to be ratified by a 2/3 majority in the Senate. On June 22, the SALT II Treaty was submitted by the President to the Senate for debate. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved ratification of the Treaty, but the USSR invaded Afghanistan before it could be voted on by the full Senate.
In January 1980, President Carter asked the Senate to delay ratification until the US responded to the invasion. Although the treaty was never ratified, both sides agreed to honor its terms until it would have expired December 31, 1985.
Images: Presidents Carter and Brezhnev at the Vienna Summit. 6/15/79; Treaty Between the United States of American and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, page 1, 2.
From bad to worse — JFK and Khrushchev at the Vienna Summit
In June 1961, President Kennedy and Chairman Khrushchev met in Vienna, Austria. The debacle of the Bay of Pigs had occurred that past spring and the construction of the Berlin Wall was underway.
Feelings on both sides were raw and the meetings between Kennedy and Khrushchev were grueling and mostly inconclusive: the Cold War continued. Its most fearsome moment, the Cuban Missile Crisis, was a little more than a year away.
Photo: President John F. Kennedy meets with Chairman Nikita Khrushchev at the U. S. Embassy residence, Vienna, Austria. June 3, 1961.
-from the JFK Library
SALT II Treaty
On this day, President Jimmy Carter and the Soviet Union’s Leonid Brezhnev sign the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II (SALT II) Treaty in Vienna, limiting each nation’s strategic weapons. 6/18/79.
Khrushchev: “Force will be met by force. If the U.S. wants war, that’s its problem…It’s up to the U.S. to decide whether there will be war or peace.”
Kennedy: “I see it is going to be a very cold winter.”
-Remarks between Soviet Premier Khrushchev and President Kennedy after their first meeting in Vienna, June 4, 1961
Soviet Premier Khrushchev and President Kennedy meet in Vienna, June 4, 1961