The SALT I Treaty: Strategic Arms Limitation Talks Between the US and USSR

The SALT I Treaty

The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I) Treaty was a series of negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union that took place from 1969 to 1972, culminating in the signing of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and the Interim Agreement on Offensive Arms, which aimed to limit the proliferation of strategic nuclear weapons and ease Cold War tensions.

The SALT I negotiations were initiated under the administration of U.S. President Richard Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, marking the first significant effort by the two superpowers to curb the arms race and establish a framework for arms control. The talks began in November 1969 in Helsinki, Finland, and continued over the course of several years, with various rounds of negotiations taking place in Vienna, Austria, and Geneva, Switzerland.

The negotiations resulted in two major agreements. The first was the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, signed on May 26, 1972, which limited each country to two ABM sites, one to protect the national capital and the other to protect an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) field. This agreement aimed to prevent the deployment of nationwide missile defense systems, which could potentially give one side a strategic advantage and escalate the arms race.

The second agreement was the Interim Agreement on Offensive Arms, also known as the SALT I Treaty, which was signed on the same day as the ABM Treaty. This agreement temporarily limited the number of ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) each side could possess. The U.S. was allowed to maintain 1,054 ICBMs and 656 SLBMs, while the Soviet Union was allowed to have 1,618 ICBMs and 740 SLBMs.

The SALT I Treaty marked an important milestone in U.S.-Soviet relations and laid the groundwork for further arms control negotiations, such as the SALT II talks and the subsequent Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (START). While the agreements did not lead to a significant reduction in the number of nuclear weapons, they did help to establish a cooperative framework for arms control. They played a role in easing Cold War tensions between the two superpowers.