The New Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers    
In the early 1980s two U.S. Senators, Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and John W. Warner (R-Va.), advocated that the United States and the Soviet Union establish "crisis control centers" to reduce the risk of nuclear conflict. These centers would not duplicate the existing U.S.-Soviet "Hot Line" established in 1961 through a bilateral agreement. The Hot Line was reserved for heads of state to communicate in writing or by fax in times of emergency or crisis. The proposed new Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers (NRRCs), according to Senators Nunn and Warner, would communicate information in such areas as impending ballistic missile launches, notifications of any nuclear accidents, or reports of naval incidents on the high seas. They believed that the U.S.-Soviet nuclear centers might provide critical information in normal times and could serve as an additional communications channel in times of crisis.13

The Reagan administration, after considerable discussion, refined this concept. Then they formally presented it at the Geneva Summit in November 1985. There, Reagan and Gorbachev signed an agreement establishing a joint experts study group to determine the feasibility of setting up permanent national nuclear crisis communications centers.14 Out of these experts meetings, the two nations agreed to set up the centers, which would be equipped with direct, reliable, high-speed communications links. Their principal function would be to exchange information and notifications required under current and future arms control agreements and treaties. On September 15, 1987, the centers became a reality as U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, in a formal White House ceremony, signed the agreement establishing the Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers.15 President Reagan attended, characterizing the agreement as "another practical step in the [two nations'] efforts to reduce the risks of conflict."16

Essentially, the NRRC Agreement established communications, not crisis management, centers with permanent status. Located in the respective capitals, equipped with modern computers and fax machines, staffed with communications and language experts, the NRRC facilities were authorized for an unlimited duration.17


"another practical step in the (two nations') efforts to reduce the risk of conflict."

President Reagan


    At first, the function of the two NRRCs was to communicate notifications of ballistic missile launches in accordance with a 1971 Agreement on Measures to Reduce the Risk of Outbreak of Nuclear War Between the United States and the Soviet Union. In addition, the new centers were assigned the role of communicating information stemming from the 1972 U.S.-Soviet Agreement on the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas. However, only three months after the agreement establishing the new NRRCs went into effect, the INF Treaty was signed in the White House on December 8, l987.18

The INF Treaty's communications demands were enormous. Article XIII, paragraph 2, specified that the parties would use the NRRCs for "continuous communications" regarding official treaty matters. Specifically, these matters included exchanges of data detailed in the INF Treaty Memorandum of Understanding; notifications of the arrival time at the point of entry for all on-site inspection teams; notifications of INF missile system movements and eliminations; notices requesting cooperative measures for initiating national technical means of verification; notices of lists of proposed inspectors and aircrews, flight plans, aircrew lists; and clarifications necessary under the treaty's inspection and elimination protocols.19 These INF Treaty requirements caused a major increase in the day-to-day treaty-related communications between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Specific formats for the INF Treaty notifications, lists, and messages were developed during a series of joint U.S.-Soviet INF Treaty Technical Talks held in Washington, Moscow, and Vienna in the spring of 1988. These talks focused on the practical requirements for carrying out the on-site inspections in accordance with the treaty and its protocols.20 In April 1988, the directors of the Soviet and American NRRCs met in Washington at a separate U.S. State Department conference, which produced specific INF Treaty message formats and procedures for communicating between the two centers.21 In all, the two parties agreed to use more than three dozen official INF Treaty-formatted messages. When the treaty entered into force on June 1, 1988, the level of communications activity began at a high pitch. It accelerated in July, August, and September, as the United States and the Soviet Union began their INF baseline, continuous portal monitoring, elimination, and closeout inspections. With the addition of these INF Treaty responsibilities, the NRRCs emerged in their first year as significant new diplomatic communications centers.

The U.S. Department of State was assigned responsibility for operating the U.S. Nuclear Risk Reduction Center. The first NRRC director, H. Allen Holmes, held the rank of assistant secretary of state. He was assisted by a staff director, David H. Swartz, an experienced Foreign Service Officer, and a deputy staff director, Colonel Harold W. Kowalski, USAF, a senior communications officer. They directed the 17-member staff that operated the 24-hour-a-day communications center from a seventh-floor room in the Main Building, U.S. Department of State. Equipped with high-speed computers--two for transmitting, one for receiving, and one in reserve--and facsimile machines, the NRRC communicated with its Soviet counterpart via satellite. Full texts of messages and graphics could be transmitted rapidly. For each tour of duty, the American center was staffed with both communications specialists and Russian language experts.22


On the Soviet end of these special government-to-government communications links was the Soviet Nuclear Risk Reduction Center. Directed by General Major Vladimir I. Medvedev and his deputy, Colonel Nikolay B. Shabalin, the Soviet center was located in the Ministry of Defense in Moscow. Although its initial mission stemmed from the same Soviet-American bilateral agreements governing ballistic missile launches and incidents on the high seas as the American NRRC, the INF Treaty altered the Soviet NRRC in a fundamental way. According to an interview with General Medvedev in Krasnaya Zvezda (Moscow) in 1989, the Soviet NRRC was the direct result of "new political thinking." He indicated that the agreement was prepared and signed "quickly" in late summer 1987. In the fall of 1987, Medvedev stated, the Soviet NRRC was assigned responsibility for conducting all official communications for the INF Treaty, then in the final stages of negotiations. At the same time, he explained, the Soviet center was given the mission of conducting all on-site inspections and escorts associated with the treaty. It was a "new and considerable task," he indicated, because it meant that the Soviet NRRC would combine in one organization the official INF Treaty communications functions with the treaty's inspection and escort functions. "In our view," General Medvedev concluded, "this structure is better as far as implementation of the treaty tasks is concerned..."23  
General Vladimir I. Medvedev, Director, Soviet NRRC.
National Technical Means and Treaty Constraints    
The INF Treaty stipulated that each party would recognize and facilitate through "cooperative measures" the use of national technical means (NTM) of verification. Essentially, these treaty provisions formally recognized the use of reconnaissance satellites and remote sensing equipment as national technical means to monitor areas and systems to help make decisions about verification. Verification was the policy process that one nation used to judge whether the other nation was complying with an arms control treaty or agreement.24

The U.S. verification regime for the INF Treaty began with the treaty itself. Specific obligations were placed into the language of the treaty, making it explicit what constituted compliance in terms of eliminating the INF missile systems, closing or converting missile operating bases, conducting on-site inspections, and carrying out collateral constraints. Collateral constraints included restrictions on either party's using concealment measures to impede verification by NTM. These constraints included the obligation to cooperate with a request for use of NTM to monitor certain non-INF missile bases. No later than six hours after a request, the inspected party had to open the roofs of all fixed structures and move the missiles and their launchers out of the shelters.25

Other constraints were written into the treaty. For example, one constraint specified a set of obligations restricting the movement of INF missiles and launchers from their missile operating bases to elimination sites without prior notification. When proper notification had been given through the NRRCs, the movement could occur. Treaty language further constrained either party from moving or transporting the INF missiles on their launchers. This distinction was significant. The SS-20s, SS-23s, SS-l2s, SS-4s, Pershing IIs, and BGM-109Gs (GLCM) were mobile missile systems in which the missiles were mounted on mobile launch vehicles. By separating the two as they were moved from the missile sites to the elimination sites, the capability, however remote, for a sudden launch was eliminated.26



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