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NATO's Dual-Track Decision (December 12, 1979)

NATO foreign and defense ministers convened a special meeting in 1979 to discuss the arms buildup in the Soviet Union and the states of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact. In response, they adopted the “dual-track decision,” which threatened the deployment of additional nuclear arms from 1983 onward in the event that the stationing of SS-20 missiles had not stopped by that time.

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Ministerial Communiqué: Special Meeting of Foreign and Defense Ministers, Brussels

At a special meeting of Foreign and Defence Ministers in Brussels on 12th December 1979:

Ministers recalled the May 1978 Summit where governments expressed the political resolve to meet the challenges to their security posed by the continuing momentum of the Warsaw Pact military build-up.

The Warsaw Pact has over the years developed a large and growing capability in nuclear systems that directly threaten Western Europe and have a strategic significance for the Alliance in Europe. This situation has been especially aggravated over the last few years by Soviet decisions to implement programmes modernizing and expanding their long-range nuclear capability substantially. In particular, they have deployed the SS-20 missile, which offers significant improvements over previous systems in providing greater accuracy, more mobility, and greater range, as well as having multiple warheads, and the Backfire bomber, which has a much better performance than other Soviet aircraft deployed hitherto in a theatre role. During this period, while the Soviet Union has been reinforcing its superiority in Long Range Theatre Nuclear Forces (LRTNF) both quantitatively and qualitatively, Western LRTNF capabilities have remained static. Indeed these forces are increasing in age and vulnerability and do not include land-based, long-range theatre nuclear missile systems.

At the same time, the Soviets have also undertaken a modernization and expansion of their shorter-range TNF and greatly improved the overall quality of their conventional forces. These developments took place against the background of increasing Soviet inter-continental capabilities and achievement of parity in inter-continental capability with the United States.

These trends have prompted serious concern within the Alliance, because, if they were to continue, Soviet superiority in theatre nuclear systems could undermine the stability achieved in inter-continental systems and cast doubt on the credibility of the Alliance’s deterrent strategy by highlighting the gap in the spectrum of NATO’s available nuclear response to aggression.

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