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The INF Treaty, Part III — Crossing the Finish Line

A unified stance by NATO members and Gorbachev’s realization that it was better to go to global zero than to deal with the Pershings ultimately led to the signing of the INF Treaty by President Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev on December 8, 1987. It was ratified by Congress in May 1988 and helped mark the end of the Cold War.

Maynard Glitman was head of the INF delegation in Geneva from 1985-1988. He recalls the difficulties in successfully negotiating the INF treaty while working with Soviet officials and Washington delegates and the extreme stress the delegation endured working long hours as they hammered out an agreement. He also talks about his experiences at all levels of negotiating the treaty – from defending word usage to managing his temper when waiting for Soviet delegates who went out skiing.

Read Part I about the “walk in the woods” and the previous failed negotiating efforts and Part II about the reinvigorated round of talksGo here for other Moments on negotiations and on the USSR/Russia.


“As a result of this ‘nightmare, dream, nightmare, dream’ syndrome we couldn’t get anywhere. Because it never ended.”

Let’s go back a little bit now and take a look at how the negotiations itself ended up. The last group of issues we had to work on were verification questions. We had for years been trying to get the Soviets to move ahead seriously. Eventually, and slowly they came along.

What they began to do after a while, however, was to take positions which were seemingly more open than ours. And I don’t believe that they were really prepared to carry some of these out, but it was a way of trying to score propaganda points off of us; to suggest that they would be more open than we were. We got kind of caught up in this in a way.

Verification is a difficult enough subject, extremely technical, and the verification regime was not working as it should. What I found as we got into this was that the people working on it — and including myself when I got into it — got caught up in what I refer to as “nightmare, dream, nightmare, dream, nightmare, dream” syndrome.

What do I mean by that? You start looking at an issue. How do we verify that these missiles are actually being destroyed? Then you begin to have nightmares. “My God, what we are proposing isn’t good enough.” So you try to think about how to improve it. And that’s the dream. The dream comes along and now you dream how you are going to verify it. And the next day it’s another nightmare.

As a result of this “nightmare, dream, nightmare, dream” syndrome we couldn’t get anywhere. Because it never ended. Every time you thought you were closing a loophole, our team, we ourselves would find ways around that, closing one loophole, and then opening another one. The result is no action is taken. You are paralyzed. Because you cannot come to closure on the issue, recognizing that “this is as good as we can get.”

Colonel Bob Linhard, who was the National Security Council, NSC, point man on the INF treaty, wonderful man, and real easy guy to work with, dubbed this the “Fruit Loops problem” — Fruit Loops cereal. Because, as he pointed out, we had reached the point in our proposal in which the Soviets could demand access to a Kellogg’s Fruit Loops factory in case something was being built there and we would have to grant it to them, and of course that was nonsense.

We reached the point where the more stringent we made the verification and inspections on the Soviets, the more stringent they would be on us. So beyond Fruit Loops, we can get serious and talk about plants that we would let them into, in order to get into their plants.

The Soviets saw that we were getting caught up in this and they tried to up the ante, so that they would show that they were more interested in verification than we were. In the end, we were able to say to them, “We know you are not serious, let’s both get serious about this and stop playing games.” It was very difficult for the folks back in Washington who were working on this problem, to come to closure with the issue, because of that “dream, nightmare” syndrome. But eventually we did so.

The program that we do have is the most stringent verification program ever. Again, obviously not perfect. It did involve site inspection, it involved continuous monitoring of the Soviet factory in Votkinsk, where the SS-20s were being made and where some missiles are still being made, although there are no more 20s coming out.

The treaty permitted 13 years of inspection. That was based on the experts’ view that was about the time it would take for the missiles to become obsolescent and therefore their value would be reduced even if they were producing them. We had gotten rights to come on site to all their INF bases. There was an exchange of data, of photographs and diagrams and charts, and by and large the verification system worked quite well in terms of the way they were seeing problems and working them out.

“What about an x-ray machine?” “Anything big enough to see through that skin would have to cook everything between Votkinsk and the Urals.”

I attended the destruction of the last Pershing missile. General Medvedev was also there. That was in in Marshall, Texas.

We had a factory there, where they were being destroyed. They just destroyed it by running the engine. It sort of died down, if you will, the flames come out at the back, and the rocket engine is gone, and then machines come and crush the airframe. That’s how those were destroyed.

And we had folks who were engineers and were obviously familiar with the Soviet systems. They would guide the negotiators:  This is what you can accept, this is what you can’t accept.

The treaty sets up a body to discuss questions and problems, the Special Consultative Group, sort of a committee. We got down into details about what you could and couldn’t bring in on an inspection. We put things in there, in verification, which didn’t exist.

For example, we wanted to look inside the Soviet canisters, missiles come out in canisters from the factory. How can we be sure what is in there? And how do we assure that they were bringing out an SS-25 which is very similar to SS-20, and not SS-20? There are ways that we could measure.

We got them to agree that we could pop open, I think it was three of four times a year, and look inside a canister and determine that this had to be a 25 and not a 20. In addition to that, whatever the number of times was, the people who did sampling theory said that we had a very good sample number. It was enough to be fairly confident that we would be able to catch one if it was ever to come out.

In addition, the question was what about the canisters that can’t be opened? I, half-jokingly, half-seriously had said, “What about an x-ray machine?”

One of the scientists said, “Anything big enough to see through that skin would have to cook everything between Votkinsk and the Urals.”

And I said “Better yet!” It turned out that we put that in the treaty, the machine, but it didn’t exist. But the scientists and the engineers did create such a machine. But Fruit Loops, just to get back to them, that marked the extreme and I think after that we began to calm down.

A couple of other things that we need to talk about. We did find out, as we got near the end, that there were systems which we had not heard of before. These are systems which launch satellites, and things like that, but they could look a lot like eliminated system. So we had to find ways to incorporate that.

This was really sort of lack of communication within the U.S. government, and it was the same on the other side. The people who were running these systems seemed to be unaware that we were dealing with missiles that had their range, and we were certainly unaware of their systems.

Their stuff is probably fairly highly classified and I am sure they didn’t want everyone to know that they have test vehicles of these sorts. But the Soviets had the same and we exchanged diagrams of what they look like and so on, and they finally did get included.

“At this point, I had been going day and night, and the Soviets had begun double-teaming me”

A few interesting things at the end. The final ending of the negotiation, when we were really heading towards the 8th of December when the treaty was to be signed. As late as Thanksgiving, Secretary Shultz and some of his people had to come over to Geneva to deal with detail questions.

I really felt badly about his having to come but in fact what was left suddenly became the most important thing on Earth. Three weeks earlier, three months earlier, it wouldn’t have been given the same prominence, but now it’s what’s left. So we had all kinds of problems.

As it was, near the end we began to look at what was left in brackets. We’d go through the treaty and we’d put the brackets around the words of phrases that were not agreed upon. That’s how we proceeded. There were a fair number of brackets.

I remember cabling back that we had 120 brackets. Many of them were interrelated. If you solved problem A, you’d solve B, C, D, E, F and G. So you might get rid of 10 brackets by solving one problem.

Near the very end, we had a terrible confrontation with the Soviets. It involved who gets to look inside what. The treaty is set up so that each side can look at the other side’s smallest object. And the Soviets wanted to see inside a container which could include the smallest part. And of course they wanted to get into the smallest stage of a Pershing missile. And we wanted therefore to see inside a canister which could hold the smallest stage of the SS-20.

And they said, “No, you can’t do that, that is not correct, etc., etc.” They just wouldn’t give on it.

At this point, I had been going day and night, and the Soviets had begun double-teaming me. One time I’d have [General Alexander] Medvedev opposite me, then I’d have [Alexey] Obukhov, and I was there alone.

Finally, after we caught on to what was going on, we’d look out the window if they came to our place, and if Medvedev got out of the car, I’d go back to the office and work on other stuff. John Woodworth would take over that meeting. But I got very tired. Not quite ill, but what really happened was that I began to get angry.

Obukhov, on one occasion, went on and on without translation, and I said to him, “How about stopping and letting us have a translation?” And he just wouldn’t listen. He just kept going on and on in Russian. I got up and left the table. I went back and got a glass of orange juice. He suddenly went into English, I brought the orange juice back and he stayed in English. But I could feel myself really getting at the point where I was going to lose my temper.

He had a tendency to go on at great length. He was covering every flank. He couldn’t just discuss this chair. He was afraid that you might conclude that by not discussing the location of the chair in the room you were leaving open the fact that maybe the chair could be somewhere else. You see what I am getting at? It’s probably a technique that you need to survive in a society like that; it could back you up in a corner if you didn’t. Make sure that every flank in your argument was covered. But, this went on and on….

“I felt that I was getting angrier and began to question my judgment frankly”

Another episode, all this coming near the end. We had a couple of days, Saturday, Sunday, or whatever it was, and we were supposed to go over there, then they would call us up and say, “No don’t come now we are not ready yet. Don’t come now, but in another two or three hours.” It went on like that the whole day and on into the next day. It was obvious they didn’t have their instructions, they were missing their guidance. But they didn’t tell us that, they just kept putting us off.

Finally, we went over there, and I forget what the issues were. Could have been some of this stuff we were just mentioning, verification stuff, which was mostly all that was left. Finally we go over there, as we were leaving the place, Obukhov said to me, “I am really sorry about yesterday and earlier today, but in fact we simply didn’t have our guidance.”

I said, “I assumed you didn’t have your guidance. Why didn’t you just tell us that and tell us that you would let us know when you are ready?”

But then he let drop that they had gone up to the Jura [mountains near the French-Swiss border] to ski on that day. He couldn’t have chosen a subject that was more likely to make me really furious. That they had kept us in the office waiting for them, while they had gone off and skied. So I grew angrier.

This began to take a toll on me physically. My blood pressure is normally low; it must have been going through the roof at this point.

Anyway years later when I began to think about it, I said to myself, “Wait a minute. They may not have gone skiing at all.” He may have just known or been told that one way to get my goat was to do something like that. I don’t know what the truth to that is, but in any case, I felt that I was getting angrier and began to question my judgment frankly.

In addition to that, I got a phone call, four a.m., our time, from Jim Timbie, who was one of the people in the State Department who was sort of behind the scenes, deeply involved in all arms control issues, very able fellow, physicist by background. He called me up and said, “What are you guys doing there? You are changing some of the time arrangements, you are making it possible for the inspections regime to end before 13 years.” And so on. Normally, he is a very calm person, but he wasn’t calm on this occasion….

I could feel myself getting upset.…

That night I had gone home,…I remember, it was cold, and I was really feeling badly, didn’t really sleep well that day, came back the next day and at that point I realized that if they continued with their tactics I was ready to jump across the table and slug them.

It was really getting to me. Therefore, I took myself out. I said, “John, take over. I will be back tomorrow, I’ve got to leave or I am going to do something stupid if I stay here. It might be gratifying to do it, but it would be stupid.” John Woodworth took over and next day I did come back. I had calmed down enough.

John Woodward was furious at the Soviets. He thought that he made a deal with them in which we could look into a container which could hold the smallest stage of a SS-20 and they could look at a container which could hold the smallest stage of a P-11. Obukhov suddenly said, “No, that’s not at all possible.”

That’s when I came back in; he was backing away from it. So I went through it again with Obukhov, I said, “Look, we can’t have the situation where you get to open a box which can hold the smallest stage of our missile but we don’t get to look into a box which can hold your equivalent. That is just not going to wash. Especially with SS-20s involved.”

I knew that we could look at the box size of their smallest missile, which was their cruise missile, a box that could hold that. But I did not think Congress would appreciate coming back and saying, “They get to look at the smallest stage of the Pershing and we can’t look at a box that will hold the smallest stage of SS-20.”

They tried to argue “Well, we don’t have stages.” I said, “Oh, yeah? Look here in the Memorandum of Understanding, the MOU,” which had all the data exchange in there. “It shows you have stages, here is what size it is, it says so right here.”

“Well, we don’t take them apart.”

“It doesn’t matter whether you take them apart or not,” I said. “You just list that.” He was being very obstinate.

At that point, it was getting late. We were scheduled to leave the next day for Washington. We had an Air Force plane. They were going to have to fly commercial. We had time, an Air Force plane would wait for us, but a commercial flight would not wait for them. We were doing the U.S. copy of the treaty, typing it in Geneva. We were ready to go, we had a way to get back, and they didn’t.

I said at that point, “Look, we are all tired. Why don’t we take a break, come back at four a.m. or five a.m. and conclude with that?” And I walked out. Picked up my books and walked out. And the delegation followed me.

He came running afterwards. “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?”

I said, “I told you what’s wrong. If you get to look at the box that could hold the smallest stages of our missile, we are going to be able to look inside a box which would be small enough to hold the smallest stage of the SS-20.”

I felt it just wouldn’t be fair. He thought about it for a moment and said, “Look, if that’s all there is to it, we can work it out. You want to be able to say that you can open a box that would hold no more than the smallest stage of our missile.”

“That’s right,” I said, “we want to be able look in something that small.” Both sides were trying to get into the smaller box, not to be looking into a bigger box.

He agreed to that. We went back to the room together and the delegation reassembled and we put that together very quickly and it was over with.

“At the end, the very last thing Obukhov said to me was ‘You have your Russian word’”

That still left a couple of problems. One was that we had to initial the treaty. I received authorization earlier from Washington to initial for the U.S., and we had one outstanding issue. That was which Russian word we would use to interpret the English word “undertakings.” That was the very last thing we resolved.

Let me set out a little background on that. It is very interesting in light of the recent question how do you say “I apologize” in Chinese [This is in regards to the 2001 collision of an American surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter in Beijing and whether to use the words meaning “regret” or “lament.”].

At one point — I’ll try to stay away from names in this — near the end of the negotiating sessions, it would have been in November, we had a visit from someone from Washington, and a similar visit from someone from Moscow. Both wanting to help us reach a conclusion of the treaty.

The visitors sat down and began going over various parts of the treaty, which we had been working on. The Soviet visitor focused on a section of the treaty, sort of normal boilerplate, it had to do with what we call non-circumvention arrangements.

Basically we were dealing with the part of the treaty which we had picked up from the old SALT agreement. It was boilerplate, it was not controversial. The purpose of this section was to in effect say you think it will be common sense if you sign a treaty and you intend to carry it out, that you wouldn’t do anything to contravene it, circumvent it. Those were the kind of concepts.

The Soviet visitor wanted to change that. He wanted to make it a little more open. What was the issue here? The issue gets back to those programs of cooperation.

We wanted that part of the treaty to read in a way which would make it possible for us to continue our programs of cooperation — not place us in a situation where the Soviets could argue that an American and a Brit sat down and began to discuss the possibility of setting up some new program, under the pattern of cooperation, maybe a new missile or a new part for an old missile, and the Soviets would wind up saying this is contrary to the INF agreement.

In addition to that, as I said, that language had been approved. Congress was used to it, they had seen the language before. The Soviet began to probe. Maybe we could add something else that could meet these concerns of ours.

The American visitor said, “Well, what about adding the word ‘undertakings’ to this?” That we would not engage in any activities or undertakings which would not be consistent with the treaty. Something like that.

I said to the visitor, quietly, “That’s an awful word. We can’t use that.”

And the visitor said, “I know what I am doing.” So it stayed in there.

I went back to the office, I saw our lawyer, again. I told her about this and she said, “Oh my gosh.” I said, “Look, we are going to have to find a way around this.”

She said, “Go back in the afternoon and try to get Obukhov to back off of this.” I said, “I’ll try.” I did but I didn’t have much hope for that.

The next thing I did, however, before I went back down to the afternoon meeting, was to get a hold of a thesaurus, and look up the word ‘undertakings.’ As I suspected, it had five different meanings. And it’s not all bad. It went from a discussion or undertaking as something you arrive at over a cup of coffee, to something very formal, like an act. Like the Helsinki Final Act [which established the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, CSCE, in 1975].

I called in our interpreter, our head translator, Dmitri Erensburger. I said, “Dmitri, see this word? Here is the thesaurus. See this English version of it? Please find a Russian word that equates to this very formal activity. I don’t want it to be loose; it has got to be a very formal activity, something like the Formal Act of Helsinki.” He said, “I will try.”

He came back and he said, “I found a Russian word which equates to something like an undertaking, something like the Final Act of Helsinki.” I said, “Good.”

He said, “It’s an archaic word.”

I said, “It’s in the dictionary?” “Yes, it’s in the great Bolshoi Dictionary.” I said, “Fine. When the time comes to translate from English into Russian, we must have that word in Russian.” I said, “Don’t give in on that point.”

And he didn’t. And at the end, the very last thing Obukhov said to me, of substance, was “You have your Russian word.”

This issue came up frequently enough during the hearings, I was asked about it. “Why did you get something new here? What is this new word?”

I was just able to say, “Yes it’s a new word, it was placed there, but here is how I dealt with it. I found a Russian word that equates to a formal act, and therefore it cannot apply to just some general conversation.

And subsequently, one of the Senators came up to me and said, because we had to turn over all of our transcripts to them, “I understand what you did. I see what happened. And why you did what you did.” So that was the last thing we settled. The next morning we arranged to take the Soviets, Obukhov, General Medvedev, and one of their secretaries, along with their computer on the Air Force plane with us. It was cleared, we could do that.

“Ankley had been in Vietnam and he said this was closest, in terms of stress, he’d ever been to combat”

As we left Geneva at least officially for the last time, the whole delegation piled in the buses and we left for the airport. Before leaving, I went up to the office that I occupied and the floor that we were on; it was filled with plastic bags of leftover pizzas and so on. I got to the point I ate so many pizzas during that period that I couldn’t eat pizza for months afterwards.

And all of us, I mentioned I got to a point where I wasn’t feeling well; every one of us had sleep deprivation. I called a doctor over at one point, and he said, “It’s nothing, you are just exhausted.” That’s when I pulled myself out of it for a bit.

But I noticed I wasn’t eating. The guys all said after, the reason there were all these empty pizzas and stuff, most of the folks figured those of us who were over 40 or 50, the younger ones were fine, just stopped eating. We were working 24-hours a day, day after day, and it was a strange phenomenon. I couldn’t look at food. It’s quickly ended, that phenomenon.

But in any case, there were all these mounds of stuff that we threw out. The shredding machine was working overtime. It was a bit like a disaster zone that we had left behind us.

We had sent over to us the treaty paper. Beautiful, fine, meant to last, paper. The Department of State, I guess, hadn’t really prepared for this negotiation, so they didn’t have a lot of paper available, but they sent us all they had. And we made it through with the paper on hand.

We did start initialing the treaties that night instead of going to bed and getting up at four, we went ahead and initialed the treaty. People were taking pictures at the time, and I never got one. Jeff Ankley went ahead and bought a bunch of pens, INF treaty pens, which he handed out. I was using them. I would sign with the pen and then hand it back to the folks. Good move on his part.

Ankley had been in Vietnam and he said this was closest, in terms of stress, the closest he’d ever been to combat. On the airplane as we flew back, we initialed some of the annexes. One of them we began over Chartres and the pilot sent back to say here is where you are as you initial this.

We flew back with the Soviets, after a bit everybody went to sleep, including the Soviets. They were hoping to arrive before Gorbachev, but we didn’t. His plane landed just before ours at Andrews [Air Force Base in Maryland]. I guess the Soviets wanted to be there to meet him when he arrived.

At the end of the flight, we get near Andrews, and I mentioned the Soviets brought along the secretary. It was the first time any of us had laid any eyes on the Soviet staff. We always would invite everybody to functions, but they only invited the officers, not the staff. Anyway, this was a nice young lady. They also brought with them their computer.

It was in a box, tied up with the most magnificent knots. Everyone commented on what a beautiful way they tied it together with these knots. I guess, we had already moved to floppy disks and they had not gotten to that stage. They basically had to bring their computer; it was the hard drive, and a good size box.

Anyway, as we approached Andrews, a little before landing, the Soviets were awake and suddenly a pillow fight broke out among the Americans. And the Soviets were wondering, “What the heck are these guys and gals up to?”

Ratification — “It took both diplomacy and the potential of force”

But anyway, the plane came down and that leaves us with a very long ratification process and then we are finished with this. The treaty was set to come up for hearings very soon after we arrived there, after Christmas. It wasn’t until May, I forget the exact date, when the treaty was finally accepted by the Senate. I spent full time on that….

The President had me over for the signing of the treaty and other things like that. I felt good about it. I was given an office up on the Hill. The hearings usually begin with the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and other principle speakers on the U.S. side, and then the negotiators go next. We had to meet with both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee.

I felt pretty much in command of the subject, frankly. So I was reasonably comfortable going through this. There were a couple of times when it got a little difficult early on, but most of the questions we had anticipated.

The toughest group of questions was from Senator [Dan] Quayle. During the hearings Senator Quayle began to talk about systems that could be considered INF systems, and he made reference to some of them, and they sounded like what are called “black systems,” systems that are not covered under the normal course of business. They are not in the budget, they are like the U2. It was a black system before it came out and the people learned about it.

I had no idea what he was talking about….

He kept going after it and eventually got into a long argument about what is a weapon. Of course, the other senators joined in. I finally said to Senator Quayle, “there is a simple definition.” He then asked, “Why didn’t you define a weapon?” I said, “Look, we can’t define it. It’s a commonly understood word, international law permits that, commonly understood words. If you start getting into that, you’ll end up having to attach Roget’s unabridged Thesaurus and the Great Soviet encyclopedia, as annex to the treaty so you can define every word.”…

It was a difficult moment. The treaty was ratified; there were only five who voted against. We had a very good outcome in terms of support for which we were appreciative.

To wrap it up, I would give Gorbachev the last word. In his memoirs, he says it was the INF treaty that made it all possible afterwards. That’s what ended the Cold War. It was the last battle, and we ended it.

If we had not succeeded, God knows what we would be facing today. It might not be NATO any longer; it might have turned out very badly. But we did it. It took both diplomacy and the potential of force. You couldn’t do without it.

And that’s again where the peace movement, I felt, had missed the point. The Soviets were not going to give us something for nothing. We had to prove, to demonstrate on the ground that we could get the missiles in, that NATO was going to do this. That made the difference.

All of the logic in the world won’t help you if you can’t, in fact, carry this thing out. We wouldn’t be where we are now if it hadn’t been for the treaty coming out, the whole activity, not just the treaty coming out where it did.