The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) has published a note on President Reagan’s “Star Wars” antiballistic missile initiative on the 40th anniversary of its proposal on March 23, 1983. It quotes several people who were involved in the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) including me. The note says:

On March 23rd, 1983, President Ronald Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative, signaling a massive paradigm shift in U.S. policy on nuclear policy. Dubbed “Star Wars” after the 1977 movie, SDI represented Reagan’s rejection of Mutual Assured Destruction. MAD had fostered an uneasy peace during the Cold War as neither the U.S. nor the USSR attacked the other knowing that it would in turn be the target of a massive nuclear retaliation annihilating it (and much of the planet). By extension, so the argument went, a weapons system that could deflect most of an opponent’s nuclear barrage would undermine MAD by making that country feel more protected and thus potentially more likely to at least consider launching an offensive attack.

For that reason, many in U.S. government, including high-ranking officials at the State and Defense Departments, did not support SDI; they were also not consulted before the surprise announcement. As designed, SDI would use space-based lasers, particle beams, satellites, and other “space-age” weapons, in contravention of the Treaty on Outer Space, to shoot down ballistic missiles before they reached their targets. Given its utter complexity and reliance on unproven technology, SDI was viewed by many as unrealistic. Nevertheless, the announcement sent shock waves throughout the world.

This account was compiled from interviews done by Charles Stuart Kennedy with:  James W. Chamberlin in 1997, a Special Assistant in Space Matter for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA); Aloysius M. O’Neill in 2008, a member of the State Department’s Office of Strategic Technology Affairs; Philip Merrill in 1997, a Defense Department Counselor; Ambassador Thomas M. T. Niles in 1998, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs; Roger G. Harrison in 2001, the Political-Military Counselor in London.

Craig Dunkerley, who handled NATO issues in the State Department’s European Affairs Bureau, was interviewed in 2004; Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci was interviewed in 1997; Dr. William Lloyd Stearman, a member of the National Security Council, in 1992; and Ambassador Rudolph V. Perina, a political officer at the U.S. Mission NATO in Brussels, interviewed in 2006. Also used is the account of Ambassador Maynard Wayne Glitman, Deputy Negotiator on the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty negotiations, who was interviewed by James S. Pacy in 2001.

Read other Moments dealing with negotiations and with the USSR/Russia.

“SDI was based on President Reagan’s very deep aversion to nuclear weapons”

CHAMBERLIN: Star Wars, SDI, or the Strategic Defense Initiative was intended to defend the U.S. from missile attack, particularly from the Soviet Union. It envisaged a very sophisticated system that would stop thousands of missiles within only a few minutes after launch, detection and warning. It was a clear violation of the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) treaty. It was the bane of my existence….It was a serious threat to the ABM treaty, as well as the Treaty on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

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