1979-1989: "Dual Track" Decade - New Weapons, New Talks

Soviet SS-20 Missile
By the late 1970s the Soviet Union had greatly improved its military capabilities. NATO responded in December 1979 by adopting its "Dual Track” policy, under which NATO would modernise its theatre nuclear weapons with U.S. Cruise Missiles and Pershing II missiles to be based in Europe but would also actively seek to negotiate an arms control agreement with the USSR, which if successful would make it unnecessary for NATO to deploy those missiles. The initial result of this decision was a worsening of relations between NATO and the Warsaw Pact rapidly worsened and massive anti-nuclear demonstrations in some NATO countries.
 
Under the leadership of the eighth SACEUR, General Bernard W. Rogers (1979-1997), SHAPE was closely involved with the deployment of Cruise and Pershing Missiles while at the same time working to inform the public about the need for these weapons to counter the growing Soviet military threat. SACEUR Rogers emphasised that NATO's inadequate conventional military forces meant that in the event of a Warsaw Pact attack against Allied Command Europe, NATO would have to quickly resort to use of nuclear weapons. To improve NATO's conventional defence capability, General Rogers advocated the new "Follow-on Forces Attack” (FOFA) Concept, which proposed to counter a Warsaw Pact invasion by making deep conventional attacks against Warsaw Pact second and third echelon forces to prevent them from reaching NATO's defensive positions.
 
SACEUR Bernard W. Rogers

General Rogers also played an important role in negotiating Greece's reintegration of its armed forces into Allied Command Europe in 1980 and the resulting changes in Southern Region command and control arrangements. These issues required protracted and skillful diplomacy and tactful handling of Greek and Turkish interests and concerns.

Following imposition of martial law in Poland in 1981, the long Polish Crisis began, with the Solidarity movement pitted against General Jaruzelski's government. SHAPE provided NATO Headquarters considerable advice about how to respond to the evolving Polish crisis and about what military measures would be necessary in the event of Soviet intervention or civil war in Poland.

Other key SHAPE activities included the production of the first Rapid Reinforcement Concept, SACEUR's Conceptual Military Framework to assist national defence planning, and the ACE Long Term Infrastructure Plan. The latter still underpins many NATO military activities and operations. One very visible piece of long-term infrastructure is the SHAPE Bunker, which was begun in 1980 and completed in 1985. However, SHAPE's most important work during this period was associated with nuclear arms control and improved nuclear plans and procedures. SHAPE helped NATO implement the 1983 "Montebello Decision”, which involved the withdrawal of 1,400 nuclear warheads from Europe, and recommended future ACE nuclear weapons requirements. SHAPE also analysed on NATO's behalf the implications of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) negotiations, which gathered impetus in the mid-1980's as relations between NATO and the Warsaw Pact improved following Mikhail Gorbachev's assumption of power in the Soviet Union. President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev's proposal to eliminate INF missiles evoked strong criticism from SACEUR Roger, who feared that it placed NATO on "the slippery slope of denuclearization” and rendered it more vulnerable to blackmail or attack by the Warsaw Pact. SACEUR Rogers' opposition to the proposed INF agreement played a major role in his retirement in 1987.

 

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