NATO Double-Track Decision

The NATO Double-Track Decision is the decision of NATO from December 12, 1979, to offer the Warsaw Pact a mutual limitation of medium-range ballistic missiles and intermediate-range ballistic missiles combined with the threat that in case of disagreement NATO would deploy more middle-range nuclear weapons in Western Europe, following the so-called "Euromissile Crisis".


The détente between the United States and the Soviet Union culminated in the signing of the SALT I (1972) and SALT II (1979) agreements, which placed constraints on further developments in nuclear capacities.

The SALT agreements were not intended to be considered a form of mutual arms control but merely referred to strategic carrier systems and their warheads, which did not include any tactical nuclear weapons, such as nuclear bombs delivered by bombers or midrange missiles (MRBMs & IRBMs).


The decision was prompted by the continuing military build-up of Warsaw Pact countries, particularly the Warsaw Pact's growing capability in nuclear systems threatening Western Europe. Of special concern was the growth of long-range theatre nuclear forces, with the SS-20 missile and the 'Backfire' bomber singled out for particular concern.

The European NATO members saw in the mobile launching platform-mounted SS-20 missiles no less a threat than the strategic intercontinental missiles, and on December 12, 1979, took on the so-called NATO Double-Track Decision. This decision intended the deployment of 572 equally mobile American middle-range missiles (Pershing II and Gryphon BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missile) to rebuild the state of Mutual Assured Destruction. NATO offered immediate negotiations with the goal to ban nuclear armed middle-range missiles from Europe completely, with the provision that the same missiles could be installed four years later if negotiations failed. The Soviets were critical that neither French nor British nuclear weapons were considered in this treaty.

The disarmament negotiations which started on November 30, 1981, remained without conclusion. The German Bundestag agreed to the deployment in 1983, whereupon the Soviet Union aborted the negotiations.

On December 8, 1987, the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. It provided for the destruction of all middle range weapons and ended this episode of the Cold War.

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