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THE CARTER ADMINISTRATION'S apparent willingness to develop and deploy the mobile MX intercontinental ballistic missile is dangerous and ill-advised. The missile, which is designed to reduce vulnerability of current land-based missiles and give the U.S. so-called "silobusting" capabilities, is extremely expensive, costing from $30-40 billion to develop. Its benefits, however, are dubious, and it poses serious problems for future negotiated arms reductions.
The MX is designed to threaten the residual missile force remaining after a Soviet first strike, thereby deterring the Russians from launching such a strike in the first place. However, since the Soviets could easily neutralize this threat by mobilizing their own land-based missiles, the MX would do little to enhance deterrence. It would be very destabilizing, though. White ostensibly mannufactured for defensive purposes, the MX would bring the U.S. closer to being able to launch a first-strike against the Soviet Union than it has ever been before. Such a move could only be viewed by the Soviets as aggressive, and thus it would hamper future efforts at arms reductions. Another problem is that since the missile would be housed in unmarked underground tunnels, Soviet satellites would be unable to to verify how many missiles the U.S. had in stock. Arms control treaties require such abilities to verify missible levels, so the MX would hamper future arms settlements.
The Carter administration, therefore, should cease development of the MX and direct its efforts instead to obtaining a balanced and stable deterrent through negotiations with the Soviet Union.
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