Leaders from both nations and around the world initially hailed the summit at Vladivostok as a significant diplomatic success. The conference allowed Ford and Brezhnev the chance to discuss face-to-face concerns important to U.S.-Soviet relations including the situation in the Middle East, which both recognized as an intrinsically dangerous area. By far the most important issue at the Vladivostok Meeting, however, was the curtailment of the burgeoning nuclear arms race. By the end of the meeting, Ford and Brezhnev had arrived at a preliminary, nonbinding framework on which to base a future arms control agreement. The two leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to continued peaceful coexistence and détente.
The Vladivostok summit built on earlier arms control agreements, including the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) Interim Agreement, both signed in May 1972. The summit sought to redress inequalities in SALT I while promoting a new program to replace it when it expired in 1979. Fundamental to this was the difficult task of balancing the asymmetrical strategic forces of both sides. The draft produced at Vladivostok focused on a number of concrete issues. At the heart of the joint agreement was the overall ceiling of 2,400 placed on all nuclear delivery systems. An absolute and mutual limit of 313 heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) was also part of the preliminary agreement. In addition, the talks included a ceiling on the number of multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles (MIRVs) as well as limits on the construction of new missile silos.
While these preliminary agreements received an enthusiastic response in the Soviet Union, American critics from both sides of the political spectrum pointed to several perceived flaws. On the strategic side, they noted the unfair advantage the treaty would give to the Soviet Union by excluding its intercontinental Backfire bomber. Opponents also groused about the limited ability to monitor and enforce the agreements. Other critics attacked the framework for not placing sufficiently stringent limits on the development of new weapons systems, thus shifting the nuclear rivalry into a different but equally expensive and dangerous competition for better delivery technology.
Talbott, Strobe. Endgame: The Inside Story of Salt II. New York: HarperCollins, 1979.; Wolfe, Thomas W. The SALT Experience. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1979.