Would we have used nuclear weapons if we had to?|
I'm not sure we would have, but it was an implied threat. It was not a direct
threat. I didn't use the term "nuclear weapons." It was an implied threat that
we wanted to lay out there, just so they would have to think about it. Whether
President Bush ever would have used tactical nuclear weapons in the event of a
chemical attack on our forces, I just don't know. Our forces were pretty well
protected against chemical weapons, perhaps less well protected against
When fighting a war against another nation, there is an ability to control
the use of biological weaponry. That's not the case if one's dealing with
No. The terrorist threat from biological weapons, of course, is one that is far
more difficult to counter [than] let's say, weapons of mass destruction of
your own. If it's a state-to-state conflict, it's much easier in that regard.
But if it's a terrorist group, it's pretty hard to talk in terms of using
weapons of mass destruction against a small group, even though they may have
used weapons of mass destruction for terrorism purposes. And you have the added
problem of where are they, and how do you get to them, and who are they, and
that sort of thing.
The question of that fear, of the use of biological weapons in a domestic
situation, did that ever come up in cabinet meetings or think tank discussions?
Well, terrorism was one of the serious foreign policy challenges facing the
country, back even when I was secretary of state and before. In fact, my
predecessor, George Schultz, made terrorism quite an important policy goal and
issue in his tenure for the six years of the Reagan presidency. We had
terrorism right at the top of our agenda. I don't remember that we spent a lot
of time talking about antidotes, for instance, to biological weapons terrorism.
At that time, the risk of the proliferation of biological weapons to terrorist
groups was not as great perhaps as it is today. There was a proliferation risk
to countries, but not so much to terrorist groups as there is today.
Are we in a different world today with different fears and a different
threat when it comes to the potential use of massive destructive weapons by
...The proliferation risk today is far greater. With the end of the Cold War,
you had the collapse of Communism; the implosion of the Soviet Union; and you
had the brain drain problem, particular with respect to nuclear, but also with
respect to chemical and biological. So [it's] probably easier today than it was
in the past for terrorist groups to access, particularly, biological weapons of
mass destruction or the technology.
So looking back at it with the perspective that you have of many years in
high office, is our country ready to deal with that new threat?
We're as ready to deal with that new threat as any country in the world. But
whether or not we have the vaccines, the protective programs, the antidotes and
things like that, readily available to all Americans wherever they are in the
world, we probably don't. It would be extraordinarily difficult to do that for
each and every potential biological weapon. We are now inoculating our military
against anthrax, because we know anthrax is a biological weapon capability that
many countries have.
Bio-terrorism, in the end, turns out to be a local problem. It's the cops,
the firemen, the emergency rooms in a local city that eventually would have to
deal with the beginnings of an outbreak. But what role should Washington take
in a scenario like that?
I think the proper role for Washington, in terms of fighting bio-terrorism, for
instance, is to first of all try and control the proliferation of the product,
the proliferation of the weapons. Then to pursue a policy at the highest levels
of the United States government that makes a few rules and principles clear.
One, we don't negotiate with terrorists. Two, that any terrorist act against
Americans or the United States will be met with a retaliation, that it will be
prompt, swift and sure, and there won't be any messing around with it. These
are the kinds of things that I think Washington can do.
Now, should we have a civil defense program against bio-terrorism, the way we
did [with] the nuclear air raid drills that school kids went through when I was
growing up? I don't know whether the risk is that great now, or whether any
such program would be effective. [I] probably would have real questions about
whether it would be effective.
What were the first signs that you remember, that there was possibility that
the Soviet Union was cheating on the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention?
The first signs that I recall hearing about or seeing that the Soviets might be
cheating on the Biological Weapons Convention came to me shortly after I became
secretary of state in 1989. And they came from our intelligence agencies, or
perhaps from some of our military intelligence agencies ... our people were of
the view that the Soviets were indeed cheating on the Biological Weapons
Convention, that they had facilities in which they were making offensive
biological weapons or developing an offensive biological weapons capability.
They wanted us to raise this in high-level political meetings with Soviets. And
we began to do so. I can't give you the exact date when that happened, but
probably some time in late 1990, in early 1991. I have a vague recollection
that I raised the issue of biological weapons with Eduard Shevardnadze, who was
then the foreign minister of the Soviet Union, in an automobile as we were
driving out of Moscow ... and I raised the issue with him because we were alone
... it was a private forum, and I had been asked to raise it, a very sensitive
issue, by our intelligence agencies.
My further recollection is that he said [that] he didn't think that could be
so, but that he would be glad to check it out. I have a further recollection
that at some point after that, he came to me and he said that they were
distressed and embarrassed to learn that indeed there were some biological
weapons facilities or capabilities that were being developed. I remember
specifically the name Biopreparat as being the facility that I was asked to
discuss with him.
Did he make excuses? Did he acknowledge the fact that they had broken the
treaty with us?
I don't recall Shevardnadze saying, "We've broken the treaty." I think I recall
him saying, "We've checked into this, and we are distressed to learn or
embarrassed to learn that there has indeed been some activity going on. It's
going to cease, and you may inspect the facilities." At some later date, I
think we were given access to these Biopreparat facilities.
How surprising was it that the leaders of the Soviet Union were unaware of
an amazingly large and destructive program, that not only dealt in mass
destructive types of weaponry that were targeted on the United States, but was
also breaking a major treaty that they had arranged and signed with you?
Well, I think it's a matter of serious concern whenever the top political
leadership of a country is kept in the dark about something that the military
or intelligence agencies are doing. Unfortunately, it happens sometimes. To say
that Shevardnadze was not in the loop, so to speak, on that [issue] doesn't
necessarily mean that the top levels of the Soviet system were not [in the
loop]. I mean, he may very well have been kept in the dark by the military and
by the intelligence agencies. I remember on a number of occasions discussing
very sensitive arms control issues with him, where it became apparent that ...
[he] had not been brought into the loop. So it's not, I suppose, too
surprising. But I happened to believe Shevardnadze. I found him always to be
someone I could trust and someone whose word, in every instance that I dealt
with him, was good. So I have to believe that he was indeed kept in the dark.
It is indeed scary when that happens, but it does happen from time to time.
What about Gorbachev? Can you imagine that he was also kept in the dark on
I really don't have the answer to that, because I tend to believe that it is
possible and that is scary. But I really just don't know ... there have been
instances where the political leadership in the United States, at some levels,
and in particularly the foreign ministry, has been kept in the dark on some
actions that the White House might or might not decide they want to do. And
generally speaking, that always is a mistake.
Does this match up with the impressions that you had of how the Soviet
government was being run, that a military program would keep the political side
of the government in the dark, because it was none of their business?
This does not match up to my idea of the way the Soviet Union was run or was
being run, certainly should be run, because the army and the military,
generally speaking, never take part in politics, haven't taken part in politics
in Russia. They generally defer to the civilian political leadership. But for
them to protect a specific and particular program that is of great value, they
think, to them--that, I suppose, is understandable. Scary, but
The Cold War ending was actually an amazing piece of history, but it has in
some ways a strange and unexpected byproduct, which is the fact that the Cold
War did to some extent keep the weapons of mass destruction bottled up. Do you
I do believe that the Cold War kept weapons of mass destruction to some extent
bottled up. As I indicated earlier, the proliferation risk today is greater
than it was when the Cold War was at its height, because ... you had the Soviet
Union sitting there, and they were going to determine they could make the
decisions with respect to proliferation, and they didn't want to see the
proliferation to other nations within their orbit. The United States, Britain,
France didn't want to see (we're talking now about nuclear) proliferation
within the other orbit. And so you didn't have it.
Today you have the risk of brain drain with the Soviet Union splitting up into
13 different independent nations, and a lot of unemployed biological weapons
people and a lot of unemployed nuclear weapons people who can't make a living,
and so they're going to be receptive to the first offer.
Can you tell us about your meeting with Yeltsin in 1992? What came out of it
and why it came about?
I really don't remember why I happened to be in Moscow at that time. It was a
critical time. The Soviet Union had just imploded. The Russian government was
being led by Boris Yeltsin, who had been the prior president. They had taken
the Soviet Union's seat at the United Nations, formed the Commonwealth of
Independent States. Clearly, they were the most powerful surviving country of
the former Soviet Union, and it was important that we deal with them and that
we meet with them. We had seen Yeltsin (properly so, in my opinion) as a
reformer, one who wanted to move Russia toward democracy and free markets.
[He's] having a lot of trouble doing so, even as we speak, but nevertheless
committed to that course. And it was to some extent therefore a new day. We
negotiated ,in a very short period of time, a brand new Strategic Arms
Reduction Treaty, START-2, which took the nuclear weapons of both the Soviet
Union and the United States down to 3,500 warheads on each side, a rather
dramatic reduction in nuclear weapons. This is something that Yeltsin, (he was
at that time a strong leader of the Russian Federation) was able to negotiate
with us. It was a very good treaty.
But during the course of that January meeting with him, I think he was sort of
letting us know it was going to be a new day of complete cooperation; that he
wanted the relationship between the United States and Russia to be extremely
close. He was in effect fessing up and saying, "Look, I have found out since I
came into this job that we've been breaking the Biological Weapons Convention.
And you know it. It's going to cease. We're going to stop it. We've been
dealing in offensive biological weapons."
Did they stop it?
I don't know whether they stopped it or not. I think that he issued some
orders, but I have no way, sitting here today, to tell you whether they stopped
it or not. You may have concluded from other sources that either they did or
didn't. I just don't know. I was in office only for another six months [or]
In the world today, we are a very important ally of the Russians. Can you
explain why we cannot push them to at least allow us to define whether anything
else is going on as far as biological weaponry and their military facilities,
or that we can possibly take a look at their lists of scientists, so that some
of these people can be tracked if they are not tracking themselves?
There's no excuse for that. If we are ponying up the kind of money we're
ponying up through the IMF [International Monetary Fund], and we're doing all
the things we're doing to support that government in Russia, there is
absolutely no excuse if they are, in fact, and I don't know this, denying us
access to military sites that we suspect are being used for the development of
offensive biological weapons. There's no excuse for that.
No excuse in what way?
Well, there's no excuse if they are in fact breaching a treaty that they've
signed with the United States and a lot of other nations ... but if they are
saying, "You can't come in here," then we should maybe be pursuing these other
issues in a different way. Not ponying up the kind of economic support and so
forth that we're putting together.
What rights do we have in this situation, with our relationship that we have
with Russia now, to make sure that we feel secure about the allegations being
made by their own scientists and others that something might still be going on?
How much should Washington push them?
I don't know the facts here. But I think Washington could be very, very strong.
They [Russia] need us. We want to see reform succeed in Russia. We have a big
stake in seeing that happen. But we also have a big stake in making sure that
they follow through and perform the agreements that they've made with us. For
them to be cheating on biological weapons, if they are (and I don't know they
are; you've suggested they are), that's no different than cheating on nuclear
weapons, on the agreements we have with them on nuclear weapons. If we have
suspicions of that, and if they are well grounded suspicions, we should be
pushing very hard.