...The armageddon threat has diminished....And techniques for countering
the accidents in Russia or the deliberate use by a proliferator like Saddam
Hussein are different than the ways we dealt with the threat of armageddon
between the Soviet Union and United States.
What happens to the arms control agreements?
The arms control agreements that we're dealing with today are almost irrelevant
to these two problems. The arms control agreements are irrelevant today because
they're too small and too slow. We have an agreement on the table now, START
II. It's been there for six years. Our Senate ratified it three years ago. A
year and a half ago, President Clinton and President Yeltsin agreed at
Yeltsin's request that we slide the completion date five years, to the end of
2007, because Russia couldn't meet the timetable. The Russian Duma last month
said, "We are again, for about the sixth time, postponing consideration of the
treaty until next April." They don't want to pass this treaty because it's not
a good treaty from their point of view. So the treaty is probably dead. If
they pass it, they're going to pass it with reservations, I believe, about
ballistic missile defenses. And the President [in] the last few days has said,
"We're going to build missile defenses." So there's a head-on [collision]
coming here. And if they pass the treaty with a reservation about ballistic
missile defenses, the Senate won't re-ratify it because...it's changed. But
beyond that, not only just dragging on interminably, it takes until 2007 to
But we'd be down to 3,500 weapons by then. Wouldn't that be preferable to
each side pointing the number that we're pointing at each other now?
That's the second problem with the treaty. It's too small. 3,500 doesn't get
us very far....And 3,500 is a phony number....We've got to get the
American public informed that the treaty does not take us down to 3,500
weapons. It does not, as the President said in his speech to the Congress,
take us down -- or he said START III, the next treaty -- would take us down to 80
percent of the Cold War levels. That is not true. The treaty has loopholes in
Number one, it only counts weapons, warheads that are mounted on delivery
vehicles, on missiles. And we have said quite publicly that if we allowed
3,500 mounted on vehicles, we're going to keep 3,500 spares. Now, they can be
mounted on those same vehicles with multiple warheads. The treaty does not
even touch what are called tactical nuclear weapons, smaller ones that are used
in artillery shells or by aircraft....But those weapons are not included in
the treaty. And we have said quite publicly, we're going to keep 3,000 of
those. You add that up: 3,500 real, 3,500 spares, 3,000 tacticals; you've got
10,000 weapons at the end of the year 2007 if the START II treaty is ever
passed. And if you would do a START III and get you down to 1,000, which is
very optimistic, and you have another 1,000 spares, and you have another 500
tacticals, you've still got an immense number of these weapons....
We cannot go to the world and say, "We're against the proliferation of these
weapons, and we want you to give up commercial advantage and not sell things to
Iran and Iraq and North Korea," if we sit here with a policy that, 9 years from
now, we're going to have 10,000 weapons, and a policy that we'll use them first
if it's in our best interest to do so. How can you look anyone in the eye and
say, "We, the most powerful nation in the world, need this, but you don't need
You're in favor of a national missile defense?
I'm in favor of national missile defense, as long as we don't get carried away
and think we're going to have an impervious shield over this country [that
will] just completely take care of all these problems, because technically that
doesn't look feasible. Even if the technicians were able to promise us a
perfect shield, like President Reagan hypothesized, I would not count on it.
Not because of technology, because of what the German strategist Clausewitz
told us over 150 years ago: There is always friction in war. Things don't go
the way you plan. Something happens. A transistor breaks down. Somebody
doesn't push the right button. The weather interferes. The enemy does
something you didn't expect. So you never count on perfection. And with
nuclear defenses, or defenses against nuclear attack, you've got to have
more about turner...
How relevant are any of the arms control treaties that we've signed with the
Soviet Union and with the former Soviet Union at this point?
Well, it's a good question about whether arms control as we knew it during the
cold war is over. We have a holdover agreement from the cold war, START II,
that the Russian parliament has refused to ratify for years and years and years
now. That has stalled the whole process of strategic disarmament, to the great
dismay of everyone, including myself. And it may be that the Russian
parliament will never ratify START II. I regret that, if that's the case, but
I think we need to pick ourselves up and move on, because the cause of
containing and controlling the dangerous technology of nuclear weapons has to
go on. And in a way, maybe it will be a good thing, because our thinking is
still tied to those agreements and therefore still tied to the cold war. So
maybe if we realize that we have to enter a new era, we will enter a new
Does that mean you support the idea of National Missile Defense as
articulated by President Clinton and Secretary Cohen last week?
If North Korea obtains a ICBM capability and a nuclear weapons capability, or
Iran or another state of that kind does, then I think we're going to have to
take some steps against it, of which a National Missile Defense will be one.
That's a sad state of affairs if it occurs, but looking ahead, it's reasonable
to predict that they might. In that case, we will need a National Missile
...I've been involved in missile defense programs as a physicist since 1979.
And I can absolutely assure any Russian that the system we build will be lucky
to be able to intercept a North Korean ICBM. It's certainly not going to be
able to intercept all of the Russian ICBMs. So their ability to deliver
nuclear missile warheads to the United States will not be affected by the
National Missile Defense, and that was the essence of the ABM treaty. So if
they're thinking rightly, in technical terms, the Russians shouldn't be worried
about a National Missile Defense.
So this isn't Star Wars we're talking about?
No. This is not Star Wars at all. This is a ground-based limited system that
will, if it's lucky, intercept a few ICBMs from a rogue state. It would stand
no chance against the Russian nuclear arsenal, even after START II or
more about carter...
One of the problems that we have is that the United States and Russia see the
post-cold war world very differently. The United States government basically
concluded: "Well, we won the Cold War. Russia isn't anywhere near as powerful
as we are any more. Russia must understand that." And so all of these old
issues of balance of power, balancing how many warheads there are on each side,
missile defenses, alliances expanding and so on, they shouldn't really matter
that much to Russia because they know we're not going to attack, so it's not
really a big issue. And we pursued all those policies, thinking that the
Russians wouldn't see them as big issues.
Whereas from the Russian point of view, they felt weak, and they saw our
strength growing, and they saw that as a conscious effort on our part to seize
superiority while they were weak, and wanted all of the trappings of superpower
equality that they had had in the old days in the arms control world. And our
unwillingness to provide those trappings or to understand their need for them,
or how they saw it from their perspective, that they really saw a threat to
their security from us, I think, has been part of what has soured the political
relationship so substantially. Because, you know, they look at us and they see
missile defenses maybe getting built. They see unwillingness to reduce our
strategic weapons as fast as they would like to reduce. And they think, "Well,
why do they want to keep hold of all those strategic weapons?" They see us
expanding NATO in their direction, and then refusing to offer any kind of
legally binding commitment that we won't even move nuclear weapons into those
new NATO states, closer to their border. They see us continuing to talk about
expanding NATO even further, maybe right up to their very borders, and maybe
not offering any assurances that nuclear weapons won't be put into those states
either. And they look at all of these things, while looking at their own
strategic forces, which are in a terrible state -- hardly any of them on alert at
any given time, terribly vulnerable to a possible attack -- and they say, "We're
in a very vulnerable military situation."
And if the shoe were on the other foot, I think you would see some very great
concern in the United States as well. I think it's very unlikely, as a Russian
colleague pointed out to me, that if the shoe were on the other foot, that the
US Senate would ratify START II, if our strategic situations were reversed.
Nonetheless, I think START II is very much in Russia's interest to ratify, and
I hope they do ratify it. But I think the politics would be so difficult if we
faced the kind of situation the Russians face. I find it hard to imagine how
you could get START II ratified in that situation....
Does it matter? Stan Turner last week said that because of the shift in the
balance of power, arms control agreements have been made irrelevant. We can do
pretty much what we want.
I think that's just wrong. I think it's very important to have a verified,
controlled reduction in the number of nuclear weapons on both sides, to make
sure we understand how many nuclear weapons there are, how many of them are
still on alert and pointed toward us, where are the rest of them, what's being
done with all of them. I think that's very, very critical, and that arms
control can play a very important role in making that happen.
more about bunn...
What is the status of START now in Russia?
Well, there were big hopes in December of last year [that] the State Duma would
ratify START II. Everything was ready for that to happen. However, the strikes
delivered by the United States and Britain on Iraq moved this issue some time
into the future. Now, we are trying to prove to our deputies that that should
in no way be in the way of ratification of START II, [but] vice versa, the
strikes should speed up the ratification, but it is a very hard thing to do.
Can you describe for us the fight you face in trying to persuade the
deputies that this is a good idea in light of the current political situation?
We have had this debate for almost six years in Russia. We are trying to
convince the deputies that this treaty is in the interest of Russia because it
would provide for a nuclear balance between Russia and the United States at a
lower, acceptable level which would be economically advantageous to Russia. And
that balance is necessary, not in order to deter United States from attack, but
in order deter any kind of new confrontation or a new arms race. However,
without this treaty, the START II treaty, this balance will not be achieved.
Furthermore, we should start thinking about START III, and the President has
already negotiated that. That is why the usual set of arguments that are put
forward by those who are opposed to START II agreement are really groundless
and they have nothing whatsoever in common with the positive results that this
treaty is going to bring or is supposed to bring about....
What are the arguments that the opposition is putting forth against START?
Well, you really cannot say that in a few words. I actually have a paper that
deals with these arguments in detail. There are about eight to ten major
arguments such as, for example, the opponents say that this treaty is going to
cause a collapse of the structure of the nuclear forces of Russia. The
opponents also say that the United States is going to have a much great[er]...
ability to increase and build up its nuclear forces compared to Russia. So, I
go through these arguments in much detail and I prove that they are groundless
as something that can be used against the ratification, but you know that the
Parliament is a Parliament. There is not much you can do. But, now we probably
say of course that we do have democracy. But, I can tell you that if we still
had the totalitarian regime, we would have ratified this treaty ahead of you....
more about dvorkin...
What are the Russian concerns that are stalling the ratification of START
...The Duma has three primary concerns about the ratification of
START II. The number one concern is our breakout of the ABM treaty. The
Russians are paranoid that we will come up with that golden beebee that would
negate any kind of Russian capability....The President, I think, did the
exactly right thing in giving Yeltsin a heads-up a day or two before the State
of the Union message, that this was going to be in his State of the Union
address....But I will tell you, this is going to be a tough one, pursuing
this National Missile Defense System. The Russians are going to take this with
a great deal of emotion, because this is a gut issue with them....
Second, the Duma is very, very much concerned about this upload issue...in
terms of us being able to put more warheads on our missiles. Because when the
Russians go to the START II and START III regimes, they're going to
have missiles that the[re's] no way they can put more warheads on. They're all
going to be single-warheaded missiles. And the third area that the Duma is very
much concerned about in terms of START II ratification is adequate funding
of the Russian nuclear forces. Russian nuclear forces makes Russia a
superpower. I think one of the reasons why the Russians are so heavily involved
in space, manned space. It puts them in that category of "no one else can do
this; therefore we are a superpower."
How important is that to them?
Very important. They're a very proud people. And they fervently believe that
they have a place in the international arena as a superpower. And they're
clinging to some of those bastions from their Soviet days.
more about habiger...