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interview: general eugene habiger

He recently retired from the U.S. Air Force at the rank of a four-star general. His final assignment was as the top U.S. nuclear commander at Stratcom, the command and control center for U.S. strategic weapons. He was a B-52 pilot and served in Vietnam where he flew comabt missions. He was among the first few high-ranking U.S officers to tour top-secret nuclear facilities in Russia.

Do you remember where you were when the Cold War ended, when you heard that the Berlin Wall had fallen?

Well, that's a good question. I don't remember where I was when the Cold War ended, because when did the Cold War end? I think the historians are still trying to sort that one out. Did it end when the Berlin Wall came down? Did it end when the former Soviet Union fell apart ... ? Did it end when the first democratic elections in the history of Russia took place in 1996? The Cold War was a bizarre war in many, many respects. It certainly didn't end like World War II, where people were kissing in the streets in Times Square. And because the war ended like it did, it fizzled. It did not end with a great event like the dropping of nuclear weapons in Japan, or the defeat of Hitler, or ...general eugene habiger Armistice Day, where the Great War ended. And that's, I think, a reflection of many aspects having to do with the Cold War and the post-Cold War environment. Because after the Great War, World War I, we de-militarized Germany, cut them off at the knees, took all their military forces and their equipment. After World War II, we did the same thing with the Japanese and Germans. Did we do the same thing when the Cold War ended? No. And that's one of the paradoxes. When the Cold War ended, we had the United States and the former Soviet Union with 12,000 nuclear weapons facing each other. Did the winner really win? Did the loser really lose? I mean, we didn't tell the Russians, "Hey, get rid of those nukes." ... And there are many reasons for that. So we've been on a very stable glide path ever since. But to answer your question: Yes, I remember when the Berlin Wall came down. I was a brigadier general in the Pentagon, slaving away on programming issues.

I was actually thinking that when the Soviet Union dissolved was the beginning of the real end. I guess Berlin Wall was a symbolic end. The Soviet Union dissolving militarily, I would imagine, would have been a greater concern for U.S. military forces, precisely because of that nuclear arsenal. Was there concern expressed at that time, that you remember?

No, I don't think so. There was a lot of discussion at some very [high] levels in our government and their government about the post-Cold War environment. There were a lot of initiatives taken when President Bush announced in 1991 that our aircraft would be taken off alert and 450 of our Minuteman II inter-continental ballistic missiles would be taken off alert. And the Russians took some initiatives, too. But I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that the United States certainly has been on the leading edge in terms of initiatives to ease those kinds of nuclear tensions that we saw throughout the Cold War.

And you've actually been at the forefront of some of those, by inviting Russian commanders to walk around inside our missile silos, such as Minister Sergeyev.

In the spring of 1997, I had him come over. ... He [had come] over when Gerald Butler was a commander-in-chief in late 1993, and he went to a Minuteman II base which had been dealerted, but he'd never been to a real operational base. So I took him to Francis E. Warren and showed him everything ... includ[ing] young lieutenants on alert in silos. Took him into a nuclear weapons storage area. That's the first time that had ever been done, that a Russian had been taken into a nuclear weapons storage area. And I showed him a lot, because he'd expressed some concern to me, a few months before his visit, that the United States would be able to upload their missiles, under START II, from [a single warhead] to [multiple warheads]. ... [There was concern in Russia that] we could download, but ... if something were to go wrong in the international arena or our relations with Russia, we'd be able to immediately put two additional warheads on those missiles, and give us a very distinct advantage, obviously ... . So by showing him that when we put that new bulkhead on, there was no way to have anything than just one warhead on it, it eased his concerns. And he told me as we walked out of the facility, he says, "You have given me a great deal of ammunition when I go back and talk to the people in the Duma, that their fears of [America] being able to upload nuclear weapons is unfounded." ...

When you get to know these people, you develop a level of confidence and trust.  So when they look you in the eye and say, 'Okay, Habiger, what youre seeing is representative of our nuclear weapons storage sites,' I believe them. Now, I also wanted to show him the security, because at that time there was a lot of talk about [a lack], perhaps, in the Russian security of their nuclear weapons. So I was able to show him how we've applied a great deal of technology in our security practices, with the hopes that when he reciprocated and went back home, and invited me over, that I'd be able to see some of their facilities and perhaps put to rest ... concerns in this country about the Russian security of nuclear weapons.

What's interesting about that visit is that we discovered quite covertly that General Sergeyev was a big fan of Michael Jordan. And we were able to go to Michael Jordan's front office, a very gracious group of people, and explain that this general from the Russian military was coming over. And sure enough, less than a week later, a box shows up from UPS, addressed to me, and inside is a basketball: "General Sergeyev, best wishes, Michael Jordan." And when I presented that to General Sergeyev, tears came to his eyes--first, that we knew that he was a big fan of Michael Jordan's, and second, that we were able to get a basketball for him. So I'm sure, over the past week, Marshall Sergeyev is a little bit teary eyed that Michael Jordan has decided to retire.

What are the Russian concerns that are stalling the ratification of START II?

... 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. 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.

In 1994, Yeltsin signed an agreement to de-target the arsenals. How important was that? What difference did it make?

It was a confidence builder. And it was the right thing to do. We are no longer on what some have called the hair trigger. It takes the Russians at least ten minutes to re-insert those targets, if something were to happen. Ten minutes is not ten seconds, so we've made progress. ... The analogy I would give to you, is that when the Cold War ended, you had these two boxers, very fierce, capable boxers that were 6'6" tall, facing each other. And they faced each other through the Cold War, never raising their glove to hit one another, but they were capable, with their nuclear forces, and staring at each other, eyeball to eyeball. When the Cold War ended, there they were. They had this tremendous capability, and neither would say, "Okay, let's take off the gloves completely and go to totally non-nuclear kind of environment."

So what we've done since 1991 gone through a number of initiatives, detargeting being one, dealerting and bringing down our forces [being another]. So that we're on a very stable, verifiable glide path. In the height of the Cold War, when these two boxers were facing each other, we had 12,000 nuclear weapons on each side, a horrendous number of weapons. And under START I, we went to 6,000. That's where we're at now. Under START II, we'll go down to 3,000-3,500. And under START III, if the Helsinki accords hold up, we'll go down to somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500. ... And hopefully there will be a START IV and a START V.

But I would submit that it's not going to take the Russians very long to figure out that when you do the math and you go from START III (the 2,000-2,500 number) and you go down to that next level (whatever that next level is), that, "Hey, there are some other players out there that have nuclear weapons, like the French and the Chinese and the Brits," that have to come into the equation. So when we go from the START I, START II, START III bilateral kinds of negotiations, and you go multi-lateral, say, with START IV, it's going to be a very painful process, I think, and it's going to be a very time-consuming process.

What is launch-on-warning?

... The policy was one of inserting a degree of uncertainty into your opponent's eyes about what would really happen if the Russians or the Soviets, for example, were to launch a nuclear attack on the United States. If you plant that seed of uncertainty, such as, "If you launch nuclear weapons missiles at us, we may perhaps retaliate on warning, rather waiting for the nuclear weapons to hit the United States per se." That's the concept.

And it is still the concept that operates on both militaries?

Let me just say that that's the concept. I'd rather not comment on whether it's operational with the Russians or the United States. ...

General Dvorkin mentioned that the Russians still do operate on that, and his understanding was that we still do. He said we're at a point now where we're being held hostage by the technology; the tail is wagging the dog. Do you agree?

I don't know exactly what he's talking about when he says he's captive to technology. There's a lot going on in terms of the Russian warning capabilities, because of lack of robust funding for upgrading some of their systems. One of their long-range radars was in a former republic, and they had to shut that system down here last year. Yes. And so there are some degradations in their warning capabilities that concern the Russians a great deal.

They're also concerning us.

Yes, as they should be. And as a matter of fact, [the U.S.] Deputy Secretary of Defense ... is working some initiatives to perhaps provide the Russians with our warning data so that they would have that and be able to see exactly what was happening.

They announced that in September, at the Moscow summit.

Yes. ...

What's your understanding of how that would work?

Well, there are many different kinds of scenarios you can come up with. Perhaps you beam the information directly to Moscow via satellite. That's very easy to do. Perhaps you put a Russian senior officer at Colorado Springs or at the Strategic Command headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, where they could see that data, that information, with a hotline back to their command and control center. There are lots of ways to do this.

And we're going to put somebody over there?

Well, we certainly could do that, yes.

They said it would be real-time [sharing].


So it would be actually going on all the time.


We're not picking and choosing what data we send. It's real time?

Yes, that's right. ...

That's quite a revolutionary concept for an American military officer to try to wrap his mind around.

Yes. That is a radical concept. But the Cold War's over, you know. And again, we've got to stay on this glide path. And while we're on the glide path, we need to do those kinds of things to build confidence and trust in each other so that we don't have anything stupid or dumb happen.

In 1995, there was a Norwegian rocket launch. The Russian forces supposedly were put on alert and went down to two minutes before they determined it was not an American missile. Is that your understanding of the facts?

No. Not at all. Let me just kind of put it perspective for you. The Norwegians were going to launch this rocket. They were very sensitive about making sure that the Russians knew about it. Any country today that launches a missile puts out what they call a Notice to Airmen--it's through an international aviation organization--so that airplanes don't go flying over where this missile's going to be launched. So the Norwegians did that. ... In addition to that one channel of communication, the Norwegians went through the diplomatic channels to let the Russians know that this was going to happen. So you had two channels of information supposedly going up through the system. Somehow, neither one of those channels got up to their national command center. ...

And the best explanation, and the one that I have absolutely no reason to doubt, is this. Somehow in the bureaucracy, the word about this launch of the Norwegian missile did not reach to the military channels. The missile was launched. The missile was launched from what looked like [to] the Russians where one of our ballistic missile submarines would launch a missile. The general officer on duty saw the indications, went to his checklist. The checklist said, if you have this kind of indication, you let the following people know, including the President and his briefcase.

Once that process was initiated, and within tens of seconds after that process was initiated, before any status change was made to any nuclear force, they determined that this was not a threat to Russia. So no Russian military system was placed on an increased status of alert. And because they'd already initiated the procedures to contact the President, they went through and said, "There is nothing to worry about. We have just had an indication of a launch from Norway, and it is no threat to Russia." ... All they did was activate a communications link.

So it raised no concern in your mind?


Were you concerned at the time, when you first heard about it?

Yes, because I didn't have the facts. We had a series of events in the late seventies and early eighties, here in the United States. There were some glitches in the system that looked like we were under attack. And if you go back and look at what's in the media about those, it'd make the hair on the back of your neck rise up a little bit.

So you have no concern about the security of the Russian nuclear arsenal. Is that accurate?

Based upon what I saw, yes. If you were to ask me, "What's your level of sensitivity today, based upon the fact that there are significant economic problems in Russia?" I would caveat that perhaps a little bit and say, "We need to be sensitive to what's going on in Russia." ... What if we had severe economic problems here in the United States? Perhaps we'd be concerned about our security of our sensitive military forces, if our military people perhaps weren't being paid exactly on the 1st and 15th of every month. Or in Britain, or in France, or in China. So it is something that we need to keep on our radar scopes. But do I see alarm bells going off at this time? No.

It sounds like there's two separate issues--security of the nuclear arsenal, and the early warning radar system. And we're using two different approaches.


Are you as confident in the security of the so-called tactical nuclear weapons, the non-strategic force, as you are in the strategic forces?

Well, the Russians in the spring of 1998 took a revolutionary step that did not get a whole lot of coverage. And that is General Valynkin, who is in charge of the Twelfth Directorate, took over control of the security of all nuclear weapons in Russia. Now, when I talked to him in June, he had control of all nuclear weapons except those in the Strategic Rocket Forces. And he indicated to me that by the end of 1999, or perhaps shortly thereafter, he would have control over those. ... I asked Valynkin, I said, "Why are you doing this? Why are you taking the tactical nukes, the bomber nuclear weapons, the navy nuclear weapons and the ballistic missile nuclear weapons?" He said, "To standardize ... and to make even better a system that is already good." And that makes sense. Now, I would submit that perhaps there were some tactical nuclear weapon storage sites in Russia that maybe weren't quite up to standards, and this is the reason why he got control. ...

You went to Russia right before you retired, last year?


You came back and you handled a rather remarkable press conference at the Pentagon, at which you said, "I want to lay this idea that there are loose nukes running around in Russia to rest." What did you see that made you so confident?

The first trip I made to Russia, where I actually went out into the field--this was my fourth trip, in June--the previous October, I'd been taken to two missile complexes. And at the rail [mobile] base at Kastroma, which is about 350 kilometers northeast of Moscow, they actually took me into a nuclear weapons storage area. They took me into the bunker where the warheads were, and they showed me the security, the door, the three man policy in terms of getting into the facility. They took me into the guard shack, and I actually got to talk to the young, very sharp professional soldiers that were guarding those nuclear weapons. And I was impressed. Again, there was a lot of areas that they could have improved upon, especially with the application of technology. But one of the things that drove us to technology in the late seventies and early eighties was getting rid of manpower to reduce cost. And the Russians, at this particular point in time, have lots of manpower and they don't have the bucks to go out and apply technology to these security issues.

So ... [in October] I went to actually two missile bases, and I saw the security at the second base. But on this trip in June, not only did I go to two entirely different missile bases; I went to a bomber base ... . I went to one of their national storage sites, a place called Saratov. And then they took me up to the North Fleet submarine base at Severomorsk, and I went on a ballistic missile submarine. And at one of the missile bases, the bomber base, the national site, and the navy base, they took me in their nuclear weapons storage sites. And what I saw gave me the realization that they're deadly serious about nuclear weapons security, just as we are. And I would expect nothing less.

General Bill Odom said, "Any general who would make an opinion based on one observation, one trip" --he was referring to your press conference--"Any general knows that you have to go back not once but several times." He was skeptical in that what you saw was in fact they can choose where they want you to go. They can drill their guys before you arrive. How can you be sure that what you saw reflects reality?

Let me set the record straight. When I got back in from that October trip and had that first press conference, I made it very clear that I saw one base, but that I was told that this base was representative of what was going on in Russia with the nuclear weapons security. I made that very, very clear. When I went on this most recent trip in June, I asked if I was being shown the best. If I were just [see]ing the best, how much worse were the worse bases? And the answer I got was that I saw about the middle of the road. There are some bases where some of the security was not quite up to the same standards, but that the disparity was not that great. I was assured by several senior officers--and again, you know, trust and confidence is built on believing people when they look you in the eye and say, "This is what's happening." And again, from what I saw at the bases I went to, the two missile bases, the bomber base, the national storage site, and the navy base, they're doing okay.

When did you first start this series of exchanges with the Russian military?

Well, it goes back with me to 1992, when General Deynekin, the Chief of Staff of the Russian Air Force visited Randolph Air Force Base. And I was the vice-commander of that command. He was a bomber pilot, and we hit it off very, very well. And he invited me back over in, I believe it was '93, to speak to his senior people about how we develop non-commissioned officers, how we manage our enlisted force, because in Russia they have virtually no non-commissioned officer corps. Virtually all the work, significant work, is done by officers. So it began back in the '92 time frame. But my first visit to Russia was with Secretary Cohen, back in 1996, in the fall of 1996. And that's when I accompanied him when he had a meeting with Marshall Sergeyev. ...

So you've developed a relationship with individual officers.

Yes. A large number of representative officers. As a matter of fact, just about a year ago, I had a group of three individuals from our country who are zealots when it comes to the abolition of nuclear weapons, dealerting. ... And [we] had a very heated discussion about the Russians being on a hair trigger. And Bruce Blair said, "Hey, ten seconds, they can launch their missiles." I said, "Bruce, you're wrong. I mean, my intelligence folks tell me it's a minimum of ten minutes, and the Russians have told me that." He said, "Well, you don't know what you're talking about." So I went home fuming that night. Got up early the next morning, went in the office, placed a phone call to the embassy, talked to a Russian interpreter there, a non-commissioned officer, and I said, "Please call the Russian Strategic Rocket Force headquarters and let me talk to their commander-in-chief." He made the call. Commander-in-chief was not available, [so I talked to] an individual that I had gotten to know who is their Chief of Staff a major general, 2-star general. [He] got on the phone ... and I said, "I've got some folks here as visitors that do not understand the way your ICBMs work." And I said, "I want you to tell me, if you can, how long it takes." I didn't want to plant a seed. I said, "How long does it take if you want to re-insert the targets into your systems?" And he says, "Well, it takes a minimum of ten minutes." His precise words was, "Takes more than ten minutes."...

The missile defense lobby will say, "Those Russian generals will tell you whatever they want you to hear. But when it comes down to their security versus your security, they're going to choose their side." Why should we trust them? How can you trust an enemy that has been facing you with 30,000 nuclear weapons for the last 50 years?

But they're no longer our enemy. Again, it gets back to this analogy where we ended the Cold War, the loser really didn't lose, and we're trying to find those ways to get us from 12,000 nuclear weapons down to some very, very low levels. And I think, if you just look at what's gone on in the past eight years, we've made tremendous progress, compared to where we were in 1991.

Given your level of confidence, do we really need a Cooperative Threat Reduction program?

Oh yes, yes. ... [It's] a very expensive program, almost $2 billion we've appropriated in that program. And I understand, having read the State of the Union speech, that we're going to plus up that account. ... Based upon what I've seen, those dollars are doing tremendous things in terms of improving Russian security of their nuclear forces. When I went to Saratov, the national weapons storage site, I saw many indications in fencing and gate systems and televisions systems that those monies are being well spent.

The biggest problem the Russians have today, that they will tell you, with their forces involved with nuclear weapons--and it's a problem endemic across the entire Russian military--[is] in terms of adequate housing for their officers. The Russian system is such that at about the 11-year point in a military officer's career, he's entitled to a flat, an apartment, by law. And the Rocket Forces, they're short about 15,000 housing units. General Valynkin was short about 2,000 housing units. And this is an area that we really need to work on. There's a great deal of negative views on the subject on the Hill, unfortunately, in terms of: Why should we be spending money on Russian housing? But this is a very real problem for the Russians.

Why is it in the U.S.' interest to buy Russian soldiers housing?

It's a mind shift, very much so. But if you want to talk about keeping morale up, that's the single point that was brought home to me by many of the senior officers. ... The Russian officer who has come up through this 11-year point is expecting that flat. ... I think the analogy would be if we were to cut off medical care or severely restrict medical care for our active duty people. That's an entitlement. If we were told that our retirement pay was going to be curtailed drastically, that would cause tremendous morale problems in the United States. Well, the same kind of thing has happened in Russia. ...

What is your worry about the morale?

...The people who deal with nuclear weapons, you go to great lengths to make sure that they're well fed, they're taken care of, that they've got adequate housing, the medical care is good, because they have a special trust, whether you're talking about United States, Britain, France, Chinese, Russians. So when things start happening which erode the morale, sure, you'd better be concerned. You don't want a disgruntled individual out there involved in nuclear weapons. And that's why we have in this country something called the Personnel Reliability Program, where we specifically look, almost in an Orwellian [fashion], where Big Brother is watching each of those several thousand people involved with nuclear weapons to make sure that they've got a full deck they've got their heads on straight. And if you inject a series of inputs which impact morale, you better be concerned, no matter what country you're talking about. So yes. If conditions continue to erode in Russia, it's something we ought to be concerned about. By the same token, the Russians have in place a series of programs to make sure that their people who are dealing with nuclear weapons are mentally prepared and mentally trustworthy to be doing their daily jobs. And if they're not, they don't go to work.

Can you be a little more specific?

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that before any Russian missile crew member goes on duty, whether it's a officer in the control silo or a security individual, that they are interviewed by a medical doctor and a psychiatrist, or psychologist. The doc looks him in the eye and makes sure that somebody's home. And the psychologist talks to him. They take their blood pressure, and you know, they talk to him a little bit. We don't do anything like that. We tend to look at the individual, and if we see something wrong, then we will react. ... We talk to them, but it's not as formal as what the Russians do. Both systems work. ...

And yet we've seen since August, since the collapse of the ruble, a navy sailor who killed five crew members on a submarine, locked himself up in a torpedo bay; incidents of increased problems with suicide and depression among the Strategic Rocket Force documented; an increase in the number of non-combat deaths in the military as a whole. What does this say to you about what's happening to the Russian military?

Well, it tells me that we need to be a little bit concerned about what's going on in Russia, in terms of the economic unrest. It is something that I don't think we ought to start crying "the sky is falling," but it's certainly something we need to keep our eye on ... .

If you were looking at the reports of the Russian military, and instead of "Russia" it said "U.S." what would you be recommending up your chain of command?

I'd be recommending that we maintain the programs we have in place, increase diligence. ...

When the Soviet Union broke up and the Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan were left with their own nuclear forces, that raised the specter of a new threat to the U.S., as another group of mini-superpowers.

That's right. And that's why we very aggressively, under Nunn-Lugar, went in and got those nuclear weapons out of there very, very quickly. The command and control ... [is] a very complex system with a lot of safeguards and a lot of unlocks, if you will, that are required before you can launch a missile or activate the nuclear warhead. The very iron-fisted--no pun intended--control of those nuclear forces in those three former republics, [is] from Moscow. So I don't think there was a concern so much of a launch from one of those republics, as it was of perhaps one of those former republics saying, "Well, I've got the nukes here; I'm just going to kick the Russian crew members who are guarding those facilities and are manning those facilities, kick them out, and we'll become an instant nuclear power." That's why, with Nunn-Lugar money, we went in very, very quickly. And as I recall, by late 1996, we had all the nuclear weapons out of those three former republics.

So they are now nuclear-free?

They have been for over two years.

General Butler advocates a total dealerting and stand down with these weapons as the only way to get rid of the nuclear genie. What's your stand on that?

... The policy of the United States of America, as embodied in the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty, is zero nuclear weapons. But if you read Article 6 of that treaty, it says "under the proper preconditions". The problem is, I don't think we'll ever see the proper preconditions. And that's unfortunate.

Now, dealerting. Again I go back to my analogy. You know: 12,000 nuclear weapons, most of those on alert during the Cold War. Today, under START I, the Russians have about 2,000 nuclear weapons on alert. Under START II, they'll be down to about 1,000 nuclear weapons on alert. Under START III, if all goes [as planned, that number will] be around 700 nuclear weapons. And everybody feels comfortable with that. You don't want to do anything unilaterally that's going to be destabilizing. You don't want to do anything that's going to create uncertainty. So we're on a very adequate, verifiable glide path. ...

We've taken some aggressive steps. Getting back to those 450 Minuteman II's that I mentioned earlier, we unilaterally dealerted those. Gorbachev, when he was here in a press conference, said he was going to do the same thing when he got back home. He never did. There was a revolution. He was thrown out of power. So we unilaterally, for example, dealerted those 450 Minuteman II missiles, with no reciprocal actions on the part of the Russians. As a matter of fact, if you go back and look at every initiative that's been taken since the end of the Cold War--dealerting of airplanes, missiles, command and control airplanes, that sort of thing--the United States has taken, as I recall, about 19 separate initiatives. The Russians have reciprocated in six of those 19. Who won the Cold War?

So you're still not quite trusting.

Oh, I am. I'm trusting. My point is that we, as the winner of the Cold War, have taken extraordinary steps, in my view.

But we don't want to go down to zero?

As I said, we're trying to get down to lower numbers, and we're doing that. And as I said, when you get beyond START III, in my view, it's going to become a multilateral negotiation, and that's going to be a very painful process.

Gen. Dvorkin was also advocating dealerting, in a different sense. He felt there were steps that could be taken to increase the time available. So instead of moving from 10-15 minutes, we'd have weeks or months. The batteries could be removed. There were ways the missiles could be taken apart so that they could be put back together again, but it would give diplomatic efforts more time to work. Do you think that's a good idea?

No. And the reason why I say "no" is that those concepts are very difficult to verify. And once you get into things that you can't verify without very, very intrusive inspection protocols, then the uncertainty grows. And right now, we have virtually no uncertainty.

One of the things that I did when I was in command of Strategic Command was a wall-to-wall review of: What are the things we have to think about as we get to lower and lower numbers? And ... I asked Paul [Robinson who is the director of the Sandia Lab] and his band of very smart people ... that work for him on this committee to go out and look at the policy implications. And he came back with a whole menu of things we need to worry about. The thing that really got my attention is that leverage of cheating as you get to lower and lower numbers. As you get to lower and lower numbers, and as you start doing things like you're talking about or being advocated by Dvorkin or Butler, is that the leverage of cheating takes on a whole new dimension.

What do you mean by "the leverage of cheating?"

If you could put those batteries back in without the other side knowing about it, and then all of a sudden coming up on the Net saying, "Okay, what are you going to do now? We've got the batteries back in our missiles, and now we've got 2,000 warheads on alert. You've got 200. Get on your knees."

So we're still hostage to the nuclear standoff, is what you're telling me.

Only if you go to the outer boundaries of the extremes I'm talking about. And that's the beauty of following the policy we've got going now.

So you're an advocate of deterrence. You believe it works.

For the foreseeable future, yes. But deterrence will take on new meaning as the United States and Russia gets down to lower and lower numbers of weapons. ...

Secretary Cohen has recently announced that we're going to go ahead with National Missile Defense. What do you think that will do to Russian paranoia?

It's going to fan that paranoia. In my discussions with senior Russian military leaders, they're afraid of that golden beebee from a ABM system that will completely negate their nuclear forces. ... 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. ...

Most intelligence people that I speak with are more concerned about tactical nukes, the threat of a rogue state getting fissile material and delivering a bomb to our door via truck or backpack. How concerned are you about that threat?

That's my primary concern. Of all the concerns I had while I was commander-in-chief of Strategic Command, it was a terrorist event using a nuclear device. I didn't say "weapon" but a device. The knowledge is out there on how to build a nuclear device. If you look at what happened the World Trade Center in New York with the conventional bomb, if that had been a nuclear device, and instead of tens of people killed, you get tens of thousands, and you have the nuclear radioactivity in the lower part of Manhattan, I mean, you would have shut down one of our major metropolitan areas. And then, in addition to the horrific things that would go on if a nuclear device were to be used like that, what if, instead of a rogue state setting off that device, you had an independent terrorist group? Now, who do you go retaliate against in that kind of a situation? That's the thing that scared me more than anything else. And then when you bring in the chemical and the biological concerns, I mean, you go back and look at what happened in Tokyo with that religious sect. That was very close to being a major, major disaster. ... And that's the thing that scares me more than anything else. [Now], one of the beauties of the Nunn-Lugar program is to insert lots of money into those areas in Russia where fissile material is stored, to ensure the security of that stuff.

Yeltsin's former Science Advisor, Alexei Yablokov, came to the U.S. last year and testified about suitcase bombs that KGB or somebody was making for terrorist use. Do we know whether these things existed? If so, do the Russians now know where they all are?

Yes, we knew they existed. Suitcase nuclear bomb is, I think, a little optimistic. It's certainly something that ... I would be hard pressed to carry. It's fairly big and it's fairly heavy. The Russians, again from what I saw, go to great lengths in the accountability of their nuclear devices. We are spending a lot of money under Nunn-Lugar to automate that system. Our system is very automated, and we test it on a regular basis. The Russian system is more manpower-intensive. It's pretty much a stubby pencil and a spreadsheet kind of thing. But I was shown how they account for their nuclear weapons. And I was told that these smaller devices are included in that same accountability system. I mean, General Yakoulev took me in his office--General Yakoulev is the commander-in-chief of the Rocket Forces--and showed me an IBM computer screen, and ... Yakoulev can track where every nuclear weapon is in his system by serial number. I couldn't do that from my headquarters. ... If the Russians were as deadly serious about the accountability of the nuclear weapons that I saw and have been involved with, I can only surmise that they have the same concerns with the smaller weapons. There have been a number of Russians that have come over here and thrown a grenade on the table of some of our Congressional committees, saying that there lot of loose suitcase bombs out there. I don't think so. ...

You said you were impressed with the quality of the Russian military officers and their professionalism.


Is that professionalism a sufficient safeguard, given the current economic crisis?

I think it's one of the pillars of the safeguards. What I've found in my dealings with Russian officers--both in the Air Force, the Navy, and the Army--is individuals who are Russians first. They understand the Cold War's over. I saw no indications that they were sour grapes, that they lost the war. They love their motherland. ...

The people who are involved in nuclear weapons are dedicated; they're professional; they're screened. They understand what they're doing. They understand the consequences if they don't do their jobs adequately and at the very best of their ability. They're family-oriented. General Yakoulev, who's the commander-in-chief of their Rocket Forces ... is married to a pediatrician. He has a daughter, 12, and a daughter, 4. Dedicated family man. Much like many of our military officers here. Very easy to get along with. They express themselves well. They're well read. And it was a pleasure to get to know these people. And when you get to know these people, you develop a level of confidence and trust. So when they look you in the eye and say, "Okay, Habiger, what you're seeing is representative of our nuclear weapons storage sites," I believe them.

You took General Yakoulev into a Trident submarine.


I know he also saw the missile silos, but what seems to have amazed the military men was that you had taken him inside the Trident.


Why did you do that?

Because I wanted to show him that we were totally and completely open; that we had nothing that we wanted to keep from them. The primary purpose in taking him to Bangor, Washington, to the sub base area, in addition to taking him in the submarine and show him the quality of people and the condition of our equipment, but also to take him to the nuclear weapon storage site there, to show him how the United States Marines guard that facility. And again, there was a alternative method in my madness, [that] is that they would reciprocate. And they did, in less than 90 days. I went back over, and they took me to a submarine base. And again, it's to build that confidence. Being able to come back and say, "Been there, done that. And let me tell you what I saw."...

General Dvorkin also stressed trust, and he said, "Once we got to know each other and shed our ideological skin, we discovered that we were all humans underneath. And it made me wonder how we had ever been enemies for so long in the first place."

I can understand that. And I would reflect with the same kinds of thoughts or words, that we have so much in common. Our values are so very much alike. Because of those early exchange programs, we've come such a long way. And I'd like to think, in the coming months and the coming years, that we will go even further. Now ... the next step is to get this to lower levels. In other words, start working on the seed corn of our military leadership five or ten years from now, down to the major and lieutenant colonel and the colonel level. And we're doing that. We've got an exchange program with missiliers. The Russians sent over a delegation of their line lieutenants and captains, and they spent a very delightful week at one of my missile facilities. And we're going to send a similar group over to one of their missile bases. And it's what we call a shadow program, where they just kind of shadow their counterparts around for a week or so. ...

Senator Lugar said 84% of the $4.7 million under the Nunn-Lugar program actually goes to American defense companies. How has it helped the Russians to get only 16%? What is the purpose of this? Is it a program for American defense companies, or for Russia?

Well, I was astounded when I got into this in 1996 and saw that over 80% of those monies were coming back here in the United States. And my initial thought was: "Hey, this is a WPA program for many large corporations here in the United States." [It was a] point of great consternation and frustration with the Russians, because they assumed that majority of these dollars would be plowed back into their economy, to help their economy. But that's not happening. Tremendous things are happening with Nunn-Lugar dollars, but if more of these monies could be spent in Russia, I think it would help their economy a lot.

Do you think it's fueling political resentment over there that we should be concerned about?

I think so. I think we ought to be concerned about that. But I don't know how to fix it. This is a very political process, and I haven't gotten into that yet.

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