In reality, I don't think that many of the policies we've attempted to apply to
deal with it are going to have any serious effect. We, by and large, have taken
an approach of job owning and giving the Russians money. Even handling their
own money and their own budgets, they can't get the money from the Defense
Ministry to the firms to purchase equipment. They send money out to pay for
food in the fleet in the Far East, and the officers steal it and the soldiers
starve. Now, if that's the administrative reality, why do we think that giving
them large amounts of money to do certain things with their nuclear weapons
will lead to them doing those things? And I think, if you probably interviewed
people who've had a lot of hands-on experience in that regard, you'd find
stories that tend to ... confirm my suspicions about what happens to the money
and how much result you really get for that kind of an effort.|
You've talked to people with that hands-on experience?
My knowledge of that is, by and large, rumor and second hand, but the stories
I've heard suggest that indeed the top level officials in the military and in
the Ministry of Energy, which handles nuclear power plants and the production
of fissile materials and this sort of business, are more interested in stealing
the money than they are solving the problem. And again and again, Americans
are tending to be frustrated, because they go in and offer what seems to be a
program that will help fiscally the people involved, including the minister or
whoever his deputy is that's handling this, but they don't want to take that
package, even though it may be in their own best interest. They are greedy
about it. They want to take it all and rip it off.
But again, this is purely impressionistic rumor. I can't confirm that from
first-hand observation. But it certainly squares with everything I discovered
in my research on the dissolution of the Soviet military, its collapse from
1985 through 1992. I would be terribly surprised if it were otherwise. I
mean, I think any bureaucracy which has its traditional sources of income and
resources cut off will begin to behave in very bizarre and self-serving ways.
Senator Lugar maintains that it is in Americans' national security interest
to give them money to help them stabilize this situation. Do you
If the ends that Senator Lugar seeks can be achieved in this manner, clearly
that's right ... . The question I'm raising is whether those means can achieve
those ends. I think he's more optimistic about it than I am. I'm not prepared
to say that they'll have no effect whatsoever. I would cite one great
achievement of Nunn-Lugar monies, and that was resources which allowed the
Secretary of Defense to negotiate between Ukraine and Russia and the other
nuclear powers, Kazakhstan and Belarus, to withdraw their strategic nuclear
weapons back into Russia. I think that was a considerable achievement. But
that's quite different from getting the submarines cleaned up in the Barents
[Sea] and in the Far East, their power packages. It's quite different from
going out and checking these several thousands of tactical nuclear weapons--I'm
not sure even the Russians know where they all are--and tracking all that down.
Then there's another question which I've always been disturbed by. If you
de-militarize the weapon and take the fissile material out, that is more
attractive to countries abroad which want to build nuclear weapons than to get
the weapon itself. They don't have the technical means to explode or maintain
a Russian nuclear weapon. What they want is the fissile material from that
weapon, to put it in a design they created, which they know how to maintain,
and which they know how to explode. So one can, in principle, argue that
demilitarizing these weapons and creating stockpiles of plutonium actually
increases the probabilities of proliferation rather than causes them to
decline, or prevents proliferation. ...
Bruce Blair, among others, has suggested that not only the morale but the
hardware itself, the command and control system for strategic arsenals, has
become dilapidated; that there's been no way to modernize; and as a result,
there is an increased chance of an accidental launch. Do you agree?
I don't know how one would verify these propositions that because deterioration
takes place in command and control system, that there's a greater chance. It
could be that deterioration means it's almost virtually impossible to launch,
because the systems don't work. Lack of maintenance of nuclear weapons for a
few months means that a number of them, a large or increasing number, will not
explode if launched. So I think a strong argument can be made that neglect is
reducing the threat. The idea that we should go out there and spend money and
try to improve their command and control system strikes me as the height of
I don't think he's arguing that we should spend money to improve the command
and control system. I believe he's arguing that we should therefore dealert
the entire force, on their side and our side.
Well, I've no objection to dealerting the forces.
If the right preconditions exist?
The preconditions are there now. I don't see why we have the forces alert.
I've never been a big enthusiast for our whole approach of being able to launch
on warning or launch in a very short amount of time. Firing off 1,000 or 500
or 2,000 nuclear warheads on a few minutes' consideration has always struck me
as an absurd way to go to war. I don't know how one chooses political war aims
to support that approach. Now, because of deterrence theory and arms control
notions of stability, etc., we've talked ourselves into this kind of Rube
Goldberg world where we've surrendered political choice to these nutty
para-mechanistic ideas and technology. Therefore I think it would make a lot
of sense to completely de-alert. And if you're going to use nuclear weapons,
use them thoughtfully for purposes that make sense.
What purpose do you think the American attempts to de-militarize the Russian
military are now serving?
... I don't have much confidence that these are going to reach even 10% or 15%
of their alleged goals. I think it's just one of the realities of the
world we're going to have to learn to live with. There are things we could do
if we were really worried about it. ... We could build a ballistic missile
defense. We could shore up civil defense. We could do a number of things of
those sorts. Those are not popular. Those are real things where we could see
the product, the consequences of our expenditures. I think we feel much more
comfortable in squandering the money on some of these programs in Russia to
make ourselves psychologically better off, although objectively perhaps in the
same shape. ...
I also think the Russians are not loony. I think they're reasonably rational
people. It's not clear to me what they would get by firing the weapons at us.
I think, if they can get us to give them money because we're frightened of it,
they will encourage us to think they might do it. ...
The real nuclear threats, I don't think are going to come from Russia. They're
going to come from other countries. And I'm not sure that, even if Russia
cooperates 100% with us, that we would do more than slow down the
proliferation to a number of other states. We've already seen proliferation.
We started it with Britain, then France. Then we benignly let the Israelis do
it. The Pakistanis and the Indians have recently done it. The Chinese have
nuclear weapons. To think that this kind of technology is not going to spread
is to fly in the face of the historical record that technology inexorably
If you had soldiers facing the kinds of conditions that you know that
Russian soldiers are facing today, what would you recommend up the chain of
It's interesting that you ask me this question. I asked a former chief of the
general staff of the Soviet armed forces how he could look himself in the
mirror each morning in light of what was happening to Russian soldiers in
Chechnya, and of the large number of non-combat deaths that were occurring in
Russian forces all over Russia. And--
Explain what you mean by "non-combat deaths."
Non-combat deaths are suicides; they're deaths from beatings; they're deaths
from murders; they're deaths from overdosing of drugs. They're all sorts of
deaths that occur out there, because discipline's poor. ... All these habits
[are] generally grouped under one Russian word for it, sort of "grandfatherism"
or diedovshina. That's the syndrome of life in the barracks that has
come to embrace these really terrible aspects of life. I said, "How can you
look yourself in the face with those realities out there?" Well, he wouldn't
confront that question at all.
I would find it difficult, as a general, to face that situation. I would call
for the de-mobilization of forces of soldiers whom I could not take care of and
provide proper training and living circumstances for, and health and wellbeing.
If you can't do that, then I think it's wholly irresponsible to bring them on
Yet every year the conscription system goes forward, although there are strong
voices in Russia calling for an end to conscription. It goes forward. ...
More and more, they have to recruit soldiers off collective farms, recently out
of prison, this that and the other, because the better off are able to escape
through buying their way out or other bureaucratic ways of escape. So this
burden is falling more and more on the lower level economic layers of the
society. And the generals just don't want to give up this big manpower base
which keeps them in a lifestyle they've become accustomed to.
In September, Marshall Sergeyev gave a speech in which he directed the
officer corps to take personal responsibility for the troops in his command.
Were you aware of this statement?
Yes, I'm aware of this statement. ... I think the state of administrative
capacity and the deterioration of [administrative] capacity makes it such that
issuing an order won't cause much to change. My own view is, the way you'll
have to change it is to disestablish that institution and start over, and only
expand it at a rate which you can provide the resources for, and insure
standards of behavior and a new military culture that does deserve the respect
of the Russian people. ...
The argument is made that the personal relationships with the Russian
military, the trust engendered between the militaries is what will save us in
the end, more than all these technical things.
Military officers from different countries, when they meet each other, tend to
sort of fall in love, become mutual admiration societies, at the expense of
realities. To say that you now trust the Russian military command and control
system because some Russian general told you from the bottom of his heart
that's the case, strikes me as most unrealistic. Will that same general trust
his own subordinate commands without going and checking and seeing the hands-on
situation, not once but repeatedly? That situation is never stable. Any
commander knows that if he doesn't inspect regularly, he's going to be misled
because [of] the strong bureaucratic incentives to report the good news and not
report the bad news. Therefore it seems to me to be dubious if not ludicrous
to put your trust in the capacities of Russian generals to deliver on this.
Now, having studied fairly carefully the August crisis of 1991, when the
military was asked to do some things like go down and close down the White
House in Moscow, where Yeltsin was, as President of the Russian republic,
standing up against the emergency committee which was trying to impose a
repressive regime in the Soviet Union, the generals didn't trust each other.
One of the reasons the military couldn't act was, no general trusted the other.
They were all double-dealing each other. ...
I think one who knows the climate very well inside the milieu in the Russian
military ranks could be very cautious about believing that these generals can
deliver on that. Let's suppose they mean it. Even if they mean it, I don't
see administratively how they could deliver it. Therefore I don't find ...
this assertion very credible. ...
Let me just say one more thing. Any time there's any political stress, where
generals have become good friends, they quickly forget friendship and seek
interests. Would you want to trust your interest being protected purely by
subjective friendship relationships with a large nuclear power that it
sometimes might not be friendly towards you? I think that would be a very
imprudent policy. ...
You talked about being in favor of de-alerting, standing down the nuclear
force. And I also heard you say, if we were serious, we would build a missile
defense system. Are you in favor of both things?
Can you square that for me?
Yes. It's easy. I'm just a simple old ground soldier, and I want lots of
defense and lots of offense. [If] I get the enemy to unload his artillery
pieces, it doesn't mean that I'm going to stop digging foxholes and putting
overhead shelter over them, in the event he reloads his artillery. And he may
not be the only military out there in the field. There may be one that I don't
see over on the flank. ... The problem of nuclear weapons is not one just from
Russia. It's one from China. It's one from India. It's one from Pakistan.
There will be more countries with nuclear weapons. ... I just believe in
offense and defense both, and I want as much of both as I can get. ...
You talk about Russia collapsing, fragmentation. It almost sounds like
there are several Russian governments.
There are. [That's] one of the problems. ... One of the problems in dealing
[with] Russia is, we use that in the singular. Well, which [Russia] are we
talking about? Are we talking about the leaders in the Duma? Are we talking
about regional leaders? Are we talking about people in the White House? Are
we talking about, is Yeltsin awake? Are we [dealing with him] only when he's
awake, or are we talking about when he's asleep? Or when he's ill? Russia is
not unlike many states in the world which we don't consider so important. It's
a weak state. It's very fragmented. And it's not likely to get out of that
predicament any time soon. ...
So where does that leave the military?
One of the int[eresting] things to me is the capacity of the Russian military
to put off reform. But there is a limit to how far they can put it off. By
putting it off, they are forcing their own deterioration. In other words,
there is an objective reform process going on. ... The competition for funds
within the present structure has allowed the government to take money away from
the military. [If] the military won't reform, they don't want to cut the
manpower levels, they just don't give them the money. Lots of bad things
happen, but the forces deteriorate and they get smaller and they get poorer.
I've decided that the political context is such that the only way reform will
finally come about in the Russian military is that the deterioration goes
beyond the point to which these old generals can stand up there and resist it.
Clearly, they're not going to do it in a rational top-down way.