An ACA Panel Discussion
Before its annual membership meeting on February 18, ACA presented a panel discussion of the arms control issues facing the Clinton administration and the Senate in the coming years and the state of U.S.-Russian relations. Panelists included Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr., ACA president and executive director; Jack Mendelsohn, ACA deputy director; Susan Eisenhower, chairman of the Center for Political and Strategic Studies and a member of the ACA Board of Directors; and John Isaacs, president and executive director of the Council for a Livable World. Eisenhower had returned the previous day from her most recent trip to the former Soviet Union, where she met with a number of Russian and Ukrainian officials, including Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeniy Primakov and Defense Council member Andre Kokoshin.
Below is an edited version of the panelists' remarks and the question and answer session which followed.
Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.
Let me start the proceedings with some observations on where we have been during the past year and where we will be going in the next year and for the rest of the Clinton administration. At this meeting a year ago, I observed that the fate of the Clinton record on arms control in the second term would depend on two actions which were then before us. One was the ability to obtain the Senate's approval of the Chemical Weapons Convention [CWC], and the other was the success of the Helsinki understandings in obtaining the Duma's ratification of START II. As you all know, that administration made a major effort and achieved approval of the CWC. This demonstrated the ability to complete arms control legislation, despite strong initial opposition, even with this somewhat recalcitrant Senate. At the same time, despite the success of converting the Helsinki understanding into actual agreements in New York in September, the Duma has continued its opposition to ratification of START II.
Today, the administration is faced with four closely interrelated problems, any one of which could prevent progress in arms control. The first is the continued opposition to START II in the Duma because of strong opposition to NATO expansion and, to a lesser extent, concern about the future of the ABM Treaty. The second is the continued Senate efforts to kill the ABM Treaty and possibly oppose approval of the amended START II package because of the theater missile defense demarcation language which it contains. The third is Senate opposition to the Comprehensive Test Ban [CTB] Treaty. The fourth problem is the failure to resolve the Iraqi UNSCOM inspection problem.
On START II, the arguments in the Duma about the inequities of the treaty have been largely answered by the Helsinki and New York agreements, which amend the implementation of START II by extending final completion of the reductions for five years and by commiting to undertake START III negotiations to reduce final warhead ceilings from the current 3,000-3,500 to 2,000-2,500. Now, although some Russian officials, taking into account the new Founding Act, appear to be reconciled to NATO expansion, at least as far as the first three new adherents are concerned, the Duma as a whole is clearly not convinced of this. Beyond that the notion of a second phase of NATO expansion to include the three Baltic states is anathema to all Russians across the political spectrum.
On the ABM Treaty, U.S. efforts to "protect" the treaty from domestic critics by establishing a very permissive, self-defined and self-implementing demarcation line have not persuaded the Duma that this will in fact protect the treaty, and have not pacified U.S. advocates of a substantial ABM deployment. In this connection, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott [R-MS] has introduced legislation requiring the deployment of a national missile defense system with an initial operating capability in 2003. This would undoubtedly require crippling amendments to, or the repudiation of, the ABM Treaty. On its part, the Duma will almost certainly attach conditions to its START II ratification that the ABM Treaty must continue in force in its present form.
As to the CTB Treaty, I don't think I have to lecture this group on how important it is as part of the nuclear non-proliferation strategy. It has become the litmus test of the support of the nuclear-weapon states for the reduction of their dependence on nuclear forces. It was a major factor in obtaining the indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT]. The United States must ratify the CTB in 1998 in order to maintain the momentum of international support for the treaty. Without U.S. ratification, Russia and China are not going to ratify the CTB. If U.S. action is not taken in 1998, it will probably mean that there will not be a widely ratified CTB Treaty in time for the NPT review conference in 2000, which will look to the CTB as the primary indicator of the intentions of the nuclear-weapon states to honor their commitments when the NPT was indefinitely extended in 1995.
There is, unfortunately, significant Republican opposition to the test ban, and more important, at least as of now, there is no leading Republican senator who has taken the role of champion of the CTB. Hopefully, such champions soon will emerge. The administration has undertaken a serious effort to advance the CTB, and I trust Bob Bell will have more to say on that later. The administration has the advantage that never existed in the past in the support of the military and of the weapons laboratories on the treaty. Recently, four former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs joined the present chairman in support of the treaty and the current weapons laboratories' directors have all supported the treaty. Now, this support does involve rather lavish support of the stockpile stewardship program of the laboratories. Clearly a stewardship program is necessary; whether it needs to be this generous can be debated. Nevertheless, it should assure us with support of the weapons laboratories.
I think the biggest hurdle for the test ban, in the final analysis, will be the verification issue, rather than reliability and safety concerns. Unfortunately, the intelligence community is the most uncertain in its support for the treaty. As most of you know, the performance of the intelligence community in the case of the recent Novaya Zemlya earthquake was very disturbing, and even now it has not come out unambiguously in identifying it as an earthquake. The community's inflexibility in dealing with an obvious earthquake does not build confidence in its ability to deal objectively with future verification problems.
On a more positive note, there is clearly overwhelming public support for the CTB and little opposition. Hence, if it can ever be brought to a vote, which John Isaacs will discuss, I think it will be approved by the Senate. It will be hard for real-life politicians to oppose such a broadly supported idea.
Now, turning to Iraq, I think it must be put in the category of fundamental problems for the future of arms control. It has become the total focus of the nuclear non-proliferation policy issue with far-reaching implications. I would very much prefer to discuss the more positive aspects of the non-proliferation policy, including: making progress in North Korea, the lining-up of China and Russia in a more supportive role to the non-proliferation regime, and even, possibly changing attitudes toward Iran, but all of these developments have been pushed into the background by Iraq.
There is no question that Saddam Hussein is a menace, although his actual current capabilities, I think, are grossly exaggerated as part of the effort to build public support for punitive action against Iraq. There is no question that he has grossly interfered with the legitimate activities of the UNSCOM inspectors. There is no question that he has repeatedly lied or misled UNSCOM as to the nature and extent of his programs. Speaking personally, I do not oppose punitive action in principle, if it is in fact really necessary to protect the international non-proliferation regime or the integrity of the United Nations. However, one must weigh very carefully the contribution to this objective, namely, building an international nuclear non-proliferation regime and constraining Iraq in the long term, against potential immediate adverse effects, if we go this route essentially alone without clear Security Council backing.
No one appears to have claimed that a limited bombing program will force Saddam out or change his world view. No one appears to claim that such a limited bombing program would prevent his future development of biological or chemical weapons capabilities. But against these unclear positive contributions of a punitive attack and the satisfaction of punishing a wrong-doer, there seem to be a remarkable number of adverse consequences that the administration does not appear to have considered very carefully. These include the destruction of the remarkable Gulf War alliance that is indispensable to maintaining sanctions. It will probably end UNSCOM inspectors' access to Iraq, which, even if incomplete, will be extremely important in the long term in ascertaining whether Iraq resumes its BW, CW and nuclear weapons programs and ballistic missiles to deliver them.
It will almost certainly seriously worsen U.S.-Russian relations. It will substantially undercut the position of our friends in Russia, and drastically reduce the prospects for the Duma's early ratification of START II. Important people in Russia all the way from [President Boris] Yeltsin and Minister of Defense Igor Sergeyev to leading Duma personalities have underscored the negative impact this will have on the prospects for START II. It will also undercut the leadership role of the United States and the prospect for success in the Middle East peace process. To this I would also add that it will probably result in a substantial increase in U.S. domestic pressure in the Senate for a national missile defense, given the almost hysterical over-reaction to the extent of the BW, CW threat that the U.S. government has stimulated.
And finally, unless we are extremely lucky in this limited attack, it will not have any impact on Saddam Hussein and may be even appear to strengthen his position within Iraq and within the region. All of this will have the effect of deflating the almost invincible image that the United States has established for its conventional arms capabilities. The Gulf War was a remarkable military victory. If we follow it with a military exercise that does nothing except create serious new problems, the world may take another look at just how significant super-high technology U.S. conventional arms are.
In closing, let me say that the events of the next few weeks with regard to Iraq and in the next few months with regard to the expansion of NATO, particularly those involving commitments to a second-phase expansion to include the Baltic states, will have a decisive effect on whether the Duma will act on START. This in turn will determine whether there will be significant further progress in arms control during the balance of the present administration.
I stand here somewhat diffident because I have to steer a straight and narrow path between Susan Eisenhower, who returned last night from Moscow; a representative of the Russian embassy; Stan Riveles, the head of our missile defense negotiating team; and Bob Bell, who's going to speak at lunch on the administration's policy. So I have to be constrained and will probably be contradicted, if not corrected, many times during the day.
The big question is still: Will Russia act on the START II agreement? In the late fall, Russian officials were quite upbeat about the opportunities and possibilities for START II in the Duma after the success of the Yeltsin administration in gaining approval of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Yeltsin administration thought that they had learned how to deal with the Duma in the way that U.S. presidents have to deal with the Senate to get what they want, and they were expecting to move early this year on the Open Skies Treaty, which they thought would be quite easy, and then START II. Clearly, there are a number of extraneous factors, but primarily the Iraq situation has slowed the process down and Duma representatives are now threatening that if we bomb Iraq then they will not act at all on START II or they will reject it.
What is striking about this situation is how similar it looks to the way the U.S. Senate behaves in similar situations. The obvious connections are, first, the linkage aspects, where unrelated incidents lead you to take actions that are not in your own interest, and secondly, not putting an important document—like the CTB Treaty—on the parliamentary calendar; the Duma has not put START II on its calendar. Neither in the U.S. case nor in the case of the Duma does this mean that they are not going to deal with it: that depends on how successful the Yeltsin or Clinton administrations will be in forcing their parliaments to act.
If we bomb Iraq and expand NATO, we could be treading water on START for an extended period of time, perhaps for this year, perhaps for longer. One of the biggest dangers, if the Russians do not act on START II and we tread water, is that the arguments against taking decisive action to deploy missile defenses will be undercut. Because the key argument that the administration uses, and correctly, is that the reason we want to be cautious about what we do on missile defenses is that they are linked to strategic force reductions, both in the minds of most arms controllers and certainly in the minds of the Russians. To allow that strategic force reduction process to continue, we have to be cautious about ballistic missile defenses. If that reduction process doesn't continue, if the Russians look like they are not going to act on START II, that undercuts the argument against missile defense and, I think, strengthens the case of those who want to argue, "Well, the Russians aren't reducing formally in any case so what would be the harm in deploying strategic missile defenses?"
On the other hand, if the Duma—and this is the irony of ironies—if the Duma does approve START II, then the potential blockage shifts to the U.S. Senate, where approval is not assured for the package that will be sent back for Senate action, which is a protocol to extend the time frame of implementation for START II and the package for theater missile defense [TMD] agreements. Helms has made it quite clear, as have other conservative senators, that they want to takea "careful look,"—meaning they'd like to defeat—some aspects of the TMD package.
Now particularly, if the Russians act and the START II package comes to the U.S. Senate—and the administration intends to submit to a START II protocol as a package with the TMD agreements because understandably, as I explained earlier, they are linked. They are related and the administration believes that the TMD material would be quite vulnerable without the START II prolongation protocol. Helms and other conservative senators clearly want to look at the second agreed statement on higher-velocity TMD systems, which some senators object to even though only one ban exists in there on space-related systems. They also want to look at the multilateralization of the ABM Treaty in the memorandum of understanding [MOU] on succession. They object to that for a number of reasons: One, they believe it will make it more difficult in the future to amend the ABM Treaty, and secondly, they believe, mistakenly, that if they defeat the multilateralization MOU, the ABM Treaty then becomes an invalid or inoperative document. There is also an issue related to which branch of government has the right, the legislative or the executive, to name a successor state to a treaty. So there is also sort of a constitutional power struggle in the multilateralization debate.
In any case the administration has a very powerful argument—if it gets the package from the Russians—in favor of the TMD settlement: primarily, that in the minds of the Russians, continued viability of the ABM Treaty, of which the TMD package is part, is linked to significant, monitored, verified, MIRVed reductions under START II and you don't get one without the other. Secondly, the Defense Department supports this treaty, and thirdly, there are serious budget implications if we don't get START II, in embarking on a missile defense program.
In the debate in Russia, they have basically the same three arguments in favor of START II: that they are strategically at a disadvantage if they do not move into START II, where they will have regulated, verified parity with the United States, rather than reduction on their side, which might not be matched by the same kind of reductions on our side. Secondly, their Ministry of Defense very strongly supports START II and has made an excellent presentation to the Duma on the strategic necessity for Russia to move into a START II agreement. And lastly, there are serious budgetary implications for Russia, which will have great difficulty sustaining its strategic forces at START I levels.
Let me just mention briefly some of the issues we will face if we get past the approval stage in the U.S. Senate. There are four, perhaps five, basic issues related to the immediate aftermath of START II approval. Hopefully, by the end of the year, we will be whisked into a discussion of further reductions in the levels of strategic forces. That's something the Russians want, that's something we've committed ourselves to last year in the Helsinki-New York process, and it actually shouldn't be that hard to negotiate. The United States has already said it is prepared to live with a level of 2,000 warheads in the commitment to 2,000-2,500 warheads in START III. The Russians, now, would very much like an even lower level and are talking about figures around 1,500, so we're really talking about a debate or range of warheads from 1,500 to 2,000. It doesn't seem an impossible figure to get either a compromise or arrive at some agreed point.
We are also talking about deactivation. Again, this is something that we are likely to move into quickly because the administration's selling point on START II to the Senate, after having moved the completion date to the end of 2007, is that within a year of the original completion date, January 2003, all the systems that are scheduled to come out of the force will basically be off-line and non-operational. Now, the Russians recognize how anxious we are and, while they are not opposed to deactivation, they have established a linkage between promptly getting a satisfactory level for START III and their completion of the dactivation process. They want to keep the pressure on us for an appropriate level; we've got to keep the pressure on them for deactivating as soon as possible those systems that are scheduled to be eliminated.
Many of you in the audience are interested in de-alerting, which is a subset of deactivation. I urge you to pose questions to Bob Bell this afternoon on where that might stand. Some say that obviously, if you are going to deactivate a system, it's going to be de-alerted; it's not going to be available for use. But there's a second aspect of de-alerting, and that's whether or not the remaining operational forces will come off high alert status, and the administration has combined the two and talks almost interchangeably about deactivation and de-alerting, but there is a difference. As for the deactivation of those systems that are scheduled to be eliminated, everybody's on board. But de-alerting, I think, will have a much more difficult time, both in the United States and in Russia, which, I believe, is not quite ready to talk about de-alerting operational forces at this time.
A third issue that will be on the table is the question of transparency of nuclear infrastructures: stockpiles, dismantling, fissile materials. Here again, I think we're going to have a difficult time. The Russians are not enthusiasts about opening up their nuclear infrastructure to the kind of transparency measures that we ultimately have in mind. As a matter of fact, there is a contrary trend in the Russian position right now, which is that they are seeking less onerous verification, some relief, if you will, from the verification measures that were instituted in START I and carried over into START II and that they now find unnecessary. So, rather than becoming more transparent, they'd like to see some relief. There is some relief that's possible in the verification area, but we don't have an open door from the Russians to transparency.
The fourth issue is tactical nuclear forces, and again, I don't think we're exactly on the same track there. The U.S. put tactical nuclear weapons on the table at Helsinki, although there was not agreement to ban or limit them, it was agreed to discuss "measures" dealing with them. The United States would like to get a little more transparency into the Russian stockpile. The Russians added SLCMs as a counter-proposal because they're not so sure that they want to put their tactical nuclear weapons on the negotiating table. They are sure, however, that they would like to get a better deal on SLCMs than they got in START I, which was simply a very high cap of 800 with not much else involved. Fortunately, the tactical nuclear weapons-SLCMs are to be treated as a separable issue and are not directly linked to START III. Tactical nuclear weapons are something we are going to have to deal with, one way or another, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that as strategic nuclear forces come down, people are going to be concerned that there will be a potentially unsettling disparity in the tactical sector.
The last issue on the START III table—and which will be both highlighted by and left over from the debate in the United States Senate—is Theater Missile Defense. The Russians have made it quite clear that they want to continue to follow the TMD issue, that they are still concerned about developing and deploying highly-capable TMD. So that discussion isn't over and is likely to figure prominently along side the START III negotiations.
On the inevitability of NATO expansion, you know, hope springs eternal. I will not believe it is going to happen until it happens, because I came back from Moscow with the absolute conviction that to expand NATO would be a mistake of historic proportions, and I would underline that several times. NATO expansion has been received, I would say, with fear and trepidation. That in combination with the situation in Iraq has really created a very new dimension to our relations with Russia—a dimension that could jeopardize U.S.-Russian relations for some time in the future.
I had a fascinating trip and met with many officials at all different levels including Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeniy Primakov and Defense Council official Andrei Kokoshin. Perhaps the way to begin my remarks would be to quote Mikhail Gorbachev, who I had the pleasure of seeing at a conference last Saturday. He, of course, is central in many ways to this question of NATO expansion because it is his policy that has been discredited within the Russian Federation. That is, his policy of disarmament and withdrawal and the attempt to create a partnership with the United States.
Let me say that I am going to be making these remarks from the Russian viewpoint, because I think this is something that is absolutely critical, and when you read the U.S. papers, it is astonishing, the lack of perspective that is addressed to the Russian question. I don't know about everybody else here, but I was raised in a family that had very active and dynamic dinner table conversations. I was constantly the trouble-maker, raising all kinds of issues at dinner. Part of the Eisenhower family tradition was that you weren't allowed to make a blanket statement about anything unless you assessed how it looked to the other guy. We don't do that very well in this country, and I must say, coming back from Russia and having a sense of seeing it from the other perspective, I think there are a number of issues that we are going to have to focus on now if we are going to avoid a complete meltdown in relations. I was frankly shocked before I left for Moscow, to read an open letter signed by more than 60 retired admirals and generals supporting NATO expansion. I could respect, certainly, all of their arguments, though I disagree with them, except where they got to the blanket statement in this open letter that, believe it or not, expansion of NATO is going to improve U.S.-Russian relations. I think to say it as a statement is absolutely astonishing. The principle being that NATO expansion is about creating stability, and therefore Russia will welcome stability, and therefore U.S.-Russian relations will improve.
In discussing this particular open letter in Moscow, which they were aware of, one democratic reformer emphasized that if NATO expansion isn't bad enough, having the U.S. tell Russia what's in its interest doubles the insult. We are going to have to accept the fact that NATO expansion is not going to improve U.S.-Russian relations and it should just be taken as a fact, because the Russians have told us it's not going to improve relations.
At a conference, Gorbachev listened to all the technical discussions about arms control arms reductions, and finally became somewhat exasperated by it and said, all the technical stuff is fine, but what we have here is a philosophical question before us. And that philosophical question relates to, what kind of relationships we are going to have with each other. It is a question of trust, he said. And he added frankly, NATO expansion has absolutely poisoned the atmosphere—those were his words—of U.S.-Russian relations. I don't know whether the translator was correct but he also used the word 'swindled,' which is a pretty strong word.
In fact, Gorbachev and others see a number of policies that the United States has adopted as deeply threatening to Russia in many ways. Not only NATO expansion, butalso this appearance that the United States wishes to dominate the world in some kind of unilateral fashion. Gorbachev made the point of saying that U.S. behavior, not only on NATO expansion but also on the question of Iraq, has given real life to the conspiracy theories that have been floating around Russia for some time.
He raised another point about a policy that I began to see for the first time from the other side's point of view. And that is the necessity within the former Soviet space for countries there to cooperate with one another. He made the point that the United States has adopted a policy that will not allow for even economic integration between Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Russia and other countries, which have worked together for centuries. In fact, there is a tendency to begin to try to enter into relationships in that part of the world, as a way to thwart Russia. I went to Kiev on this trip and it was very clear that the Ukrainians took the opportunity to complain about the Russians. I had some uneasiness that the United States was going to be part of some competition, in terms of influence. I personally was uncomfortable with that because, as Gorbachev mentioned, some kind of cooperation, certainly on the economic front, is going to be absolutely crucial because the United States has not provided economic help and their economic survival is going to depend on some interaction.
In any case, I think the strongest message I came away with was that even Gorbachev himself, who has always been very Western-focused, made the point very strongly that U.S.-Russian relations are at their most serious point in some time. You might be interested to know that Gorbachev is against strikes in the Middle East, because he is of the opinion that there is a vast difference between the situation in 1991, when Iraq was clearly a military aggressor, and the situation now, where he and others believe there is still room for a diplomatic solution.
Gorbachev, of course, was the man who presided over unification of Germany back during the days of the Soviet Union. There were renewed complaints about the fact that the Soviets had received assurances about NATO expansion. But perhaps the most interesting discussion I had was with one radical reformer who felt that there was another betrayal perpetrated on the Russians after the "Two-plus-Four" period. He said that in 1994 he had attended a NATO conference and was told that unless Russia joined Partnership for Peace, NATO would expand. Several months later NATO committed itself to expanding anyway. In the meantime he had testified before the Duma supporting the idea of Russia becoming a member of Partnership for Peace, precisely to avoid this eventuality. This young reformer was saying to me that he regards it as a personal insult to him that Russian reformers had been betrayed a second time.
I mention this only because now we've got two generations of aggrieved Russians on this particular point and it was said with a kind of passion that surprised even me. I have to say, however, it was very clear that the unhappiness about NATO expansion was underscored many times by the issue in Iraq. This is one aspect that will have huge impact for the arms control agenda. I was told, not by one person but by many, that if in fact there are unilateral strikes in Iraq, START II is dead. It's not even postponed; it is flat out dead. And so again, taking the Russians at their word, which they certainly deserve, I think we should take note of that.
Coming back and reading the American press or even some of the press that reached me in Russia, I think we have to examine the way Russia is being characterized inside the United States as a bad actor on the international stage. My own personal opinion is that Americans are not very good at looking at it from other people's perspectives. It's very clear to me that the Russians have a very specific viewpoint, and that it's not an anti-American viewpoint at all. In fact, I was rather interested that a number of Yevgeniy Primakov's colleagues, some of whom were critics of Primakov, told me what Primakov's line had been inside Russia. They said that evn in closed-door sessions of the Duma, Primakov has been trying to convince Russia of the importance of working with the United States.
I say this because it seems to me that at the heart of the way we perceive Russia in this Iraqi situation is our interpretation of who Yevgeniy Primakov is. I don't know if you saw The Washington Times article that came out last week characterizing Primakov as this Soviet apparatchik, a Brezhnev protégé, former KGB agent who had connections in some way to Lavrenti Beria, a man who is working against U.S. interests at all points. I have to tell you, such misinformation reminds me of the Soviet Union, though this time it came from our side. I took that article and made it my business to talk to at least five different people across the political spectrum about who Yevgeniy Primakov is, and found, to my intense interest, that there at least five or six flat-out factual errors in this story.
I thought I would take my opportunity here to tell you very quickly what I found out about Primakov. I have known him for twelve years myself. I actually met with him on this trip, and so I can tell you that first off, he was not happy at being regarded as someone connected to Lavrenti Beria. In fact, his wife was Georgian, but there is no family tie there at all. But then, not taking Primakov's word for things, as I say, I was interested that so many reformers believe that, in fact, Primakov had spoken long and hard in private sessions about the importance of good U.S. relationships. Several of his earlier colleagues emphasized that it's not possible that Primakov worked for the KGB in the early years back in the Middle East simply because at the Institute, everyone knew who was who. It is important to note that Primakov came to power in the Soviet Union first through his promotion by Alexander Yakovlev, who was regarded as "the architect of Perestroika," and later was promoted as an alternative member of the Politburo by Mikhail Gorbachev. I was told by several people and Primakov himself that because of his travels, Primakov never actually met Brezhnev.
The point being that if you believe that Primakov and other Russians wish to specifically thwart the United States in this part of the world, then suddenly you can see the need to expand NATO rapidly or to take a completely different approach. If you look at Primakov and others as reformers who are trying hard to defend the interests of new Russia as it goes through a very difficult transition, then you come up with a very different way of looking not only at Russia, but perhaps U.S.-Russian relations.
In addition to the economic power struggle, there is a power struggle within the national security apparatus. I thought it was extremely interesting that the division within that community could be seen in three ways. Over the signing of the NATO-Russian Founding Act, there were those who were absolutely against signing it at all, and then within the camp of westernizers, there was a division betweem those who believed Primakov should have held out longer, and those who thought he had no choice but to sign. In general, most westernizers felt that he probably had to sign for one specific reason: to prove one more time to the United States and to the world that this is no longer the Soviet Union they're dealing with.
In conclusion, I would say that I find all this extremely difficult. Many of those here in the audience, including Bob McNamara and I, were going back and forth to the Soviet Union in the late 80's trying very hard to improve U.S.-Soviet relations. Today I think relations are at their worst, certainly in the last decade. I'm not sure what we could do to repair relations, but certainly none of the major issues that are on the agenda, including non-proliferation and curbing drug trafficking can be done without Russia. I think we have to have a wholly different approach to this part of the world because in the end they have a different viewpoint about how to solve this crisis in Iraq and how to build European security.
In Iraq, they feel that since Saddam Hussein does not have any launch capabilit for his developing program that there's at least enough time to work out a diplomatic solution—a solution that would be, as Primakov himself told me, "a victory for the international community." But there will be huge resistance if they see American unilateral action going forward unchecked because, in their view NATO expansion and U.S. unilateral action in Iraq are all part of a larger pattern of, as Gorbachev said, an American desire for superiority in the world. There is deep concern about the future of the UN and other international institutions.
I wish I had a more encouraging report. Maybe I'm going to be a dissident when I say that the positive movement has to come from our side. Because, the Soviet Union of Gorbachev's era, and now Russia, has done the very things that were part of our wildest dreams during the Cold War. It's not a question of wanting to be an imperial power. There seems to be complete understanding that they are no longer a superpower. A little respect and recognition of their legitimate needs would go a long way. At the dinner table we should try to look at it from the other guy's standpoint. There is never going to be any possibility to solve great international issues without that as a starting point.
Unlike Susan Eisenhower, who got off a jet plane from Moscow to come here for the talk, I only took a cab ride from Capitol Hill—though some people would argue that the distance I traveled is even greater.
As is frequently the case, much of our hope for arms control progress in 1998 rests on what happens in the legislative branch—not a very friendly one at that. The major difference we face now, compared to previous times, is that we have two legislative branches to be concerned about, the Russian Duma as well as the U.S. Senate. It almost makes one long for the good old days when the Soviet general secretary would just tell the legislature when to approve a treaty.
I have a list of 15 or 16 treaties that could be considered by the Senate. I'd like to focus on, what I believe, will be the three most important ones that may—or may not—be considered. First, of course, is NATO enlargement. Second is the CTB Treaty. And third, what I count as five treaties related to the ABM Treaty, START I, and START II—all of which could be and may be submitted as a package to the Senate later this year.
Now, to do well in this group of three treaties will depend on the relationship between our secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, and our chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Jesse Helms. As this relationship goes between Mr. Helms and Ms. Albright, so in many ways go our hopes for arms control in the Senate, aside from a few other little things that have been discussed—like what may happen in Iraq and the Russian Duma.
Part of the reason that NATO enlargement is sailing so rapidly through the Senate is because of the strange bedfellows supporting that treaty. You have Helms and Albright, and you have Clinton and the majority leader, Trent Lott, all on the same side—it's a tough combination to beat. Now, I won't say more about NATO enlargement because we've already heard a lot about that, and I'd really like to focus particularly on the next two areas, the CTB Treaty and the ABM-START-related package.
Most of you may have heard about the letter from Senator Helms to the president saying, "Yeah, I'll deal with the CTB Treaty, but not until I deal with, first, the Global Warming Treaty, and second, the ABM Treaty." I would take that with something of a grain of salt. It's not exactly gospel; it's Jesse Helms laying out his opening position for the upcoming negotiations with the Clinton administration. That means that the administration—the president, Secretary Albright, National Security Advisor Berger—now has to put forward its position on proceeding in the Senate this year.
I understand a response letter has gone from the president to the Senate, but I haven't seen it and I haven't spoken to anyone who has. Undoubtedly, there will be heavy negotiations on what comes up in the Senate after NATO enlargement, which may well be considered by the end of March.
My understanding is that while Senator Helms is proclaiming "no, no, no" to the CTB, his staff is quietly preparing for what they see as very possible hearings and committee and floor action on the treaty. In trying to get the CTB considered, I'd like to remind you all that there are also many chips on our side of the table. The Senate Republicans have a long list of bills that they want the Senate to consider to set the stage for the 1998 congressional elections. That agenda can be held up by Democratic senators who insist on a vote on, let's just say, the CTB or some other issue. And I'd like to remind you further that it was a mild-mannered New Mexican senator, Jeff Bingaman, who went to the Senate floor in the fall of 1995, took off his jacket to reveal a Superman T-shirt underneath, and began a long, long speech just when the Republicans wanted to bring up the flag burning amendment. He managed to get the Republicans to come to an agreement within two days on a time certain for a vote on the START II treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention. This Bingaman theorem, holding up some of their legislation for some of our legislation, can work to our advantage on the CTB Treaty this year, too.
The further good news on the CTB is that the Clinton administration is truly getting its act together. We all saw the State of the Union address, where there was not only strong endorsement but also the letter of endorsement from the former chairs of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That was followed by the president going to Los Alamos to give a strong pitch for the CTB, Secretary Peña speaking to the National Press Club last week; and various staff briefings and staff trips to verification sites and weapons labs, by the staffs of the Foreign Relations, Armed Services, and Intelligence committees. Remarkably, despite someone saying that there is a lot of opposition to the CTB, I know of only one or two Republican senators who have said "no" to it. Republican Senators have been remarkably silent on this issue thus far. That all leaves me mildly optimistic—though I certainly wouldn't bet on it—that we can get the CTB Treaty scheduled for later this year—hopefully by the summer—and that we can actually win Senate approval.
But as hard as the CTB fight in the Senate will be, I believe that the fight for the ABM Treaty amendments will be even harder. I think Republicans are reluctant to try to defeat a major new international commitment, whether it's NATO enlargement, the Chemical Weapons Convention, or the CTB Treaty. But I think they look upon the ABM Treaty in a much different way as a 25-year old treaty; they feel there are fewer consequences trying to defeat or cripple the treaty. As we all know, national ballistic missile defense has been an article of faith for Republicans since Ronald Reagan was president, and I don't think naming Washington National Airport after him will fulfill this article of faith. Since 1995, Republicans have been pushing for ballistic missile defenses by the year 2003; while they have failed in Congress to get missile defense mandated, they have forced the Clinton administration to ratchet up funding so that we are now spending $4 billion on missile defense.
The voting numbers for the ABM Treaty amedments work in the Republicans' favor. Winning approval of a mandated ballistic missile defense over a Clinton veto requires 67 votes; that's why the Republicans failed in 1995 and 1996 and that's why Trent Lott—despite saying missile defense was a major priority last year—never even brought it up for a vote. But to kill one of these ABM Treaty amendments, all the Republicans need is 34 votes. Thirty-four votes instead of 67 is obviously a much easier number to attain.
When Senator Helms says he wants to "dispose" of the ABM Treaty before the CTB Treaty, he's using the word in both senses. I'd like to quote Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, from a speech last October, who I think reflects the views of a number of Republicans on the ABM Treaty in calling the treaty "a mistake in 1972 and even worse policy today." Senator Inhoffe said, "I believe that this [the consideration of these ABM Treaty amendments] is an opportunity we need to be looking forbecause all it would take is 34 senators to reject this multilateralization of the ABM Treaty. I believe we should take this opportunity that there is, when it comes before this body for ratification, to reject this and thereby kill the ABM Treaty, which certainly is outdated." Now we have good lawyers here—such as John Rhinelander—who might argue that if the Senate defeats one of these amendments it does not really kill the ABM Treaty. But it's clear that the political impact of that defeat would be devastating for our arms control hopes—in Moscow and in Washington.
The administration, as we've heard, hopes to tie this package of five agreements together and say to the Senate, "If you want further nuclear reductions, you have to go along with the ABM Treaty amendments." But again, as we've heard, that depends on events: what happens in Iraq and what happens with START II in the Russian Duma.
So, as usual, 1998 shapes up as a challenging year in the Senate. I think we'll be done with the NATO issue one way or another by the end of March, and then we hope to begin the major push to get the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to schedule the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Questions & Answers
Q: If there is no action on START II and III, can we go into a de facto arms control regime where both sides will abide by the limits, although there is no treaty obligation?
Mendelsohn: It's a good question, and maybe I can only answer it by talking around it. The Russians themselves have, at times, suggested that maybe we ought to leapfrog START II and move right into START III. The administration has resisted this because they sense that what the Russians have in mind is perhaps congruent with our thoughts on levels, but not congruent on how you get to those levels. What would happen, most likely, is that if you went on a gentleman's agreement basis, the Russians would have every reason and opportunity to drop the key component of START II, which we find most attractive, and that is the elimination of MIRV-ed missiles. So, it would be hard to get anything but a levels agreement, if you will, as a follow-on if you skip START II. If we didn't get the MIRV part, I think that would make it unattractive to the Senate, so we'd have serious friction on this. I'm not optimistic about leap-frogging. If you lose STRT II for some reason or another, you'd probably have to go back to the table rather than having a virtual agreement.
Keeny: I would just add that going back to the table on these very complex agreements, START I and START II, and reconstructing it, would put completion past this administration. We have all learned from past experience that if things are delayed for an extended period, lots of things can happen. You will regret greatly not having completed the action.
Q: What are the prospects of having any Senate action on any agreements given the complex linkage that exists, and what kind of conditions can we expect on these other, more important treaties given the large number of conditions attached to the Senate's advive and consent to the Chemical Weapons Convention?
Isaacs: I guess the part about conditions doesn't particularly bother me. Yes, there were 28 conditions added to the Chemical Weapons Convention, but how many can name any of those 28 conditions, and how many of them are having a serious impact today? I asked this question to Harvard chemical expert Matthew Meselson just a couple of days ago and he said maybe one has serious implications for carrying out the Chemical Weapons Convention, but the other 27 really don't. Mostly conditions have served as statements of policy and opportunities for senators to state a position without causing serious damage to most treaties.
The larger question is: Can the Senate do anything this year? The Senate schedules legislation through negotiations; for any legislation to come up, there will have to be negotiations, and that's more or less what I was indicating. There have to be negotiations between the Clinton administration and Senator Helms and Senator Lott on what comes up this year in terms of national security issues after NATO enlargement. I think that the logical bargain that one can see is the administration, which has not submitted this ABM Treaty package to the Senate as yet, agreeing to submit those treaties to the Senate for a vote in return for Helms and Lott guaranteeing time for debate and a vote on the Senate floor on the CTB Treaty. And the gamble will be that the Clinton administration can win on the ABM Treaty using the nuclear reductions argument. That, of course, still depends on what happens with the Russian Duma, what happens in Iraq and other things that I won't even try to predict. If the Senate can spend two weeks on the Ronald Reagan airport, and they can deal with the START II treaty in a few hours, they can deal with CTB.
Q: What could be done to defeat the NATO expansion bill, and what is the possibility?
Eisenhower: I would just say delay; I think any delay would be a positive thing. The reason I remain hopeful, maybeit's unrealistic, is that there are a lot of wild cards out there. We might use force in Iraq and there could be resistance on Capitol Hill. The president's personal problems could also enter into this. There are a lot of wild cards out there. We do have this rather peculiar deadline, because we have to be ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary of NATO, which is the driving reason we're rushing to do this. But I think any delay that occurs means that there is more time to reconsider the unanticipated consequences of this policy.
Isaacs: There's certainly a lot of concern in this room about NATO enlargement, and those concerns are reflected throughout the Senate. But the problem we've had is those concerns have not been reflected by senators willing to get up and say, "I'm going to vote against NATO enlargement. I am going to lead the fight against it." If we can't get that, we can't win. Just last week, Senator John Warner [R-VA], who was one of the senators we had counted on to lead the opposition, more or less changed his tune from opposition to three-year delay on the second round of NATO enlargement. Senator Ted Stevens [R-AL], who had also expressed serious reservations about the cost of NATO enlargement, seems to be going along and will offer one of these 28 conditions, or whatever the number will be, that will show he is concerned without seriously affecting NATO enlargement. There are a lot of wild cards that could disrupt things, including the campaign in Iraq. There are conditions on nuclear weapons, on further expansion on the Baltic states, which could break up the pro-NATO coalition, but at this point, it looks very difficult for our side, the anti-side, to win.
Q: Why do the Russians take out their frustrations with the United States by threatening not to ratify START II, which does have the value of ensuring them parity with the United States? What is it that causes this political reaction in Russia?
Eisenhower: There's nothing logical about this sort of thing, and the deputies in the Duma whom I talk to and who support ratifying START II see it just as some way to express their unhappiness with us. They have no other tool to use to emphasize their unhappiness, even though it's counterproductive. The deputies who would like to see START II ratified are rather exasperated by this. There is always a danger that we can take everything too logically. We're talking about human beings who react on an emotional basis. This looks like something that could be used to demonstrate that frustration, even if it's not in their interest. I would just hope that we use a little more psychology in the future because we could probably get everything we want in Iraq, along with good relations with Russia.
Isaacs: It's not frustrated legislators, it's trying to apply logic to the legislative bodies. There's a parallel if you want to look at illogic in terms of how a number of Republican legislators view the Nunn-Lugar program. Various legislators in the Huse have been saying, "The Russians are doing awful things in Iraq and Iran, and therefore, by God, we should cut off the Nunn-Lugar program to help the Russians dismantle their nuclear the weapons that could be pointed at us." That doesn't seem to be logical to me, but it was logical to about 200 members of the House of Representatives. So, if there is illogic from time to time in the Duma, there may be some in our legislative body as well.
Q: In the world we're in today, it's no longer thought to be good for the economy to have high defense spending, either here or in Moscow. When people talk about arms control proposals, they ask how much money will it save. Is it possible that economic constraints might be the saving grace of these arms control problems?
Isaacs: Dealing with economics brings in a measure of logic which doesn't always apply. There's another example around the world where the IMF is going around to a number of countries, South Korea particularly, but also Central European countries, and saying, If you want to rebuild your economies, you have to cut military spending. Then Secretary of Defense Cohen goes to the same countries saying, "You'd better not cut military spending." So, we have the economics weighed against other policy elements. I think there is a strong argument within the Pentagon for the economics that you talked about. The Pentagon would be delighted to go down to START II levels immediately; they're restricted by Congress. There is a fair possibility that there could be this tacit agreement, moving to the lower numbers under START II, although in response to the earlier question, I can't see how we would move on to START III without formal ratification of START II. So economics could drive the Pentagon, which could drive U.S. policy toward some of these reductions we desire.
On the other hand, at the same time, Speaker Newt Gingrich and others are going around saying, "$270 billion may not be enough for the military this year. We'd like to raise the military budget." So maybe while you see economics as the driving force for cutting military spending, there are others in Congress who would rather increase military spending, no matter what the consequences.
Q: Why does U.S. military action against Baghdad reinforce Russian concerns about NATO expansion?
Eisenhower: I'm glad you asked that question because I'd like to clarify that the word "swindle" related to NATO expansion, not to Iraq. First of all, there are both similar features and certain features that are different. The key similarity, at least from what I understood, was in the perception that America is intent on using its status as the world's only superpower to impose its will across the board, most specifically in NATO expansion and with Iraq. There's been very little analysis of even where Russia's interests are in the Middle East with respect to Israel. You kind of get this feeling that they must be againt Israel, in some fashion, because of what seems to be a pro-Arab approach from Moscow. But in fact, there are 700,000 former Soviets living in Israel, so they have a great interest in Israel's security as well. In Moscow, I heard many times that the UN is in jeopardy if the United States acts unilaterally because the votes in the Security Council are in favor of finding a diplomatic solution; so, if the United States acts unilaterally, it has essentially said that the UN does not count. The Russians, and again this is their viewpoint, regard the UN as a vital organization in the world because it is one organization in which they have a voice as well as a veto. And I heard over and over again that unilateral strikes would undermine the UN, when it was bad enough that the United States doesn't pay its dues.
A couple of people also said to me: "Isn't it sort of ironic that your secretary of state, your chief diplomat, is saying that diplomacy won't work, and isn't it interesting that your former ambassador to the UN says that the UN can't handle this issue." I think that there is just a very strong feeling in Moscow that use of force in the long run will not deter proliferation questions because it only underscores one more time that the only way to be of any importance in this world is to have all the high technology gadgets that can help you impose your will. Again, these are not my views, but this is what I heard.
Keeny: I'd just underscore one aspect of that response. From a Russian perspective, they would like to feel they were in a cooperative position working with the United States. But their positions, which don't seem illogical on Iraq, are just dismissed out of hand by the United States, which says it will proceed unilaterally, regardless of world opinion in general, and Russian opinion in particular. That can disturb Russians, particularly if they are feeling that their general political position in the world is substantially threatened.
Eisenhower: One other interesting thing that Primakov mentioned in our meeting was that if the United States takes unilateral action, in his view, it will be the end of the peace process in the Middle East. The United States is the key actor in the Middle East, and this will discredit the United States' position there. So, there is more at stake than the question at hand. Not only the future of the UN, but the United States' position in the region as well as the ability to deal with these issues cooperatively.
Q: Do the Russians really have a different estimate of what Saddam Hussein wants to do with respect to developing weapons of mass destruction? Are their interests really different from ours?
Eisenhower: My impression is that the Russians do share our non-proliferation goals and it is a question of whether diplomatic means have been exhausted. In the course of trying to research some of Mr. Primakov's biography, I did discover something rather interesting. In this Washington Times article, the author made a big deal about Primakov's trips to the Middle East just before the war with Iraq. You'll remember, he went twice. This is actually the genesis of this tremendous campaign against Primakov here in this country. In the Washington Times article, it said these two trips to Iraq created a complete fall-out between Primakov and Shevardnadze. The implication was that Primakov was freelancing in the Middle East against the foreign minister's wishes. I used my opportunity when I saw Gorbachev on this trip to ask him this question directly: Who sent Primakov to the Middle East? Was this Primakov off trying to find solutions on his own against the foreign minister's wishes? Gorbachev said flat out he personally sent Primakov to the Middle East on those two occasions. What was also interesting about this, and this was confirmed by two other sources I talked to, is that Shevardnadze reacted in a way that no one in Moscow could understand because Gorbachev had sent Primakov himself. Primakov was of the view that the war could be averted, because of his long-standing relationships there. In fact, Shevardnadze's position on this against Primakov actually did much to split Gorbachev's relationship with Shevardnadze. I thought that was very telling. Again, because we have a rather cockeyed view of Primakov in all this, this tends to infect the way we view the Russian role. We all have to keep our eyes and ears open. At least as far as I know and from what he said, our non-proliferation goals are the same. He emphasized that many times to me but others said that he did it privately in the Duma, that they are going to support UN resolutions. The difference maybe in the perception of whether, actually, diplomatic means have been exhausted.
Keeny: This confrontation with Iraq comes at a time when we seem to be having some success in persuading Russia to tighten up its export controls, its handling of peripheral leakage or sale of information to potential proliferating countries. I think the Russians are increasingly recognizing that they have as much to worry about weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East as anybody else, and that they should do all they can to tighten up this regime. If I were that close to Iraq, I would want to be very careful that this kind of U.S. intervention was going to contribute to the principal non-proliferation objective, namely, making sure that 10 years down the road, Iraq is really part of the community of nations and does not have a substantial additional capability with weapons of mass destruction.
The United States hasn't really been very imaginative in a number of the approaches that one might take. I'm not saying they would succeed, but one of the complaints of the Iraqis has been the unbalanced nature of the inspection teams, which are overwhelmingly American and Anglo-Saxon in make up. A number of people, including the Russians, have suggested, why don't you modify and expand the nature of the inspection teams to either obtain Iraqi acceptance or at least call their bluff. Why not add to the existing group a significant number of Russians, French, Chinese, Italians, what have you, and make it a much larger inspection group, and even possibly reduce the number of Americans. I would involve these other countries directly in Saddam Hussein's bad behavior if it continues vis-à-vis the inspection teams. We've taken a very arbitrary position. We do it exactly the way it is and the way we want, and we won't even consider anything else. We have not created a world opinion that we really have exhausted all the diplomatic approaches, and I think that is very frustrating to the Russians and other people who may well have basically good intentions in trying to resolve this without creating a situation which makes it even more certain that Saddam Hussein will continue his programs of weapons of mass destruction and destabilizing nature in the region.
Q: I wonder if Susan Eisenhower heard any ideas when she was in Moscow for diplomatic alternatives to bombing that couldn't usefully be applied here?
Eisenhower: The only thing I heard was when I met with Primakov on Saturday. The big question was whether Kofi Annan was going to go to Iraq. He personally stated that he wanted to see that happen. But beyond that, I'm afraid that was one of the questions I should have asked but I didn't. This, if you'll remember, on Saturday was just after a Washington Post article about Russian sales of fertilizer fermentation equipment. There was some personal insult felt around Moscow. I personally cannot evaluate that story, but some people said that the accusations were a provocation, that there wasn't anything to it. I can just say as a person who is part of this community, that dual-use transfers are going to be a very big problem.
Q: What are the constructive things the United States can do to maintain UN sanctions on Iraq?
Keeny: In view of Saddam Hussein's bad behavior, we can probably maintain the sanctions. I think if we engage in an ineffective bombing campaign, we may well find a number of important countries will simply no longer abide by the sanctions. The whole sanctions regime may collapse if Saddam can emerge as the perceived aggrieved party and not someone who is in violation of Security Council resolutions.