Before its annual luncheon and membership meeting on January 22, the Arms Control Association held a panel discussion to examine the Bush administration’s nuclear posture review, which was first outlined in a Pentagon briefing January 9. The discussion addressed the results of the review, the differences between this review and the one the Clinton administration conducted in 1994, and the review’s impact on the Bush administration’s negotiations with Russia on strategic nuclear reductions.
The panelists were Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association; Janne E. Nolan, senior fellow at the Eisenhower Institute; Rose Gottemoeller, senior associate with the Non-Proliferation Project of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and Morton H. Halperin, head of the Washington office of the Open Society Institute and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Good morning, and welcome to this morning’s panel briefing on the nuclear posture review [NPR] and the prospects for U.S.-Russian arms reductions. Before I introduce our expert panelists, I would like to put the topic in the proper context. In December, President Bush broke his campaign pledge to “offer Russia the necessary amendments to the ABM [Anti-Ballistic Missile] Treaty” and abruptly announced his intention to withdraw from the treaty in June to develop, test, and deploy “limited” anti-ballistic missile systems to defend the United States and its allies.
But even without the ABM Treaty, missile defense testing cannot be significantly accelerated, and deployment of strategic missile defenses is many years away. Further, because it is too soon to tell whether the United States will deploy effective strategic missile defenses, it is too soon to conclude whether and how China and Russia may respond to them. Russia’s relatively subdued initial response was based, in part, on the expectation that deep nuclear force reductions might be codified in a legal agreement rather than through unilateral declarations.
It is important to remember that the ABM Treaty was based on the premise that limitations on anti-ballistic missile systems create more favorable conditions for agreements to limit and eliminate strategic nuclear weapons. Despite a number of missed opportunities on the part of U.S. and Russian leaders over the last three decades to reduce and eliminate offensive nuclear weapons, the ABM Treaty did create the predictability and confidence that allowed for important limitations and reductions in superpower arsenals that have benefited the United States and international security.
Along with the likely—though unnecessary and imprudent—withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, President Bush appears to have abandoned the goal of formal implementation of START II—a major accomplishment of his father’s administration—and the follow-on START III framework of 1997. It therefore becomes incumbent upon President Bush to demonstrate that he can succeed in achieving a new, effective, legally binding nuclear arms reduction agreement with Russia in the absence of the ABM Treaty.
The negotiation of formal agreements can be time consuming. But then again, the president’s proposed reductions would not be fully implemented until 2012. The president still has an excellent opportunity to lock in U.S. and Russian reductions and secure the detailed understandings, verification procedures, and warhead dismantlement procedures that the START process promised. Even with the prospect of U.S. strategic missile defenses, Russia is keen to secure an agreement codifying verifiable, irreversible strategic nuclear reductions in the range of 1,500-2,000 warheads.
Unfortunately, the president’s preference for unilateral, voluntary transfers of operationally deployed strategic warheads to a reserve force and the Pentagon’s nuclear posture review may have already poisoned the well. Though Bush’s goal of 1,700-2,200 deployed strategic warheads is welcome, the nuclear posture review would continue the policy developed in the early 1990s of maintaining a substantial “hedge” force that could be quickly redeployed to counter a resurgent Russia or another nuclear adversary. Not surprisingly, the official Russian reaction to this plan has been very negative so far.
Talks with Russia on strategic reductions have already begun. In a departure from usual practice, the Pentagon and the State Department are sharing the lead on the discussions. It is unclear at this stage whether President Bush will seek an executive understanding with President Putin that does not require formal legislative approval or whether he will opt for a legally binding treaty.
To help us explore these and other issues in greater detail, we have three speakers with substantial expertise on the nuclear posture review and U.S.-Russian nuclear reductions. First, we will hear from Janne Nolan, who will tell us how this nuclear posture review compares to the last one, which was conducted in 1994. After Janne concludes, we will hear from Rose Gottemoeller on how the posture review will likely impact the talks between the United States and Russia on the new strategic framework. I hope that Rose will also describe how the Bush proposal on arms cuts compares to the 1997 START III framework and review the thinking behind START III that she helped develop as a deputy undersecretary in the Energy Department. Finally, Mort Halperin will outline his vision of what an appropriate nuclear posture review in the post-Cold War era should look like and why. Following the panelists’ remarks, we will take questions from the audience.
Thank you. I spent part of this morning talking to some people who were directly involved in the drafting of this latest nuclear posture review, which still has not been released in an unclassified version. Just for historical context, there’s a long history of nuclear doctrinal innovations that come about as a result of mainly civilian thoughts about what should or might be done to change the nuclear posture, going back even before the Kennedy administration.
These episodes—and this is a gross overgeneralization—tend to involve civilian conceptions of nuclear doctrine that are superimposed on the resilient bedrock of operational realities. It is the requirements of the operational world—the plans and the targeting assumptions for nuclear war-fighting in case deterrence fails—that underlie the reasons that we have “x” numbers of nuclear weapons and how they will be used in crisis. Although political authorities are responsible for giving guidance to operational planners, it is operational plans that have a profound influence over how forces are structured.
This recent nuclear review differs from the 1994 Clinton review in several respects. Let me start with a quick comparison. First, the current review was congressionally mandated and inherited by this administration from the previous administration. In 1994, by contrast, there was an explicit commitment among the civilians in the Department of Defense to conduct a wholesale review—a new look, if you will—at the role of nuclear weapons after the end of the Cold War.
A second difference is that, during the 1994 review, there was no high-level, sustained commitment given to considering, let alone implementing, fundamental change. It started out as a very ambitious effort to scrub all of the assumptions of both declaratory and operational doctrine, to examine whether we needed a triad, why we needed to continue to rely on prompt counterforce, and so on. For many reasons, the review ended up as a pallid, little document that was not briefed around for very long and that essentially ratified the status quo. However, it did commit the United States to one “innovation”: establishing a hedge force. Whatever reductions were to be taken in the nuclear arsenal, according to this policy, we would have to have the ability to reload up to 100 percent of the downloaded force in the event that Russia returned to adversarial status or in the event that there was the ascendance of other so-called peer competitors.
When you look at the latest review, it suggests that there be a replacement of the current triad of forces—the traditional land-, air-, and sea-based forces that have long made up the U.S. deterrent—with a “new triad.” In this formulation, there is to be less reliance on strategic forces for massive attack. One element allows for the replacement of nuclear missions at some point with long-range, precision-guided munitions. A second emphasizes the introduction of defenses to further reduce reliance on nuclear weapons. And third is a plan for significant investment in the nuclear infrastructure, including to allow for some still-unspecified number of warheads that will become part of a reduced force to be held in a so-called responsive reserve. This third piece, the responsive reserve, is actually just one piece of a broader commitment to a serious investment in upgrading and revitalizing the nuclear infrastructure.
At any rate, these three components are seen by the authors to be very radical, even revolutionary, as I just heard this morning, and it’s important to try to understand what’s going on here. The review commits the United States to a really serious investment in nuclear capabilities. Now, the idea of maintaining the ability to wage nuclear war as the basis of deterrence is not new. The idea that you can derive deterrence from an infrastructure that can adapt by size and by capability according to the threat is an adaptation of that basic tenet. Rather than being seen as a new strategy, the so-called responsive reserve, which is what most people have paid attention to, is seen by critics not as actual reductions but simply taking weapons and putting them aside—with an emphasis on being able to redeploy them on relatively rapid notice.
One of the people I talked to this morning said, “Well, what’s the difference between what you’re doing and de-alerting?” And this participant responded facetiously, “Well, we didn’t want to give [Center for Defense Information President] Bruce Blair any credit.” And I actually think, to some degree, that that’s correct, that there was no consensus among the political authorities involved in this review on implementing deep reductions to the level that the president was talking about or on what is essentially a form of de-alerting, if these objectives had been stated explicitly.
Another important distinction between the Clinton administration’s review and this latest review is that there is no commitment to reducing the role of nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future. The Clinton review didn’t succeed in achieving any such goal, but the Bush review had no such focus from the outset.
It is nevertheless notable that this is the first statement of nuclear policy that acknowledges that conventional weapons could take the place of nuclear missions. What is not clear is to what effect, for what missions, and when. But the fact that that was stated is notable. It was explicitly rejected in the Clinton review.
The Bush review also has an explicit commitment to linking nuclear weapons targeting with deterring the use of other weapons of mass destruction. This was avoided in the first Clinton administration because the United States did not want to state explicitly that it would target non-nuclear-weapon states, with the Nonproliferation Treaty review conference around the corner in 1995. Once the conference was behind us, there was a lot of discussion about linking nuclear deterrence to non-nuclear contingencies. Over time, this has evolved into something short of a declaratory policy to use nuclear weapons for all kinds of contingencies.
One way to understand this recent review—and I think it’s an important way—is in the historical context of what happens to stated innovations and their actual translation into operational reality. Whatever one thinks about the statements of objectives in the current nuclear review, it’s important to remember that there’s a huge gap between what’s stated and its translation into policy change, for good or ill. The idea of having a responsive force and of using precision-guided munitions and moving to a “capability based” nuclear arsenal goes back to ideas of the 1970s. However, such objectives have proven elusive when it comes to actually planning strategic options.
We don’t have the precision-guided munitions to even begin to think about substituting conventional forces for nuclear weapons. The commitment to defenses, similarly, is nowhere near an operationally tested reality, and it will be, in my mind, a long time before the Joint Chiefs and STRATCOM [Strategic Command] believe that defenses can take the place of prompt response, to put it politely.
To sum, I think that this initiative fits into the context of a triumph of civilian bureaucracy, where there is a little bit of something to satisfy most constituencies, but it doesn’t amount yet to a military strategy in a way that you might otherwise be much more concerned about. Thank you.
I will begin by making a few comments on the nuclear posture review itself, although the bulk of my remarks will be on the nuclear arms control relationship between the United States and Russia and, specifically, on the recent history of that relationship as it relates to limitations on warheads. I will also talk about how we might draw on that history in the coming months, as the two countries try to negotiate a new framework for strategic cooperation.
My first and strongest comment on the NPR is that it places too much emphasis on the utility of nuclear weapons in U.S. military doctrine and strategy. That, in my view, is the most negative aspect of the review, and it in fact reveals the underlying meaning of the hedge strategy: nuclear weapons are important for a whole host of reasons, and we have to keep them around on that account. This emphasis is strong in the NPR, despite the fact, as Janne Nolan has recounted, that the review also stresses shifting certain missions to advanced precision-guided conventional weapons.
My second comment is that among the reasons the hedge strategy is being maintained is the possibility that Russia will re-emerge as a threat to the United States, despite President Bush’s declaration that the Cold War is over. Although it’s not stated in written nuclear posture review briefing materials, as they were released to the public, this concept is very present in the way that the posture review was briefed: both Russia and China are noted as continuing possible resurgent threats and peer competitors of the future. To me, this concept profoundly undermines the new relationship with Putin that President Bush says he is trying to establish. Such an outlook could result in a lost opportunity for the Bush administration to build a new partnership with Russia, unless, in the next six months, it can negotiate a new strategic framework agreement, as the president has stated repeatedly he would like to do.
Given the NPR’s emphasis on this hedging strategy against Russia as well as against other, more inchoate threats, I believe that it is enormously important over the next six months to give Putin the one thing that he wants: a legally binding strategic framework. Certainly, that was the quid pro quo, in my view, for President Putin’s acquiescence to Bush’s announcement of the U.S. intent to withdraw from the ABM Treaty. He felt he got one thing, and one thing alone, that he needed: an agreement from Bush to move forward with some kind of legally binding document by the next summit, which will be held in the early summer in Russia.
With that in mind, I’d like to make a few remarks about how I think we can get out of the situation the United States is in now, where, the Russians are very strongly complaining about what they call the “irreversibility problem” emerging from the NPR. That is, the U.S. hedge strategy and the large number of warheads Washington plans to maintain on the shelf will, in essence, create a situation where Russia will not get any true reductions out of the strategic arms reduction process promised and previously announced by the two presidents.
So, I will first talk a little bit about the history from the last few years and then talk about a way forward. By the time Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin met in Helsinki in 1997, there was a clear consensus between the United States and Russia that it was time to begin to address warheads in the bilateral strategic arms reduction process. But I want to emphasize the word “begin.”
Warheads are among the most sensitive technologies that the two countries possess, and the two countries recognized that they would not, for many years, be on a path toward irreversibility in arms control that emphasized warheads alone. But they did recognize that they would be able to begin to develop procedures and techniques for warhead monitoring and controls, although these methods would have a somewhat experimental nature to them, and that the two sides would continue to depend on launcher elimination for progress on irreversibility in the strategic arms reduction process. The Helsinki statement, which emerged from that meeting in 1997 and set the framework for START III, took exactly this approach toward warheads.
Actually, during the Clinton administration, there were three forums that sought to work on issues related to irreversibility of warhead reduction. The first was START III and the Helsinki statement. The second was talks to bring about reciprocal monitoring of fissile material removed from nuclear warheads. If you haven’t seen it, there was a very good letter by Ambassador Jim Goodby in The Washington Post yesterday recalling those negotiations in the 1996 time period and talking about how they would have played a role in this particular problem area. And the third area, one that this audience may be less familiar with, was the so-called Warhead Safety & Security Exchange Agreement, or WSSX agreement, which has been in existence since the mid-1990s and was renewed for an additional five years in 2000. I will talk about each of these in turn, but before I do, I’d like to emphasize two points.
First, all U.S.-Russian efforts recognized that they were a long way from a comprehensive, verifiable, and irreversible warhead reduction regime. We have to bear this in mind now as the Russians are fulminating over this nuclear posture review and the hedge strategy.
The second point is related to this: the Russians themselves were the ones who walked away from two of these three forums that I have laid out. At the time we tabled and discussed a draft with them in 2000, they could not accept a warhead protocol in START III. Nor could they accept a reciprocal monitoring of fissile materials, which had been suggested earlier. And again, Ambassador Goodby raised this point in his letter to the Post yesterday. So, we are now trying to recover momentum that the Russians themselves had a hand in disrupting in the mid-to-late 1990s and 2000. And now the administration has changed, and the Bush team is clearly less interested in monitoring warheads and including them in the arms control and arms reduction process. The United States’ interest in the arms reduction process itself has diminished.
People ask me, why do I think the Russians were less able to grapple with these issues during the late 1990s and 2000? I have one answer: the Yeltsin administration was weak. President Yeltsin himself was weak. The bureaucracy was leaderless and was not able to engage the United States usefully during that period. I went to Geneva many times and was involved in those talks and just felt that there was no “there” there on the Russian side. They were not able to engage. They were not able to get their positions together during that period.
Now, let me say a few words in detail about the START III warhead protocol draft. It was, as I mentioned, discussed in several high-level visits to Geneva in 2000. I would say it has a typical structure for a monitoring regime. It included an information exchange; baseline inspections; and some early demonstrations of monitoring technologies, techniques, and procedures. But it did not include, as I mentioned, an ambitious effort to fully put in place a chain of custody verification and inspection regime for warhead elimination because that would take time to develop. But we tried to put a developmental process in place that would, over time, evolve into a more ambitious warhead elimination and verification regime.
Regarding the talks on monitoring fissile materials removed from warheads, the Russians suspended these talks in January 1996. Again, the weakened state of Yeltsin was at fault; there was no support in the Russian bureaucracy. Time and time again, in many different forums during that period, we heard complaints about the expense of undertaking these kinds of more ambitious monitoring efforts regarding fissile material and warheads, although the Russians were quite enthusiastic about our willingness to pay for launcher elimination through the Nunn-Lugar program. Indeed, even now we see this in the proposals laid out by [First Deputy Chief of the Russian Armed Forces Colonel General Yuri] Baluyevsky last week here in Washington. Despite their concerns about what’s going on with the NPR, the Russians have again expressed hope that the United States can establish some continuing cooperative financing for eliminating launchers.
So, that is something that is well established now as a way for the Russians to finance their arms control efforts, and their concerns about the expense of warhead transparency and fissile material controls I took to be a bureaucratic block rather than anything that, in the end, would prevent something from happening.
But a key point that I want to make is that while we talked about these fissile-material measures, in addition to the draft START III warhead protocol, we tried to take a comprehensive approach to nuclear warheads. We want to establish them, over time, as an element of an irreversible strategic arms reduction process, ensuring that warheads were tracked from cradle to grave—from their creation, through their operational deployment, through their elimination process, to their storage as fissile material and related components. So, it was a kind of comprehensive concept, and I would certainly hope that we can get back to that kind of comprehensive approach in the future.
The final forum that I wanted to talk about is the Warhead Safety & Security Exchange Agreement. This is a lab-to-lab agreement between Department of Energy laboratories and Ministry of Atomic Energy laboratories in Russia, but it also involves Ministry of Defense and Defense Department cooperation in the working groups that make up the overall forum. These groups do a lot of things to try to enhance the safety and security of warheads themselves. In other words, they are not only important to our material and warhead protection, control, and accounting but also to work on new technologies and procedures for warhead monitoring—transparency measures, in other words.
As I mentioned, WSSX was renewed in 2000 after five successful years. The financing of projects under the group has been somewhat weak in recent years, and I would like to see financing built up. But it is an extant, active process that continues to work on these problems, regardless of the level of enthusiasm in the current administration for negotiating active warhead measures.
So I would like to emphasize that, in terms of a way forward, a great deal of groundwork on warhead transparency has already been laid, at a policy level and at an ongoing technical level, which we should try to take full advantage of.
And an interesting point that I think is lost in the current debate is that the United States and Russia also have very similar views on the overall structure of the monitoring that would be part of this new strategic framework agreement. They both agree that a foundation should remain in place from the START I verification protocol, and they have both agreed that they should engage in a process to develop new transparency measures, as needed, to support the new framework agreement. So, there’s basic conceptual agreement between the two sides that could be built upon if we can get beyond the current tensions over the NPR.
I see two possible ways forward on warheads, two ways on trying to deal with this issue of irreversibility concerning warheads in the NPR. One way forward—and this is the easy way out—is to continue to engage in technical development of new techniques and procedures, depending on the extant process, and calling it a preparatory period for future, more ambitious efforts in the realm of warhead transparency.
The second way forward is slightly more ambitious. That is, we should seek to develop new techniques and procedures for the transparency of warheads in storage. We should not look forward to the elimination stage and should instead try to establish a chain-of-custody type of approach. And I have reason to believe that both the Russians and the Americans might be willing to move forward to that more ambitious stage, beyond a simple preparatory period. Thank you.
I want to talk a little bit about what a serious nuclear posture review would look like, conceding that that was certainly not done in the Clinton administration, just as I think that it has not been done in the Bush administration. Let me start with three of the criticisms that have been made of the Bush review and its conclusions. These criticisms are, in my view, valid. But even if the administration is correct, it still could have developed a fundamentally different nuclear posture.
The first criticism has to do with the notion that nuclear weapons have utility. I think they do not, and I think that the effort to find uses for them is extraordinarily counterproductive in terms of dealing with issues of nonproliferation. But in terms of the design of the nuclear posture, I think it is in fact, as I’ll suggest, irrelevant whether nuclear weapons have some utility or not.
Second, there is the question of replacing nuclear weapons with conventional warheads. And since I believe there are no nuclear missions, I find this quite extraordinary. It is not at all clear to me what anybody means by this because it assumes that there were or are or could be military purposes for the use of nuclear weapons.
This is a proposition that has continually been put forward but in my view has always been shown to be false. And I think one of the best discussions of this is in Colin Powell’s memoirs, which describe how people came to him during the Persian Gulf War and said, “We have uses for nuclear weapons.” And he said, “Go try.” You can also go back and read discussions from the 1958 Quemoy crisis, where once again people said, “There’s utility for nuclear weapons.” There is no such thing. There has never been such a thing. And so replacing nuclear weapons with conventional weapons is either impossible or easy, depending on how you want to think about it. But the notion that we could somehow come up with a better, more accurate, deeper-digging conventional weapon and that that would then change the need for nuclear weapons I think profoundly misunderstands what nuclear weapons have been useful for and might be useful for.
The third criticism is the notion that the posture review hedges against a revival of Russia or China. Now, it has already been suggested that establishing a hedge could be taken to mean de-alerting, which many people urged the Pentagon to do and which we’ve now criticized this administration for doing. I think the issue is not hedging. I think hedging is, in fact, the right thing to do. The issue is the size of the hedge—how many forces we need in the hedge. But I think we ought to grab at the hedging and say, “This is exactly right.”
Now, if you began with the assumption—which the president has assured us is his fundamental view of the world—that Russia is not a strategic enemy, at least at the moment, Washington should think of the Russian nuclear posture the way it thinks of the British and the French nuclear postures. Now, one could spend a lot of time talking about what we think of those, but basically it means, as the president and the secretary of defense have both said, that they don’t go to bed at night worrying that the Russians will fire large numbers of nuclear weapons at the United States before they wake up.
The nuclear posture of the United States has always been and, in fact, continues to be based on that fear—one that was relevant and important in an earlier period but that is now totally and completely absurd. No serious nuclear posture can continue to maintain that hypothesis, but the current posture will clearly not lead to any change from that.
Now, even if you believe in a hedge, even if you believe in the utility of nuclear weapons in a wide variety of circumstances, you could still have a very different and a much less dangerous American nuclear posture. Let me suggest quickly what that would look like.
The first and most important element is for the president to tell the military that he does not want the capacity to launch and has no intention of firing nuclear weapons quickly—either in response to a fear of an attack or an actual attack, whether that attack is nuclear, conventional, or biological—and that, therefore, the ability to fire quickly is something that should not be and need not be built into the nuclear posture.
Second, the president needs to tell the military that they need not fear a large-scale, out-of-the-blue attack on the American nuclear forces; that if such a capability and such an intention ever is to develop again, we would have very substantial notice—months and years—that it was coming; and that, in the meantime, they need not design the posture out of the fear that the force might be subject to a sudden, large-scale attack.
Then the question is, how many nuclear weapons does the president want to have the ability to use in a given period? Here, I would divide the question into hours and days versus weeks and months, if not years. And in the first category, the question is, even if you assume that nuclear weapons had to be used to deter or to retaliate against conventional, chemical, or biological attacks—none of which, I think, is what we should do—I would argue that it is impossible to come up with a scenario in which we would want to fire anything like 100 nuclear warheads. Therefore, a posture that gives us the capacity to fire up to 100 warheads, at a range of targets to be determined by the president, is a sufficient number of warheads to have in a posture where the missiles could be fired in hours or days.
Now, I would also hedge against the re-emergence of a large Russian, Chinese, British, or French nuclear posture by having another 900 warheads, so that we get to 1,000. These would be in a standby posture of the kind that the administration seems to be contemplating for a much larger force—a set of nuclear warheads that are protected and kept in functioning shape but where the notion of linking them to delivery systems is measured in weeks, months, or years rather than in hours or days.
Finally, I think the president needs to tell the military that there is no requirement to be able to destroy some fraction of a conceivable enemy’s military capability—the bridges, the industrial capacity—and that having 100 nuclear warheads and a range of military and other targets that the president might threaten to attack or might actually authorize an attack on will deter others from using nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons or from even engaging in conventional attacks.
So, the debate about whether the United States can go below 1,000 warheads needs to be settled, in my view, by the president simply by taking it off the table—by, in fact, doing what the Bush people have always said they wanted to do, which is to move away from assured destruction. And the way you move away from assured destruction is by precisely telling the military that deterrence does not require the certainty of surviving an attack—remember, we told them no attack is coming—and then launching a strike that destroys some predetermined percentage of a hypothetical enemy’s industrial capability or conventional or nuclear capability.
If you take those factors off the table, I think that you will end up with a nuclear posture that is much less likely to trigger accidental or inadvertent launches by the Russians. Such a posture also would be much less likely to trigger inadvertent use by the United States but still maintains the capacity to deter others from doing things that even the authors of the current nuclear posture would like to do. Thank you.
Question: I have gathered from your comments that you feel that the administration considers Russia a strategic threat, but what proof do you have of that? In its policy documents, the administration claims that that’s not the case and that it plans to keep these weapons to counter some unforeseeable future threat.
Halperin: What I have been driving at is that there is an extraordinary gap between the assertion that the administration no longer consider Russia an enemy, at least in the short run, and the directives that it has given to the military for the design of the nuclear posture. After all, I know nobody who believes that Britain, France, Iraq, or China could launch a surprise nuclear attack at the United States that would take out a large part of its nuclear force. So, if we continue to expect the military to have a nuclear force that is on high alert, ready to survive a large-scale attack, I guess it’s logical to say it must be from Russia, unless they know something about a threat from outer space that the rest of us don’t know.
And similarly, the numbers make no sense unless you are either talking about surviving a Russian attack and destroying Russia. There is no other purpose for which you would conceivably use anything like the numbers that the military apparently keeps telling the civilians it needs, and the military only gives these numbers because the civilians have not told them, “Assume this is not about Russia.”
Nolan: Again, this apparent disconnect is consistent with a long-standing history of presidential inattention to the details of reviews and, in most cases, operational plans. But evidently, the effort by political appointees was really to try to accommodate what Bush had already publicly stated to Putin while also taking into account the views of the office of the secretary of defense, the Department of Energy, and STRATCOM. One of the participants said to me that if the cuts outlined by Bush had been final and not linked to the notion of a flexible infrastructure that can be built up, that the group would have found Bush’s policy “unacceptable.”
So, this is definitely a metaphor for the absence of presidential authority in these matters. So, Mort, with whom I agree with on almost all things, when you talk about, “The president should say this and that,” note that no president has ever done that successfully. It’s like the Beach Boys’ song, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?”
Question: Assume for a moment that the Bush administration is re-elected. At the end of eight years, will we see the development of a new nuclear weapon, and will we see the resumption of underground testing?
Gottemoeller: I think there’s no question from the briefing materials we’ve seen and the presentation of the nuclear posture review that there is a certain enthusiasm for moving in that direction among the high-level political appointees in this administration. But I would note that [Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy J.D.] Crouch again and again said, “We have no plans at this time to proceed in that direction.” But that little phrase, “at this time,” gave me considerable pause, I must say.
However, I believe that, if the administration is beginning to act on those enthusiasms, it perhaps hasn’t yet taken into account how difficult it will be domestically to restore those efforts. I particularly am thinking about what has been happening recently with Yucca Mountain in Nevada and the governor of Nevada being extraordinarily negative about moving forward on the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository. I think the administration will have heavy lifting to do if it wants to reopen the Nevada Test Site against public opinion in Nevada.
So, it may try to push in that direction, but I believe that it will have some barriers to jump over to accomplish it. I’m not saying that, in the end, those would be decisive barriers, but I consider them significant.
Kimball: Let me just add two quick points. I agree with what Rose said. But it was also clear from Crouch’s press briefing a couple of weeks ago that there still is no new military requirement for a new nuclear weapon. The administration will be pursuing an investigation of whether a modification of existing designs is desirable. There is already the B-61 Mod-11 earth penetrator. It is going to be undertaking a study beginning in April 2002 on further modifying existing weapons.
An additional barrier to resuming testing is the fact that the United States, despite the Bush administration’s policy on a test ban, is still a signatory to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The president could notify the treaty’s depository, the UN secretary-general, that the United States has no intention of ratifying the treaty and thereby free the United States of its obligation under the Vienna Convention on Treaties not to violate the intent or purpose of the treaty. But if he were to take that action, I think that there would be a negative international and domestic reaction that far surpasses the reaction to the United States’ notification of its intent to withdraw from the ABM Treaty because the CTBT is a multilateral treaty and is very much a part of the nuclear nonproliferation regime.
Question: Given that the test ban was rejected and that the posture review points at least in the possibility of resuming testing, do you think that supporters of the Stockpile Stewardship Program might now be more critical of that program? Also, how much do you think the Stockpile Stewardship Program should invest in things like plutonium production and tritium production?
Gottemoeller: Many working on the U.S. nuclear weapons complex would like to resume testing, not to produce a new weapon but because some of them are concerned that they are not able to maintain the weapons with the degree of certainty that they would like to have. So, I think there is a certain feeling inside the complex now that stockpile stewardship should be sustained at a high level and that we should prepare the infrastructure for testing. Certainly, that was a part of the nuclear posture review.
But I would like to stress that the emphasis in the posture review on improving the infrastructure—and that includes being able to reopen the Nevada Test Site more quickly—has to do with this question of whether the stockpile is in fact a stockpile in which the president can have high confidence. There is a small band of people at the political level in the administration who are very interested in developing new, small, “usable” weapons. But I would say the great majority of people in the weapons complex are more concerned about maintaining the current stockpile.
Question: What do you think the Russians expect to get, in terms of content, out of a legally binding document? If anybody expects any limits on the deployment of offensive weapons, I think they don’t understand the current administration.
Gottemoeller: No, they don’t. I can tell you what the Russians have told me, and that is that they require only a very simple, straightforward, perhaps two-page document that would have a minimum of three points: One, a restatement of the unilateral reduction announcements that Presidents Putin and Bush have already made. Second, some kind of statement that the national missile defense system the United States is constructing and any missile defense system that Russia would construct would not be designed in such a way as to remove the viability of the other side’s offensive deterrent. The third point is that the two sides will engage in a continuing process to develop the transparency measures that will be required to build confidence in the implementation of the reductions that the presidents have promised.
What the Russians envision is not a legally binding verification measure to verify that reductions have taken place but a transparency measure to increase confidence that reductions are moving forward as promised by the president. So, they have a very minimalist approach as to what they need, and some other things are being embroidered into it. Many of you have probably seen Baluyevsky’s press conference in which he mentioned some other things like Nunn-Lugar.
Nolan: I agree with everything Rose said; it’s very astute. I just want to suggest that there’s a good possibility that, by the end of this year, the necessity of calibrating this relationship will require discussions that are formalized at least in an executive agreement.
Gottemoeller: If I could just add one point—and I maybe was a bit unclear—the document I’m talking about, two to three pages, must be a legally binding document. So, Janne is absolutely right. But I wouldn’t give the administration until the end of this calendar year. In my view, this legally binding document must be ready by the time the presidents meet again at the next summit, which is tentatively scheduled for May. President Putin made it very clear at Crawford that he does not want to have any more picture tours of the White House. He wants an agreement to sign the next time around, and I think that that will be an absolute necessity for their next meeting.
Question: I’ve heard that the administration’s planned reductions are no more than what the Clinton administration was proposing because the weapons in submarines that are being refitted, in part, aren’t counted. Is that true?
Nolan: I believe the administration had to fight with certain parts of the Pentagon, not only with Strategic Command, about going below 2,000 for the first time. And frankly, I think that these large reserve numbers that we’re seeing now was part of the compromise that had to be crafted in order to enable Bush to make that rhetorical announcement.
I’m the world’s biggest optimist, but I also think that it is worthwhile paying attention to what the Bush administration has said about reviewing these numbers every two years. I think that this policy community, and others, perhaps on the Hill, might be able to push them to look more seriously at accelerating reductions.
Question: At the 2000 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference, a political commitment was made by the United States to an unequivocal undertaking to totally eliminate nuclear weapons. How do you believe the administration is going to square the nuclear posture review with this solemn undertaking to the international community?
Halperin: No senior official of the Clinton administration thought there was such a solemn commitment, and no official of the Bush administration thinks there’s such a commitment. So, I think they will not have trouble walking away from it because they don’t believe they made it, and they certainly were not told by their predecessors that they had made it, because they didn’t believe it either.
Nolan: Sadly, the worlds of diplomacy and nuclear planning are as far apart as you can possibly imagine. As was discovered clearly in the Clinton administration during discussions of the African nuclear-weapons-free zone protocol when there was reluctance on the part of the United States to sign, it became clear that few in the defense planning side believe that any of these agreements are binding. The view was, “They’re just policy.”
Kimball: Well, thank you everyone for your interest and attention. This will not be the last time that the Arms Control Association and, I’m sure, others of us here in this room will address this topic.