WELCOME AND MODERATOR:
DARYL G. KIMBALL,
ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION
AMBASSADOR JAMES E. GOODBY,
AMBASSADOR AVIS T. BOHLEN,
GEORGE N. LEWIS,
SENIOR RESEARCH ASSOCIATE AND ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR,
PEACE STUDIES PROGRAM,
FRIDAY, APRIL 11, 2008
Federal News Service
Edited by the Arms Control Association
DARYL KIMBALL: Good morning, everyone. I am Daryl Kimball. I am executive director of the Arms Control Association, and we are an organization devoted to effective arms control policies designed to reduce international tensions and enhance international security. Today, with three distinguished speakers, we are going to address what we believe still needs to be done to reduce U.S. and Russian strategic tensions and the weapon systems and policies that contribute to those tensions. Before I introduce our three speakers this morning, who are going to address different aspects of the U.S.-Russian situation regarding the missile defense proposal in Europe and the two countries’ strategic nuclear arsenals and what is going to happen to them, I’m going to briefly summarize where things stand, so that we can talk about where we think things need to move forward.
Last week, as we all heard, following the NATO Summit in Bucharest, Presidents Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush met for the 28th time and issued a summit declaration that outlines areas in which the two sides work together. But just as importantly, the document reflects continuing areas of friction including the expansion of NATO and issues relating to the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. And, most significantly, their problems regarding the future course of nuclear reductions, particularly the future of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which is due to expire at the end of 2009. Contrary to White House claims, President Bush was not able to assuage Russia’s concerns about the U.S. proposal for a ground-based missile interceptor system in Poland and an advanced radar in the Czech Republic.
For over a year, U.S. and Russian officials have been discussing proposals for a follow-on to the START agreement. Although that treaty’s reduction limits were reached several years ago, the START verification regime still provides predictability and confidence that is very important to ensure compliance with the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, known as SORT, which lacks any verification measures. SORT calls for the United States and Russia to reduce their operationally deployed strategic nuclear forces to 1,700-2,200 warheads a piece by December 31, 2012, when the treaty also will expire.
Russia wants to negotiate new warhead limits to 1,500 warheads or below, as well as restrictions on strategic delivery vehicles. But the Bush administration remains opposed to codifying deeper arms limits. The Kremlin and the White House both want a continuation of some of the verification measures in START, but can’t agree to the terms. In other words, while both sides say that the Cold War is over, and of course it is, they still deploy thousands of warheads on high alert on missiles and bombers that are, of course, there to deter use by the other side.
Their failure to further reduce the salience and number of nuclear weapons diminishes the credibility, in our view, of U.S. and Russian efforts to win support for measures to strengthen the nonproliferation system. Ambassador Jim Goodby is going to talk more about this. Meanwhile, the United States planned to deploy an initial battery of 10 long-range ballistic missile interceptors in Poland, and the radar tracking system in the Czech Republic has created further tension also. The U.S. claims the systems are intended to deter a future Iranian long-range missile threat, but given the location, Russia believes that Russian offensive missiles in Western Russia could be the target of this new system, especially if it is expanded in future years.
To soften Moscow’s opposition, President Bush took with him to the meeting in Sochi, Russia, ideas intended to assure Russia that the system is not directed at Russia. In a non-paper that was given to President Putin, Bush proposed several ideas for doing this, including the idea that Secretary Gates talked about weeks ago, refraining from activating the proposed systems until Iran shows that it has a missile capability of long-range. He also volunteered Washington’s readiness to negotiate limits on the anti-missile system and to allow a Russian presence of some kind to monitor the system. But many details would still need to be worked out and, of course, Russian would prefer that there be no anti-missile missiles based in Poland so close to their ICBM fields in Western Russia. If there is to be any agreement, I would expect that Russia is going to insist on a legally binding treaty on missile defense transparency and cooperation.
So, in our view, as you will hear from the others, a rush to deploy this system without assuaging Russia’s concerns could lead Russia to resist further arms reductions and/or take destabilizing and unhelpful counter measures. And, while Bush won recognition from NATO of the U.S. effort and agreement by NATO for further study of its integration with NATO theater missile defenses, in our view, if you look at past NATO statements, Bush clearly did not get NATO’s backing for this system. Clearly, these two issues: offensive missile reductions and missile defense in Europe are far from being resolved.
Today, with our three distinguished panelists, we are going to outline the steps that we believe the next pair of U.S. and Russian presidents can and should take to put the U.S.-Russian strategic relationship on a more stable footing, specifically through further verifiable reductions in the two countries’ excessive arsenals and by crafting a more comprehensive and cooperative approach on missile defense and missile nonproliferation.
We will hear first from Ambassador Jim Goodby on the nuclear reductions agenda. He is, among other things, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He has held many senior government positions, including—and I can’t really list all of them because there are quite a number of them—special representative for the security and dismantlement of nuclear weapons. He has authored with Sidney Drell an Arms Control Association report, What are Nuclear Weapons For? Recommendations for Restructuring U.S. Strategic Forces.
Then next, we will hear from George Lewis, who is with us from Cornell University, on the technical realities and limitations of the strategic anti-missile project. He is senior research associate and associate director for the Peace Studies Program at Cornell. He holds a Ph.D. in physics. He is also a fellow at the American Physical Society. He has written many reports on the missile defense issue, including a recent article in the October 2007 issue of Arms Control Today focused on the European missile defense debate.
Last, but not least, we will hear from Ambassador Avis Bohlen, who is adjunct professor at Georgetown University. She is a former career Foreign Service Officer, and she retired in 2002 from the Department of State, where she last served as assistant secretary of State for Arms Control. She is a member of the Arms Control Association’s board of directors.
Following their remarks, we will take your questions and have discussion. To begin, we will start with Ambassador Goodby.
JIM GOODBY: Thank you, Daryl. One of my many jobs that Daryl didn’t list was working with Arthur Goldberg, who was a former Supreme Court justice, former secretary of Commerce, and so forth. Arthur Goldberg liked to tell the story about when he was introduced by somebody who said, this is the former this, the former that, “I give you the former Arthur Goldberg.” (Laughter.) He didn’t quite call me the former Jim Goodby, but I thought you were edging that way.
KIMBALL: I’m sorry. You are very much with us.
GOODBY: I am sensitive. (Chuckles.) Well, I thank all of you for coming here. This is a subject that I think is so important that I would like to see 10 times as many people, but I am glad you all made it here at this hour in the morning. We are talking about something that I have been working on off and on ever since Larry Weiler and I got together in 1957 in London to negotiate with the Russians. I went back last month to Lancaster House where we did those negotiations with George Shultz, Sam Nunn, Bill Perry, and Henry Kissinger to talk again about some of the same issues that we were talking about then in Lancaster House.
The four people I mentioned have been very active in the past year or so in trying to increase the awareness that we have a real problem out there and something has to be done about it. I wanted to give you their views, as I understand them. I am not speaking for them. I am trying to give you my impressions of these people as they have been working their way through this problem.
To begin with, you have to remember that George Shultz was Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, and that they had met with Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik in 1986, and there, talked about the possible elimination of nuclear weapons. That idea, I think, has been in George Shultz’s mind ever since. It was what he called the highest stakes poker game ever played, and it has been in his mind that we really missed something then. We would like to get back to it. And, as time has gone by, he obviously felt that more and more strongly that this was something that needed to be revisited.
So, in October 2006, on the 20th anniversary of the Reykjavik meeting, he organized a conference at the Hoover Institution on how we might go about reviving these ideas about eliminating nuclear weapons that Ronald Reagan and he had pushed in Reykjavik. He then commissioned several papers, which were presented at another conference at the Hoover Institution in October 2007. Summaries of all of these papers have just come out in a book titled Reykjavik Revisited. This has summaries of all the papers presented at that conference. I wanted to tell you a little bit about some of the conclusions that the authors of those papers came to.
First of all, I assume that most of you have read the two articles in The Wall Street Journal: the one that appeared in January of 2007 and the one that appeared in January 2008. Both were very strong appeals for the idea that we needed to talk again seriously about a world without nuclear weapons. How did [Shultz, Nunn, Perry, and Kissinger] get to that point? As they looked at the world around us, they saw a growing number of potential nuclear-weapon states. They saw the possibility that these nuclear-weapon states would get into a conflict and that the nuclear weapons might actually be used. They saw the possibility of loss of control. They saw a world that would be very dangerous for American and general interests in the world. Worst of all, “most alarmingly” was the words I think they used, they saw the possibility that terrorist groups might be able to acquire a nuclear weapon and use this nuclear weapon against one of the major cities of the world.
They used the word “urgent” at least two or three times in the first article and again in the second article because they saw, as they put it, that we were at a tipping point. In other words, they felt if we can’t get this potential nuclear arms race globally under control, then we would face a problem in a very short time. So they saw a certain urgency. They felt we needed to do something fairly quickly.
They also felt that we were perhaps not thinking fresh about the place of nuclear deterrence in our security. They felt that in the U.S.-Russian relationship, nuclear deterrence was basically obsolete. I think that is not too surprising. I think you can say that President Bush has said this also two or three times, including in the strategic statement we just talked about. So if nuclear deterrence in the U.S.-Russian relationship is obsolete, why do we still plan to possess 1,700-2,200 nuclear weapons in the year 2012? That is the question one might ask, and they did ask.
Elsewhere, getting beyond the U.S.-Russian relationship, they felt that as more and more nuclear weapons are developed and held by various countries—the technology is widely available—that the idea of nuclear deterrence in other contexts than U.S.-Russia also becomes increasingly dubious; as they put it, increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective. So they felt that there was a need to rethink nuclear deterrence, that it didn’t play the same role that it did play during the Cold War, and that we hadn’t really caught up with that as yet. They made an appeal to think again about the role of nuclear weapons and defense, and not only in this country, but worldwide.
Another point of very critical importance to them is that they felt there was a need to connect the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons and the short-term actions that needed to be taken to move us toward that long-term goal. As they put it, without the bold vision, the actions will not be perceived as fair and urgent; without the actions, the vision will not be perceived as realistic or possible. In other words, to them, the way of mobilizing world opinion, U.S. public opinion as well, was to state what the objective is, state it very clearly, and state in a terms that will rally opinion behind it. In that way, they felt, you can then get more support for these short-term actions, which often are seen as kind of cumbersome and not necessarily taking us to any important place.
They also felt that a greater effort was needed than they thought had been made in the recent past to move toward a world without nuclear weapons. What they actually said was the steps we are taking now to address these threats are not adequate to the danger. In other words, more has to be done. They listed in the second Wall Street Journal article this past January several points, some of which are in the strategic statement that was issued by Bush and Putin, others of which are not. I will read this to you later if any of you that have not seen it would like to have your memory refreshed. But what I would like to tell you more about is the more detailed, more substantive arguments made in this recent book, Reykjavik Revisited. The people who wrote this book are really outstanding because they have real knowledge about what is going on in the U.S.-Russian relationship, nuclear technology, verification, and so forth.
Let me just give you some description of what they wrote about. In the first section, we call it “Getting to Zero,” which probably has some resonance with my friend Bob Barry because that is one of the things he is talking about as well with BASIC. Professor David Holloway of Stanford wrote about further nuclear reductions and his basic idea was maybe we can amend the Treaty of Moscow, SORT as Daryl called it, so that instead of 1,700-2,200, you can reduce it to 1,000. He also argued, and the four principals strongly feel, that we need to extend the verification provisions of the START treaty, which, as Daryl pointed out, expires at the end of next year.
There is no time to be lost. This is not something we can play around with for a year while a new administration gets itself in order. This has to be done very quickly. I was glad to see there was some mention of this in the recent strategic statement. I am sorry to hear from Daryl that more progress is not being made. That is a very urgent thing to do, which the four principals that I am connected with saw as highly important; something that really ought to be done now if we could possibly do it.
David Holloway in his ideas about further reductions talked about the difference between operationally deployed nuclear warheads, which are relatively easy to monitor—I say relatively easily with some caution—compared to finding non-deployed nuclear weapons. We recognize that as we move down the ladder toward zero, we are going to have more and more problems at finding non-deployed warheads. Nobody is going to kid you about how hard that is going to be.
But, in the first instance, if you do focus on deployed nuclear warheads, you can probably do a lot better than we have done so far in getting down below 1,700-2,200. You can probably get down to much lower numbers. The point all of the four principals very strongly make, David Holloway made it as well, is that this no longer can be just a U.S. and Russian deal. The United States and Russia have to take the lead because they have the preponderance of nuclear weapons in the world. But very quickly they have to bring in other countries, European, Asian, and Middle Eastern, that are involved in these issues and make it a global effort.
“De-alerting” is the next one. Bruce Blair has been debating this issue for quite a long time. Again, the four principals feel that more time should be given to make decisions about nuclear war. Therefore, the alert levels should be reduced in general. There also was a paper done by Rose Gottemoeller that talked about addressing short-range tactical nuclear weapons, not something discussed so far between the United States and Russia. We felt that there should be some discussions with NATO about the possibility of addressing short-range nuclear weapons because those are the weapons that are more portable and more easily seized by terrorist groups, but equally can cause a great deal of damage in any major city.
There are three other papers in the first section of the book, which I won’t get into, about dealing with various aspects of verification. That is a problem that is recognized and has to be dealt with. As we go more and more toward zero, it is going to be something that that will require some new techniques, new thinking, and more political cooperation. It all depends on what happens in that area I think.
The next section of this book is called “Managing Nuclear Programs.” The basic idea behind this is that while nuclear-weapon states are reducing, we have to be careful that other states don’t begin to go the opposite way. This section talks about the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which is one of the items mentioned by the four principals in both of The Wall Street Journal articles. They feel the treaty should be ratified at an early time. That step is fairly critical in terms of bringing other countries onboard to live up to the expectation that other countries have that there will be a cessation by treaty of nuclear weapons testing.
Jim Timbie gave us a paper about how to deal with the spread of [uranium] enrichment and [plutonium] reprocessing capabilities as we see the increase and the possible use of nuclear power, “nuclear renaissance,” as it is called. We have to address that issue because if we have a proliferation of uranium enrichment capacity, as for example in Iran, then we are going to have a problem in terms of that type of proliferation. So Jim Timbie had some ideas about that, and others are us are continuing to work at Hoover on that particular problem.
Bob Einhorn had a paper about going beyond a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) and had some thoughts that I think are very important. Matthew Bunn, as usual, talked about the need for a global cleanout of these fissile materials. Jack Matlock, the last ambassador to the Soviet Union, spoke about the need to resolve regional disputes. Nobody argues that those regional disputes are not drivers in a serious way of nuclear proliferation. We need to address those disputes. Max Kampelman and Steve Andreasen spoke about the need to bring the United Nations and other entities into the drive toward a world free of nuclear weapons.
I am going to stop right there. Thank you very much.
KIMBALL: Thank you, Jim. We will next turn to George Lewis who is going to describe some of the technical issues related to the missile defense system.
GEORGE LEWIS: Thanks. I am going to talk about technical capabilities and limitations of missile defenses and how those might be viewed as beneficial or threatening to various parties. As I think everybody here knows, the United States has proposed to deploy three major missile defense components to Europe. One is a large phased-array X-band radar called the European Midcourse Radar or EMR, a smaller transportable X-band radar called the Forward-Based Radar or the FBX, and 10 missile interceptors in Poland. These all would work together with the existing large early-warning radar in Fylingdales, Great Britain, primarily to enhance missile defense of the United States from attacks from the Middle East.
In order to put this system in context, it is useful to step back a number of years. The original National Missile Defense (NMD) system, also referred to as the three-plus-three system, proposed by the Clinton administration, which they decided never to deploy, would have deployed ultimately a couple hundred interceptors in the United States, Alaska and probably somewhere else. But the key job of the sensors would have been done by pairing two different kinds of radars: early-warning radars that we already had ringing the United States would have been ultimately accompanied by the so-called ground-based radar, GBR. This is a very large X-band radar.
These radars would have worked together. The early-warning radars operate at a low frequency. That means they can’t measure details of targets. They can’t tell a warhead from a piece of wire two-feet long. They are essentially useless for what is called discrimination, picking out the warhead from other objects. They do have a very long detection range and an ability to search a broad area.
On the other hand, the large X-band ground-based radars do not have as large a detection range, but because of their much shorter wavelength, they are able to measure target features at a resolution of about 6 inches in range. They also are very likely able to image targets in two dimensions with a similar resolution using a technique known as inverse synthetic aperture imaging. Thus these radars hold out the theoretical possibility of being able to discriminate real warheads from decoys, a task the lower frequency early-warning radars cannot hope to accomplish. However, as I’ll come to, the emphasis here must be on theoretical.
The Bush administration came in, and their missile defense program took a somewhat different approach to the key sensor issue. It would still use these early-warning radars for the long-range search and tracking. But instead of deploying these very large ground-based X-band radars, they deployed a somewhat smaller sea-based X-band radar, the SBX, which you have possibly heard about. It is mobile at the level of about three miles per hour at sea and is currently based in Alaska.
And instead of deploying the other large X-band radars, the Bush administration has gone with an approach of deploying these transportable forward-based radars close to threats, so you will get some very early tracking data on a missile launch. But it is questionable if they would be able to do much in the way of discrimination because they only see the early part of the flight. The Bush system actually looks like the initial Clinton system. You have a big X-band radar in Alaska, which is focused on North Korea in principal. It can at least attempt to do discrimination of a threat coming from North Korea.
On the other hand, coming from the Middle East, we don’t have any X-band radars. All we have are these early warning radars that can’t do discrimination. That is basically what this European system from a technical perspective is about: trying to put a radar in Europe that can do discrimination on threats coming from the Middle East.
I’ll just briefly describe the components of the proposed European system and I will tell you how it is supposed to work. Then, I will tell you why it won’t work. Finally, I will tell you why the Russians might be worried about it even if it doesn’t work.
The main radar component is the so-called European Midcourse Radar. It is a large X-band radar. The antenna is about 40 feet across. It is an existing radar that is currently deployed at the Kwajalein Test Range in the Marshall Islands. It has been made superfluous for that purpose by the development of these smaller transportable radars. So the administration was looking for something to do with it, I guess, and it is now supposed to be moved to the Czech Republic. While it is a physically imposing radar, it is much less powerful than it looks. The reason for that is these kind of X-band radars have little transmit/receive modules that put out and receive the radar energy. This radar, however, has many fewer modules than you would normally expect to see in an antenna that size. In fact, it has about one-twentieth the modules. So it is much less powerful than one might think. For those of you who are familiar with the concept of power aperture, if you naively plugged these numbers in, you would think this radar is much more powerful than it is.
The forward-based radar uses a very similar technology. Even though its antenna is much smaller, it would probably fit lengthwise in this room, it is actually more powerful in some respects because its antenna is fully filled with these little modules. We have four of these now. We are building three more. You may know that we have one in Japan looking at North Korea.
The smaller forward-based radar could be deployed as early as about 2009; the EMR, the big radar, a few years later. The United States also plans to deploy 10 interceptors in Poland. These are basically the same as the roughly 30 ground-based interceptors we have deployed in the United States right now, except one stage will be removed, which allows them to fly out more quickly even though not quite as fast.
These components would work with, as I mentioned, the large early-warning radar at Fylingdales, which is already there. It has already been upgraded. It is part of our national missile defense system, which, as I have mentioned, has the advantage of long detection ranges, but it can’t do much discrimination.
The way this system would work is the first indication you would have of a missile attack from Iran would be from space-based early-warning satellites, which would give you the number of launches and rough location of the launch within a kilometer or two. As these missiles rose up in their powered flight, the forward-based radar, whose location has not been specified—it could be in Turkey or Georgia—would detect the missile. It would track this missile much more accurately and then would pass that information onto the bigger midcourse radar, which like the big GBRs we were planning under the Clinton administration, has almost no ability to search. It has to be told where to look.
This radar, the EMR, would then track the missile and the warhead, after it is released from the missile, very accurately. It would attempt to discriminate the warhead from possible decoys or debris. Based on that, the United States could conceivably launch one of those 10 interceptors, probably more than one, at the warhead. That interceptor would release a homing kill vehicle that would directly collide with the warhead, destroying it. If for some reason that didn’t work, the information from these radars and the Fylingdales radar could be passed onto the central U.S. system, which could still attempt to intercept them with the interceptors in Alaska. That is how the proposed system is supposed to work.
Now, what is wrong with this? The short answer is almost everything. The first part, the early-warning satellite detecting the missile, will work. But then things get problematic. The forward-based radar would probably be able to detect and track the missile in powered flight provided it wasn’t launched from very far back in Iran. But it is pretty problematic once the warhead is released. The reason is that conical warheads—they need to be conical for reentering the atmosphere—have very low radar cross-sections for X-band radars. The early-warning radar in Britain will see a radar cross-section roughly 20 times higher than these X-band radars will.
While that is problematic, the EMR, the midcourse radar, is hopeless. The kind of things you are seeing from the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) appear to indicate that this EMR has a detection range of some 2,000 kilometers. Its actual detection range against a warhead is going to be much smaller. The MDA seems to be assuming a radar cross-section of one-square meter, whereas the real radar cross-section of the warhead is probably going to be a hundredth of that. This radar will almost certainly never see a warhead launched from Iran toward the United States.
When it comes to the interceptors, which, as I said, are basically the same as the interceptors in Alaska, they will have the same problem. Somebody has to tell them what thing they see is the warhead and what isn’t because all they see until the very last moment is a point of light. They have to determine based on seeing points of light which one is the warhead. Just to put that in context, imagine you had to pick out a suitcase that had a bomb in it and there were 10 suitcases. But all you could do is look at them from binoculars a mile away. It is a hopeless problem. But that is basically the problem we are facing.
What you are then left with is the Fylingdales radar, which can track and give rough tracking data that could be used to launch an interceptor in coordination with a similar radar in Greenland. But they can’t tell warheads from anything else. That is what you get out of this system. The problem there, of course, is we already have that.
Given that this system seems so technically inept, from a just purely technical perspective, why would the Russians be worried about it? The first point is the radar, the EMR, was designed from the beginning to be extremely upgradeable. It has about 17,000 of those transmit/receive modules now. That can be increased by a factor of at least five, which would totally transform the capabilities of the radar. It would increase its capabilities probably by a factor of at least 50, possibly 100, because in addition to increasing the number of modules, you would use newer, more powerful ones. So, all of a sudden, you would have an extremely powerful missile defense radar in the center of Europe.
The Russians also have to be suspicious of the claims the Missile Defense Agency is making about the interceptors. What the agency argues is the Russians shouldn’t worry about this because there are only 10 interceptors, and, secondly, they are too slow to catch up with Russian missiles. Well, as Daryl has pointed out, there are only 10 of them at first, but this has to be regarded only as an initial deployment given that the Iranians are not going to stop at 10 missiles if they start deploying these. Secondly, the data on these interceptors is well-known, and it is fairly easy to just do a calculation that says these interceptors should be a lot faster than the MDA is saying. It is saying 6.3 kilometers per second, but if you put in the numbers, you get about 8 or 8.5 kilometers per second, which would be fast enough to catch the Russian ICBMs. I think more generally that the Russians are probably concerned about the entirely open-ended nature of the U.S. missile defense program. Nobody knows where it is going or where it is going to end up. How many interceptors will ultimately end up in the United States or Europe? How many of the theater missile defenses, THAAD and the Navy Aegis system, which will ultimately be capable of intercepting strategic missiles, are there going to be? Hundreds, obviously, but how many hundreds?
So there are reasons for the Russians to be concerned. And, I think, there are reasons for them to really view this system, the proposed European system, as just a foot in the door for a system ultimately that might have a chance of working. Thank you.
KIMBALL: Thank you very much, George. Avis Bohlen is next up.
AVIS BOHLEN: Well, Daryl, thank you very much for organizing this, and thank you all for coming. I think it is obviously an important subject, especially as we come up on a new administration. I am going to talk a little bit about where the strategic relationship fits into the larger Russian relationship and things that we might be able to do looking at a new administration to try to address these problems.
I think it hardly needs to be pointed out that the strategic relationship we have with the Russians is only one part of a much broader relationship. We can’t really talk about these issues in isolation from the rest of it. Now, this is a much more multifaceted relationship than in the Cold War. It is a very complex relationship and obviously a very difficult one, not particularly brilliant at the moment. I think the Bush administration bears some, but not all of the blame. We have to recognize that we are dealing with a country that has a huge accumulation of resentments and grievances. Anybody who has talked to Russians about their world affairs in general or strategic issues specifically will be aware of this feeling that they have been rolled again and again by the United States and the West. There’s Kosovo, NATO enlargement, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty; the list is long.
In recent years, of course, the Russians have made something of a comeback enriched by oil, gas, and so on. And Mr. Putin has been throwing his weight around in ways that we find very difficult to deal with. So it is a difficult relationship. I think the underlying factors are not really likely to change very much. But it is certainly not a relationship we can afford to neglect for a number of reasons. The Russians are players on a huge range of issues. They occupy a very important piece of real estate that on the one hand makes it a neighbor of our European allies, and, on the other, it abuts the area of greatest threats to us, the Middle East and South Asia.
Now, there is a strategic dimension to this relationship and it is an important one. I think it is a great deal less central and less important than it was during the Cold War, when really it was very much at the center of our relationship, and in many ways defined our relationship. But it nonetheless touches on interests of both our countries. And it is something that is very important to the Russians for reasons I will describe in a minute.
This strategic dimension was nurtured under Bush I and under Clinton, but under Bush II it has, until very recently, been allowed to atrophy. We left the ABM Treaty and SORT was far short of what the Russians would have liked to see on reductions. The two working groups that were set up under that treaty met perfunctorily. Nobody in the Bush administration was interested in them and they basically ceased to exist in 2005. All of this was accompanied by a rhetoric that said arms control is something we do with adversaries and that we should not tie ourselves down, et cetera, et cetera.
Now, I think we have paid a price for this, in terms of our relations with the Russians and in terms of our relations with the world. I think the unilateralism, generally, of the Bush administration has put us in a bad situation that you are all familiar with. Belatedly, the Bush administration has attempted to revive the dialogue that it didn’t want to have anything to do with for a number of years. This is obviously a welcome development. It’s in part a repudiation of a unilateral approach. It’s not by chance that you see three veterans of the Bush I administration who are very active in working out the details of this revived dialogue.
I think there’s a general reason why the administration is sort of walking away from a unilateral approach, but there are two approximate reasons. One is the European missile defense problem, which clearly the Bush administration has recognized cannot be solved without the Russians. The other is the expiration of START at the end of next year. But it is probably too late for the Bush administration to really deal with these issues. On the missile defense they are, despite all the efforts they have made to assuage the Russian concerns, far away from having done so. I don’t think that they have great credibility on this issue with either the Europeans or the Russians. And, as Daryl described, the administration is unwilling to make binding commitments to specific reductions to limitations. We are not near having found a post-START arrangement, as they like to call it. They won’t even use the word treaty or agreement.
It will be very much up to a new administration to deal with both of these issues. I just want to say briefly a word about START. I think it is something that remains important to the Russians. After all, Russia is the only country that still has enough nuclear weapons to destroy the United States totally. No other country has that capability. So, while I would agree with Jim that, before too long, we need to include other countries in the reductions process, I think there is still an agenda of further reductions for the United States and Russia. This is something that a new administration will have to look at very promptly.
Given the huge disorder that accompanies transition from one presidential administration to another in our system, my guess is that there will not be time to really negotiate a new approach before the end of 2009. I would not agree, frankly, that we can just extend the START verification arrangements. I think they were designed for a different era, for Cold War arms control, when you had to be absolutely sure that the Russians were doing what they said. I think looser arrangements are appropriate for now, but clearly we do want to have some mechanisms for verification and for observation. These will take time to work out.
One possible solution would be to simply extend the START agreement for a year or so to give ourselves time. This is certainly an urgent problem. I think any administration, Republican or Democrat, is probably going to take a fresh look at these issues and whether it is so important for the United States to avoid binding limitations. But it will take time to do this, and, given Iraq, the economy, and everything else, it may not be number one on the new administration’s agenda. We need to give ourselves time to do it right.
The second issue is, of course, what to do about missile defense, the European missile defense in particular. There, however, is obviously a broader question about missile defense. The Bush administration has been trying to create a sense of inevitability about these deployments in Europe, but this is far from the case. Certainly, the Czechs have agreed to accept the radar. But the Poles are waiting to see which way a new administration will go. They have not signed on the dotted line yet. Congress also has, in different ways, kind of put a hold on this.
There are alternatives out there. I would see three broad approaches. One, we could just drop it. I think there’s a lot of logic in favor of this. We’ve heard from George about the technological problems. In addition, the whole issue, I think, was ill-conceived from the start. We went to these two countries that border on Russia without consultation with our NATO allies. It was a system that was designed to use European territory to protect the United States. At the outset there was no real concern about whether this was going to protect Europe. As I say, it was ill-conceived, and I think the Europeans were almost as unhappy with it as the Russians.
More broadly, it’s not clear what problem this missile defense is a solution to. The Iranian long-range missile capability is still a good ways off. Clearly, the possibility of a U.S. missile defense system on European soil has not been something that has given them pause on this issue. Sometimes you hear the claim that missile defense will deter countries from building long-range weapons, but that hasn’t happened anywhere and certainly not in Iran.
And if they did possess such a capability, which is something we should work very hard to prevent, the last thing they would do would be to pop off a missile at the United States. That is guaranteed sure destruction. It’s just not a very likely scenario. Here again, we have put the hardware solution ahead of the other instruments at our disposal, which include diplomacy, negotiations, and all the things we should try. In my view, there are a lot of arguments why we could drop this project without great harm to U.S. security. This may be politically difficult for a new administration, which could be charged with caving to the Russians.
A second alternative would be to rethink it. In some ways, to stretch it out. First, accept the limitations that Congress has put on it, such as having greater confidence about the interceptors [before deploying them] and to put it under a kind of different umbrella; to have it be much more a part of a European system. There are European missile defense efforts going on of a much shorter range. Above all, find a way to make the Russians comfortable with this arrangement. Now, there obviously would be great difficulties in the way of doing this. Of course, the hardware that we are deploying is aimed at a long-range capability and not a short-range capability. Still, I think this would be perhaps the most politically realistic way to go.
A third option would be to carry it forward according to the Bush scenario, which I hope very much that we do not do because even with all the things that we have proposed and devised to assuage the Russian concerns, I think it will remain a sticking point and something of very great concern. Ten interceptors in Poland on the Russian border, it’s not necessary to really argue whether these are as much of a threat as they think, or as little of a threat as we think. For instance, if you think about our sensitivity about Cuba over the years, I think you can understand some of the Russian neurosis about the location. Obviously, I think I shouldn’t have to spell out why we need to pay some attention to these concerns. They play back into the broader relationship. They play back into our relations with the Europeans. If we learned anything over the last eight years it is that just barging ahead, regardless of everybody else’s feelings, is not a recipe for success. Thank you.
KIMBALL: Thank you all. We’ve covered a lot of ground here. I just want to underscore a couple points. I think our bottom line is that the United States and Russia need to cooperate in order to address common security threats, as Ambassador Bohlen just said, and they need to reduce their bloated nuclear stockpiles. In the first few weeks [of the next administration] it will be important, in my view, that Washington and Moscow, as Ambassador Bohlen said, agree to extend, perhaps in modified form, the START verification provisions, and open talks on a new treaty for deeper reductions and more rapid reductions at a faster pace, with an aim of 1,000 warheads or fewer in the next round.
The missile defense system in Europe, which is unproven, expensive, limited in its capabilities, and can just hit a small number of offensive missiles in theory, can be indefinitely postponed, at the very least. There are other ways to counter any future missile threat from Iran, which U.S. intelligence estimates won’t be realized until 2015 and I would believe probably well after that.
With that, we are going to open the floor to your questions. We’ve got a lot of expertise here and we covered a lot of different issues. Raise your hand and please identify yourself if you have a question.
QUESTION: Yes. I’m a fellow in the State Department. Since there seem to be so many problems with the proposed European missile defense, I’ve heard other solutions that people are putting forward. One of them is putting Aegis systems in the Black Sea. I’ve heard that would work and the Russians might not be opposed to that. I’m just wondering, Dr. Lewis, if you would look at that and do you think it would work? Then, maybe from Ambassador Bohlen, is that something that Russia might go along with?
KIMBALL: So the question is about alternative missile defense architectures that might avoid some of the conflict.
LEWIS: In fact, the Missile Defense Agency’s current thinking about this includes forward-deployed Aegis and THAAD systems to cover the shorter-range missiles that might be fired at Greece or a similar country that the currently proposed system couldn’t hope to protect. The current version of Aegis would not, from the Black Sea, be capable of defending the United States. The interceptor is simply too slow. It’s going to get faster, and it’s quite possible that the upgraded version might be able to do that. I simply haven’t seen the numbers yet on what that system would be capable of. Certainly, the version of the Aegis system’s Standard Missile-3 that will be operational at about 2015 would at least have a chance of doing that, as far as we know today.
BOHLEN: I think that sort of answers the question. It probably would be less upsetting to the Russians. Of course, Turkey is one of the allies that is interested in missile defense for itself so it could conceivably have that application as well.
KIMBALL: In fact, this is the option that President Putin suggested last summer might be pursued. I don’t know how much discussion there has actually been between the two governments about that option. The focus seems to have been on resolving concerns about the capabilities of a ground-based European system. But this is one of the scenarios that could potentially be explored by the MDA and could be discussed between the United States and Russia and our NATO partners if there’s time. One of the things that we’re arguing for is time. There is no reason to rush forward with the current deployment proposal.
LEWIS: I would just add one thing. While the [upgraded Aegis] interceptor will likely be capable of doing that mission, the radar on those ships is not up to the job. It will still need some kind of external radar support, presumably from something land-based.
KIMBALL: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: You mentioned that you didn’t see the Bush administration getting NATO backing for the system. So I wonder how you read the Bucharest summit statement?
KIMBALL: Well, let me try to answer that. Perhaps, Jim or Avis, you’ve got some thoughts about this. For several years the Bush administration has been discussing with NATO at summits about U.S. missile defense plans. The way I read the recent statement from Bucharest is that it is a recognition by NATO that the United States is pursuing with two European partners a specific system. It recognizes, but it doesn’t welcome or endorse formally, the proposal. It recommends further discussions among the NATO partners about how that system might be integrated in terms of command and control, as well as the technical and physical integration, with the NATO theater system that has been under discussion and, to some degree, development.
In my view, this is another example of NATO partners kicking this issue down the road. I don’t agree with the way the administration characterized this or the way headlines ran. It’s clear to me, from talking to some of the reporters who were on the trip with President Bush at Bucharest, that they didn’t take the time to check back at the past statements by NATO. I see this as an incremental statement. It recognizes what the Bush administration is trying to do. I also would add that this summit was focused very much on the proposal to expand NATO membership [action plans] to Ukraine and Georgia. That was the key issue that many European partners were focusing their energy on and they decided not to expend their limited political capital, diplomatic capital, to push back hard on missile defense, even if that’s what they wanted to do.
GOODBY: What was striking about the NATO communiqué is how much there was in it about cooperation with Russia in early warning and in ballistic missile defense. There was, it seems to me, a clear recognition that this would not work unless there is cooperation with Russia. This echoed, in a way, what was said by Schulz et al said in their second Wall Street Journal article: “undertake negotiations toward developing cooperative, multilateral ballistic missile defense and early warning systems…This should include agreement on plans for countering missile threats to Europe, Russia, and the U.S. from the Middle East, along with completion of work to establish the Joint Data Exchange Center in Moscow. Reducing tensions over missile defense will enhance the possibility of progress on the broader range of nuclear issues so essential to our security. Failure to do so will make broader nuclear cooperation much more difficult.” In other words, they identified ballistic missile defense and early warning cooperation as essential to solving some of the other problems, which are so important to global and U.S. security.
I don’t think that there’s much possibility that a future administration would drop altogether these plans. In fact, I would recommend that a future administration actually enhance cooperation with the Russians in the area of early warning. A lot could be done there that hasn’t been done, including the idea of satellites synched up with infrared to better monitor developments and provide better early warning.
In the context of a program that the United States and Russia might develop jointly with other countries to move toward the elimination of nuclear weapons, I also think ballistic missile defense would have a role in that. The architecture would have to be examined. I would be one that would even consider the idea of boost-phase defense, which has been discredited in the context of the current situation. But I think in the context of cooperation and moving toward elimination, in which all of the nuclear-weapon states are onboard and trying to do this, boost-phase defense against a relatively small area would be quite feasible and ought to be examined.
BOHLEN: I didn’t mean to drop altogether the idea of missile defense. I think it does have a role as sort of theater defense in Europe. But, I would question the long-range missile defense in Europe.
QUESTION: John Doyle with Aviation Week. Given that so much of this seems to be passed on to the next administration, I was wondering if any of you have been in contact with the three remaining major candidates or their advisors to counsel them. Or, conversely, have any of them reached out to you to seek some advice on these issues?
GOODBY: The interesting thing is that each of the three candidates has said something positive about this general idea. The latest, I think, was Senator McCain, and I have a quotation in which he spoke about this. His bottom line is the United States should lead a global effort at nuclear disarmament consistent with our vital interests and the cause of peace. It’s very similar to the language in the two op-eds put out by our four principals.
Obama said something in fairly great detail which basically supported this whole program. And, although I haven’t seen it, I am told that Hillary Clinton also gave an interview, I think it was to The Chicago Tribune, in which she also spoke favorably [about the concept]. So they are reading this material, I guess, and I think they are, each of them, recognizing that this is a fateful issue that they have to deal with. My worry is they won’t deal with it early enough. I think Avis has a point in terms of how long it takes to get organized, whereas I think some things really have to be done next year.
KIMBALL: I agree with Jim that all three candidates seem to recognize that there is an urgent need to pursue deeper reductions. Now, what each of them specifically means has not been spelled out. Deeper than what? So what we’re trying to outline here, in part, is, okay, how much deeper can we go and why. I think this is a question that we’re all going to have to press candidates to be a little bit more specific on as the months go on.
On missile defense, there are some differences. How clear they are will still have to be determined by more detailed statements. But John McCain seems to be a rather strong supporter of missile defense in general. He has not, to my knowledge, said anything specifically about how to resolve the European missile defense issue. Obama and Clinton have not said much, to my knowledge, about missile defense as a whole, but I think like many Democrats, they support theater missile defenses in certain circumstances but have a great deal of concern about the technical feasibility of strategic missile defenses.
I think we’re at the stage in these campaigns where the positions of the candidates are going to become clearer as the campaigns actually put together position papers. Based on my knowledge of the campaigns, they don’t have position papers specifically on the European missile defense issue at this stage. But I’m sure enterprising reporters are going to be asking them, from time to time, what they think about this. That will lead their advisors to start putting together some talking points.
LEWIS: As far as missile defense goes, while we may get some position papers I don’t think you’re going to hear a lot about it in the campaign. There have been efforts in the past, I think most notably the first George W. Bush re-election, to make it an issue and it just doesn’t work. The public just doesn’t care. So I just don’t see it becoming an issue.
KIMBALL: That’s a good point, George. What are they talking about in the campaign trail today? It’s not the mid-course radar; it is the loans that we can’t get for small homebuyers, et cetera. These are not going to be the issues that animate the election, but there is a possibility that we are going to see more specific positions than we have right now.
QUESTION: Larry Weiler. I would like to ask a question that’s sort of general. Even excepting that there’s some stated interest by the candidates, all three, in this general area, do you look at the problems of a new administration? No administration has too much ability to walk and chew gum at the same time in this area. There have got to be certain things that they’re going to have to deal with, such as the remaining North Korean business and the Iranian issue, that are much more complicated than missile defense in Europe. That’s an awful lot of activity to drain an awful lot of oxygen out of a new administration by itself. So that leads me to ask the question, probably of Jim, mostly, and others can comment, is there any effort on the part of these four horsemen to give some advice to the new administration? Are the four horsemen thinking about how an administration organizes itself and gets support enough politically to move in any of these other areas other than the immediate problems?
GOODBY: I think that what George Shultz is emphatic about is that his approach, and I think this is true for each of the others, is totally nonpartisan. They do not wish this to get into a political campaign in which the sides taken about the things that they’re talking about are Republican or Democratic. They hope that, in fact, everybody will perceive that there’s a need to do these things and do them fairly rapidly. Urgent, as I’ve said, is a word they use a lot.
I think you can assume that there are private contacts between these political figures and other political figures. I’m not privy to what they actually are advising, but I think it’s very clear. What these four have done with these op-eds and all these discussions that they have held, and the support from around the world now, Europe especially but also Asia, all of that has created a political space so that any future administration can act in a way that would be responsive to these kinds of things. I don’t think you should ask much more of them than this. I don’t believe that they want to get involved in advising this or that candidate or injecting the idea into the campaign any more than it already is. I think they’re comfortable with how things are.
My own feeling, if I were doing this just as a diplomat in the next administration, is that pretty soon in the next administration there ought to be a meeting between the new U.S. president and the new Russian president. I would say in the first quarter of 2009. I would like them, at that time, to pronounce themselves in favor of moving toward a world without nuclear weapons as rapidly as possible. I would like to hear them say something about things they intend to do, perhaps a strengthening or updating of the strategic statement that President Bush and President Putin just came up with. I would like to see that done, as I said, in the first quarter.
If that were so, how do you get everybody organized to do this? Here, I am taking a leaf out of what the director of National Intelligence has taken to doing, I would set up mission taskforces to deal with specific issues. If I were the president, I would want to have a particular mission taskforce for these nuclear issues, headed by a person of the stature of Sam Nunn or anybody else of that ilk, to move ahead because these things can’t wait. I don’t think we can just let it go until the bureaucracy gets organized and the secretary of state finds out where the men’s or women’s room is. So that would be my prescription. Avis, what do you think?
BOHLEN: Well, I would agree that a U.S.-Russian summit is bound to happen fairly early on, no matter who is president. I think that provides an ideal forum for giving a boost to the idea of deeper cuts and negotiating a follow-on to START.
I would be extremely pessimistic about anything really happening until some time has passed just because transitions are really messy. It’s such a weakness in our system. I would reiterate, of course, that although this is urgent and I think they all view it as important, I don’t think it’s the highest priority on their agenda or on the public’s agenda. So I think this will be not a backburner issue but a kind of middle-burner issue. You probably wouldn’t be able to negotiate something by the end of 2009. But you could agree to extend START for a year. And, for the reasons I said earlier, you have to have a different verification and transparency system.
KIMBALL: A quick point on this and then we’ll take a couple more questions. It will be difficult, but it’s also very possible. Part of our point here is that there is a growing call from within the United States and outside the United States—the candidates, the Congress, former secretaries of state and defense, Senator Nunn, other heads of state, French President Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Brown, and others—for action by the United States and Russia in particular as part of this broader agenda to further reduce nuclear arsenals.
While it will be difficult in the first year of an administration with several foreign policy and domestic policy crises, it is very possible to make progress. This is one of the reasons why we’re disappointed that Presidents Bush and Putin were not able to accomplish more, after 28 meetings and seven-and-a-half years, in dealing with strategic nuclear weapons issues. And, we now have a new irritant entering into the equation, the European missile defense proposal, which needs to be dealt with so that we don’t have further problems with the reductions agenda.
QUESTION: You spoke about the notion that nuclear deterrence is becoming or is obsolete, bilaterally. We’ve got a multilateral world in nuclear-powered tensions. What about the question of multilateral constraints on ballistic missiles, which is, of course, what ballistic missile defense is supposed to get at? How do you broaden the dialogue and extend things like the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), notionally, to get a state like Iran and to constraint its outlet reach?
BOHLEN: Well, I think this is an issue that’s not just about the MTCR but also nonproliferation generally, and I think we need to recognize how much of this is political. I think the development of a missile capability by Iran is political, and if the political circumstances are right it would agree to limit itself. Certainly, there are MTCR constraints on people providing Iran with the technology, the components, and so on, which they’ve been able to circumvent. I don’t think it can be effective if there’s not the political grounding. You can’t force people into it. It’s similar to the way that there are all these plans for pooling uranium enrichment capabilities, and so on and so forth. It’s very hard to persuade the have-nots to go into these arrangements. We need to be more creative.
KIMBALL: I think it’s a good question because here in the United States we’ve put a great deal of emphasis on missile defenses as the response to missile proliferation. I don’t think there are too many people beyond this room who know what the MCTR is. There have been other attempts, such as the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, to try to create some guidelines for responsible behavior on missile proliferation. While there isn’t any emergency, in my view, regarding long-range ballistic missiles, there are many states that are developing shorter-range and medium-range ballistic missiles.
There is a need for a broader international dialogue on this. Right now, that dialogue does not exist as you said, Avis, because there is not a political impetus for that, and that is largely because the United States has not been leading the way, as Ronald Reagan led the way in helping to create the Missile Technology Control Regime. This is an important part of the Arms Control Association response. But, so far, the United States has not been playing effectively enough, and this is one way in which the United States and Russia possibly could be working more together.
GOODBY: I would like to give Presidents Bush and Putin a little credit, though, on this subject because although it probably wasn’t a standout for anybody, there is a section in the statement that Putin and Bush agreed to which talks about the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. They take note of a joint statement on the INF Treaty at the 62nd session of the U.N. General Assembly to: “engage in high-level dialogue to analyze current and future intermediate-range and shorter-range ballistic and cruise missile threats and inventory options for dealing with them.”
LEWIS: One of the things that is hard with the case of a country like Iran is that long-range ballistic missiles are so similar to space-launch vehicles. Iran would undoubtedly see efforts to prevent them from doing that as efforts to keep them from being able to access space. I think that’s a serious complication in the case of countries like Iran or other countries with newly developing space-launch programs, such as India.
BOHLEN: And, also in trying to involve the Russians in this. Their space-launch industry is a huge moneymaker.
KIMBALL: I think we got one final question. Bob Barry.
QUESTION: Bob Barry. I haven’t heard a lot lately about the Azerbaijani radar that Putin offered up earlier. I know it’s not the right kind of radar for what we’re talking about, but supposing it were upgraded into a forward-base radar, would it then perhaps give the Russians a window back into the system that would enable them to be more reassured about what’s actually going on in the whole network?
LEWIS: That radar really can’t be upgraded to make it very useful. It could play a role in early detection, but it doesn’t help with discrimination. As I mentioned, the key thing we’re really hoping to get out of the European system is discrimination, and that Azerbaijani radar is even less capable than our early-warning radars.
QUESTION: Well, supposing you tear it down and build a forward-based radar of the kind you need?
LEWIS: Sure, Russia could do that. The United States will never let Russia have a controlling role in this system. But it might be acceptable as a contributing role.
QUESTION: It could provide a kind of window into the rest of the system, even though it doesn’t give them the detail over what to do?
KIMBALL: Well, I think we’re going to stop there. I appreciate everybody’s interest and your participation. We will have a transcript of this event online at armscontrol.org in a few days, courtesy of Federal News Service. Thanks, all, for being here. (Applause.)
Posted: April 11, 2008