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  • Franklin C. Miller, Former Senior Director, Defense Policy Arms Control, U.S. National Security Council; Atlantic Council Board Director
  • Richard Burt, Former U.S. Chief Negotiator, START; Atlantic Council Board Director
  • Vassily Boriak, Senior Counselor, Embassy of Russia; Former Russian Representative, START JCIC

FRANKLIN C. MILLER:  Thank you, Fred, and thanks to the Council for hosting us.  So today we are going to talk about a treaty, which features 30 percent reductions, but which has been criticized from both the left and the right as being not ambitious enough in its cuts; allowing too much time to elapse before the target goals are met; not taking account of short-range weapons or non-deployed weapons.  I am sorry.  Those are the criticisms leveled against the Moscow treaty in 2002.  (Laughter.)

But I am making a point here.  And the point that I am making is the point of this session that the new START treaty has to be viewed with the perspective of history.  In arms control, in many ways, the past is prologue.  There are issues to be discussed with this treaty.  There are issues that are directly associated with the treaty such as the bomber counting rule, as we have already heard.  The question of whether verification is a goal in and of itself or a mechanism to ensure that the treaty is being enforced.

There are tangential issues like short-range nuclear weapons, missile defense and what force structures will emerge from the United States and the Russian Federation following this treaty.  And we are extremely fortunate this morning to have two experts here to help discuss these issues with us. 

We have with us, as Fred said, Vassily Boriak, a career foreign service officer in the Russian Federation, who has been deeply involved in political military issues and in the START issues for some time.  And we have my fellow Atlantic Council board member, Rick Burt.  The notes given me, Rick, start your career off with the New York Times.  But, of course, you and I know that we met before that, although neither of us are that old.  Rick has a distinguished career in the private sector and in the public sector.  He was ambassador to Germany.  He was the chief negotiator in the START I talks with Russia.  And he is also the chair of Global Zero.

So gentlemen, let me start you out and, Mr. Boriak, let me ask you first and then –

RICHARD BURT:  U.S. chair.  We have the Russian chair right here. 

MR. MILLER:  Sen. Margelov.  Let me start you out with the broad perspective first.  Given the course of your career, the world scene and indeed the nuclear scene is very different now than it was when you were involved in START I.  How should the members of the Duma and the Federation Council and the United States Senate view this treaty in light of the changed circumstances in the world, its changed relationship between what was then the Soviet Union and the United States today, Russia and the United States, the lower nuclear force levels on both sides?  And then we will get Ambassador Burt’s view on that.

VASSILY BORIAK:  Well, my experience with the START treaty is much more modest compared to some members of this distinguished audience.  Actually I joined this JCIC, the implementation committee under START, as a Russian representative for it just a few years.  And I can share not thoughts, but impressions, first of all.

First of all, I am impressed by the fact that the previous treaty, START treaty, survived for 15 years.  That should be taken into account.  We proved that we can do it.  It was extremely difficult at the very beginning.  To run such a treaty is to run a big enterprise.  And that is what I experienced in this JCIC commission.  And what I was impressed with, how the way of our interaction evolved.

You know, when you start a treaty implementation, you pile dozens of concerns and resolve the outstanding issues and it started rather slowly.  This pile grew and well, sometimes when we were confronting each other at the very beginning.  But then the experience brought us together.  And we started to understand each other better, to interact, to cooperate in some ways.  In some cases, we went for additional transparency that is also an important factor going further than it was previously envisaged by the treaty.

So I think that is the main – resolved the main factor, which should be taken into account that it can be done.  It can be done in a mutually beneficial way, in a transparent way and in a way which leaves us with a necessary degree of confidence that the strategic stability survives.

MR. MILLER:  Thank you.  Rick, if you look back 20 years to when you concluded START I, and you looked at this new treaty today, how do you see the treaty in the global significance?

MR. BURT:  Well, Frank, when Fred called me recently and asked me to appear here on the panel and talk about lessons learned, I spent a little time thinking about it.  And what is interesting, I think, about my experience in that era versus today is there aren’t very many interesting lessons learned. 

And even going beyond that, I would say it would be a profound mistake to try to find many lessons because I think in so many really fundamental ways, beginning with, say, the nature of American domestic politics today, knowledge of these issues within the U.S. Senate and the Congress more broadly, concern over the problem of the U.S.-Russian arms race.  There is an old-fashioned term.  We have moved on.  And I think quite properly Under Secretary Tauscher focused on a new agenda of problems.  The threat of nonproliferation, the spread – the security of nuclear knowhow, materials and weapons, the problem of terrorism and its potential linkage to nuclear problems.

We really do need to kind of think about arms control in a new way.  And ironically, one of the dangers, in my view, and Jan Lodal in his question sort of touched on it is we are a little bit in danger in this debate that we are coming into in ratification of kind of being thrown back into a kind of old Cold War framework.  You are right about what you were saying about my bio, you know.  I started off after studying this stuff with Harlan Ullman at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy being a bean counter at the International Institute for Strategic Studies for four years and compiling the strategic balance as part of the military balance and counting U.S. and Soviet strategic forces, and then going and covering this stuff for the New York Times, and then doing it in the government for 12 or 13 years.

You know, I think, like a lot of people in this room, I am sick to death of a lot of the micro issues here.  But we are all going to be dragged kicking and screaming back into this.  So the important thing about the debate as it unfolds is that it take place, I think, in a new context.  And it is important.  And here, I think, the administration and the Russians – and I want to talk to the Russians about this I hope today – I hope we can maintain the balance.  On the one hand, it is going to be important to introduce the new issues at play.

I heard in an interview Sen. Jon Kyl say when he was asked about the treaty and then someone asked him, well, gee, aren’t we worried about proliferation and nuclear terrorism, he said this treaty doesn’t have anything to do with proliferation and terrorism.  That is fundamentally wrong.  And all he needs to do is spend some time in the forthcoming NPT Review Conference to understand that it has a lot to do, in my judgment, with creating credibility for the United States and Russia, who as Brent Scowcroft pointed out, have 96 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons to be able to say that they are addressing the article six issue and the grand bargain issue.

And all you have to do is go back to the last NPT Review Conference and see how people postured and continue to posture this meeting that Ahmadinejad had in Tehran focused on the hypocrisy, the dual standards that was largely a reflection of the fact that the perception that the United States and the Russian Federation hadn’t been taking this issue seriously. 

And I was very interested to hear Ellen Tauscher talk about – she just said it in a breath that the idea of multilateralism, of getting to the point where more than just the Russians and the Americans could address these issues.  Other nuclear powers could be brought into the process.  And that is clearly going to require another, at least one more agreement between the U.S. and Russia side to bring down forces to a lower level, to deal with stored weapons, to deal with tactical nuclear weapons.

But that is the dilemma the administration faces.  On the one hand, it wants to say, as Ellen Tauscher said, this is a modest agreement.  It doesn’t drastically change the current situation.  But at the same time, we have to, with the international community, it seems to me, be very clear that this is laying the groundwork for much greater progress down the road.  And if I can just stop here in terms of answering your question, I guess I view the treaty that I worked on as the end of an era.  And we negotiated it very much with that atmosphere.

And I can tell you we spent a lot of time in Moscow when things were kind of in a state of chaos and collapse.  But this is potentially the beginning of a new era.  The irony of the situation is we have two constituencies, I would argue, U.S. Senate and perhaps parts of the Russian establishment that don’t understand to the degree the Obama administration understands and maybe the analytical think tank world here in Washington understands that we are in a new era.

MR. MILLER:  I think that is right.  I think that is one of the issues that both the Russian Federation and the U.S. government will need to confront.  As we do this transition from one era to the next, we are nevertheless having to deal with a treaty, which is going to be scrutinized and examined before it proceeds to ratification. 

One question I would like to ask each of you is what advice you would provide to the State Department, to the foreign ministry as they prepare for the ratification debates?  A piece of advice that I would provide is that one shouldn’t oversell these treaties, this treaty.  We always get into trouble when we depict something that we have accomplished as being the most important accomplishment in two decades.  I would rather view this treaty the way Harold Brown famously described SALT II.  It is modest, but useful.  There are other things to be done.

But we are going to be dragged through the maw of the details.  And it will have to have the Senate, the Federation Council and the Duma maintain the broader view.  So how do you do that?  How would you recommend that the Russian government approach the Duma and Federation Council in preparing for the examination of this treaty before it comes up for ratification vote?

MR. BORIAK:  Well, I think we will advise our legislators to take into account the fact that such a treaty is not just about reductions.  It is not just about attribution or accounting warheads.  Treaties like that, the previous START and the new one, they are bigger.  They represent the rules of the road, of the plan, the strategic domain.  Both sides abide by certain rules.  And this is very important and that helps us interact successfully.

Well, speaking about the modest reductions, of course, if we would like to have a bridge for a new era, for further discussions, we need to provide some heritage actually.  If we had just dropped the original START treaty, what will we do in a few years when we won’t be aware what the definitions mean?  Well, of course, there is no definition for strategic weapons in the original treaty.  But still, a lot of very important things we agreed to.

So the new treaty helps us to continue this important instruments, important instruments of behavior and understanding.  That is the advice.  Of course, well, I still think we should not underestimate the reductions as well.

MR. MILLER:  Rick, we are not going to be talking about cutting throw-weight in half and the bomber counting rule as a stabilizing factor.  But these things are going to be examined anyway.  How would you recommend that the administration approach the Senate on these points?

MR. BURT:  Well, you know, I have gone – I actually spent some time reading this long document that I received that the State Department has circulated about the agreement.  And I think they have done a good job kind of thoroughly going through the various arguments and addressing them.  And they will have to do more of that.  I mean, they will have to – the verification issue is always a kind of key issue because it is the easiest issue for a legislator to understand.  Gee, can they cheat?  What can we do about that?

The offense-defense issue will have to be thoroughly explained to people.  But it can’t just stop where I think Under Secretary Tauscher stopped.  I think it has to be also put in the context of the threat that we are trying to deal with and the capabilities that we want to deploy.  I want to maybe, if we get a chance, come back to that looking at the issue of cooperative approaches to the issue.

But, you know, Frank, again, I don’t want to overdo it.  But I was thinking this morning of coming into this discussion with – and some of you maybe have the same little model or set in your office.  I remember during the SALT II debate of the Russian missiles and the American missiles.  When I was at the New York Times, I used to go to these debates that were done by, in those days, Richard Perle and Walt Slocombe.  (Laughter.)  And Walt would always kind of lay out a brilliant defense of SALT II, which, by the way, I wasn’t a great fan of.  But that is another time, other place.

But then Richard would just take this model out of his briefcase and show these huge SS-18s, SS-17s, you know, which I think were manufactured in a sex shop.  (Laughter.)  And these little minutemen and the debate was over, you know.  (Laughter.)  And thank God we have sort of moved beyond that kind of preoccupation.

But to come back to your question, I really think that and I hope that in this debate that the issue of how this can influence the broader U.S.-Russian relationship will have greater force because one of the interesting – one of the really interesting paradoxes when we go back to this question of what has changed, there was much greater optimism in the early ’90s about prospects for U.S.-Russian relations than there is today, especially on the Hill.  If you listen to my old friend, John McCain, talk about Russia today, I mean, you know, you have to go back to the deepest, darkest Brezhnev days to hear that kind of rhetoric.

And it is not based around this notion of the Russians developing a first strike nuclear capability.  It is about, for instance, his version of what happened in Georgia or what the Russians are doing, you know, in the Ukraine.  And these are key issues that we have an opportunity today to sort out.  So while we talk about getting gee, let’s get the Russians to help us on Iran.  Let’s think a little bit more broadly about the degree to which U.S.-Russian cooperation could be very stabilizing in Ukraine.  Let’s talk about countries like Turkey.  Turkey is developing a much closer relationship with Russia because of energy issues, because of their regional position.  We have interest in Turkey.  Let’s not just talk about Iran.  Let’s talk about the Middle East, for example, where in the quartet, we can work together.

So I think if you can demonstrate that the United States and Russia are now moving into a period of having a more productive geostrategic dialogue, START ratification becomes a lot easier.  And the reason I say that is I saw – and some of you may have been there – I saw Dmitry Medvedev at the Brookings Institution a week ago.  He did a first-class job in coming across as somebody who had developed a close relationship with President Obama, who was open, transparent and wanted the United States and Russia to be closer.

And it is interesting on Obama’s part.  I hear more and more than Obama, who is seen as a little bit kind of distant, standoffish with international leaders, has had, I think, 18 conversations with Dmitry Medvedev.  And that relationship seems to be quite productive.

MR. MILLER:  Let me drag you both to one other issue, which is a bit of a – I will try to avoid dragging us down a rabbit hole before I go to the audience for questions.  Short-range nuclear forces, something is going to have to be done with short-range nuclear forces before we can move on to yet another step of deep reductions. 

My own view is that the two governments ought to begin discussing now some form of treaty to reduce short-range nuclear forces.  What in your judgment briefly is the prospect for a discussion along those lines?  Mr. Boriak?

MR. BORIAK:  I go first, yes?  Interesting.  Should we call that short-range tactical or sub-strategic?

MR. MILLER:  Whatever – I was there when sub-strategic – go ahead.

MR. BURT:  Theater, sub-strategic, tactical. 

MR. MILLER:  Let’s – (inaudible, cross talk) – theater.

MR. BORIAK:  That is interesting.

MR. MILLER:  But the question briefly is do you think there is a prospect for discussions?

MR. BORIAK:  Well, as everybody in this room, I strongly support total nuclear disarmament.  That is an obvious and most desirable thing in the world.  Sub-strategic weapons should be discussed on bilateral level or in some different format because when we speak about sub-strategic, it is obvious that there are other players as well, not just United States and Russia.  We can name a few countries.  And some of these countries are much closer to Russia than the United States.  And in their possession, they have certain systems.  And some systems they are continuously developed and they grow in numbers and so on and so on.

So if we are really going to phase out the sub-strategic nuclear weapons, we should think about phasing in something else, other institutions or systems or mechanisms for enhancing security.  That is the way.

MR. MILLER:  Rick, quick thought?

MR. BURT:  Well, very quickly, the Atlantic Council, some of you may have been present at a very, very good panel recently on the issue of at least U.S. approaches to tactical nuclear weapons.  And I think the views of the panel and of the audience reflected, I think, the contemporary view in U.S. kind of defense circles that the United States and its allies probably don’t need to possess these weapons.  Nobody has been able to kind of figure out a meaningful military mission for them.

And so if we are going to – and I think the view in Russia about their tactical nuclear capabilities are different.  And this is a problem.  And I have to credit Jan Lodal for recognizing that this is going to be a continuing problem in the U.S.-Russian arms control dialogue for some time to come.  And that is, while the United States, I think, moves towards less reliance on nuclear weapons in its overall defense posture, the Russian military establishment is going to drag their heels.  They are going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into this.

I happen to think that the Russian political leadership, Medvedev and Putin and others have the ability to drag them in.  But it is not going to be easy.  It is going to be a tough slough.  I don’t think a separate negotiation between the United States and Russians on this would work for the reasons that have been pointed out.  The Russians are worried about China and other threats.  That is why I think it would make sense in the next round to lump them into a broader negotiation that would include intercontinental range forces, tactical forces, deployed warheads and stored warheads.

And if you kind of do the bean counting, you give people a little freedom to mix.  People want to store a larger number of weapons and deploy less because they are constrained in launchers or they are more worried about regional security concerns than intercontinental range security concerns.  I think it is plausible you could come to an agreement that would bring forces down to as low as 1,000 to 1200 overall weapons.

MR. MILLER:  Okay.  Thank you.  Let’s turn to the audience for questions.  Please state your name and be very brief and succinct.  And I am going to take two questions.  We will turn to the panel for answers and then we will see if we have time for another two.  So yes, sir?

Q:  Yes, Bill Jones, EIR News.  I want to go back to the issue of missile defense.  While it has been put aside in terms of this treaty, obviously, as we continue forward on this, this is going to be a major discussion in the U.S.-Russia relationship.  And given that from the beginning, going back to President Reagan, there was always the notion, at least in his mind, if not in Richard Perle’s mind, that there would be cooperation with then the Soviet Union on this issue.  And Putin’s Kennebunkport initiatives, it seems that that also would be a relevant issue to discuss cooperation as we move forward.  And by moving forward in a way that would somehow incorporate the Russians, this would be a further step in regard to the reset.

And I was just wondering also from the U.S. side, as well as from the Russian side, what are the possibilities?  How is this viewed?  Is the relationship moving and will it move close enough that we can begin to talk about cooperation on the missile defense side?

MR. MILLER:  Okay.  Thank you.  Second question.  Yes, sir, in the back. 

Q:  Thank you.  Daryl Kimball.  Very good session.  I wanted to ask each speaker what your view was about what an ideal and positive outcome for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference would be from a U.S. and a Russian perspective now that that is before both governments on the agenda. 

MR. MILLER:  And I thought I was taking people down a rabbit hole.  Two quick answers.  Prospects for cooperation in ballistic missile defense and your view of a successful outcome for the upcoming Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.  Missile defense.

MR. BORIAK:  Well, objectively, we have a basis for cooperation in missile defense field.  I mean, from the point of view of technologies and well, sensors, interceptors, you name it.  The issue is can we find coinciding part in our spheres of interest in missile defense?  For the United States, missile defense means one set of threats.  For Russia, it may be different. 

If we finally will manage to find these overlapping sectors of our interests, of course, there will be real basis for cooperation.  Actually the U.S. side promotes cooperation in missile defense as a way to alleviate our concerns.  But there are other ways as well.  We can think of some kind of future agreement, not in an ABM treaty, of course, but some kind of – Madam Tauscher used to call it an affirmative agreement, which will help us to follow some rules in missile defense field.  It may touch on geography, numbers and so on and so on.

The second issue, well, I am sorry.  I am not so much merged into this event yet.  Well, speaking of the review conference – speaking about the review conference, well, hopefully, we will avoid some clashes or confrontation.  We should deal with very sensitive issues like Middle East there.  Obviously, this will pop up and – well, pop out is not the word.  It will be very serious there.  And hopefully – well, that is my hope because we will provide some constructive ideas to deal with this sensitive issue of the Middle East.

MR. MILLER:  Okay, missile defense cooperation prospects.

MR. BURT:  Well, they are apparently – they apparently agreed, and as they have done in the past, to exchange data so that there is a better understanding for the Russian side of the Obama administration’s new plans for missile defense.  That is clearly a good first step.  I mean, I would like not before START ratification, but I would like to see the administration really be bold here.  And I would like them to be able to provide the transparency in terms of the technology and even talk about – when we say cooperative programs, even talk about or hold out the possibility of joint capabilities here.

It just so happens Russian real estate is very well-situated if you are concerned about an Iranian threat.  It is a hell of a lot better than Poland was.  And so I would like to be – I mean, we are talking here about a very different situation, a different era.  We are not talking about deploying a system that has be to capable of defeating a Soviet first strike with thousands of warheads, penetration aids, decoys, all that stuff, which would have overrun any kind of SDI capability. 

MR. MILLER:  He hasn’t forgotten the details.

MR. BURT:  What we are talking about here is a limited deployment capable of defeating a small crude, you know, Iranian or some other third-state threat.  And so it is not beyond the mind of Russians and Americans to reach a sensible approach to this. 

As for the review conference, I mean, here I am a dreamer.  I would like to see the review conference to all endorse the goal that President Obama and President Medvedev reached in April last year, which was global zero.  I would like everybody to reaffirm not just Article VI, but say that they support the goal of a worldwide total elimination of nuclear weapons.  I would like to see greater support for the additional protocol.  I would like to have this group welcome the new START treaty and very clearly to the Jon Kyls of this world underscore the link of START to the goal of nonproliferation, so nobody can get up and say this has nothing to do with it.

And I would like it also – I would like the group to also support the notion of follow-on negotiations between the United States and Russia, which would set the stage for a multilateral negotiation.  And finally, I would like to see some progress at least just in terms of endorsement of the sort of internationalization of the fuel cycle, enrichment and – international enrichment reprocessing centers.

MR. MILLER:  I think, if I might just add one point of my own, I think it will be very important for the review conference to endorse the START treaty because we hear all the time from Americans and Russians and European nonproliferation experts that it is important for our nonproliferation goals to continue to have reductions with the Russian Federation.  If this treaty goes unremarked by the NPT Review Conference, if it is not endorsed, I think that argument will be seriously weakened.  And it will be seriously weakened at a time when the new treaty is coming up for ratification.

Do we have time for one more question?  Do we have time for one more?  Okay, because I have been threatened with death if I run over.  Sergei Rogov, hey, a brief question, so that I don’t get shot.  I know that is hard.

Q:  No more than half an hour.  (Laughter.)  My question is about bean counting.  And I would like Frank, you to answer it together with other members of the panel.  We say that it is a modest reduction and that is true.  But for many decades, we have strategic stability based on the notion of the threat of bolt out of the blue, disarming, decapitating strike.  And during your previous life was engaged in nuclear planning and according to the well-known facts, it was received that you need two warheads for each target.

MR. MILLER:  No, but okay.

Q:  So this is the situation for the first time.  We have 1500 deployed warheads, 1550.  And 800 launchers plus additional military targets and command-and-control posts.  So my question is, are we moving to a situation when we really can get rid of this notion of surprise disarming, decapitating attack and deal with much more substantial issues, how to maintain stability in a new qualitative situation. 

MR. MILLER:  Rick?

MR. BURT:  Well, I am just struck by Sergei’s question about bean counting because, of course, in the academic world – and I also once had something called a RAND bomb computer.  (Laughter.)  And all you needed to do was you just needed to kind of spin this wheel and you have the yield and the accuracy and whether it was a ground burst or air burst.  And you got a statistic that said what is the probability, SSKP, the single-shot kill probability, of taking out that target.

And you can do that kind of analysis you can say two weapons.  But, you know, at one stage in my life, I got access to the inner sanctum to look at the SIOP.  And don’t worry, Frank, I will be careful here.  (Laughter.)  I mean, two weapons on a target?  There will targets that were getting a lot more than two weapons.  I mean, the whole thing was kind of completely crazy.  And so you are right.  That kind of analysis and the notion of strategic stability, whatever, you know, is no longer predicated, I think, on a bolt out of the blue, even leaving aside the factor that a bolt out of the blue would kill on both sides between probably 50 or 100 million Russians and Americans.  So this is meant to be a counterforce strike.  But that is another world.

But I would just simply say that it does – a new concept of strategic stability has to address 21st century issues.  It has to address energy, security.  It has to address the concern – the very real concerns that Russia has in the Caucasus and that we have about terrorism as well.  And key states that if they begin to become fragile and begin to fail, whether it is the Ukraine or others, that we can work together to make sure that these don’t lead to greater instability and international disintegration because both Russia and the United States have an interest in integration, not disintegration.

MR. MILLER:  Mr. Boriak, any views?

MR. BORIAK:  Well, I can only support what the ambassador mentioned.  Well, we still have this feeling of the remaining two major nuclear powers.  That is a kind of a difficult heritage.  But I agree completely.  We should look into the future and we should compare ourselves to other players more and more and to engage them more and more.  And then this concept of bean counting, it will dissolve by itself.  So I hope for the best.

MR. MILLER:  My own view is first to support Rick’s statement that we are really dealing with a world of overarching issues that have nothing to do with bean counting.  In the narrow context of this treaty, the strategic stability that comes from this treaty has really nothing to do with the treaty at all.  It has everything to do with how the two governments decide to deploy their forces.  From an American standpoint, having placed a significant number of warheads on submarines, which are utterly survive – in having placed single warheads on its land-based missiles to go back to the days when Jan and I used to go through all these calculations for real.

That is a stabilizing force posture.  I hope that the Russian Federation as it moves forward with its strategic forces continues that same pattern of reducing the number of warheads on its land-based forces and of keeping survivable forces in the submarine leg to allow for what is viewed generally as a stable survivable second-strike force, which gives you stability in the overall context. 

So on that bean counting note and having dragged us back, Sergei, back through the muck and mire of the old treaties, let me thank the panel for this discussion.  (Applause.)

Related Experts: Harlan Ullman