Full transcript of the third panel entitled “The Way Forward with Moscow” at the 2009 missile defense conference “Missile Defense in Europe: Next Steps.”

Panel 3: The Way Forward with Moscow


  • Arnold Kanter, Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs & Founding Principal, Scowcroft Group
  • Robert Bell, Former Assistant Secretary General for Defense Investment, NATO & Senior vice President, SAIC, Brussels
  • J.D. Crouch, Former Deputy National Security Advisor; Former Assistant Secretary of Defense; & Executive Vice President, Strategic Development, Qinetiq
  • David Kramer, Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Russia, Ukraine and Moldova; & Senior Transatlantic Fellow, German Marshall Fund

October 7, 2009

DAMON WILSON:  Thanks to our previous panelists for that discussion.  I think it actually started to preview some of the issues we’ll get in into this discussion on Russia:  “The Russians – The Way Forward with Moscow.”  And I want to turn this over to Dr. Arnold Kanter, former undersecretary of state for political affairs, founding principal of the Scowcroft Group, director for the Atlantic Council and a member of our Strategic Advisors Group.  Dr. Kanter, please take it away.

ARNOLD KANTER:  Thanks, Damon.  As Damon said, the title of this panel is “The Russians – The Way Forward with Moscow,” which of course prejudges the issue at many levels, but we’ll get to that.  I – let me tell you what I hope this panel will do and won’t do:  What I hope this panel, and – which is to say, panel discussion and the group – I hope we will start from the premise, we are where we are, and that we don’t spend any time with the coulda, woulda, shoulda part of this discussion.  So I ask all of you to exercise whatever discipline is required to avoid looking back.

And I hope over the next hour, in addition to all the other things I haven’t thought of, we’ll be able to address the following four questions:  First, how has the relationship between the United States and Russia been affected?  What, if anything, has changed?  Second, as the U.S. and NATO moves forward with the missile-defense program that was recently announced, first, should we engage, and if so, how should we engage with Moscow on the issue of theater-missile defenses?  And I think there’s in part an answer from the political perspective, but there’s also an answer from, let me call it, a practical military perspective that is where, as a kind of a matter of technology and physics, where are opportunities to cooperate?

Third question is, how will implementation of the new missile-defense program going forward, as well as any, let me call it, related initiatives the United States may take with NATO allies – the NATO alliance in general or specific NATO allies in particular – how will the implementation in both fronts affect the way forward with Moscow?  And finally, given the first three questions, how will the U.S.-Russian relationship be affected by theater missile-defense issues on everything from, oh, say, missile defense to other issues – arms control, the current START follow-on negotiations to Iran, to North Korea, to whatever?  So how will the relationship be affected going forward and where will it be affected going forward?

The speakers on today’s panel are, in suitably alphabetical order, Bob Bell, who is now at SAIC Strategic Business Unit in Brussels.  Before that, he hung out for a real long time at NATO, including as assistant secretary general for defense investment, and before that, he tried to rehabilitate a position I once held and did great damage to as – (laughter) – special assistant to the president and senior director for defense policy and arms control, and before that, for his sins, he worked on the Hill.

Our second speaker will be J.D. Crouch.  J.D. is now executive vice president for strategic development at QinetiQ North America, for those of you who were wondering what Q-I-N-E-T-I-Q spells.  Before joining QinetiQ, J.D., as I think you all know, was the deputy national security advisor and assistant to the president in President Bush’s administration.  He got to call himself ambassador when he was in Romania, and before that did a tour in the Pentagon.

Finally, David Kramer is now at the German Marshall Fund as a senior trans-Atlantic fellow, and he went to the German Marshall Fund from eight years at the State Department – I know what that feels like – (laughter) – in a number of capacities, most recently as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.  Without further ado, and so I don’t use up any more time, let me turn to Bob Bell.

BOB BELL:  Thank you, Arnie.  My former boss, Lord Robertson, used to say, I can be brief, whether you believe me or not, but we’re under a tight time constraint here.  As a cadet at the Air Force Academy, we were taught, never more than three points, so to tell you my three points up front in terms of cooperation with the Russians on missile defense:  First, the Russians bring a lot to the table; second point, the ball’s in their court; third point, there’s a real foundation to build on, in terms of the previous NATO-Russia TMD work.  If you can put my slides up, I’m also going to prove that you can do 17 PowerPoint slides in five to eight minutes.  Next chart.

I won’t rehearse history; Arnie just said we can’t do that.  This just makes the obvious point that the Russians are not starting from scratch, either in terms of experience or capability.  They’re investing a lot of money in a third-generation ABM defense of Moscow, which is the crown jewels for them in terms of territorial defense, and they have a very robust TMD program.  None of this threatens the West.  This is good, as far as I’m concerned, not only because they bring something to the table but because they have some assurance, in terms of their decision-making on Iran, that right now, they can protect their capitol against Iranian blackmail threats.

Just to illustrate this, we’re going to go through a bunch of pictures which your son or daughter could get off of the Internet.  I couldn’t, but my son did it for me.  Next chart.  That’s what the Russian complex looks like today.  Next chart.  These are interceptors deployed around Moscow today.  This is not a paper system, third generation.  Next.  There are a lot of these, actually, they’re in silos, they’re quite capable, at least in terms of a Moscow defense.  Next chart.  Next chart.  Next chart.  Next chart.  They’re also quite capable in terms of command and control – next chart – and they’re building radars.  I mean, we sort of have this notion in the media debate that they can offer the Qabala radar, and that’s all you hear about, but there really is an infrastructure there that gives them quite a lot to bring to this table.

So next chart.  And the next chart.  This is very useful, I might add, in terms of Iran.  You can see the coverage to the south.  They have a lot to offer if they come into cooperation with NATO, in terms of a shared approach to a common threat.  Next chart.  If you look at the ranges, we’re all debating the effect of range of Iranian systems.  This chart I think makes quite poignantly the point that the distance to Moscow is the same as the distance to Warsaw from Tehran.  Next chart.

Now, in terms of the past program of efforts to get the Russians to come to the table, I would just point to something that’s been said quite a bit today.  The Bush administration, and J.D. played a huge role in this, went to tremendous lengths to put on the table for the Russians various inducements, in terms of cooperation, transparency and competence-building measures, came very close, as Steve Hadley said at Sochi, and that was just a little over a year ago.  They had an agreement in principle subject only to the final details by which we would assuage – and that was a word you apparently spent maybe an hour or so trying to negotiate or at least explain to them – the final concerns about breakout, or at least that the system was aimed at real threats, not aimed at Russia.

Significantly, I think the Obama administration started out by embracing all of the U.S. offers.  The NATO new secretary-general in his speeches in the last few weeks has made clear that that door is open, but the Russians have been a bit all over the map, in terms of their response.  We heard earlier in the previous panel about what Mr. Putin said, but sort of ironically, as the administration has worked harder and harder these last three weeks to persuade skeptics and opponents on the hill and those questioning in the media that this is real, this is robust.  It’s new, better, faster.

It’s beginning to dawn on some of the Russians, at least on the military side, that it may be for real and robust and faster, and you now start reading comments that there could be Aegis cruisers in the Arctic as soon as climate changes melts the ice around Greenland.  And Ambassador Rogozin in particular has been saying things like, well, we’ll cooperate with NATO, but only if there are no U.S. interceptors involved in the NATO system.  What?

So it’s a very confused picture, and I think it’s going to take awhile for the Russians to sort out within their own internal debate whether they think this is going to be, as Secretary Gates said, scores and scores of land-based SM-3s deployed from Northern Europe to Southern Europe or a couple of Aegis deployed in the Eastern Med.  Next chart.

Now, once the Russians sort that out, they have the opportunity of picking up where things left off about a year-and-a-half ago, when the Russians broke off the NATO-Russia TMD work.  I had the privilege of being present at the creation, when this was launched in 2002.  It was not an easy negotiation; I went many, many hours with Gen. Baluyevsky, who was their negotiator, later became head of their defense staff and got sacked for arguing with Putin about too many generals being fired.

But we eventually worked out terms of reference, rules of engagement, and this program went through four different exercises, CPXs and CAXs that culminated, under Peter Flory’s leadership a year-and-a-half ago at an exercise in Germany outside Munich, in which the results and the benefits of five years of hard work – truth in advertising here, with help from QinetiQ and SAIC, who coincidentally are the main contractors for this – produced quite a remarkable result.  Next chart, and Arnie, I’m down to my last two charts.

This is a statement by Gen. Henault, Canadian, French speaker, head of the NATO military committee previous to Adm. di Paola taking over, pointing out what a success it was.  Gen. Henault is the supreme military authority for NATO.  Next chart, and this is my last chart.  He said, and I was standing there watching this press conference 18 months ago, that at this final exercise in January 2008, the quote here I think is quite remarkable, that Russia and NATO forces have proven that they can fight and protect jointly territory and population – (chuckles) – this not defense of forces – against missile attacks wherever they wish to do so, based on jointly agreed procedures and rules of engagement.

And that is extrapolatable directly from the exercise we played out 18 months ago, in which, for some reason,  we were defending jointly Idaho against a missile attack from Canada – (laughter) – go figure, but anyway, that was the scenario –

(Cross talk.)

MR. BELL:  – to Central and Southeastern Europe.  So we can take this the next step into what was planned as Phase Three if the Russians simply walk through the door.  Thank you.

MR. KANTER:  Thank you, Bob, an awesome performance and extraordinary discipline.  Over to you, J.D.

J.D. CROUCH:  Good.  I will try to have as much discipline, thank you, Arnie.  Good to see Bob and Peter Flory over there, who kind of tag-teamed this issue for NATO on both, sort of book-ended it.  I’m going to try to answer Arnie’s four questions, but not in that order, per se, and just give you some of my perspectives on this.  And I – first of all, I want to say, I have sort of no special knowledge or briefings, other than what one has seen in the newspaper about the missile-defense program that’s been announced.  Whatever you learned today and this morning is probably as – at least as rich, if not richer, than what I have seen.

But my experience really comes from having worked with the Russians, both as assistant secretary of defense, opening sets of – trying to continue negotiations, in fact, that predated the Bush administration back into Clinton and even back to the Bush 41 administration, where, for example, we are still trying to negotiate the successful implementation of some of the agreements and things having to do with early warning and the like with the Russians, as well as putting a whole host of new ideas on the table.  Some of them were old new ideas, that is to say, things that these guys probably had put on the table earlier.  But try – in the Putin era, trying to reinvigorate this discussion with the Russians about missile defense.

I came at it as an assistant secretary with quite a bit of optimism, enthusiasm based on the following set of thoughts.  Number one, the Russians really do have a lot to offer in the area of missile defense.  They have a lot of capability, they have a lot of knowledge, they have a lot of experience, and Bob has gone through that and I won’t repeat it.  Secondly, Russia was no longer the threat, no longer the focus.  I frankly underestimated the impact that the briefing that I gave Gen. Baluyevsky on this topic, when I saw his face drop when I told him that we no longer regarded you as a threat.  (Laughter.)  I thought that that was a positive statement, and he –

MR. KANTER (?):  He thought it was a threat.

MR. CROUCH:  Well, he sort of viewed it as a downsizing, if you will, and it was an interesting insight, in my view, into how the Russians view their relationship with the United States, which is a sort of now always – it’s not always linear, as we would like it to be.  So I think that experience demonstrated to me that I think this is – it’s very difficult to talk about sort of deep and meaningful relationships – or I should say, programs and cooperation on missile defense with the Russians.

There is a question, of course, as to whether or not the administration really needs to do that, I mean, given its change in focus, given the obvious early candidates for deployments on Aegis cruisers and the like.  I don’t think that’s there’s going – necessarily going to be a lot of need for that.  And indeed, one of the things I think the Bush administration, and I’m not trying to violate the rule of not looking back, but I think this is a guide to how we look forward, is that the Bush administration  felt that it was important not to put the Russians on the critical path of any deployment capability, because if you did that, there would an irresistible temptation on the part of the Russians to use that as a way of either slowing down, curtailing or dividing the United States from its allies.

And so by trying to put forward a program that we said we wanted to do, getting NATO to endorse that program and then seeing if there were opportunities for cooperation with the Russians.  And again, people would argue that wasn’t the way to go.  We felt that Russians, if anything else, are realists, and they tend to accommodate themselves to strategic realities when they must.  So I think that as we move forward, the real question is whether or not the new administration feels that it requires a deep set of missile-defense contacts, consultations or even agreements with the Russians.

Now, the Russians like missile defense; they just don’t like our missile defense, okay?  (Laughter.)  So it’s really important to keep those two things separate.  Bob has shown that they like missile defense, but he’s also pointed to the fact that they don’t like our missile defense, and I would postulate to you that they’re not likely to come to like our missile defense.  I don’t think there’s a magic formula.  I don’t think there’s a way of posturing it or a – and the reason, in my view, is that they see missile defense at the center of the U.S.-Russian antagonism.  And that antagonism to them is important, because it’s one of the things that maintains their superpower status, it maintains their need to continue to invest in their own nuclear forces, and a whole host of other things.

So I’m not suggesting to you that it’s – you know, it’s the thing that they stay awake at night about.  I don’t think they do; in fact, I think the most recent discussions with the Russians on the sites that were going to be in Poland and the Czech Republic indicate that clear Russian concern there was not with the strategic capability of those systems but with the political impact of putting those interceptors and radars on former Eastern European territory.

So I don’t think the Russians are going to want to do a lot of cooperation on this, and so if the administration wants to have cooperation, outside exercises and that the kinds of things that go on in NATO, which I think are valuable and we ought to continue to do and continue to push the envelope, the administration had better be prepared to pay something for it.

Now, you might say, well, gee, didn’t we just do that?  And some people would argue that.  I think the question really is, from the Russian standpoint I think going forward, they’re going to say, look, what’s done is done.  We now are in a position where we will talk to you about things, but we’re not necessarily all that hot about a lot of missile-defense cooperation.  If they were, as Bob points out, there really are a myriad of areas where they could very rapidly walk through the door without putting their own security at risk.  And this runs the gamut from radar-type cooperation, targets, missiles – I mean, there are all kinds of things that could be done if they really – if they turn a new leaf on this.  I just wouldn’t  – I wouldn’t bet my mortgage on it, I guess is what I’m saying.

Finally, I think the broader question of how does this affect, sort of, other areas, leaving aside missile defense?  Again, I would say that I think the Russians – one of my favorite quotes is the one when Cyrus Vance went to Geneva and told Gromyko that we had canceled the B-1 bomber.  And he – and the secretary of state said, well, you know, what are you going to do?  And Gromyko said, well, you misunderstand us, we are neither pacifists nor philanthropists.  (Laughter.)

I think the Russian typical response would be to say, look, okay, that’s been pocketed, whatever it is.  We’re going to watch very carefully what you’re doing to make sure that you’re not putting Aegis missile cruisers in the Arctic Sea and the like, but I think it’s unlikely that there’s going to be some breakthrough as a result of this, for example in terms of Iran, in terms of North Korea, cooperation and the like.  Why?  Because the Russians, quite like we do, I must say, look at these things from the standpoint of individual set of interests.  What is my interest with respect to Iran, what is my interest with respect to North Korea?  And they will make independent judgments based on those things.

So does that mean we can’t cooperate with the Russians?  Absolutely not.  There are areas of shared interest, and we ought to push those.  I think if you look at the Russian track record on certainly strengthening the generic aspects of the nonproliferation regime, if you look at their concern about global nuclear terrorism, things like this, there have been – there have been good, cooperative, positive movements in those areas, and I think we can continue to push in those areas.  But don’t expect basic Russian interests on Iran or other issues that we have difficulty with them on to fundamentally change overnight as a result of a change in policy on the administration’s side here on missile defense.

Last point is really on arms control.  This should have eliminated one of the irritants in the arms-control discussion.  I – my own sense is that the Russian priorities in arms control will be, one, to reduce the levels to a level about where they would like to have their force structure, and do to so in a way that prohibits the United States from being able to expand its own deployments; and second priority would be to focus on trying to limit the expansion of U.S. conventional strategic capabilities in the context of our deployed nuclear force.

Those would probably be the priorities we see on the Russian side.  To some degree, putting any limits on missile defense – further limits on missile defense may well be less of a priority now that these decisions have been taken.  Arnie?

MR. KANTER:  Thank you, J.D.  Over to you, David.

DAVID KRAMER:  Great.  Arnie, thanks very much and thanks to the Atlantic Council for inviting me to be on a very distinguished panel, and I certainly am alone up here in being the least knowledgeable about arms control, security matters, defense matters, but it hasn’t stopped me in the past.  And Arnie, if you will indulge me, I do want to revisit just some very recent history, because I think it has an impact on current events as we look forward.

And it is – it does concern the rollout and the decision the way it was handled, which I think is seen in Moscow as a very important signal.  I am not here to speak on behalf of the Russian government; I’m sure it would have a heart attack if I pretended to do so, but my experience in dealing with Russians over the years leads me to think that their conclusion is, if this is how the U.S. treated Poland and the Czech Republic, NATO allies, then what is U.S. policy towards the countries even closer to our borders, to Ukraine, Georgia and other countries in the neighborhood?

And I think that is a concern.  I think Russia is going to take away the message that its threats, its threats to put Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad against Poland and the Czech Republic prevail, and that the United States didn’t really handle this decision with its allies, fellow NATO members, in a very respectable way.  I think it’s going to be seen as a victory in Moscow, much like the communiqué last April in Bucharest was, where neither Ukraine nor Georgia was offered a map, but the Russians didn’t bother to read the full text because the text was actually rather forward-leaning.

Similarly, I think they have felt victorious after the decision announced by President Obama on the 17th of September.  But now they’re starting to look at some of the fine print and the details and the fact sheets that have been released, and as has been said, are starting to reassess their declarations of victory, and I’ll come back to that in a minute.

But it is viewed as a concession, as the U.S. backing down, as the U.S. fixing a mistake that the Bush administration had made in the last administration.  And as had been mentioned in the previous panel, Prime Minister Putin rather immediately came out with his laundry list of other gripes and problems that the United States needs to fix – trade restrictions, WTO, and I think the feeling in Moscow in the leadership circles is going to be, we can keep pressing on other things that the United States needs to move on; it’s the United States that needs to move, not Russia, and I think this decision is going to reinforce that.

I think they’re going to read into it an over-eagerness on the part of the administration to reset relations, that the administration is willing to take these steps and Russia doesn’t have to reciprocate.  I don’t view the announcement that they will not put Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad as reciprocation for the September 17th announcement.

It does, I think, remove an obstacle to conclusion of a post-START arms-control agreement.  The Russians had certainly been linking this publicly and repeatedly, and I had actually thought that they were miscalculating, because by doing so, they might have made it more difficult politically for President Obama to make the decision that he did, but they turned out to have been right.  There is one aspect to arms control that I think will be interesting to watch, which is that as levels go down of warheads, it may heighten their concern even more about missile defense, because their ability to overwhelm may be reduced.  They’ll still have plenty under the latest negotiations, of course, to do that, but they had plenty to deal with if they actually did consider the Bush administration planted a threat to overwhelm that, particularly.  It was only 10 ground-based interceptors, and this system is going to have more.

In trying to answer some of the questions that you asked, and picking up where others have touched on, I don’t think this will lead to any change in Russia’s approach to Iran.  Foreign Minister Lavrov almost a day after President Medvedev showed a little progress, possibly, in dealing with Iran, pretty much undercut that statement in Pittsburgh.  I think Russia just views Iran very differently, and Russia has rejected any linkage between decision on missile defense and its dealings with Iran and sees the threat very differently than we do in Iran, and also has no interest in playing the role of the bad guy or the heavy.  They’d much rather have the United States play that role.

North Korea I don’t think will have much of an impact.  I think the cooperation on North Korea has been fairly good, in part because Russia doesn’t have really many, if any, interests in North Korea.  By comparison, it certainly does in Iran.  CFE, I don’t think this will make any difference on CFE and trying to get Russia to suspend its suspension of CFE implementation, and CFE I think is going to be an extremely problematic issues in light of the presence of Russian troops and violation of last August’s ceasefire agreement in Georgia.

I mentioned how the Russians, as they start to look at the fine print, may start reassessing this sense of victory, and I think they will because in the fact sheet that was released in the announcements by people in the administration, it talks about a land-based phase of SM-3 Block IIs that could conceivably be based in Poland.

If that’s the case and if Russia deems that this is a likely possibility, then I think we’re going to be back to the same problem, although actually made a little worse, because I think the view in Moscow will be, we were given the impression that you were going to do the Bush plan, but now you’re telling us you may wind up doing a different variation of the Bush plan; now you’re deceiving us.  And so I think that runs the risk of actually exacerbating relations even more, and we have to be very careful about that.  This probably will give a short-term boost in relations, but I don’t think it’s going to be long-lived at all and I don’t think it’s going to carry over into a number of the major issues that we have touched on here today.

Last point is, the administration has gone out of its way to state that Russia was not a factor in this decision.  I have made my position clear; I didn’t support the announcement, although I do support the administration’s efforts to deal with any short- or medium-range threats.

But, having made the decision they did, I actually wish they had factored Russia into the decision.  It almost seems irresponsible to me that they did not and that they did not think of things that they would want to sit down with the Russians and discuss.  So I’m not sure of that argument which has been made in order to disabuse the notion that this was done as a concession for Russia.  I’m not sure that argument, really, is the best one for them to put forward.  So with that, let me stop there.

MR. KANTER:  Thank you very much, David.  What I heard from our panelists is the following and, obviously, none of them is responsible for what I’m about to say and they know me to be irresponsible, so here we go.  How has it the relationship with Russia been affected?  At most, it’s removed an irritant.  But, actually, it may not even be that good if the Russians misread the reasons for the decision and if the Russians react badly when they get to the footnotes.

Should we try to engage with the Russians?  Cooperate with the Russians on missile defense?  On the one hand, the Russians could bring a lot to the party, as in technical matters and matters of capabilities.  On the other hand, the Russians themselves, may not be the least bit eager about cooperating on missile defense and there’s actually a long track record that would lead one to that conclusion and it would be, to cast back to an important word, imprudent for the U.S. and NATO to put Russia anywhere on the critical path to deploying theater missile defenses.

How will the U.S. – Russian relationship be affected going forward?  Probably not one wit on missile defense and probably not much on any other issue – in part because the Russians are transactional and therefore, insofar as their ambitions to use this missile defense decision or at least use a byproduct of the decision to put, quote, unquote “reset” the relationship.  Ain’t going to happen.  And, further, because the relationship will not have been – the relationship, that’s contrasted with the issue – will not have been fundamentally affected by this decision or indeed by any opportunities the missile defense decision presents to change the relationship.

It is unrealistic to expect more cooperation from Moscow on a full range of non-missile defense issues.  So my take away is that whatever everyone makes of the rationale for the missile defense decision, it would be a mistake to think that there will be much, if any, beneficial fall out for the U.S. – Russian relationship.  With that, by way of introduction, or conclusion, or summing up, we have about 25 minutes for questions.  The floor is open.

MR. (?):  That wasn’t irresponsible.

MR. (?):  It was very prudent.  (Laughter.)

MR. KANTER:  Harlan?

Q:  Thanks for really good presentations.  Two scenarios what Russia might do.  Right now, among a lot of our senior military there is greater fear that the Israelis may in fact attack Iran.  What do you think Russian reaction would be if the Israelis did that and second, if that did not happen separately, if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons, how do you think the Russians may look at that for the long-term?

MR. KRAMER:  I’m happy to, maybe, do the first one.  I don’t recommend this in a positive way, I would though, recommend an article that appeared in National Interest Online, I think it was August 11th, 12th by Andranik Migranyan, who was the head of Kremlin supported organization – to say it’s an NGO isn’t quite right – in New York – the Kremlin’s way to put it’s message across to a U.S. audience – in which he first rejects the notion that if the U.S. made the decision it did on missile defense that Russia would be more supportive on Iran but then goes on to say, actually, U.S. or Israeli military action against Iran might not be so bad for Russia.

This is the guy who’s supposed to be representing Russia in the United States.  I think that view is not uncommon in Moscow.  It would obviously drive the price of oil through the roof, which would benefit Russia.  I think it’s an incredibly short sighted view of any possible military action but, unfortunately, I think, that’s often the way Moscow views these issues.  And in connection with that, if Russia were to transfer the S300s to Iran, I do suspect that Israel would strike and so Russia would bear full responsibility in that case, in my view.

MR. CROUCH:  On the second question, I just – I think the Russians view the problem completely differently.  I think they do not want Iran to have a nuclear weapon.  I actually believe Putin when he says that.  But there are a lot of things that could be worse than that from their standpoint.  And so they certainly don’t view it with this, sort of, existential view that the Israelis do or even the sense of urgency that we do and I think they think they can manage it.

I think that they believe that having direct contact, military sales, unique insight into the Iranian nuclear power program, et cetera, gives them advantages.  I think they think they can deter it, having nuclear capabilities, and I think they think they can defeat it because they have a missile defense capability.  So I think they think they, sort of, have the tools in place diplomatically and militarily to deal with it and so they don’t view it, maybe, in the same way and I also don’t think they think they’re the object of the Iranian focus maybe as much as Europe or the United States or other places in the Middle East might be.  So when you put it all together, they’re living comfortably in a world where they can deter another nuclear power.

MR. BELL:  Well, again, I think I can be brief.  I think the Russians would strongly, in the strongest terms, condemn an Israeli strike on the Iranian facilities and I agree with J.D. on the Iranian nuke issue.  I think the Russians are genuinely and strongly opposed to Iran having a deployed nuclear capability.  I just don’t think the Russians think that’s where the Iranians are going.  The Russians probably think, at most, the Iranians will stop at some penultimate stage with an existential breakout capability and I don’t think that worries them too much.  They’re prepared to tolerate that as opposed to joining in real sanctions.

MR. KANTER:  I would just note that, sure is taking an awfully long time for Bushehr to come online.  I am intrigued by news reports that the Saudis, what do you know, might be interested in S300s, which might just buy out the production for some period of time and one wonders, not only because it’s Russian, but also because of the example of Bushehr, if the Russians did sign a contract to sell S300s to Iran, how long will it take and will they work?  Next question.

Q:  Thanks to the panel.  A question about the roll out and theoretically, the idea that we should have asked the Russians to give us something before we made the announcements either overtly or, I guess, secretly ala Molotov-Clinton or something like that.  Don’t you think the damage that has been done, couldn’t that have been much more detrimental our relationships with Central-East Europe because we have made a deal with the Russians ahead of consultation or discussions with our allies?

MR. KRAMER:  I would put it differently.  I wouldn’t have struck a deal with Moscow before the decision was made.  I would have hoped, though, that the administration would have thought, in very clear terms, what it would have wanted to get from Russia after having made this decision.

Yeah, no, I take your point.  I’m not suggesting that we should have cut a deal behind the Poles’ or the Czechs’ backs, but that this notion that Russia had played no role whatsoever just strikes me as not having thought through the implications of the decision they made.

MR. CROUCH:  I, without in any way, casting aspersions on anyone’s motives or statement – the timing of the decision when it was announced was striking.

MR. KRAMER:  Before meeting Medvedev, yeah.

MR. CROUCH:  For example.  (Chuckles.)

Q (?):  What was that, I missed that?

MR. KANTER (?):  Before meeting Medvedev in New York.  Obama and Medvedev.

Q:  In the context of Harlan’s question and your answers, I want to add an opinion and I think that the Russians would love almost everything which is bad for the United States.  Imagine Iran acquires a capability and Israel strikes, what is wrong with Russia?  Once Israel strikes, the United States will be involved in one way or another, militarily or politically and you will be in the mess again.  They would love you to be in a mess, like in Iraq, like in Afghanistan.  It is nothing wrong with Russia to think that Iran acquiring a more hostile stance towards the United States, including acquiring a capability would be in Russia’s counter-interest.  I don’t think so.

MR. KRAMER:  If I could just, I agree with you, but I would also agree with the point that was made that Russia would protest this very strongly in order to show that they’re standing with the Iranians and everyone else who may be sympathetic but I think your interpretation is right, unfortunately.


Q:  Greg Schulte, National Defense University.  I don’t have a question.  I just have three observations that I think reinforce what you say based upon just having spent four years in Vienna working with the Russians.  First off, one thing I did notice is that the Russians do, as J.D. Crouch said, they compartmentalize their issues.  While Julie Finley was having all sorts of problems with the Russians across the Danube dealing with the OSCE, I had a great relationship with my Russian colleague.  And it wasn’t because Julie is a worse diplomat; she’s a much better one than I am.  But it’s because they had an interest in cooperating on Afghanistan counternarcotics.  They had an interest on cooperating on nuclear energy and nuclear fuel banks.  And they had an interest in strengthening non-proliferation measures although they tended to like us to be in the lead.  So I agree with the conclusion that I don’t think this is going to cause them to be more cooperative in any other area.

Secondly, I also agree that the Russians seem to have a different assessment than we do.  After the 2007 NIE, which by the way, caused all sorts of problems for me.

MR. KANTER:  You weren’t the only one.

Q:  The problem is everyone read the first half-sentence then stopped and I had to explain the footnote and everything else in it.  But, in many ways, that brought us closer to the Russian assessment because the Russians were quite candid in saying we do not want Iran to have a nuclear weapon; we are very worried about the nature of their program but we don’t think they’ll actually do it.

So whereas our NIE said they’re collecting everything they need to build a nuclear weapon; they probably want a nuclear weapon but they haven’t made the last decision – I think the Russians thought they were much further away and so less worried about it.  And then, finally, I think I agree Putin meant it when he said they don’t want an Iran with a nuclear weapon.  But I think what worried them more was an Iran with a nuclear weapon that was prepared to stir up trouble in their soft, south underbelly.

And so I think, again, it goes to their weighing of their interests and they didn’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons but they also didn’t want to have a highly antagonistic relationship with an Iran where they had an interest in military sales, nuclear sales and that could cause problems for them.

I was struck when I arrived at hearing from different ambassadors, how the Iranians took very provocative steps to try to influence the views of different countries, whether it was little, tiny Sri Lanka and the Iranians threatening to change the price of oil that they sold to them, but also the Russian ambassador admitting to me that the Iranians had a made a big deal about how they had never supported the Chechens before with a clear implication that they could if they wanted to.  So just an observation, thank you.

MR. KANTER:  Damon, do you have a question?

MR. WILSON:  A couple of observations and a question.  Earlier today, Undersecretary Tauscher – she tried to underscore the point that thinking about the Russians – she tried to underscore that the administration has hit the reset button, didn’t flip a switch.  And – meaning that the administration provided, as she called it, test beds of opportunities for the Russians to cooperate on Iran, NATO-Russia Council, missile defense cooperation, but it required them to bring something to the table.

Then, we have Congressman Turner, after that, who was quite critical about this being a concession to the Russians essentially and we got nothing out of it.  As the secretary and Under Secretary Tauscher head off to Moscow this weekend, what kind of advice do you give to them in terms of how to move forward with the Russians on the range of issues on the agenda?  And I want to come back in terms of – one of David’s points.

How – I thought it was interesting, you pointed out the parallel, potentially, the parallel with Bucharest, where the Russians initially focused on a decision being no map for Georgia or Ukraine and then later began to dawn on them.  Actually, there was a pretty significant decision about Georgia and Ukraine would one day be members of the alliance.

The focus now has been okay, no third site.  This is a victory but one of you mentioned Secretary Gates’ comments about potentially scores of SM-3s throughout Central and Eastern Europe.  With the extended hand from the administration, by this perspective how the Russians might begin to see this over time, the potential for a real growth, there’s not yet a plan.

There’s sort of an idea that’s been played out but this idea could become a pretty substantial plan for U.S. assets, U.S. presence throughout the region.  Do you anticipate a potential greater realization on the Russian side of what might develop and therefore potential backlash?  With all that in the background, how do you recommend that the secretary, on her trip this weekend, move forward with the Russians on the range of issues that are out there?

MR. BELL:  Well, if we stay in alphabetical order, I can go first.  Damon, I think there are two things there.  One is to stick to your principle and make sure it’s an opportunity for, you know, test-beds opportunity but not concessions.  In terms of the cooperative arrangement, we would make on a joint approach, and integrated approach to missile defense in the theater.

I don’t agree with one thing J.D. said that got captured in Arnie’s summary, but I think it’s just because he was abbreviating it in the interest of time.  Nothing we could do would put the Russians on a critical path to deployment of TMD.  I think those are the words Arnie’s used.  They’ve been deploying TMD since the ’70s.  They’re fourth-generation.  The S400 that they’re activating regiment-by-regiment around Moscow is more capable than our PAC-3s.  They’re exporting these things.

I think what J.D. meant was we shouldn’t put them on the critical path to a combined TMD effort that gives them a veto power over how NATO organizes its integrated TMD defense.  That was the issue that separated me and Gen. Baluyevsky for weeks back in 2002.  They wanted us to take the ALT – ALT-BMD program and morph it into some Russian-Pan-European program where you’ve got to have consensus to do anything.

In other words, they would have a veto.  And we insisted that ALT-BMD would be a NATO program and then there would be a NATO-Russia program in parallel and maybe someday there could be some crosswalk, but not guaranteed.  The NATO reality that underpins this is most people don’t realize that a NATO-Russia Council is significant because decisions had to be taken by consensus at 27, now at 29.  And whatever you do in the NATO-Russia Council on TMD is subject to a Russian veto.

So my advice to Ms. Tauscher is – Undersecretary Tauscher is: keep that distinction clear.  The exercise that I put the pictures up – there was a dividing line and the Russians were on one side and we were on the other.  And they were parallel but independent defense efforts.

The scenario got to one point where NATO ran out of interceptors – (chuckles) – this could happen if you only had 10 in Boen (sp?) and called over to the Russian commander and said, there are incoming Canadian missiles that are going to hit some of our targets in Idaho.  Do you have anything left to intercept them?  And they said, sure, we’ll help you out.  But that distinction – that was still at their discretion.

Second thing is, be very careful – and I think the administration’s going to have to clarify what it means here is the Obama proposal still contingent, strictly on Iranian developments and if Iran goes away, European deployments go away, in which case you’re deployments are sort of limited in the first phase to the southeast and focused on Iran.

Or as Peter said, is NATO still working towards a tout est à nous, defense against everyone that could be a threat, including North Korea, in which case you had to start planning how you were going to defend Greenland against North Korea because the Danes still think Greenland is part of Denmark.  And to do that, you need SM-3s in Norway or Svalbard or somewhere that the Russians aren’t going to liken, probably violates international law.

So the administration needs to be very clear as they start flushing out the commitment that Obama and Medvedev made to include in the new start arrangement, a provision on their relationship between offense and defense.  Whether they’re going to get trapped in any limits on that eventual European architecture or not.  J.D.?

MR. CROUCH:  I agree with what Bob said.  You know, I think the question – really – I – his interpretation of what I meant.  I didn’t say it that way.

MR. KANTER:  No, I think he was blaming me for not capturing it.

MR. CROUCH:  Oh, oh, okay.  All right.

MR. KANTER:  But that’s what I mean.

MR. CROUCH:  Is exactly right.  And that’s what I meant by effectively presenting the Russians with some facts on the ground because if you don’t do that.  If they don’t think it’s going to happen, whatever it is, whatever you want to do, then they’re not going to find a way to come along, or not.  I mean, they may not but they certainly aren’t going to if they feel that there’s an opportunity for wedge driving and other things that might go on.

You know, I think, sort of add on to his advice, I would say one other thing on the arms control issues.  You know, just remember that we don’t want to return to the days of U.S.-Soviet arms control.  We don’t want, you know, thousand-page treaties.  We don’t want to turn – I used to say that the last place that Americans and Russians were shouting at one another was across the arms-control negotiating table, right?

We have a requirement to maintain a nuclear deterrent, I think.  I think they think they have a requirement.  I think they would think that absent us, and we would think that absent them.  And we ought to be respectful of that and allow for a negotiation that is flexible enough to – and in some degrees, informal enough that will allow both sides to kind of figure out where they need to be that and sconce that in an agreement that’s fine.

But don’t – you know, don’t let this sort of degenerate into good, old-fashioned arms control because I think that would be a mistake and it would also play to the worst Russian temptation, which is to try to use that process to sort of extract concessions on things, either inside or outside the topic of the negotiations.

On the other issues, you know, Iran, I think is the most important one.  I think the Russians have been fairly cooperative on North Korea, although not very influential, I guess is a better way to put it.  So you know, take it for what it’s worth.  I think, you know, Iran is going to be very difficult because of this difference in perception and I think again, there has to be some sense on the Russian side, I think that the administration is – doesn’t have sort of an open-ended negotiating agenda with the Iranians.

And that’s what the administration’s been saying.  But they really need to make the Russians believe that.  They need to make them believe that there’s a time at which the administration is going to have to resort to other techniques and that the administration is willing to put some political capital on the ground.

The third thing, I think, that I would want to go with is I would want to get as strong a sense of the administration is going to move forward on its new Afghan society.  I think it’s really important that the administration’s foreign policy be buttressed by that decision in the next few weeks.  And it may not be in time for Secretary Tauscher’s trip, but in dealing with the Russians, it’ll be really important, I think, that the Russians see a strong commitment in the Afghanistan enterprise.

MR. KRAMER:  Very quickly, I think, in agreement with what’s been said, the secretary is going to kick off the bilateral commission, which is supposed to cover a lot of issues.  So the recommendation I would give is make sure you have balance on the agenda.  Missile defense, obviously, will be on their.  Iran has to be on there.  Post-start arms agreement should be on there but the world isn’t going to come to an end December 5th when we won’t have an agreement ratified.

We might have one signed, but it won’t be ratified, obviously.  But it would be great if she brought my successor, the assistant secretary of democracy, human Rights and labor on the trip.  I don’t know if he’s going or not.  He certainly would have my vote to go.  We have discussion on the members.  This can’t become a discussion or a visit, shifted so heavily on security issues, as important as those are – and I don’t mean to suggest that they’re not.

Two other quick points.  Clarity – the administration, I think, is going to have to clarify what it has in mind for the land-based phase of their system.  If they’re going to put this in place sooner than they were claiming the Bush administration was going to, they’re going to have to get that clarity very soon.  With Poland, you don’t need to renegotiate it with the agreement.  From what I’ve heard, the current agreement would cover the SM-3 Block IIs.  It saves you the aggravation of renegotiating with the Poles.

It saves you the aggravation of renegotiating with a new country.  If that’s the case and let’s remember the vice president is going to be traveling to Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania a week after the secretary’s in Moscow, similar to the vice president’s trip to Ukraine and Georgia after the president was in Moscow.  There’s going to be a lot of calls for clarity on this issue.  And so the secretary can provide that on her trip to the Kremlin.  I think that would be useful.

MR. KANTER:  Do you think we can risk – take one more question?  Okay.  Everyone has to swear an oath of brevity – Bob Nurick.

Q:  Quick observation and a question.  The observation concerns Russian policy on Iran.  I agree with those who don’t expect much in the way of significant change but I do notice that although David and I agree about many things on Russia, we have a disagreement here and this concerns the question of military action.

It’s certainly true that the position that Andranik Migranyan has described is – exists in Moscow, it’s not trivial.  But I think it’s much more complicated than that.  There’s another – at least one other important instinct there, which militates in very different directions and this has to do with the link that people are drawing between the implications of military action in that region against Iran and Russia’s own concern about Islamic radicalism.

To put it crudely, the link is that – the argument goes that anything that inflames the Islamic community globally, even if Russia is not involved or responsible, will blow back into Russian territory in ways they can’t control.  The strength of that concern, I think, has waxed and waned, depending very much on how they view their situation in the North Caucasus.  At the moment, they’re very worried about that.

And indeed – so I – so I think it’s a much more complicated debate there.  Indeed, I sometimes wonder whether or not the Russian reluctance to entertain much harsher sanctions might look different if they thought the only alternative were military action.  So I put that out as a quick observation.

Quick question – on the arms control implications of the issues that all three panelists have raised about – seems that the issue for the Russians now is what is the long-term shape – what is the global shape and structure of this arrangement, of our missile-defense architecture going to look like?

My question is, is this something that we’re in possession now to start discussing with them to give them some transparency, some reassurances?  Especially if the administration really is looking for steeper reductions in the next round of the strategic negotiations?

MR. KANTER:  Okay, answer is no longer than one minute.

MR. BELL:  The answer is no.  Because NATO is not mature enough and it’s debate yet about whether it’s going to expand ALTBMD to provide a territorial capability?  I hope they do.  The U.S. is pushing them to do it but it would depend on Peter to deliver that at Lisbon in 14 months.  And if so, whether as I said earlier, they’re going to prioritize the architecture so that it’s focused on Iran and maybe just exclusively on Iran, the Obama position, again – if the Iranian threat goes away, the European missile-defense architecture goes away.

Or whether NATO would agree, as Peter said, that there are other threats that could come and we need a defense of all allies against notional threats, in which case the kinds of SM-3 deployments that you need are vastly beyond what you need to protect against Iran for the next five or 6 years.

And since none of those decisions have been taken yet by NATO or none of them are being close to being taken, there’s no way you could sit down with the Russians this fall and offer them some vision of what the ultimate architecture’s going to look like if it’s truly, as it’s meant to be, put in the NATO context and fully integrated with NATO decision-making, with NATO ALTBMD and air-defense acts.  The backbone of the whole command-and-control arrangement.

MR. KANTER:  J.D.?  Okay, I have two people passing in the interest of time.  I thank them both, as well as Bob.  Please join me in thanking the panel for their remarks.  (Applause.)

Transcript by Federal News Service, Washington, D.C.