DOES ARMS CONTROL HAVE A FUTURE?
University of Maryland
April 9, 1998
Is there a future for arms control? The answer is simple: yes, but it's complicated. To develop my reasons for this answer I will first review some historical and theoretical points, and then I will discuss in detail one case, the US-Russian nuclear force reductions case, and thus I will explain how I see arms control evolving over the next several years.
First, on history, in a couple of years it will be the 40th anniversary of the 1960 Harvard-MIT Summer Study on Arms Control which produced two main volumes. These volumes are still the best things written on arms control, including the Schelling and Halperin book Strategy and Arms Control. Obviously the ideas of 1960 were a product of Cold War thinking. Three canonical objectives of arms control were articulated: to reduce the likelihood of war; to reduce the damage of war should it occur; and to reduce the resources devoted to the preparation for war. In the intervening 35 plus years since the summer study many arms control agreements have been reached and organizations (such as the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency) have been created based on these objectives. It should be noted that arms control was thought of as distinct from disarmament which was thought of as utopian and foolish. Arms control was thought of as more practical and reachable.
Over the years, three schools of thought developed about this set of activities: the rational school, the strategic school, and the skeptical school. The rational school looks hard at the data on the military balances, on whether forces are adequately protected, on whether materials are properly controlled and then they make wise judgments as to how to proceed. They believe there are merits to arms control -- some agreements are good and some are not good. This school was exemplified by McNamara in the late 60s.
The strategic school was exemplified by the Kissinger-Nixon years which adopted a more instrumental view of arms control. They believed that arms control was less important in its own right and more important as a way to achieve broader political and strategic objectives. Kissinger quite clearly saw the US-Soviet arms control negotiations as a means to improve the bilateral relationship, which he hoped would foster economic ties with the Soviet Union, which he hoped in turn would bring down the Soviet Union. He saw arms control as a way of seducing the Soviet Union. He was less concerned with the details of the nuclear balance because he did not believe we were close to a nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union given the large number of MIRVed delivery vehicles both sides had.
The skeptical view is very prevalent inside the beltway. One cannot underestimate how important this view is in Congress -- in every Congress -- and in elements of the executive branch in every administration, and in the press and elsewhere. The benign version of the skeptic's view is that arms control is not very important. It is not important because when you want it you cannot get it and when you get it you do not need it. The problem is that bad guys are bad guys and bad guys who have weapons are not going to give them up unless they do not need them. The more pernicious version of the skeptic's view is that arms control is bad for the health of democracies. Arms control produces a lulling effect which convinces the public that there is security when there is no security. It is dangerous. It leads to us letting our guard down, reducing our military budget, making us less militarily prepared, in the name of some diplomatic events and clinking of champagne glasses over agreements that can be broken at any time.
After some thirty years of arms control, what do we see? Arms control is no longer about the three original objectives of reducing war, damage and costs. It is now about managing a relationship bilaterally with the Russians and enhancing stability multilaterally. The goals are to reduce tensions and prevent the use of nuclear weapons, especially by subnational groups. The fundamental objectives of arms control have changed -- they may someday return to the original objectives -- but for now they have changed.
Also, disarmament has made a comeback. We've had serious discussion of disarmament and some significant examples of disarmament, for example the INF Treaty and disarmament of Iraq. START II and START III embrace disarmament -- it is no longer thought utopian. Other contemporary activity in arms control is astounding. Governments around the world have made arms control an embedded part of their diplomacy and foreign policy. Governments all over the world are investing money in it. Empirically, arms control has a future.
The devil is in the details. Arms control has a future, but what does it look like in the US-Russian case? To illustrate the details I will first discuss the Helsinki agreements, what was to follow the Helsinki agreements and a word about what happens if the START process stops, what happens if it continues, and the problems with the future of START. All of this to illustrate the answer that yes, there is a future for arms control, but it's complicated.
One year ago at the Helsinki summit, Clinton and Yeltsin released five agreements (specialists in arms control often overlook this fact). The five agreements were part of a package deal. The first was a joint statement on improved economic relations between the US and Russia. The US pledged to facilitate Russian entrance into the G-7, the Paris Club, OECD and a variety of multilateral fora. Not all of this is spelled out in the agreement, but I can tell you it is inherent in the agreement. The theme of this first agreement was that Yeltsin says to Clinton "I want to have my country be a modern economic country in the contemporary international system" and Bill Clinton says "I'll help you get there, Boris." I was at the summit, but not involved with this part of the summit, and I believe this was the single most important part of the summit.
The second agreement was the NATO-Russian agreement. This agreement recognizes that Russia in no way likes NATO enlargement, so Clinton agreed to make it as palatable as possible by signing a deal at Helsinki discussing cooperation that would lead to a NATO-Russia Founding Act, giving Russia a seat at the table of NATO (without a veto), and agreeing to enlarge NATO transparently--making clear the timetable in advance. Clinton pledged that there were no secret agendas and that expanding NATO was not aimed at Russia as long as they remained friendly, but rather it was directed at enlarging the democratic systems in eastern Europe.
The third agreement concerned chemical weapons. It was a very hard fought agreement, difficult to negotiate. This happened before either the US and Russia had ratified the chemical weapons treaty. They have both since ratified it. This agreement specified exactly what the Russians would do to control their chemical weapons' facilities and ultimately get rid of them. The final two agreements on strategic nuclear weapons are more well known here: the strategic forces reduction agreement and the theater missile defense demarcation agreement.
The main point I want to make about all this is that the over-arching statement made from Clinton to Yeltsin was: "Boris, we are negotiating hard on every one of these, but collectively this is going to move you forward into the modern world. These agreements push our relationship forward in a positive way." Yeltsin bought this reasoning, even over objections of some of his most senior people. Although the leaders might change, I believe that not only the two leaders but the two governments have agreed to this trajectory of the relationship and it should outlast these two leaders.
It was anticipated that after the summit the following would happen, most of which did happen. There would be a NATO-Russian Founding Act that codified further the NATO-Russian relationship. It happened. We have the enlargement of NATO and the world has not come to an end. The Russians do not like it, but they are living with it. I am not trying to gloss over the problems with it, but there have been no surprises with what has happened with NATO enlargement.
Additionally, there was a G-7 plus one meeting in Denver. The Russians were there, they played an active role. They are now a member of the G-7 so we now talk about a G-8, we don't talk about a G-7 anymore.
We also have the demarcation agreement on missile defense. The treaty was signed in September and now we are going to have the single most vigorous debate on arms control of the last ten years in the Senate this Spring on the demarcation agreement. Frankly, what I am most fearful of is conservatives who think we have given away the store teaming up with liberals who think we are killing the ABM Treaty in order to kill this agreement. I think this outcome would be disastrous.
It was specifically agreed, verbally and publicly, by Yeltsin at Helsinki that if all that happened, Yeltsin would then push for Russian ratification of the START II Treaty. For various reasons he has not done so, but he is about to. And in fact there is a scheduled date now of April 24th when there could actually be a vote, and another possible date is around May 15th -- both windows in the Duma for voting on START II.
A new sequencing problem has developed since Helsinki which could interfere with the logic of these agreements. It was understood at Helsinki that Russia would ratify START II before the US would take up the demarcation agreement in order to give Clinton more leverage with the Senate to get the demarcation agreement passed. However, Senator Helms has decided to have a new schedule where he wants to bring up NATO enlargement first. The Russians cannot politically pass START II at the same time that the US passes NATO enlargement -- it is politically impossible -- so NATO enlargement will delay Duma consideration of START II by some number of months. Clinton also hopes to have the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) ratified but the Senate has told Clinton that unless Russia ratifies START II there is no hope of the CTBT passing.
What may happen now is that the US will ratify NATO enlargement, postponing START II in the Duma, so then the US does not ratify the CTBT. There could well be further problems for START II ratification in the Fall, and there will probably also be very acrimonious Senate debate on the ABM protocols. If START II ratification is postponed now, I fear that it will keep being postponed more and more.
I believe that if START stops, a necessary but not sufficient condition for cordial relations between the US and Russia will be removed and things will go downhill from here. Arms control is no longer the only game in town, it is just a necessary game in town. It is needed to keep the relationship on track. Other things can be done rather than formal arms control agreements, but I think arms control agreements are necessary or you will see more problems with the US-Russian relationship all around the world.
Having said that, what happens if we get START II? We then get START III -- what happens then? There are four main problems with the START III process. First, START III calls for lower numbers of delivery vehicles, down to 2000-2500. I realize this is not low enough for some people here today, and there have been informal discussions about going below 2000 to 1500 or so but there is a problem for the US military in going to 1500. The problem is that it would confront them with the issue of the triad -- the Holy Grail. Can we really justify three legs of delivery vehicles (particularly both bombers and ICBMs) with only 1500 deployed warheads? I do not believe Bill Clinton wants to be the president under whose term the ICBM was retired for various reasons. These problems make me doubt that we will go much below 2000, but I could be wrong.
The second problem with START III is that it calls for warhead dismantlement and destruction -- not delivery vehicles, but warheads. This is a major new step. Some say this is not going far enough, others say it is too far -- it complicates negotiation. More important than whether it is too much or too little is that it creates tensions between arms control objectives and nonproliferation objectives. We want to go down but we also want to minimize the likelihood of proliferation of materials. The more we disaggregate by taking the warheads off of the missiles, the more we fragment the whole system. More different people control the materials -- where it goes, what trains it is on -- increasing the likelihood of proliferation of materials. So even such an issue that is probably very fashionable here, de-alerting, which has as a key element de-mating, raises this proliferation problem in spades. This is a big problem. I believe the Russians have been opposed to de-mating, in part, because they feel they cannot guarantee the security of their weapons.
Another big problem with de-alerting is that while the US can feel secure de-alerting its ICBMs, for the Russians to de-alert their ICBMs denudes their force. Their only force is ICBMs. So de-alerting is not a winner from the Russian point of view.
The third problem for START III is the tactical nuclear weapons issue which has not been touched before. There is a big problem for the US, namely that the military believes there is a gross asymmetry but we do not really have a handle on how many Russian tactical nuclear weapons there are. There may be 25,000, there may be 4,000. The US has very small numbers -- Perry officially testified that there are only hundreds of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. The Russians did not want tactical nuclear weapons in this agreement. The only way we could get them in was with diplomatic language that said they will be discussed "in the context of START III." This could mean anything. The Russians did want submarine-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) mentioned. The US agreed to mention nuclear, not conventional, SLCMs. This means that these two items are linked -- tactical nuclear weapons and nuclear SLCMs. No agreement in this area will happen quickly -- we are on a slow boat.
The fourth problem area for START III is transparency of fissile material. This is the "loose nukes" problem which some people believe is the most important problem in Russia today. Hours and hours and hours and hours of negotiation led to one sentence which said we will also consider discussing this issue. This was the best we could do, and I'm telling you it was a full court press by the US government at all levels. Clinton, Gore, Albright, Berger and sub-cabinet people trying at all levels, every angle, during round-the-clock negotiation. We got one sentence. Frankly, it was more than we expected to get after all of that. If you think the Russians are going to open up their nuclear complex tomorrow, it is not going to happen. It is going to be a long, long haul. The US offered to open up completely, so it was not a problem with reciprocity. Without their cooperation, there is a limit to what we can do on this problem.
In short, we have a long time ahead of us in negotiating the START III agreement. The formulation may well be revised. If we do get START III, which is supposed to happen by 2007, what are some of the other key issues? One is the notion of extending to a five power discussion, getting Britain, France and China involved. I personally believe that what matters most is getting China into a dialogue. The Chinese have said that they will talk arms control when we get down to their level. We are beginning to engage them in dialogue already, and this is important because we have fundamental disagreements with them over Taiwan. There are other problems. The Chinese insist on a US "no first use" of nuclear weapons policy. We have to talk about possible ways to get around that. I was involved in the first US-China dialogues on nuclear weapons in October 1996. The US sent a team to China and made a formal presentation about our nuclear weapons program, deterrence, arms control, and where nuclear weapons fit in to our national security policy. There was not much response. But there may now be a Chinese team coming to the US soon. We are in the kindergarten stages of this discussion, but the discussion must be held.
Another key issue is that we need to get into a discussion of offense and defense tradeoffs. Even with all of the problems of the US theatre missile defense programs, I think we are moving, by fits and starts, toward more extensive missile defense deployment. It is going to happen. This automatically raises important tensions and problems in China especially if Japan and Taiwan acquires these systems. We have to talk to the Russians and ultimately with others about some mix of offense and defense systems that is collectively tolerable. It is a difficult problem, but we have to reintegrate the offense and defense systems or we will not be able to continue the arms control process.
Overall, arms control has come a long way. It still has a role to play. It must always be thought of as part of a national security policy and part of foreign policy. And, alas, it is always part of domestic politics -- don't ever forget that. You must always consider what Congress may do, no matter how great your idea is, if they are not interested and you do not plan to expend the energy to get them interested, then your great idea is dead-on-arrival. You cannot underestimate the problems this president has had with the military. He has enormous constraints. In the Senate he faces Helms and Thurman, two of the most reactionary major committee chairs since the Versailles Treaty was defeated in 1920. This is the reality he is dealing with, and given that it is not a bad record.
Dr. Michael Nacht is Professor of Public Policy in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland. He served from August 1994- March 1997 as Assistant Director for Strategic and Eurasian Affairs of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) where he led the Agency's work on nuclear arms reduction negotiations with Russia and initiated a nuclear arms control dialogue with China. He participated in President Clinton's summit meetings with President Yeltsin at Hyde Park (1995), Moscow (1996) and Helsinki (1997) and helped draft and negotiate the joint statements on nuclear force reductions and ballistic missile defense that were released at Helsinki. He also participated in the Clinton-Jiang Zemin summit meeting at Lincoln Center (1995) and in Secretary of Defense Perry's only trip to China (1994). He met with senior government officials in London, Bonn, Geneva, Tokyo, Baku, T'bilisis and Petra, Jordan. For this work he was given the ACDA Distinguished Honor Award, the Agency's highest honor.
Jane Kellett Cramer -- Rapporteur
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