Thank you for that introduction. And thank you for having me here today. My congratulations to General Belousov on his recent appointment to lead this institution.
It is testimony to how far we have come that the Military Academy of the General Staff would invite the former head of the CIA and current American Secretary of Defense to speak in this prestigious setting.
As you are likely aware, I have spent virtually my entire adult life studying Russia and the Soviet Union. My doctorate is in the history of your country. I spent more than a quarter century in the same career field as President Putin. Although he is considerably younger than I am, clearly his career has been more successful.
My first encounter with the Soviet military was 36 years ago, in 1971, when I was assigned to Vienna, Austria as an intelligence specialist to the American delegation negotiating limits on strategic armaments with the Soviet Union. While historians can and do debate whether those negotiations actually limited the number of weapons on either side, there is little debate that the dialogue between our two countries on strategic issues – doctrine, strategy, numbers, and more – made a major contribution to avoiding misunderstandings, miscalculations, and mistakes that might have resulted in a nuclear war.
I was also in Vienna in 1979 when the SALT II treaty was signed, and there for the first time met some of the top leaders of the Soviet Union – General Secretary Brezhnev, Foreign Minister Gromyko, Defense Minister Ustinov, and Chief of the General Staff Marshal Ogarkov.
In 1987, as Deputy Director of CIA, I met in Washington with Vladimir Kryuchkov, then head of the KGB’s First Chief Directorate – the first summit meeting ever held between the leadership of the KGB and the CIA, a dialogue intended – like the strategic arms dialogue – to prevent mistakes and misunderstandings and to offer an opportunity to clear the air. It was a cordial, but frank, conversation. For example, when I complained to Kryuchkov about all the listening devices we had taken out of our new embassy here in Moscow, he asked me if I wanted to see the warehouse where they had all the listening devices taken out of the USSR’s new embassy in Washington. Kryuchkov and I would meet next in 1989 here in Moscow, after he became head of the KGB – my first visit to the country I had studied so long.
I recall that visit well. It was May of 1989. During the trip, I had been warned that my room at Spaso House, the U.S. Ambassador’s residence, would probably be bugged by the KGB. As I prepared to go to bed, I said aloud, for the benefit of whoever might be listening, that:
· I would be going right to sleep – immediately;
· I had no companionship planned for the evening; and
· Thus whoever was listening could take the rest of the night off.
I thought I heard a chuckle, but undoubtedly it was only in my imagination.
During that same 1989 trip I met General Secretary Gorbachev for the first time. As you may know, during that period I had the reputation of being a pessimist as to whether his economic reforms here would work in the later half of the 1980s – a pessimism ultimately justified by events. Thus, I was not always the favorite of the Soviet leadership or America’s State Department. I recall a plenary session where Mr. Gorbachev expressed his hope that relations between our two countries might improve to the point where “Mr. Gates would be put out of a job.” As it turned out, it was he that would be put out of a job first.
My last visit here prior to becoming Secretary of Defense was as Director of CIA in the fall of 1992, 15 years ago. With the Cold War by then history, I came to explore with my Russian counterpart – the head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, Evgeniy Primakov – opportunities for the American and Russian services to begin to cooperate in addressing common threats in a post Cold War world: terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, global organized crime, narcotics trafficking, and more. No longer enemies, we began to look for ways in which we could cooperate and be partners.
To symbolize the end of an era, and I hoped, the beginning of a new one, I made a special presentation to President Yeltsin during that visit. During the mid-1970s, the United States had made a major effort to recover a Soviet ballistic missile submarine that had sunk deep in the Pacific Ocean several years before in the hope of an intelligence treasure trove. We did recover part of the submarine, including the remains of six Soviet sailors. Nearly twenty years later, I presented to President Yeltsin the Soviet naval flag with which we had shrouded the coffins of the six Soviet sailors, along with a video tape of their burial at sea, complete with prayers in Russian for the dead and the playing of the Soviet national anthem – at the height of the Cold War, a dignified and respectful burial at sea of six brave adversaries.
Much has happened around the world since my visit as head of CIA 15 years ago. Much has changed. But one thing that has not changed is my belief that in this new era, Russia and America face certain security challenges in common and that there are opportunities for us to cooperate in meeting those challenges. I was eager to begin that endeavor 15 years ago. I am still eager to make that effort today.
To that end, the Secretary of State, Dr. Rice, and I have been in Moscow this week. We appreciated the opportunity to have a full and frank exchange of views with President Putin, Foreign Minister Lavrov, and Defense Minister Serdyukov. These conversations will continue, and I firmly believe they will continue to benefit the relationship and standing of both our nations.
Now, I would like to outline some thoughts on the challenges facing the U.S. military as we continue to transition to a posture more appropriate for the 21st century.
Many of these questions may be of particular interest to you as Russia seeks to modernize and professionalize its own armed services. Our nations face many of the same threats and also many of the same dilemmas when it comes to preparing our militaries for the future. I hope that I may offer a few ideas as a starting point for discussions both within your ranks, and between Russian and U.S. counterparts.
The term most often used to describe recent military developments is “transformation,” or the “Revolution in Military Affairs.” These expressions entered the lexicon of the U.S. military a number of years ago as ways to describe the potential for new technologies to fundamentally alter the nature of war.
What is less well known, especially in America, is that much of the original thinking on these matters was done by the Soviet military as far back as the 1970s, when officers wrote about what was then called a “Military Technical Revolution” – how to use new sensors, reconnaissance, and battle-management systems to gain an edge on the battlefield.
This work continued through the next decade, when Marshal Ogarkov, the Chief of the Soviet General Staff, envisioned a scenario where conventional systems could be as effective and dangerous as weapons of mass destruction, owing to the gains made in precision, information technology, and communications.
During the period following the Vietnam War, the U.S. military underwent its own period of transition and evolution – involving technology as well as organization and strategy. The driving force, as we all know, was the ever-elusive search for a decisive edge against our Cold War opponent. These innovations bore fruit for America’s armed forces – at least with regard to conventional warfare –in the first Gulf War against Iraq in 1991.
Technological advances continued in the decade that followed, even as the U.S. military suffered an identity crisis of sorts. No longer were we seeking to deter any single nation-state. No longer was the mission geared to one nation alone. Our military was instead tasked with new types of peacekeeping and humanitarian missions in places like Somalia, Haiti, and the Balkans.
Since September 11, the U.S. military has been confronted with new missions in Iraq and Afghanistan – where initially quick conventional victories have given way to long, complex, and grinding campaigns against violent, adaptive insurgencies.
When these conflicts began, the U.S. military was, for the most part, a smaller version of the force that had been organized, trained and equipped to do battle with the Soviet Union. In light of the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. military has undertaken a number of reforms to prepare for what will likely be a generational campaign against violent Islamic extremists. A few examples:
· We no longer have the luxury of months to deploy, assemble, and prepare as was the case in 1991. So our ground forces, and in particular the U.S. Army, are becoming more agile and expeditionary.
· As the U.S. military became a more professional force – conscription ended in 1973 – the welfare of military families took on greater importance – in morale, retention and other areas. So we’ve learned to do more to support and sustain the families of our servicemen and women.
· Similarly, the role of reserve forces has changed – from that of a “strategic reserve” to be mobilized in the event of a third World War to an “operational reserve” which is now an integral part of every mission.
The very idea of transformation has gone well beyond its original technological associations. It now stands for a process of constant evaluation, adaptation, and change. It is an ongoing process, and more needs to be done.
Looking forward, one of the most important roles for our military will be less direct combat and more a matter of helping the security forces of partner nations defeat extremists within their own borders. So we’re thinking about how best to incorporate those capabilities into our Armed Forces in a way that does not detract from their war-fighting responsibilities.
Furthermore, the struggle against terrorists is a campaign that requires the full use of all elements of national power – diplomatic, economic, political, as well as military -- in close cooperation with allies and partners. The Defense Department is seeking better ways to integrate with other agencies of the U.S. government. As I’m sure many of you know, bureaucratic inertia is always a source of frustration. But we have had some success. One example is the concept of Provincial Reconstruction Teams that have been used in Afghanistan, and more recently in Iraq. These units bring together soldiers from the U.S. and other nations with experts in agriculture, reconstruction, and other fields.
We are also trying to be more creative when it comes to using the talents and capabilities of our country as a whole, and not just our government. A few months ago, I expanded a program to assign civilian anthropologists and social scientists to each of our deploying brigades. The cost of the program was miniscule compared to a new weapons system or a traditional military operation – but the positive impact can be significant, as a number of commanders in the war zone can attest.
These kinds of changes are difficult for any large institution that has been doing things a certain way for a long time. They are difficult in any era. When I was CIA director in 1992, the agency was in the midst of a dramatic transition away from a focus on the Soviet Union and toward other threats. It meant reassigning and retraining thousands of people. It meant reexamining long-held assumptions and ways of doing business. And at that time, it meant doing all this while the CIA’s budget and personnel were being drastically reduced – a circumstance I know leaders of the Russian military had to cope with in the past.
Though our nations and our militaries are in very different places today, we do face many of the same challenges. One of the reasons I chose this topic for presentation is that I wanted to provide an outline of what U.S. defense leaders are thinking about as we consider the future. I hope this will go some way toward creating a climate of trust and transparency as our countries take on some of the thornier geopolitical issues of the day – and subjects for further discussion in the future.
I would just close on a personal note. A number of months ago, I had an opportunity to stand on the shores of Normandy and pay homage to the Americans who had lost their lives on that World War II battlefield. A month before, President Putin spoke at a ceremony marking the anniversary of the end of the Great Patriotic War, in which more than 20 million citizens of the Soviet Union perished. We were two old Cold Warriors – and plain-spoken career spies – honoring the deeds of a bygone era, deeds shared by an America and a Russia that allied against a common enemy, together. We were honoring the mass heroism of rank-and-file soldiers, the unconquerable spirit of everyday citizens, the tragedy of great nations.
President Putin said in his remarks that “We have a duty to remember that the causes of any war lie above all in the mistakes and miscalculations of peacetime and that these causes have their roots in an ideology of confrontation and extremism.”
No nation suffered more from the last century’s carnage and miscalculations than Russia. And today, arguably no nation stands to gain more from this century’s possibilities. We are prepared to work with Russia – and with the Russian military – to try to turn possibility into reality for the peoples of both nations.