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Pursuing a Strategy of Mutual Assured Safety
Remarks delivered by Secretary of Defense William Perry , the National Press Club, Washington, Thursday, January 05, 1995

Thank you very much. ... At the height of the Cold War Andrei Sakharov, the great Russian physicist said, "Reducing the risk of annihilating humanity in a nuclear war carries an absolute priority over all other considerations."

At the time that Sakharov said that, both the United States and the Soviet Union believed that the danger of annihilating humanity with nuclear weapons was very real. Both developed a strategy called Mutual Assured Destruction, or MAD, to prevent a nuclear catastrophe, and both developed awesome nuclear arsenals to carry out their strategy.

MAD has been compared to two men standing 10 feet apart, each of them holding a revolver pointed at the other man's head. The revolver is loaded, their fingers are on the trigger, quivering, and they are shouting insults at each other. This vivid metaphor captures the mutual terror that was at the base of our security policy during the Cold War.

Today, with a democratic government in Russia, the Cold War is history, and we would like to forget the nightmare of Mutual Assured Destruction. We are now pursuing a strategy of mutual assured safety, which is based on cooperation and builddown of weapons, instead of competition and buildup.

But we must not forget that while MAD no longer exists, the tens of thousands of nuclear weapons spawned by MAD still do exist. And we must recognize the fragility of democratic institutions in Russia today.

As the ongoing tragedy in Chechnya makes all too clear, political stability is not assured in Russia, and a reversal of reform could result in an authoritarian militaristic regime hostile to the West and a regime which still possessed 25,000 nuclear weapons. In short, a reversal of reform in Russia could return us to the MAD nightmare.

As my friend and colleague (National Security Adviser) Tony Lake said this weekend on "Meet the Press," we have a tremendous stake in a healthy and democratic Russia. Because of that, a primary national security objective of this administration is to take every action we reasonably can take to reduce the likelihood of reversal of reform in Russia. At the same time we are taking prudential actions which hedge against such a reversal should it occur.

To further these national security objectives we have formed what we call a pragmatic partnership with Russia. One manifestation of this partnership is the formation of the so-called Gore- Chernomyrdin Commission.

Through this commission Russia and the United States cooperate in the development of a free market economic system in Russia, since a healthy economy in Russia is a key to its political stability. This commission, under Vice President [Albert] Gore's leadership, has had a remarkable history of success.

The second manifestation of this pragmatic partnership is the Nunn- Lugar program conducted by the Department of Defense. This is a program named after its authors, Sen. [Sam] Nunn and Sen. [Richard] Lugar. In this program the United States and Russia work cooperatively to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons by dismantling the weapons and their associated infrastructure --the hundreds of military and industrial facilities and the thousands of people who used to make and operate nuclear weapons. Nunn- Lugar actually removes the threat, missile by missile, warhead by warhead, factory by factory.

However, the Nunn- Lugar program is being challenged today both in Russia and in the U.S. Congress. In Congress some critics have lumped Nunn- Lugar into Russian foreign aid. In Russia some critics say Nunn- Lugar is a U.S. conspiracy to disarm their nation.

In reality the Nunn- Lugar program is neither. It's neither Russian aid nor is it unilateral Russian disarmament. Indeed, for the United States, Nunn- Lugar is defense by other means, a particularly effective way to protect ourselves against nuclear weapons that were once aimed at our cities.

For Russia and its nuclear neighbors Nunn- Lugar is a way to help their nuclear dismantlement efforts and economic reform. And for both of us it carries out our nuclear arms reduction agreements and builds a national and economic partnership.

I plan to defend this program in Congress vigorously. It has already made a lot of progress, and we can make a lot more. It would be tragically short- sighted if the dismantlement of Soviet nuclear weapons is slowed or stopped by misconceptions about this program.

To begin with, I think it is important to recall why Sen. Nunn and Sen. Lugar conceived this program in the first place more than three years ago. At the time the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse. Officials of the new republics were pleading for our help to eliminate the nuclear complex that remained.

For the United States this was our moment of truth in the post-Cold War nuclear era. We had a chance not only to help eliminate this arsenal, we had an urgent need to prevent it from being dispersed, thereby creating a new nuclear nightmare. The choice was clear, weapons destruction or weapons proliferation.

Sen. Nunn and Sen. Lugar seized this moment. They put together a bipartisan coalition to use defense funds to help dismantle the Soviet nuclear arsenal. But this was not and is not a cash transfer program. It has tight controls.

Host nations must make a substantial investment on their own. They cannot turn around and use what's been dismantled to make new nuclear weapons. They cannot pursue excessive military modernization. They must permit us to confirm and audit the weapons destruction. And finally, Nunn- Lugar assistance goes only to nations that have committed to comply with arms reduction and nonproliferation agreements.

Over the past three years we have committed just under a billion dollars in Nunn- Lugar funds, which have helped to achieve several significant accomplishments.

First, there are fewer warheads deployed in the region. Nearly 2,600 nuclear warheads have been removed [from] missiles or bomber bases. Almost 900 of the warheads located in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus have been shipped to Russia for dismantlement.

Secondly, there are also fewer delivery vehicles deployed in the region. More than 750 missiles have been removed from their launchers. About 575 launchers and bombers have been destroyed. For example, we are providing what are called guillotine shearers to help the Russians chop the wings off two or three strategic bombers a day.

And third, there will be fewer nuclear nations in the region.

Nunn- Lugar projects have built a channel of trust, cooperation and understanding with these nations, and the payoff is real. For example, the promise of Nunn- Lugar assistance helped encourage Ukraine to sign the so-called Trilateral Accord, to eliminate all nuclear weapons on its soil. And the first deliveries of Nunn- Lugar aid to Ukraine helped encourage its parliament to ratify the Nonproliferation Treaty. This will be one less nuclear nation to worry about. And Ukraine's accession to the Nonproliferation Treaty allowed the START [strategic arms reduction] I Treaty to enter into force, paving the way for the U.S. and former Soviet nuclear forces to be reduced by more than a third.

These are significant accomplishments. And I can tell you from firsthand experience that it is truly inspiring to see the results of this program on the ground.

Pervomaisk was one of the largest and the most modern nuclear weapons facilities in the Soviet Union. It was a very deadly crown jewel. Last year I asked Ukraine's defense minister for a tour of Pervomaisk, because we had Nunn- Lugar programs under way to assist in the dismantling of the weapons there. He took me into the missile site there, down into the nuclear control facility 12 stories underground, and for my benefit the two young officers there went through the missile launch control procedure, step by step, right up until the last step, which is the final launch step.

This and the other launch control centers at Pervomaisk were demonstrating the capability to launch 700 nuclear warheads just from that one site alone, all pointed at the United States. It was stunning for me to stand there and see that in operation. Indeed, it was a chilling scene that brought home to me the full horror of the Cold War.

We left the control center then and went out to the missile field, and they had one of the silos opened up, and we stood on

the lip of the silo and looked down, and there was an SS- 24 missile. The missile was still there, but the upper stage was open with the massive tubes, pipes and wires sticking out because the warheads were gone. They had been removed the previous week and sent back to the factory for dismantlement. This was the Nunn- Lugar program in action.

There is a picture in my office of myself and Gen. [Vitialiy] Radetskiy [former Ukrainian minister of defense] standing at the lip of this SS- 24 silo and looking down at the missing warhead. And this is the most vivid image I've retained from my first year as the secretary of defense.

Recently we revealed another dramatic success story for the Nunn- Lugar program called Project Sapphire. The government of Kazakhstan asked us to take about 600 kilograms of highly enriched uranium. This material, which is enough to make several dozen nuclear weapons, is now at our Oak Ridge facility in Tennessee, safe forever from potential black marketeers, terrorists or new nuclear regimes. And the Nunn- Lugar program helped to make this historic event possible. In fact, without our cooperation with Kazakhstan on Nunn- Lugar, we might never even have known about the existence of this material.

As you may imagine from my statement so far, I am proud of what we have done on the Nunn- Lugar program, and Sen. Nunn and Sen. Lugar should be proud of their vision. With Congress' support for full Nunn- Lugar funding we will continue to help remove every last nuclear weapon from Kazakhstan, from Ukraine and from Belarus. Then, of the former Soviet Union all but Russia will be nuclear weapons free. This will be a significant achievement, but not significant enough.

I want to make a very important point to you today -- to you and to Congress: Destroying weapons is important, but it is not enough. To do the job right, we must deal with the vast Soviet nuclear weapon complex behind every weapon.

This complex includes tens of thousands of people, military officers who operate the weapons, factory workers who build them, scientists who design them. We're also talking about hundreds of facilities, 28 ICBM bases as well as dozens of research labs and factories.

A Soviet nuclear complex is like Hydra, the creature from Greek mythology with several heads. Every time Hercules cut off one of his heads, two more grew back in its place. To deal with the Soviet nuclear Hydra, we must heed the lesson Hercules learned the hard way: We must deal with the whole animal. If we don't, if we focus just on destroying weapons and ignore the people and facilities, the Soviet nuclear Hydra could turn around and grow new warheads.

This nuclear complex in the former Soviet Union has played a key role in the economy and society there, so if we want to eliminate Soviet nuclear weapons, we must help with the economic and social consequences of dismantling this entire complex. Therefore, about 20 percent of the Nunn- Lugar funding each year is focused on reorienting people and converting facilities.

For example, we will have to put more than 4,000 former Soviet nuclear weapon scientists to work on civilian research services in Kiev and in Moscow. This way, they are less likely to wind up working on a nuclear bomb program in Libya or Iraq or Iran. Both Russia and the United States will have access to the results of their civilian work, which could lead to joint commercial projects or joint business ventures.

But these are the kind of Nunn- Lugar projects that suffer the most from misconceptions. A few weeks ago I talked with a group of freshmen House Republicans, and I was asked, "Why are we spending money on quality of life for former Soviet troops when we should be worried about American troops?" Let me answer that question with a real- world example.

As I related earlier, we're helping the Ukrainians to shut down Pervomaisk and also their other ICBM launch facility at Khmelnitsky. Who's helping us close these bases? The same people who operated them, former officers from the Soviet strategic rocket forces.

But this causes a problem. These people live on the bases. They have no other homes, and there are no other homes for them since Ukraine has a severe housing shortage, and by law in Ukraine military officers cannot be decommissioned unless housing is provided.

Like any nation, Ukraine does not reward military officers for a lifetime of service by putting them out onto the streets. But we want these officers to retire. We do not want a corps of disgruntled nuclear weapons officers at loose ends.

The only way to ensure the Ukraine missile bases will be closed and the missile officers will leave the service is to help Ukraine build them housing. So this year the Nunn- Lugar program helped to set up two partnerships between American and Ukrainian firms to build housing for demobilized missile officers at Pervomaisk and Khmelnitsky.

The first partnership will convert a Ukrainian military shipbuilding factory into a facility for making prefabricated housing. The other will build four apartment complexes with materials produced in a factory in Kiev that formerly made Soviet missile silos. And when these projects are completed, these U.S.- Ukraine partnerships can build housing for the commercial market at those same factories.

Therefore, my answer to the congressman's question was, "We are not helping to build housing for Soviet missile officers to improve their quality of life, we are doing it to improve our quality of life." That housing is critical to eliminating nuclear weapons that could threaten us. And at the same time, we're bringing U.S. businesses into a potential new market.

The same holds true for dealing with the nuclear weapons factories. The Nunn- Lugar program puts up a little seed money to help U.S. businesses create joint ventures with former Soviet weapon industries. Together they will produce nonmilitary products for commercial sale. This money leverages investments by American businesses, which can then go on to establish a new market for their goods and expanding economies.

For example, four American companies -- Rockwell, Double Cola Co., International American Products and Hearing Aids International -- signed agreements this summer to help convert four Russian defense firms to commercial production. Instead of making nuclear weapon components, these Russian firms will make dental equipment, hearing aids, [and] air traffic control and cola bottling equipment.

Our cities cannot be destroyed by dental equipment or hearing aids, and these deals are small steps toward building the Russian economy and a Russian- American economic partnership.

Some critics in the United States have charged that these conversion programs are designed to sustain the Russian defense industry. Some critics in Russia have charged that these conversion programs are designed to cripple the Russian defense industry. Both sets of critics cannot be right, and indeed neither is right.

These programs are not exploiting either the United States or Russia. To the contrary, these joint conversion projects benefit both countries. Indeed they are win, win, win. A win because they dismantle weapons production, a win because they turn Soviet talent and technology into much needed commercial products, and a win because U.S. firms get a toehold in a new market.

These small Nunn- Lugar expenditures also have a multiplier effect. A little money stimulates much larger investments by others.

Last month, for example, when I was in Moscow, I witnessed the signing of a joint agreement between Hamilton- Standard, an American firm, and the Russian firm Nauka. Together they plan to convert one of Nauka's defense plants to make climate control systems for commercial aircraft. Very little Nunn- Lugar funds will be involved. Out of the $32 million deal, $8 million would come from Hamilton Standard, $8 million from Nauka, $15 million in loan guarantees by the Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the remaining $1 million from the Defense Enterprise fund, which is sponsored by the Nunn- Lugar program. In the case of the Hamilton Standard- Nauka deal it is expected to generate more than $18 million in U.S. exports with that project.

These are some examples, then, of the Nunn- Lugar at work. But the best argument for the Nunn- Lugar program is this inescapable fact: Russia is a major power. Someday its economy will recover. We and our friends in Russia want this nation directed toward commerce and peace, not the production of nuclear weapons. It is crucial that we continue to help Russia and its nuclear neighbors continue their efforts to dismantle Soviet nuclear weapons and to transform the Soviet nuclear weapons complex into an economic asset.

Let me close by pointing out that as we debate this Nunn- Lugar program, there are three basic questions we should keep in mind. The first, is it in the U.S. security interest to get the Soviet nuclear weapon complex under control?

The second, what is the most reasonable cost for doing this, the billions of dollars needed to build defenses against a massive nuclear attack or the several hundred million a year to assist in dismantling this arsenal?

And third, should we return to the Cold War approach of letting this region stew in their own problems or pursue areas of mutual security interest and cooperation? Sen. Nunn and Sen. Lugar had the vision to create a unique program to help dismantle the fearsome Soviet nuclear complex. We must have the courage to implement their vision, all of us.

All of us in this room have lived our entire adult lives with the threat of a nuclear holocaust hanging over our heads like a dark cloud. Now the cloud has drifted away, and the sun has broken through. We owe it to our children, we owe it to our grandchildren to do everything in our power to keep that cloud from drifting back and to let the sun continue to shine through.

Thank you very much.



Q. You stated in your remarks that because of the Nunn- Lugar program, uranium- enriched materials and nuclear warheads are being returned to the United States. But President [Bill] Clinton has announced huge cutbacks in funds to clean up our own nuclear waste stockpiles. Aren't we making America a more contaminated place?

A. Now that's confusing two different issues. The first issue is simply the storage of materiel and weapons, which we do at several facilities around the country. And the second issue is that when we manufactured nuclear weapons at some of our facilities, we had improper waste disposal procedures and we created environmental waste problems.

That's ... why we have a very large bill cleaning up. The additional uranium, which we are now storing at Oak Ridge, in no way complicates that problem, in no way adds to our environmental cleanup problem.

In fact, I might go on to say that we actually expect to take that enriched uranium, reprocess it and sell it for use ... in commercial nuclear reactors.

Q. If the United States and Russia are indeed committed to mutual assured safety in drawing down nuclear arsenals, why then is Russia testing a brand new ICBM?

A. I think the direct answer to the question has to do with the fact that the entire defense complex in Russia -- not just the nuclear complex -- was a major and integral part of their economy. And it is virtually impossible for them to simply shut it down cold turkey.

The ... last time I visited Leningrad, I met with the mayor there, I talked to him about ... converting the defense industry in Leningrad, and he told me that 60 percent of the industry in Leningrad was defense- related. And ... those industries have long since lost the budgets they had to sustain them through the years. They have only a fraction of that budget now.

In the meantime they have the problem of what to do with the majority of the workers in the city. And so they're moving very slowly to reduce the activity at these defense plants even though they have basically lost their funding base.

So they have a terrible transition problem right now of going from a society where some very significant percentage of the population worked in the defense plants to a more normal environment in which very few will be working in defense plants. And they're in that transition period right now.

Q. Can you tell us whether today our military is prepared to deploy a force comparable to that of Desert Shield in terms of combat sorties, airlifts, weapons and manpower for the same duration? Are we capable of simultaneously supporting such a force deployed in two different areas of the world? A. Now, the first part of the question, which is why aren't we doing more, I guess, and can we cope with the kind of threats we see today -- the regional conflicts and the various other demands on the military forces? Yes, I believe we can cope with them.

I believe our performance during the last year demonstrates we have coped with them very effectively. We have a force which is almost a third smaller today than it was during the early '80s and for that matter during the '70s, but a force which is equally effective, person for person, unit for unit. And the biggest single objective that I have in the maintenance of this force is to maintain that combat readiness.

The budget which I will be submitting to Congress in just a few weeks will do just that. Even though the force level continues to go down, we will be requesting more funds for the operation and maintenance account in order to provide for enhanced readiness of the forces.

So when we look at the kind of contingencies that require our forces and we see the kind we have had in this last year in particular, they are ...contingencies that require the forces to be ready right then, not a year later or two years later or three years later. So we have to maintain a substantial number of our forces in basically a state of 48- hour readiness, being ready to be sent and deployed ... . And we keep forces at that level of readiness; not all our forces, but a good many of our forces at that level of readiness.

I think one of the major debates we'll have in Congress is over the issue of have we provided enough readiness for the forces we have deployed today? And I believe the answer to that is yes, and I'm prepared to vigorously defend that position with the Congress with the present budget we will be submitting.

Q. As an irate taxpayer, why has Washington now been swept with calls for increased defense spending when the rest of the government is downsizing? Where's the threat? Who are we supposed to fight? Is the Cold War mentality coming back?


A. I would say I have not found any shortage of threats and crises in the year that I've been defense secretary. It seems like there has been kind of one a month that have been bringing in demands for U.S. military forces.

Nevertheless, there is nothing, nothing that we have seen or nothing we project that would be comparable to the threat that existed when the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact existed. And because of that I believe, and this administration believes, we can safely reduce the size of our military forces. And that is a process which is well under way. Actually it was started during the Bush administration, and it is being continued to be carried out under the Clinton administration.

That will result in a reduction in military spending of about 40 percent from the mid '80s to the late '90s, which is a very substantial reduction which reflects this reduction in threat. And it will result in a reduction in the size of the military forces -- the number of men and women in the forces --by about a third.

Q. Sen. [Bob] Dole introduced a bill to replace the War Powers Act with provisions that would give the president more freedom to use military forces to protect U.S. interests but would sharply restrict participation in such things as U.N. peacekeeping operations. Do you consider this better or worse? A. I'm going to give a qualified answer to that question. First of all, to start off, I share Sen. Dole's view that the war powers resolution is inadequate. And we are interested in seeing that amended or replaced. We've only had less than a day to study the particular suggestions made in his legislation, so I'm not prepared to make a definitive comment on it.

I will say that there are some interesting constitutional questions raised by the particular proposal he's making, so we want to look at that very carefully before we make any detailed comments. But, repeat, again, we are open to the idea of either amending or replacing the war powers resolution. So we welcome the spirit in which this proposal was made.

Q. Are reports that Iran is five years away from developing nuclear weapons accurate? What can the United States do about it?

A. I think the best thing that can be said about that report is it dramatically oversimplifies a somewhat complicated problem. I don't want to give you too complex an answer on it, but how soon Iran could have a nuclear bomb depends on how they go about getting it.

Let me give you the simplest way would be if they could buy or steal a bomb from one of the leftover unused bombs in the former Soviet Union, so that's worry No. 1, and that could happen in a week or month, five years, name the time. So obviously one of the specific agendas of our Nunn- Lugar, which is nuclear weapon accountability and control, is directed specifically to minimize the risk of that happening.

The second way that they might get a bomb is by buying fissile material -- highly enriched uranium or plutonium -- from a nuclear country. ... Now, if Iran ends up with 600 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, the five years is on the high end of how long it might take them to get to a nuclear weapon.

The third possibility is if they have a home- grown program, where they develop and build their own bomb. That would take them much longer than five years, now, to get to a nuclear program. However, they could accelerate that time some ... if they could hire nuclear scientists and nuclear technicians from the former Soviet Union, people who already had the know- how and the experience. That's why we have this program where we have set up facilities, research labs and research programs in Kiev and Moscow, to keep the Russian and Ukrainian scientists and technicians in country instead of having them be tempted to accept offers from one of those other countries.

So those are the three different conditions by which they ... could get nuclear weapons. The time varies dramatically depending on which of those three they are pursuing, but in all three of those cases the Nunn- Lugar program is directed towards minimizing the likelihood of that happening.


Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission.