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Protecting U.S. Security During the New Russian Revolution
Prepared remarks of Ashton Carter, assistant secretary of defense for international security policy, the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis Symposium on Security Strategy and Missile Defense, Washin, Tuesday, June 20, 1995

The strategic landscape for missile defense fundamentally depends on the status of the U.S.-Russian relationship. Since U.S. security policy is still focused primarily on Russia, the future of U.S. missile defense systems will be determined by the events that define that relationship. I want to lay out the Clinton administration's framework for Russia policy and explain how we seek to protect our national security in the face of what is clearly a Russian revolution still in progress.

Even after the Cold War, U.S.-Russian relations remain the main theme of our security policy. We need to look no further than daily events in Chechnya to realize that Russia, indeed the entire continent of Eurasia, is still in revolution. It will be that way for a long time. This must be our starting point for a discussion of U.S. security policy.

The revolution that ended the Soviet Union continues, and no one can predict how it will come out. Many observers try to predict the outcome. They give briefings and pretend to know what will happen, but I do not believe any of them -- or any of us - can see the future. We know where we would prefer Russia's future to lie.

The Russia we all hope for would be one that behaves like what the Russians call a "normal" country. It would be integrated into Western structures, would perceive a multitude of common interests with the West, and would pursue policies connected to those common interests. Where interests might diverge -- as one would expect with any country -- that Russia, recognizing the value of being accepted as a responsible member of the international community, would prevent our areas of disagreement from impeding progress on common interests and would resolve disputes peacefully. That is the Russia that we all hope for.

There may be another Russia, however, a Russia that would return to reflexive confrontation with us. This Russia would be authoritarian internally and aggressive externally. And there may be yet a third future for Russia, perhaps the worst of all. This would be the Russia that disintegrates totally, where the government's ability to control events erodes to a point where we can no longer deal with Russia as a coherent and functioning state.

These are a few of the possible futures for Russia. There may be others as well. None of us knows which of these futures will really come true, or even which is most likely. We need to step back, therefore, from this unfolding spectacle and draw a couple of judgments.

The first judgment is that, while we support Russian democratization, economic reform, political freedom, and prosperity for the Russian people, our main concern is to protect the American nation. Security is our highest objective. Our policies are aimed at preventing harmful effects to the American public from this ongoing revolution, covering an entire continent which still has a fearsome arsenal on its territory. Above all, no matter whether the nations of the former Soviet Union are democratic, no matter whether they are wealthy, we want to ensure that the United States and our interests are safe.

Our interests are the following: first and foremost, control and reduction of weapons of mass destruction within Russia and other territories of the former Soviet Union; second, control of proliferation from the former Soviet Union to other countries; third, stability in all of Eurasia, but particularly in Europe; and fourth, avoiding the rekindling of a reflexive global rivalry between Russia and the United States, where we contend with one another everywhere around the world as a matter of course, as we did in the Cold War.

We are fortunate that so far this rivalry has not been rekindled. During our operation in Haiti, for example, the Russians presented us with no problems in the United Nations, as one might have expected in years past. That is one great benefit of the current moment in the U.S.-Russian relationship, but it is not one that we should take for granted that we will enjoy in the future.

To the extent we can, the U.S. has to build policies and take actions to secure these interests that do not presume any particular outcome for the Russian future. And we should not have policies based on predictions. We have to protect our security against whatever the future brings to Russia. We have to increase the probability of good outcomes while also protecting us against bad outcomes. That is the framework in which we design our policy. The framework yields three categories for policymaking: first, engagement; second, hedging; and third, developing relations with the non-Russian newly independent states (NIS).

Our policy of engagement is an active and aggressive effort to take advantage of the opportunity -- possibly fleeting -- to find forces within Russia with whom we can cooperate on security. For example, we are working on a relationship between the U.S. Department of Defense and the Russian federation ministry of defense in which we pursue topics of mutual interest. Proliferation is one of these areas, although we have discovered that we and the Russians do not have a common approach to the problem in all cases. Dismantling of nuclear weapons and the safety and security of their nuclear material is another key area. We are cooperating in the Partnership for Peace and the relationship between NATO and Russia, so that Russia feels that it is an active participant in NATO affairs, but not to the detriment of our own relationship with Europe.

A highly visible example of this effort was Vice President Albert Gore's trip to Moscow in late June and early July for continuing sessions of the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission, a very broadly based set of contacts between the vice president and the Russian prime minister. Meetings chaired by the two leaders bring together Cabinet officers from each country to have practical, no-nonsense, down-to-earth discussions of areas of potential common interest. Another visible example will be the October joint peacekeeping operation at Fort Riley, Kan., a follow-up to the highly valuable joint operation in Tomsk, Russia, last summer. The first pillar of our policy, engagement, is working as we pursue these common interests with Russia.

The second pillar of the policy is hedging, in order to protect our interests no matter what occurs within Russia. In that category, I put our defense program overall; it remains strong and well-funded. Next, I would list our missile defense program, the subject of today's symposium. Third are the results of our Nuclear Posture Review, which reaffirmed our commitment to a sound deterrent.

The review analyzed what the deterrent force will consist of for the next decade and gave us a road map for nuclear policy into the next century, including a consideration of the possibility that we will not fully implement START I or START II [strategic arms reduction treaty]. Another part of this hedge strategy is to enforce the arms control regimes of the Cold War, CFE [Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty], START, and so forth, and preserve them as a defense against renewed tension with Russia.

Finally, the third pillar is strong relations with the nonRussian newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. In early June, Secretary of Defense William Perry and I, along with the commander of NATO forces, Gen. George Joulwan, attended a joint U.S.-Ukrainian exercise in western Ukraine. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili, had planned to attend as well, but his aircraft was unable to land in Ukraine because of poor weather conditions.

This was a major exercise, of major importance, in a country that did not even exist a few years ago. It came after a successful U.S.-led effort to convince Ukraine to accede to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as a nonnuclear state, and essential to that effort was the proposition that the U.S. would continue to be concerned with Ukraine's security once the nuclear issue was behind us. We now have a very strong defense relationship with Ukraine.

We have similar relationships at the other end of Eurasia. Several days ago I returned from a six-day trip to the Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union. We want governments in those countries to know that there is an alternative to domination by Russia. We want them to know that the United States and the West care about their sovereignty and independence and that we are involved in their security future. We are willing to make these commitments even though Central Asia is geographically removed from our core interests. Thus, we have inaugurated military-to-military contacts with the defense ministries of those countries. The principle of good, strong relations with the non-Russian NIS, backing up their independence and assisting them in developing their own security structures is the third pillar of our framework for dealing with Russia.

Having described the framework, I now want to return to the first pillar, engagement, because that part is endangered by actions of Congress. One of the core elements of engagement is the Nunn-Lugar Program. Although it had been in existence for two years before I came into this office, it had really not been effective. Now, however, it is working and showing concrete results for U.S. security. But at the very moment it is doing so, the confidence and understanding of the program are faltering in Congress.

An example of its effectiveness is the case of Ukraine. Everyone concerned with Ukrainian affairs has noted that it was the United States' willingness to cooperate with Ukraine in carrying out the dismantling of SS-19s and SS-24s that was an essential ingredient in Ukraine's decision to become a nonnuclear state.

Another example is the case of Kazakhstan. Last September, the U.S. and Kazakhstan governments moved 600 kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Kazakhstan to the Department of Energy's facility at Oak Ridge, Tenn. President Nursultan Nazarbayev had made two key decisions when he found that HEU on his territory, decisions which can be traced directly to the success of the American policy of engagement. First, Nazarbayev decided that his nation's security would be increased by getting rid of that uranium. Saddam Hussein would not have made that decision; a lot of other leaders in that part of the world would not have made that decision. But Nazarbayev did, because the U.S. has a strong relationship with Kazakhstan based on our recognition of its independence and sovereignty.

The second key decision that he made was to call the president of the United States for help in getting rid of that material. We cannot take such an important decision for granted. Nazarbayev called President [Bill] Clinton because the U.S. has people on the ground, people who work with, communicate and personally know all of Kazakhstan's nuclear people. They know who we are, they trust us, and they agree with our security priorities. President Nazarbayev was confident that the U.S. would be willing to help him rid his country of that dangerous 600 kilograms of uranium.

A third example of the worth of the Nunn-Lugar Program comes from Russia. Secretary Perry and I personally witnessed American-supplied equipment chopping up Russian bombers at one of their air bases. Nothing can be more dramatic than seeing a fantastic 3-ton American guillotine chop right through the fuselage of a Russian bomber. History does not often give us the opportunity actually to take apart weapons that were designed to destroy us. Frankly, we do not know how long this opportunity will last.

Finally, the Nunn-Lugar Program is providing grants to 8,000 technical personnel previously associated with weapons programs of the former Soviet Union. This is often misunderstood, but we are heavily engaged in assisting them to find new ways to use their talents. We want them to transition smoothly away from building bombs toward some peaceful purpose. They used to hold quite privileged positions in Soviet society, and we want to forestall them from lobbying their government to make more weapons of mass destruction or from selling their talents to Libya or any other country.

These are examples of the Nunn-Lugar Program at work, and as I said, this is the central feature of our engagement pillar. It is not wasteful foreign aid, as some may think. The Russians certainly appreciate it, but it is really a gift to us, the American people. The Nunn-Lugar program is our chance to dismantle weapons that are dangerous to us, to safeguard our own security interests.

We carry out the program in such a way that there is no potential for it to enrich the recipients or for the funds to be diverted. We give no money to the Russian government nor to any Russian parties. We give equipment for specific purposes which is taken to specific places. We know where every piece of it goes.

There are some who think that we should condition Nunn-Lugar on better Russian performance in the areas of biological weapons and chemical weapons. I agree that their performance is far from what is acceptable -- not even close, in fact. The question is, however, should we stop funding the dismantling of nuclear weapons systems because of their poor record on other issues? That does not make sense. Some members of Congress seem to believe that since Russia is not complying with their obligations in one area, we should prevent them from doing so in another.

Nunn-Lugar is taking off. We have a multiyear plan that carries Nunn-Lugar five more years, we have concrete programs associated with all those funds, and we know exactly where we want to go. It will result in a drastic, accelerated reduction of the danger of weapons of mass destruction to the United States, and it costs only a few hundred million dollars each year. And yet it is endangered by a Congress that seems to think it is foreign aid.

It is very sad feature of security thinking in this country today that Nunn-Lugar is threatened. Perhaps the situation is a result of our misplaced focus for the last several years. The U.S. has been involved in regions of much less fundamental significance to our security, places like Haiti, Somalia and Bosnia. These conflicts capture the headlines but have little chance really to affect U.S. security.

Russia, on the other hand, can steal back those headlines any day. Think about a terrorist with a nuclear weapon stolen from a Russian depot or a rogue officer taking over an ICBM field. It would quite immediately become clear to all of us where our real concerns lie. Perhaps because some have forgotten this, or perhaps because the Cold War is over it is possible for them to have so cavalier an attitude toward a program that serves our security in such a direct way. It is a terrible tragedy.

That, then, is the context and background in which I ask that missile defense be considered. There is a revolution still going on in Eurasia and in Russia. Our security interests are at stake, and we have the opportunity safeguard them as long as we are smart enough to take it.


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. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at