Seal of the Department of Defense U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
On the Web:
Media contact: +1 (703) 697-5131/697-5132
Public contact:
or +1 (703) 571-3343

A Pragmatic U.S.-Russian Partnership
Prepared Remarks of Secretary of Defense William J. Perry , Military Academy of the Russian General Staff, Moscow, Thursday, October 17, 1996

Defense Issues: Volume 11, Number 97-- A Pragmatic U.S.-Russian Partnership The Cold War is over, which provides a second chance to extend a circle of security to all of Europe. The United States seeks a relationship with Russia where we can pursue areas of agreement and reduce tensions and misunderstandings.


Volume 11, Number 97

A Pragmatic U.S.-Russian Partnership

Prepared remarks by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry to the Military Academy of the Russian General Staff, Moscow, Oct. 17, 1996.

The great Russian [Field] Marshal [Aleksandr] Suvorov once said, "Everything depends on the ... judgment, the skill and the bravery of the man in command." You are the next generation of leaders of the Russian military. Like your American and other European counterparts, you are heirs to a proud tradition of service, and "everything" is going to depend on your judgment, skill and bravery.

Today, the "everything" of which we speak is the future security and stability of Europe. The two great nuclear powers, Russia and the United States, no longer stand in confrontation. They no longer aim their missiles at each other. Today, we have an opportunity to build this future and build a new relationship between our two nations.

I call this new relationship that we are forging a pragmatic partnership because it is pragmatically rooted in our mutual security interests. In the spirit of this new partnership, I want to talk to you today about the strategic outlook of the United States and how our joint endeavors to secure peace are a key part of that security strategy.

Today, the defense strategy of the United States can be summed up in three words: prevent, deter, defeat. First, we seek to prevent threats from emerging. Second, we seek to deter threats that do emerge. And third, if prevention and deterrence fail, we seek to defeat the threat using military force.

These are not new concepts in defense thinking. But what's different today is the emphasis, because today the United States has the unique opportunity to foster peace through preventive defense. Preventive defense can be thought of like preventive medicine. Just as preventive medicine creates the conditions that support health, making disease less likely and surgery unnecessary, so preventive defense creates the conditions that support peace, making war less likely and deterrence unnecessary.

Twice before in this century, America had the opportunity to embrace the strategy of preventive defense. After World War I, we lost the opportunity when we chose to isolate ourselves from European security and the conditions that led to World War II. After World War II, we chose a prevention strategy of reconciliation and reconstruction through the Marshall Plan. But Joseph Stalin turned down the Marshall Plan for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. So only half of Europe joined with us. That turndown was followed by a Cold War where the dominant defense strategy was not prevention, but deterrence, which carried with it the mutual threat of nuclear holocaust.

Today, the Cold War is over, and we have a second chance -- an opportunity to extend a circle of security to all of Europe. A key way we are seizing that opportunity is through the U.S.-Russian pragmatic partnership. Russia has been a major player in European security for 300 years, and it continues to be one as a world power with global interests and a large nuclear arsenal. For this reason, the U.S. seeks a relationship with Russia where we can pursue areas of agreement and seek to reduce the tensions and misunderstandings that plagued our relationship during the Cold War. A key to our partnership is open, productive security relations. That is why we are working together on many history-making cooperative security ventures.

One major cooperative venture has been our joint training exercises. From Totskoye to Vladivostok to Fort Riley, Kan., our countries have conducted four major bilateral exercises and many other smaller ones. These exercises are a chance for our soldiers to train together, to promote understanding and cooperation, but they are a lot more. They serve to recognize the special responsibility that we have to work together as two of the world's great powers. They serve as a foundation to build trust and understanding between our nations themselves. And they provide the basis for success in our broader relationship from the fields of science and technology to economic development and the environment. As these exercises make clear, an informal handshake between two soldiers can often do more for peace and understanding than formal treaties or agreements between nations.

I have personally seen the positive effects of our bilateral program. Two summers ago, I went to Fort Riley, Kan., to watch our troops train together for peacekeeping operations. I was in awe of the spirit of cooperation that had developed between our soldiers in so short a span of time. But the most remarkable moment was when the Russian military leader [then-Defense Minister Pavel Grachev] traveling with me gathered the Russian soldiers around him for a talk. He told them that what they were doing with the Americans was the basis for creating a peaceful world for their children.

I also visited the U.S.-Russian exercise in Hawaii, where our naval forces practiced sea rescues and delivering humanitarian aid as part of a disaster relief exercise. I took my grandson with me to see the exercise. He still wears the beret given to him by a Russian marine. He will never forget this experience. And our sailors and Marines will never forget their experience of training with their Russian colleagues. The strong bonds and new friendships being formed during these training exercises are building strong relations between our nations for years to come.

Strong bonds are also being formed with Russia and throughout Europe through NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Partnership for Peace has become a dynamic force for building trust and cooperation among the nations of Europe. Exercises focus on security challenges we must face together in the future -- challenges of peacekeeping, search and rescue missions and humanitarian assistance. To date, 42 NATO and PfP countries have participated in dozens of major exercises.

Partnership for Peace's progress has been spectacular and solid, but we must not rest on our laurels. We must create a new enhanced role for Russia within NATO, a role in which Russia should be able to participate in most of the activities of NATO. This would make the security circle in Europe even broader. And we would welcome and hope that Russia would play a major role in a superpartnership commensurate with its status as a great power.

The steps we are taking with the partnership are critical because they have produced a giant leap in the success of the Bosnia operation. In Bosnia, the United States and Russia and 30 other nations are conducting a very real operation. This is cooperation of historical proportions, especially the cooperation between the U.S. and Russia. Many critics could not believe that the U.S. and Russia could work together. I was not sure either, but I did believe that if the U.S. and Russia were going to build a new security relationship, there was no better opportunity than in Bosnia.

I met with Defense Minister [Igor] Rodionov's predecessor no less than five times, working out the details, trying to overcome five decades of mistrust in about five weeks. What really made it happen was when [Russian] Gen. [Leontiy] Shevtsov went to NATO headquarters and sat down with the supreme allied commander, American Gen. George Joulwan. These two generals worked out the details soldier-to-soldier. And today, Russian troops and U.S. troops are serving side by side and bringing Bosnia its first peace in four years.

About two months ago, I went to Bosnia and heard an interesting story from Gen. [Alexander] Lentsov, the Russian brigade commander, and his U.S. counterpart, [Army] Col. [John] Batiste [commander, 1st Brigade, 2nd Armored Division]. During their first few weeks in Bosnia, Gen. Lentsov and Col. Batiste observed that the warring factions were skeptical about the impartiality of IFOR [implementation force]. The Serbs thought the Americans were not going to implement our responsibilities in an even-handed fashion, and the Muslims thought the Russians would not be even-handed with them. So the two brigade commanders exercised Marshal Suvorov's criteria of command: judgment, skill and, yes, bravery, since the whole world was wondering if the Russian and American units could work together. They put their heads together and said, "tough problem, simple solution."

The simple solution was that they sent out joint patrols -- Americans and Russians patrolling together. Wherever they went in Serb territory, Muslim territory or Croat territory, the patrols had representatives from both the U.S. and Russia. And the question of whether IFOR was even-handed disappeared.

It is in Bosnia where the U.S. and Russia have really cemented a special relationship. And it is in Bosnia where NATO and Russia have embarked on a new beginning of trust and cooperation. To celebrate, I have invited Minister Rodionov to join me in Bosnia for the American holiday of Thanksgiving. We plan to celebrate with Russian and American troops -- to give thanks for the blessings our nations enjoy and for the friendship between our soldiers in the field. Let me say emphatically that it is not only the United States but all NATO that wants Russia to become a full and active partner in European security, and to accomplish this through close relations with NATO.

I know there are many in Russia who remember the Cold War and still fear or distrust NATO. But the Cold War is over. There is a new NATO. NATO no longer sees Russia as an enemy or a threat. And NATO has reduced and restructured in such a way that it does not pose a threat to Russia. NATO has dropped its policy of containment and no longer considers any nation a threat. NATO armies have been reduced by up to 40 percent, and two-thirds of all U.S. NATO forces have been withdrawn from Europe. And the NATO nuclear force has been cut by 90 percent, and no nations are currently targeted by the remaining nuclear weapons.

If NATO is not a threat to Russia, then why is NATO considering accepting new members? First, NATO is simply open to newly democratic nations who want to join -- and who are qualified. It is not seeking new members, it is simply open to new members. Second, NATO believes that by accepting new members it can widen the security circle of Europe and that Russia can benefit from this expanded security circle as well. That is why NATO wants Russia inside this circle, inside a new security architecture for all of Europe.

I expect that Russia will soon open a permanent liaison office at NATO headquarters and at NATO's strategic commands. And NATO will do the same at your general staff headquarters. This will give Russia better visibility into NATO's planning and operations. We hope this is just the beginning of a close, permanent relationship between NATO and Russia that will influence European security for years to come.

Practicing preventive defense reduces the likelihood of threats arising in the world. But it cannot eliminate threats altogether -- there are still dangers to both our countries. We no longer face the threat of nuclear holocaust or the threat of a massive war in Europe. But even with the Cold War threats behind us, new threats have arisen: the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; the threat of regional instability; and the threat of ethnic and nationalistic conflicts -- often with horrible results as we have witnessed in Bosnia.

We are deeply concerned about how to deal with these threats. We want to build strong cooperative security relations with countries like Russia to help deal with these threats jointly. And we will maintain strong, ready forces that can deter these threats or, as a last resort, defeat threats that turn into aggression.

The forces which we use today to carry out our deter or defeat strategy are dramatically changed from the Cold War days. Since the mid-1980s, we have cut our defense budget by 40 percent, cut our forces by 30 percent -- to include withdrawing two-thirds of the ground forces and three-quarters of our air forces from Europe, and cut our new weapons acquisitions by 70 percent. At the same time, we discarded our strategies designed to fight a major war in Europe and developed new strategies and tactics for deterring and fighting regional conflicts. We reoriented our training centers to focus on this kind of conflict as well as other potential threats. For example, in order to get ready for Bosnia, we turned one of our training centers in Germany into a mini-Bosnia, complete with burned out villages, refugees and paramilitary forces.

And finally, we focused on quality -- quality weapons systems, quality people and quality living conditions for our troops and their families. The force we have created is a powerful military that is capable of defending our interests, but it is also a powerful tool for creating peace by reaching out to other militaries around the world, especially by reaching out to Russia's military. We understand and appreciate the concerns Russia has today about its military. But we also believe that Russia's military has one of the most capable officer corps anywhere in the world. We believe any reforms you undertake will correct the problems of today and develop an even stronger force for the future. The U.S. has great respect for the Russian military, especially its leaders. And we look forward to a long relationship of cooperation and friendship.

Fifty-one years ago, Russian and American forces reached out to each other across the Elbe in a shared moment of hope and glory. I have met some of those veterans, both Russian and American, and I was struck by their common qualities and enduring esteem for each other as they fought to free Europe. Today, U.S. and Russian troops are sharing another bright moment on what they call the Little Elbe, a stream that runs through the camp they share in Bosnia. I have met these troops, and I see again the common qualities and mutual esteem as they serve to secure peace in Europe. When I met with the Duma today, I told them about meeting Russian troops in Bosnia. I told them they could be very proud of their troops and the cooperation and mutual esteem enjoyed with American troops. It is this esteem for each other's military that is the foundation of a new security relationship for all of Europe. I urge you, as future leaders of Russia's military, to join with the future leaders of America's military and make this new Europe a reality.


Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant 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