THE SS-23 ISSUE: SPIDERS IN THE WEB -- HON. HENRY J. HYDE (Extension of Remarks - September 19, 1990)
HON. HENRY J. HYDE
in the House of Representatives
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 1990
- Mr. HYDE. Mr. Speaker, as the ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I have been warning for some time that high-confidence verification of most future arms control treaties will be difficult or impossible. The problem evolves from two distinct trends. One is technical advances in modern weaponry: smaller and more mobile systems are far more difficult to monitor. The other is advancing Soviet ability to deny us intelligence information and to mount deception operations. Onsite inspection provisions will compensate only to a small degree for information losses due to these two factors.
- Deployment of SS-23's in Eastern Europe, despite the ban on them within the INF Treaty, provides a good illustration of these dual trends and of their potential effect on United States monitoring capability. Just before recess, a Senate vote on August 2 required the administration to provide unclassified and classified reports on the SS-23 issue, with the intent that these be delivered well before START is signed. I therefore would like to share with my colleagues my thoughts on the serious implications of these missile deployments for U.S. intelligence and verification policies.
- Belated discovery in Eastern Europe of SS-23 Spider missiles, thought to have been banned under the Agreement on Intermediate Nuclear Forces [INF], vividly illustrates the verification problems endemic to future arms control. It also brings an uneasiness to our dealings with President Gorbachev.
- The Soviets declared in October 1989 that they had fulfilled their treaty obligation to destroy SS-23 launchers and missiles, capable of carrying nuclear, chemical or conventional warheads 300 miles. In March 1990, however, the East Germans announced that they were destroying some combat ready SS-23's. Upon inquiry, we were told that still-existing missiles had been transferred not only to East Germany, but also to Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. Surprise.
- The incident reveals some major U.S. intelligence shortfalls. Available information on Soviet production and field distribution of the SS-23 is clearly deficient. The Pentagon's `Soviet Military Power 1988' said there were over 75 SS-23's in the inventory. Not surprisingly, we were quite willing to accept the Soviet declaration, upon treaty signing in December 1987, that there were 200 missiles. When the treaty entered into force, however, they revealed there were 39 more. When we first discovered the systems in East Europe, the statements of local officials indicated that there might be as many as 100 there, for a total of 339 missiles, or 40 percent more than the initiatlly accepted figure of 200. Now they say the European count is less than 50.
- Whatever the final number, we must depend on their word and the evidence they offer. Obviously, we previously had little idea where the SS-23's had been deployed, and when. We had no inkling that a sizable percentage of the force survived until the East Germans, and later the Czechs and Bulgarians, gave us the data. Since we have had insufficient information even to raise the suspicion of East European possession, it is unlikely that we can now definitively verify the date of transfer or other facts by reviewing prior intelligence. Absent the amazing transformation of Eastern Europe into freer and more open and cooperative societies, we would have been totally in the dark. If the issue had surfaced, doubtless it would have been added to the already high stack of unresolved--and soon forgotten--compliance concerns accumulated under past arms treaties.
- This incident also illustrates the limitations and biases of U.S. intelligence analysis. As frequently is the case, agencies quickly opted for the least pejorative interpretation of status and motive, using tortured logic that ignored more plausible alternatives. The evidence required for a judgment on arms control compliance issues, especially for a conclusion pointing to a treaty violation or unfavorable politico-military implications, automatically escalates far beyond the normal requirements, and well above a level that might be justified by political sensitivities. In these matters, we sometimes approach paralysis, not to mention intellectual dishonesty.
- Perhaps most painful of all will be the need to face the political implications of the East European Spiders on what Henry Kissinger used to term the web of United States-Soviet relations. We have pinned our hopes, fashioned our dreams, on the person of Gorbachev. Yet he was in power when the Spiders were transferred to East Europeans. If, as sometimes alleged, these actions were taken without the knowledge or approval of Gorbachev and his arms negotiators, then we have an even bigger problem: we will be negotiating treaties with a leader who, even when his domestic authority and popularity were far greater than today, did not control all relevant Soviet military policies. Numerous indicators and anomalies also point to the possibility of an intentionally covert deployment.
- Perhaps worse than the deception, however, is the hypocrisy and duplicity of this operation. The West Germans possessed some Pershing 1A missiles which the United States refused to ban under the treaty, to avoid eroding the principle of the British and French right to an independent nuclear deterrent. The West Germans, however, unilaterally declared that they would eliminate these Pershing missiles over several years. Even as the Soviets waxed eloquent over the injustice of our refusal to include the openly acknowledged West German Pershings, they were planning, effecting and hiding the transfer of missile systems to their own allies.
- It is still uncertain whether the Soviets ever flatly denied that they were transferring SS-23's to East Europeans. But at minimum, there were numerous discussions to which this information was pertinent and in which they avoided revealing it. If there were no falsehoods, there were deceits. When the Soviets revised SS-23 inventory numbers from 200 to 239 before the treaty entered into force, they surely made a conscious decision to exclude East European missiles. Assuming that the transfers occurred before the INF Treaty was signed in December 1987, and thus technically do not violate it since the East Europeans were not party to INF, the United States seems nontheless to have a
- legitimate compliant that it was denied all the facts pertaining to a decision whether to sign and ratify this treaty. Once the East German missiles were discovered, the Soviets provided just minimal confirmation, in response to United States inquiries. And their claim that the missiles would use only conventional warheads has since been called into question.
- After this experience, it becomes increasingly difficult to rely on trust and good faith during negotiations between the superpowers. The INF Treaty negotiations were meticulous, exacting and lengthy, as is the treaty text. The object was to aviod all the loopholes exploited by the Soviets under previous treaties. Yet if, still again, the Soviets escaped by violating the spirit but not the letter of the treaty, once more we failed in our strenuous attempts to keep them honest and protect our own interests.
- As intelligence officials repeatedly have warned us, monitoring compliance with the INF Treaty is a piece of cake compared to the far more numerous and serious difficulties inherent in monitoring START, CFE and chemical warfare treaties. We are moving rapidly toward pacts which are impossible to monitor comprehensively, whatever the intelligence resources we might deploy. Despite the very recent accumulation of proven or possible violations and experience with Soviet salami tactics under past arms control regimes, including under Gorbachev, United States intelligence officials again have convinced themselves that the Soviets would not violate treaties for marginal gain, because it would not be worth the political price. It is further assumed that we would be able to detect violations, because they would be on a large scale. Moreover, the Reagan Administration leapfrogged the obvious difficulties of verifying proposed individual limitations by once again redefining adequate or effective verification. We are now content that a violation or violations threatening to overturn the oveall military balance of power would be discovered in time to prevent that major shift in the balance if we were to act expeditiously.
- With the surprise revelation that Spiders infest much of Eastern Europe, it seems prudent to take a closer look at these assumptions and standards. More critical scrutiny of Mr. Gorbachev himself also is in order. In Mrs. Thatcher's memorable words, he may be a man with whom we can do business. But, as Emerson famously said, `The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.' And given the trends discussed above and exemplified in the SS-23 case, arms control has become at least partly an exercise in trust, despite our most valiant verification efforts. Meanwhile, if Eastern Europeans keep some of those SS-23's, let us hope they point them East rather than West. It would be poetic justice.