USIS Washington 

07 April 1998


(Say arms control treaties, verification remain vital) (3500)

Washington -- Acting Secretary of State Strobe Talbott marked the 10th
anniversary of the opening of the U.S.-Russian Nuclear Risk Reduction
Centers in Moscow and Washington by saying that "the framework of arms
control treaties and verification systems that served us so well
during the Cold War remains vital in the post-Cold War world."

During April 7 ceremonies marking the anniversary of the 24-hour
communications center located on the 7th floor of the State
Department, Talbott noted that many arms control treaties, including
the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, "are still works in

The NRRC was originally established "to avoid the risk of accidental
nuclear war brought about by misunderstanding or miscalculation,"
according to Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Political
Military Affairs Eric Newsom. In 1988, he said, the U.S. NRRC
exchanged 1,800 treaty messages with the Soviet Union about two arms
control agreements, but by 1997 15,000 notifications covered 20
agreements including the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Strategic
Arms Reduction Treaty and the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces

Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International
Affairs John Holum pointed out that arms control treaties "are only as
good as the level of compliance and enforcement that we can assure."
The NRRC plays a role, he explained, "in giving us confidence that the
parties to an agreement are doing what they promised. Verification
often begins with a NRRC notification, laying out the who, what,
where, when and how of arms control actions."

"The successes of the NRRC means the United States can approach arms
control from a position of confidence and strength, and thus pursue
additional steps, including the President's call for Senate
ratification this year of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty," he

Following is the transcript of the Talbott, Newsom and Holum remarks,
as well as comments by Hal Kowalski, NRRC staff director:

(begin transcript)

MR. NEWSOM: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the
Nuclear Risk Reduction Center, or the NRRC, as we call it.

We're honored to have with us this morning Acting Secretary Talbott
and Acting Under Secretary Holum to help us commemorate the 10th
anniversary of the U.S. NRRC. Also we have Hal Kowalski, who is the
NRRC staff director.

In September of 1987, Secretary of State George Schulz and Soviet
Foreign Minister Shevardnadze signed the agreement to establish the
NRRC system. On April 6, 1988, the US NRRC sent to its Soviet
counterpart its very first message - a notification that was required
under the Ballistic Missile Launch Agreement.

So, you're probably asking yourself, well, what is a NRRC? In essence,
it's a communications center within the Bureau of Political Military
Affairs in the Department of State, which I'm the head. Now it
directly links us with governments around the world to clarify
military intentions and actions and to reduce the risks of war.

The NRRC system grew out of a desire, during the Cold War, to avoid
the risk of accidental nuclear war brought about by misunderstanding
or miscalculation. In the beginning, the U.S. and Soviet NRRC's
exchanged messages informing the other side in advance of potentially
provocative acts, such as missile launches, as well as notifying them
of the intention to carry out inspections or destruction of weapons
systems, called for under arms control agreements.

From this simple beginning, the NRRC's role has grown dramatically. In
1988, the U.S. NRRC exchanged 1,800 treaty messages with the Soviet
Union, supporting only two major arms control agreements. In 1997, the
NRRC sent and received 15,000 notifications in support of nearly 20
agreements, including the INF Treaty, START I Treaty, the Conventional
Forces in Europe Treaty, and the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The U.S. NRRC now operates seven separate communications systems
linked directly or indirectly with more than 100 countries. We send
all our messages in English, but routinely handle incoming messages in
six languages, including Russian. These messages are received,
translated immediately and disseminated within the U.S. government 24
hours a day, 365 days a year. The Department of State and the
Political Military Bureau are proud to continue this work, supporting
U.S. efforts to increase transparency and reduce the risk of conflict.

Now I'd like to introduce Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and
International Security Affairs, John Holum.

ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: Thank you, Eric, and good morning
everyone. It's a pleasure for me to be here today, celebrating one of
what I consider to be the most effective and meaningful elements of
our national security team.

Arms control treaties and agreements, more than 30 since 1987, are
substantially reducing the numbers of nuclear and conventional weapons
threatening our interests, our friends, our forces and our men and
women in uniform around the world. We all follow the negotiations and
the signing ceremonies with great interest; those are the dramatic
moments. But what happens next is what matters most in implementation.
I suspect most people outside the Beltway, at least, are more
interested in what we do than what we've agreed to do. With my South
Dakota farm roots, I tend to refer to this as the arms control harvest
-- when we actually reap the benefits of arms control in weapons
sliced apart, in threats averted, in disputes resolved.

The treaties are only as good as the level of compliance and
enforcement that we can assure. That's where the NRRC plays its role
in giving us confidence that the parties to an agreement are doing
what they promised. Verification often begins with a NRRC
notification, laying out the who, what, where, when and how of arms
control actions.

When we get the coordinates from a notification, we may take satellite
pictures. Treaties often require the dismantled weapons be left in the
open, specifically for that purpose. If further doubt exists, we can
send an inspection team on short notice. And we signal that they're on
their way through a NRRC notification. This center is therefore
fundamental to the very fulfillment of the arms control promise.

The NRRC is a very small part of a very large endeavor. To make sure
treaties are carried out to the letter, we draw on resources from the
Department of State, from ACDA (the Arms Control and Disarmament
Agency), from the Department of Defense and from the intelligence
community. In the last decade, through these vehicles, we've confirmed
that the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty has completely eliminated
the 2,700 mid-range nuclear missiles targeted at Western and Eastern
Europe. The START I Treaty is now eliminating the long-range delivery
systems for more than 9,000 nuclear warheads, and will eventually cut
14,000 once START II is ratified.

Kazakstan, Belarus and Ukraine have already turned over their
thousands of nuclear warheads to Russia for dismantling, and they're
now nuclear-free. Under the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty,
signatories have destroyed more than 51,000 weapons - mostly tanks,
helicopters, artillery pieces and combat aircraft.

Now, all of these arms control successes are part and parcel of the
NRRC's charge, and it is continuously gaining new responsibilities,
including with respect to the Chemical Weapons Convention, as Eric
mentioned, that went into force last fall. The successes of the NRRC
means the United States can approach arms control from a position of
confidence and strength, and thus pursue additional steps, including
the President's call for Senate ratification this year of the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Yesterday, as you've seen, our allies in France and Britain became the
first two nuclear weapon states to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban.
The ball is now even more squarely in our court. The sooner we ratify
the CTBT, the sooner we set the rest of the world on the same path.
U.S. leadership is crucial to the CTBT's success. We should be in the
business not of complicating arms control, but of making it happen.

The professionals here in the NRRC make compliance and verification
credible for arms control policy. After 10 fruitful years, it has
built a solid foundation upon which our ongoing arms control work -
ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) demarcation agreements, START II, START
III and the Comprehensive Test Ban among them - can be built.

Now it's my great pleasure to introduce Deputy Secretary of State
Strobe Talbott, who has done so much to make our once greatest nuclear
adversary our partner in the arms control process; and as part of
that, to help give the NRRC more work and more challenges. Thank you,

ACTING SECRETARY TALBOTT: Thank you, John; and thank you, Eric, too,
for all that you've done personally on behalf of American foreign
policy and national security.

A word, if I could, about John Holum. There is a good deal of talk
around the corridors here in Foggy Bottom about how John Holum is
double-hatted. Sometimes that's accompanied by jokes that I personally
don't appreciate very much about him also being follically challenged.
But I think you all know what it means when people talk about him
being double-hatted. It means that he serves simultaneously as the
director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and also as the
Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International
Security Affairs.

Whenever this remark is made, bad jokes aside, it's always with a good
deal of admiration for John. But to me, what is really admirable about
him is the way that he has increasingly, with every passing day, done
one job that integrates or, to put it differently, consolidates the
two other jobs; and he does that job extremely well.

Let me just add, by the way, a word of welcome, not only on my own
behalf, but on behalf of Secretary Albright. She is, as you know, out
of town today up north. She often jokes that she seems to be spending
a lot of her tenure in high government office observing 50th
anniversaries of one institution or another - the United Nations, NATO
and so forth. I guess it's appropriate that it should fall to her
faithful deputy to participate in celebration of a fixture in the
bureaucracy and the international security system that's merely ten
years old. But in fact what this anniversary of the NRRC really
represents is much more than just a decade of vitally important work.
It also represents a landmark accomplishment in mankind's efforts to
go back to the very dawn of the nuclear age to avert the most horrible
of all imaginable catastrophes.

And even beyond that immediate task, the NRRC, as John has said, has
also been part of a larger effort whereby the United States has worked
to reduce tensions with the Soviet Union during the waning days of the
Cold War, and then to build up a new relationship with a free and
democratic Russia, during the first years of the complex new era in
which we now live.

Around the time that this facility began operation, the public's fear
of nuclear Armageddon receded very considerably, and it did so for
good reason; and that is that the organizing principle of
international politics was no longer a global rivalry between two
superpowers, each committed to goals and principles that were anathema
to the other. But many people assumed that with the end of the Cold
War, the importance of arms control as an objective of foreign policy
was also receding. And to put it mildly, that has not been the case,
nor should it be the case.

In fact, the possibility that weapons of mass destruction might
actually be used by rogue states, terrorist groups or even individuals
has increased over the past decade. That's due in part to advances in
technology that make these weapons cheaper and more portable; and it's
also due to the greater openness of the entire planet to trade and
transportation of all sorts of goods and services, including the most
lethal imaginable.

We must work especially hard with the new democracies of the former
Soviet Union to make sure that the weapons and expertise that they
inherited from that earlier era do not end up in the hands of those
who would threaten world peace. It's in pursuit of that goal that
we're offering economic incentives to encourage key countries to join
us in playing by internationally accepted rules on non-proliferation
and export control, even as we impose sanctions on others that
actively break those rules and threaten our safety.

Meanwhile, the framework of arms control treaties and verification
systems that served us so well during the Cold War remains vital in
the post-Cold War world. And many of these treaties, as John has
already mentioned, are still works in progress. We're working together
with some 30 nations to adapt the CFE, the Treaty on Conventional
Armed Forces in Europe, to a new environment in which there are no
longer military blocks squared off against each other in Europe. And
our partnership with Russia has obviously been vitally important to
that effort.

Let me, if I could, in that connection, just make two personal
observations. One is that when I was in your line of work, back in the
1980s, spending a lot of time covering arms control, I first became
aware of this as an idea when Richard Perle, then an Assistant
Secretary of Defense, was, on behalf of the Reagan administration,
negotiating with the Russians on the agreement that ultimately led to
the establishment of this facility. And then, a little over five years
ago, when I came into the administration, I set up shop right across
the corridor here, in the office that Steve Sestanovich now occupies.
The NRRC was kind enough to let me tap into its special satellite TV
hook-up, so that I could get Russian programming in real time in my
office. That was a big help to my colleagues and me, as we tried to
stay abreast of the unfolding drama of Russian politics, which, of
course, continues.

But one of the constants in a situation where there are obviously many
variables is President Yeltsin's commitment to press ahead with
nuclear arms reduction. And just yesterday, when he and President
Clinton had a wide-ranging conversation on the telephone, they
reiterated their shared objective of moving beyond START II to START
III, which, of course, depends on the Russian parliament's
ratification of START II.

As John has already made very clear, the administration has a
ratification effort of its own underway, and that of course concerns
the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. I hope that as many of you as
possible will be able to join John after this meeting for a discussion
of our own ratification efforts.

In any event, I think that's probably enough talk; now I actually get
to do something. I spend quite a bit of time here on the seventh floor
of the Department working on messages to Moscow, but this one is going
to be, for me, at least, a first. However, it's hardly all that new.
In fact, I think it's downright routine for Harold Kowalski and his
able colleagues, who keep this outfit ticking along.

As Eric mentioned, they will send and receive roughly 15,000 messages
during the course of this year. They and their Russian counterparts do
the nuts and bolts day in and day out work of planetary survival. My
thanks to them and their predecessors for a decade of service to their
nation and, in fact, to their species. And my thanks also, in advance,
to them and their successors for as many decades of effort as it takes
to eliminate the threat of nuclear war altogether.

And now, I hope competently, I will press the only sort of button that
I hope ever gets used in a center with the word "nuclear" in its
designation. But I'll need a little help, I'm sure.

MR. KOWALSKI: What he's doing is, we've prepared a disk; this will be
a disk-to-disk transfer. There are a few headers that you have to put
in. Our communicator has already pre-positioned those. Mr. Talbott
will give the go by the stroke of a key.

ACTING SECRETARY TALBOTT:  I hope I don't screw this up.

MR. KOWALSKI: The monitor reflects that the disk transfer has started.
What happens now is this message goes to this big black box over here,
where it's split into two signals. One goes by land line to Etam, West
Virginia; the other one to Fort Detrick, Maryland. They are then
beamed up to two satellites - one an American satellite, and the other
one a - (inaudible) - satellite. They're beamed then down to two
ground stations in Moscow - Vladimir and Dubna, where they are then,
by land line, sent to the Russian NRRC, which is a facsimile of this
facility. There, our counterparts on the other end will receive the
message, translate it into Russian and provide it to their government.
We expect our Russian counterparts to respond with a message to Mr.
Talbott, which should be coming in shortly.

We've got the capability here to send by disk to disk or to send a
fax, such as a site diagram of a missile operating base. Those types,
we scan into a disk and send it disk-to-disk. It takes a little
longer. Ordinarily, the messages take about 30 to 45 seconds from the
sending signal here to receipt in Moscow.

The equipment you see here is not state-of-the-art technology. It is a
little bit older; it was put in here in 1995. The PC's are 486; the
software is actually hardware that's installed by e-proms inside the
computers. The baud rate is 4800, that's why it takes 15 to 45 seconds
to get it to Moscow. But it doesn't need to be there any faster. What
good does it do to get it there in 15 seconds? Thirty to 45 seconds is

Some of the more critical messages that we receive are, of course,
inspection notifications. And if you notice, we see three PC's up
here. We have two receive terminals - one goes over each of the
satellite links; so we've got near 100 percent reliability when it
comes to the system being up. We actually have a third satellite link
that we can call on if both of those satellite links went down.
They'll come in over both of them - the one on the right and the one
on the left.

And of course, all of this equipment here is maintained by our
information management folks here in the State Department. They
actually do the technical aspect of it. My crew does the operational
aspects - the translation, the receiving, the cable dissemination. Our
information technology folks here in the building are actually
responsible for setting this up and for maintaining it. Our
communicators, our information management folks, they maintain it 24
hours a day. They send and receive all of the messages. If anything
should go wrong with the equipment, they're to either fix it
themselves or to get the proper folks in here to fix it for us.

The Russians are a little slow this morning. Ordinarily we'll get a
response within probably a minute and a half to two minutes. But I'm
sure with the importance that we have placed on this anniversary, they
want to make sure that everything is exactly perfect before they send

When it is sent, it will print out on both the left and the right
printers up there. Every transaction that goes across the line is
documented on those printers. So if we have a fault in the line
someplace, it will be documented on the printout.

And for those of you who were here 10 years ago -- and I think there
are probably only a few of us in the room here - this was all down in
the Ops (Operations) Center in a small area about 16 by 16. Our only
responsibility then were those three PC's with the Russian Federation.
As you see, now we have Kazakstan, Belarus and Ukraine, and we
maintain a link with those three countries also.

The message is just printing out and it, of course, is in Russian. I
forgot to mention that all the messages that come in and go out are
encrypted with a very simplistic encryption system, but it's to keep
third parties from intercepting our signals.

ACTING SECRETARY TALBOTT: Here it is. It's basically an acknowledgment
with thanks and good wishes. It reviews the number of communications
that go back and forth. It's signed by a lieutenant general in the
Russian armed forces, the chief of their NRRC.

MR. NEWSOM:  Very good.  Congratulations, Strobe, you did it.


ACTING SECRETARY TALBOTT:  Another crisis averted.


MR. NEWSOM:  I want to thank you all for coming here this morning.

(end transcript)