Arms Control and the U.S. Russian Relationship


WITH BORIS YELTSIN'S impressive electoral victory on July 3, 1996, in the context of his serious heart problems, and with the approaching U.S. presidential election, U.S.-Russian relations and arms control are in a portentous phase. Unless a major effort is now made in both capitals to regain the momentum of nuclear and conventional arms reductions and limitations, the arms control regimes negotiated in the past decade by Washington, Moscow, and, in some cases, others as well, could begin to crumble away.

If this were to occur, vital and important U.S. national interests would be seriously damaged: the two sides would be highly unlikely to deal together effectively with the problem of the safety and security of the Russian nuclear stockpile; many of the other current differences in U.S.-Russian bilateral relations would intensify; Moscow's cooperation, or at least acquiescence, regarding America's regional and global security agendas would become even more problematical; the serious weakening of arms control would increase the likelihood of an active anti-U.S. national security policy by Russia in Eurasia and beyond; U.S. defense spending would likely have to rise to take account of new uncertainties in Russia's nuclear and conventional deployments; and transatlantic relations would be strained if the allies, who would worry greatly about the effects of such developments on European stability and security, put some or most of the blame on Washington.

Preventing Nuclear Anarchy

The most important immediate issue in the U.S.-Russian arms control agenda involves the safety and security of Russia's huge inventories of nuclear weapons and fissile material. (The arms control issues listed in this Executive Summary and in the report are ranked in order of importance.) Any significant leakage of


such material out of Russia would fuel nuclear proliferation, undermine the international nonproliferation regime, increase the feasibility of nuclear terrorism, make it possible for those hostile to the United States (whether states or nonstate actors) to acquire a nuclear weapons capability, and increase the likelihood of nuclear attack against targets on the territory of the United States. The Task Force offers the following policy prescriptions, which would give this issue far greater status within broad U.S. national security objectives than has the administration or Congress.

  1. The United States should put this problem at the top of its national security agenda, with frequent presidential attention. No other threat to vital U.S. national interests is both so proximate and potentially devastating.
  2. The president should make a far more intensive and prolonged effort with Boris Yeltsin and his government (or his successor) to try to move this issue to the top of Russian national security priorities. The United States cannot sustain a policy in which it wants to solve this problem more than the Russian government.
  3. If Washington succeeds in persuading Moscow to make a much greater political and resource effort in this area, the United States should be prepared to spend more money out of the budgets of the Pentagon, the Department of Energy, and other relevant U.S. executive agencies to address this issue urgently (along with its allies and friends).
  4. The United States should not make its antileakage efforts conditional on Russian behavior on other issues.
  5. The United States should seek to accelerate security enhancements of Russian nuclear facilities.

Strategic Arms Control

With respect to the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) regimes - and with them the entire nuclear arms reduction and limitation process - these treaties face two general problems. First, there is the distinct possibility that the Russian Duma will


not ratify START II in the next 12 months - or that, if it does so, it will attach formal conditions that are unacceptable to the United States. Second, even if the Russian legislature does ratify the treaty, Moscow may not have the economic wherewithal - or, alternatively, be willing to commit whatever limited resources it has to live up to its obligations under START I and II. To meet these problems in Moscow, and to increase the likelihood of START II ratification by the Duma, the Task Force proposes the following. At this writing, the administration supports no revision of the START II Treaty and has not yet undertaken to negotiate with Moscow START III principles.

  1. The United States should reject any changes in the START II Treaty, with the one exception noted immediately below.
  2. The United States should agree to a relaxation of the timetable for START II reductions. If it is required for START II ratification by the Duma, and if it is the only change in the START II Treaty, delaying until 2006 full Russian START II implementation of its reduction to 3,000 to 3,500 strategic nuclear weapons is in the U.S. national interest.
  3. A general U.S.-Russian statement of principles on START III should be urgently agreed between the two sides.
  4. However, the United States should not undertake any new formal round of nuclear negotiations - START III - until Russia ratifies START II.
  5. The United States should increase financial and technical assistance for Russian implementation of the START treaties.

The ABM Treaty and Ballistic Missile Defense

The issues of the Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and ballistic missile defense (BMD) are closely related to START II. In terms of national missile defense, the essence of the ABM Treaty was that each side foreswore the deployment of a defense of its territory against the strategic ballistic missiles of the other. That treaty has now been partially overtaken by the end of the Cold War.

What both nations eventually would benefit from now is a thin layer of protection for their entire countries - to defend not


against each other's ballistic missiles, but against ballistic missiles from third countries that could threaten them both, or from unauthorized or accidental launches. By its terms, the ABM Treaty makes this difficult and needs to evolve in interpretation by the two sides or be renegotiated. The majority of the Task Force recommends the following policy initiatives (some Task Force members oppose these prescriptions; their views appear in Additional and Dissenting Views). These prescriptions of the majority deviate from the administrations policy, which apparently accepts the long-term viability of the ABM Treaty as presently constituted, has postponed a decision on whether the United States should deploy a limited national missile defense (NMD), and has not made U.S.-Russian cooperation regarding missile defense a priority.

  1. The United States should strongly encourage Russia to develop in the next decade an effective theater missile defense system, and then a limited national missile defense system, in a joint venture with the United States and like-minded nations. This could encourage the Russians in due course to adopt the view that the ABM Treaty should not be allowed to stand in the way of deployment of such cooperatively based, limited-capability systems. This is the best, perhaps only, long-term answer to the challenge of protecting the United States from ballistic missile attack, promoting Duma ratification of START II, and keeping U.S.-Russian relations on as solid a footing as possible. At the same time, however, Washington should make clear to the Russians that, although it would strongly prefer to work closely with Moscow in this effort, it is, in any case, determined not to leave the United States undefended against this emerging new ballistic missile threat.
  2. If such a cooperative U.S.-Russian effort toward first an effective TMD and then a NMD system can be realized, the United States should be prepared, along with its allies and friends, to assist Russia in funding this effort, partly through the purchase of relevant Russian technologies.


  3. The United States should continue to seek an interim demarcation agreement with Russia concerning theater and national ballistic missile defense activities consistent with the ABM Treaty. Such a medium-term agreement should be shaped to allow Washington to work, hopefully in cooperation with Moscow, steadily first toward a theater ballistic missile defense and eventually an antiballistic missile regime that would defend the nation from limited attack.
  4. If an interim demarcation agreement cannot be negotiated with Russia by the end of 1996, the United States should unilaterally judge its own compliance with the ABM Treaty.

Conventional Forces in Europe

The 1990 Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) regulates the armed forces of 30 states in Europe. Conceived as a negotiated settlement to the Cold War's military standoff in Europe, the CFE Treaty confronted three distinct and dissimilar challenges in 1996. The first was Russia's violation of the CFE "flank" ceilings. The second was Russia's violation of a politically binding side agreement concerning equipment moved east of the Urals prior to treaty signature. Both of these problems were resolved in early June 1996 at the CFE Vienna Review Conference. The third issue is the question of whether the treaty must be "modernized" or overhauled to accommodate Europe's new and emerging geopolitical circumstances, an issue which is closely linked to the prospective enlargement of NATO into East-Central Europe. Here follow the Task Force's recommendations on this subject. With respect to "modernization" of the CFE Treaty or the effect of NATO enlargement on the CFE Treaty, the administration has no formal public positions.

  1. Russia's compliance with its overall national ceiling and with its CFE inspection requirements has been satisfactory. Thus, the essential security purposes of the CFE regime with respect to U.S. national interests are working. The United States should take no steps within the treaty that would undermine this crucial fact.


  2. The United States should be prepared to discuss a "modernization" of the CFE Treaty (CFE II) but should not agree to any fundamental revision of the CFE regime. Russia's principal operational objectives in a new round of CFE negotiations would probably include stopping, slowing, and/or minimizing the military effects of NATO enlargement, removing the flank ceilings entirely, and shifting the conventional force balance in Moscow's direction (whether by raising Russia's national ceilings or lowering the aggregate of the new NATO). Since the other parties to the CFE Treaty would share few of Russia's goals in a CFE II negotiation, the prospects for successfully revising the CFE Treaty must be regarded as dim, especially because the consensus rule of multilateral arms control negotiations allows any one state to veto any particular proposed provision of an accord.
  3. The United States should rebuff Russian arguments that NATO expansion is linked legally, because of CFE Treaty to numerical ceilings on military equipment.
  4. However, despite this legal point regarding the CFE Treaty text, the United States should recognize the powerful political connection as seen in Moscow between NATO enlargement and CFE obligations, and seek to minimize damage to the CFE regime occasioned by the addition of new members to the alliance.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

A Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), critical to U.S. non-proliferation and disarmament strategy, has been under intensive negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva. On June 28, 1996, the chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on a Nuclear Test Ban tabled a revised draft text for consideration of its approval when the conference reconvened on July 29. President Clinton informed Russia and the other three nuclear weapon states (the United Kingdom, France, and China) that the text was acceptable to the United States and urged them to join the United States in a public announcement to this effect.

Agreement on the text among the five nuclear weapon states


was reached in early August 1996, including incorporation of a U.S.-Chinese final agreement on verification procedures. By a vote of 158 to 3 in early September 1996, the U.N. General Assembly approved the treaty, and on September 24, 1996, President Clinton signed the treaty at the United Nations, as did representatives from the United Kingdom, China, France, and Russia.

India has announced it will not sign the CTBT, and it blocked consensus in Geneva. The entry-into-force provision requires ratification by 44 states, including India. Because the entry-into-force formulation casts doubt on whether the CTBT will in fact enter into force within a reasonable period of time, the United States and others could address its provisional entry into force in the event that India does not change its present position over the next several years.

  1. The United States, Russia, and the other three nuclear weapon states should encourage other countries to sign the treaty (including Israel and Pakistan, who, together with India, constitute the three threshold nuclear weapon states).
  2. The United States should reach agreement with Russia, the other three nuclear weapon states, and as many of the threshold states as possible that, upon signature of the CTBT, they will not conduct nuclear tests pending its ratification and entry into force.
  3. The United States should take the lead, with Russia and the other three nuclear weapon states, in designing a process to bring the CTBT into force within several years of its opening for signature.

The Chemical Weapons Convention

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which was concluded in 1992 and opened for signature in 1993, codifies several principles. Signatory nations to the CWC pledge never to develop, produce, acquire, store, transfer, or use chemical weapons. It requires the destruction of all chemical weapons, agents, and production and storage facilities within ten years after


its entry into force. As of mid-1996, the CWC had been signed by 160 states and ratified by 61, and will come into effect 180 days after 65 nations have deposited instruments of ratification with the U.N. secretary-general. The convention reflects unprecedented cooperation of the chemical industry with governments in this endeavor.

Difficulties with the CWC fall into two categories: those that relate to U.S. worries about Russia's chemical weapons program and those that involve the growing chemical weapons threat from rogue nations and terrorist groups. With regard to Russia, most experts agree that it cannot meet the destruction commitments of the CWC within its specified limit of ten years, especially if the treaty were to enter into force within the next year.

U.S. officials have also noted discrepancies between the chemical weapons data provided in 1989 by the then-Soviet Union and information furnished to Washington by Moscow in 1994. They have suspected Russia of continuing to work on binary chemical weapons; have voiced apprehensions about Russian chemical weapons facilities that Moscow says have been converted to commercial use; and have complained that, because of Moscow's intransigence, a U.S.-Russian Bilateral Destruction Agreement, which was meant to facilitate the CWC, has not yet been implemented. With these issues in mind, the Task Force makes the following recommendations, which are generally consistent with administration policy.

  1. The United States should ratify the CWC in 1996. Although this is not a perfect agreement, it is in the U.S. national interest to have Russia's chemical weapons capabilities reduced and eventually eradicated, and to combat worldwide chemical weapons proliferation.
  2. The United States should vigorously seek Russian ratification of the CWC.
  3. The United States, along with its allies and friends, should provide increased funding for the destruction of Russian chemical weapons using Russian technology and organizations. In the context of this financial assistance, the United


    States should require that Russia accept broad-based chemical weapons inspections of facilities. The United States should also require Russia to clear up questions regarding the size of its chemical weapons stockpile and its possible binary program.

  4. If Russia meets the conditions in the previous prescription, Washington should initiate a cooperative dialogue with Moscow on deterrence of and defense against chemical weapons use.

The Biological Weapons Convention

The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) was negotiated and ratified in the first half of the 1970s. Upon unilaterally renouncing all U.S. possession of biological weapons in 1969, President Richard M. Nixon also announced U.S. support for a biological weapons convention, as had been proposed by the United Kingdom. The BWC, which was signed on April 10, 1972, and came into force when the United States, United Kingdom, and U.S.S.R. deposited their instruments of ratification on March 26, 1975, now has 137 parties. The convention prohibits the development, stockpiling, and acquisition of biological agents and toxins "of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective, or other peaceful purposes." To date, the BWC at best is a confidence-building measure. While legally binding, unlike the CWC, it contains no verification or enforcement provisions.

Russia's history with the BWC is checkered. In 1992, President Yeltsin acknowledged that the Soviet Union (and subsequently Russia) had maintained a biological weapons program until March 1992 in direct violation of the BWC. (The United States first made this allegation in 1984.) Yeltsin pledged that the program would be terminated. Now, however, there is some question of whether this has occurred.

More generally, the most common criticism of the BWC is clearly correct: it is a toothless document. The number of biological weapon states is believed by U.S. experts to have risen from 4 -- at the time of the convention's ratification -- to 10 or 12 today.


It is not clear that the convention has had any effect on efforts to check the proliferation of biological weapons.

With respect to dealing with Moscow on biological weapons issues, the Task Force recommends these steps, which would represent a somewhat more active approach than that of the administration.

  1. The United States should press the Russian government at the highest level to uncover the truth about the present status of Russian biological weapons efforts and, if they exist to terminate them immediately.
  2. If the United States is satisfied that Russia has conclusively ended its biological weapons program, American and Russian experts should engage in counter-biological weapons cooperation.
  3. If the matter of Russia's biological weapons program can be cleared up, the United States should seek a joint effort with Moscow to establish strong BWC verification provisions, criminalize biological weapons activities, and together pressure nonmembers to join. This may not have a decisive impact on potential proliferators but, given the emerging biological weapons threat to the United States, it is better than nothing.

NATO Enlargement Although this is not a report on NATO enlargement, the Task Force cannot avoid addressing the subject briefly and prescriptively. This is because if the alliance cannot find a way to deal with this issue without producing a sustained and ruinous crisis with Russia, few of the prescriptions in this report are likely to be acceptable in Moscow. Thus, as Washington makes its decisions regarding the pace, substance, and scope of alliance enlargement, it needs to factor into its decisions the general importance of U.S.-Russian arms control as enumerated in the Introduction of this report. This is a case in which many tradeoffs are possible, and some may be sensible.

With respect to the general subject of NATO enlargement, the Task Force is as divided as the U.S. strategic community at large. Some Task Force participants strongly oppose the very idea


of the alliance taking on new members under present circumstances; others support the concept with equal vigor. If, however, NATO enlargement does go forward within the next year, as seems likely, the Task Force recommends as a compromise that it be done as follows below. These prescriptions, while assuming NATO enlargement, are more restrictive than Washington's current official position, which at this writing has kept the shape and pace of alliance expansion open-ended, and has not definitively foreclosed, through a formal NATO decision, the deployment of nuclear weapons and/or foreign troops on the soil of new alliance members.

The suggestions below are meant most importantly to maintain the integrity of NATO and its capacity to act decisively in a crisis; next, to buttress Western interests east of old NATO territory; and, lastly, to proceed in a way that seeks to minimize the effect of NATO enlargement on Russia's relations with the West in general and on U.S.-Russian arms control in particular.

  1. NATO should, at a summit meeting in early 1997, offer membership to Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, which would enter the Alliance before the turn of the century.
  2. Simultaneously NATO would indicate that it had made the internal decision, in consultation with those new members, that under present circumstances it saw no requirement to station nuclear weapons or foreign troops on the soil of those nations, which would nevertheless, be full participants in the Alliance's integrated military structure.
  3. At about the same time, the European Union (EU) would announce that the three Baltic states would enter the EU and Western European Union before the year 2000.
  4. The entrance of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary into NATO before the turn of the century would naturally produce a prolonged period in which the alliance would assess and absorb the consequent effects on NATO's planning, procedures, and decision-making. Any other potential new alliance members would be considered only after this protracted phase in which these new members were fully


    blended into NATO and it was assured that an even further enlarged Alliance would not lose its effectiveness.

  5. In parallel with these steps, NATO heads of government should mount a coordinated effort to convince President Yeltsin and his government (or his successor) to establish a formal and intense consultative arrangement between NATO and Russia.

A point needs to be made strongly here at the outset of this report regarding U.S. and Western financial assistance to Russia in the arms control area -- as some of the prescriptions in this report recommend -- and the fungibility of resources within the Russian military-industrial complex. At the most basic level, Western monetary support for Russian arms control purposes could allow Moscow to divert resources to threatening military programs. This would obviously not be in U.S. national interests. At the same time, it would be impossible for outside observers to monitor such diversions in any detail. Therefore, the willingness of the West to fund Russian arms control activities must be closely linked to the nature, breadth, and dynamism of Russian defense procurement programs, and to the quality of the overall political relationship between Washington and Moscow, except regarding the safety and security of Russia's nuclear stockpile, a subject discussed at length in Section II.

The many and detailed prescriptions put forward in this Task Force Report are, of course, no instant panacea for the extraordinarily complex issues that surround these problematical arms control talks involving America, Russia, and, in most cases, others. Some of the specific proposals here probably cannot be successfully negotiated with Moscow, especially if President Yeltsin is both incapacitated and remains in office. Other of these ideas may not be acceptable to the administration and/or Congress.

We also take for granted that there may well be alternative formulas regarding how to prevent an erosion of this important aspect of the US.-Russian bilateral agenda and of international security. U.S.-Russian arms control does matter a good deal today, and will tomorrow. Arms control will have a powerful


influence over the future shape of U.S.-Russian relations, over Russia's role in the world, and on vital and important American national interests. What more needs to be said to persuade the U.S. political leadership on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue that this subject merits its close and sustained attention?