Rome, 20th-21st April 1993

Official Record

Office of the Clerk of the Assembly of WEU




Tuesday, 20th April 1993


(The sitting was opened at 2.40 p.m. with Mr. Lopez Henares, Chairman of the Technological and Aerospace Committee, in the Chair)

How to cope with the challenges


Russia and the organisation of a world system of protection

Dr. FITUNI (Director, Centre for Global and Strategic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow). - I will try to shorten up my prepared paper because my colleague and compatriot, Mr. Tchuvakhin, has actually helped me by very accurately and correctly describing the stance of the Russian Government and the vision of the concept of global protection. I think that, for the sake of understanding the present situation in Russia and the present vision in Russia of the problem, we should also consider the whole gamut of the questions and political discussions surrounding anti-missile defence, both in Europe and in the world in general. Of course, the diplomatic post of my colleague has made his task rather difficult. So as to explain not only the official view of the problem but to give you an idea of other interpretations of the problem and, understanding Mr. Tchuvakhin's problem, I will try to help him in his effort. Not being a state official but being a researcher, an academic, I am in an easier position.

I would like to remind you that after ten years of transition Russia has found itself in a new political, strategic, economic and social cultural situation. Many strategic guidelines and landmarks have been lost. Communist ideology and confrontation have lost their role of determining both foreign policy and defence doctrine. But new concepts have been too slow in replacing the old ones and at present we have a strange situation where new concepts co-exist with old ways of technically dealing with the problem. This dichotomy reflects a generic problem for the present situation in Russia. For many reasons, it is difficult to speak about Russia's role in international efforts and in particular in building up anti- missile defence. For example, in four days time we are to have a referendum that might to some extent alter the whole vision of the problem and have big repercussions on both our foreign policy and the international atmosphere. So I think it is important to analyse all points of view so as to see our future more clearly.

On 2nd March, parliamentary hearings on the START-2 Treaty, signed by President Yeltsin and President Bush, began in Moscow. They are due to continue for two months, with a two-week interval, generating intensive discussions between politicians and military experts. The Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Defence acted in unison to defend the treaty. Their opponents are mainly from the ranks of the people's deputies, many of whom criticise the treaty as an unequal one. One of the issues discussed was a close interdependence of defensive and offensive armaments issues.

The START-2 Treaty contains no direct linkage with anti- ballistic defence issues or the ABM Treaty. The latter is mentioned in the preamble, as well as a joint statement by the Russian and American Presidents made in June 1992, which said: "The presidents continued their discussion of the potential benefits of a global protection system (GPS) against ballistic missiles, agreeing that it is important to explore the role for defences in protecting against limited ballistic missile attacks."

This kind of latent linkage of course contains deeply-rooted contradictions, which may in the long run bring about a certain devaluation of the ABM Treaty. For twenty years, it was an important barrier in the way of the arms race. However, the new sentiment among many Russian democratic politologists is that the ABM Treaty, signed at the height of the cold war, is outdated and requires reviewing. It is interesting, however, to point out that the amendments they want to see in the treaty are directed towards liberalising the restrictions imposed by the present treaty.

Thus the question is being raised of broadening the

possibilities of testing some components of anti-ballistic missile systems, creating new regional defence projects, etc. This recalls the United States attempt back in 1987-88 to adopt a broad interpretation of the treaty to facilitate SDI reconciliation with the ABM Treaty. However, the United States Congress confirmed the interpretation of the treaty in its orignal form.

Is there really a shift in the Russian stand and how viable is the idea of Russian participation in the GPS? On the one hand, there are a number of written documents and even practical steps have been taken to translate this kind of participation into practice. We may single out three main levels of such activity:

(a) the conceptual level;

(b) the legal, and diplomatic level;

(c) the practical implementation level.

Speaking of the first conceptual level, it is important to remember that Russia's participation in any international GPS effort should conform with broader state military and political doctrine, and in particular comply with the state doctrine of strategic defence. Russia is now living through a transitional period, whose main characteristic feature is the coexistence of old doctrines and practices from Soviet times and the revolutionary approaches of reformers. The situation is made more complex by the ongoing struggle between the presidential reformist team and a broad gamut of opponents, starting from more cautious democrats and centrists and finishing with communists and nationalists. Though the top people in the Defence Ministry and major related entities have been replaced by President Yeltsin's supporters, the bulk of experts and upper-middle decision-makers are people trained in the old days. Many of them are simply unable to change their ideas about the nation's defence requirements and tend to think in terms of the old superpower system of co-ordinates.

In this context, one may say that to reach any kind of agreement with a top-ranking Russian delegation is to walk along only part of the road. As you know, last year the presidents agreed "to start work without delay to develop the concept of the GPS". How the two presidents agreed that their two nations should work, together with allies and other interested states, in de concept for such system is part of an overall strategy regarding the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. Such co-operation would be a tangible expression of the new relationship that exists between Russia and the United States and would involve them in an important undertaking with other nations of the world community.

After some procrastination, an agreement was reached on creating a group of experts, who would study potential steps in sharing early-warning information, technical questions (such as co-operation in developing ABM technologies) and working on juridical issues of such co-operation.

While the stand of the government and the President on the GPS issue is quite evident and unambiguous, the arguments of opponents both in parliament and among military and experts need some clarification. On the conceptual level they stress that Russia's participation in the GPS will have global political, military and economic implications, because the concept in itself is not purely military or technological.

In the political sphere, the opponents of participation regard the GPS as yet another attempt to solve both international and President Yeltsin's own political problems with the help of a new round of the arms race by developing new military technologies. They cite many past examples of such attempts and forecast that it will be just another waste of Russia's scarce resources. They emphasise that intergovernmental projects of this kind are usually executed within the programmes of military blocs and alliances. The GPS is a project of the most developed industrial nations. Thus, less-developed countries will feel permanently threatened by it. This will intensify the political and strategic division between North and South, enhance military confrontation and generate the creation of new military alliances.

The counter-arguments on the military repercussions of the GPS are mainly centred around the threat of a qualitatively new level of the arms race. United States specialists agree that the necessary level of efficiency of interception of the attacking missiles can be reached only provided that an echelon of space interceptors is created. For this purpose, Brilliant Pebbles interceptors of global coverage, capable of intercepting 500 km (and more) range missiles, are to be based in space, thus bringing the arms race into the last natural environment free from nuclear armaments.

Another weak point, to their mind, is the military limitations of these weapons. Not only ballistic, but also tactical, long-range or cruise missiles may be used as carriers for nuclear warheads. Civilian means of transportating nuclear weapons cannot be excluded, this being the more probable because of the obvious financial constraints of potential aggressors. The expensive GPS will then protect against a very limited and specific kind of carriers, those which are the least probable for the third world countries that we are thinking of.

Those were the most frequent citations of the GPS heard in the Russian Parliament. However, with or without Russian participation, the implementation of the programme is now a reality.

The global protection against limited strikes (GPALS) option, which envisages interception of 200 delivery vehicles, became the focus of the western anti-nuclear attack defence effort.

Based on kinetic energy use (destruction by means of physical impact), GPALS comprises three basis systems: space- based sensors, the Brilliant Eyes and ground-based interceptors deployed on six sites in the United States. The first one is to be inaugurated in Grand Forks in 1996. The project will cost at least $25 billion; tactical anti-missile systems, deployed in the United States, in conflict areas and on ships to protect the United States forces and their allies ($10 billion); Brilliant Pebbles space-based interceptors of global coverage, capable of intercepting 500 km (and more) range missiles. The Congress has authorised only research and development expenses for this component.

However, the overall cost of the project, according to some estimates, may reach $100 billion by the year 2005.

According to the GPAL's proponents, the project no longer aims to protect regional alliances against limited Soviet intervention, but against unforeseen attacks, arising from regional conflicts or unauthorised or accidental launches. However, the provenance of the accidental attacks is well- defined: non-authorised strikes from the ex-USSR, China or "proliferators" from the Middle East.

Within the framework of "expense-sharing" and partly in order to secure their political and military leadership, the United States is trying to "sell" the project to Europeans. Taken the sluggish state of European military industries, they may well succeed in their effort.

This, however, may seriously influence the nuclear defence doctrines of both France and Great Britain. Contrary to original SDI logics, GPALS is no longer based on the idea of dissuasive strategy but on the concept of operational anti- ballistic missile protection. The adoption of this doctrine would include Europe in American "operational continuum", thus reinforcing American strategic and military leadership. In case of real conflict, it would also mean not containment but "peripheral" field action.

What may Russia's role be in this context? Both Russia's existing capabilities and unused potential might be used for that purpose. Needless to say, in its present state Russia will not be able to become an equal financial contributor to the project, and consequently may only be regarded as a junior partner in it. Some Russian missiles from the old days may become its material input. For example, top United States SDI experts earnestly study the possibility of using Russian heavy SS-18 missiles, which are to be liquidated for putting into space "Brilliant Pebbles" interceptors.

However, Russia's participation may drastically reduce the costs of some elements of the GPS. I am speaking mainly about technological aspects of co-operation. According to information the Centre for Strategic and Global Studies has at its disposal, the United States is planning to acquire at least 50 different supersensitive technologies from the Soviet Union on very favourable terms, paying on average $1 million for each of them. Even more promising is a possibility of incorporating individual Russian scientists into western research in a modern version of the Manhattan project.

Russian participation seems to be very promising because the form envisaged virtually does not have a negative effect on the economic interests of potential western participants. Russians are seen only as playing a limited (though cost-saving) role in research, rather than marketing their final manufactured products.

This possiblity may be dangerous for Mr. Yeltsin's image at home. The West still continues to preserve many of the cold war restrictions on technology exports to Russia (including some types of computers). On the other hand, CSGS research shows that, even in the case of the United States being prepared to exchange technologies on equal terms, the present state of Russia's economy will not allow it to be used, meaning that they will simply join the ranks of many Russian original technologies unused at home.

However, despite the hostile attitudes from many politicians and a majority of technical implementors in Russia, involvement in the GPS becomes more and more significant. On the infrastructure level three Russian-American groups have been set up:

(a) on the concept of global protection system to study the structure, conditions and functions of a future protection system;

(b) on technical co-operation to examine research and development projects and possible tasks;

(c) on non-proliferation of weapons.

Joint testing of plasma weapons may become the first practical co-operation effort. As discussed during the last summit, Russia and America may fulfil a joint project "Trust", which envisages destruction of ballistic missiles with the help of Russian-built microwave and optic plasma generators and systems.

The disintegration of the Soviet Union was one of the main factors conducive to the GPS concept. Two new elements of destabilisation undermined the old global nuclear security balance: quantitative increase of de facto nuclear powers (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan) and the relative transparency of ex-Soviet borders for arms trafficking on the one hand, as well as the disappearance of superpower rivalry, which ironically served as a containment factor for third world countries feeling threatened by "the other" superpower (now they have to look for protection on their own).

It is obvious that, after the disintegration of the USSR and the end of confrontation between the East and the West, the world faces a new danger - the threat of uncontrollable spread of nuclear and other superdangerous technologies, and their falling into the hands of aggressive, dictatorial and terrorist regimes, organisations or even individuals. The new threat is many times more dangerous than the one we were accustomed to, because it is obscure, unpredictable, there are no rules of the game and it is not regulated by any security mechanisms created in the past. In this respect, GPS may become an adequate response to new challenges.