October 1996

Background Briefing

Attributable To: Senior Defense Official

Subject: SECDEF Trip to Russia

Briefer: I thought what I'd do is describe what the trip is about and then we can work to your schedule.

This trip is a follow-on, really, to the Secretary's first meetings with Russian Defense Minister Rodionov in Bergen, Norway, late last month. At that time, the Secretary and Rodionov agreed that there ought to be an ongoing set of interactions and meetings between the two of them. This is the next step.

As you know, we'll leave Tuesday night, get to Moscow on Wednesday, in the afternoon. The Secretary will meet with Rodionov for several hours that day. The next day, Thursday, will be quite a full one. We will have another set of meetings at the Defense Ministry and, then, at about noon, the Secretary will go to the Duma and he will speak to the Duma about START II.

We will leave from there and go out to the Military Academy of the General Staff -- known to those of you who have Cold War backgrounds as the Boris Shilov Military Academy. This is the premier Russian, formerly the premier Soviet military academy. So, basically, akin to the National War College. This is the school that Rodionov headed for about six or seven years.

From there we will go back to Spasohouse, I think, to have a large reception.

The next morning -- Friday morning, as you know -- we will go up to Sevrodvinsk where we will tour a Nunn/Lugar activity. There are many parts of Sevrodvinsk, but this part will be the dismantlement side. It's at this place where U.S. Nunn/Lugar- supplied equipment is assisting the Russians in dismantling SSBNs. It's quite a success story. What I hope we're going to see are various stages in this effort, but what we'll see is the place where U.S. tools are being used to help cut the submarine up. Then the material is broken down, sort of basically cleaned, and then chopped up into scrap which is sold. It's actually becoming a viable economic enterprise for the Russians. It's turning money. So, that's useful.

Let me take a couple of steps back and hit on broad themes, and also on some extraordinary participation.

We'll be accompanied on the flight over by Senator Lugar and by Senator Lieberman, who is also playing a role in the Nunn/Lugar project. Senators Lugar and Lieberman will be with the Secretary for most of Thursday's activities to include meetings in the Ministry of Defense, to include accompanying him to the Duma -- where I do not believe they will be at the podium with him initially, but they will join him after he finishes his opening remarks. Then they'll be out with us at the Military Academy of the General Staff.

Late Thursday afternoon, Senator Nunn will arrive in Moscow. So when we go up to Sevrodvinsk, Nunn, Lugar, and Lieberman will be there, so they will be part of the ceremony. As you know, this is Senator Nunn's last year in office, and they will get to see some of what the program has accomplished. Indeed, they then stay on over the weekend for a series of meetings arranged by the Aspen Institute. Then, on Monday and Tuesday of the following week, they will go off and tour additional Nunn/Lugar sites in the former Soviet Union.

Basically, if you're looking for themes, there are really two themes. The first is the degree to which the United States' and Russian Defense Departments are working together and need to expand that cooperation. This is an area which Rodionov is interested in pursuing. In his writings -- and in his interactions with U.S. counterparts, while he was at the Military Academy of the General Staff -- he consistently indicated an interest in working with the United States. He has been here several times, unlike some other new members of the Russian power structure. He has traveled outside the former Soviet Union. He's done so more than once. He's really quite knowledgeable about our military educational system, at least for the higher ranks. So we're going to be stressing the theme of enhanced and improved military-to-military cooperation. Not for show or for spectacle, but rather for practical, common mutual benefit.

For example, we all acknowledge -- Americans and Russians alike acknowledge that the peacekeeping exercises we engaged in at Tutskoye and Fort Riley themselves helped provide indications where interoperability was lacking. That later worked to our mutual advantage because we saw the areas where we had problems and we fixed them for IFOR. So what we learned in the field, we actually can put into practice.

The other theme, of course, will be the importance of ratifying START II and proceeding to get the Duma to ratify START II.

As you know, it's almost in a way reminiscent of SALT I in the United States. This is an issue in the Duma now which has transcended the facts and specifics of the treaty. It's a very politicized treaty over there. Many of the Russian deputies who have expressed opinions against it know very little about it. One of the things we're going to seek to do is to set the record straight, and to demonstrate to the deputies that this treaty is every bit as much in Russia's interest as it is in our own interest. So the Secretary will be meeting with members of the, as we understand it, three key committees -- the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Defense Committee, and the Security Committee. There will be others who will be invited as well. We don't know, probably about 100 members of the Duma.

I think with that, we should just go to any questions you might have about the trip.

Q: Can you be a little more specific about the kinds of logic that the Secretary will use in making his pitch to the Duma, because, obviously, there could be some ways in which the U.S. Defense Secretary up there could do things that might be counter-productive to passage.

A: Sure. One of the things that we're going to indicate is that this treaty enhances strategic stability. There has always been a tendency to associate START II with just a reduction in numbers, but what START II really was about was eliminating the heavy MIRV'd ICBMs on both sides. I should be more specific. Heavily MIRV'd ICBMs, because the SS-18 is the heavy MIRV to the arms control aficionados in the crowd. Eliminating the land-based MIRV'd missiles on both sides. Those, of course, have traditionally been the source of instability in the U.S./Soviet, now U.S./Russian nuclear equation. If you've got a series of heavily armed missiles in silos, obviously, the advantage is to the person who can get in a preemptive strike, because one missile kills ten, or one warhead kills ten. One missile could kill ten missiles. So the payoff to a preemptive strike is very high. What theorists and strategists have always worried about -- since the advent of the MIRV'd missile -- is that in a crisis with uncertainty going on, with perhaps false reports coming in about what the other side is doing, that there will be a temptation to launch preemptively -- thinking the other side is getting ready to launch and saying, If I launch first, I can fire ten and destroy 100 of his missiles. The whole point of START II is to get out of that business and to move towards much more survivable forces, to emphasize survivable forces.

For us the key, obviously, was to emphasize the submarine and bomber forces, because in an alert situation the bombers can launch for survivability, but don't have to move towards their targets.

For the Russians it's a mix of systems because they had already begun to invest heavily in the road mobile SS-25s. They do have a bomber component, although smaller than ours, and a submarine force. So that's one thing, strategic stability.

A second thing is we all know that the Russian military is under extreme financial pressure. Rodionov himself wants to reduce the size of the military establishment and to convert the savings into a better trained, better equipped, indeed, better manned military capacity. He would like to take strategic nuclear dollars and turn them into conventional dollars. In the absence of START II, we're certainly going to stay at START I levels.

There is some debate among all the analysts as to whether Russia can afford to stay at START I levels and, even if they do for a couple of years, how long they can do so.

If you look at START I levels, those of you who have covered the treaty in the past will remember there are a series of counting rules that heavily favor bomber weapons. START I's contribution to stability was that it penalized missile weapons in favor of slower flying systems on the idea that you didn't have to react quickly to the other side's bomber forces, and that the missiles were the short-time-of-flight, compressed- decisionmaking threat.

So under START I, the U.S. has an advantage because with the bomber force, you'll recall that the ALCMs were heavily discounted. A B-52 that was capable of carrying 20 ALCMs only counted as carrying 10. And gravity bombers counted as one weapon, regardless of how many weapons were actually on the aircraft. So, while the B-1 was in a nuclear role, no matter how many gravity bombs it carries, it only counted as one weapon under START I, and the same goes for the B-2. So, there was an inherent advantage to the United States in terms of levels for START I alone.

If we stay roughly at START I levels, that is, not counting, of course, the B-1, which has been re-rolled ... but if we stay roughly at START I levels and economic pressures force the Russians down lower, clearly it's to their advantage -- as well as ours -- to come down to START II, where every weapon counts as a weapon and the levels are much lower. So, there's a stability point and there's a maintaining-a-balance point and there's a point where Rodionov wants to take money for strategic nuclear forces -- that both sides believe do not reflect the new nature of the U.S./Russian relationship -- and to turn them into rubles that he can use, enhancing his conventional forces.

Q: What's the history between Rodionov and Lebed, and how would you characterize their relationship? What's the prognosis for how their relationship may unfold?

A: I think the bottom line is that the relationship is evolving. Whatever it was in the past, Rodionov is older. Lebed, I believe, had some fair degree of contact with him in his career. Indeed, it was then said that Lebed was a major promoter of Rodionov to become Defense Minister. Since then, you know -- as well as I -- that there have surfaced from time to time reports of tensions. It's back to the old adage about where you stand depends on where you sit. So there may be some tension between the men, as is normal given their different bureaucratic entities.

I think on balance, one can certainly talk about broad common goals which revolve around military reform. Both believe in restoring some measure of effectiveness to the Russian military forces. Both recognize that they're too large; that the training level is quite low; that the manning is quite low in quality; and that the equipment levels are coming down. So there's a very sure commonality of interest there.

Q: Using as descriptive adjectives as you can, how would you describe the state of the Russian military today?

A: I think the best thing is to say that it's mixed. It's spotty. They've just recently had a strategic nuclear exercise. They've had a strategic nuclear exercise every year for the past four years, and the nuclear forces are generally in very, very good shape. While we always worry about custody of nuclear weapons over there -- and indeed the Nunn/Lugar program is designed to help enhance their own measures for maintaining control of their own nuclear weapons -- those forces seem to be in very good shape. On the other hand, you can look at what happened to some of the forces in Chechnya and see that the forces were badly manned; that they were young conscripts without a great deal of training; that they were not particularly well led; and that they were not particularly well equipped and were not able to adapt to the military circumstance that they found themselves in.

I think we'd also have to talk about the Russian forces in IFOR which have performed very, very well. You guys have seen them, I have not. But the Secretary is full of praise about the Russian forces. The way they carry out their patrols, the military manner in which they carry themselves, in which they cooperate with the U.S. forces in IFOR. So it's really a very mixed and spotty record.

Q: I apologize if this was touched on before I came in, but will Perry at all be meeting with Lebed?

A: We're working other parts of the schedule. If we know more, Ken will certainly tell you. I've given you what is the schedule right now, and that is: meetings with Rodionov on Wednesday; meetings at the Ministry of Defense again on Thursday; speech to the Duma Thursday; speech to the Military Academy of the General Staff on Thursday. Right now, I have no scheduled meetings outside the defense establishment, but that might change.

Q: He's visiting at a time, obviously, when Yeltsin's health is a question mark. How does that affect the trip? And I don't suppose there's any chance he'd be meeting with Yeltsin, either. Or did he try to meet with Yeltsin?

A: No. No, we're not trying to ... I don't know that we've ever asked to meet with the President of Russia.

Bacon: He was supposed to meet when Vice President Gore was there with the GCC, but he had to leave before, and the meeting was rescheduled.

Q: Coming at this time, when there's a bit of uncertainty, how does that affect the themes of the trip? For instance, is this meeting with the Duma part of the effort to make sure that the United States' military and defense contacts with all parts of the government...

A: First of all, Yeltsin appears still to be functioning in a normal manner. We've all seen the Kremlin politics of the past and Chernenko propped up with a stick. We remember Brezhnev's last years. We see the politics of the Kremlin court, and he's still working very well to play factions off against each other. So Yeltsin is still very much working, at least behind the scenes, in the power politics of Moscow.

We believe that the military-to-military ties are essential. To the degree that Yeltsin's health has cast a bit of a shadow over what's going on in Russia they're even more essential. But one of the things that we're trying to do is break down the legacy of the Cold War, and to make certain that the military establishments on both sides see each other not as Cold War enemies. While people may find that somewhat as a "will-of-the- wisp" goal, if you look back to where we were, even by say, 1960, with the German military, these things can happen. What you want to do is have transparency; you want to have opportunities for mutual training; you want to have educational experiences -- each in the other's schools; and you want to knock down the threat perception of the other side. Increased contact and transparency is a major part of that.

So in a time when there is some stress on the relationship - - and you could even say the stress is compounded by some Russians who are predisposed to see NATO expansion as a threat to Russia, which it is not -- this kind of military interaction is really very, very important. And, as you look ahead to the very uncertain world in which we're living, it is a very strong possibility, in my opinion, that we're going to have other operations in the future, like IFOR, where U.S. and Russian forces will be serving together. So the need to determine where we are able to operate together -- and where there are gaps in doctrine; gaps in procedures; gaps in equipment interoperability -- is absolutely vital, because we have to get into the field together. We have to be able to work together. We don't have with the Russians now the kind of history of standard procedures and equipment that have evolved over the past 45-odd years with NATO. There's no question that if you go into a NATO operation everybody knows when you talk about a signal what the signal means -- you know, How to go through the standard Allied Tactical Publications. We're not there with the Russians. We need to build this. So there's both a military benefit and a larger geo- political benefit.

Q: Will Lebed be discussing relations between NATO and Russia Lebed recently talked, made some comments to the effect that Russia should be a more active participant in the Partnership for Peace. Is that something ...

A: The short answer to your first question is yes, they will be discussing the NATO/Russia> relationship and Partnership for Peace. They will be discussing, basically in two categories, how Russia can participate much better with the West. The first would be the broad NATO/Russia relationship, to get the Russian forces much more involved with the NATO command structure and much more involved with NATO's programs. The Russians have not taken the kind of advantage of Partnership for Peace -- which we would hope that they would. And Lebed ... I think one of the most important things that happened with Lebed, is that he recognized Partnership for Peace. With Lebed and Rodionov, you're dealing with two players who are not particularly current on Partnership for Peace, or the Nunn/Lugar program, or perhaps even the state of the drawdowns. Particularly Rodionov, who worries every day about the problems of maintaining military discipline in a force that hasn't been paid in three or four or five months. This is not someone who's up on the subtleties of START II or START I drawdown curves. The degree to which there have been programs offered in the past.

So, one area is the NATO/Russia military relationship. The other is the U.S./Russian bilateral military relationship, and we'll be hitting both points.

Q: How can you say that the military, that the overall readiness and quality is, you said, "spotty" and "mixed," and you admit that no one's been paid in three or four months ... That must have a tremendous effect on morale. There's even anecdotal evidence that one military officer killed himself because he couldn't pay his troops.

A: Sure. In fact, there's a press report -- I haven't seen any hard evidence -- that Rodionov said in a press statement that he wasn't going to accept any pay until all of his troops were paid. So there is a major problem.

But, on the other hand, you see these guys fly airplanes; you see them drive ships. Their submarines go to sea and stay out for extended periods of time. They turn keys and the missiles fire. So when you look at some of the things they do, the standards of performance are every bit as good as they were during the Soviet era. If you look at the armed forces as a whole, clearly the performance levels are not as high. That's why I say it's mixed.

Q: Do you have an estimate of, for example, the number of their surface ships that could effectively get underway and accomplish a mission?

A: I don't. It's clearly dramatically smaller than it was during the Soviet era. But again, the answer that I tried to convey to the question was that if you look at military performance unit by unit, you will find a mixed record. If you're asking me how does the Russian military compare to the Soviet military, clearly it is smaller; it is less well equipped. A lot of equipment has been summarily retired. A lot of the equipment that has been kept is in a poor state of repair. Yet, there are pockets of excellence here and there.

Q: Where are the pockets of excellence and where are the areas of neglect in the Russian military, then?

A: The areas of neglect are broad. I think the pockets of excellence continue to be in some areas of each of the forces. I think some of the air defense forces are still very good. I think some of the paratroop regiments are good. The forces in IFOR are performing very well. The strategic nuclear forces, by and large, are very good. The surface forces completed a deployment last January down to the Mediterranean where they got the carrier out there. It had some problems with its evaporators, but anybody who's been in the Navy knows that when you go to sea you have problems with your evaporators. It happens to us, too. Large numbers of surface ships haven't gone to sea. If you don't go to sea, you don't operate; your skills go down; your engineering skills go down; your sea-keeping skills go down.

I don't have statistics for you, and perhaps we could research that and get you something while we're on the trip as to our own view. I don't know where I would point to in terms of statistics.

Q: Let me ask you a question on START II. I think there's a debate in Russia about whether or not START II actually cost them money because, by getting rid of their SS-18s, they would have to beef up their other forces to maintain parity with the U.S.

First of all, I'd ask your assessment on whether it would cost Russia money. Second, if it does cost Russia money, will you be discussing START III in the context of START II, so they don't have to build back up and then build back down in next round of negotiations?

A: I think you have accurately described some of the criticisms. I think I would take three steps back and not agree with the picture that's been painted. The SS-18s are wasting assets. They were built in Ukraine, and they are not going to be around after another 10 or so years. Indeed, within the SS-18 force there are multiple generations. Only the most modern SS- 18s -- the Mod-5s and Mod-6s -- are the ones that you can really count on lasting for about 10 or so years. The number of Mod-5s and Mod-6s is probably in the area perhaps of a third of the 154 that START I allows them to keep.

Because Ukraine isn't in the business of producing these missiles any more, it's going to be very difficult to come up with a process to try to sustain them and keep them alive, so it's going to cost them money to keep the present force in the field and that's going to be a wasting asset.

If you worry about parity from a Russian standpoint, that's why START II is a whole lot better than START I. You may remember that the START II level of 3,000 to 3,500 occurred when Yeltsin was here in the summer of 1992, and both sides basically said that START II was going to be 3,500, and then Yeltsin took a pen and wrote in 3,000-dash- 3,500, signaling then that he was prepared to live with 3,000 regardless of what the United States did. If that's the kind of gap -- that's a 500 or 700 warhead gap -- I would think that a Russian military commander involved with nuclear weapons would be happier with that than a gap that started to get into several thousand as Russian force levels declined and U.S. force levels were maintained at a START I level.

So from the standpoint of parity, clearly, the START II is in their interest. Do they have to build forces up? Again, it depends on how far they want to go. There's a lot of comment that the SSX-27, which is the SS-25 follow-on, is a system that START II is forcing them to build. In point of fact, that's not really true. The SSX-27 has been under development for several years. The specifications in the START I treaty, as to what was a new missile as opposed to what was a modification of an existing missile, were clearly tailored to allow the SSX-27 to be counted as a modification of an existing missile. This is not a system which is a START II inspired system. It's a system that's been going all along.

Sure, if they want to build 1,000 of these things it's going to cost them a lot of money. It's not clear that they have to do that. On the dismantlement side, the Nunn/Lugar program is prepared to assist them dramatically in START II reductions. One of the things that we want to make clear to people is that the Russians are currently well ahead of the START I drawdown curve. So one of the notions that you sometimes read about in the press is that START II needs to be extended so that they have five or six or seven more years to complete their drawdowns, because it's going to cost them so much money. The facts are they're so far ahead of the START I drawdown curve, that with Nunn/Lugar assistance you could meet the 2003 date of the treaty. They could meet that date without a great deal of difficulty.

START III. In the summit statement in late September 1994, both President Clinton and President Yeltsin agreed that with START II in place -- with START II ratified and in force, and early deactivations under START II underway -- the sides should meet to begin discussing the possibility of further reductions. Clearly, another message for the Duma is that the path to START III, whatever it is, and I don't want to talk about ... roll out START III. The path to further reductions is clearly through START II. It's not through saying, Let's throw START II aside and begin all over again and try and work this reductions package out anew.

Q: There is this concern, though, that START II will cost them money. Why not say we support START III ...

A: We support discussions of follow-on reductions, and clearly that could reduce the level of new forces that they intend to build. If you ask me -- very much off the record -- whether I think the size of the SSX-27 force they're going to build will be dramatically affected between START II and START III and whether ten years from now we would look back and find that force materially different as to what they were going to build under START II, and whether START III might have inspired, I think the answer is, No. I think there is an SS-25 follow-on program out there, and given the traditional strength of the Strategic Rocket Forces and its bureaucratic mode, that there are going to be a fair number of these survivable land-based missiles. Perhaps, to the detriment of air- or submarine-launched weapons. But it's a factor. The Duma needs to be given the facts about Nunn/Lugar assistance and where they are in their current drawdowns.

Q: Who first broached the idea of the Secretary's speech to the Duma? How long will it last?

A: Thank you for reminding me. The Duma. The Secretary was invited by two prominent members of the Duma to come to speak to it about START II.

Q: How long will it last, the speech?

A: I think we're looking at a two hour session. There will be a speech, and then questions and answers.

Q: You mentioned earlier that the Russians are having problems modernizing because of lack of funds -- and that's one way you're going to pitch START: that it will save money and they can use that for their conventional forces modernization.

A: Modernization at large, which means, again, replacing the current conscript system with a professional army; improved training for the forces that are there as opposed to spotty training across the board.

Q: One thing the Russians are doing themselves to do that is they're selling a lot of their inventory. Some of that is very advanced weaponry ... We've seen in reports now that they're building the SU-37, specifically, for the export market. Will the Secretary, during this trip, at all address the issue of asking the Russians to exercise some restraint in selling more SU- 27s to China or SU-37s to anyone?

A: I don't think that's a specific part of this trip. There are numerous fora for engaging the Russians on the sales of high tech weaponry, and the recently-concluded Wasnnar Agreement offers a forum where the various high tech arms suppliers are supposed to consult one with another about the sales of weapons to particular regions and the sales of particular types of weapons. I don't think there's anything the Russians are doing today that keeps me up at night in terms of arms sales. If I were a Russian, I think I might be more concerned about some of the arms sales that they're doing than I am as an American official. But that would not be high on my list.

Q: Will North Korea come up at all?

A: I don't think we intend to raise North Korea.

Again, the focus of this trip is going to be on START II and it's going to be on enhancing and making larger and more comprehensive Russia's military engagement with the West -- with NATO as an alliance, and with the United States as a bilateral partner. That all fits under broad geo-politics, but we have no real burning geo-political issues to sit there and talk with them about on this. There is a specific focus, it's an ongoing focus with Rodionov, who is new, but who has exhibited a great deal of interest in doing these kinds of cooperative activities with us.

Q: Is START II over there in enough difficulty so if Perry doesn't go over there and make this pitch that the U.S. fears that this thing is just going to be shelved forever?

A: No. START II is clearly in some degree of difficulty. I don't think there's anybody here who could give you a good vote count right now. If you went out and took a vote count ... I do not want to make a headline. Ratification, I think, is not certain, if you took a look at the votes now. But the signals from the various party leaders have been nuanced. The communists have not come out and said, across the board, that START II must be rejected. Various groups have talked about modifications to the treaties or trying to bring in other kinds of assurances. Two of the criticisms of START II that you hear most frequently from Duma members have nothing to do with START II: one is NATO expansion; and the other is the U.S. theater missile defense program, which is somehow projected -- in the minds of people who don't know a great deal about it -- to be the U.S. building a national ABM system.

I was reading, just the other day, a paper put together by the committee staff of the geo-politics committee of the Duma, which is dominated by Zhirinovsky's people. When you read it, you see that they are concerned that the existing U.S. ABM system is going to be far more capable against SS-25s than it is against SS-18s. But it talks about the existing U.S. ABM system.

One of the things that we can do is point out that there is, indeed, an ABM system in the world today, only one, and that's around Moscow, not around Washington or any other U.S. facility. So there is a great lack of understanding, I think, among the broad membership in the Duma. There is a select group of strategic experts in each of the parties, but even there the knowledge base is mixed. What we hope to do is broaden the knowledge base and come up with some sort of a basic level of understanding of the treaty.

Q: When do you expect a vote on START II? And also, the Duma is often characterized as really not being too up on the facts. Is that ... What's your characterization of the ...

A: I think the Secretary's visit will broaden and deepen the understanding of the facts of the strategic relationship and of the strategic treaties. I don't think a vote has been scheduled by the Duma. We're certainly not sending the Secretary out to save a treaty which is otherwise sinking, but I think it's fair to say that what we hope to do is establish a factual basis for their further discussions and to have some materials with us that we can leave behind that will live on after we leave town.

Q: How do you assess the security of a [inaudible] in Russia from smuggling out of the country?

A: The nuclear stockpile?

Q: Yes.

A: I think that with Nunn/Lugar assistance it's a lot safer than it was three or four years ago. We have had a broad program of assistance -- which has upgraded the security of the rail cars in which these nuclear weapons are transported. We are now working with the Russians to have an ADP system -- by which to manage the warhead inventory. We're working with them on the various standards that we use to screen personnel who are allowed to work with nuclear weapons so they can adapt ... And at their interest. This is not just our telling them here's how we do it. There's a great deal of interest in learning how we establish our personnel reliability program and the screening standards and how we work with that.

I think a big, big plus is the fact that through the Nunn/Lugar program Kazakstan and Ukraine are now denuclearized -- and Belarus will be denuclearized by the end of 1996. So, where there were four nuclear successors to the USSR, there is now really 1.1. And the small number of warheads that remain in Belarus, as I say, will be out within the year. So, by and large, the situation is much, much safer and much more secure, and much less liable to theft than it was three years ago. But, the fact that we are continuing the program and the fact that there are still major gaps in the Russian nuclear weapon safety and security program are reasons that we want to continue to stay engaged. There's still a lot to do in that area.

Press: Thank you very much.

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