Arms Control and the U.S. Russian Relationship


THE PRECEDING SECTIONS of this report demonstrate both the wide dimensions of the U.S.-Russian arms control agenda and the significant current problems related to virtually every one of these efforts. Too little is being done to prevent the leakage of nuclear materials from Russia, a policy deficiency that could have disastrous consequences. Moreover, the START regimes could unravel in the next year, thus effectively reversing decades of work by U.S. and Soviet/Russian experts and political leaders. The future of CFE is also problematical, both because of NATO enlargement and Moscow's intent to revise radically the treaty in its favor. If START II or CFE were to fail, this would have a seriously damaging effect on the bilateral relationship between Washington and Moscow and, as this report stressed at the outset, would have a threatening impact on important American national interests.

The reasons for this unhappy evolution lie importantly on the Russian side. Russia's governmental processes are often uncoordinated, if not chaotic, partly because of President Yeltsin's sustained illness. Moreover, with the enormous economic and social problems facing the country, as well as the war in Chechnya, Moscow's senior politicians have had little time and energy to devote to U.S.-Russian arms control subjects. Thus, these negotiations are dominated within the Russian government by narrow bureaucratic interests and highly technical preoccupations, not constructive political impulses from the top. Insofar as politics do enter into the equation, they are largely a negative influence. Notwithstanding President Yeltsin's recent electoral victory, Russia's domestic scene is rapidly becoming more nationalist and anti-Western, especially in the Duma. In the context of last December's legislative elections and the presidential ballots, compromises on these arms control issues have been very difficult. This is unlikely to change.


With regard to the United States, it has been the political and economic developments within Russia that have most commanded administration and congressional attention, not the arcane details of these arms control negotiations. This, approach flies in the face of 30 years of arms control experience between Moscow and Washington. No arms control agreement between Russia and the United States has been brought to fruition without prolonged and intense attention by the top levels of the administration and sustained involvement of the Congress. Only such high-level scrutiny can provide the following results:

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 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 from others regarding how to prevent an erosion of this important aspect of the U.S.-Russian bilateral agenda. As the Introduction to this report argues, 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, 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?