Arms Control and the U.S. Russian Relationship



FIVE YEARS AFTER the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States and Russia stand at a crossroads on arms control. Many of the arms control regimes established by Republican and Democratic administrations are under serious challenge in both countries, with potential damage to U.S. security.

The reasons for this situation are many. They include the general deterioration of government in Russia and the resurrection of nationalism and communism in that country. Russians who understand the value of the arms control regimes to Russia find themselves facing both chaos and opposition. But fault rests with the United States as well. Neither the Clinton administration nor Congress has been sufficiently attentive to the looming problems.

With these concerns in mind, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom joined together to sponsor an independent Task Force on U.S.-Russian arms control. We chose Robert D. Blackwill, a widely respected former career diplomat and Harvard scholar, to serve as Chairman of the group, and Keith Dayton, a Military Fellow at the Council, to serve as Project Director. We also invited a highly diverse and experienced corps of arms control and Russia policy experts to serve as members of the Task Force. The Council and the Nixon Center wish to thank them all for their time and wise contributions to the report that follows.

The Task Force brief was to assess current and evolving political-military circumstances and the arms control regimes, and recommend a U.S. policy for the next 12 months. In effect, we were asking the Task Force how Americans, in particular, should think about arms control in the wake of the Cold War's end and its importance, how to preserve what was worth preserving, and how to change what might need to be changed. Beyond that, we asked the Task Force to look specifically at Russian nuclear weapons


and materials safety, the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks treaties, the Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and ballistic missile defense, the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions.

As was to be expected, Task Force members disagreed with each other on a number of specific issues, especially with respect to the ABM Treaty and ballistic missile defense. Most serious differences over ABM issues are explained in the report.

But strikingly, and very importantly, Task Force members agreed clearly and strongly on the need for the Clinton administration and Congress to move quickly to reaffirm the importance of the arms control regimes, and work with our allies and Russia to shore them up, and modify and adapt them as deemed necessary and appropriate.

The report offers specific recommendations to address the most serious obstacles that currently face the U.S.-Russian arms control agenda. The analysis and prescriptions contained in its sections reflect the majority view of Task Force participants, but this harmony regarding the general thrust of the report does not indicate endorsement by these participants of every word and recommendation in the document.

We note that the Task Force's assessment, while sober and clear-eyed throughout, is not pessimistic. Inherent in every prescription is the conviction that sustained, patient, and realistic American diplomacy - if consistently supported by attention from the highest levels of the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government and of the governments of its allies and friends, and joined with responsible Russian authoritics - can produce workable and timely solutions to the most important arms control issues. As we forward this report, we hope that it win help produce a vigorous and comprehensive approach by the administration and Congress in dealing with Russia on this pressing subject.

Leslie H Gelb
Council on Foreign Relations

Dimitri K. Simes
Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom