The Future of Russian-US Strategic Arms Reductions: START III and Beyond
The United States is developing a number of "theater" missile defense systems, designed to protect both forward-deployed American forces, as well as the territory of American allies. Some systems are designed to operate against short range missiles (e.g., Patriot or the Israeli-developed Arrow); these systems do not themselves pose any ABM Treaty problems since they lack strategic capability.
However, high-altitude systems designed to intercept intermediate range missiles are problematic. Such systems include the Army's THAAD, a mobile system currently scheduled to begin deployment in 2006 with an eventual 1,200 interceptors; the Navy Upper Tier system, to be deployed on about two dozen Aegis cruisers starting in 2002, and the National Missile Defense system advocated by Congress and being pursued by the Administration, which theoretically could start deployment in 2003. There are also several boost-phase defense systems being considered, most importantly the Airborne Laser.
American sensor capabilities are also being enhanced. Upgrades to existing early warning radars are being developed. Most importantly, though, is the low-altitude component of the planned Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) which will consist of a constellation of roughly 24 low-earth orbiting satellites that will be capable of tracking targets throughout their entire flight, not just during the boost phase. Such a system could greatly enhance or even replace the existing radar tracking network.
These developments are taking place in a changing political and legal context. The original ABM treaty left enough ambiguity about theater missile defense (TMD) that both sides sought to clarify the restrictions as new U.S. high-altitude TMD systems neared testing in 1993. The United States wanted no inherent limit on capabilities, but to prohibit tests against targets moving faster than 5 km/second. The Russians wanted interceptor speeds limited to 3 km/second and no space-based tracking. By 1997, an "agreement" was worked out and signed by Gore and Chenomyrdin in September of that year. This Demarcation Agreement does not in fact completely resolve the disputes but gave each side enough that they could claim something had been accomplished.
The Agreement states that any interceptor with velocity of less than 3 km/second is Treaty compliant so long as it is not tested against targets faster than 5 km/second. The two countries were not able to come to agreement on interceptors faster than 3 km/second; they are neither explicitly banned or permitted, but are subject to several restrictions including that they not pose a "realistic threat" to the other side's strategic forces. The agreement calls for further consultations within the Standing Consultative Commission on such high-speed interceptors. The United States has since stated that it reserves the right to make such determinations unilaterally -- and the Administration currently claims that the planned THAAD and Navy Upper Tier programs are all Treaty compliant under the Demarcation Agreement.
What then, are the actual capabilities of planned TMD systems against strategic targets? The critical variable is not interceptor capability but external cueing and guidance. The closing velocity against an intercontinental range missile is only slightly greater than that against a long-range theater missile. If an exo-atmospheric interceptor is capable of striking a medium-range missile, it can also strike an ICBM warhead. Tests against theater-range missiles should be adequate to demonstrate a strategic capability. Without early and accurate cueing, though, the defended area of a given launch site will not be large. For example, using only the current DSP early warning satellites for cueing (these provide warning of a launch as well as its general location), it would take about 1,000 THAAD sites to protect the lower 48 states. With cueing from the planned spaceborne tracking system, 40 sites would suffice, and if spaceborne sensors could provide post-launch guidance to the interceptor, only 10 sites would be needed. For the Navy's system, a handful of sites would suffice if spaceborne tracking is available.
The clear implication is that planned U.S. TMD systems would have a strategic capability. It would not be difficult to deploy such systems in a crisis to provide widespread geographic coverage of the United States, such that under current U.S. plans for missile defense deployments up to 400 interceptors would be available against any given incoming warhead (i.e., many more interceptors would exist, but each launching site could only cover a portion of U.S. territory). Moreover, the presence of TMD equipped Navy ships in U.S. home ports means that a large portion of the country would have some coverage on a continuous basis by perhaps 200 interceptors.
It is also important to note that planned deployments would create an infrastructure that could easily accommodate many more interceptors. Since the EW and tracking systems would be in place, the command-and-control architecture established, and the interceptor development and design completed, expanding any of the systems would only require the production of more interceptors and associated launch equipment.
Paul Podvig then provided a Russian perspective on the Demarcation Agreement. The Yeltsin Administration is under heavy pressure from both sides: the Duma is quite unhappy with American missile defense efforts and wants to see them constrained and the Americans have made it clear that TMD is a priority for them and are willing to exert quite a bit of pressure on Yeltsin. Moreover, the Russians feared that if they did not reach an agreement that satisfied the Americans, the United States might simply abrogate the ABM Treaty and face no restrictions whatsoever. As a result, no one in Russia is satisfied with the current Demarcation Agreement, but the government felt it had little choice but to accede. The Duma could decide to reject START II over the issue, but this is unlikely due to the high political costs it would entail, as well as the monetary costs of keeping a larger force structure.
During the discussion, Petr Romashkin and others agreed that the Duma was likely to ultimately ratify START II, though perhaps rejecting the Demarcation Agreement; it is unclear what would then happen in the United States. Aleksey Ovcharenko noted that the Duma was also disturbed by NATO expansion, and this too was affecting the treaty's progress. Not many Duma members have arms control expertise or interest, and so the treaty becomes a convenient vehicle for expressing general displeasure with U.S.-Russian relations (or for simple nationalist rhetoric). On the U.S. side, David Wright confirmed that the Clinton Administration had been pressuring Yeltsin by linking economic assistance to cooperation on the TMD issue.
On technical concerns, Bob Dietz, Frank von Hippel, and others mentioned the likelihood that countermeasures could defeat U.S. TMD systems which so far have scored zero hits in their testing. While there was general agreement that countermeasures were technically possible, the concern still exists that as a policy issue the Russians would not want to count on them, and so would still find arms reductions unattractive and face pressure for launch-on-warning if American defensive systems were deployed. There was also some discussion of the feasibility of boost-phase intercept of submarine launched missiles. Both Russians and Americans agreed that the planned Navy system would not be terribly effective in such a role. Petr Romashkin reported that Russian Navy studies showed that even a major U.S. deployment for boost-phase intercept would not be successful, given the threat posed by Russian attack subs and surface combatants.
Finally, it was suggested that a unilateral abandonment of the "Galosh" ABM system around Moscow by the Russians would set a helpful precedent. Russian participants agreed that they would not miss it -- and that the military has recognized this for some time -- but they did not consider it politically possible.
There was much discussion of American motives for pursuing missile defenses - Valeri Yarynych in particular wondered how ABM supporters could defend their goals, given all the compelling arguments against. Steve Fetter and David Mosher thought current efforts are driven largely by fears -- valid or not -- of attacks from "rogue states" like North Korea or Iraq, and that U.S. interest in TMD would be diminished if those regimes changed. Others disagreed, with George Lewis for example believing that "rogue states" are a convenient justification that might be the deciding factor for some in the political center, but that the hard core of support for ABM would not be affected by the disappearance of the "rogues". Lisbeth Gronlund argued that support for defenses is driven partly by organizational and commercial interests, but more so by a strong desire among conservatives to seek security unilaterally rather than relying on arms control and cooperative arrangements. Ted Postol said that the pursuit of defenses reflected the general tendency of Americans to believe that difficult political problems can be solved through technological miracles.
Several times in the course of these discussions people have spoken of nuclear planners and how they think. This presentation is from the perspective of one such nuclear planner, one who, in fact, finds himself substantially in agreement with almost all of the proposals advanced here. I also take great pleasure that we are at a level of cooperation that allows such meetings. One point of disagreement, however, is the proposal to eliminate tactical nuclear weapons, naval and otherwise. Generally, I will address two issues here. These are the role of strategic nuclear weapons as deterrents for any threat and the issue of military reform and transition.
At the time of START I, the Navy was a powerful strategic force with 420 submarines, 240 of them nuclear powered. Nuclear forces were on continuous patrol at high alert levels with 20-22 boats out at a time. From a naval perspective, START II is a good treaty, in that it passes priority for forces to the Navy. The START I agreement, when fully implemented, will take the Delta I and IIs off commission, as well as partially decommissioning Delta IIIs. Overall, some fifty submarines will be decommissioned and thousands of weapons eliminated. We have now decommissioned 36 submarines, and 20 have been dismantled, five of them with CTR funding. Some are sitting in reserve with no missiles loaded on them and no plans to upload them with missiles in the future. Two bases have been shut down and another is planned to go the same way, leaving two in the North and one, Kamchatka, in the Far East.
On the role of naval nuclear forces, I agree with Ted Postol that survivable submarines increase stability. Further, proposed reductions to lower numbers and the elimination of MIRVed ICBMs, as we have already agreed, will further support a stable structure. However doubts remain concerning the difference in survivability between the sides. The situation has changed. We no longer carry out operations against US submarines, nor do we track them continuously. We are calling on the US to sit at the table to work out an agreement on safe operations of submarines when they are in proximity to each other. We have raised this issue with U.S. Government officials, Ashton Carter and Franklin Miller. The fact is that the United States continues activities and training near Russian territorial waters. The US also continues to track Russian submarines.
One example: in 1997, we were carrying out a complex and dangerous procedure. Two ballistic missiles (SS-N-20s) were exploded in flight, with the three stages falling to sea. We informed the United States of this procedure, and even invited American observers, who filmed the events. Yet, at the same time, a U.S. nuclear submarine was in close proximity, less than four kilometers away. This was, of course, very dangerous-the stages of the missile could have hit the submarine. So, our submarine signaled the U.S. submarine to back off. We had to use explosions to get them to go away. Whatever the U.S. submarine commander was thinking, he should be punished for this behavior, and it should be determined who sent him to that vicinity.
As already noted, under START II, priority shifts to the Navy. Thus, it is certainly in the Navy's interest that START II be ratified. Yet, when the Duma asks whether our submarines can be protected from U.S. anti-submarine warfare, all we can do is tell them about our excellent cooperation with the Americans. It is a range of US actions-the submarine exercises, ABM, etc., that damage the atmosphere for START II ratification. That said, it will probably still be ratified this year.
In seven or eight years, Russia will retain very few nuclear weapons platforms-perhaps 10-12 submarines. Each one will be very important and we can't allow for the destruction of a single one. So, if the United States thinks it will be able to sink them, it is making a big mistake. Further, we should keep in mind that the changes that the turn of the century will bring with it, such as the parliamentary and Presidential elections in Russia, which could greatly affect the nature of the U.S.-Russian relationship. Whoever wins will likely be less inclined to maintain relations as they are now. I do not expect that the United States will really implement national missile defense, nor do we want to restart a Naval arms race.
Between 1991 and 1997 there have been great changes in our fleet. 152 nuclear-powered submarines are gone as are almost all of our diesel submarines, except for the Kilo class submarines. We have stopped large-scale exercises and instead are focusing on border defense, ASW and combat with large fleets. Russia retains a considerable water border however, and the Navy has responsibility for its defense.
The plan for the next 10-15 years, as money permits, is to maintain our capability through repair and modernization. We will build submarines, including some new diesel submarines for anti-submarine warfare operations. We will maintain all capabilities. But START III talks must begin as soon as possible. One thousand warheads is more than enough for deterrence. This is why de-targeting is really a very good idea, which we will carefully consider. Further, the ABM Treaty must be maintained. We must minimize the possibility of a bolt-out-of-the-blue attack and improve cooperation and trust between our countries, without either of us keeping a rock clenched behind our backs.
Discussion brought to light more examples of incidents between American and Russian submarines, with additional accusations of dangerous US operations near where Russian subs were operating. There was speculation as to the motivation of the U.S. submarine in the 1997 incident and it was suggested that future meetings address anti-submarine warfare issues. It was also recommended that the US Chief of Naval Operations be made aware of the Russian complaints and that they be more broadly publicized. One participant quipped that the land forces suffer from no such problems, and noted more seriously that this issue does call into question the assumption of stability provided by submarines. Others responded that land-based systems were still far easier to kill.
Naval operations may reflect an attitude that rapid counterattack is required in the event of war, an attitude that we would be well served to eliminate as a starting point for dealerting. We must also ask what the US can do to sufficiently reassure the Russians so that they would feel comfortable taking missile forces and submarines in port off of higher alert. Further, it would be useful to define what sorts of analysis are required on this issue for follow-on meetings.
Ted Postol outlined the plan of action, saying that we must agree on future priorities and action items. Postol will write a memorandum to the White House concerning submarine incidents. Valeri Yarynych will inquire further on infrared and electronic warfare technologies and Petr Romashkin will maintain contact and discuss with his colleagues what has been raised here concerning the lack of an actual threat posed by missile defenses. The memorandum by Jim Goodby on areas for future research was suggested as a good starting point.
Anatoli Diakov then outlined the MIPT perspective on future plans, noting that their analysis of Russian strategic nuclear forces was recently completed. Their independent future plans involve studies of the role of tactical nuclear weapons, the role of high precision munitions, transparency of warhead dismantlement, and the continuation of the work begun with Paul Podvig's book on Russian nuclear weapons. They are also planning a project on conventional weapons and cooperation in military technologies between the new independent states-this is not, of course, directly related. Much of the work outlined overlaps with the Goodby proposal.
Overall, in fact, the group seems to agree on a great deal. On warhead dismantlement, there is some very important work to be done, and we will be glad to cooperate in doing it. We are all talking, writing articles and trying to have an impact-we must do all we can to get the process moving. We are also working on issues of force structure, de-alerting, and survivability.
Valeri Yarynych briefly noted two issues for future work. One is to begin work immediately on concepts of negative controls, an issue on which TRW has also expressed interest. Yarynych noted that he would be glad to facilitate the organization of meetings on this subject . The other issue is that of modeling. He proposed that the United States and Russia share and compare nuclear warfighting models.
Others then discussed the issues raised in the Goodby memorandum, such as de-alerting. The group was reminded that MIT and MIPT are academic institutions, with only informal ties to governments. The question was raised of whether the project name, "Transforming Nuclear Deterrence" was appropriate, and whether deterrence can continue to serve as a basis for relations.
Jim Goodby discussed his forthcoming book on the political dimension of the US-Russian relationship. He noted that our long term objective should be to move from the present conditional peace, where deterrence and military actions are still relevant, to a more stable peace. It is difficult to do this, however, while still locked into mutual deterrence. We must do a range of things such as those we've discussed to make nuclear deterrence fade from the picture. Ted Postol seconded the importance of political factors, even at a technical meeting such as this one. Others asked whether and how deterrence can ever be eliminated in a nuclear world and talked of bridging the gap between the thinking of military planners and those who think about these issues from a different perspective.
Other suggestions included a study of whether tactical nuclear weapons would indeed be required to stop a PRC advance; a study of Russian air defense, and one on ASW. Geoffrey Forden suggested the possibility of a verification experiment for warhead dismantlement. Timur Kadyshev noted that if the goal of nuclear weapons use is high levels of destruction, we might want to look at how few weapons would be required to wreak that destruction, an argument for very deep cuts.
Postol reminded participants that the level of agreement at this conference is unlikely to be matched elsewhere, as not everyone agrees with these ideas. Matthew Bunn spoke briefly about a number of issues including upload capacity, noting that it is conceivable that busses of sea-based systems could be modified so that they would be difficult to upload. Such things were required in START I, but not in START II. This group, he suggested, could consider what kinds of modifications might make sense and suggest them as a possible unilateral gesture the US might make. After START II is implemented, he continued, the largest number of warheads will be reserve and nonstrategic warheads which are not controlled by treaty. We could move to consolidate warheads in mutually verified facilities. Bunn also voiced support for a verification experiment, but suggested that scientists in the lab-lab program are working on such things already.
Postol closed the meeting, noting that there is general agreement that problems with the START II Treaty exist, and must be solved, but that it would be best for all of us if the treaty were ratified nonetheless. Members of the U.S. group would be willing to come to Moscow during the ratification process. They would be equally willing to stay away, if that were to be deemed more helpful. Ted Postol and Anatoli Diakov thanked the group and the interpreters, and Aleksey Ovcharenko expressed thanks on behalf of the government portion of the Russian delegation.
Ted Postol opened the discussion, suggesting that the group think about the next meeting, including questions of funding and size and scope of the meeting as well as issues that were raised concerning the role of the group as conduits to governments and the proposals for visits by U.S. participants to Moscow to influence the START II ratification process.
Anatoli Diakov then spoke, noting that his plans have much in common with Jim Goodby's proposal. Since Goodby works closely with Postol and the MIT group, it can be assumed that the proposal is theirs, as well. So, the next step is to consider the format for implementing these plans. There are several ways to proceed.
One option is to continue our work and exchange results. Some projects are more conducive to collaboration and we can do that, as well. The Postol, Lewis, Podvig and Diakov article in the September issue of the Nezavisimaya Gazeta on the ABM treaty and the Demarcation Agreement had a real impact. Diakov reported that he recently ran into Kisliak (the director of the Arms Control Department at the Foreign Ministry) who told him that he had read the article and disagrees with it. Diakov responded that Kisliak knows best of all how true the article in fact is. So, we can do more work of this sort. Another option, of course, is to hold more meetings such as this one. There are no real limits on what our next steps can be-except, of course, funding. In MIPT's most recent request for funding, we did not include this kind of work, by the way, so it must be separate.
Now, regarding the time frame for our next event, we must choose carefully. It is important that what we do have a positive impact. Lots of Americans go to Moscow. We don't want to have the sort of meeting that is now very common but not very useful. So, we should instead concentrate our efforts on next steps, like START III. We could have our next event right after START II is ratified, but it is probably best to do it before. If ratification goes smoothly and is completed in June, it would be all right to wait until afterwards. If not, it will come up again in September-October, so we, too could meet in the same time frame. We can take a flexible position and decide based on how events fall out.
Postol noted that going in to this conference, we did not know exactly what we would do or how. It evolved as it went along. Thus, we should think of our future meetings in the same spirit. Postol outlined three possible formats for consideration:
David Wright suggested another option, a continued working meeting, but with a presentation to a larger audience.
Ted Postol noted that the advantage of having confidence in each other is that if things don't work out perfectly, everyone knows that it is not the other side's fault.
Diakov suggested combining the options, with, say, three days of work and some official meetings. Certainly the circle of people in Russia who could take part would be wider in Moscow. Diakov noted that he had spoken with Vitaly Yakovlev, formerly of the 12th Directorate and now retired, who said that he would be interested in participating. He has also gotten expressions of interest from Ministry of Defense personnel and Duma members, and representatives of the military, such as from the Dvorkin Institute, might participate as well.
Postol said that there is considerable interest in the United States already, and as more Russians get involved, more Americans will also become interested. The same discussion, with a wider and high-level audience, might be useful.
Petr Romashkin reported that the ratification of START II is on the Duma calendar for the Spring. The Spring session goes through June, however and the specific time-frame for START II is April-May. It is highly likely that this schedule will slip, and START II will not, in fact, come up for a vote until June. The issue of bringing US colleagues to Russia to speak to the Duma is a tricky one. We have to be careful not to do any harm to our own interests. Romashkin offered to set up meetings with Yabloko party members, and with members of the Defense Committee. Specifically, the group could meet with Arbatov, Lt. Gen. Surkov, Bezborodov, Vorobyov (Independent deputy, Gen-Col), and Gerashenko (Agrarian party). But the meeting would be more useful if it took the form of a discussion. Perhaps we could also invite some Communists, such as Olenkov. Postol could tell them that he is an opponent of ABM and a proponent of START II, while recognizing its weaknesses, as well as of negotiating START III and future cuts. This would elicit a positive response. But it is key that our discussion not be seen as a form of pressure. Romashkin said that he will talk to people in Moscow and inform the group of results.
Ted Postol said that he would be glad to repeat anything that he had said during the conference. He also noted that Michael Stafford will let the State Department know what he'd said here, as well, and in fact that he had asked him to do that. One thing that can be a problem with Americans is that they don't treat their Russian colleagues with respect. Postol noted that he hoped to prevent any such accusations from ever coming his way. He recognizes that the Russian decision to ratify START II is a Russian decision, and he would never presume to tell them what to do. What he does want to do is to talk as colleagues and to do things that are in the mutual interest. He would be glad to tell the Duma that he is very concerned about START II's imbalances, and the problems being created by NATO expansion-so concerned, in fact, that he compares the present situation to the Versailles Treaty after WWI, which set up the unbalanced conditions that led to WWII.
Petr Romashkin pointed out that Postol would speak as an independent expert, not a lobbyist for the US government.
Aleksey Ovcharenko reminded the group of the unfortunate attempt to lobby the Duma by former Secretary of Defense Perry. He expressed his concern regarding Duma consideration of START II as being rooted in the fact that few in the Duma have a competent understanding of the issues. Military personnel, who have access to the information, will have a positive view of ratification, while believing that there is no need to await it to begin discussions of START III. Further, as we talk of future work, Ovcharenko noted that he can vouch for the interest of other military personnel in participating, but warned that they would only be able to do so with permission from their superiors.
David Wright asked if it would indeed be helpful to have nongovernmental US citizens coming to talk to the Duma. Petr Romashkin responded that MIT is well known in Russia as a technical, and not a political, institution and the Moscow MIPT is also well-known. The work and opinions of scientists will be highly regarded by Duma members, and the views of U.S. scientists may be more interesting to them than those of government representatives.
Ted Postol seconded the importance of distinguishing between political and technical discussions. He then summarized next steps for the group, noting that everyone must keep in close contact, with the understanding that all discussions are private. If Romashkin determines that he thinks it is useful, we will hold the meetings with Duma members that we have discussed, and if not, we will not.
Petr Romashkin reiterated that he would investigate.
David Wright then asked whether it might be worthwhile at some point
to arrange a visit to the Moscow ABM system by Western experts, to eliminate
any misconceptions about its effectiveness. He asked if this was worth
pursuing. His question elicited a brief discussion of ABM, and its ineffectiveness
generally and the ineffectiveness of any defenses against cruise missiles
particularly. Aleksey Ovcharenko described a Russian test launch that went
off course, with the missile crossing a large part of Russian territory
and parts of Europe, with no one ever detecting it. Ted Postol commented
that this was the problem with nuclear armed cruise missiles-no one will
even see them coming.
For more information, please, contact Prof. Theodore Postol (617-253-8077, U.S.A.) or Prof. Anatoli Diakov (095-408-6381, Russia).