Trying Again through President PutinStone didn’t give up on disarmament as a method of securing strategic stability. And he continued to assume that only a proposal from the Russian government could break the logjam between the two sides. To that end, he made three more relevant trips to Moscow to try to elicit such a proposal—the second of which resulted in a surprising affirmative private response from President Vladimir Putin that he would study these ideas for strengthening stability through disarmament.
By April 2000, the United States was trying to amend the 1972 ABM Treaty to permit a defense against North Korea without destabilizing the Russian missile system. (Note) By this time, Prime Minister Stepashin had long since been replaced by President Yeltsin. And President Yeltsin had chosen President Putin as his successor.
May 2000, FIRST ATTEMPT
During a visit in May 2000, I pitched my “Truncate the Sword…” approach to a very high-ranking array of Russian officials and brought along a button featuring the joint problem of North Korea.
The hawkish three-star general Leonid Grigorgevich Ivashov called my suggestion that disarmament could preclude first strikes a “pipedream.”
There were also discussions with officials of the Russian Federation National Security Council and the chairman of the Defense Committee of the Duma. These discussions were hampered by translation difficulties that Sergei Rogov helped rescue me from. Indeed, it was Sergei who made these appointments possible, as he had made possible the 1999 meeting with Prime Minister Stepashin.
I also met, at Sergei’s institute, with Major General Vladimir Dvorkin, director of the Central Institute of Strategic Rocket Forces (i.e., the think-tank for the Russian strategic forces), and with his retired superior, Colonel General Viktor Ivanovich Yesin, formerly chief of staff of Strategic Rocket Forces.
And I met with the deputy head of the Department of Security and Disarmament in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Anton Vsevolodovich Vasiliev; the president of the
Kurchatov Institute on Nuclear Energy (Academician Eugeny Pavlovoich Velikhov); and Academician Yuri Andreevich Osipyan, director of the Institute for Solid State Physics. (Note) I prepared a letter of May 16, 2000 to President Putin describing the benefits of my approach to the war plans and had it delivered to his National Security Adviser.
It summarized the arguments made to Stepashin, “Truncate the Sword and the Shield Becomes Harmless.” (Appendix) It ended by “According to recent newspaper reports, if you raise this with President Clinton, you will receive a sympathetic response.” But nothing seemed to be happening. And to show my priority in matters ABM, I circulated—and even had translated—a four-decade-old letter of December 3, 1963 showing that my ideas on avoidance of ballistic missile defenses were being circulated to the American Secretary of Defense (Robert McNamara) that long ago. (Appendix)
On June 4 I hosted some of these same officials in Washington, D.C.: Colonel General Viktor Yesin of the National Security Council; Major General Vladimir Zinovievich Dvorkin, who had long been head of the Russian strategic forces think-tank; Rear Admiral Nikolay Konorev and Sergei Rogov. A newly drafted proposal, relating to START and embodying the grand bargain pitched by Prime Minister Stepashin, arose from this meeting but was not immediately accepted by either side, despite some interest in the U.S. Department of State.
But I had not given up. Later in the year, I sought to bring former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara into the fray. After organizing an unofficial briefing of him by Steve Fetter, I organized an official briefing for McNamara by the head of Strategic Force Command (Stratcom), Admiral Richard Willard Mies, at 8 a.m. on November 9. In the hope that Admiral Mies would say more in my absence than in my presence (I had not maintained a top-secret clearance since 1962), I decided not to attend this meeting. In any event, early that morning I received word that my mother, Esther M. Stone, had died after a decade of illness with dementia that required round-the-clock care. I would not have been able to attend in any case.
FEBRUARY 2001: TRYING AGAIN WITH MONAD DISARMAMENT
I spent February 4–10, 2001, trying again in Moscow. During this visit, I explored a new proposal—Monad Disarmament—that seemed, at least in logic, to fit the Russian situation in which its missile-firing submarines and its bombers were collapsing. Monad Disarmament suggested that each side cut back to one arm of its Triad—we would keep nuclear-armed submarines, and the Russians would keep their land-based missiles.
I had written to my colleague Steve Fetter: “I know this may seem like spitting in the wind with the recent comments of Rumsfeld. But having raised 1,000 with de-MIRVing and with de-fusing (viz., ‘Truncate the sword and the shield becomes harmless’), I feel obliged to raise this third method of going to 1,000: Monad Disarmament.”
I was delighted to hear that he thought this was a “fine idea.” (Note) Paul Warnke and Alton Frye did as well. And Sergei Rogov had written me that he liked Monad Disarmament and thought that Minister of Defense Igor Dmitrievich Sergeev would too. (Note)
Jan Lodal was also helping independently; a pamphlet he had written for the Council on Foreign Relations had talked of going to a dyad of 840 submarine-based warheads and about 160 bombers—so we were in some considerable degree of agreement.
Jan had worked in the Defense Department on this subject. He took the view, as I did, that the disarming attack option had driven the force-posture numbers. (Note)
But Morton Halperin disagreed and said: “I am not sure why this monad disarmament is necessary or that it helps compared with just having each side go to 1,000 in any form that they choose and to stand down all but 200. In effect, this proposal forces unnecessary fights between the Services.” (Note)
Based on these responses, I felt the notion was worth floating. I made a relevant button to summarize the plan—which as will be seen below was a critical detail. A letter to President Putin—I had become addicted to writing to the president as a device for getting my proposals studied lower in the bureaucracy—summarized the idea. And my Moscow friend and assistant, Natalia Shakhova, started translating it into Russian along with a set of FAQs.
The letter of February 5, 2001 quoted Putin as welcoming “radical progress” and suggested that both sides move in parallel from three strategic forces to a “monad” by 2007. (Appendix)
The letter was timely and generated interest—perhaps because, as Interfax reported, the Russian Defense Ministry and General Staff were reorganizing. In any event, after I met with them, three highly placed Russians offered to deliver this latest letter to Putin (Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Enverovich Mamedov; former Premier Sergei Stepashin, now head of the Russian GAO but still highly involved in strategic matters; and Deputy Chairman of the Duma Committee on Defense Alexei Georgievich Arbatov.) I gave the original to Mamedov, who voiced the private reservation that reduction to a dyad might be more realistic.
The Academy of Sciences agreed to do a study on the proposal based on my meeting with academician Yuri Andreevich Osipyan, its chairman. Most important, Sergei Rogov discussed the issue with the defense minister soon after my departure.
PRESIDENT PUTIN RESPONDS
After I returned home, on March 5, the Russian Embassy called with a message from President Putin, saying that he had ordered intensive investigation of “your ideas and proposals for reductions that would preclude first strikes.” So this was a grand success, and the pithy formulation (“reductions that would preclude first strikes”) showed that President Putin knew exactly what I had in mind. (I later learned that, under Russian bureaucratic rules, the president had to send written messages of his through the bureaucracy but could send verbal messages directly without that.)
On March 7, Alexei Arbatov gave a press conference that proposed the level of 1,000 warheads plus minor changes in the ABM Treaty—exactly the proposal I had described and had pressed upon him in Moscow three weeks before.
So again, in Chapter II, we see ideas reaching the highest level and being considered, in Russia at least, but not being implemented.
During the next six months, the threat of abrogation of the ABM Treaty remained the focus of attention. I worked hard on this and came extremely close to keeping it going for another five years. This is the story of Chapter 3.