Mothballing the ABM TreatyThis chapter summarizes an effort in 2001 to keep the ABM Treaty alive with a novel approach and how each side adopted the idea but not, unfortunately, at the same time.
Specifically, a “mothball” proposal was designed to forestall, for five years, impending U.S. abrogation of the ABM Treaty by letting the U.S. side test ABM systems but not deploy them. The White House initially rejects the idea as “too good,” by which it meant that the idea might catch on and prevent the abrogation of the ABM Treaty.
On September 11, 2001, a few hours before the 9 a.m. terrorist attacks become known in Moscow, the chief Russian negotiator expresses approval of the plan. Later, the White House reverses itself and makes the Mothball proposal to the Russians, saying, in effect, “If you do not accept it, we will tear up the treaty.” Then the Russians reverse themselves by accepting it in an unacceptably conditional way. The next day, President Bush withdraws from the Treaty.
Thus, in a kind of musical chairs, with the two sides approving the idea at different times, the proposal to keep the ABM Treaty in business became a footnote in history.
BACKGROUND ON THE ABM CRISIS
The U.S. desire to build an ABM system produced three ABM emergencies in four decades.
The first had originated in about 1963 with the Soviet construction of an anti-ballistic missile system in Tallinn—a crisis that culminated, nine years later, in the 1972 ABM Treaty banning such systems.
This was the emergency that had led me to conceive, independently and very early, the notion of both sides agreeing not to build anti-ballistic missile systems (see Chapters 1–3 of “Every Man Should Try”) and to work on it for a decade. This first crisis was terminated by the 1972 agreement on an ABM Treaty.
The second ABM crisis was touched off by Ronald Reagan’s 1983 “Star Wars” speech. This raised questions in Soviet minds of whether Reagan was going to abandon the treaty in favor of building a very effective such system. Accordingly, they wondered whether it would be safe for them to reduce, through disarmament, their stock of ICBMS.
This second emergency was overcome through a device I had invented—the Bear-hug strategy—a device that Andrei Sakharov had pursued in a different form, albeit one that was not, in the end, adopted, the so-called Sakharov finesse. (The picture shows Sakharov, Elena Bonner and the Stones in 1987 shortly after Sakharov was released from Gorky; at that time, Sakharov heard Stone's proposal—which he called "very reasonable", amended it to ignore testing and made his version of the idea public the next day. This is discussed on page 233 of Every Man Should Try and below.)
The bear-hug proposal was the suggestion that the Russians put aside their fears about Reagan’s visions and continue disarmament with the proviso that the disarmament would cease if the ABM Treaty were violated. (Note)
A third crisis arose when the North Koreans began firing missiles that could reach Japan. The fear that subsequent missiles might reach the United States was used by supporters of missile defense against the continued existence of the treaty.
THE REAGAN-SAKHAROV PROPOSAL IN A TRIP TO MOSCOW
During the summer of 2001, I took to lunch various officials of the Russian Federation Embassy in Washington: the arms control specialist Vassily V. Boriak; Deputy Ambassador Igor Neverov (June 4); and, later, Ambassador Yuri V. Ushakov, whom I had met at a Carnegie nonproliferation conference (June 26).
At a later lunch on August 7 with Ambassador Neverov, I suggested the mothballing strategy for dealing with the ABM crisis and showed him my button, described below, for advertising the plan, viz.
Moscow would agree to permit testing for the next few years if Washington would agree not to withdraw from the ABM Treaty during President George W. Bush’s first term. This proposal was analogous to something Reagan had proposed in Reykjavik. Indeed, I had gotten the idea, I think, from a June 7 e-mail from Stan Riveles, a former member of the U.S.-Soviet Commission on the ABM Treaty, who had written me: “What might actually make sense is a “Reykjavik” strategy. At Reykjavik, Reagan proposed relaxation of ABM Treaty testing limits in exchange for a 5-year non-withdrawal commitment.” (Note)
I also saw a Russian parallel in something Andrei Sakharov had proposed above in 1987. I had spent three successive evenings with him after his release from Gorky. When I proposed that missile disarmament go forward as long as the ABM Treaty was not violated (in any way), Sakharov had said that this was unnecessarily rigid. In his view, the Russians could afford to continue in bilateral offensive missile disarmament until such time as the United States went beyond violations of the testing of an ABM system and went on to violations of the ABM Treaty that concerned deployment. So it could be argued, I felt, that Sakharov would have supported the Mothball plan because it permitted only U.S. testing violations—and he had considered these irrelevant.
MOTHBALLING THE ABM TREATY—THE REAGAN-SAKHAROV APPROACH
With this in mind, I had decided to give the plan a high-level bilateral moniker and call it the “Reagan-Sakharov Approach.”
The week of September 8–15 seemed an appropriate time to visit Moscow to push this idea—appointments could be made during September 3–7 after Moscow officials got back to work from their summer vacations. The Russian Embassy said it would get the Foreign Ministry to make the appointments for me with high officials. Catalytic Diplomacy could arrange the rest itself.
A large button with a moth on it had been designed in August (“Mothball the ABM Treaty—The Reagan-Sakharov Approach”) and a letter was drafted to President Putin that could be circulated to officials giving me interviews; it described a backup “Interim Strategic Accord” that would combine the “Interim Strategic Accord” (i.e., the Mothball plan) with parallel reductions and agreements on strategic stability. (Appendix)
As a run-up to the visit to Moscow, the Mothball idea was first discussed with the U.S. bureaucracy. The plan was described on August 13 to three medium-level State Department employees (James Timby, Lucas Fisher, and Steve Rosenkrantz).
On August 23rd, at 4:30 p.m., I met at the White House for 45 minutes with then–Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley, and we had a full discussion. He made a number of objections to the plan, but I had strong answers. Finally, he said: “Look, the problem is that the idea is ‘too good.’” It would give us ‘no grounds to object’ at home and with the Europeans, and we want to tear up the treaty; we believe we have won the intellectual debate. We don’t want to leave this issue to some later Administration that might not want to eliminate the treaty.” He said: “Please do not advise the Russians that we could support this.” I said: “Of course, I would not.”
On the morning of August 30, I met with two key arms control staffers at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who worked, basically, for Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE). One was the legal expert for the committee, Brian McKeon, and the other was the arms control specialist Ed Levine. They saw no insurmountable legal problems and expressed interest in the idea.
The next day, on August 31—perhaps as a result of the conversation with the Foreign Relations Committee—Steve Hadley called me at home and said that he had discussed the matter further at the White House and wanted to emphasize that we “probably” would not accept the Mothball plan. He told me that Condoleezza Rice had said, in a friendly way, “Jeremy is trying to put us in a box.” I assured him that this was not so. I just wanted the idea given a chance.
I further assured Steve that I would never tell the Russians that the White House favored the plan; I was not even planning to tell them that I had consulted with the White House, which would have required me to go into detail, about what was and was not said in a then-sensitive conversation.
What Steve may—or may not—have realized was the reaction of Catalytic Diplomacy to his use of the word “probably.” Working on intractable problems, as was my permanent fate, I considered his shift from “we don’t agree” to only “probably we would not agree” as if it were an open door to heaven. It seemed to signify a live possibility that should not go unpursued—and in this, history showed, I was quite right.
As a good lawyer, and one understanding the rights of Americans, Steve had not told me not to go forward in discussing it—we both knew that was the right of a private citizen. But his intervention made me feel that this should be discussed carefully. I talked to Alton Frye, then chairman of Catalytic Diplomacy’s board, about whether we should go forward at all.
But Alton and I both thought it was too important a proposal to be abandoned—and this turned out to be right. So it was decided to identify this option to the Russians anyway. After all, White House staffers could not know, themselves, what would or would not be accepted in a volatile situation until the president himself decided what to do. And it would certainly bring the parties closer if they considered this approach.
BACKUP “NEW STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK”
On September 2, I began drafting a backup plan (the “New Strategic Framework”) to propose if the Interim Strategic Accord (i.e., the Mothball plan) was, in fact, rejected. It called for the involvement of China, France, and Great Britain and even lower strategic force levels. And so the Putin letter, conveying these possibilities, grew from two pages to five. Most important, as it turned out, was a two-page draft communiqué showing just how the Interim Strategic Accord would sound if the two sides agreed to it. Encouraged by Alton’s reaction to this, I sent it to Natalia to translate.
THE TRIP TO MOSCOW
As the trip began, on Saturday, September 8, the print media were reporting the amazing news that the Senate Armed Services Committee had passed, by a narrow margin, a motion not to fund any ABM tests that violated the ABM Treaty even if the president withdrew from the ABM Treaty. This seemed to reorganize the entire ABM negotiating game.
Arbat Hotel, the former headquarters of the Soviet Central Committee, is immediately behind the Russian Foreign Ministry, and from it one can walk to the Defense Ministry, the Institute for the USA and Canada, the Russian General Accounting Office, the Arbat shopping areas, and, no less important, the home of my oldest friend in Moscow, Natalia Shahova. A young girl of 13 when we met in 1966, she now runs a translation service and had carefully translated the Putin letter in advance of my arrival. (In addition, she had prepared a translation of six relevant chapters of my book, “Every Man Should Try,” to distribute to Russian officials.)
Monday was spent arranging appointments, and in the evening I met over dinner with Andrei Kokoshin, former deputy defense minister and, later, the national security adviser to President Boris Yeltsin. After holding these extremely high positions, he had become a key member of the Duma.
I knew Kokoshin quite well from the mid-1980s, when he surfaced as a deputy to academician Evgeny P. Velikhov. I had hosted both of them on a series of visits to the United States. Kokoshin had been playing a most active behind-the-scenes role in improving U.S.-Russian relations at the highest level—between Bush and Putin—and had attended key meetings with President Bush that led up to the critical Slovenia Summit, where Bush famously said that he had “looked into Putin’s soul.” He gave his reaction to the Mothball plan, and it was reasonably positive.
Meeting with the Chief Russian Negotiator
On Tuesday, at 11 a.m., I met with Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov, the chief negotiator for the Russian Federation on the ABM issue. We met privately, without an interpreter, for two hours and had a warm and close conversation. He began by advising me that I had “single-handedly” changed Russian policy on offensive weapons and that the other high officials knew it. He said it was rare that anyone could change the policies of his own government and it was remarkable that I had changed their government’s policy.
When I identified the idea and showed him the button, it turned out that something like this had been tried out on Undersecretary of State John Bolton in Mamedov’s negotiations—which were supposed to be continued in two days’ time in New York. But it turned out that Russia was proposing this “privately,” which, of course, was getting nowhere since the Bush administration in general—and Bolton especially—preferred no treaty to a partial treaty, for ideological and political reasons.
Another option was that President Putin make this proposal publicly. But it became clear that the Russians wanted—as people in political life so often do—a no-cost solution in which they would not have to admit that they were permitting any change to the ABM Treaty at all. (Such admissions would draw criticism from the communists in the Duma as well as from the Chinese.)
So the Russians preferred to say quietly that they would be “flexible” in interpreting the Treaty but not to countenance publicly any amendment. And they feared that any concession they made would lead to new pressures to make further concessions. They seemed to be drifting, and they seemed in denial about the reality that the Bush administration was serious about abandoning the treaty.
I left Mamedov with the original copy of the Putin letter, the draft communiqué, and some other material. My meeting seemed to galvanize Minister Mamedov. He indicated he was shifting some things he was going to say on Thursday at his meeting with Bolton but did not, of course, show his hand. He was eager to stay in touch.
The Academics Seem Less in the Game
On Tuesday evening, I had dinner with academician Yuri Osipyan, former vice president of the Russian Academy of Sciences and now chairman of its arms control committee. It was at his office at 5 p.m. Moscow time that I saw on television the September 11 attacks that had just occurred in New York.
He said the committee’s last important work was on plutonium disposition. But he said that the MacArthur Foundation was no longer going to fund the National Academy of Sciences counterpart committee (run by John Holdren, then a professor Harvard University and Director of the Woods Hole Research Center; more recently, the Science Adviser to President Obama), and, accordingly, he was not sure how well the collaboration would continue. (The American side had been funding the travel to the United States of the Russian delegation).
He saw no problem with my plan. But one gets the feeling that the Russian committee is not really “in the game” in the way that Catalytic Diplomacy is. They were doing studies, at best. He said, with a smile, that the members of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on International Security and Arms Control (CISAC) had all disagreed with Bush’s ABM plans and wanted, instead, cooperative deployment, but they did not know if the Bush administration would accept that. It sounded like he felt that CISAC was not in the game, either.
On Wednesday evening, I had dinner with Evgeny Velikhov, the major nongovernmental player in arms control in the 1980s for the Soviet Union. As president of the Kurchatov Institute of Nuclear Energy, he is still an important player and can see Putin. He was very supportive of Catalytic Diplomacy’s plan and had ideas of his own on energy/nonproliferation policy, which I agreed to help with. (He wants to manufacture reactors in Russia, float them on barges to foreign countries, and then lease them out, with the energy produced used to pay for the leases. Russia would then take back the spent fuel and, eventually, the entire spent reactor.)
On Thursday noon, I met for an hour with former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, now chairman of the Government Accounting Office, the Russian auditing agency. As noted earlier, as prime minister, he had carried our idea “Truncate the Sword and the Shield Becomes Harmless” to President Clinton in September 1999. Later, in February 2001, he had related to us what had happened.
He was happy to discuss this newest idea, and after some spirited discussion, he said he would discuss it with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov if I did not get an appointment. He was obviously supportive, but he worried about “reaction in Russia” and how Congress would react.
Meeting with Russia's #2 General, General Baluevsky
Major General Vladimir Zinovyevich Dvorkin, who had recently retired but whom I had tracked down and called out of friendship, had come to the institute to exchange ideas. To my amazement and satisfaction, he turned out to be working, in retirement, for Marshal Sergeev—the main person I wanted to see whom the Foreign Ministry had not produced. He looked at the Draft Joint Communiqué and said: “This is a very important document and I will send it at once to Marshal Sergeev.”
After 45 minutes with Dvorkin, I met for 45 minutes with Sergei Rogov. He liked the idea of the Mothball plan and the Interim Strategic Accord but would have liked more of it to be processed through the U.S. Senate and made a protocol to the ABM Treaty. He said that if the Republicans offered this, it would certainly pass. And their doing so would stop the drift to unilateralism and to informal agreements. (I told him that he underestimated what the traffic would bear and that the Republicans did not want this treaty and, certainly, did not want to use the Congress.) He said this was, however, a detail—in the context of general agreement with our idea. He said we could talk about it and that he would be in the United States the week of October 7.
A short walk away, at the Defense Ministry, I enjoyed two solid hours with two three-star colonel generals. One was General Y.N. Baluevsky, now number-two in the General Staff and very warm in his welcome as a result of the reception Catalytic Diplomacy had thrown for his delegation in Washington on August 9—the day his delegation had reached Washington to discuss the fate of the ABM Treaty—to meet non-governmental arms control experts.
He was joined by Colonel General Victor Ivanovich Yesin, former head of Russian strategic forces and now head of the Department for Military Affairs of the Security Council. He also had been at an earlier reception at my home (on June 4, 2000), and he also was very warm in his greetings.
On the day of our dinner on August 9, the Russian press had criticized Baluevsky as not competent to head a delegation to Washington on strategic affairs. So I was interested to have this lengthy chance to talk to him. He opposed the idea. Indeed, he was so opposed to permitting tests that he said that collaborating in the demise of the treaty would hurt his “self-esteem.” In this context, he seemed weirdly relaxed about U.S. withdrawal, saying that if America withdrew, “We will continue to work with America on a new strategic framework.” This had been taken in the Western press as an indication of the softening of the Russian position.
I said: “During the 1960s, the Russian side said ‘no, no, no’ to my ideas for halting the development of ballistic missile defenses. Now you are treating the ABM Treaty as holy writ and saying that not a word can be changed.” I also mentioned that, as a general, he should understand that sometimes one had to sacrifice a regiment to save the army itself. He was unmoved by this.
Equally amazing, General Baluevsky was completely uninterested in what Americans would have considered the strategic implications. When I began explaining the arms control and stability implications in terms of targeting and such—which have been a key part of the ABM debate forever—he said, “You are deviating from the agenda”—by which he meant ABM was the agenda and not the strategic balance. It seemed from this that the ABM issue had become political rather than substantive. The Russian military seemed not to care about the treaty’s capacity to maintain “stability” but just wanted to be sure that America could be blamed, if the treaty ended, for its demise. The whole debate had changed and the ABM issue was of diminished significance—a sign that the treaty’s time had come.
General Baluevsky agreed that Bush wanted out of the treaty, but his theory on why was far off the mark. He thought America had a budget deficit and wanted to spend heavily on military expenditures to restart the economy. He also seemed a political general who had never led troops. But he was very highly placed, took complete notes, and wanted to stay in touch. Everywhere, I was treated as the godfather of the ABM Treaty, and they keep saying: “You just want to keep your creation in business.”
Getting Home with Kennedy Airport Closed
My plane back on Saturday was not flying because Kennedy Airport was closed due to the September 11 bombing, but my wife, B.J., got me reservations on Monday through Baltimore. This was just in time, as this day turned out to have been the last day of my visa and I would not have been allowed to leave without going back for a visa extension.
The reports to my handful of foundation backers showed that the costs of the Catalytic Diplomacy trips were minimal. The three-star Arbat Hotel, though marvelously convenient, costs only $150 per night with a sitting room and free breakfast. I paid only $200 to Alla Orekhova for car and driver (and loan of a mobile phone) because little was needed except airport pickup. With this conveniently located hotel, I was able most of the time to walk to my destinations. Natalia Shakhova served as a secretary as well as translator and left me independent of the logistic help from the Institute for the Study of the USA and Canada. The total cost of the week in Russia talking to key officials was only $3,300.
And when former Prime Minister Stepashin asked me with whom I was meeting, his response to my answer was: “Those are certainly the right people.” So for a very small amount, Catalytic Diplomacy was able to reach the Russian decision makers with new possible options and to get their point of view. During my off time, I spent time with Natalia’s family, which now included four of her grandchildren. Five generations of this family have befriended my wife and me over a 35-year period.
A FAILED CONTRIBUTION TO PHILANTHROPY
Inventing PIPM as a Contribution to the War on Terrorism
On September 18, after my return home from Russia, the board of Catalytic Diplomacy met to receive my report, and we discussed what contribution Catalytic Diplomacy might make in the post-9/11 world.
I was struck by a thought. The executive branch, the legislative branch, and the media were all mobilized for the war. On November 9, in fact, President Bush had referred to “new responsibilities, both for the government and for our people.” But would the philanthropic community respond? In the foundation world, we seemed to be seeing business as usual.
I began to think of creating a Web site on which all grant-seekers dealing with peace issues could post their proposals—changing them at will as often as they wanted. Access to all proposals would be given only to funders and foundations that would search among the proposals for ones they wanted to submit to their foundation boards. The Web site was built, but interest in it failed. (Note)
Prospects for Success Seemed Good
It was now more than 38 years since I had begun writing papers on the ABM issue, and as far as the press was concerned, it was hotter than ever. Almost every day there was something. The Russia e-mail list of David Johnson, which provided a dozen translations of Russian-language articles a day, had an ABM article daily.
I was optimistic that the Mothball strategy was going to work. More and more articles, based on administration leaks, suggested this. Even the White House, in the person of national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, seemed to have adopted the idea, even though the White House had, as noted above, tried to discourage the idea in August.
For example, The New York Times of Sunday, October 28, had its major article (left-hand column above the fold) headlined: “Bush Adviser Says Russia Is Warming to U.S. ABM Tests.” Amazingly, the same White House that was worried that the Mothball strategy was “putting the administration in a box” was hawking the idea. The second and fourth paragraphs of the story and a much later paragraph read:
“Ms. Rice’s assessment of the negotiations with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, marks the first time that an administration official of her rank has suggested that Russia is dropping its objections to the Pentagon’s proposed testing plans.
. . .
“Interviews with several other administration officials indicated that they were now working on an assumption that Russia may agree to permit the tests–and that Mr. Bush, in turn, will postpone any decision on abandoning the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty, which Russia views as a cornerstone of arms control.
. . .
"If Mr. Bush strikes a deal that lets the Pentagon move forward on its schedule of tests, both sides will have grounds to claim success.”
Paul C. Warnke Dies
On November 1, Paul C. Warnke died after an illness of some months. The papers gave him the warm obituaries he deserved. In a discussion with Paul before he died, he had expressed the view that the efforts to build the ABM would come to naught in the long run. Paul Warnke had given me wise counsel for 30 years and helped the organizations I was running through many crises. His loss to the peace community was very real.
Would Putin Make a Unilateral Statement?
During discussions in Russia, it had become apparent that President Putin was planning to address a joint session of Congress, and it was obvious to me that this would have been an excellent place to assert, quite unilaterally, that Russia would not object to tests. I had some hope that this would occur.
And when former Prime Minister Stepashin had asked me on September 13 in Moscow how President Putin could deal with those in the Duma who would be angry if tests of ABM systems were permitted, I had opined that, in the light of the attacks of September 11, he could say that he did not have the heart to deny the United States any efforts it might wish to make to defend itself. And Stepashin readily agreed that the September 11 bombing might help ease along the Mothball strategy.
By early November, in Washington, it was clear that no such joint session of Congress would be held. On the other hand, Catalytic Diplomacy received an invitation to join in a dinner reception in December at the Russian Embassy at which President Putin was going to present a statement before going to Texas the next morning to President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. This, I felt, might be it: a unilateral assertion of the Mothball strategy.
The Washington Party for Putin
On November 15, a Russian Embassy party for President Putin was held. Most of the people attending were newspaper reporters, former and current U.S. officials related to the Soviet Union or Russia, and a few senior senators such as Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Senator John Warner (R-VA), the ranking Republican on the committee. The U.S. arms control and scientific communities were not really represented there, and it made me realize how far I had graduated in standing when I stopped “playing a scientist on TV” at the Federation of American Scientists and began working in our 21st-century organization, Catalytic Diplomacy.
General Baluevsky had come with Putin—a further sign of the influence of this number-two Russian general, and he showed me, in the corridor, a communiqué that had recently been agreed upon; but one had to be a real insider to read anything into it at all. While the audience waited for President Putin, I charged the podium to find out what was really happening. There, Deputy Foreign Minister Mamedov chatted with me briefly. He said, “We adopted your idea and it bought us time but the administration still won’t agree.” There was some hope that an agreement could be worked out at the president’s ranch the next day.
In the first week of December, Sergei Rogov, director of the Institute for the Study of Canada and USA of the Russian Academy of Sciences, came to America with three very high military officers.(Note)
Russian Delegation Arrives
In the first week of December, Sergei Rogov, director of the Institute for the Study of Canada and USA of the Russian Academy of Sciences, came to America with three very high military officers.(Note)
My hopes were dashed. I said that U.S. officials in the audience had told me that the problem was that Russia would not agree to permit “all” tests. But there was no time to get to the real bottom of this, as Putin was about to speak. Putin’s statement was bland. It was apparent that he was not about to embarrass his friend President Bush by making any unilateral statements in public.
BUSH WITHDRAWS FROM THE TREATY AND PUTIN JUST ACKNOWLEDGES IT
On December 12, Bush announced his intention to withdraw from the ABM Treaty on six months’ notice. (Note) The next day, President Putin complained of the creation of a “legal vacuum in the sphere of strategic stability” and urged that the “current level of bilateral relations” between the two sides should “not only be retained but also used in order to work out the new framework of a strategic relationship as soon as possible.” The person most upset in Russia seemed to be Alexei Arbatov, who said that the United States “has spat into that extended hand” of Russia and that the treaty withdrawal was a victory for an “extremely conservative, very arrogant” faction in the United States.
The New York Times ran a summary of the negotiations on December 13 and said the talks failed because the Bush administration was unwilling to discuss each test in advance with the Russians and because Russia refused any change that would allow unrestricted testing.
On the same day, the Washington Post revealed that National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice had, indeed, made the Mothball proposal to the Russians on November 12, saying quite bluntly, according to the Post, that Russia would have to allow the United States to test missile defense systems without restrictions, or else the Bush administration would withdraw the United States from the ABM Treaty. (Note) (This was, obviously, an offer to refrain from withdrawing from the treaty if Russia would not object to tests. In other words, Rice had put forward the Mothball proposal in what logicians would call the contrapositive—a logically equivalent formula with two negatives that canceled each other out—but a formulation that expressed the idea in a more forceful way.)
The Russians said they wanted droit de regard—a right to review each test before agreeing to it. I had warned them that “if you so much as burp, the administration will withdraw from the Treaty.” But perhaps they were not sufficiently afraid of the withdrawal to be so cautious as to follow that advice.
At bottom, the situation in 2001 was not dissimilar to that in the late 1980s, when Moscow calmed down about the Star Wars threat posed by President Reagan and began to negotiate my bear-hug strategy. In this case, Russia saw the ABM problem increasingly in political terms—especially after President Putin met President Bush in Slovenia. After that summit, President Putin explained, in a subsequent press conference, that if President Bush was going to treat him as a friend, then many other problems such as the ABM and NATO expansion could be dealt with. The ABM Treaty, and strategic stability generally, had apparently become a political issue to be used and manipulated for political purposes.
And What of Offensive Weapons?
The Bush administration had, early on, talked of very substantial reductions in strategic offensive weapons—in part to offset the hawkishness of its policy on the antiballistic missile. When the time came, it could not persuade the Defense Department to go more than 10 percent below the START III levels of 2,500 that had been agreed upon in principle long before. Instead of a range of 2,000–2,500 (with the Russians on the low end), the Bush administration began working on a range with the Russians of 2,250–2,700. (These ranges are designed to permit the two sides to claim a false equality, i.e., that they are both in the same range, although both sides know that the United States intends to stay at the high end of the range and the Russians will be at the low end.). And then it finally agreed on a treaty, the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), that had no verification or destruction provisions and terminated in 2012. In short, under John Bolton’s influence, the arms control urge to negotiated reductions just petered out.
What is the significance of this? It means that the U.S. Strategic Command had no need to change the war plans as I had hoped this maneuver would accomplish. My campaign, since late 1998, to sell the slogan “Truncate the Sword and the Shield Becomes Harmless” had failed.
That approach was designed to leverage the ABM crisis into a solution, at least, of the danger of first-strike options. It was designed to have the Russians call for substantial reductions to equal levels as the price of permitting America to build a small ABM while maintaining the essence of the ABM Treaty.
Accordingly, my life experience with the ABM problem—dating over 38 years—was two wins and two losses. The ABM Treaty of 1972 represented a success for the view that ABMs were a bad idea, and the bear-hug strategy of the late 1980s served to keep the treaty in business. But “Truncate the Sword.” failed to be implemented, as did “Mothball the ABM.”
But all four of these campaigns succeeded in the sense that the Russian Government was persuaded to propose them.
Each was based on a very simple logical idea. But each required considerable work to move it from an idea into a proposal by a superpower.
In January 2002, the Russians sent Colonel General Yuri Baluevsky to Washington with a delegation to discuss what new strategic context should replace that context that had been dominated for 30 years by the ABM Treaty. On the one free evening of this delegation, Catalytic Diplomacy held a dinner reception for the delegation to permit it to meet with some senior members of the American strategic community.
The guest acceptance list included not only former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara but also Secretary of Defense William Cohen (who in the end could not come), and a very interesting evening was held. Robert McNamara seized the opportunity to grill General Baluevsky in such a determined way that I announced: “Now, General Baluevsky knows how Prime Minister Kosygin felt at Glassboro” (where, of course, then–Secretary of Defense McNamara expounded to Kosygin, at President Lyndon Johnson’s request, on the evils of antiballistic missile systems).
A week later, on January 30, I met over a private breakfast with Deputy Foreign Minister Mamedov, here to pursue the same talks with the foreign minister. By this time, I had put together a draft treaty on which the two sides might be able to agree. (Appendix)
Mamedov looked at it and said, “Impressive! I will steal from this.” And he agreed to receive some suggestions about public relations with which Russia was—always, we agreed—in need.
In the end, however, in May 2002, the two sides agreed on the SORT Treaty, mentioned above. The unwillingness of the Bush administration to commit itself to just about anything in treaty form had won the day.