November 7, 2001 | Backgrounder on Missile Defense
New avenues for cooperation, as well as contentious strategic defense issues that have long plagued U.S.-Russian relations, will take center stage at the upcoming summit of President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Crawford, Texas. The leaders, who come to the table at a pivotal time in international relations with high popularity ratings at home, must now tackle tough security issues that include missile defense, reduction of strategic nuclear forces, and global terrorism. The close cooperation that has characterized their relations since the September 11 terrorist attacks has set the stage for real progress at this summit.
The talks must focus on defining the future strategic framework for U.S. cooperation with Russia during and after the war on terrorism. President Bush continues to stress that the Cold War paradigm underlying strategic stability no longer exists; and the terrorist attacks prove that the threats to security are more diverse, including biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction. While helping Russia to cement a strategic realignment with the West certainly appears more possible today, achieving it will not be easy.
The Administration should not take Putin's congenial relations with Bush or Russia's support for the war on terrorism to mean that the Kremlin will support all of America's agenda on strategic defense. And while such issues as NATO enlargement, economic development, energy resources, and Chechnya should be discussed, no issue should be used as a bargaining chip on strategic defense.
Regardless of whether or not there is a joint announcement on missile defense at the summit, the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which keeps Americans vulnerable to missile attack, must be set aside. President Bush must not make a deal with Putin to allow the treaty to stand while giving Russia, which is not a party to the treaty, the ability to veto specific U.S. missile defense activities.
Russia has already taken important steps to demonstrate a change in its policies toward the United States. For the summit to be a watershed in U.S.-Russia relations, however, this change must continue. Russia must not require concessions from the United States before it agrees to strategic cooperation. And both parties must move toward an approach that considers each issue on its own merits.STRATEGIC DEFENSE: THE CENTERPIECE OF THE SUMMIT
Among the topics to be discussed at the summit, missile defense and the war on terrorism are certain to command the most consideration. The attacks of September 11 made it painfully clear to world leaders that innocent Americans are being targeted by terrorists who will use any means to inflict the greatest toll. America is most vulnerable to missile attack because it has no defense against ballistic missiles, which have proliferated greatly over the past decade.1 Deploying an effective missile defense system must be a necessary component of any homeland defense.
President Bush, who campaigned on the need to end America's vulnerability to missile attack,2 made deploying a missile defense a top priority for his Administration in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., in May.3 But to do this, he will need to publicly set aside the ABM Treaty, which bars the deployment of missile defenses to protect U.S. territory and severely restricts the development and testing of missile defense technologies. President Bush rightly describes this treaty as "outdated" and "dangerous."4
Ideally, President Bush and President Putin will take the historic step at the Crawford summit by issuing a joint agreement to set aside the ABM Treaty as a Cold War relic. This agreement could be supplemented by other agreements to cooperate on ballistic missile defense programs, including shared threat assessments, information sharing on program activities (commonly referred to as transparency measures), consultations on future missile defense deployment plans, among others.
Why the ABM
Treaty Must Be Set Aside .
Upon the Soviet Union's demise, its territory became 15 sovereign states, including Russia. None of these states is capable of satisfying the obligations of the Soviet Union under the ABM Treaty. Therefore, many analysts and legal experts have gone on record stating that the ABM Treaty is no longer valid. Nevertheless, arms control proponents and many among the Russian elites want the United States to maintain the treaty.
The U.S. government continued curtailing missile defense activities throughout the past decade only because it had not formally set aside the ABM Treaty after the Soviet Union fell.5 Unfortunately, because of that policy blunder, the U.S. missile defense program is now lagging severely behind an expanding threat.6 Today, a missile attack could come from any number of countries or enemies and cause greater losses of life than the terrorist attacks on September 11.
Faced with a growing threat of terrorists using weapons of mass destruction and the increasing proliferation of ballistic missiles, America must set aside the ABM Treaty. The Presidents of the United States and Russia should use the summit to establish cooperative measures that would enable the rapid deployment of missile defenses to protect their civilizations from that terror.
The effort to reduce strategic nuclear weapons will also be given serious consideration at the summit. Economic circumstances are forcing Russia to reduce the size of its nuclear arsenal, and political considerations make it eager to see the United States do so as well. Russia is recommending a reduction in force to 1,500 deployed warheads each, below the 2,000 to 2,500 level being considered as part of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty III (START III).
President Bush has indicated he is willing to reduce the U.S. strategic nuclear force to levels well below the more than 6,000 deployed warheads that each side has today. But before deciding on a specific number, he wants to complete the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR).12 In the interim, negotiations on START III have stalled.
President Bush is right to be cautious and to first establish national security requirements for the size of the U.S. strategic nuclear force that would enable the United States to meet the evolving threats in a post-Cold War world. National security requirements--not arms control considerations or arbitrary demands for parity--should determine the size of America's strategic nuclear force. The Department of Defense must calculate how a higher quality nuclear force would allow for quantitative reductions.
By making such a commitment in a unilateral statement rather than in a treaty document, President Bush would ensure the flexibility the Administration needs to adjust the size of the U.S. strategic forces in the future. Such a posture would allow a controlled transition to a smaller force over several years. President Bush should invite President Putin to issue a reciprocal unilateral statement regarding Russia's strategic nuclear force.
Together, their efforts to enable missile defenses and significantly reduce their nuclear forces should form the foundation of a new strategic framework for U.S.-Russia relations that allows both countries to better address their security requirements, including the increasing threat posed by terrorists.
the New Relations .
There is no question that the current war on terrorism will be discussed at the summit, and that President Bush will ask President Putin for additional assistance. Based on Putin's reactions to the terrorist attacks so far, it is likely that he would provide additional assistance.
Putin's decision to support the United States in the war on terrorism came swiftly following the attacks on September 11, surprising even some in his own government.13 It is significant in Putin's cooperation has given the United States an ability to wage the war against the Taliban regime and al-Qaeda terrorist network in Afghanistan from the north.
But his decision to side with the United States was not easy. Anti-American sentiments run deep among key Russian elites and institutions. Moreover, Russian experts warn that the U.S. presence in Central Asia could be problematic, regardless of whether the U.S. military stays after its core mission is complete.14 If the United States withdraws too early, they warn, Russia could be left alone to face the radical Islamic forces in that volatile region. If the U.S. military remains there for an extended period, Russia's influence in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) could diminish.
Putin also has encountered serious dissent among the General Staff and representatives of the military-industrial complex--traditionally the most anti-American groups. The reasons: (1) They still see the United States as a strategic competitor, and (2) they fear retribution from the Muslim and Arab world, including the loss of their Middle Eastern weapons markets.
Many in Russia's security establishment have a visceral distrust of Americans, largely a vestige of the Cold War. Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov's recommendation in the first days after the attacks typifies their "go slow" approach; he ruled out the introduction of U.S. troops on territory belonging to members of the CIS Collective Security Treaty.15 Putin overruled Ivanov on this within two days, then placed him in charge of Russia's war effort. As Gleb Pavlovsky, one of Putin's principal political advisers, explains, "The choice was: US in Uzbekistan--or Taliban in Tatarstan."16
Putin was key in getting Central Asian states to join the anti-terrorism effort. These states, members of the Collective Security Treaty, increasingly look to Russia for help in fighting the growth of radical Islamic fundamentalism in their region. They were slow to join the U.S.-led coalition against Osama bin Laden until the Kremlin provided clear direction that it supported their cooperation with the United States. Now, Russia and its Central Asian neighbors provide vital air corridors and bases for the U.S. military forces to access the region, to gather vital intelligence, and to train and supply the Northern Alliance, the Taliban's main opposition in Afghanistan. Uzbek- and Tajik-dominated opposition forces are based inside Afghanistan in areas bordering Tajikistan.
Russia has also shared intelligence on bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. Its human intelligence networks in Afghanistan, which have been in place since the Soviet occupation (1979-1989) and developed with the Northern Alliance, are superior to those of the United States. The Russians also offer the coalition a broad pool of linguistic and area studies talent; there are many more people who speak Farsi, Dari, and Pahstu and who served in Afghanistan during the 1980s in Russia and Central Asia than in the United States. However, residual memories of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and systemic weakness of the Russian military limit how much Russia can do on the ground, which is why Putin has ruled out using Russian ground forces.
Russia was quick to back the effort in the U.N. Security Council to pass Security Council Resolutions 1368 and 137317 that authorize America's use of force in defense against the terrorists and demand that countries shut down any monetary flows that support the terrorist organizations.
Since the attacks, President Putin has toned down his opposition to NATO enlargement and has had several high-level contacts with NATO leaders. He has visited Brussels and met with Lord George Robertson, Secretary General of the alliance, who reciprocated by visiting Moscow.
Putin also toned down his opposition to Washington's plans to develop and deploy ballistic missile defenses. Privately, his allies in the Duma have indicated that if Russia and NATO develop an alliance, Russia would have fewer reasons to object to such steps.
As additional gestures of good will toward America, Moscow has shut down its naval base in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, and Russia's electronic intelligence gathering facility in Lourdes, Cuba--a particular irritant in U.S.-Russian relations. The Lourdes facility enabled Russia to listen to almost all unclassified traffic over the airwaves in the Eastern United States.18
Some of the reasons Putin and Russia have shown such support for the United States are presented in the sidebar. In the war on terrorism, President Bush should suggest that Russia and the United States increase intelligence sharing, military training and resupply of the Afghan resistance, efforts to build a consensus for a post-Taliban government, and measures to reduce the scourge of terrorism.
The Crawford summit is the first formal meeting between President Bush and President Putin since the war on terrorism began. The challenge will be to keep their eyes on the prize: defeating the terrorists, facilitating defenses against nuclear, chemical, biological, and radiological weapons, and building foundations for a long-term cooperative alliance. Putin appears willing, but Cold-War sentiments may make some of the elite in Russia hesitant.
Any agreement that the United States signs at the summit must not compromise national security interests, such as the need to deploy a ballistic missile defense, or its democratic values, such as support for political freedom. Even though the imperatives of warfighting take precedence over other concerns, outstanding issues between the Kremlin and the White House should be addressed constructively.
If such an agreement or agreements are not forthcoming, President Bush should announce that the United States is unilaterally setting aside the ABM Treaty. In light of the attacks that showed terrorists will use any means to inflict devastating harm on America, the United States must be free to undertake a full array of missile defense development, testing, and deployment activities to defend Americans from the terror of missile attack.
A multi-year military reform roadmap should use as a model the military reforms of new NATO members Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. This would include strengthening democratic civilian control of the armed forces, professionalization of the forces, and higher transparency in the military budget.
Russia's European neighbors would support the modernization effort if the Russian military were reformed along Western lines to make it more compatible with NATO members' forces. By developing closer political-military relationships with NATO members, Russia's own opposition to NATO enlargement would decrease.
President Bush should invite President Putin to address the NATO summit in Prague in November 2002. If the reforms go well, it may be possible for Russia to discuss joining the NATO Political Council down the road, as suggested by some senior Putin advisers and Russian politicians, such as Boris Nemtsov, leader of the Union of Right Forces.21
Western leaders, such as German Chancellor Schröder22 and the British Foreign Minister Jack Straw,23 have not ruled out Russia's membership in NATO. However, as Russia and the United States enter a phase of closer relations, both leaders should be fully aware that an alliance relationship will require a commitment to Article V of the NATO charter, which includes providing military forces for mutual defenses.
The circumstances under which the amendment was passed no longer apply. Today, Russia allows free emigration and has thriving Jewish communities. Russian Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar even has asked President Bush to repeal the amendment.27 Any violations of human rights not part of the legislative intent of Jackson-Vanik at the time of the amendment's adoption should be addressed in other ways. Scrutiny of Russia's human rights situation will continue for the annual U.S. Department of State International Religious Freedom Report28 and the 2000 Country Human Rights Report.29 Congress could "graduate" Russia from the amendment's restrictions by attaching an amendment to trade legislation.
The Crawford summit will be as important to international security as the historic conferences between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev were to the end of the Cold War. This summit should open avenues to wartime cooperation against terrorism and Russia's integration into the West. The strategic realignment of Russia with the West may be a long and difficult process, but if successful, it would fundamentally change the geopolitical map of the 21st century, helping to distance Russia from China, Iran, and such radical Middle Eastern Soviet-era clients as Iraq, Syria, and Libya. And it is not without risks for Putin and his pro-Western supporters.
But most important, the strategic realignment offers the United States an opportunity to formally end its vulnerability to missile attack. For America and for Russia, the fruits of this summit should be agreements that make Americans--and, indeed, the world--safer for many years to come.
Dr. Ariel Cohen, is Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies, and Baker Spring is F. M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy, in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
9. President William J. Clinton, "Report to Congress on the Memorandum of Understanding Relating to the Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems of May 26, 1972," February 9, 1999.
10. U.S. Department of State, "Memorandum of Understanding Relating to the Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems of May 26, 1972," September 26, 1997.
13. This analysis is based on interviews conducted by Ariel Cohen in Moscow on September 24-October 2, which involved senior aides to Putin, heads of Duma factions, chairmen and deputy chairmen of Duma committees, and numerous foreign policy analysts. Hereinafter, referred to as "Russian Interviews."
18. "Rossia ukhodit s voennykh baz v Kamrani i Lurdese" (Russia is leaving military bases in Cam Ranh and Lourdes) Gazeta.ru., October 17, 2001, at http://www.games2000.ru/2001/10/17/na1003319340.shtml
25. "Putin obeshchayet zastavit' VTO uvazhat' interesy Rossii" ("Putin promises to force WTO respect Russia's interests") Gazeta.ru, October 30, 2001, at http://www.rambler.ru/db/news/msg.html?mid=2019035&s=10315