The Withdrawal of the United States from the ABM Treaty: A Failure of Russian Diplomacy or a New Opportunity
May 2, 2003
Moderator: Good day, dear colleagues. Welcome to the Press Development Institute. The topic is The Withdrawal of the United States from ABM Treaty: A Failure of Russian Diplomacy or New Opportunities?
I am glad to welcome our guests, Ruslan Nikolayevich Pukhov, Director of Strategies and Technologies Analysis Center, and Ivan Alexeyevich Safranchuk, head of the representative office of defense information. That's an American outfit.
Moderator: Yes, international, but it's really American. Who will be the first? I give the floor to Ivan Alexeyevich Safranchuk.
Safranchuk: Thank you all for coming. Unlike the Russian tradition in which important decisions are made on Saturdays leaving very little time for thinking about them, the US administration made the decision on Thursday thus enabling everyone to work before the weekend and to have a weekend free.
Let me begin with what has been repeated many times but which bears repeating. Technically, the withdrawal of the United States from ABM Treaty is not a tragedy for the Russian Federation. It is not even a serious problem. I should say that the withdrawal of the United States from the ABM Treaty, especially considering that it has been done unilaterally, opens a window of opportunity for the Russian Federation which can now expect to retract of the concessions made by Russian and Soviet negotiators in the second half of the 1980s and early 1990s.
Roughly, the situation during that period was that the Soviet Union, which was in decline, and the Russian Federation, which was in decline, had to pursue a series of international negotiations, initially on medium- and shorter-range missiles, then the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, then the START-1 treaty and then the treaty on further cuts of strategic offensive arms, START-2, then amendments to the ABM Treaty signed in New York in 1997. In all these negotiations the Russian Federation was patently the underdog and it had to make unilateral concessions which made these treaties unfavorable for Russia in one way or another.
In my view, the preservation of the status quo and all these unilateral advantages that the United States gained during that period ought to be in the interests of the United States. But by withdrawing from the ABM Treaty the United States opened a Pandora's Box and now give Russia the opportunity to regain some of lost ground while not destroying the system of international treaties in general. Whether it will be done, in what form it will be done and how successfully it will be done will depend on the skill of Russian foreign policy and diplomacy. But there is such a chance and therefore the withdrawal of the United States from the ABM opens a window of opportunity for Russia in military and technical terms. And in the next seven, ten or fifteen years -- depending on what the United States is going to do, which we don't know yet -- we have nothing to fear.
Secondly, the fact that the United States has pulled out of the ABM Treaty is diplomatic setback for Russia. Russia has said in diplomatic idiom more than once that we are against the withdrawal of the United States from the ABM Treaty, that the ABM Treaty must live on. Obviously, it will not. And if you have stated a position and you have failed to uphold it, whatever you might say, even if it does not spell any disadvantages in the military and technical sphere, it is a diplomatic setback.
So much for the fact of the withdrawal from the ABM Treaty. But the form in which it was done -- unilateral withdrawal from the ABM Treaty -- this, in my view, is recognition of the strength of the Russian President. During the summer and autumn of 2001 a rather peculiar kind of consultations were held in Moscow and Washington. They proceeded in something like the following manner. The Russian delegation met the American delegation and said, give us you plans and we will see how to modify the ABM Treaty. To which the American delegation said, let us think together how we should withdraw from the ABM Treaty together.
In other words, Russia was being forced to legitimize the American decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty and was urged to accept a joint withdrawal from the ABM Treaty. Russia refused. And the fact that the United States is withdrawing unilaterally is recognition of the fact that for the first time in 10-15 years Russia refused to be browbeaten into making concessions.
Therefore I say that the withdrawal of the United States in a unilateral manner takes advantage of the weakness and contradictory nature of Russian diplomacy, but simultaneously recognizes that Russia has not made concessions. Therefore it constitutes a recognition of the strength of the Russian President in taking a policy stand which is, you can withdraw from the treaty if you want to, we cannot forbid you to do so, but we do not share this.
The next point which I consider to be very important. The withdrawal of the United States from the ABM Treaty marks a milestone in the evolution of the Bush administration. From the time he came to power in Washington there was a struggle within his team between convinced unilateralists and those who were inclined more to international cooperation. The former include Vice-President Cheney, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and the latter might include Secretary of State Powell. Powell's assistant, Bolton, can also be referred to the first camp and he was the main negotiator on arms control.
September 11 generated the hope that those who inclined towards a more international approach in the US administration were gaining the upper hand and that they would be in the ascendant for at least some time. Nobody said in the United States that it was a fundamental change of Bush's position. What was said was that Bush was torn between politics and his personal convictions. In his conviction, Bush thinks the Untied States should pursue a more unilateral policy. But Bush the international politician realized that international cooperation is needed and that abrupt unilateral moves were not the thing to do. Everybody realized that a roll back would have to occur sooner or later, a roll back from international cooperation to greater unilateralism of actions. But few people expected it to happen so early, in December.
Clearly, the US Secretary of State is losing ground in the US administration. And in my view it may bring problems as early as next year. The debates on NATO enlargement will be tougher. Secondly, if those who support unilateral steps in the US administration take the upper hand, we cannot rule out that the US will withdraw its signature in the CTBT. This treaty was signed in the US in 1996. The Clinton administration was a big supporter of this treaty. However, the Republican Senate refused to ratify this treaty in 1999. By the way, Russia ratified it last year.
The treaty has not become effective, but at least there was hope that no one will withdraw its signature even though they did not ratify it. However, the US may resume underground nuclear testing and lift the unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing. In this case the CTBT will become senseless and irrelevant if not forever then at least for a very long period.
The US may also pay more attention to the development of new types of nuclear weapons, particularly low-yield charges. Their development and testing will require the lifting of the moratorium on nuclear testing. So, if we are talking about a victory in principle in the US administration won by the supporters of unilateral approaches in international relations, this may lead to a series of problematic steps already in 2002.
Next, what does the US secession from the ABM Treaty mean in reality for bilateral relations, first of all, for Russian-US relations? From my point of view, it doesn't mean anything. If from the military-technical point of view, the secession is not fraught with big problems for Russia, I think there is no reason for Russia to aggravate relations with the US.
Moreover, in a medium- and long-term perspective, when the hurt will pass, this decision may even play a positive role in bilateral relations because there is some imbalance between new forms of Russian-US relations, partnership, cooperation and maybe even some quasi-allied relations, and the entire range of arms control issues. I call it an imbalance between hardware and politics.
All this hardware was created for the mutual destruction of each other. So all talk about this hardware is talk about negative things, about how not to destroy each other. But if you are friends and partners, it's silly, I mean not really silly, but it's quite strange to talk about this. However, the US and Russia have all this hardware and we have to somehow make do with it and manage it. This is why it is necessary to conduct negotiations.
However, negotiations on such terrible things that are designed to destroy each other cannot but carry some negative charge. I think that relations revolving around nuclear problems were a big portion of Russian-US relations. Figuratively speaking, we can say that 60 or even 70 percent of Russian-US relations concerned disarmament and arms control problems. In other words, they were implicitly linked to negative factors.
These negative factors are marginalizing in Russian-US relations. The share of nuclear issues in bilateral relations is objectively shrinking. In a long-term perspective, it's good. However, the problem arises, with what to fill in this niche. While before, 60 percent of your relations concerned disarmament and arms control, and now these issues account for only 10 to 30 percent, what are you going to fill in this gap with? It must be filled in with a new agenda, an agenda of cooperation.
There are such things as the fight against terrorism. Perhaps, this issue will be able to fill in this negative niche that was occupied by disarmament issues. So, if both the Russian and the US administrations act wisely, the US secession should not cause any big problems.
At the same time I think, and I am convinced of this, that the US decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty unilaterally will have a tremendous long-term negative impact on international relations in general. Being the strongest country in the world, the US is setting an extremely negative example for the countries that are either strong or seek leadership in their regions and that want to increase their political and military might in these regions. It sets an example of ignoring the interests of one's neighbors, an example of ignoring the opposite view, an example of unilateral steps based on one's own internal interests.
Now let's imagine that this example will be followed by Iran, North Korea, China, India. I assure you that the US reaction will be extremely negative. Let's go back eight years, to 1993, when North Korea said it wanted to withdraw from the NPT. Tremendous international pressure was put on North Korea to make it stay in the treaty, and it was done. North Korea remained a member of the treaty. But what was behind this pressure on North Korea? It was not based on law. It was based on the moral right and the need to maintain fundamental international treaties. But now I think the US is losing this moral right. If you yourself withdraw, under the pretext of unilateral steps, from such a treaty as the ABM Treaty which is largely symbolic and fundamental in modern international relations, how can you possibly make other countries not to withdraw from any treaty if they think they have to withdraw?
I think this factor will have a very serious long-term negative impact on the system of international treaties and international relations in general. I think that the decision to exit the ABM Treaty was brought about by internal American factors. Many ask why Bush decided to make this decision now. As a rule, two factors are named. First, the US wants to build a facility in Alaska next summer. It will be a facility for testing interceptor missiles but in the future it may be turned into a base for deploying combat interceptor missiles. The second factor is that the US needs to build a radar, as an element of the national missile defense system, on the Shemya Island.
These two reasons are cited. Because it's the tundra in Alaska and on the Shemya Island, the period when construction may be done is very short, from late spring till the end of summer, and in order to be able to start this work on time, it is necessary to withdraw from the treaty now. These are the factors that are mentioned.
But it won't be a disaster if all these construction plans were postponed for a year. Well, it didn't matter all that much if they were to finish all these installations by 2005 and not 2004. They won't make it in time anyway. Being one year late does not make much difference. What is more important that the President of the United States is tremendously popular inside the United States at present. And the decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty is not very popular in America, The feelings about it are mixed. And a controversial decision is best taken at the peak of popularity, which is what he is doing.
Another internal consideration. After the terrorist acts of September 11 a kind of compromise has emerged in the United States. The Democrats and the Republicans are willing to make concessions on thorny internal and international problems for the sake of the unity of the nation. And Bush administration hopes rationally that the Democratic opposition in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, although it will be critical of President Bush's decision, that criticism will be muted in order to preserve the unity of the nation in the midst of the war against international terrorism.
Based on these two factors President Bush understands that it is easier to take such a controversial decision now then half a year or a year from now. This is the ideal time and he would be a fool not to take advantage of it. This was most probably what his advisers were telling him. Then, of course, there is the consideration that Russia seems to be prepared to accept the decision and so on. But the main reason why it was made at this point in time is internal -- the two factors I have mentioned.
What does Russia have to do? There is much talk about whether we should withdraw from this or that treaty, from START-1, START-2, from the medium- and shorter-range missile treaty, from the treaty on conventional forces in Europe. I should say that Russia has some time to make all these decisions. So far the United States has served notification that it will withdraw in six months' time.
And a formal reaction should appropriately be in June and not now when we have just been notified of something that will happen in half a year's time. So, Russia still has time to consult with the United States, to hold negotiations and come up with its own reaction in spring or next summer.
I think it would be more correct to react to the fact of the withdrawal and not to the notification of withdrawal in six months time. Theoretically, how can Russia react more broadly? Of course, Russia's reaction has in many ways been made clear by Putin's statement yesterday. Even so, how can Russia react?
First, to go into a sulking tent and to some anti-American slogans. This is leading into a dead end and it is good that President Putin rejected his approach in his statement yesterday.
The second variant is to pretend that nothing has happened. It's business as usual, we have foreseen it, it hasn't come as a surprise to us, we are ready for it and nothing wrong has happened. Everyone has done a good job. That is a possible reaction.
I think it is better than the first reaction, but it is not ideal. Why? Because it creates an impression among partners of Russia that Russia is ready for anything and can swallow anything. The only question is if you enable Russia to do it without loss of face. Provided you give her such a chance you can get away with anything. I think it would be a wrong message to the international community.
And the third variant is to prove that the withdrawal of the United States from the ABM Treaty is not a concession to Russia. It was Russia that to a large extent induced the Untied States to such a unilateral withdrawal. Russia refused to jointly withdraw from the ABM Treaty.
And it bears repeating that it is a bad decision, that it is to some extent a diplomatic setback for Russia. It is not a tragedy from the military-technical point of view, but it is a setback for the Russian diplomacy. We had declared that we did not want that decision be made but nevertheless it has been made. This indicates our limited influence and highlights the need to strengthen our diplomacy.
And the third point. I think it is important to separate the diplomatic setbacks from personality of President Putin because the on the ABM Treaty the President was largely playing someone else's game. All the main positions had been stated before him. He simply took up the position that was traditional for the Soviet Union and for the Russian Federation. He was playing other people's endgame and he couldn't have played it in any other way.
But the world should be given to understand that he will pursue his own foreign policy initiatives in a way that they will have to be reckoned with and that Russia is not only ready to adequate respond and protect its interests, but it will be ready to influence its partners -- the US, China, Iran or whoever -- and force them to reckon with the Russian point of view even when taking internal decisions that have international implications.
Moderator: Thank you. I now give the floor to Ruslan Nikolayevich Pukhov.
Pukhov: Thank you. I would like to dwell on some aspects of the problem. It won't be a coherent speech like that of Ivan Alexeyevich. I could take issue with him on some points. But before I pass on to the gist of my remarks, I would like to confirm that, yes, the withdrawal of the United States from the ABM Treaty is not so critical for Russian-American relations. It is certainly not prejudicial to the national security of Russia, but it provides a kind of reference point for the system of international relations. This was probably why we thought we should present our point of view in such an extended manner.
When the anti-terrorist operation (after September 11) began the tendency to make decisions taking into account the opinion of allies and other actors in the foreign policy arena prevailed. American policy still uses double standards: where the Americans need a broad presence of allies and other important players in the world, they invite them and are eager to bring them into some system of coordinates; when it is not interested, the United States takes unilateral decisions. So, perhaps, we will have to wait before we become aware of the full impact of that step for international relations. And the Polish colleagues present here will correct me if I am wrong, it coincided with the 20th anniversary of the imposition of martial law in Poland which, as we now know, marked the start of the disintegration of the Soviet bloc.
But that was a lyrical digression. I would like to dwell on some points connected with the situation inside the country and Russia's struggle for the preservation of the ABM Treaty.
I quite agree with Ivan Alexeyevich Safranchuk that President Putin has another players cards when finishing that game. He had to make do with the legacy he had inherited. The ABM Treaty topic was raised under Yeltsin. After Putin came to power, the President did not intervene into discussion directly. He left it entirely to the Foreign Ministry and to some extent to the Defense Ministry to pursue that discussion.
But just several months before the United States withdrew from the ABM Treaty, President Putin stepped in to try to help solve the problem. I would like to remind you of what he said on November 10, 2001 at a meeting with the American media on the eve of his visit to the United States. Just two quotations. "It is very pleasant to us, and it is very pleasant to me, that President Bush has turned out to be a person with whom we have formed a good personal relationship. And today we say: we are prepared to discuss the parameters of the 1972 ABM Treaty. But to do so we must have a concrete setting up of position on the part of our American partners -- what it is that they specifically propose to change, what specifically impedes the implementation of the program conceived by the United States administration." And then the President elaborated the thesis that Russia would like to solve this issue with the Bush administration, that the Bush victory had been expected and there is hope that we will be able to come to agreement. I think that in this particular case we can speak about a certain mistake in perception if not on the part of Putin, then on the part of Russian diplomacy because from the very beginning the US position was that they wanted to withdraw from the treaty, to modify it. This is why it would be at least illogical to pin some hopes that an agreement may be reached, let alone interfere in this no-win game. I want to refer you to one story. Almost the same situation occurred before President Putin's visit to Austria when he lobbied MIG-29 aircraft.
Everybody in the world, and in Russia too, understood that not only Austrians will never agree to take these planes, but they will never even allow them to participate in the tender. And that's actually what happened. But in the very last minute a paragraph was inserted in the President's speech, in which he said that it was the best choice for the Austrians. This is why there was such a strong reaction from Austria that refused to take our planes.
This creates the impression that Russia's, if not foreign policy then diplomacy remains to live by the framework that existed in the 1970s-1980s when we tried to give. When attempts to give fail, we try to reel back and work to keep our face, which I think is wrong.
I would also like to note the fact that the President has basically supported President Bush personally in hope for some understanding from him. In response, when the whole world is building an anti-terrorist coalition where Russia has an important place, Bush solved a purely technical question, of which Ivan Alexeyevich spoke so well. At the peak of his popularity he made a very unpopular decision, thus placing President Putin in a not very good light.
However, I'd like to add that there is hope that the arms control system will not be ruined. We saw this in the President's speech yesterday when experts had forecasted if not strong-worded statements that we withdraw from arms control agreements, then at least some pause. We must give credit to the President who said that we will continue negotiations with the Americans on a START-3 treaty, that the world needs it, that we have to reduce the number of warheads and introduce a new verification system. Thank you.
Q: TASS. You said the US may start testing low-yield nuclear charges. Do you think that the secession from the ABM Treaty will lead to the militarization of outer space?
Safranchuk: This is a complex question because the militarization of outer space is a controversial issue. Placing strike weapons on satellites or some platform in the orbit is one thing. But deploying an infrastructure in outer space that will support ground-based weapons, thus increasing their efficiency as we saw in the 1990s, is another thing.
Speaking strictly of the militarization of outer space and the deployment of strike weapons in outer space, this is a very big technical challenge which is not directly connected with the ABM Treaty because this treaty does not ban the deployment of strike weapons in outer space.
However, it is absolutely obvious that if the system of international relations is experiencing the dramatic turn that I and Ruslan Nikolayevich have been talking about today, when some taboos that existed for decades are lifted, this turn may lead, among other things, to the militarization of outer space, not in the immediate future, of course, but in the next decade. In other words, this is connected not directly with the ABM Treaty but with its overall impact on the system of international relations.
If we mean the second form of militarization of outer space -- the deployment of some infrastructure to support ground-based weapons, the plans made by the Clinton administration and apparently by Bush administration too call for increasing the space component of the missile defense system. In this respect, the withdrawal from the ABM Treaty which directly banned the deployment of ABM elements in outer space will influence the deployment of satellites for detecting targets in orbits in outer space.
Q: A question to both of you. Could you please explain your words that the US exit from the ABM Treaty will not have military-technical consequences for Russia, nor will it endanger it? And what may be Russia's military-technical response to this withdrawal?
Safranchuk: First, why won't it have any direct impact? In general, this was explained yesterday by the President in his speech. Russia is the only nuclear power, besides the US, which has means for piercing missile defense. What the US will be able to create in the next 10-15 years will intercept 20 to 50 targets. Russia may easily oversaturate this system.
Besides, Russia has a technology of counter measures against offensive weapons which will not be stopped by missile defense. So, what may Russia do and what must be done as a precaution? First of all it is necessary to start installing multiple warheads on ground-based missiles, at least on mobile ones.
Q: This is not banned by START-1 but banned by START-2 that will become effective -- (inaudible) --
Safranchuk: In principle you are right. START-1 restricts the deployment of multiple warheads on missiles, on ground-based ICBMs. However, START-2 totally bans multiple warheads on ground-based ICBMs.
At the same time, if my memory doesn't fail me, START-1 imposes restrictions on missile modernization. This means that we can preserve those missiles that are already equipped with multiple warheads but cannot put such warheads on the missiles that do not have them. This is why I think that the deployment of multiple warheads on Topol or Topol-M missiles runs counter not only to START-2 treaty, but also START-1. This is why I say that perhaps we will have to play back and withdraw from some of the provisions of the treaty and perhaps from the treaties as a whole. This does not mean a collapse. In principle, arms control does not mean arms race. It means that it is necessary to take certain measures and it's quite natural that some of these measures will contradict existing treaties.
Pukhov: I'd like to add a military-technical aspect to what has been said. The thing is that during all the years of reform in Russia, we have failed not only to overhaul our military-industrial complex but even sort things out with the system of internal orders. Up until the year 1995, many directors forced the state order out of the Defense Minister and the chief of armaments. When the Defense Ministry said, "You know, we have no money to buy your products, and actually we don't really need them", the directors replied, "You know, you simply sign up that you will buy them, and we will work things out".
After the documents were signed, they ran to courts or the government and said, "The Defense Ministry does not pay us". So, some time in 1996 the Defense Ministry stopped placing defense orders at all. The only thing they tried to preserve was design schools. This is why we have more than 100 federal programs to develop underwater armaments or special weapons and all kinds of R&D program. Unfortunately, all of them were financed by only 7-8 or sometimes 20 percent of what was necessary. This is why we could not achieve the planned results either in five or 10 years, let alone prototypes.
But there was one exception. Although the system of weapons procurement and the decision-making system were contradictory, there was the law on the state defense order that required a tender. But no tenders were held because something was decided by the prime minister of President Yeltsin and something by the military brass. There was only one fundamental decision that was adopted in circumvention of this confusing procedure. It was a decision of Defense Minister Sergeyev and the commander of Strategic Rocket Forces, Yakovlev, to launch the Topol-M program.
This program was financed in full until the second Chechen war began in Dagestan, actually even the first war when Grozny was taken. The Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering and the Votkinsk plant were involved in the program. They managed to do something and this something will enable us to achieve what Ivan Alexeyevich talked about. The only place where the situation with weapons is more or less good and perhaps even excessively good is the general-purpose forces. I have always thought that we should strengthen these forces rather than the strategic nuclear forces, and the experience of Afghanistan and Chechnya proved this. In other words, they were saturated with money so much that they managed to do a lot.
Q: -- (inaudible) -- you said it was the failure of Russian diplomacy. Will any systemic corrections be made in this policy or some changes in Russian diplomacy in the future?
Pukhov: I'd like to tell you a joke. Russia's foreign policy is made by the President. But diplomacy is the prerogative of the Ministry. The fact that our diplomacy bears all the birthmarks of Soviet diplomacy -- we have all graduated from the Moscow Institute of International Relations, and I regret to say that this is perhaps one of the reasons why I did not join the Foreign Ministry.
The art of diplomacy has been lost practically fully. In my view, why most arms control treaties were signed with the Republican administrations and not with Democrats is that the latter were a little bit sophisticated compared to the former. This is why we could reach an agreement with the Republicans quite quickly. With the Democrats, we had to play long.
Soviet diplomacy was not capable of doing this. Soviet diplomacy can be described as an attempt to bank one's shoe and put pressure and say like Gromyko said "Nyet", or else, and this is another extreme, cry one's heart out and say that we are a great power but no one listens to us. This is basically what Soviet diplomacy did for the last 10 years. It had no strength to put pressure, and therefore it either went into hysterics or lamented all the time and said that they would appreciate some of our actions. As for such a notion as gratitude in diplomacy and foreign policy, it simply doesn't exist. There may be gratitude between people, but there can't be gratitude between states. Therefore, we can hardly wait for gratitude from Bush for our support of the operation in Afghanistan.
Safranchuk: We do not want to criticize our diplomacy or the Foreign Ministry. It's just as experts we get the impression sometimes that the not-so-bad art of Soviet diplomacy, of the Soviet diplomatic school can be always applied to the current situation. It's one thing when you are a diplomat and you represent a great power, you understand that it is hard for you to change your ways and accept the fact that behind you is not a great power but just a strong country with a huge potential and that you should not so much use the potential of this country as to contribute to this potential.
One cannot always adapt to such a change, and we can understand that. It's a human factor. If you are talking about systemic changes, I would say that sometimes the discrepancy between foreign policy ambitions and diplomatic possibilities will strengthen other agencies, and this is already happening in foreign policy, that is, the Defense Ministry, the presidential administration and the President himself.
Pukhov: And to some extent even the office of Prime Minister.
Safranchuk: No, Prime Minister is rather a technical, economic figure. But theoretically, if it were Primakov -- Ruslan says the office of Prime Minister. If the post of Prime Minister were held by a person like Primakov, not by Primakov himself but someone like him, then, perhaps, yes, the office of Prime Minister too. And if it's a technical premier like Kasyanov, then, perhaps, no. He will not try to assume foreign policy functions.
I think that this discrepancy between foreign policy ambitions that so obviously the President of Russia and Russia itself have, which is very good, of course, but this discrepancy between these ambitions and our diplomatic possibilities will strengthen the positions, and is already strengthening, of other agencies, other than the Foreign Ministry, and their role in determining and implementing the foreign policy. Among such agencies I would name first of all the presidential administration and the Defense Ministry, where it concerns them, of course.
Q: Could you talk a little bit about the reaction of other countries to the US secession, primarily of China?
Safranchuk: As for China's reaction, I think it was -- I mean expectations of China's response were exaggerated. China has repeatedly said that it will not follow the Soviet example and will not let itself be drawn into and arms race with the US. Even though it is not an arms race in the full meaning of this word, I would expect the nuclear competition between the US and China to increase.
I think it's even good for Russia, to some extent, because Russia could try to play the role of some balance in this US-Chinese nuclear competition because the Soviet Union and then Russia have gone through this many times and we have experience and we have authority. We have got out of this competition more or less successfully with minimal losses, and this gives us moral right to become a balance and give advice and exert certain pressure on this competition. And to boost our international authority in general.
I think that this is a possible scenario. In other words, it will give Russia a foreign policy chance to play a very positive role in the nuclear sphere by trying to regulate US-Chinese nuclear competition.
Speaking of the technical aspects, China is modernizing its nuclear weapons, including ICBMs, submarines carrying ballistic missiles, and nuclear-capable aviation. I think these programs would be implemented anyway, it's just that now they have been stepped up but no more than that. I do not think that the People's Republic of China will get drawn into direct competition with the US. I would even think that the US exit, the withdrawal of the US signature from the CTBT may have even a greater impact on Chinese programs that the secession from the ABM Treaty.
Pukhov: I would like to add, if you don't mind that as an arms specialist I can forecast that the Chinese will increase R&D funding and allocate more money for the acquisition of what we call means of force projection, such as anti-ship missiles. It may make attempt to built its own aircraft carriers or buy more of them in Russia and France, or to build its own aircraft similar to the SU-27, and long-haul interceptors with strike functions.
Going back to your first question, I think interesting changes have occurred in Putin's foreign policy compared by Yeltsin's foreign policy. Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin and people around him were apparently surprised to learn from time to time that Russia's GDP was only 7-10 percent of the US GDP, that the Boeing budget was bigger than Russia's budget, that Russia's exports matched Holland's exports and imports equaled Australia's imports. And when they learned all this, I think this put them in a state of depression, hysterics or prodded them into taking some bad steps. President Putin and his inner circle realized that it was possible to play and maneuver even with a limited amount of resources. Rommel, who had fewer troops than the Britons, and all of his logistical systems were bombed by the Englishmen through the Mediterranean, managed to drive the Britons and the Americans around the deserts for a year although they outnumbered him, only because of his military art.
The same is here. Sometime there is not enough resources, even in a very big country. I was surprised to learn that President Bush devoted one of his foreign policy speeches to the fact that the US army was a wreck, that the status of servicemen had dropped, that their salaries were small, that their hardware was obsolete and, as it turned out, 10 percent of their weaponry was obsolete. In Russia it's 98 percent. So, it's a situation of half-empty or half-full glass. We have to be positively oriented toward reality and toward what is happening in Russia's foreign policy.
Q: What will affect the internal political situation in Russia in the future?
Safranchuk: Do you mean how the secession of the US from the ABM Treaty affect the political situation in Russia? I don't think there will be a strong impact. I think that there will be a lot of criticism of the President because when Putin came to power, everybody supported him. Only some expected that he would resume confrontation with America, while others thought that he would make friendship with America. Some expected him to join the WTO, while others expected that we will not join the WTO and that there will be the protectionist policy. In other words, different people expected different things from him.
Step by step, Putin is getting rid of those who expected him to do what is not going to do. Apparently what is happening now will allow the President to get rid of those who looked for confrontation with the West, for rivalry with the West.
Is it good or bad? I think it's good because one has to understand who is with him and who is not with him. Will it in any way affect his career? I don't think so. Some say that the military will organize sabotage and obstruct things, that the military is displeased and the brass is complaining. So what, the brass complains everywhere.
Pukhov: It always complains about political authorities.
Safranchuk: For example you will hardly be able to find an active general or admiral in the US who would support the administration's plans to create missile defense, except an agency called Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, which is a division of the Defense Ministry that is making NMD plans and preparing their philosophical and technical substantiation.
Outside this NMD agency, you will hardly find anyone among the active US military in the general-purpose forces who supports the investment of tens and maybe even hundreds of billions of dollars in missile defense. Complaining, so what? Let them complain. It's not that they are displeased, they disagree.
The military always disagrees with everything. But one must understand that a political decision is a political decision. The military serves, it does not make policy. The policy is made by elected politicians, like it or not. I think that the modern Russian military understands this and understands this very well. This is why I do not think that Putin's position will be undermined in the executive branch, among ministries or in the public opinion. I think that he will not have big problems because of this.
Q: Does Russia have financial possibilities to install multiple warheads on the new missiles? Is it realistic an won't it be too big a challenge for us to tackle?
Safranchuk: We have already said that there is no need to take any special action. We have everything. It's either developed but not tested yet or, if it has already been tested, it's not mass produced yet. Since we are talking about limited measures, I don't think they will be a big burden for the military budget, let alone the national budget. These programs exist anyway but they are mothballed or semi-mothballed. This does not mean that we must begin some programs from scratch. These programs are in the stage when they can be brought back to life at minimal costs.
In order to activate them by 90 percent, we need to add only 10 percent of funds, figuratively speaking. This is why I think that there won't be financial problems.
Q: A follow-up question. What kind of US reaction do you expect to Russia's decision to deploy additional missiles with multiple warheads? Will this cause additional tension in relations or will the Americans swallow this?
Safranchuk: First of all, no such decision has been adopted yet. If it is adopted, will they swallow this or not? Russia is allowing the US to take some measures that the US believes are necessary for its national security. I think the US has expressed full readiness to give Russia the same freedom in making a decision regarding its own national security and its own concerns. This is why I think that there is no question of accepting something grudgingly. It will be a very natural and easy process.
Q: A follow-up question. Is a new treaty on cuts in strategic weapons realistic in this situation?
Safranchuk: A new treaty?
Q: Yes, a new treaty or, as it is called now, formalizing cuts in a legal way.
Safranchuk: On the one hand, President Putin -- Americans are withdrawing from the ABM Treaty, and our President is offering them to sign a new treaty on the reduction of offensive weapons. On the one hand, it looks like some contradiction because Russia has always said that if there is no ABM Treaty, what other agreements on further cuts can we talk about? On the other hand, I think there is no big contradiction here. It's some sort of a test for the American administration, if you like, an attempt, no, not an attempt, but the desire to leave the US within the framework of international cooperation on these issues.
So, if the US comes to be dominated by the position of unilateral steps in the field of international security, and the supporters of this position say, no, they don't say that the ABM Treaty is bad, they say that all treaties in this sphere are bad and that there must be no treaties at all. By the way, it's a funny situation. A diplomat, a political appointee in diplomacy, Bolton, undersecretary of state, says that treaties are not needed. A little bit strange. Usually diplomats said the opposite. But here a diplomat says -- but again, this is a political appointed diplomat.
Pukhov: And military man Powell on the contrary --
Safranchuk: And military man Powell says that treaties are needed. If the US administration becomes dominated by the view that it will take only unilateral steps from now on, there is a danger, and this applies not only to the ABM Treaty, but other treaties as well, that the US may not want to sign a new treaty, especially a one establishing strict control requirements and stringent restrictions.
But this does not mean that Russia must give this up. Russia is trying to leave the US within the framework of cooperation and negotiations. And the US will have to decide what is going on. Its decision concerns not only the ABM Treaty and the missile defense system it thinks necessary to deploy. In principle the US is rejecting the entire system of international treaties.
I believe it necessary to understand this, including in order to understand what will happen to the Non-Proliferation Treaty among other things. So, roughly speaking, I would say this is a test for the American administration.
Q: How serious are US statements that there will be no further consultations?
Safranchuk: Whose statements?
Q: That there will be no more consultations.
Pukhov: Who said this?
Q: The US.
Pukhov: What kind of consultations? The decision has been made. That's it.
Safranchuk: It's somewhat controversial information because some say that the US is not against holding some consultations in the next six months, while others say that there will be no consultations.
Ruslan Nikolayevich is right, the decision has been made, it is clear and coherent and many have agreed with it. But it's a US decision and it will be on the conscience of the US and the US administration. But I would not rule out that the sides will continue some consultations and sign something new without modifying the treaty from which the Americans are going to withdraw. I think that there is chance for that, although very slim. But theoretically we cannot rule this out. We still have six months.
Moderator: Thank you. I understand that there are no more questions. Then I thank everybody for attention and I thank our guests.