Metta Spencer in conversation with three nuclear disarmament experts: Sergey Rogov, academic director of the USA-Canada Institute in Moscow; Theodore A. Postol, emeritus professor of science and technology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Douglas Roche, former Canadian senator, ambassador for disarmament, and Peace Magazine honorary patron.
METTA SPENCER: Sergey Rogov, will you give us a historical summary of today’s situation regarding the INF Treaty?
SERGEY ROGOV: Metta, this is the third crisis. The first one happened almost sixty years ago when the United States deployed its Jupiter medium-range missiles (which could hit Moscow) in Italy and Turkey. Khrushchev responded by deploying Soviet medium-range missiles in Cuba in 1962. That created the most dangerous crisis in the entire Cold War, but fortunately Kennedy and Khrushchev reached an agreement. The Soviets withdrew medium-range missiles from Cuba and the United States (without announcing it at first) withdrew their Jupiter missiles from Europe.
The second crisis was in the late ’70s and early ’80s, when the Soviet Union deployed the new generation of medium-range missiles on European Soviet territory. The Ronald Reagan administration responded by deploying American medium-range missiles, ballistic missiles, Pershing II, and cruise missiles in Germany and other NATO countries in Western Europe. We had another extremely dangerous Euromissile crisis in 1983.
But when Gorbachev came to power we started serious negotiations and signed the INF Treaty, which completely banned all ground-based missiles—ballistic missiles and cruise missiles—with ranges 500 to 5,500 kilometers—both Soviet and American missiles.
The Soviet Union destroyed more than 1899 medium-range missiles and the United States 846 missiles of medium-range. And until now the Russians and the Americans have sea-launched missiles and air-launched missiles but no ground-launched missiles.
The present crisis is related to the situation when both Russia and the United States accused each other of non-compliance. The Trump administration announced the decision to suspend the implementation of the INF Treaty and withdraw from this agreement in six months. So the clock is ticking.
And Russia announced that we shall follow: We shall also suspend and we shall also withdraw. So if no miracle happens, within six months this treaty will be dead.
SPENCER: I’m fixated on the image of Reykjavik, where Reagan and Gorbachev almost decided to abolish all their nuclear weapons.
ROGOV: At Reykjavik they decided to launch negotiations. In 1983, Reagan had announced the Strategic Defence Initiative—“Star Wars”—which was incompatible with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. There was a threat that the entire arms control regime would collapse. But in Reykjavik they decided to negotiate three baskets. One was ballistic missile defence. Another was strategic missiles, and another was intermediate-range nuclear missiles. In 1987 we signed the INF Treaty—the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty—which banned all medium-range ground-launched missiles. It was completely implemented within four years.
SPENCER: And this treaty has kept a modicum of order in the world, but now we hear mutual accusations that both Russia and the United States have been violating it.
THEODORE POSTOL: Sergey talks about the broad historical context, but I’m going to focus on the minutiae of this moment. In September 2009 President Obama decided to withdraw the large ballistic missile interceptors that the Bush administration was planning to deploy in Poland for defence against Iranian long-range ballistic missiles. This is the same ground-based ballistic missile defence system that is deployed in Alaska now. The Bush administration was planning to set up a second site for launching interceptors in Poland.
SPENCER: But what’s the point of having interceptors in Alaska?
POSTOL: The interceptors there were supposedly to stop ballistic missile attacks from North Korea. Since ballistic missiles would travel in the direction of Alaska, interceptors launched there could—well, it wouldn’t work very well, but the theory was that they’d intercept warheads being fired at the West and East Coasts of the United States. Those interceptors in Alaska would be long-range.
SPENCER: Thank you. I hadn’t heard that.
POSTOL: A secondary objective was to be able to launch interceptors against ballistic missile warheads from Iran. If launched toward the East Coast of the United States, the Iranian missiles would travel over the pole and over eastern Canada. The theory at the time was that the very large interceptors in Alaska could race across the United States and intercept these Iranian ballistic missiles.
SPENCER: That’s quite a distance.
ROGOV: Yes, this was too distant a race to be counted on, and the Americans also wanted to deploy interceptors in Poland. Interceptors launched from Iran would fly north or northwest to attack the United States, so interceptors in Poland could reach them as they flew over Europe. The Bush administration had planned to deploy ten large interceptors. They carry a hit-to-kill vehicle about the size of a nuclear warhead. But for the interceptor to get the high speed required, has to be on a big, fast missile. Not surprisingly, the Russians objected to this and there was tension about it with the United States.
SPENCER: I had the impression that the Russians’ objections had little to do with intercepting Iran. They believed these really were to intercept Russian missiles. Is that true?
POSTOL: What you say is true. My colleagues and I showed that this Russian concern had a technical basis. We published articles showing that under some circumstances the missiles could shoot down Russian missiles launched from European Russia against the United States. The Russians did raise questions about it. They were focused on their own deterrent, and correctly so.
There were other secondary issues. For example, if the Americans would intercept Iranian missiles launched against the United States, the stage of the rockets from those American interceptors would fall on Russian territory. That would be of concern to the Russians, but it was not the major issue, as I understood it.
The Obama administration took office and in September 2009 Obama announced that he would substitute for the Bush administration proposal a system called the European Phased Adaptive Approach. It would use interceptors that could be launched from an Aegis destroyer. These interceptors were modified from surface-to-air missiles and could supposedly shoot down Iranian ballistic missiles.
Unfortunately, I believe—in fact, I am sure—that Obama’s advisers failed to serve the president correctly. This was a gigantic error on the part of the Obama administration. The interceptors were not fast enough to be useful and they depended on the Aegis ship’s radars. But the Aegis radars could not see far enough to detect Iranian warheads and allow these slow-moving interceptors reach them. The system was inherently incapable of intercepting long-range Iranian missiles.
My colleagues and I wrote about this, beginning in 2010. Then the US Department of Defense published an elaborate analysis acknowledging that the Aegis radars were not capable of detecting and tracking at long enough range to support the missile intercepts.
I’m speculating about this, but I worked in the Department of Defense as a senior policy adviser to the chief of naval operations. My guess is that the Department of Defense did not realize what it was publishing. Normally this kind of analysis would be classified.
SPENCER: Your analysis?
POSTOL: No, the Department of Defense analysis. I think everybody was on automatic control. They didn’t read the study carefully enough and knew what it was saying. I don’t think it should have been classified, but the Department of Defense tries to manipulate public opinion so they would normally have classified this document. But they didn’t.
SPENCER: Why not? Would it have exposed some lies?
POSTOL: It would have shown that the Department of Defense did not properly inform the president about his decision. No president would knowingly deploy a system that had no chance of working. I don’t believe Obama would ever do that. So, this is speculation but it has to be correct. In my judgment the Department of Defense failed to inform the president adequately about his decision. And his policy staff also failed to follow up properly.
SPENCER: Were they just being stupid or were they deliberately deceptive because they had some stake in a game that they didn’t want to lose?
POSTOL: I hope Congress will eventually find that out. Right now we’re focused on the INF Treaty. That’s the important issue. But if Congress is interested in why egregious policy mistakes have been made, they ought to look into this. Such organizational failures could result in other bad decisions.
SPENCER: I want to ask a more fundamental question. I have heard that ballistic missile systems don’t actually work well enough to have ever even bothered with them—that the success rate in intercepting incoming missiles is so low, even when they rig the system so as to let them know where they’re going to be at a certain time, that it’s not worth anything. The only thing that a ballistic missile defence system can do very well is shoot down somebody else’s satellites. Is there anything to this argument?
POSTOL: You’re basically correct. These ballistic missile defences have very marginal capability in benign environments. By benign I mean where you’re not facing an adversary who’s trying to make intercepting difficult. And that’s not hard to do. Missile defences do not have any realistic military capability. However, you can get the worst of both worlds because of psychological and bureaucratic responses to missile defences. Even when a missile defence has little or no capability, the other side may respond as if it does have capability.
I’m one of the rare Americans who read Putin’s speeches. (laughs.) If you read his statements, it is clear that he does not believe the American missile defences are at all capable. However, he is concerned that some day Americans in leadership roles might believe that these systems do have capacity. Their actions might result in an escalation to a nuclear war against Russia. I believe his concern is well founded. Although he understands that these defence systems have essentially no capacity, he rightly worries that some people in decision-making positions could misunderstand and start an action-reaction cycle that neither side could stop. I think Mr. Putin does have a competent grasp of the situation.
This situation is like waving a plastic gun in front of a police force that thinks you may be a terrorist. They can’t be sure what you’re going to do. They don’t know that the gun is plastic, and they know your behavior could lead to violence. So this is very, very dangerous.
SPENCER: So far, you’ve talked mostly about discoveries you made about 2010 or 2011. Bring us up to date about these canisters—the launchers on this Aegis Ashore system.
POSTOL: The other thing that Obama was not informed about is that the Aegis system was designed to launch all kinds of ballistic and cruise missiles. The only constraint on launching a missile from an Aegis system is that it must fit inside the standard canister. So in 2009 President Obama proposed to have ballistic missile interceptors, along with the other interceptors that are on these ships, modified to be able to be fired from ships. So the ships could have cruise missiles. They could have anti-aircraft missiles. They could have self-defence missiles that are designed to shoot down missiles that are coming at the ship. And they could launch cruise missiles, which can attack targets on land or even other ships.
SPENCER: And they could carry nuclear warheads.
POSTOL: There’s no reason they couldn’t. Now there’s a variant of the Aegis system that is called Aegis Ashore. Ashore meaning “on land.” The Aegis Ashore system was supposed to be deployed on land in Poland and Romania. Those sites are made of the same components that are on the ship. They’re just put in the ground. So, if you look at a canister that contains a cruise missile and you look at a canister that contains an anti-missile interceptor, the canisters look exactly the same.
The Russians raised questions about this at some time after the president’s decision. I’ve been trying to find out when the Russians first raised questions about these sites that could launch cruise missiles. The United States has categorically denied having the capability. As an engineer, I have no doubt that this system could launch cruise missiles within hours or a few days of moving certain equipment into place. These smart canisters contain electronics that tell the main system whether the canister has a cruise missile, an anti-missile missile, or some other kind of missile. They communicate that information to the main system, which immediately knows how to launch the missile. So, it’s no different than having a flash drive with information on it that you give to a friend to plug into his computer. The brand and size of the flash drive is irrelevant. The computer is already designed to recognize what is on the flash drive and know how to read it. The Russians have raised questions about it but we don’t know how early they raised those questions, nor do we know how long the discussion has been going on. But we do know that the United States has refused to talk to the Russians about this at all.
ROGOV: The Russians raised this issue immediately. When Obama announced his decision, we immediately complained about the MK41 launcher of the Aegis Ashore, with its capability to launch cruise missiles. It was ignored for ten years.
POSTOL: Thank you very much, Sergey, because you have given me information that I could not get out of Mike McFaul, who is here at Stanford. He refuses to talk to me every time I have raised this question. So, since Mike McFaul was involved in that decision, there’s no question he knows that the Russians raised this question and he has not been saying anything about it. I just want to put that on the record.
SPENCER: I want to get clarity in my own mind. This Aegis system is not in itself a violation of the INF. It would only be a violation if they put the wrong kind of missile in there that was not for intercepting incoming missiles but was intended as an attack weapon. Right?
POSTOL: It has the appearance of preparations to rapidly violate the INF Treaty.
ROGOV: I beg your pardon, no. The INF Treaty bans not only the intermediate-range missiles but also ground-based launchers for those missiles. Aegis Ashore was built as a sea-based launcher, but since it’s ashore, underground, it immediately becomes a violation because it has a built-in capability to launch cruise missiles like the Tomahawk. The Tomahawk was developed as a sea-launched cruise missile but it can be launched as a ground-based cruise missile. So, it is already a violation. It’s not the capability to violate. It’s a violation because it’s a ground-based launcher for cruise missiles.
POSTOL: Let me thank you again, Sergey. I’ve been trying to get information about these things and my own countrymen seem reluctant. The current systems have 24 launchers. There is no limit on the number they could have. The limit has nothing to do with the number of launchers; it has to do simply with the computer, which has tremendous capacity to launch at least 128 and probably several hundreds.
It would not be acceptable to me if the Russians were to do this, and I understand why the Russians would not find it acceptable either.
DOUGLAS ROCHE: So far, we have been having a technical discussion between two experts. Of course, the INF is a treaty essentially between those two states. But the broader meaning of the discussion is far beyond the technical requirements of the INF and beyond the INF itself. We would be remiss not to consider what is at stake in the abandonment of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. We are on the verge of the collapse of the nuclear disarmament architecture. This presages the coming end of the New START Treaty, inasmuch as there are no negotiations taking place for its extension, which will expire in 2021.
All of this plays into the even larger scene of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which will be 50 years old in 2020. The preparatory processes are already underway for the review conference to be held in 2020.
I just came back from Ottawa a few days ago, where I conferred with a very high official of the government of Canada on the INF, the START, and the NPT. And while I am certainly not speaking here on behalf of the Canadian government, I can state that the most knowledgeable people inside the government of Canada are very pessimistic about the continuation of the nuclear disarmament architecture.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is controversial. None of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, who are the nuclear weapons states, countenance it. That treaty reflects the great frustration today in the minds and hearts of many knowledgeable people around the world. One is Mikhail Gorbachev, whom I know and respect as a friend. Gorbachev himself told me how important the events were that led up to Reykjavik and the INF. What were those events?
They include the Six Nation Initiative, in which a number of the middle power states in the mid-1980s went to Washington and Moscow to request on behalf of all humanity to cease and desist the nuclear arms race.
At about that time Pierre Trudeau, the father of the present prime minister, went to the P Five states, including Washington and Moscow, to plead with them to come down from this high nuclear mountain that had been built with the 60,000 nuclear weapons that they had at the height of the Cold War, and begin to make progress on behalf of humanity.
Gorbachev told me that those two events inter alia resulted in the Reykjavik meeting. However, the complete elimination of nuclear weapons was not successful because of the importuning of the officials on both sides. Neither the Soviet Union nor the United States could stand the idea that their principals would actually take nuclear weapons off the table. But they finally settled on the INF about a year later. It became the most important treaty outside the NPT.
So, the matter that we are discussing is not just between the United States and Russia because they are the parties to the treaty. It is a matter for all of humanity. The NPT explicitly states in the 2010 review, that all states—not just nuclear weapon states—I repeat, not just nuclear states—have a right to be engaged in the issues of nuclear weapons.
For years, I led the Middle Powers Initiative, which was sponsored by non-governmental organizations, a civil society initiative, but which closely involved a number of states, some of whom are in the New Agenda Coalition. These middle power states recognize their responsibility to speak up to the two superpowers about their obligations to Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. That obliges them to act in good faith and commence comprehensive negotiations toward the elimination of nuclear weapons. This has never happened.
In 1985, as the ambassador for Canada, I led the Canadian delegation to the review of the NPT. I have been to every one of those quinquennial reviews ever since and I am conscious of the promises that were made by the nuclear weapon states in 1995: to make concrete progress toward a CTBT, a comprehensive test ban treaty, to work collaboratively to fulfill the NPT, and to hold a conference in the Middle East to resolve the issue of weapons of mass destruction.
All of that has been swept aside by the arrogance and the bad faith of the nuclear weapons states, particularly the United States and Russia. In this instance, although it pains me to say this, I do feel that the greater responsibility for this failure lies with the United States. It has been in a position of power, particularly with the end of the Cold War, and the United States, leading the way to the expansion of NATO circling Russia, has stimulated Russians fears. I am not here to defend or condemn Mr. Putin or Mr. Trump. What matters is the good will, the political will, the intention of the nuclear weapons states to fulfill their legal commitments. Modernization processes are underway in all nuclear weapons states—because China, France, and the United Kingdom are all going through their own modernization, not to mention India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea.
The lack of good faith and work toward nuclear disarmament by the two main states, as they are legally obliged to do, is the principal cause. But the rest of them have responsibilities also. When the prohibition people talk about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that will result from the use of any nuclear weapon, that is something that we all should heed.
Let me mention some things that might be done if we cannot get full agreement on the INF. Indeed, it is almost gone, but at least we can build some public opinion to start negotiations for the extension of START.
Two things ought to be seriously considered as a means of de-escalating the extreme dangers of modernizing nuclear weapons. Those two things are, first, de-alerting. Take all of the weapons off the alert status. It in inhuman for any political leader to have to make a decision in twelve minutes as to whether to respond to computer warning of an attack. We are all aware of the accidents and the near-misses that have taken place. It is detrimental to the well-being of humanity to have nuclear weapons on alert.
The second thing would be to pledge no-first-use. I have never been a fan of no-first-use but latterly I have become one because I am so worried about the dangers that I am grasping for something reasonable. Certainly no-first-use is reasonable. China—and even Russia at one stage, and a few others—were for it. A push for no-first-use and de-alerting might produce discussions that can open a pathway to the New START Treaty being extended. That would then set the stage for a Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in 2020 that might have some chance of success.
SPENCER: You covered a lot of ground. I’d like to hear Sergey’s reaction, especially to the potential for a no-first-use agreement by all parties.
ROGOV: I completely agree with Doug that, unless there is a miracle, the entire arms control regime, which existed for almost 50 years, will collapse within the next two years.
ROGOV: Already the ABM Treaty is gone. The United States abrogated it in 2002. The INF Treaty will probably die this summer. The NPT Conference in 2020 will be a scandal, since the non-nuclear weapons states will see that nuclear weapons states like the United States, Russia, and China have no intention to disarm. And it’s unlikely that the Trump administration will agree to extend the New START, so in 2021 the New START will expire.
Unfortunately, the public is concerned about climate change, pandemics, and other problems, but very few people today understand how close we are to the extremely dangerous multilateral nuclear arms race. It will be more dangerous than the crisis in 1962 when Russian missiles were deployed in Cuba.
What happens if the US abrogates the INF Treaty and deploys a new generation of American medium-range missiles near Russian borders—for instance in Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, or Romania? In 1983 when the Pershing II missiles were deployed in Germany the flight time to Moscow was ten to twelve minutes. That was a major reason why Gorbachev agreed to sign the INF Treaty and destroy more missiles than the United States. We were concerned about a possible decapitating strike, which Russian early warning systems could not detect in time.
But if the new generation of American nuclear missiles is deployed in the Baltic states and Poland, the flight time to Moscow will be three to four minutes. To Petersburg, one minute. In that situation Russia will have to re-think its nuclear posture.
Russia had a no-first-strike policy until 1993. For ten years that was Russia’s declaratory posture. And then it changed. Now Russia’s posture is called “retaliatory counterstrike.” Last year Putin explained what it means. It is different from launch-on-warning or launch-under-attack.
He said that Russia will launch its missiles only after three conditions are met. First, Russian early warning system will detect the launch of the enemy’s missiles against Russia. Second, Russian early warning system will find out what are the trajectories of those missiles. And third, Russia will launch its missiles when we know which targets those missiles are going to attack. We will have to use our missiles or lose them, since they are going to be destroyed.
Russia will have to abandon this position, which would mean that we would be very close to a situation when both Russia and the United States, in the event of a serious crisis, will be very close to a preemptive strike posture. That is going to be much more dangerous than the Cuban missile crisis. In this situation it is very unlikely that Russia will agree again to adopt no-first-use.
Now about Russia’s INF complaint. Let’s talk about Aegis Ashore, which we consider to be a clear violation of the INF Treaty.
SPENCER: How far along are they with that? Romania is ahead of Poland, isn’t it?
POSTOL: Romania is now basically operational and Poland is under construction.
ROGOV: It’s been operational since 2015. Four years. Now, Russia has two other complaints. One is related to drones. You may be surprised but the terms of the INF Treaty define the ground-launched cruise missile in a way that covers unmanned aerial defence—drones. Russia has claimed for twenty years that American long-range drones like Predator are a violation of the INF Treaty. The United States dismisses this claim.
Another Russian complaint is that the United States uses two stages of American ICBMs, like Minuteman or MX, as targets for testing American ballistic defence. We also say it’s a violation. But the United States refuses even to discuss those claims and, as far as Aegis Ashore is concerned, Americans took a ridiculous position. They said it’s not a violation since they didn’t install in Romanian Aegis Ashore the necessary software to launch cruise missiles. (Laughs.) And how many minutes does it take to change the software?
At the same time, Americans accuse us of testing and now deploying new medium-range cruise missiles of more than 500 kilometers range. Until now they don’t even say what the range is of those missiles. They just say it’s more than 500 kilometers. The INF Treaty bans missiles of a range of 500 to 5500 kilometers. Just a month ago Russia invited Americans and NATO countries to inspect this missile. Russia demonstrated that yes, it’s a version of an existing Russian short-range missile, the Iskander, which is just 50 centimeters longer. Russia claims that it tested it only for the range of 480 kilometers. Nevertheless, the US refuses even to send their people to inspect it and demands that Russia eliminate this missile, which Russia refuses to do.
The situation could have been resolved easily if Americans had inspected our missiles and accepted our inspectors at the Aegis Ashore base in Romania and later in Poland.
We could also sign a special protocol defining drones differently from ground-launched cruise missiles—because it’s impossible to ban drones. Today they come under the definition of ground-launched cruise missiles.
And there is another multilateral international agreement. That’s the agreement by more than forty countries regulating the transfer of missiles and drones with a range of more than 300 kilometers. That agreement puts together ground-launched cruise missiles and drones. That’s separate from the INF Treaty. So Russian complaints should be treated seriously. You don’t necessarily have to agree with what Russia is saying but you have to negotiate to find a solution.
But the solution is very simple. And as for the Aegis Ashore MK41 launcher, there could be some physical changes in the tubes of this launcher, to demonstrate that it’s impossible to put Tomahawk canisters there. Ted said that they are the same as interceptor canisters, but I had some information that there are differences.
ROCHE: Sergey, when the INF came into in 1987, it met applause for establishing verification procedures. US and Soviet inspectors would have access to each other’s territories and could draw on the resources of the IAEA. As a non-scientist, I do not think it is impossible to have the verification that can resolve this question. This is not a technical verification question. It’s a political question: Does either side want an architecture to create security, based on common principles? Reagan and Gorbachev clearly enunciated the principles—that a nuclear war of any kind cannot be won and must never be fought.
So, Metta, with great respect, we have devoted three-quarters of this whole discussion to the technicalities involved, but I dissent from the use of our time in this manner. The real problem is the politics involved in what we are going to do. When I suggested no-first-use, Sergey was a little apprehensive about that. Well, let’s try de-alerting. Let’s try some things that can draw upon the political will to establish a nuclear disarmament architecture that won’t collapse.
POSTOL: As a technical person, I can say I completely agree with Doug. If the people making the political decisions are interested in finding ways to solve these problems, there are technical solutions.
POSTOL: They are not necessarily difficult. There are well within hand simple technical things that would create assurances for all parties.
ROGOV: I also agree with you. If there is political will, we could resolve those technical agreements within an hour or two. Within a few days we can exchange inspectors, sign the protocols, agreement.
ROCHE: What we are entangled in here are the tentacles of the military-industrial complex octopus. The tentacles are stretching out around the world, immobilizing and compromising even those politicians who are of good will. There are financial gains to be made from manufacturing armaments. These funds are not available for other aspects of security—climate, migration, development. Then the moral aspect of how we are living. We are well into the twenty-first century, still facing threats to annihilate humanity. We ought not let ourselves be so constricted by the demands of the military-industrial complex.
So, Metta, I appeal to you. This is not a discussion about how to improve the technicalities of this or that. It is a discussion of humanity: How we are going to live with each other in an age of human rights and the incompatibility of human rights with weapons of mass destruction.
SPENCER: I’m not your opponent, Doug. Obviously, I agree with you.
ROCHE: That’s the elevation of this discussion that needs to take place.
SPENCER: All right. At the end of our hour, we are down to the nitty-gritty. We are talking about the fact that nuclear weapons are not a source of security. Therefore, we needn’t haggle over how many of them we can let go of at a time and still maintain security. We can talk about the fact that we’ve got to get rid of the whole damn shooting match. But we have no time left today in which to solve this.
In political terms, I haven’t a clue what to do. We must inspire resistance on the part of world public opinion. But how do you do that?
ROCHE: We must continue to build up public opinion. There is public opinion on this. PNND—Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament—has 800 members in 60 parliaments around the world.
SPENCER: How many in the US and in Russia? Among legislators, how much interest is there is switching from technical matters to talking about whether we want to get rid of these weapons?
ROCHE: The European Parliament passed a resolution to this effect.
SPENCER: The European Parliament doesn’t count if Russia and the US say, “Nothing doing. We’re keeping ours.”
ROCHE: California—the most populous state in the union—passed a resolution last year opposing all nuclear weapons and calling for the commencement of negotiations, opposing the modernization. I daresay that within Russia there is also public opinion to that effect but it needs to be developed, unleashed.
SPENCER: If we can get support in the US and Russia for the ban treaty, we’ll be home free, but I don’t see it happening. I’d wonder whether Ted thinks there is a way to get support for the ban treaty. And I bet Sergey hasn’t much hope for that.
ROCHE: It’s far beyond the ban treaty. We need a nuclear weapons convention. We need to have the nuclear weapon states engaged, and they have refused to engage. But we have to close soon.
The one word that we need in order to accomplish our goals is bridge-building. We need to build bridges among people who still think that security lies in nuclear weapons and people who recognize the perils that lie ahead.
SPENCER: Okay, fellows. You’ve got one last word to fix our problem.
ROGOV: The ideal solution, the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, is far away—especially at the moment, when the United States is trying to completely eliminate the existing nuclear arms control regime and Russia is following. For me the first task is to prevent this disastrous collapse. We should preserve the INF Treaty and, if not, I want to remind you that President Putin announced that Russia will not deploy new medium-range missiles in Europe or other regions unless the United States deploys. So, Russia declared a moratorium and if the United States joins, we can save the INF Treaty regime. That will help us deal with the NPT Review Conference, which can create the conditions to extend the New START in 2021. And in that case, we can realistically try to develop a pragmatic plan, step by step, to complete nuclear disarmament. But right now, the threat is complete chaos and a worse crisis than the Cuban Missile Crisis.
POSTOL: I look at it from a narrow, technical perspective because that’s where I may contribute something.
The problem may even be worse than Sergey says. The early warning systems of neither Russia nor the United States (though the United States has vastly more technically advanced early warning systems) are able to disclose what the other side is doing. In a crisis, this lack of knowledge on both sides could lead to a massive accidental use of nuclear weapons. I agree to focusing on the nuclear weapons, for they are the serious source of the problem. But people don’t seem to understand that the early warning systems on both sides are not adequate to keep a crisis from escalating out of control. [Rogov vigorously nods his head in agreement.]
And they’re getting worse because, even though the United States has extraordinary improvements going on in its systems, things are getting stealthier and harder to observe. Even if you know something was launched, you don’t necessarily know where it is going and then you have no idea what is happening or how to assess the situation. So it is a very, very, dangerous situation. People need to confront it.
POSTOL: The first obvious answer is to recognize how serious the danger is.
ROCHE: And the second is to build public opinion about the seriousness, telling our political leaders that humanity demands a better deal.
SPENCER: If each of you will send the video of this conversation to your own networks, that may influence public opinion a bit.
POSTOL: Absolutely! I have people who want to see this. And I thank Sergei for giving me information that Mike McFaul wouldn’t give me.
ROGOV: I discussed the question of Aegis Ashore with him in 2009 when he was sitting at the National Security Council at the Eisenhower Building.
POSTOL: That’s good for me to know because I expect to talk to him about that.
SPENCER: Send my greetings to him. We are Facebook friends. Thank you all. Bye.
ALL: Do svedanya.
You may also watch the full video at youtu.be/97WgR73QLLg, or listen to the podcast at itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/projectsavetheworlds-podcast/id1452886283#
Peace Magazine Apr-Jun 2019, page 8. Some rights reserved.
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