Russian Initiatives on Nuclear Arms in Cologne
Center for Policy Studies in Russia (PIR)*

* Excerpts reprinted with permission from: ‘To Be or Not to Be’ of Missile Defense, PIR Arms
Control Letters, PIR Center, July 6, 1999;

The 1972 ABM Treaty is still the key item of the agenda at negotiations on nuclear disarmament. The results of the US-Russian summit in the framework of the G-8 summit in Cologne may serve as another proof for that. Two major nuclear issues, relating to missile defense, were global system of control over ballistic missiles and US-Russian talks on the ABM treaty and START matters.

The summit itself has born practically no fruit to Russia. Participation of the latter in the Cologne summit was minimal: Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin attended the meeting for two days and, in fact, didn’t go beyond bilateral contacts while President Yeltsin spent in Cologne only about six hours. All major issues of the agenda were discussed without Russian participation. Presumably, Moscow was ready for such a state of affairs and planned beforehand the tactical moves for such circumstances. Obviously, the G-8 summit was necessary for Russia, above all for internal reasons - as a means to provide for additional external legitimization of the regime. In this connection Russian participation should have been something outstanding and historic, resulting in breakthroughs in some areas.[...]

The Kremlin has put forward three global initiatives: the concept of the world development in the XXI century, the document on legal aspects of using force in the conditions of globalization, and the global system of control over ballistic missiles and related technologies. Russia has also made some proposals on the ABM treaty and nuclear disarmament.

The initiative on establishing the global system of control over ballistic missiles and missile technologies is of equivocal character. From its title we can conclude that it has something to do with both a long-promoted idea of global missile defense system and export control system. The latter interpretation implies that the initiative may be viewed as a Russian attempt to globalize export control system and, hence, to conduct a diplomatic counterattack in this area. This concept was reaffirmed in the article by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, which was published in one of the Russian mass media nine days after the summit. He states that Russia can safeguard itself from ballistic missiles not through missile defense deployment but through establishing the global system to monitor missile and missile technologies’ nonproliferation. Indication on nonproliferation allows for regarding this initiative in the context of export controls.

Meanwhile, our sources in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs insist that the idea has nothing to do with export controls. It provides for development of a global system to monitor ballistic missiles’ launches and to exchange data on early warning. Hence, it’s a matter of development and globalization of ideas, expressed in the Joint Statement "On the Exchange of Information, Concern-ing Missile Launches and Early Warning", signed in Moscow on September 2, 1998 as a result of US-Russian top-level negotiations. In these circumstances, we incline to speak about global missile defense system, although our sources in MFA don’t admit that the initiative relates to global missile defense. At the same time, they recognize that the initiative is a Russian response to US works in the area of national missile defense deployment.

The Russian global initiatives, including that on control over ballistic missiles and missile technologies, are regarded in Russian Foreign Office as initiating the dialogue (for there were no documents presented to reflect and fix proposed ideas). Therefore, the ballistic missile initiative may be transformed in the direction of global missile defense or in the direction of export controls and nonproliferation. In our opinion, the underlying reasons for such Russian steps are demonstration of Russian readiness to globalize the dialogue on certain issues of US-Russian agenda in case of unfavorable development of the dialogue for the Russian Federation.

Proposals on START and ABM matters, made by the Russian president, may be viewed as his key trump card at the Cologne summit. Upon completing the US-Russian high-level talks on the matter, the parties signed the Joint Statement Between the United States and the Russian Federation Concerning Strategic Offensive and Defensive Arms and Further Strengthening of Stability.

The document states commitment of the parties to the 1972 ABM treaty, general understanding of its fundamental importance for strategic stability and readiness to start negotiations on strategic offensive and defensive arms later this summer.

The Joint Statement has no clear indication that Russia has given its consent

to review provisions of the ABM treaty to allow legal deployment of the US national missile defense system. However, the spirit of the agreement hints for that. Moreover, the US administration officials, US National Security Advisor Samuel Berger in particular, rushed to fix such an understanding of attained agreements in their further comments.

US position on national missile defense system is based on the fact that the US administration hasn’t taken yet any final decision on its deployment. The decision is expected in summer 2000, i.e. the period of launching presidential race in the United States. This matter of time may become the key motivation for positive decision on NMD deployment regardless of real results of the tests, planned for 1999. At the same time, the US administration doesn’t want to withdraw from the ABM treaty, although it has declared the readiness to take this step as a last resort.

The US stand is clear for Russia and it makes the Russian political elite review some elements of its previous position on the matter. US withdrawal from the ABM treaty is unacceptable for Russia from the point of politics and not due to military technical problems. The Russian military admit, although in off-record statements, that implementation of the US plans on limited NMD deployment - one launching site for 100 interceptors - won’t undermine Russian deterrence potential. At the same time, politically the US withdrawal from the ABM treaty will mean detriment to previous logic of nuclear disarmament and to criteria for evaluating nuclear balance stability between the two states. Nuclear disarmament for the last 30 years was normally the focal point of US-Russian bilateral relations. Now that the importance of nuclear weapons as means of protecting national interests is steadily growing in Russia, the problem of converting military resource (nuclear arms) into foreign policy dividends emerges. What’s more, at the same time, it is necessary to prevent confrontation and negative scenarios of increasing Russian significance in the world through exploiting its status of a nuclear weapon state.

Nowadays, the historical legacy shows to the Russian political elite only one way out - intensification of negotiation process, which simultaneously would draw more attention to Russia in the USA and would create new opportunities for political bargaining. Thus, Russia will stress its extraordinary status of a nuclear super-power and, hence, will accomplish the major foreign policy task of maintaining the Great Power status. Moreover, Russia may find a new area for negotiations, i.e. strategic defensive arms, to intensify the aforesaid dialogue.

So, the logic of Russian foreign policy dictates the necessity to agree on talks, relating to strategic defensive arms, in the form of further amending of the 1972 ABM treaty. However, if in political and academic circles there is a sort of consensus, concerning amendments to the ABM treaty, the military take harsh positions. Military experts, close to the Defense Ministry leadership (the 4th Scientific Research Institute of the Russian MOD in particular), generally tolerate the agreement with the USA on limited NMD deployment, explaining their position from the point of military technical grounds. Military diplomats from the Department of International Military Cooperation consider this issue not from the point of military technical but political aspects. And they believe that it is completely unacceptable to make concessions to the USA in the area of missile defense and to review the ABM treaty. According to our estimates, political arguments of the military on this matter will be ignored. At the same time, military technical assessments of the MOD specialists may become a good pretext for achieving political goals of the state leadership.

In accordance with our estimates, in principle, the decision on the possibility of making amendments to the ABM treaty, enabling the USA to deploy its limited NMD system, has already been taken at the highest political level. Further Russian actions will be aimed at bargaining to get appropriate compensation for its consent on changing the treaty. It implies a delicate diplomatic game with interchange of hard and soft statements on the matter.

Elements of bargaining could be noticed right after the G-8 summit in Cologne. After Yeltsin’s return to Moscow, Russian officials rushed to make comments and additions to the Russian position. Statements of Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin somehow toughened the line that President Yeltsin had followed in Cologne. In our opinion, it should be regarded as uncovering the whole spectrum of Russian game strategy from obvious sticks to the sweetest carrots. Such a declaratory technique enables Russia to exert pressure on its partners, leaving open the possibility of changes in the position and demonstrating that Russian commitment to only sticks or only carrots is not absolute.

So far Russia hasn’t got any satisfactory compensation for its general agreement to make amendments to the treaty. Exchange of the ABM treaty changes on the US agreement to begin START III negotiations, which was anticipated in Cologne and was supposed to happen right after the summit, has little chance of success due to position of the US Senate. We can’t rule out the possibility that harsh statements of the Russian officials on the ABM treaty resulted from the US hint that the Russian executive would have to strive for the START II ratification as a prerequisite for launching official negotiations on START III.

Our major conclusion is the following. Russian leadership believes that it has kicked the ball to US side, i.e. demonstrated the whole spectrum of Russian position and its readiness to bargain. Hence, the USA should then join in and put forward some attractive motions, taking into account Russian concerns and providing for satisfactory compensation. Russia is waiting for further US steps, making declaratory moves to stimulate the US decisions, which Moscow expects to be fast and beneficial for Russia.

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