Dec. 1, 1996

Really Bad News . . .

“The Russian nuclear command-and-control system is being subjected to stresses it was not designed to withstand as a result of wrenching social change, economic hardship, and malaise within the armed forces. . . . Despite official assurances, high-level Moscow officials are concerned about the security of their nuclear inventory. . . .

“[The Strategic Rocket Forces units] have the technical ability to launch without authorization of political leaders or the general staff. . . . [The threat of blackmail] conspiracies within nuclear armed units . . . has become a concern as living conditions and morale have deteriorated in the military, even among elite nuclear submariners, nuclear warhead handlers, and SRF. . . .

“Political authorities probably could neither execute a nuclear strike–even from a command post–without the cooperation of the general staff nor prevent the general staff (or perhaps some other national-level command post) from launching on its own. . . . Russian military writings still portray Western policies as hostile, and . . . Moscow’s exercises have simulated short-warning nuclear attacks against Russian strategic forces and their supporting command structure.”–Excerpts from the September 1996 CIA report “Prospects for Unsanctioned Use of Russian Nuclear Weapons,” quoted by reporter Bill Gertz in the October 22, 1996, Washington Times.

. . . And a Second Opinion

“The Russian Strategic Rocket Forces are probably their most elite, or among their most elite, forces. We believe that they’re well disciplined and well commanded. The Russians have recently completed a strategic nuclear exercise similar to ones that they’ve carried out . . . each of the last four years, and their forces appeared to be in good shape. It’s no secret that we’re concerned about the custody of nuclear weapons everywhere in the world, including the United States. This is an issue of grave concern to us. The Russian forces are also concerned about the security of nuclear weapons in Russia. We think they’ve taken prudent steps to keep the forces safe and secure.”–Defense Department spokesman Kenneth H. Bacon, in an October 22, 1996, Pentagon press briefing in reaction to the Times article.

The Timetable

“Today, I want to state America’s goal: By 1999–NATO’s fiftieth anniversary and ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall–the first group of countries we invite to join should be full-fledged members of NATO.”–President Clinton, in an October 22, 1996, speech in Detroit, Mich., concerning NATO enlargement.

Blood, Toil, Tears, Sweat

“Part of the problem that the Air Force faces . . . is that, while we can develop a clear vision of what airpower can do, describing and analyzing how airpower acts has never been easy and not very well understood by the nonbelievers or the uneducated. We should not feel badly about this, because we are in pretty good company in not being able to describe this. In fact, it was Winston Churchill who once remarked, ‘Airpower is the most difficult of all forms of military force to measure or even express in precise terms.’ Now if Churchill, with his command of the English language, could not do it. . . . Put it this way: I am trying to keep this quote away from the long-range planners, lest they give up in despair.”–Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman, USAF Chief of Staff, in an October 18, 1996, address to AFA’s National Symposium in Los Angeles, Calif.

Perry’s Position

“My going-in view on force structure [in the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review] is that we need to maintain the numbers we have–the divisions, wings, and approximate number of ships we have. But it might be possible to find some efficiencies in support areas.”–Defense Secretary William J. Perry, in remarks quoted in the October 3, 1996, Wall Street Journal.


“There was a real prospect of war in a country where we had 37,000 soldiers. We were head to head with North Korea. They had a million men under arms and a totally unpredictable nature, but they actually signed up to what we wanted: an end to their [nuclear] program. And somewhat miraculously, it has stuck.”–Ashton B. Carter, former assistant secretary of defense for International Security Policy, as quoted in the October 28, 1996, New York Times.

Strobe Light

“One challenge America faces . . . is to overcome Russian suspicions, Russian conspiracy theories, and Russian old-think. More to the point, I’d say that is a challenge the Russians themselves face; they must overcome their lingering Cold War stereotypes about us. . . . If the Russians overindulge their misplaced suspicions that we want to keep them down, then words like partnership and cooperation, translated into Russian, will become synonyms for appeasement, subservience, [and] humiliation at the hands of the West. The result then could be that we will indeed cooperate less, and compete more, on precisely those issues where it is in our common interest to cooperate more and compete less. . . . It would be bad for everyone but–without doubt–it would be particularly bad for the Russians themselves. They would risk repeating at least some of the mistakes that made nine-tenths of the twentieth century such a disaster for them. Those mistakes included defining their security at the expense of everyone else’s and misdefining security itself as the expensive and wasteful capacity to destroy and intimidate.”–Strobe Talbott, deputy secretary of State, in an October 29, 1996, speech at The Harriman Institute in New York.