May,1999

RUSSIA'S STRATEGIC CONSIDERATIONS AND NUCLEAR WEAPONS

The XXth Century was and still is the Age of Extremes. Globalization resulted both in wide possibilities for co-operation and acute economic and financial crisis. The Cold War receded into the background. At the same time the most stable of all continents - Europe in March and April 1999 experienced the convulsions of militarism in the name of Justice and defense of credibility. Millions of people are victims of "ethnic cleansing" and air bombardments. Political leaders are not siding with humanity but with a desire to be victorious.

For many people these terrible events meant that Christ was lost . He was between the Western Easter and the Eastern Easter. Death threatens thousands of civilians. Cold-hearted leaders are in a state of amok, civilians in shock. This cruelty must stop, diplomats return to round tables. Resolute work on conflict resolution will bear fruit.

Weapons of war are invented to kill humans. The most terrible of them are nuclear weapons. And they were already used.

As a scientist and a diplomat.for many years, I had worked against the dissemination of nuclear weapons. In 1980's, I joined the Pugwash Movement Council to safeguard international stability and eliminate weapons of mass destruction. After visiting Hiroshima, destroyed by the first atomic bomb dropped on Japan, I became convinced that nuclear weapons are capable of destroying the human race and should be eliminated. Russia and USA together with other nuclear countries must continue their efforts to get rid of the nuclear monster.

In the USSR Academy of Sciences I had the privilige to chair the work of the commission, the task of which was to explore the possible effects of a nuclear war on humans. We stud,ied the aftermath of a "nuclear winter" and came to the conclusion that even indirect effects of low air temperatures would be disastrous for life on Earth, especially for tropical regions. We also came to the conclusion - the human race must do away with the myth of nuclear deterrence or nuclear weapons will do away with human civilisation, as we know it.

Many people are convinced that only nuclear weapons free world can stop both horizontal and vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons. The problem does not have a "middle ground". Averting a nuclear war, that may arise from a nuclear bomb accident or its deliberate use, is a must.

During the Cold War vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons in USA and USSR led to an arms race of huge proportions. With the development of thermonuclear devices, tactical nuclear weapons, MIRVed delivery systems and star war plans to create defense, against a missile attack, the complexity of proliferation problem increased and international stability weakened. The danger was well understood in Moscow and Washington. In 1970's and 80's both superpowers co-operated in arms control field. Vertical and to some extent horizontal proliferation had been limited but not eliminated. Consequences of this lack of historical responsibility are felt nowadays.

After the end of the two-polar world, new opportunities for arms control and disarmament appeared. Almost all states renounced nuclear weapons and complied with the non-proliferation regime. Such States as Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, which were regarded as threats to non-proliferation, abandoned these plans. At the same time, such countries as India and Pakistan joined the nuclear weapons club. Israel does not openly declare itself a 'nuclear power' but in military and strategic fields, acts as a "nuclear weapons State".

By proclaiming its sovereignty, Russia made other Soviet republics do the same. The USSR disintegrate, but neither Ukraine nor Belorussia used this opportunity to proclaim themselves nuclear weapons countries. All nuclear weapons were taken to Russia. North Korea is co-operating with USA over nuclear facilities.

Still, the danger of proliferation of nuclear weapons exists. In international relations up till now we see two main tendencies:

The reduction in number of states who' desire to possess nuclear weapons. This trend is based on the understanding that war, especially nuclear war, will never again become a foreign policy instrument.
There exists also another tendency - increased danger that new tensions between the West and the World of Islam create. Wars waged in the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa and lately Europe may lead to complete change of circumstances that influence military and strategic doctrines and foreign policy of states.

The second trend may lead to a new geopolitical outlook and steps not away but towards nuclear and other weapons of mass-destruction.The latter trend exists globally. It is fed by a stark reality that the international law, as it existed in the XXth century, is fading away. We must stop this development. It leads the international community into dangerous waters of jungle politics and degradation of the United Nations.

The Case of Russia, Historical Dimension

My assessment of Russia's approach to nuclear weapons is not official, as it had been for many years. It is nevertheless based on first hand knowledge of past doctrines and present circumstances. Permit me briefly to explore some strategic considerations of Russia's approach to nuclear weapons.

In the time of the Soviet Union, there existed an understanding that our security can be guaranteed only on the basis of equal security. The USSR and its allies developed a military potential that was - roughly speaking - equal to the USA and even NATO's. This strategy was strengthened by the memory of Hitler's Germany invasion. The "syndrome of June 22, 1941" became a constant reminder of what happens to a country which government neglects defense needs.

In the Second World War, the USSR lost not less than 27 million soldiers and civilians. The main front of the war was in the East. The USA and Great Britain opened the second front in Europe only in 1944, when Soviet forces were already in Poland, poised to enter Germany and capture Berlin. In May 1945, the Soviet army captured the capital of Germany and in one of his bunkers Hitler committed suicide.

Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam conferences created the post second world order for international peace and stability. The main base of this international structure for peace was the creation in 1945 of the United Nations Organisation. Even the Cold War could not destroy UN.

At present, this global structure is weakened. In my opinion, the worst has happened. The world order of the victors over fascism is in the process of destruction. The new World Order or, perhaps, disorder of the one polar world, based on USA and NATO's economic and military might, is promoted at the expense of international law, United Nations and the national interests of many States. Security for all approach to international relations seems to be almost forgotten.

NATO is conducting an expensive in all aspects trip to the East. In March and April 1999, Europe was in a state of war. The failure of diplomats in solving the Kosovo problem, where the rights of the population majority were neglected, and persistent obstinacy of both sides led to unforseen developments and plans to partition what is left of Yugoslavia.

If "might is right", what may be the result for disarmament process and nuclear proliferation? What conclusions are to be made in Moscow and other capitals outside "Atlantic international community" ? There is a growing possibility that latest events will change Moscow's policy in nuclear field.

New Dangers For Arms Control

Danger for arms control, as it concerns Russia, comes from a new strategic reality. In the 1990's, Russia ceased to be a superpower and had been gradually marginalized into a middle European power.

To some extent, this was self-inflicted.

No nation can expect its influence on the world arena or in a region to be preserved and at the same time permit its economic and military potential to be greatly reduced. No nation can abandon the rules of effective diplomacy, forget about its state and national interests and at the same time be effective at international conferences and meetings. No government can base its politicies on "romantic vision" and dilettante judgements, which ignore common sense and wisdom of history.

Russia's strategic situation, if we compare it with Soviet times, changed completely. USSR had a superb conventional army. NATO even insisted that there was a Soviet conventional military superiority. In certain fields, tanks, it was true, in others, sea power, NATO had an upper hand. Insistence on Soviet conventional weapons superiority was used by NATO as a pretext to declare the policy of the first use of nuclear weapons to deter "the invasion of Western Europe by Soviet armoured divisions". The USSR declared no first use of nuclear weapons and asked other states, first of all NATO, to support this doctrine.

Today, the military potential of Russia on the ground is several times weaker than in 1980's. The expansion of NATO is changing the already undermined military and strategic symmetries and configurations that emerged from the treaty on the limitation of conventional forces.

The fitness of the Russian army is influenced by the economic crisis. This leads to a new undertanding - conventional weakness should be compensated by a heavy reliance on nuclear weapons. The Soviet nuclear, no-first-use policy of the 70's and 80's is in the process of being abandoned. Increasing number of military strategists in Moscow come to an opinion that it is almost impossible to defend Russia, if military intervention from abroad takes place. Russia needs a "flexible nuclear posture". It would embrace the possibility of first use strike.

The Persian Gulf War, air bombardments of Iraq and Yogoslavia confirm conventional military superiority of USA and NATO. If NATO has a free hand in sidestepping UNO and deciding whom to "punish", where does it leave the others? The world today consists not only of "Atlantic international community" but also of many other regional communities. The ambiguous situation of being a potential target for NATO's attack creates a possibility of open and clandestine efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. The "loose nukes" problem aggravates this danger. Arms control restrictions aimed at weapons of mass destruction may be undermined beyond repair.

Official Moscow, the Russian public opinion is disturbed that large regions on the perimeter of Russia have been declared by USA and NATO their "zones of strategic interests". In the Baltic region, Russia returned to the state it was in before the Livonian Wars of the XVII century. The West openly toys with the idea to turn Baltic regions into NATO's strategic base. From the Baltic Region, nuclear weapons can be delivered by cruise missiles all the way to St.Petersburg and Moscow. One cannot judge such possible developments on the basis of "good intentions" of a potential attacker. Intentions may change and military planes, missiles and rockets become operational.

The most important factor that strengthens the desire to possess nuclear weapons is the double standard approach of politicians to events, especially by nuclear powers. It manifests itself in the interpretation of the universal criteria and obligations placed on themselves by members of world community and exploited for specific state and political goals. Human rights may be used to press and even selectively blackmail sovereign governments and states.

Double standard approach by nuclear powers to conflict resolution at the expense of international law creates on the part of the state, at which it is being directed, a strong desire to possess nuclear bombs and other devices of mass destruction. For a small state even one or several nuclear devices are a deterrent weapon. No Humanitarian explanation, even if it is a strong case, can dispel a strong desire to possess military might that may deter intervention from abroad. It does not matter whether intervention is just or a strong incentive for a nuclear deterrent logic, doctrines and policy. If a new world order proceeds to be established by force, clandestine dissemination of nuclear weapons will become one of the main dangers of the XXI century.

Re-emergence of war in' Europe as a foreign policy tool carries a clear-cut message - keep your nuclear weapons as a deterrent by all means, if possible, and get them into possession as soon as possible. To deny such a development would be at least naive. There exists an anonymous threat through nuclear mass killing equivalent to present conventional bombs and grenades, attacks on military and civilian targets, terrorism against regular air services.

The present state of international relations is a blow to the romantic approach fever. As is well known, Russia under so-called "liberal rule" disarmed voluntarily. Its defenses were neglected. It was declared that new democratic Russia has no enemies and even adversaries.This rosy picture of international relations did not even take into account rogues and terrorists.

The problem of "loose" or "easy to get" nukes must not be neglected by Russia. It indicates an imperative to defend Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The NPR impedes access to missile materials on the open market but its effectivness diminishes with every resort to war as a continuation of foreign policy through the use of military forces.

A strong impulse to promote in Russia the logic of nuclear weapons as a deterrent factor is the information that USA government is again promoting plans to create Antiballistic Missile Defense. In American think-tanks there is an opinion that Russia can not afford Soviet - era military expenditures. It may be true but only partially. If necessary, Russia can afford anything. Violation of agreements on ABM defense will be a last straw to convince Moscow - de facto it is looked upon as an adversary and not a partner. The instability in Russia's relations with NATO will deepen. The whole set of agreements concluded between USSR and USA, USA and Russia will be threatened. Vertical proliferation will start again. The number of warheads will go up, new types of offensive weaponry will be promoted. The number of countries with nuclear weapons on its soil will increase.

Such developments will lead humanity away from non-proliferation and disarmament toward a new arms race. Russia will have to curb its reforms and promote its nuclear arsenal. New military blocks may come into existence. This destabilising arms race will undermine non-proliferation regime.

Military and strategic doctrines will develop the logic of nuclear weapons as a "credible" deterrent factor. Horizontal dissemination of nuclear weapons will become a fact of international and daily life. This twist in the whole strategic situation will revive the New Cold War.

It is of the utmost importance to avoid such turn of events to the worst. Russia and NATO, first of all Russia and"USA, should honour obligations that they have taken upon themselves. Human rights should be defended with all means besides frontal military force.

The states must develop a clear-cut code of ethics for interaction. Various systems of law and moral foundations are a basis for architecture of peace and co-operation and not "right through strength". If strength is right then United Nations and its charter are doomed.

The XXI Century may become an age of political jungle and not an age of peace and reason. Modern politicians and diplomats are yet fully to understand this. The role of science is to assist them in achieving this goal.

The future of humans is at stake. In the age of reason and co-operation there will be no stalemates. With the help of international law all problems may be solved.