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Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
meeting summary
Evolving U.S.-Russian Relationship
February 6, 2003

A meeting with experts of the Institute for Applied International Research (IAIR), Moscow.

On February 6, 2003, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in conjunction with the Institute for Applied International Research (IAIR), Moscow, hosted a discussion on the evolving US-Russian relationship with Vadim Razumovsky, Yury Fedorov, and Victor Yesin. Razumovsky is Director of IAIR; Fedorov is Deputy Director of IAIR; and Yesin, former head of the Military Department of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, now serves as advisor to the Commander of Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces and First Vice President of the Academy of Security, Defense and Law Enforcement. Andrew Kuchins, director of the Russia/Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment, moderated the session.

Vadim Razumovsky opened the meeting by elaborating on the vision of IAIR and its present activities. Founded in March 2002 with assistance from the Open Russia Foundation, IAIR is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that aims to advance free and open policy debate-and thereby promote civil society-in Russia. The Institute also seeks to encourage Russian youth to pursue academic careers, and to provide a forum for a new generation of scholars. IAIR is now participating in a joint effort with the Carnegie Endowment to study strategic stability, one of the core issues of US-Russian relations. This effort grew out of a contradiction recognized by both institutions: although the American and Russian security communities have reached a consensus that the doctrine of mutual deterrence is no longer viable, no group or individual has yet offered a real alternative to it.

Yury Fedorov opened his segment of the program by noting that it is impossible to analyze strategic stability outside the broader context of Russian-American relations. Russian policy makers have disowned the old Cold War model of international relations-simultaneously confrontational and isolationist-but it remains to be seen what new framework will replace it. Fedorov argued that at least two discrete options for the future have emerged: true cooperation for the two nations, including joint work on security issues; and a partial partnership guided by the principle of deterrence (and bound to be fraught with continuing disagreements). At this uncertain stage, two sources of instability complicate attempts at long-term prognostication. First, Russian foreign policy will be held captive to domestic politics for the next year; Russian relations with the US will become a major political issue as the legislative and presidential election campaigns heat up. The second source of instability is American unilateralism, which is often interpreted in Russia, as in Europe, as a political, intellectual, and emotional challenge.

Fedorov warned against an alarmist response to the rise of American unilateralism, however, pointing out that a sole superpower inevitably will be denounced as a hegemon, and that the most vocal critics of American foreign policy often subject the US to double standards. Although the trend may lead to the marginalization of international institutions like the United Nations, he contends that it poses no direct threat to Russian security interests. Still, he argued, unilateralism will change the tenor of US-Russian relations, and will force Russia to adjust its foreign policy. If unilateralism becomes a centerpiece of American policy, Russia will face two choices: imitating the British model and becoming a supportive US partner; or estranging itself and curtailing joint efforts with the US-an approach Fedorov considers counter-productive. The failure of American unilateralism would likely result in the rise of isolationism in the US, and would encourage rogue states and terrorist elements to become more active and aggressive. It would also augment the power of anti-western groups and ideologies in Russia.

Fedorov closed his remarks by observing that there are currently four schools of thought within the Russian policy community. The first, which is widely held by the "Party of Power," uses denunciations of US unilateralism-and Putin's accommodationist approach to American interests-to undermine the president's domestic power. The second group does not draw such sharp distinctions between unipolarity and multipolarity, or between Russian and American interests, striving instead to prevent the necessity of making the choice between two diametrically opposed worldviews or ideologies. It does not view unilateralism as inherently dangerous, but worries that it may ultimately require Russia to make difficult choices. The third school is Eurocentrism, which sympathizes with French and German views of international relations. Although this mode of thought is attractive to many Russian intellectuals, Fedorov believes that its benefits tend to be overestimated. Finally, the fourth group-to which Vladimir Putin most likely belongs-views the fight against terrorism as a unique opportunity for crafting a true US-Russian partnership. The rapidly shifting contours of the international situation and Russian domestic politics make it difficult to predict which, if any, of these groups will ultimately prevail, however.

Victor Yesin focused his comments on Russia's evolving nuclear posture. Although Russian nuclear policy remains difficult to understand, Yesin contends that Russia is on the verge of abandoning Soviet policies. It no longer strives for parity with America or any other country; it seeks only to maintain sufficient stockpile levels to effect its primary goal: nuclear deterrence.

Yesin proceeded to summarize the current and projected size of Russia's nuclear arsenal. Original plans for Russia's strategic rocket program called for 20 fifth-generation (Topol-M and SS-27) silo-based launchers to be added each year. Currently, however, only 6-10 are being added per year. At the same time, Russia has not decommissioned aging-but operational-fourth-generation (SS-18 and SS-25) rocket complexes. By the end of 2012, under the provisions of SORT, Russian land-based forces will consist of 50 SS-18 launchers, 40 SS-25s, 90 SS-27s, and 650-670 nuclear warheads. Likewise, Russia's sea-based arsenal has been scaled back. Plans to build expensive new missile cruisers have been cancelled; instead, funds and attention have been shifted to building lighter missile subs armed with new-generation D-30 missiles. The full reconditioning of six existing submarines armed with DD-29 missiles is expected to be complete by 2006 or 2007. By 2012, Russia's sea-based nuclear arsenal will include up to nine submarines equipped with 700-720 warheads. Yesin expects Russia's air-based component-which consists of 70 heavy bombers (16 Tupelev-160s and 54 Tupelev-95s) and 500-530 warheads-to remain unchanged through 2012. He expects that the only weapons phased out as they approach their life expectancy will be X-55 air-launched cruise missiles, and that the development of new air-based components will become possible only after 2014 or 2015.

In 2012, then, Russia's strategic arsenal will consist of around 1900 deployed warheads. Yet Yesin insisted that even as the downsizing of the strategic arsenal should be lauded, it is important to continue work on reducing the number of tactical weapons. Adhering to Gorbachev's 1991 commitment to reduce its non-strategic arsenal, Russia plans to decrease its tactical stockpile to no more than 3000 weapons in the future. Of these, 60% will be air-based systems; 30% will be sea-based; and 10% will be surface-based. Yesin closed his remarks by arguing that while Russian appetites for disarmament are large, arms reductions should be carried out with a balanced and common-sensical approach.

The question and answer session began with one of the participants asking the panelists-who had discussed several sources of instability in US-Russia relations-to identify sources of stability or continuity. Yury Fedorov argued that the threat of terrorism will encourage both countries to cooperate to prevent attacks and eliminate terrorist networks. He pointed to Russia's growing resolve to enter the global market and to improve its economy as another stabilizing factor. This is not to say that the US and Russia will never have disputes, but rather, he asserted, that they will not allow misunderstandings or divergent opinions to detract from their partnership. Vadim Razumovsky agreed with this analysis, adding that the entry of a new generation of Russians into civic life is hastening the transformation of Russia into a liberal, democratic, and market-oriented society. Indeed, he suggested, this positive trend is becoming pervasive enough to acquire an inertia of its own, pushing Russia ever closer to stability, democracy, and economic integration.

Another attendee pointed out that reductions in deployed warheads increase the size of stored stockpiles, and pressed Yesin to explain how he can be certain that disarmament will not result in greater security risks to both Russia and the world. Yesin responded that in principle, Russia does not rely on stored warheads, and that the projections he cited for the year 2012 counts only those weapons ready to be deployed. Decommissioned weapons are used only for replacement parts, and there will not be an adequate number of launch vehicles to accommodate them. US strategic forces, on the other hand, will retain the ability to reconstitute; even if only one warhead is placed on a Minuteman III launcher, the platform will have room for an additional two weapons. Indeed, by 2012, the US reconstitution ability will stand at 1000-1100 weapons. Yet Yesin insisted that these questions should not fall under the purview of Russian interest; although he considers "hedge" weapons a waste of resources, he maintained that the US retains the right to handle its nuclear forces as it wishes, and reiterated that Russia has no desire to achieve parity with the US. A US-Russia partnership does not preclude the possibility that the two countries will adopt different points of view, but it does assure that disagreements can be resolved by political and diplomatic means.

Another round of questions centered upon Russia's collaboration with Iran on the construction of nuclear power plants; specifically, on how the constraint demonstrated by Russia's nuclear posture can be reconciled with the security threats posed by a nuclear Iran. Yury Fedorov emphasized that Russia's interest in Iran is primarily economic, and that it falls under the direction of the Ministry of Atomic Energy. However, he acknowledged that economic interests can clash with security interests, and expressed particular concern over recent reports that Iran hopes to build two new nuclear facilities. Russia cannot halt the construction of the Bushehr plant, he argued, but should work to ensure that no new stations will be built, and that Iran will submit to the international monitoring regime. It is especially important that Russia insist on the repatriation of spent fuel from Bushehr, he insisted. Victor Yesin added that Russia's cooperation with Iran does not violate existing nonproliferation agreements, arguing that the NPT permits joint work on power plants. Furthermore, he asserted, the international community should be equally concerned about the nuclear arsenals of India, Pakistan, and Israel, which are not subject to IAEA regulations or inspections.

In response to a question about who or what forces Russia intends to deter through 2012, Yesin stated that he is hesitant to make specific forecasts. He argued, however, that Russia maintains its nuclear arsenal for one reason: to exclude the possibility that states or other actors might place "pressure" on it. Russia's principle of nuclear deterrence, in other words, operates on the presumption that if Russia is weak, it will attract enemies. A strategic stockpile as low as 1900 weapons might serve as an adequate deterrent, but such a level would be viable only if other nuclear club countries decreased their arsenals accordingly.

When pressed to elaborate on when and under what circumstances Russia decided not to seek parity, Yesin stated that the decision came in April 2002, when it became clear that the Treaty of Moscow would be signed during Bush's visit to Russia. The decision was made during a Security Council meeting led by Putin. Yesin noted that there was some opposition to the move, but that it is only natural to have more than one point of view among educated people.

The final question regarded the panelists' predictions about the future of the conventional arms control regime. Yury Fedorov responded that he sees conventional arms control as a thing of the past. In the post-Cold War world, he asserted, crafting a balance between forces is no longer a top priority. Furthermore, maintaining tanks in huge numbers is "senseless." Instead, Russia-and its former enemies-should focus on restructuring their armed forces, and making them more mobile and versatile. Victor Yesin added that he sees the framework created by the CFE Treaty as perfectly adequate, and sees no need for elaborating on it or expanding it.

Vadim Razumovsky closed the meeting by returning to the question of American unilateralism. There is nothing inherently wrong with unilateralism, he insisted; in fact, the trend can be seen as a testament to Washington's resolve to promote democracy and uphold human rights across the world. Ideally, unilateral policies would also be backed by a long-term willingness to commit resources and attention to help struggling countries through difficult periods of transition. Although American unilateralism is not as alarming a trend as statements coming from European capitals might indicate, then, Razumovsky expressed concern that American attempts to reshape foreign countries might lack the focus and commitment needed to ensure that peace and prosperity take root. Whether or not the US manages to follow through on its commitments in Afghanistan and its likely commitments in a post-war Iraq will impact not only the tenor of US-Russia relations, but also the security of the entire world.

Summary prepared by Faith Hillis, Junior Fellow with the Russia/Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment.

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