Jump to search Jump to main navigation Jump to main content Jump to footer navigation

Q&A session with Senator Nunn following his speech to the Woodrow Wilson Center

Sam Nunn

Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, NTI

QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION WITH SENATOR NUNN
WOODROW WILSON CENTER

MR. HAMILTON: Thank you very much, Senator Nunn, for really an outstanding address. Let's open it up for a few questions. The Senator has indicated he can take a few before we adjourn. We will not go for an extended period of time. Are there questions? All right, we'll begin right here. There are microphones on each side. If you'll signal me, I'll see the mike gets to you. Thank you.

QUESTION: Senator, as part of the aftermath of the Sep.t 11 attacks, the President established a Homeland Defense Council and appointed Governor Tom Ridge to it. There's some question from members of Congress and elsewhere as to whether he will have sufficient power to do what is necessary. Do you agree with that and do you see him taking over some of these matters you’re concerned about?

SENATOR NUNN: Well, I certainly agree, number one, that we need to focus on these challenges and also, everything I know about Governor Ridge, I don't know him personally, but I've met him a couple of times, and he has an excellent reputation. He has also got the confidence of the President and he has got access to the President -- access to the President and the ability to move money, not just within his own budget, whatever that budget is, but between agencies and some kind of review process, perhaps tied to OMB, but directly tied to the President -- those are the two things that are key to making this work -- access to the President and the money control.

The structure you can debate a long time. You can basically set up a czar type structure. My experience from that, is it has considerable down sides unless it, again, has those two features attached to it. You could have a new agency as Senator Hart and Rudman suggested. There, certainly there's a case for that, but you also have to decide how that agency is going to interrelate to the agencies that aren't going to be part of it, like CIA and Defense. So I don't have an answer on the structure except to say Governor Ridge has to be connected both to the President and the President has to maintain his interest in this and he has to also have some considerable amount of money control.

MR. HAMILTON: Okay, question right here.

QUESTION: Senator Nunn, thank you for your contribution and remarks and particularly I noted your remarks concerning Russia and China, but the two newest nuclear powers in the world are India and Pakistan and perhaps Pakistan is the shortest route for terrorists to obtain nuclear weapons if indeed that nation should disintegrate, and of course there is the linkage with China which is a problem with the source for those. Where in your new structure does the United States dealing with India and Pakistan fit?

SENATOR NUNN: We have been pretty much precluded from, as a nation, as a government from dealing with India and Pakistan on some of the safety issues relating to their nuclear capacity because of our profound disagreement with their development of the nuclear capacity. That is over now with the sanctions.

We certainly still have considerable concern but it seems to me there is a new opening here for us to recognize that that probably is the most likely place on the face of the globe for weapons to be used in the next few years because of the historical animosity, because those countries are still fighting a low-level but sometimes a high-level war over Kashmir, because there's huge suspicion and paranoia, because the weapons are not far apart in terms of geography, because they don't have permissive action devices to protect them, as far as I know, and because their warning systems are inadequate. All the prescriptions for disaster and all the prescriptions for one country to feel like they have an advantage by going first in a confrontation.

So I would hope, and this is my hope, I'm not sure it's feasible, but I would hope that we could get China and Russia and the United States to work with India and Pakistan and basically help them set up safety mechanisms and command and control mechanisms and assuring warning and all the things we need to build confidence so that they would not use those weapons.

I think the United States can do some 2 things. I think we probably are going to have to have a triangle with at least four or five countries involved to really politically be able to achieve this. But I do think it needs to be done.

MR. HAMILTON: Okay, there's a question here in the middle.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) missile defense (inaudible) ... limited missile defense (inaudible) ... U.S. relations with China (inaudible).

SENATOR NUNN: There's a good reason I didn't address that in detail, because I don't know the answer to that. That is tough. The Chinese have a certain amount of modernization going on. It's inevitable. The missile defense discussions in this country and plans in this country may very well have accelerated that and might have broadened the scope of what they plan to build up. I don't know any way to know how much is already ongoing and how much would be affected by this.

Clearly the Chinese have not had the kind of prompt launch capability that the United States or Russia's has had. It certainly is in the interest of the world and the interest of that whole region of the world that they not develop that. We need to find creative ways to give China assurances that whatever missile defense system we build up, whether it's limited, whether it's a theater system is not going to affect their own security. That's in some ways a tougher equation.

I think we can look Russia straight in the eye and say we don't have a limited defense system in mind that would threaten your ability to survive a first strike and launch a retaliatory strike. I don't know that we can say that exactly with the Chinese. So it's a different kind of problem, but it's going to require a much broader relationship, economic relationships we're developing, all those things will enter into it.

But again, it is not in the interest, I don't think, of the world or China for them to get into the same position with a prompt launch capability that I have advocated we need to get out of. We need to say we're moving away from these postures and we need to be able to demonstrate that, we don't want you to move into them. Now if we take the position we're going to keep these postures we have today, that we need over 2000 weapons on prompt launch, it's very hard for us to go out and tell other people in the world that the strongest nation in the world conventionally, a nation that is probably more secure than any nation in the world with its military forces without nuclear weapons, has to have all these nuclear weapons, and has to have all these prompt launch, but you don't, you don’t need it.

We've got to do both. We've got to convince them that we are changing and that we don't want to see them go into the same situation that we're trying to get out of. And that if they do, it probably endangers their security. I mean, China would become more of a target, to both the United States and Russia if they built up large nuclear forces and if they have prompt launch capability.

MR. HAMILTON: Question here and there will be a question back there next.

QUESTION: Just to actually follow up on that and perhaps make it even more difficult is -- when we, since we have such (inaudible) we have to decide on priorities as you know in budgeting and so forth, and you mentioned very early in your very good speech that one of the greatest threats we now face is risk of biological warfare through (inaudible) suitcases, chemical weapons by subway systems, nuclear weapons can be launched from a ship that was 13 miles off the coast (inaudible) whatever.

Isn't it in fact much more likely that anyone who is likely to launch an attack or one of those kinds of attacks would choose that route rather than (inaudible) and so isn't it in fact probably a terrific waste to dedicate $20 billion to build a missile defense system (inaudible) need to be (inaudible) greatly increases the number of intelligence operatives, diplomats (tape interruption).

SENATOR NUNN: I would agree with your thesis that it is more likely that we'll have an attack with a weapon of mass destruction from a group or individuals that do not have a return address. A nation that has a return address is not likely, unless they are in a suicidal mood, to attack the United States with a missile that we can trace immediately, that we know where it came from immediately, but we can’t stop it. I think that is not impossible but it is the least likely form of attack on America that I can envision in terms of a weapon of mass destruction.

Now, I do believe, as we saw in the Persian Gulf war, that our forces in the field that get into a conflict are vulnerable to SCUD missiles and to other type missiles and to me that ought to be the priority and as we develop those systems, whatever we do with the national missile defense system in my view ought to be in the research stage until we develop a limited missile defense system, the theater system to protect our forces deployed. We will learn an enormous amount from that. The learning curve will go up rapidly in that and we will be able to save enormous resources if we decide later to deploy a national missile defense system.

I would not rule that latter out as you did in your second question because it depends on the threat, it depends on what happens in North Korea, Iran, what our relationship is with Russia, Russia's capacity to join in the kind of efforts I've talked about. All those things depend; but certainly the threats of a group without a return address are much greater in terms of launching an attack against America, in my mind. And certainly the priority ought to be the theater forces to protect our forward deployed forces and we will learn a great deal from that, which may greatly help the cost of that other system.

The more we rush that system, everybody who knows anything about military procurement knows that if we get in a rush on a system that's not technologically ready or mature we're going to spend a far amount more than we would otherwise. So that would be my way of thinking about it.

MR. HAMILTON: Okay, question here and the next question will be over there.

QUESTION: Senator Nunn, one subject that seems to have dropped off the radar screens is the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty ...(inaudible)

SENATOR NUNN: Backing up, I wasn't in the Senate when that was defeated but all my years in the Senate, the easiest thing to get politicians to do was to delay something. It was not comprehensible to me why, when over 60 Senators wrote a letter saying they wanted to delay the vote and not defeat the treaty, they could not have delayed it. You could be on one side of it or the other, but still why couldn't they have delayed it. I think it hurt us in the world. It undermined our nonproliferation efforts in the world to have defeated that treaty.

I also believe that General Shalikashvili did a very good job of sorting out the real meritorious problems some people had with the treaty and there are meritorious problems and I thought he had a good way of dealing with it. He went through every one of them and he spent six or eight months, he talked to all the people who were against the treaty and he outlined a prescription for remedying those and moving forward with ratification.

It seems to me that ought to be a priority, particularly, I thought so before September 11, but I think particularly now because we have got to rally the world and America’s credibility is essential in this arena if we are going to really try to accomplish some of the goals that I outlined in my remarks and in answer to the question so I would take the Shalikashvili approach.

MR. HAMILTON: Okay, There is a question here and maybe one more and we'll wrap it up.

QUESTION: Senator, I wanted to ask you about NATO enlargement. There are so many things that are up in the air since September 11 that it's hard to sort all of these out. But I'd like, with your knowledge of the Congress and the Defense Department, I'd like to tap your view of this.

Do you think that the events of the last month mean that NATO enlargement would be indefinitely postponed? For example, would you think that the price of Russian cooperation on anti-terrorism would be a veto of the possibility for the Baltic states to come into NATO, which Russia has not been happy with all along. It's hard to assess these things so close by the events but I wonder if you could think through your knowledge base the (inaudible) the NATO enlargement issue.

SENATOR NUNN: I think that's a very good question and I do believe that there are going to be probably more key decisions made in the next six to twelve months than we would have seen made in a long time. It's going to affect our security and our foreign policy for the next ten to twenty years, maybe longer. And so some of these decisions are going to be on the front burner before the body politic has had time to really think through them.

I have to confess my biases to begin with. I have always wanted NATO to remain, at least for the near term, a cohesive alliance that could actually go to battle together. In my view, we have moved away from that model. It is a military alliance that would have less and less commonality of weapons systems, less and less commonality of communication, less and less ability to really move together as an alliance if there was any kind of conflict.

So I consider it much more today, even with the present expansion, as a military alliance, a political alliance, a system of nations dealing together that either have or are working towards common values that can be used in military situations in terms of a la carte, certain countries participating, maybe under the umbrella of NATO, maybe not.

But I think the fundamental nature of the alliance has changed and my view of the alliance is no longer in existence because of the first expansion. So that is my background and my bias. Now, what do we do now? It seems to me we ought to be very prudent and cautious about moving towards further expansion without knowing what the final result will be and certainly I don't think the Russians ought to have a veto. I think that would send the wrong message.

But we've got to find a place for the Russians in an international security framework. If we do not have a place for Russia in an international security framework, then we are not going to be able to accomplish these goals I'm talking about. We have to ask what are the most important priorities.

Is there something in the next round of expansion that affects the security of the American people at home? Would we be more secure if we take in three more countries or four more countries, no matter what they are? Would anybody be able to look American people in the eye and say you are now more secure because we did this in NATO? I don't think so.

I think we've got to find a place for Russia in the international security environment. Does that mean we restructure NATO? Does it mean we rethink NATO? I'm not sure what the answers are. But President Putin has said four or five times now, and I don't think it's just idle talk, that he wants Russia to at least be eligible to be a part of NATO. Now, would that fundamentally change the alliance? Yes. Would we have to rethink the purposes of it? Yes. Would Russia have to take a lot of steps before we would ever seriously consider that? Yes.

So I'm not here to advocate it, I'm here to say that we can't just put it over on the side and say that's irrelevant and let's use Russia for A, B, C, but forget all this and expand NATO. We do that and we're going to see this dream that I think can be a reality that I outlined today, that I think does affect our children and grandchildren, we are going to see that one become more and more improbable. So that would be my way of thinking about it.

MR. HAMILTON: I think the Senator has given us a most insightful address and we all are in his debt. Let us express our appreciation. [Applause.]  

About

Senator Nunn addresses relations between India and Pakistan, NATO expansion and other issues.

Understanding
the Nuclear Threat

Reducing the risk of nuclear use by terrorists and nation-states requires a broad set of complementary strategies targeted at reducing state reliance on nuclear weapons, stemming the demand for nuclear weapons and denying organizations or states access to the essential nuclear materials, technologies and know-how.

In Depth

Country Profile

Flag of China

China

This article provides an overview of China’s historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

Learn More →

Global Security Newswire

Produced by National Journal