Thursday, October 23, 1997

George Shultz, former secretary of state and distinguished fellow, Hoover Institution, and William Perry, former secretary of defense and senior fellow, Hoover Institution, continue their discussion on the threats and challenges facing the United States in a post-Cold War World.

Recorded on Thursday, October 23, 1997

ROBINSON Welcome to Uncommon Knowledge, I'm Peter Robinson, with us once again this week former Secretary of State George Shultz and former Secretary of Defense William Perry. Last week we discussed whether our military was strong enough. This week we discuss the three principal security threats to the nation. Threat no. 1 "RUSSIA" - Our adversary during more than four decades of the Cold War, Russia today is an economic basket case. But, it still has one of the largest armies on earth and thousands of nuclear weapons. Threat no. 2 "CHINA" - A billion people economic vitality, a growing military run by communists. Does this make you nervous? Threat no. 3 "TERRORISM" - The nightmare of an ordinary looking citizen walking down the street with a weapon of mass destruction in a suit case. I began by asking about threat no. 1 "RUSSIA" and about NATO, the military alliance that was formed after the second world war to deal with what was then the Soviet Union.

ROBINSON The United States and our NATO allies have decided to expand NATO and have invited three formerly East Bloc countries to join: Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic. Others may join in the future.

ROBINSON Pat Buchanan says, "Wait a minute. This puts a trip wire at Poland's eastern border, and strictly speaking, he's correct because each signatory to the NATO treaty binds itself to the U.N. attack on any other member...

SHULTZ He's correct.


SHULTZ That's the point.

ROBINSON Okay. Is it worth it?


ROBINSON Do we really want to send American troops to defend the Bialystock, Poland?

SHULTZ The...we should learn from our history. We should learn from what happened in World War I. Took awhile but we had a war in Europe. We got drawn into it. World War II got going. There was a big movement in the United States, remember, not to be in that war. There was the America First Group: Charles Lindbergh was a heavy-weight in it, a very prominent name and we finally got drawn in. What was in the end the thing that got World War II finally going? Poland. Now it seems to me that we ought to learn the lesson that if something starts in Europe we're going to wind up being drawn in and we want to be there and we want to certainly have as part of our group the traditional countries that have been in the Western side of things.

ROBINSON If an attack on Poland is likely to start something that we won't be able to stay out of in any event we might as well draw a bright red line around Poland right now.

SHULTZ I think, at least as I would think of it if you put your concept out there you make is much less likely that that event will happen. People know, that certainly in Hitler's calculation everything that he saw before was that he could practically do anything and the other side would not react. So he was probably surprised.

ROBINSON And this isn't unduly provocative toward Russia?

PERRY Fifty years ago, Joseph Stalin turned down the Marshall Plan not just for the Soviet Union but also for the nations of eastern and central Europe like Poland, like Hungary, like Czechoslovakia then that wanted to become members of it. And it effectively drew a line in Europe by doing that.

SHULTZ An iron Curtain.

PERRY We would be foolish to perpetuate that line that he drew fifty years ago, and by refusing these other members, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, who are otherwise qualified to be members we are, in effect, honoring the line which Joseph Stalin drew. So that would be, I think, a big mistake. But I want to emphasize that quite aside from the membership in NATO which your question addressed, NATO sponsors something called a Partnership For Peace which takes in not only these three nations which you mentioned but 27 other nations in eastern and central Europe, including incidentally, Russia, Ukraine, and Romania, many other countries in eastern Europe. And by so doing they are trying to minimize the chance that line is ever going to become a military conflict line. So besides what we're doing in a military sense by bringing in these members of NATO there is also this diplomatic, military diplomatic initiative in the Partnership For Peace.

ROBINSON "We won, they lost", so why are we spending billions to bail out Russia?

ROBINSON Bill, I've heard you speak, so why are we spending billions to bail out Russia; and I know that you believe passionately that the United States must do what it can to support democracy and reform in Russia. Why is it so important and why do you believe so passionately about the importance of seeing Russia through its difficulties?

PERRY Gordon Craig, the Stanford historian, wrote a, what I think is a seminal book on the period between the two wars where he focused on what happened to Germany and because the West, U.S., England, France, were not willing to help Germany through its transition period and, in fact, imposed reparations and revenge on it, we saw the emergence of Hitler in 1933 and six years later the beginning of a war which cost the lives of more than 50 million people. We cannot rewrite history but it is clear that if we had an opportunity to do that part of history over again we would try to help Germany during its period when it was trying to form a democracy.

SHULTZ And in fact after World War II we did help Germany.


ROBINSON You did...

PERRY The Weimar Republic...

PERRY Had it been sustained could have avoided the second World War. And that's the analogy that I'm using.

ROBINSON So we're looking at Weimar Russia right now?

PERRY We're looking at Weimar Russia right now. There is a democracy struggling to take hold in Russia today. They are struggling to get market economy in Russia today. It's a very difficult undertaking and anything we can do to help that not only helps the Russians but ultimately is in the best interest of our country and, indeed, the whole world.

SHULTZ I agree with the concept that Bill put forward but I have a lot of reservations and I think we have been too ready to excuse or not to really represent our views strongly enough about the negative things going on in Russia and we have coddled them too much. I think they would feel better if we were less patronizing and more direct and traditional in the way we went about things and I think it would probably help them more in the end. I don't mean by that we want to be antagonistic but rather that when they undertake something like they did in Chechnya, that we, if we have general budget support, we remove it.

PERRY Without taking exception to the main thrust of George's point, I would say that one important result of the financial support we gave them and the conditions we put on that financial support was over the past four years what looked like a specter of hyper-inflation in Russia has gone away. That' a very tangible and important accomplishment. You look back to the Weimar Republic in Germany...

ROBINSON That's what did it in.

PERRY The hyper-inflation in Germany was one of the principle causes of that country's downfall and four years ago, five years ago we all thought that was a real probability of happening in Russia and that problem has gotten under control. Many other problems in Russia exist but that problem has gotten under control.

SHULTZ Where it gets under control because of policies that the Russian government finally takes and that's a decision that they have to make and it isn't dependent upon some money that comes from the U.S. I think we have a problem all over the world, incidentally, with these bail-out funds which are gigantic and we're teaching people the wrong thing: namely, that if you make a bad investment and a country goes sour somehow the International Monetary Fund or somebody is going to bail you out. And we're creating a kind of a bail-out mentality and it is much better to go the other way and say if something goes sour in your country it's your responsibility.

ROBINSON If Russia is no longer a threat, what about China?

ROBINSON China has a population of 1 billion. It has been experiencing an economic growth rate in recent years of about 10 percent. It's been building up its military and it's still run by communists. Does this picture make you nervous? Bill?

PERRY Well, there's lots of reason to be apprehensive about the future of China. There is even more uncertainty about what may be developing there in the next 10 to 20 years than in Russia. Let me be clear though that I do not see China as a military threat to the United States today, and I think that if we pursue reasonable policies and engage China in the years and the decades ahead there will be no reason for that to develop. So I think that it is very important that our policy with China be one of trying to constructively engage them.

ROBINSON Russia is Weimar Russia. They are trying very hard to establish a democracy. We should help them in every way that we prudently can. China. We're not to the Weimar China stage yet, are we? It's much more hands off?

SHULTZ I would say to China, put on the table for discussion anything you want. Anything. And we expect to do the same thing. And we will organize this material into sensible packages and then we'll have a strong, candid, professional discussion and what we'll find is there are areas where we look at things in a very common way and we have something we can work on together and we'll have some other areas where we're at odds, we'll have some areas where with a little work we can find ourselves in a much more collaborative approach, but anyway, it would be different things. They'll come out differently. We should have strongly represented the subject that we call human rights on there and we should be prepared for a two-way dialogue on that. They"ll have things to say. But that's the way we ought to proceed and I don't know what you want to call that but anyway it's just a straight-forward, professional way of conducting your diplomacy with respect to another great power. And we haven't done that.


PERRY Let me build on that by saying that the dialogue that George discusses should first of all be regularized. We should not be holding off the meetings as a reward for good behavior. Secondly, they should be at all levels in the government from the highest down to lower levels in the government, and third, they should include military to military relations. I don't believe that is contradictory to what George said.

SHULTZ NO, I agree with you entirely on it. And let me say that when you were still Secretary of Defense, you received, if I'm not mistaken, the Minister of Defense...

PERRY I did.

SHULTZ ...from China and you got a lot of criticism for that but you didn't get any from me.

PERRY That's right.

SHULTZ You got some applause from me because I think that you need to have these discussions. Now because you sit down and talk with somebody doesn't mean you agree with them, doesn't mean you go along with everything, it means that you have a candid discussion and you say look, you are doing some things over here that seem to be very aggressive and are unnecessarily causing tension. Why are you doing that? And you have a candid discussion. You can have things like that. You can't have such a discussion if you never sit down with anybody.

ROBINSON Let's examine a case study. The most recent serious conflict between ourselves and China.

ROBINSON In 1996, during the run-up to the Presidential election in Taiwan, the mainland Chinese held military demonstrations on the mainland across the Strait of Formosa from Taiwan and they lobbed some missiles into the Strait of Formosa, and you sent a couple of carrier groups through the Strait.

PERRY Well, the first point is why we sent them.


PERRY We sent them because we believed that this engagement, whatever you call it we're talking about, does not preclude being very critical to the Chinese government. We think they're making a mistake. It does not preclude...using the tools available to us including a show of military force whenever that seems to be appropriate. So I think that example tends to go with the point George is making. Whatever you call this relationship, it can include very strong criticism and actions as well as meetings and it did. The second point was that I believe that our diplomacy with China at that time had failed to communicate to them how seriously we took their actions in the Taiwan Strait. We have vital national security interests in the western Pacific and we have the military capability to protect those interests and so I believed it was important to make a strong statement and sending the carrier battle groups over there made it more clearly than any message we might have sent them so we did that and I think that clarified not only to the Chinese government but the other governments in the region how seriously we took the security in the western Pacific.

ROBINSON Now, I'll paraphrase...sorry.

SHULTZ Now the Chinese were also sending a message and I don't think we got it.

ROBINSON And their message was?

SHULTZ Their message was that if Taiwan with or without our encouragement, and we seem to give it a lot of encouragement, decides to try to be independent de facto, de jure

ROBINSON They draw the line.

SHULTZ It's not going to happen as far as they're concerned. They consider Taiwan to be part of China and we have said that, the Taiwanese have said that in the past, but yet they keep inching away and the Chinese message, I believe, was we don't have to invade Taiwan. All we have to do is send one of these missiles into Tai Pei and into their harbors and we have, in fact, crippled Taiwan so we can do a lot of damage if we must. I think that the message, I think you're right, the diplomacy failed in communicating to the Chinese how seriously we took their threat to Taiwan but I think also our diplomacy has failed to get it across to the people in Taiwan that while we say to the Chinese, "Work your problems out by peaceful means," we say to the Taiwanese , "It's one China," and if you want to be independent, and its understandable why they might want to be independent, but it you want to be independent that's another game entirely.

PERRY At the same we sent those carrier battle groups to the Taiwan Strait, we sent a messenger to the government of Taiwan to tell them just that. Our one China policy has two components to it. The first component is that there is one China and we recognize that and the Chinese government and the Taiwanese recognize that too. They have different views about what it means but there is one China. But the second part of that is that the Peoples' Republic of China will not try to create that one China by military force or by the coercion or by the threat of military force. And that's why we think that they violated that when they went in with these missile firings.

ROBINSON Let's turn now to what some consider the most dangerous threat of all.

ROBINSON Here's a quotation from Margaret Thatcher. Quote " With the collapse of the Soviet Union there was a dispersal of weapons of mass destruction. This now constitutes quite simply the most dangerous threat of our times." How are we dealing with that threat? Bill?

PERRY We're dealing with it very aggressively by a program which the Defense Department calls the Comprehensive, pardon me, the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, emphasis on the word cooperative because it is done cooperatively with the nations of the former Soviet Union that have nuclear weapons. It's done under a legislation called the [Nunn-Lugar] program. In the last four years we've spent in the Defense Department two billion dollars of defense funds to facilitate two things: first of all, the reduction of nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union and secondly, putting them in better and safer control. So we specifically and directly are dealing with the problems that Margaret Thatcher was speaking of. We've had very good results in that we've dismantled 4,000 nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union. Three nations that used to be nuclear states [Kazakstan], [Belarus] and Ukraine are no longer nuclear states. Ukraine was the third largest nuclear power in the world four years ago. Today, they're non-nuclear. All of those weapons are not in Russia and we are providing support to Russia to help maintain safer and better controls. Having said that, I still worry about the problem but we are doing a lot about it. We're not just worrying about it.

ROBINSON Could I ask: one component of the problem is ballistic missiles. The Scud was a form of ballistic missile that Saddam Hussein used against Israel, a number of nations possess ballistic missiles and can do nasty things with them. The Republicans in Congress want to push for rapid deployment of a ballistic missile defense and the Clinton administration wants to go more slowly. Why wait? George, what's your view on that?

SHULTZ My view is that we should learn how to defend ourselves against ballistic missiles. How fruitful it is to deploy what we have I'm not knowledgeable enough to say, but I do have the feeling that we're not being aggressive enough about this program because it's a long-term thing and ballistic missiles, unfortunately, are proliferating and we need to be prepared and we need to help our friends be prepared. Unfortunately, ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads are far from the only problems that we have to worry about and I think that the threat of biological weapons and chemical weapons in the hands of terrorists or in the hands of terrorists being employed by rogue states are also very threatening, perhaps even more threatening. So there are a lot of threats out there that we aren't, at least I don't get the feeling we're paying adequate attention to these threats.

ROBINSON Bill, on the ballistic defense issue Republicans say move faster, Secretary Shultz here says he feels we could be more aggressive. Your view?

PERRY To answer that question I have to divide it into two quite different parts. There is a threat from ballistic missiles here and now to the United States, the United States military forces as they are deployed overseas and that's from scud and scud-type missiles up to and including the so-called No-Dawn missile in North Korea. That threat exists today and it is a threat to our forces deployed overseas, it's a threat to our allies. We have a ballistic missile defense system designed to operate against that threat. It's called the [Patriarch-3]. It's deployed with our forces. It's, every time we send our forces to the Persian Gulf or to any other region of the world where we expect to see these missiles we have that system deployed with us so. A debate in Congress is over whether we should spend more money for the ICBM attack to the United States which we did not see as a current threat to the United States but I agree with George, that we have to be developing a system to prepare for that.

ROBINSON Atleast we can see Russia and China. How do we defend ourselves against unknown mad men and fanatics?

ROBINSON I spent some time a little while ago with Dr. Teller, our colleague at the Hoover Institution, and asked a few questions about what is possible with regard to big terrorist threats against the United States. His view is that anybody with a rust-bucket steamer and a couple of good missiles can steam up in international waters close enough to the Unites States to launch something in low orbit onto an American city. Nightmare number one. Nightmare number two is the notion of the terrorist with the nuclear device in a suitcase. Not impossible, according to him. Now these are the kinds of things that at the edge of one's mind are very, very frightening. If the device in the World Trade Tower had been nuclear the story would have been quite different. Is there anything we can do? What are we doing with regard to that particular nightmare? Bill?

PERRY Well first of all let me add to the nightmare. Besides a nuclear weapon in a suitcase there is a biological and a chemical weapon in a suitcase and there is plenty of reason for worrying about those too.


PERRY That is, to my judgment, is a more likely threat than the nuclear weapon in a suitcase.

SHULTZ I agree with Bill on that. Both the biological and the chemical weapons are easier for people to produce. They are the so-called poor man's bomb.

ROBINSON All right. You've just made the nightmare worse. Is there anything you can do to make it better?

PERRY We have many programs that are trying to reduce the likelihood of these kind of weapons proliferating into rogue nations and in the hands of terrorists. I cannot tell you that these programs are going to work forever. They slow down. They slow down the acquisition of technology but we have to continue to work at it. There is no fool-proof method. But these, in my mind, are greater threats to the security and safety of the United States than ballistic missiles being fired at us. It's the rogue nation or terrorist getting chemical, biological or maybe nuclear weapons and delivering them by terrorist means.

SHULTZ Kind of goes back to a discussion we had awhile ago about whether the American people are alert enough to the problems that they face and I don't think they are, but this is something that we should be worrying about much more than we are; it's heavily dependent upon intelligence, and good intelligence, and it's heavily dependent on your ability and willingness to take preemptive action if you see a threat that's very likely to come at you.

PERRY The intelligence is also-ends up being directed against U.S. citizens or people in the United States which is harder than intelligence collected overseas.

ROBINSON George Shultz, Bill Perry, thank you very much. Russia and China two enormous countries with armies, navies and nuclear weapons. Terrorists - a few unknown individuals. Both George Shultz and William Perry agree this is the threat we're least well equipped to deal with. I'm Peter Robinson, thanks for joining us.

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