The latest round of Russian-American consultations on missile defense issues, during the visit of US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to Moscow, have failed. There were no interim statements, agreements, or anything similar. However, neither Russia nor the United States seem dissatisfied. Both the Russian Defense Minister and the US Defense Secretary emphasized that military experts from the two nations have started meeting more often recently. According to Rumsfeld, this is preparing the ground for future talks, which will be held soon. The next consultations are scheduled for September, in Moscow. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Rumsfeld will also meet in Naples in September.

Talks are necessary because their results will affect important decisions and joint agreements in the future. Such agreements don’t come into being instantly. According to Ivanov, it is impossible to develop a new model of strategic security in just a few months. Commenting on the recent talks, he noted, “So far, these are not negotiations, but consultations, because first of all Russia would like to know the ‘ceilings and levels’ in defensive and offensive weapons, as the US sees them.” According to Ivanov, Russia’s position is that “it is possible that a new architecture of security will be created in the future, and we aren’t giving up on it, because we are not enemies; but so far it is too early to speak of any results.” Ivanov added, “Now both parties are much closer to the idea that any system of stability needs a system of monitoring and verification.”

Rumsfeld’s comments on the Moscow missile defense talks also had an optimistic tone. Rumsfeld said that his talks with the Russian leadership had been intensive and constructive. The unplanned nature of meetings and contacts of the US Defense Secretary in Moscow is noticeable. It is known that Rumsfeld’s meeting with Ivanov at the Defense Ministry, which began on the morning of August 13, was interrupted – and the interlocutors went to Kremlin to meet with President Vladimir Putin. Rumsfeld’s meeting with Putin, initially planned as a 30-minute conversation, actually lasted for 75 minutes.

According to Rumsfeld, this meeting in the Kremlin convinced him that President Putin is actively working on improving relations between our countries. Rumsfeld also appreciated that Putin allocated so much time to the meeting. In the Kremlin, they discussed a broad range of issues, especially the problem of ballistic and cruise missiles and new threats to both our countries and international security. They also spoke about international terrorism.

At their news conference, Ivanov and Rumsfeld presented their detailed descriptions and views on the issues under discussion. Rumsfeld repeated that the US would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty of 1972 within months. Rumsfeld explained that the US is waiting for the results of tests of components of its proposed national missile defense. Once these results are in, and if they are positive, the US will have to withdraw from the ABM treaty. In response, Ivanov said that unlike the US, Russia is content with the existing multi-level system of agreements and treaties. “We have no wish to withdraw from any treaty or agreement,” added Ivanov. Along with this, he added that Russia “is attentively listening to and heeding American arguments about these issues, including missile defense issues.”

Russia’s position is that a new security system needs to be created. Our countries are no longer enemies, and new threats have arisen around the world. Formerly, Russia and the US had the principle of “mutually assured destruction”; now Ivanov offers the principle of “controllable deterrence.”

At the news conference, Rumsfeld clearly stated, probably for the first time, that Washington was prepared to cut its nuclear arsenals substantially. Rumsfeld emphasized that the US does not need thousands of warheads. According to him, in a month or two he will submit the relevant recommendations to President Bush, and the American defense budget for 2002 already includes spending on nuclear arms reduction. But Rumsfeld’s choice of words in his comments on possible nuclear arms cuts was worth noting: “I was very cautious when we announced cuts to Peacekeeper and Trident missiles. And I now have no doubts that we could reach a much lower level of missiles. But I’m of the old school, and fairly conservative. Until I have studied everything for myself and I’m sure that I have grasped all the fine points I need to know, I will not go to the president and say, ‘Mr. President, here are my recommendations.’ I think I will be able to do this within a couple of months.”

Thus, the US, like Russia, is prepared to reduce its nuclear stockpiles, but it is not known to what level. It is also not clear whether the US will do this unilaterally or will link these actions by some relevant agreements signed with Russia and other countries which possess strategic offensive weapons.

At this point, Moscow’s position is clearer. Thus, according to media reports, during the talks attended by Colonel-General Yury Baluevsky, director of the main operational department of the Russian General Staff on August 7 and 8 in Washington, the Americans were invited to sign START III and reduce the number of nuclear warheads to 1,500 both in Russia and in the US.

Media reports added that besides the quantitative parameters of nuclear warheads, the consultations also touched on procedures for limitation of antisubmarine operations by nuclear submarines and measures for reducing the cost of monitoring and disposing of strategic offensive weapons. Moscow proposed to eliminate all shipborne cruise missiles, ban development of new kinds of strategic offensive weapons, and reduce the number of heavy bombers (nuclear and conventional) to 50. According to Lieutenant-General Anatoly Mazurkevich, the new director of the main international military cooperation department of the Defense Ministry, Russia also invited the US to discuss the creation of a global monitoring system for non-proliferation of missiles and missile technologies. The Americans also received Russian proposals regarding joint participation in development of a tactical regional missile defense system in Europe (including participation of mobile components of the system). Moscow also informed Washington about its views on creating a reliable system to prevent militarization of outer space.

So far, Washington has kept silent about these and other initiatives. The US evidently bears in mind that due to economic problems, Moscow will cut is nuclear stockpile and strategic offensive weapons anyway. Hence, the US is not making any clear statements about its intentions regarding START III. The Americans haven’t ratified START II yet either. These circumstances, and American plans for developing their own national missile defense, may pose a certain threat to Russia. Moscow has nothing left apart from negotiations and diplomatic methods for persuading the US that Russia’s position is correct. However, the US is so strong now that it does not want to hear Russia’s arguments. The US wants to build its own security system, which will hardly take into account the interests of other countries.

What will Russia do in this case? It is unlikely to decide on a direct confrontation with the US. It is also unlikely that it will agree to amend the ABM treaty. We will probably see lengthy consultations. Moscow will probably even reduce its strategic nuclear forces unilaterally, but will preserve its MIRV missiles, creating some headaches for the Americans. Russia will also take other important steps aimed at improving its conventional forces, Air Force and Navy.