Key Quotes from Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, Jr.
- Russia’s stockpile of nonstrategic nuclear weapons, already large and diverse, is being modernized with an eye towards greater accuracy, longer ranges and lower yields to suit their potential war-fighting role.
- Most Russian systems lack external distinguishing features that would allow the observer to differentiate between conventional and nuclear variance. Where limits or reductions have existed, such as with the INF Treaty or the 1992 presidential nuclear initiatives, the United States assesses that Russia has not fulfilled them.
- The U.S. has determined that Russia’s actions have strained key pillars of arms control architecture. These include the Chemical Weapons Convention, Open Skies Treaty, the Vienna documents, and the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.
- United States believes that Russia probably is not adhering to the nuclear testing moratorium in a manner consistent with the zero-yield standard. Our understanding of nuclear weapon development leads us to believe Russia’s testing activities would help it improve its nuclear weapon capabilities. The United States, by contrast, has forgone such benefits by upholding a zero-yield standard.
- And while we assess Russia is currently adhering to the New START treaty limits on deploying warheads, this upload capacity will give Russia the ability to increase the number of warheads in a time of crisis. Russia is also pursuing novel nuclear delivery systems that create a strategic challenge for the U.S. and which are difficult to manage under the current arms control agreements.
- Over the next decade, China will likely at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile in the course of implementing the most rapid expansion and diversification of its nuclear arsenal in China’s history. Last year, China launched more ballistic missiles for testing and training than the rest of the world combined.
- With its announcement of a new nuclear-capable strategic bomber, China soon will field its own version of a nuclear triad, demonstrating China’s commitment to expanding the role and centrality of nuclear forces in Beijing’s military aspirations. And like Russia, China is also working to field nuclear theater-range precision-strike systems. While China’s overall arsenal is assessed to be much smaller than Russia’s, this does not make this trend any less concerning.
Following is the full transcript of the May 29st, 2019 Hudson event titled The Arms Control Landscape .
REBECCAH HEINRICHS: Good morning. Welcome to Hudson Institute. My name is Rebeccah Heinrichs. I’m a senior fellow here specializing in missile defense and nuclear deterrence, counterproliferation. I have the privilege of hosting the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Robert P. Ashley Jr. And directly following this particular portion of our event today, there’ll be another panel of senior U.S. officials directly following that, so please do stick around. We’ll take a 15-minute break in between the two so we can get some refreshments if you’d like to do that. And then what I’d like to do is just introduce the director, and then I’ll turn it over to him for – to allow him to make some initial remarks, and then he and I will have a conversation based on his remarks. And then I will save room for questions from the audience, so do be thinking about those. And then keep your question brief, and then we’ll try to get to as many as we can.
Lieutenant General Robert P. Ashley Jr. became the 21st director of the Defense Intelligence Agency on the 3 of October, 2017. He formerly served as the Army deputy chief of staff, where he was the senior advisor to the secretary of the Army and the Army chief of staff for all aspects of intelligence, counterintelligence and security. Lieutenant General Ashley is a career Army military intelligence officer with assignments in Fort Bragg, N.C., Washington, D.C., Fort Gordon, Ga., and more. He has commanded at the company, battalion, squadron and brigade levels with combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a squadron brigade commander and J2. And I could go on and on, and he has a very illustrious career, and so I do commend his bio to you, but I do want to get to the point of his remarks here, and that is – we’d like to have a conversation about the Chinese and Russian missile and nuclear programs. So with that, sir, I will turn it over to you.
ROBERT P ASHLEY JR: Rebeccah, thanks. Let me get up to the podium. So good morning, everybody. Good morning, everybody. All right. Make sure you’re with me. I didn’t get my snack this morning, so for those of you that are still having breakfast – first, let me thank the Hudson Institute for hosting the event and the opportunity to speak with you today about the Russian and Chinese nuclear modernization trends that we’re tracking. With the return of great power competition, nuclear capabilities are again at the forefront of the critical work for the intelligence community, and for the Defense Intelligence Agency in particular, this is why we exist. Our core mission is to understand foreign military capabilities and to provide decision advantage to our senior leadership. So let me start with Russia. After working together for decades to achieve real nuclear reductions, Russia is upgrading the capacity of its nuclear forces. We assess its overall nuclear stockpile is likely to grow significantly over the next decade. This assessed growth is primarily driven by a significant projected increase in the number of Russia’s nonstrategic nuclear weapons. Russia is adding new military capabilities to existing stockpile of nonstrategic nuclear weapons, including those employed by ships, aircraft and ground forces. These nuclear warheads include theater and tactical range systems that Russia relies on to deter and to defeat NATO or China in a conflict.
Russia’s stockpile of nonstrategic nuclear weapons, already large and diverse, is being modernized with an eye towards greater accuracy, longer ranges and lower yields to suit their potential war-fighting role. We assess Russia to have dozens of these systems already deployed or in development. They include but are not limited to short- and close-range ballistic missiles, ground-launch cruise missiles, including the 9M729 missile, which the U.S. government determines violates the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or the INF, Treaty, as well as anti-ship – anti-submarine missiles, torpedoes, as well as depth charges. For comparison, the United States currently has a single nonstrategic nuclear weapons system, the B61 gravity bomb. We assess Russia possesses up to 2,000 such nonstrategic nuclear warheads not covered by the New START treaty. And because of the lack of Russian transparency, we have uncertainty in our understanding of the scope and the disposition of the stockpile. Accurately accounting for these nonstrategic nuclear weapons is not only complicated by the lack of transparency, but by their dual-nature capability.
Most Russian systems lack external distinguishing features that would allow the observer to differentiate between conventional and nuclear variance. Where limits or reductions have existed, such as with the INF Treaty or the 1992 presidential nuclear initiatives, the United States assesses that Russia has not fulfilled them. This is exemplified by the development of the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile. By 2015, Russia had completed a comprehensive flight test program consisting of multiple tests of the 9M729 missile from both fixed and from mobile launchers that appear to be purposely designed to disguise the true nature of their testing activity, as well as the true capacity of the missile. Now, while compliance determinations such as the INF Treaty are ultimately determined by a U.S. interagency policy committee, I want to be clear about the role of the intelligence community. It’s the job of the intelligence community to analyze those activities that have implications for countries’ international obligations. The IC does not use the word compliance but rather characterizes actions as inconsistent with the intent of such treaties and uses those assessments to help inform the interagency process. So from an interagency standpoint, the U.S. has determined that Russia’s actions have strained key pillars of arms control architecture. These include the Chemical Weapons Convention, Open Skies Treaty, the Vienna documents, and the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. In addition to the anticipated growth in non-strategic nuclear weapons, Russia claims to be developing new warhead designs for strategic systems such as a new high-yield, earth-penetrating warhead to attack hardened military targets, like the U.S., allied and Chinese command and control facilities. Russia’s development of these new warhead designs and overall stockpile management has been enhanced by its approach to nuclear testing.
United States believes that Russia probably is not adhering to the nuclear testing moratorium in a manner consistent with the zero-yield standard. Our understanding of nuclear weapon development leads us to believe Russia’s testing activities would help it improve its nuclear weapon capabilities. The United States, by contrast, has forgone such benefits by upholding a zero-yield standard. Russia’s ongoing comprehensive buildup in both its strategic and non-strategic nuclear forces is made possible by sustained and prioritized investments in its nuclear weapons development and its production infrastructure. By 2013, Rosatom had developed and modernize dozens of experimental facilities, and Rosatom’s budget has increased roughly 30%, in real terms, from 2010 to 2018 to support these and other operations. In contrast to the United States, during the past decade Russia has improved and expanded its production complex, which has the capacity to process thousands of warheads annually. An increase in its overall nuclear warhead stockpile is not the only source of concern stemming from Russia’s broad-based nuclear modernization program. Within the confines of the New START treaty, Russia claims its overhaul of its strategic rocket forces is roughly 70% complete. Every leg of Russia’s triad is being modernized, and Russia’s fielding new strategic systems, including road-mobile and silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, a submarine-launched ballistic missile, an upgraded strategic nuclear bomber and a strategic air-launched cruise missile.
Many of these new systems have greater warhead delivery capacity than the systems that they are replacing. For example, Russia’s ageing SS-25 road-mobile ICBM carries a single nuclear warhead, while its replacement, the SS-27 can carry multiple warheads, providing Russia significant (ph) capability to upload additional warheads onto its strategic delivery systems. The SS-18, Russia’s aging heavy ICBM, carries up to 10 nuclear warheads, while the Russian president claims that the Sarmat, its replacement, will carry even more hit – more warheads – and will also be capable of carrying the Avangard, which is a hypersonic glide vehicle. And while we assess Russia is currently adhering to the New START treaty limits on deploying warheads, this upload capacity will give Russia the ability to increase the number of warheads in a time of crisis. Russia is also pursuing novel nuclear delivery systems that create a strategic challenge for the U.S. and which are difficult to manage under the current arms control agreements. In March 2018, President Putin unveiled these systems, which include an intercontinental-range, nuclear-powered, nuclear-capable underwater drone, a nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed, intercontinental-range cruise missile, an air-launched ballistic missile. And Russia also continues to modernize its existing automated nuclear command and control launch system, known as Perimeter. President Putin’s high-profile announcement in March 2018 makes clear that Russia is continuing to prioritize investment in its nuclear forces, even at a time of domestic budgetary constraints. These new nuclear capabilities have come at an expense of other Russian defense priorities, such as the development of a new aircraft carrier, because Russia sees its nuclear weapons as the ultimate guarantee -er (ph) of the country’s survival and perceives a war-fighting role for its use and directs its scarce resources against its nuclear modernization effort. These quantitative and qualitative improvements to Russia’s nuclear arsenal have security implications for the United States and for our allies.
Russia’s large and diverse stockpile facilitates a doctrine that envisions the potential, of course, of use of nuclear weapons. Russia assesses that the threat of nuclear escalation or actual first use of nuclear weapons would serve to de-escalate a conflict on terms favorable to Russia. Russian defense officials have spoken publicly about de-escalating a conflict through limited nuclear use. And it is a fact that the Russian military has prepared plans and is well-trained to transition rapidly to nuclear use in order to compel and to end a conventional conflict. Russia’s perceptions that nuclear use could terminate a conflict on terms favorable to Russia increases the prospect of miscalculation. So let me now turn to China, as Russia is not the only state with – that is a strategic competitor in expanding its nuclear capability.
Over the next decade, China will likely at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile in the course of implementing the most rapid expansion and diversification of its nuclear arsenal in China’s history. Last year, China launched more ballistic missiles for testing and training than the rest of the world combined. We expect this modernization to continue. And their trajectory is consistent with President Xi’s vision for China’s military, which was laid out at the 19th Party Congress, and stated that China’s military will be fully transformed into a first-tier force by 2050. China has developed a new road-mobile ICBM, new multi-warhead version of its silo-based ICBM, and new submarine-launched ballistic missiles. With its announcement of a new nuclear-capable strategic bomber, China soon will field its own version of a nuclear triad, demonstrating China’s commitment to expanding the role and centrality of nuclear forces in Beijing’s military aspirations. And like Russia, China is also working to field nuclear theater-range precision-strike systems. While China’s overall arsenal is assessed to be much smaller than Russia’s, this does not make this trend any less concerning.
Based on the United States’ experience in developing nuclear weapons, we understand the efforts required for China’s substantive and rapid expansion of their nuclear weapon program and its capabilities. U.S. government information indicates that China is possibly preparing to operate its test site year-round in a development that speaks directly to China’s growing goals for its nuclear force. Further, China continues to use explosive containment chambers at its nuclear test site, and China leaders previously joined Russia in watering down the language of the P5 statement that would have affirmed a uniform understanding of zero-yield testing. A combination of these facts and China’s lack of transparency on their nuclear testing activities raise questions as to whether China could achieve such progress without activities inconsistent with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. It’s also important to note that, in addition to modernizing its nuclear forces, China and Russia are also pursuing emerging technologies that have potential to revolutionize undersea warfare and challenge U.S. superiority in a maritime domain. As our annual threat assessments, national security and defense strategies have all highlighted, the resurgence of great power competition is a geopolitical reality. It is the mindset of – Russia and China have embraced, the mindset that is guiding their approach to nuclear modernization and investment. Nuclear weapons will remain central to Russia and China’s military plans and intentions, and therefore remain a critical area of analysis for the Defense Intelligence Agency as we work to provide our senior leadership with decision advantage. Rebeccah.
HEINRICHS: Sir. Thank you very much for those remarks. I think the one thing that caught my ear there, when you were talking about testing – the Russians have been conducting tests that are inconsistent with CTBT and with our understanding of zero-yield. Can you talk a little bit more about that and explain the implications of that and how that would benefit their program?
ASHLEY: I can’t really get into to the details of that. But it’s just the protocols and our understanding and belief is they are set up in such a way that they are able to operate beyond what would be necessary for a zero-yield. And so the facilities that they’re operating have that capacity to operate in something other than zero-yield. And then part of the concern is – as I – kind of my closing statement, with the P5 language, not willing to affirm that they are actually adhering to that, which is where the U.S. is and how we’ve operated since the treaty has been in place.
HEINRICHS: And with that – China as well.
ASHLEY: With China as well.
HEINRICHS: And oftentimes, when we talk publicly in the think-tank world about China – about Russia – we’ll stick with Russia at first here – with Russia’s approach to its nuclear forces and this concept that they might be willing to escalate to de-escalate, we get pushback. They say there’s no evidence of that. There’s no evidence of that in official documentation. Again, I won’t talk about sources or how you know that. But if you can talk about why your assessment at DIA is, in fact – you said it’s a fact that they are testing in this manner and that we are confident that this is, in fact, Russia’s approach to – why it’s organizing their entire arsenal this way and their strategy that they have lowered the threshold of when they might consider nuclear use in a purely conventional conflict.
ASHLEY: Yeah. And so part of their doctrine they stated in 2014 – it goes back into the ’90s – so there is not a no-first-use policy from Russia, and they see that as an ability. And you hear it different ways. In some contexts, you’ll hear it escalate to de-escalate. It’s been written about recently in terms of escalation control, where they think that using a low-yield non-strategic nuclear weapon would bring other powers that would be involved in the conflict to the table where they could control the escalation of the conflict and talks would ensue from that. So they see that as an opportunity for – to be able to provide escalation control. I was looking at some testimony from General Hyten out of STRATCOM. And one of the things that he does is – when you see something in the language, to really understand the nature – whether it’s Russia, China, whomever – it’s very important that you look at how that was stated. And then one of his comments was, when it was actually stated in Russian – he had his analyst translate it – was escalate to when – those are the actual – his testimony on how I used the – they used that terminology.
HEINRICHS: And then sticking again with Russia, you talked about how – I want to talk about the upload capability because a lot of times when we think of arms control, we think of just counting…
HEINRICHS: …Counting current capability – current warheads to extent that we can do that and having transparency in that way. But you really kind of hit a couple times on upload capability, both in the context of Russia and China.
ASHLEY: So just a – so you understand the upload capability. If you go to the New START treaty, there’s limitations in place, and Russia is in compliance. The limit for the number of warheads that are deployed is 1,550. And then there’s a subset of that. When you look at the triad, subs, ICBMs and long-range aviation – strategic bombers – at any one time, you would not have more than 700 platforms deployed. And then there’s an additional kind of buffer of a hundred that are not deployed, and all those are subject to inspection in the regime and the New START treaty. When we talk about the upload is – as you build additional capabilities, they go through the modernization. You have additive capacity inside those delivery systems. So you have an additional capacity for additional warheads. So just think of it; you got extra space to bring more warheads in a time of a crisis or a conflict. So you could quickly move beyond that limit of 1,550 in a time of crisis.
HEINRICHS: And then – last one on Russia for now – I thought it was interesting that you talked about how its forces are designed to deter NATO or deter and potentially defeat, if it came to that – then you also said China in terms of Russia, the way they think about their nuclear force. Can you give us a little bit more information on that – how Russia views China in this particular context?
ASHLEY: I’d just say, in terms of great power competition, all the nations look at every other nation as a potential competitor, and they look at those capabilities. So you wouldn’t singularly say that there is an alliance there or there’s a relationship. I would say that – I would describe it as more transactional than it is anything else. But when Russia or China or the U.S., whomever is developing those capabilities, they develop in such a way that they can use them irrespective of who that enemy may be. And I just kind of bring that out in the context that that is a possibility as well.
HEINRICHS: And then let’s switch over to China, and then I’ll take your questions. So please be ready for that. You said that they’ve been – they’ve tested – the Chinese have tested more missiles than the rest of the world combined I think in a year’s time. I don’t remember.
ASHLEY: I’d have to go back and look at the year but in the recent time, yeah.
HEINRICHS: In recent time. And then my understanding is that’s really been sort of China’s approach to its military upgrading strategy – has – it sort of pivots on its missile program. And can you talk a little bit about the missiles that the Chinese have that, had they been party to the INF treaty, they would be in violation because they have INF-range missiles? And in fact, I think it was cited previously, openly, 80 to 90% of their entire missile force would be in violation of the INF treaty had they been party to it.
ASHLEY: So in testimony – I’ll go back to both the STRATCOM commander and the INDOPACOM commander in the testimony I’ve talked about. They used the word 90%. I’ve not actually gone out and made that determination, but I would imagine it is a significant part of the inventory. So things like the DF-21, which is an intermediate-range ballistic missile – excuse me, the 26 or the 21, which is medium-range ballistic missile, all could be used in that regional context of South China Sea in the INDOPACOM. And were they signatories of an INF-like treaty, those would be subject to that. So a large part of their inventory would be subject to a future version of some kind of an INF treaty. And right now, they’re not signatories to anything other than the comprehensive test ban. And again, I have to go back and check. I understand they signed it in ’96. I don’t know that they have ratified it, although the Russians signed in ’96 and ratified in 2000.
HEINRICHS: But your analysis would conclude that the Chinese are modernizing their nuclear forces in a way that would be inconsistent with the desire to comply with a standard of CTBT that we would be comfortable with?
ASHLEY: That’s our belief in terms of what we’re seeing in the testing regime. But the other part – you have to look at where China was in the ’70s. So their first ICBM was developed in the ’70s, the first road-mobile around 1999. It was one of the parades, and it was operationally deployed around 2000. So part of that rapid growth is because the capability did not exist in the kind of capacity that Russia or the U.S. has had in the past. So that’s been a significant investment that they’ve made in terms of them catching up capacity over the course of the last 15 years.
HEINRICHS: OK. We’ve got some time here for a couple of questions. Yeah. We’ll go here first and there. If you can just state your name and organization and then your question. Sir?
MICHAEL GORDON: Michael Gordon, Wall Street Journal. Sir, I heard you say in the Q&A just now, that the – Michael Gordon, Wall Street Journal. I heard you say right now that the – in this colloquy here – that the Russians are set up at their test site at Novaya Zemlya in such a way that they could conduct experiments in excess of a zero-yield ban in the CTBT. But in your comments, you implied that they probably already are doing this. They’re not merely set up to do this but, in fact, they’ve been doing this for some time. Is that correct?
ASHLEY: So I’d say we believe they have the capability to do it the way they are set up.
GORDON: And do you think they’re actually doing it?
ASHLEY: I’ll have to say I believe they have the capability to do that.
GORDON: And my question is, there are many types of activities that could exceed a zero yield. Some are very low-yield hydronuclear experiments that could be of a few pounds such that – the type of things the U.S. did during the Eisenhower administration. Or they could be something more significant than that. To provide some context on how concerned we should be, what – can you say a little more about the nature of these activities? Are these activities that would be an explosive of a few pounds of TNT or something more substantial?
ASHLEY: I can’t really quantify that. I just think – I think, from a strategic level, it goes into the issue of adhering to the zero-yield compliance. I think that really is kind of a strategic part of it. And the other part is you go through the process of upgrading the warheads that you have. If you go beyond a zero-yield, you know, that gives you more of a sense that your designs are viable.
HEINRICHS: OK. Yes, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Inaudible) Our nuclear arsenal. And despite all the testing that’s going on and despite the myriad concerns that China poses, I’m wondering whether you see a trend away from this classical Chinese approach that only keeps nuclear weapons for assured retaliation. Is that no longer true? That’s, for instance, the thesis of MIT professor Taylor Fravel in his new book “Active Defense,” where he kind of separates it and compartmentalizes nuclear – unlike the Russians, unlike maybe North Korea.
ASHLEY: You ask a great question in terms of – so what’s exactly Xi Jinping’s intent? – a little more context on what they’ve done. So we estimate, you know, the number of warheads that the Chinese have is in the low couple hundreds. So in the low couple hundreds – we anticipate, over the course of the next decade, that will double. Now, they’ve stated that they have a no-force – no-first-use policy. They’ve also stated that they would never use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear power. But at the end of the day, if something becomes an existential threat, it’s difficult to say that that would not become something in their decision calculus because they have not specifically stated it.
HEINRICHS: Or put a – I think put another way, we often think of countries either investing more heavily or moving in the direction of relying more on nuclear weapons in terms of their military strategies. Or the United States continues to try to move away, but real-world events continue to ensure that the United States maintains a flexible, credible nuclear deterrent. The trend lines are not positive in terms of the Chinese’s reliance on nuclear weapons and the military strategy.
ASHLEY: I would say that’s – the trend lines are, you know, increasing. And it’s not just in the nuclear – if you look at all the domains – you know, what they have done in terms of modernizing the military across aviation. And a big area – not the subject of this topic – is really the space, counterspace aspect of how the Chinese are approaching warfighting from every domain. But there is a significant investment in their nuclear forces.
HEINRICHS: Yes, sir? Here in the red tie.
GUY TAYLOR: Thank you very much for doing this and welcome, General. Thank you for the public comments. My name’s Guy Taylor. I’m the national security editor at The Washington Times newspaper. And at the risk of asking too much of a policy question, I wanted to go back to the future of the INF. And I wonder, would you say, based on your analysis of the Russian and Chinese postures, that there is a positive way forward vis-a-vis the pursuit of a new INF treaty that includes both Russia, and China, and the United States and possibly even other parties, and who might they be? Thanks.
ASHLEY: So I think you got a follow-up who’s going to get more on the policy side. What I do understand – and some of the comments have made by the Chinese – is they are less likely to be interested in a multilateral, and how they see relationships with other nations is much more on a bilateral basis.
HEINRICHS: And just to remind you all, too, we will – after we wrap it up here with the director, please do stick around because we’re going to have a really great policy conversation with senior Trump administration officials to talk about some of these policy implications. So please do stick around for that. Yes, sir, over here in the dark blue tie.
DARYL KIMBALL: Thank you, Rebeccah – Daryl Kimball with the Arms Control Association. General, I just wanted to follow up on Michael Gordon’s question about your statements about Russia’s compliance or noncompliance with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. First of all, if you could clarify, were you saying that Russia has, in DIA’s assessment, violated the CTBT or has facilities that are capable of conducting experiments or tests that violate the CTBT, one? And two, were you saying that Russia has resisted or has not stated that it shares the United States’ definition of what the CTBT prohibits – that is, a zero-yield test ban?
ASHLEY: Yeah, I got to go back and look at the specific language, but my understanding is that they’ve not affirmed the language of zero yield, so there’s not an agreement to what that means.
KIMBALL: Were you aware that in April of 2017, Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov wrote a public op-ed that said that the CTBT prohibits nuclear test explosions no matter what the yield?
ASHLEY: I’ve not read that.
KIMBALL: Yeah, I can point out to you if you would like afterwards. Thank you.
HEINRICHS: I think it almost doesn’t matter on that particular point if the Defense Intelligence Agency has assessed, though, that they’re still acting in a way inconsistent with our understanding of zero yield. I can deduce that that means that they do not share the same understanding as the United States, which is, zero means zero. So we’ll – yes, sir – go to the next question.
JONATHAN LANDAY: General – Jonathan Landay with Reuters. You talk about how Russia and China are increasing their development of nuclear weapons and modernizing, but I’m wondering – because of the reemergence of this great power competition. But I’m wondering to what extent they are reacting to the United States’ modernization beginning with the development of the Stockpile Stewardship program, all of the billions that were poured in to that, the billions that were poured into the modernization of U.S. nuclear warheads and what’s going on right now, the – you know, the massive U.S. modernization – nuclear modernization program. To what extent is this react – are they reacting and trying to catch up with the United States, or is this just something that they undertook independently of where the United States has been going?
ASHLEY: So the – China and the Russians are going to see us as competitors, and so they’re going to want to make sure that they have capabilities, that they can deter either U.S. or allied or NATO operations whether they go into Indo-Pacific region or if they go into Eastern Europe. So I think it’s a natural evolution that they have those additional capabilities and shore up their defenses. And it’s not just on the nuclear side of the house. It’s maritime. It’s space, counterspace. And again, I think that’s another area that’s rich for discussion, is the investments we’ve seen in space, counterspace. I mean, really, it’s a whole modernization across multiple domains. You know, we’ve been involved in a CT fight, and they’ve watched us. They’ve watched us in Desert Storm; they watched us in 2003, and they saw the capability of the U.S. military, and they took great note in the lacking capability that they had and have made those investments to shore up where they saw their weaknesses.
HEINRICHS: If I might just – the director commented in his initial remarks that a lot of these modernization efforts that the Chinese and Russians are taking are happening now, whereas even though the United States has a modernization plan and program, it’s not taken it – it’s – we’re not we’re not seeing the fruit from that for years, still. You mentioned the fact that we have the one – the B61 gravity bombs compared to what the Russians and the Chinese are having in terms of that capability. So I hear that a lot, that pushback that it’s in response, but really, in my view as an analyst, we’re the ones that are asleep at the switch in terms of our – the sense of urgency we have to actually compete credibly with what the Russians in particular are doing and then now with some of this new information with what the Chinese are doing, as well. (Inaudible). Over here, yes, sir. We’ll have the time for just a couple more.
JULIAN BARNES: Julian Barnes, New York Times. General, how much is the current Russian doctrine, in your mind, a continuation of Soviet doctrine, and how much of it is an evolution to the modern time? And under – and I wonder if you could also talk a little bit about their hypersonic program and how that interacts with the nuclear capability and what the implications for U.S. deterrence is?
ASHLEY: And so I’d say it is an evolution. And it’s informed by new technologies that they’re developing. You saw a lot of that in Putin’s comments in March of 2018, where they had looked at additional capabilities they wanted to build, such as this unmanned, nuclear-powered, nuclear-capable vehicle that would be launched from the Belgorod submarine – the advent of hypersonics, which in itself creates a challenge. And so for the Sarmat, which is the new ICBM that’s under development that they’ll field in the next couple of years, they’re looking to make hypersonics one of the applications they’re going to be using that. So they’re – and then, again, back to the space – counterspace space. So they’re looking at all domains, the technology that’s available and thinking very much, how do they shore up their weaknesses in that space and from a very asymmetric standpoint? Because at a full-on force-on-force, the Russians know that any kind of engagement with the West would be a very problematic fight.
HEINRICHS: Just a couple more. Yes, ma’am, in the blue top?
SOYOUNG KIM: Hi. I’m Soyoung Kim with Radio Free Asia. And I know today’s topic more focuses on China and Russia. But I want to take this chance to get some brief comments on North Korean issue, if you don’t mind. So even though there was no major nuclear and missile test by North Korea for the past year or something, but there is some indication that they keep developing their nuclear facility to send – so how does DIA assess their latest capability on nuclear and missile program? And also, we saw there was some – a few short-range ballistic missile tests by North Korea. And how do you see they’re likely to test more amid this negotiation stalled? Thank you.
ASHLEY: So let me just kind of compartment part of that discussion, go back to what’s our core mission. So for the Defense Intelligence Agency, our core mission is to understand the operational environment and it’s to understand foreign military capabilities. So while talks either have paused or continue, that does not change what we do every day we come to work. You know, we still continue to look, assess and try to understand the capability that Kim Jong Un possesses across all domains of the warfighting capability he’s building. So we watch all that closely. We continue to look for indications warning – developing a new systems, which I can’t get into all the details, obviously, here. But it has not changed our focus. We continue to watch everything that’s taking place very closely. Because, again, it gets back to making sure that when our policymakers or when our senior leaders go into those negotiations, they have as much information about what those capabilities are, what is being stated in a public forum and what we may understand that may be, in fact, be happening but has not being disclosed.
HEINRICHS: We have time for maybe one or two real quick ones – yes, sir? – depending on time.
GREG THIELMANN: Greg Thielmann, board member of the Arms Control Association. General Ashley, can you tell us anything about the arming of the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile? Clearly it’s nuclear capable, but it seems to have a conventional mission unlike the U.S. ground-launched cruise missiles, which were deployed in the 1980s and then destroyed under the IMF treaty.
ASHLEY: Yeah. It is a dual-capable, so it can be configured either with a nuclear capability or a conventional. And as I had stated in the comments, the challenge is there’s no discernable markings on that particular cruise missile that would let you know – if we see it in a deployed status – whether, in fact, that is a conventional version or if that’s a nuclear version. But it is dual-capable.
HEINRICHS: Yes, sir, in the back?
DON KIRK: General, my name is Don Kirk. I’m a journalist, spent a lot of time in Korea. I want to – following up on this North Korean issue – you said you keep on briefing on the capabilities, but what are the capabilities? And what are they doing, and to what extent are they receiving advice from Russia and China and cooperating with Iran on nuclear development? Thank you.
ASHLEY: So one of the really – challenges you have when you’re in the intel community is what you can say in an open forum and what you can’t. I would put what you just asked me all in kind of the – what I can’t say in an open forum. I appreciate the interest. And I can only assure you that we watch that with a laser focus. But you’re asking me things that I can’t really disclose in an open forum, but I do appreciate your question.
HEINRICHS: One last question over here.
JULIAN KYLE LEWIS: Good morning, General. And thank you for being here. My name is Julian Kyle Lewis from the American University here in Washington. During the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy and the attorney general at the time really had to sit down and strategize on how they would incrementally reassure the American public of our ability to protect the homeland, because there were a lot of confused and scared people at the time. And I was hoping you could illustrate for us our strategy, as leaders in the United States, to reassure citizens that we’re able to, you know, protect our kids, keep us safe, protect our colleges, we can still go to football, baseball, basketball games and live the lives that we all hope that we can enjoy? Thank you very much.
ASHLEY: So I’m going to punt your question to the next panel because that’s really what they do. But I appreciate the way you framed that because when somebody says, what do you do for a living? Why do you get up in the morning? I get up for exactly what you just talked about. When I get up in the morning, I come to work, it’s because I want my kids – I don’t know if you have any kids yet – but your siblings and your parents and you to enjoy the rest of your time at American University. And that I want you to go watch the Nats play – right? – without any concern. And so that’s what I’ve done for the last 35 years. And in terms of giving you some of the details of that strategy on the policy side of the House, hopefully you’ll get picked on the next panel. But thanks for pointing that out because that’s what gets me up in the morning.
HEINRICHS: Thank you so much. Please join me in thanking the director for his time.
HEINRICHS: Well, thank you all for sticking around for the second portion of this event. Now we can spend a little bit more time considering together some of the policy implications and how the Trump administration is navigating the current arms control landscape. And with us – I don’t think we could have put together a better panel for this. So thank you all for being here with us and taking the time to do this and help us think through these. Directly to my left, we have Mr. Timothy Morrison. Tim joined the National Security Council in July, 2018 and serves as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Biodefense. In this role, he oversees and coordinates the development of national policies and programs to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons – including biological threats from naturally occurring, deliberate or accidental sources. That’s all I’m going to share. For each of them I’m just going to give just a very brief introduction so that we optimize our time together. But like the director, he has an illustrious biography as well. Dr. James H. Anderson – directly to Tim’s left – is the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Capabilities Dr. Anderson was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on August, 28, 2018 as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Capabilities. Dr. Anderson is responsible for advising the secretary of defense and the undersecretary of defense for policy on national security and defense strategy, the forces and contingency plans necessary to implement defense strategy, nuclear deterrence and missile defense policy and security cooperation plans and policies. Dr. Anderson ensures the Department’s program, budget and posture decisions support and advance senior DOD leaders’ strategic direction.
And then, directly to his left, Mr. Thomas DiNanno – did I say that right? – deputy assistant secretary for defense policy, emerging threats and outreach, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance. Mr. DiNanno was appointed by President Trump in October, 2018 as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Defense Policy, Emerging Threats and Outreach in the Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Bureau. In this role, he oversees the implementation and oversight of missile defense and space policy in support of U.S. national security policies and objectives, promotes and implements bilateral, multilateral arms control transparency and confidence building measures with key allies and international stakeholders and manages the bureau’s strategic planning and outreach activities. And then what I intend to do is have each of our panelists provide just a few minutes of opening remarks of what they think are some of the key points that we should take away with us today. And then we’ll have a little bit of a conversation here on the panel. And then I will leave some room at the end, again, just like the last opportunity, for questions from the audience, so please do be thinking about those. And with that, I’m going to turn it over to you, Timothy.
TIMOTHY MORRISON: Thanks, Rebeccah. First of all, I’d like to express my appreciation to Hudson for hosting today’s event on the administration’s new era of arms control. It’s fitting to be here in the institute that Herman Kahn created to talk about the subject matter. I keep on a table in my office his seminal volume on thermonuclear war, which is a testament to both the importance of nuclear kilotons and intellectual megatons in resolving the challenges posed by nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence. So I’m here today to discuss the work we have underway on arms control in the administration. The president has charged his national security team to think more broadly about arms control, both in terms of the countries and the weapons systems involved. The world has moved on from the Cold War and its bilateral treaties that cover limited types of nuclear weapons or only certain ranges of adversary missiles.
The president wants effective arms control that delivers real security to the American people and our allies. And to achieve this, he has concluded that we must negotiate with both Russia and China. And so the National Security Council staff is coordinating efforts to provide the president with options on how best to proceed. The administration has been consistent, beginning with the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, that arms control can contribute to the national security of the United States and our allies. But unlike some true believers who worship at the altar of the current arms control apparatus, we see arms control as a means to an end and not an end unto itself, which is why, after examining the record on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, we saw that, after six years of trying to restore Russia’s compliance with that treaty across two administrations, national security demanded a choice about whether or not the United States could be the only country effectively bound by that treaty. And in the end, the answer was obvious to almost everyone. We could not permit the situation to persist where the United States was the only country in the world effectively constrained by the INF treaty. But beyond Russia’s lack of compliance with other agreements – some of which General Ashley referenced – we must also consider the trends in Russian and Chinese nuclear modernization and expansion. General Ashley has addressed these trends to highlight the reality of the resurgence of great power competition. This is a stark picture previously only known to those of us in the United States government. So we are implementing the president’s direction and considering arms control options that could achieve the following objectives.
First, it must be in the national security interest of the United States, as well as our allies and partners. For example, we would benefit from an agreement that halts the growth of Russian and Chinese nuclear stockpiles, while not undermining our ability to deter attack. For Russia, the advantages of this could be that it creates a new channel to have a dialogue with the United States. Too often, our efforts to have a positive relationship have been challenged by Russia’s malign behavior. This is an opportunity for Russia to demonstrate its interest in our bilateral relationship. And for China, which is concerned about avoiding an arms race, as are we – in fact, we’re the only one not racing – here’s an opportunity to match words with actions for a country that purports to have a minimum deterrence policy. Second, the next arms control agreement must constrain potential adversaries’ current and planned military capabilities and prevent unnecessary military competition. With Russia causing the demise of the INF treaty, it has created a situation where the bulk of its nuclear weapons and modernization program are exempt from any arms control. We know Russia will seek unrelated concessions, such as on missile defense. The president has been clear. We will not negotiate away our missile defenses – not ever. And as you know, it is ironic that Russia, a country with 68 nuclear-capable interceptors surrounding Moscow – that it spends so much time worried about our missile defenses, which are primarily tailored to rogue states.
Based on the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy, the United States has moved to address a new phase of strategic competition with countries like China, which means it is – no longer makes sense for China to be unconstrained by arms control measures. China has nearly completed fielding its nuclear triad, and it is growing its nuclear capability rapidly. So we should find a way to persuade China to see that limiting its nuclear forces now will ultimately be in its favor before it embarks on a costly arms race. The United States and our allies will be safer as a result. Third, while each agreement must be tailored to its objective, the most successful arms control treaties have included robust verification measures. Rigorous verification mechanisms increase our ability to confirm compliance and detect violations in a timely and enforceable way. Finally, we must ensure compliance with timely and substantial consequences for violations of arms control. The previous administration said the right thing – and I quote, “rules must be binding, violations must be punished, words must mean something.” But it failed to follow through with action. This administration has actually held those who violate arms control treaties accountable, as we had done with the INF and Open Skies treaties. By doing so, we have attempted to not only make Russia pay a price for its non-compliance; we have upheld the credibility of arms control as a viable national security tool. We know that bringing Russia and China to the table will be challenging, so we are considering what inducements we may have to use in order to convince both countries that this effort is in their interests, as well. We are clear-eyed in this administration that arms control is a means to an end. A signing ceremony is not the goal.
In a piece titled “On The Objectives Of Arms Control,” my friend Michael Krepon quoted Herman Kahn, who stated that arms control’s goal is, I quote, “to improve the inherent stability of the situation, decrease the occasions or the approximate causes of war within the system and decrease the destructiveness and other disutilities (ph) of any wars that actually occur.” And President Reagan reasoned that, quote, “everybody would be a loser if there was a nuclear war.” These are, I think, the motivations behind President Trump’s push for a new era of arms control. If we break out of Cold War thinking about arms control, we may be able to achieve a truly effective treaty that provides real threat reduction and not simply a treaty that limits what’s easy and defers what’s hard to someone else on another distant day. Thank you.
JAMES H ANDERSON: I’d like to thank Hudson, as well, for hosting this event. Earlier in my career, I worked at a think tank myself, so I’m well aware of the value that think tanks provide to the – contributing to the public policy debate. And certainly, this issue here carries a lot of weight. And it’s a great opportunity to discuss this with this audience. I’m James Anderson. I’m the assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities. As mentioned, I have nuclear weapons and missile defense in my portfolio. I’m going to pick up on a couple points that Lieutenant General Ashley mentioned in the previous hour. I’m going to amplify a few things, contextually, about Russia and Chinese modernization programs. I will also contrast those modernization efforts with our own because I think there are some sharp contrasts. And then I’ll close with a thought on how this impacts – what this means for the potential of multilateral arms control.
So Russia’s modernization is broad. It’s longstanding. It’s well-resourced. It includes a lot of different systems. The size and the scope are particularly noteworthy. As mentioned by the director of DIA, they have a considerable capacity to upload nuclear warheads on their existing and projected systems. They have a significant capacity to produce nuclear warheads. They have an estimated 2,000 non-strategic nuclear warheads that are not covered by the New START treaty. We have but a fraction of that number. They also have – as announced by Vladimir Putin in March 2018, they are developing some novel systems. And some of these are really Strangelovian in their orientation, a nuclear-powered autonomous submersible vehicle that can transmit oceans to deliver multimegaton warheads. But stepping back, the numbers are significant. But it’s even more significant, I think, to put this in a broader context. And here, I’m referencing Russian behavior, particularly in the last decade, as we are now in this era of great power competition, things they’ve done to try to remake the map in Georgia and the Crimea, their sort of sometimes bellicose rhetoric when it comes to nuclear matters, some veiled threats, it’s all very troubling in a larger context. And we also have to concern ourselves with the PRC because here, too, there are some important and noteworthy developments.
China has, we estimate, doubled its defense budget in the past decade. And as I mentioned in the last hour, our projection is that they will at least double their size of their nuclear arsenal in the coming decade. They are moving towards a nuclear triad. So they would be the third country to have an air, sea, land component of nuclear-deliverable vehicles. President Xi has also called for a first-tier military force. And we see, not just in the nuclear realm but across the board, very assertive Chinese modernization with intermediate range, missiles with hypersonics, building aircraft carriers, amphibious capabilities, artificial intelligence and so on and so forth. So this combined with the context of their behavior in the Indo-Pacific region – in particular, very assertive efforts in the South China Seas – is very troubling. And it’s something that we are – the Pentagon – deeply concerned with. Having touched briefly on Russian and Chinese modernization efforts, let me say a few words about U.S. modernization efforts since this came up in the past hour. I think it would be a mistake to say or to assert that Russian efforts or Chinese efforts are simply somehow in response to our efforts. If that were the case, and how would it – how is it that the Russian modernizations by – are roughly, you know, more than 80 percent complete, by Vladimir Putin’s estimate and those of his senior defense officials, whereas we are in the early stages of modernizing, frankly, our legacy triad systems that go back quite some time. In fact, our high-class fleet of nuclear submarines – the first one was launched in 1981. And it is scheduled to be replaced in 2031, beginning with the deployment of the next class of submarines, the Columbia-class.
We also have our Minuteman III, a land-based portion of our triad. That is a system that was first deployed in 1970. And we expect to field the next class of land-based ICBM’s beginning in 2029. And then thirdly, we have under development the B-21 Raider – long-range, nuclear-capable bomber, which is expected to, first, supplant and then eventually replace our aging B-52s and also the B-2A intercontinental bombers. So these systems are – have enjoyed a great deal of bipartisan support. And we feel they are essential to keep our nuclear deterrents safe and modern and effective. And really because of the lifespan of the existing systems, the choice here is not between keeping systems or replacing them. It’s between replacing them or losing them altogether because as they age out, they become unsafe. And as they become unsafe, that undermines deterrence. A couple other points of contrast is we are not building new nuclear weapons. And that differs from Russia and China. And as mentioned earlier, our non-strategic nuclear warheads are very small in number compared with a significant Russian arsenal. Another point of contrast concerns transparency. We have been very transparent about our force posture and our nuclear numbers, and the same cannot be said certainly of the Chinese nuclear arsenal. We have estimates about what we think they have. But there is a certain opacity there, which is certainly troubling.
So looking forward, our modernization efforts, as I mentioned, are absolutely essential. Our nuclear arsenal is the backstop of our military operations around the globe. It forms the insurance policy for everything we do. And these modernization efforts cannot be – should not be considered some sort of sacrificial pawn for arms control. But what they do do is they provide a strong nuclear deterrence, and they also empower our diplomats with a strong hand as they pursue opportunities of multilateral arms controls with our competitors. Arms control is – can help manage strategic competition, can help with predictability. It can also help reduce the chances of miscalculation. The principles that we adhere to are outlined in our Nuclear Posture Review, the NPR, which came out in 2018. And we pursue nuclear arms control that is verifiable, is enforceable, will contribute to the security of the United States as allies and partners and also requires willing partners to be effective. And given the dynamics of – and the – in fact of China’s trajectory, it is altogether fitting and legitimate to seek to include them and bring them to the table with Russia, as the president has articulated. So with that, I’ll turn to my State Department colleague and turn it over to Tom (ph).
THOMAS DINANNO: Thanks, James. Thanks to the Hudson Institute for having us here today. I agree with James. These think tank forums are extremely valuable, also very valuable for policymakers to receive feedback and to have robust discussions. I’d just like to build a little bit on what Tim had outlined, and that’s the administration’s approach to arms control. Several key points, sort of themes I just want to lay out here, and perhaps we can have a discussion around them going forward. It’s imperative to understand that effective verification, compliance and enforcement are vital components to successful arms control. I think, as Tim mentioned, arms control is a means to an end, not an end unto itself, that end being the national security of the United States. A couple key points I want to build on – Tim had mentioned. No. 1 is the withdrawal from the INF and our – on August 2, we anticipate – the United States has announced it’ll withdraw from the treaty unless Russia comes back into compliance. What I think is important about that episode and really is at the core of the arms control philosophy of the administration is that even though we’ve shown our willingness to withdraw from a treaty, I think one of the things that’s very important that we want to talk about today and going forward is we have not withdrawn from the process of arms control. I think the president’s made that very clear. My boss – bosses – Secretary Pompeo’s made that very clear. And we look forward to engaging both Russia and China robustly with open minds but also with – open-eyed, be very clear-eyed about where we’re at and what we want to accomplish going forward.
As the president has asserted, for arms control to be effective – effectively contribute to national security, all parties must faithfully implement their obligations. That gets to the trust piece. As James mentioned, you must have willing partners across from the table. And we intend on engaging both Russia and China in good faith. We’re confident that we can achieve an outcome that advances the national security of the United States. I want to talk a little bit about the State Department’s role here, just a little bit about what our bureau does. People readily know and talk about – and I’m sure everybody in this room – about Reagan’s trust-but-verify comments in 1987 in Reykjavik. But it was actually in 1982 in PD 65 where he outlined four key tenets of an arms control regime that I think are as important today as they were in 1982. I’ll just run through them real quick. No. 1 – compliance with the provisions of existing and future arms control agreements is essential to their success and therefore to national security, that effective verification is necessary to ensure compliance with those agreements. Verification serves to detect and deter possible violations of an agreement and provide timely warning of threats to our national security. Verification is necessary to assure the confidence of the Congress and the public at large that specific arms control measures are compatible with our security. And for effective arms control, the government needs to be organized to prepare – and prepared to deal with all aspects of arms control monitoring, verification and compliance issues in a systematic, orderly and timely fashion. That was from November of 1982. I actually brought it with me. I’ve – you know, carry these things around.
And I think every one of those points – the last one is what Tim does at the National Security Council and organize the government based on our leadership, based on the president’s guidance, based on my secretary’s guidance to engage robustly to achieve an arms control outcome that is in the interest of the American people. As we all know, 37 years later, lots has changed. As James and General Ashley pointed out, our competitors are aggressively modernizing. What we do at the State Department has to evolve as well. Verification capabilities must evolve. This is some of the work that we do at the State Department with the partners at DTRA and the Department of Energy and National Labs and some other partners that we have to sort of quietly, methodically and professionally continue to develop verification mechanisms that are critical, as I outlined, that really underpin an arms control agreement. And as technology has changed, we continue to invest and look at the next family of verification technologies. Again, we do it sort of quietly. And – but it’s absolutely critical to the work for policymakers and negotiators to know exactly what we can and can’t verify. So I think that’s important. Again, some of those key historical underpinnings for arms control and where we’re going, going forward. With that, I think I’ll stop. And we’ll turn it back over to Rebeccah. Thank you.
HEINRICHS: Great. Thank you very much for those very beneficial remarks. The first question I have is just on my mind. As we approach the possibility of either extending the New START treaty or perhaps negotiating another treaty, the question that I continue to have and that many others have is clearly, today, we have heard that there are some other things that the Russians are doing that are just outside the bounds of New START – their tactical or theater nuclear weapons and some of the other things that they’re doing that perhaps aren’t in the spirit of the treaty but are still in compliance with the treaty. Does the New START treaty, though insufficient, provide us greater transparency? It’s useful for trust building, verification to at least – the strategic element of the Russians’ nuclear program. Or does it hamstring the United States disproportionately in a way that perhaps it would be fruitful to negotiate a different treaty? I’ll turn that over to Tim first, if anybody else would like to comment on that.
MORRISON: So I think from our perspective, the New START treaty is a discussion and a decision the president will make at some point next year. I think from his perspective, given everything we heard from General Ashley, what we need to focus on is the comprehensive nuclear threat. And General Ashley spent a lot of time talking in some detail, some for the first time, on the full scope of the Russian and Chinese programs. And so for example, I think General Ashley talked a little bit about the up to 2,000 non-strategic nuclear weapons the Russians have. Well, we don’t have any – we don’t have as much insight into those capabilities as we would like precisely because Russia has refused to talk about those things in the context of arms control. So we have limited verification. We have limited inspections.
And so there’s a significant question with respect to whether or not the Russians are interested in extending New START. They have these contrivances that they have hurled against us and the prior administration on how we’ve converted our ballistic missile submarines and our heavy bombers. And so we’ve got to establish whether or not the Russians are interested in extending the treaty. But I think the higher priority is to look at the totality of the Russian and the Chinese programs because we have so much time left on the clock for New START, and figure out, can we get to an arms control agreement that covers more of the systems that threaten the United States and not just the systems that Russia, for example, wants to talk about. And acknowledging that China would just as soon not be in this discussion – that’s not necessarily the end of the story, right? We get to say what’s in our national security interest.
HEINRICHS: Is there anything else either…
ANDERSON: I’ll just say, one point on New START is, as Tim alluded to, we, you know, the president will make a decision. There is time to come to this determination whether to extend or not. The treaty does not expire until February of 2021.
HEINRICHS: And then – and I have to ask this, too, because I know that this is something that critics will say. It kind of sounds like a poison pill to try to get the Chinese interested in an arms control agreement because in order to be interested in an arms control agreement, you have to be incentivized because you’re at a disadvantage. But if you look at what the Chinese have – their massive missile force – and I say advantage because you might think of, well, no, because they have so many fewer long-range nuclear capabilities. But their missile capability – there is a missile gap between what the United States has in the region and what the Chinese have. So can you talk about how you – how you’re thinking about incentivizing the Chinese to participate in an arms control agreement with the Russians and the United States?
MORRISON: So I mean, I think from our perspective, we look at the Chinese words. And if the Chinese are truthful about their objectives, if they’re interested in a minimum deterrent policy, if they truly have a no-first-use policy, if they’re interested in being a responsible global stakeholder, then they’ll be interested in talking to us about arms control. We’re heading into the next NPT RevCon. There’s the consistent tensions on Article VI. If they are interested in being a responsible global stakeholder, then they should be interested in talking to us about an arms control regime that serves our interests. Simply because the bulk of the Chinese arsenal is not currently directed at us – it’s only directed at our deployed forces and our allies, our treaty allies – does not strike me as a compelling reason not to try to bring them to the table.
HEINRICHS: What I’d like to do – because we’ve got about 30 minutes here. And I’ll go ahead and take some time to ask some more questions as well, mixed in. But if you do have questions, be thinking about them now. I’m going to bundle them. So if you could say your name and where you’re from, and then ask your question very briefly, concisely. And then I’ll take a couple more, put them together and then allow the panel to have that conversation. I do want to ask another one. We spend a lot of time – I think that it was very interesting that the director talked about how we think that what the Russians and the Chinese are doing, in terms of testing or thinking about testing, is inconsistent with the United States’ understanding of zero-yield. And the director could only say so much about that, understandably. But I’m wondering, though, from a policy perspective, so many of the United States’ constraints aren’t even by – from arms control treaties. We unilaterally put them on ourselves – testing being one of them. And clearly, the Russians and the Chinese seem not to have that same desire or feel compelled to actually put that unilateral testing on themselves. Can you talk about that from a policy perspective and how that is affecting the way you think about this, about the Chinese and the Russians and how they view nuclear testing and their unwillingness to come to a point where they come to the same understanding and definition of zero-yield?
MORRISON: So I heard a comment earlier, reading a statement from Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, about Russian adherence to a zero-yield standard. I think we can also find a couple of those where he said Russia was in compliance with the INF treaty, so perhaps it’s not the most authoritative statement. I think, with respect to what Russia and likely China are doing, it may come down to a simple question of how do they understand their obligations? Do they agree with the United States that they’re not permitted to conduct any tests that create nuclear yield? If so, to General Ashley’s point, that raises questions of whether or not they’re in compliance with that. If they, on the other hand, believe that the CTBT allows them certain liberality with respect to these kinds of issues, then maybe they think they are in compliance with the treaty. I think General Ashley was clear that we believe Russia has taken actions to improve its nuclear weapons capabilities that run counter or contrary to its own statements regarding the scope of its obligations under the treaty. And so, you know, Russian and likely Chinese actions speak for themselves.
HEINRICHS: Are there any additional comments on that point? OK, great. And with that – yes, sir? Please just say your name, organization, your question, and then we’ll take a couple more with it.
PATRICK MALONE: Patrick Malone. I’m a national security reporter with the Center for Public Integrity, and this is for Dr. DiNanno specifically. What’s the State Department’s perspective on whether Russia has simply capabilities for a yield test or whether it has actually conducted them?
HEINRICHS: And then if there’s another question, we’ll take that. Yes, sir?
HARRISON CRAMER: Hi. Harrison Cramer with National Journal. You mentioned briefly that you believe China, if they want to act as a responsible global power, will be interested in arms control conversations. But I was hoping you’d get a little bit more into detail about what the United States is able to actually offer to bring them to the table.
HEINRICHS: And then if we have one more? Yes, sir. Then we’ll go ahead.
DONG-HYUN KIM: Hello. My name is Dong-hyun (ph) Kim, from Voice of America Korean Service. Regarding China and Russia correlated with North Korea. Recently, North Korea shot a ballistic – a short-range ballistic missile, and many experts actually assume it’s a variant of Iskander, the newest weapon. And if so, although there is some speculation that it is a copycat, still it may presume that there is some loophole in the arms control area. And I was wondering that this kind of development of Russia and China, how would that affect the proliferation to other nations like North Korea? Thank you.
HEINRICHS: We’ll just take those three. And then if any of the panelists want to tackle those. We can take the first one, on whether or not we think that they are testing or the Russians – or if it’s – or if they’re behaving in such a way that it’s possible that they would be able to, even if they aren’t now. I think that was put to – did we do – do you want to talk compliance first?
DINANNO: Yeah, sure. I just want to say quickly, I think General Ashley had talked about that. We believe that the Russians are probably engaged in that sort of testing. I would defer back to what Tim’s comments were. And I think the broader context of the testing discussion is consistent with the way we’re approaching our other treaties. Tim mentioned it in his opening remarks. Treaties or agreements where one party is in compliance or two parties are in compliance and one is not, that’s unilateral restraint. And I think what General Ashley talked about this morning – and James may want to weigh in on this – is that this is an advantage that our – these competitor states, Russia and China, are using to seek strategic advantage over the United States. So I think you have to look at the totality of violations, if you would, or behavior that’s indicative of the intentions to gain an advantage over their adversary. Nations engage in agreements on arms control to their national advantage. And they’ll do so until that – they are – they’re challenged. And you can only – again, I think Tim mentioned it. You can’t have an agreement unless there’s a willing partner, almost exactly what the president said. To sit across from the table and have trust is really the underpinning of how we approach arms control. So that’s how I would answer that question. Tim, did you want to…
MORRISON: I mean, I think it’s been a bedrock principle of President Trump and this administration that you can’t have the United States held to a standard alone. That’s unilateralism. If Russia and China are going to conduct activity of a type, the question must be asked, is the United States not also allowed to conduct that kind of activity? But the idea that the United States would be held to a different standard from other nations – I can’t conceive of anybody who would rationally think that that’s useful, especially if, as General Ashley talked about, these activities may very well relate to, for example, Russian vertical proliferation. The second question I think directed inducements on how to bring China to the table. Again, I think it’s a question of matching words and deeds. If China truly does believe that they only need a minimum deterrent, if they truly believe that they have a no-first-use policy, if they truly do not want to engage in an arms race, this is an opportunity for them to demonstrate that to the world. So they will be given that opportunity. And I think that’s the extent of what I’ll say in this venue.
HEINRICHS: And then the third…
MORRISON: I didn’t necessarily follow up the question on the…
DINANNO: Short-range ballistic missiles – I think the question was around short-range ballistic…
HEINRICHS: The proliferation concerns. If you – now that we’re seeing that the North Korean solid-fueled, short-range ballistic missile looks like an Iskander copycat, any comments on, from a policy perspective, what we’re tracking on that?
MORRISON: I’ll just point to statements made by the State Department spokesman yesterday as to the compliance with various nonproliferation regimes of the North Korean test.
HEINRICHS: I would just say, just from my own perspective, it is in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, unambiguously. And I have – if I may, real quick, I – because I really wanted to get this – kind of think through this a little bit – missile defense. Tim, you mentioned that the Russians have a national missile defense program. And we often spend a lot of time thinking about the U.S. missile defense program. President Trump has said we’re not going to have constraints on missile defense. To President Obama’s credit, he said that we’re not going to have constraints on missile defense in response to what our adversaries or our peer competitors object to. But we some – it’s not often in the conversation what the Russians are actually doing on missile defense. They continually object to what the United States does, but can you talk about what the Russian’s national missile defense program looks like or how – just even in sort of open source – you know, obviously – but sort of what we know about it and how it’s different in nature and kind to the kinds of missile defense programs that we utilize?
MORRISON: For example – and I’ll probably – James is far smarter about this than I am. The – we know, for example, the Russian capability surrounding Moscow. I mentioned 68 nuclear-armed interceptors. Obviously, we don’t deploy nuclear-capable missile defense. So – but that’s a choice the Russians have made; at the same time, they criticize our missile defense. They talk very openly about their interests in pursuing S-400 and S-500 capability that has anti-ballistic missile defense capability. So there does appear to be a double standard, but President Trump has been very clear that he’s not interested in negotiating U.S. missile defense, as he sees them as effectively delinked from offensive nuclear arms control.
ANDERSON: I would add to that, you know, the Russians – it’s not that they don’t like missile defense, they don’t like our missile defense, right? So – because they’ve had this system around Moscow – nuclear-tipped interceptors for quite some time, and they’re in the process of modernizing it. I would also add that PRC is also interested in missile defense. And they do have some systems that they are working on, and this is noted in the most recent Defense Department report on the PRC military developments. So it is a bit of a double standard for them to critique our missile defense, which, by the way, is directed at rogue states and the threats that they pose.
HEINRICHS: And then, sticking on the missile defense topic for just a moment, I did – I have noted that the Trump administration’s missile defense review is the document that lays out the strategy for our country and missile defense. And it was supposed to follow the other documents as we now think about great power competition. And it does talk about the Chinese and Russian missile programs and their missile defense programs to a certain standard – certain extent – and that the United States now has to consider defending against some of – some of what they have. But it was really light on specifics in the missile defense review. And if you look at the budget, there isn’t – there’s a lot of continuity with the previous administration, in contrast to President Trump’s remarks during the rollout, which is that, hey, we’re going to move into a missile defense policy that really isn’t – we do not – we will no longer kind of self-constrain and only handle the rogue threat. So can you talk about some of the ways that we’re thinking about missile defense as something that is stabilizing, that empowers and emboldens diplomacy, that helps deterrence, especially as we think about the Chinese and Russian nuclear missile programs?
ANDERSON: So the missile defense review was rolled out a couple of months ago. And it does go into some specifics about what we’re doing now and what we’re investigating. I mean, it focuses, essentially, on defending the homeland as first priority. And our existing missile defenses at Fort Greely and Vandenberg in – are designed with the rogue threat in mind. We are also very determined to protect allies and our forces abroad in the regional context, particularly when we think about the Russian and PRC anti-access area denial capabilities. So there’s a lot of work being done there in the European theater, for example, with our NATO allies. And then a third piece is talking about advanced technologies as we look into the future. And there, the MDR talks about some promising technologies with respect to, for example, boost-phase intercept, with respect to lasers and so on, which are being studied very thoroughly. The MDR actually has a list of about a dozen tasks within it that are being looked at right now. With – most of them are on a six-month deadline and will be completed by the end of the year. So the MDR does look at the current threat environment and also looks forward to the evolving threat environment – and again, for our missile defenses that are at Fort Greely and geared against the rogue threat posed by North Korea and a potential in Iran. And then we consider Russia and China in the regional context, and then we rely on our strategic nuclear deterrence with respect to their large offensive arsenals.
HEINRICHS: I would just – thank you so much, sir. I would just – it would seem to me that the budget then should be significantly higher. And I don’t expect anyone here to get – to disagree with the current president’s budget. But if we actually are going to, in a timely manner, really ramp up our missile defenses to handle things like the hypersonic threat from China, that we’re going to – we might need – we’re going to need new interceptors. We’re going to need a space sensor layer so that we can actually see and track, which was the Missile Defense Agency’s No. 1 unfunded priority. So…
ANDERSON: I – just one contextual note on that. It’s – what happened the previous two years is there were, as you know, congressional plus ups. And then there was a lot of capacity efforts with respect to the ground-based interceptors that boosted the budget, and that accounts for what this year’s budget looks like. And I would also add, with respect to advanced technologies, they normally cost less at the outset. But depending on their viability – and there a lot of factors that go into determining what type of technologies might bear fruit – we would expect those budget requests to increase, you know, in the coming years.
HEINRICHS: Yes, sir?
GORDON: Because this is – nuclear testing is an important issue and there may be some confusion about what’s being asserted here, I would just like to take one minute and ask you, this panel, to clarify it. First, from Mr. Morrison, can you say what efforts have been made to try to work out any of these concerns diplomatically with the Russians? Have you made an effort? Have you proposed transparency measures of any kind? Second, do you agree with what I heard your State Department colleague say, that the Russians are not merely making preparations to carry out experiments or tests of a non-zero-yield, but have actually done so? And for the Defense Department representative, if the United States could not get Russia and China to agree to limit themselves to sub-critical tests – and you seem to have concerns that they’re not – from a Defense Department perspective, would you want the ability to match what they’re doing? Should the United States engage in its own low-yield tests, or is that unnecessary given the extensive stockpiled stewardship program we already have?
HEINRICHS: I might take one more question, then, so that we can bundle those two for the sake of time.
LANDAY: Yeah, this one’s for Mr. Morrison. Talk – the administration has been in intense discussions over extending New START. And we’ve heard that you believe that there’s time in which to negotiate with the Russians. A lot of experts say there isn’t, that these – that the negotiations on extending New START should actually have begun. What will the administration decide if it comes down to this choice, extending New START and preserving what has been an extensive monitoring, inspection and verification regime that both sides are able to conduct, or allowing New START to expire and losing on-the-ground, onsite monitoring and verify – and inspections? And do you believe the United States’ national technical means can make up the loss of that intelligence?
HEINRICHS: Going to take the first one, or do you want to go ahead…
MORRISON: So with respect to the first question, I’m not going to conduct diplomacy in public. So any discussions that we’ve been having with any of these countries, I’m going to keep those in diplomatic channels. I think our assessment is very clear, again, that Russia has taken actions to improve its nuclear weapons capabilities that would run contrary to its own statements, so actions – not preparations, actions. And in China, the manner in which it’s expanding its nuclear weapons program, we’re highly skeptical it could do that without activities that would call into question its own adherence to the CTBT.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Inaudible).
MORRISON: So I don’t look good in stripes. I’m going to stay away from classified information. But I think that the statements speak for themselves. I think there was another question maybe for James.
ANDERSON: Yes. So the question was whether we desire to test and – or feel the need to test. We have confidence in the existing capabilities of our nuclear arsenal now through the Stockpile Stewardship Program with a respect to our modeling and our simulation. While that’s said, you know, we keep a vigilant eye on that program. And, you know, if we have to reconsider at some future point the desirability of testing or making a recommendation there too, we will. But at this point, we have complete confidence in the nuclear arsenal.
MORRISON: So to the second question, I’m not going to presuppose what decision the president will make. I think, again, his direction is pretty clear that he is interested in looking at the totality of Russian and Chinese programs. I don’t think he thinks it’s advantageous to continue to defer the difficult questions, some of which, for example, were posed by the Senate in 2010, that tactical nuclear weapons must be a part of future arms control. I don’t think he’s interested in continuing to defer those matters just because they’re hard or just because the Russians may not want to talk about them. We shouldn’t presuppose that the Russians are interested in extending the treaty. If they were, they wouldn’t be creating false narratives about U.S. compliance with the treaty. They wouldn’t be challenging the approach that the Obama administration and the Trump administration have taken with respect to converting our ballistic missile submarines and our heavy bombers. So these false linkages that the Russians are creating suggests, perhaps, an unwillingness on their part. But from our perspective, if the treaty is enforced until 2021, the President believes we have time to pursue more effective arms control for the American people.
HEINRICHS: I want to press down a little bit on this because I think it would benefit some of our viewers who are watching from home too. When we talk about the fact that the Russians potentially outnumber the U.S. tactical nuclear weapons 10 to 1, why is that significant? What – why is it that the United States has then kind of tabled that and then moved forward with negotiations for the long-range strategic weapons systems? But why have we gotten to the point that we say this is no longer acceptable? And why is it that the Russians have those, and what is it that they’re holding at risk that makes these things so significant? And then I guess my point then is, are we perhaps creating a false distinction between tactical and strategic? Because some of these weapons systems, though perhaps tactical in nature, do have strategic implications.
ANDERSON: So I’ll start on that one. You know, the Russian tactical or non-strategic nuclear weapons, they’re based on a wide variety of different platforms – right? – some of which Lieutenant General Ashley mentioned in the previous hour. We’re talking about surface-to-surface. We’re talking about artillery shells. We’re talking about torpedoes, depth charges and so on – and even nuclear-tipped interceptors. And the challenge is that in the European theater, those warheads, those delivery systems combined with rather aggressive statements by senior Russian officials against the backdrop of Russian behavior in recent years is – you know, poses a considerable challenge to the United States and our NATO allies. And in the context of one particular system, the SSC-8, the violation of the INF, you know, NATO stands very united in its pinning the blame where it rightly belongs on the Russian Federation for the almost certain demise of that treaty coming up in August.
And the reason that particular system is of military significance is because it’s a land-based system that can be maneuvered, can be – can – they can try to hide it and makes it difficult to track. And that land-based system thus has some advantages over some other air or sea-based systems. So, again, looking back, stepping back and looking at the – kind of the broad sweep of these theater-range systems, we are concerned about what they – their military impact and also sort of any political coercive leverage that the Russians may think they have. And that’s the reason that we have been so insistent on holding the Russians to account with respect to their violations of the INF treaty. And it’s also why the United States is going to look at some conventional systems going forward. And this is – will be some time away, but we are going to look at how best to offset the growth of Russian systems in the theater context. But U.S. systems under consideration now are – I would emphasize are conventional in nature.
MORRISON: You could argue that, well, we capture the systems that are capable of razing the United States, so why bother? We’re only talking about thousands of nuclear weapons that can target our allies and our deployed forces. And that’s obviously not the approach that the Trump administration is taking. But just – when I went to law school, they talked to us about legal constructions. You sort of create a reality. What sense does it make to limit a Russian submarine-launched ballistic missile that can range CONUS from a submarine platform, but not to limit a Russian sea-launched cruise missile that can range CONUS from a submarine platform? That’s what we do right now. Under the New START treaty, we limit submarine-launch ballistic missiles, but we’ve excluded Russian sea-launch cruise missiles. That just doesn’t continue to make sense. And we watched the Russians exploit those loopholes.
HEINRICHS: And then, in the China context, it would seem to me that there’s this constant refrain that because they don’t – because the Chinese don’t have the numbers that the Russians have, in ICBMs, for instance, that it’s simply not – does not pose the same degree of a threat to the United States or U.S. interests. But if you could speak to that, I would just say if you look at the – I think one of the statements was that the Chinese tests in whatever given timeframe, recent timeframe, was more than the entire planet put together in terms of the number of missile tests and that the type and the nature of the missile arsenal that they’ve developed can push the United States out of the Indo-Pacific so that it prevents the United States from having the ability to uphold its commitments to allies and to the security of the United States. And so again, though perhaps not in the classical sense of a strategic weapon system, they do have strategic implications. If anybody wants to….
DINANNO: Just make one comment. James mentioned it in the – in context of the European theater, and that’s our extended deterrence commitments to our allies. The Chinese missile build-up, most dynamic and dramatic missile development deployment program on Earth – that was from some testimony at the Armed Services Committee earlier this year. And in the earlier hour, we heard that those systems are dual-capable, James alludes to. So these present tremendous challenges, the short, intermediate missile systems. They’re dual-capable. And, again, it’s part of the extended deterrence that’s critical to our alliances in that region. So…
HEINRICHS: All right. Time for a very quick brief one. Patrick (ph)?
PATRICK: Such a great program today. I just wanted to follow up on the China question. Adding the risk of China’s search for information superiority and how that raises the risk even further along the lines of what you’re talking about because there so much focus on informatized warfare, and they’re serious about it. And it’s from tactical to the strategic level. That’s where that dimension – I’m wondering how that crosscuts these capabilities that are worrisome in themselves as well.
ANDERSON: So I would say, from a Defense Department perspective, we are watching this very closely. I mean, they are, as your question suggests, making significant investments in the information sphere. They do talk about informationized warfare as part of their doctrine. So this, in conjunction with the other conventional and nuclear developments, is something that we are tracking, and we are watching very closely. And I’ll leave it at that.
HEINRICHS: With that, would you please join me in thanking our panelists?