TCS Daily

Patience a Virtue with Europe, New Ideas Will Take Time to Sink In, Perle Tells Defense Central

By Richard Perle - June 14, 2001 12:00 AM

Defense Central spoke with Richard Perle as President Bush headed off on the last leg of his first presidential trip to consult with NATO allies and meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Defense Central: What should the U.S. read from Russias opposition to NATO expansion?

Richard Perle: Old ideas die hard. The notion that if the United States is somehow close to Russian territory, then there is a threat to Russia, is an idea from the Cold War that doesnt apply in the aftermath of the Cold War. But, it takes time to adjust to new ideas.

Defense Central: How should the U.S. deal with this opposition from Russia?

Perle: Patiently. We need to spend the time necessary to explain to the Russians that in the future context of U.S.-Russian relations, which should be one of friendship and cooperation, many of the anxieties that affected the relationship in the past simply dont apply and are not valid.

It was one thing in the context of the Cold War, obviously, for the U.S. to plunk down on Latvian or Lithuanian soil during the Cold War that would have been an entirely different situation. But these countries are independent now. They have their own political systems, and if they want to associate with NATO, which is increasingly becoming a political institution, that doesnt pose a threat to Russia.

Defense Central: Some missile defense critics call the ABM Treaty a cornerstone of global security and claim that if the U.S. moves beyond the treaty, it will ignite Cold War II. Is that a real concern?

Perle: No, there is no Cold War II, there wont be a Cold War II.

The ABM Treaty is a reflection of a period in which, because of the depths of the hostility and animosity, the U.S. and the Soviet Union decided to regulate the precise balance of offensive and defensive nuclear weapons between them so that neither would fear a pre-emptive attack from the other. But no one now imagines a pre-emptive nuclear attack by Russia against the United States or by the United States against Russia. Under these changed circumstances, to refer to the ABM Treaty as the cornerstone of anything is a fundamental mistake.

But, it is going to take time to persuade people who have grown accustomed to regarding the ABM Treaty as a cornerstone that it no longer is such.

Defense Central: Why shouldnt the U.S. negotiate the destruction of missiles as opposed to developing the capabilities to shoot them down?

Perle: How would we negotiate that with the Saddam Husseins of the world? Negotiations are fine up to a point. But I, for one, certainly dont think I could trust a signature on a piece of paper from Saddam Hussein and a great many others. You cant accomplish everything through agreements.

Defense Central: Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Spain have given public approval of missile defense. Can we expect more countries to come along?

Perle: Its going to take a while, but eventually, good ideas drive out bad ideas. As a result of that, the idea that its legitimate to mount a defense against threats that might originate in places like Iraq or North Korea, will be broadly recognized. At that point, we will see a level of support for missile defense that some people may find hard to imagine today.

I dont expect the French to come along, in part because the French, unfortunately, have a way of defining themselves by their opposition to the United States. Its a psychological problem with the French, and youd have to talk to a therapist to get insight into how theyre likely to behave. But I dont think theyll support us.

But at the end of the day, we have to concern ourselves with our own defense. There are going to be differences from one ally to another. Some will end up supporting us, and some will almost certainly end up opposing us. But, it really doesnt matter. You cant please everyone domestically, and you certainly cant please everyone internationally.

Defense Central: An ideal outcome of the Bush-Putin meetings on Saturday would be U.S.-Russian cooperation on missile defense. Practically, what would that cooperation entail?

Perle: I agree that that would be a welcome outcome. But its too soon to talk about the various forms that cooperation could or should take.

One thing is clear: Any major power like the United States or Russia is more likely to be a target of somebodys missile than many smaller states.

The Russians tell us all the time that theyre deeply concerned with fundamentalist movements that are hostile to them and are operating on or near their territory. So, at the end of the day, they may well conclude they have an interest in some, at least limited, capability to defend against ballistic missiles.


TCS Daily Archives