Monthly Archives: July 2018

Trump and Putin

I am not upset by the Trump-Putin meeting.  I am upset by Mueller and the media.  Mueller’s decision to release the indictment of the 12 Russian spies appears to have been politically motivated to make the Putin meeting more difficult for Trump.  It’s the most overt indication I have seen that Mueller is not being even-handed and unbiased.  This action seemed clearly to benefit the Democrats and to make it impossible for Trump to have the friendly summit with Putin that he wanted.

I think it is good that Trump likes Putin and wants to form a good relationship with him.  The US and Russia still have the two most destructive nuclear arsenals in the world.  It’s good that they don’t want to use them on each other. While everybody in Washington is saying Putin is a terrible dictator, he is not saying things like Khrushchev’s, “We will bury you.”  I don’t think any American journalists asked any questions at the joint press conference about nuclear weapons.  If so, the media ignored them.  The entire focus was on Russian meddling in the US election, in part because of Mueller’s release of the indictments.  In essence the press said, “We don’t care about nuclear annihilation, we only care about election hacking.”

The thing is: Russia did hack some stuff during the election; I’m not sure what or exactly who did it.  Putin may have been personally involved, or maybe not.  We know he dislikes Hillary because Hillary had tried to remove him from office.  He probably also doesn’t like Hillary because her husband, Bill, was instrumental in expanding NATO up to the very borders of Russia, which Putin saw as an existential threat.  George W. Bush carried on the expansion.  To me, the Baltic countries — Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia — are just a nuclear tripwire.  If Russia attacks them they back up to the Baltic ocean and are only a few miles wide.  NATO defense against a massive Russian invasion looks almost impossible to me.  So the only response by us as if the attack had been on the US mainland, is nuclear.  The US will have to launch a nuclear war against Russia in response.  After a massive nuclear exchange, hundreds of millions of people will be dead on both sides.  But the press does not care about that possibility; it only cares about election hacking.  The press is willing for a hundred million people to die, if it means no more hacking.  I don’t think they have their priorities right.

Maybe Trump did let Putin off the hook as far as accusing him of hacking the election.  But does anyone really believe Putin would admit he did it?  It’s pointless to try to get him to confess.  Trump was trying to form a working relationship with Putin.  The press was insisting that the hacking was like Putin had an ugly wart on his face and was insisting that Trump tell Putin he was so ugly that it made people sick to look at him.  The press was basically yelling at Trump to spit in Putin’s face, and when he didn’t they called him a coward and a traitor.

Watching the antics of the impassioned American press, I am sure Putin thought, “Thank goodness I don’t have a free press and don’t have to deal with maniacs like this.”  The American press did not cover itself with glory.   Do they really believe that nuclear war is the best response to election hacking?

MTCR – Part 2 – Brazil

While I was overseas in Thailand and Brazil, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) had been created and agreed among the G-7.  Administrations had changed; George H.W. Bush had taken over from Reagan, and he had made a number of personnel changes to differentiate his administration from Reagan’s.  Richard Perle was out and had been replaced at the Pentagon by Stephen Hadley, who went on to be the NSC National Security Adviser under President George W. Bush.  His main assistant for missile proliferation at DOD was Henry Sokolski, and Richard Spier continued to work on the issue for him.

While I was in Brazil, the Brazilian space agency (INPE) decided to build environmental satellites to monitor the Amazon.  They wanted to build new ground stations to receive the data download sent from the satellites as they passed over Brazil.  One of the companies bidding on the ground stations was an American company, Scientific Atlanta.  For some reason, the Scientific Atlanta salesman in Brazil had missed the deadline for bidding on the ground stations.  As a result, the Brazilians chose a Japanese bidder.

The Embassy’s Commercial Counselor, who works for the Commerce Department, called and asked if I could do anything to help Scientific Atlanta.  I called some of my contacts at INPE and was somewhat surprised to find that they were willing to reopen the bidding.  They said they would prefer to work with an American company.  They reopened the bidding, and Scientific Atlanta won.  Soon we learned, however, that Stephen Hadley’s Pentagon office had denied Scientific Atlanta’s export license to build the ground stations because it said they violated the MTCR provisions.  Since there was no indication of any military connection, this ruling seemed totally wrong.  DOD’s decision was based on the fact that they thought that if the ground stations could maneuver to track satellites, they could follow a test launch of a military missile.  They could not do a good job of this, if they worked at all, because they were designed to track satellites in orbit, not rockets launched from the ground.  Nevertheless, the deal was blocked, and my contacts at INPE were furious.  They had had a deal with Japan, and now they had nothing.  They had awarded the contract to an American company, and now that company could not perform it.

I felt terrible.  Not only had I persuaded the Brazilians to award the contract to an American company, but I had been one of the creators of the MTCR, which was cited as the basis for blocking the deal.  In fact, the Pentagon for whatever reason did not like or trust Brazil.  For years, Brazil had had a nuclear rivalry with Argentina that caused both of them to maintain nuclear programs that could lead to the development of nuclear weapons, and both preserved the option of building missiles that could deliver a nuclear weapon.  Argentina led in both categories, with a missile called the Condor, and a nuclear research lab at Bariloche. While I was in Brazil, however, Brazil and Argentina had agreed to de-escalate their nuclear rivalry, although neither had yet joined the NPT.

Both nuclear and missile technologies are dual use.  They can build nuclear power reactors or military weapons.  They can build space launch vehicles for scientific research or missiles to deliver weapons.  I was convinced from my years of working with both the nuclear and space communities in Brazil and from my studies in Washington before going to Brazil that Brazil was not going to build either type of weapon under the present circumstances, although they wanted to retain the option to build one of they felt threatened by changes in the international situation.  Whatever DOD may have thought their intentions were, the satellite ground stations would not have been useful for testing a missile.  They were designed to be used for peaceful purposes only.

Around this time, I got a call from the Politico-Military Bureau at the State Department in Washington, asking if I would be interested in working on missile proliferation issues there.  I agreed in part because it might give me a chance to reverse the DOD decision to deny the ground station export license.  The fight went on for months; all that time Brazil was prevented from beginning work on its ground stations.  In the end, however, we finally got the decision reversed and the export license approved, much too late to please Brazil.

After I had been assigned to PM, I ran into an awkward situation.  Before I arrived I was promoted to FSO-1 from FSO-2.  The head of the PM Bureau was Assistant Secretary Richard Clarke, who went on to be in charge of the White House counter-terrorism office during the 9/11 attack.  Clarke had a candidate he wanted to name as deputy director of the office I was going to.  However, the candidate was an FSO-2.  I felt that as an FSO-1, it would be inappropriate for me to work under an FSO-2.  Clarke was unhappy, but agreed to appoint someone else.  I don’t remember exactly how it worked out; perhaps I was officially named deputy director or co-director so that I would not be working for a lower ranking person.  When I left, I received a meritorious honor award, which I thought was generous of Clarke, who had had to give up an appointment he wanted because of my promotion.



MTCR – Part 1

I first began to work on what became the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) just before Reagan was elected.  I was working in the state Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research on nuclear non-proliferation and other scientific subjects.  Under President Jimmy Carter, some senior policy wonks in State and ACDA had begun to think about a missile non-proliferation regime that would be similar to the nuclear non-proliferation regime under the NPT.  These senior people needed somebody to work with them on intelligence about missile proliferation.  Nobody else in INR wanted to take on a new project, so I did.  We had only been working a few months when Reagan was elected. The senior guys I was working for were all political and lost their jobs with the change of administration.

I didn’t think Reagan Republicans would be interested in a new non-proliferation initiative, but they were.  I assume the Carter people had probably left them a briefing memo on the issue.  The new administration decided to continue the initiative, but I was about the only person in the State Department with any institutional memory about what had gone on under Carter.  At the Pentagon, Richard Perle took a particular interest in the issue, since one of his main concerns was export control, preventing the spread of militarily useful technology, including missile technology.  Perle’s main staffer on missile technology was Richard Spier.

Perle wanted a very restrictive treaty along the lines of the NPT.  At State, we began a series of consultations with our G-7 partners to get their reaction to a missile treaty.  At that time there was strong opposition from developing countries to the NPT because they saw it as discriminatory, preventing developing countries from having nuclear weapons, while it allowed the existing nuclear powers to keep theirs.  When we consulted the other G-7 we found strong opposition to a new missile treaty, because it would offend the developing countries who already opposed the NPT.  However, there was more receptivity to suppliers group like the Nuclear Suppliers Group or the Zangger Committee.

At DOD, Perle wanted a stricter regime, but was particularly adamant that the member countries had to have strict, enforceable trade controls.  Perle was also the lead DOD official on the old COCOM regime that restricted exports from the Western members to the Soviet Union.  He was always pressing COCOM to be stricter, and he wanted the new missile regime to be similarly tough.

Preparing the new missile regime, I consulted one of State’s COCOM experts, Bill Root, the head of the COCOM office.  COCOM had a list of exports that were controlled to the Soviet Union which had been negotiated over many years.  Thus the legal language was familiar to the export control offices that we would be dealing with on the missile issue.  I thought we could use the COCOM regulations as a starting point for the missile regulations.  One day my meeting with Bill Root was interrupted because he had a phone call from Richard Perle at DOD.  He said, “Let’s continue after lunch.”  When I came back after lunch, he had retired and left his office for good.  He had had so many fights with Perle over COCOM that he was leaving for good.  He felt that Perle was pushing COCOM too hard and alienating our partners.  In doing so, it was breaking with years for cooperation.

Perle’s same attitude carried over to missile proliferation.  He wanted a very tough export control regime, but the G-7 partners were opposed.  They were all members of COCOM and were resisting US pressure there.  They did not want to create another forum for the US to pressure them on export control.  Thus, we at the State Department ended up caught in the middle; we wanted a missile regime, but we could not harmonize the G-7 and DOD positions.  In addition to questioning whether the proposed list of prohibited exports was strong enough, DOD questioned whether the other countries had strong enough export control agencies to enforce the regulations.  This was the same issue that he continually brought up in COCOM, where he was continually complaining about export control violations by companies in other COCOM countries.

Another problem on the G-7 side was the European Space Agency.  The Europeans had formed an international space consortium, under which different European countries manufactured different parts for space launch vehicles.  The parts were then shipped around Europe for assembly, and finally the finished rocket was shipped to the European launch site in Guiana in South America.  The Europeans did not want a new missile regime, which would cover many of the parts used in space launch vehicles, to interfere and add bureaucracy to their ESA activities.

Although we were making progress, we were still at an impasse between DOD and the G-7 when my assignment ended.  I went off the old Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), then to Bangkok, Thailand, and then to Brasilia, Brazil.  By the time I was in Brasilia, the people back in Washington had resolved their differences and gotten the Missile Technology Control Regime agreed among the G-7 (and DOD).  By then the Reagan administration was gone, and along with it, Richard Perle.  Despite that, one of the first countries to feel the obstructing force of the MTCR was Brazil, while I was there as the science officer handling missile and space cooperation.