Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 6 - Evidence
OTTAWA, Wednesday, April 4, 2001
The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs met this day at 3:45 p.m. to
examine and report on emerging political, social, economic and security
developments in Russia and Ukraine; Canada's policy and interests in the region;
and other related matters.
Senator Peter A. Stollery (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chairman: Honourable senators, I would introduce Professor Dale
Herspring, who has been a witness before the committee on at least two previous
occasions. Thank you for coming here today. Please proceed, and we will have
questions following your presentation.
Mr. Dale Herspring, Professor, University of Kansas: Honourable
senators, I have been asked to talk about the situation within the Russian
military. I would be happy to talk about whatever subject you chose, whether it
be NATO expansion or Russia in general. I have just written an article on Mr.
Putin, so I would be happy to go into that discussion, if you wish.
The bottom line in the Russian military is that the situation is bad and
getting worse. My feeling is that Mr. Putin's recent efforts to shake things up
may help to improve things in the long run, but the long run will be very long
indeed. In the meantime, the Russian military is not even capable of providing
for the country's defence. In the case of an outside attack, the only way the
Russians could defend themselves would be by using nuclear weapons, a situation
that is serious in its own right. Not only do we face the prospect of having a
hair trigger on the nuclear button, we are also faced with the reality that
Russia's nuclear weapons systems, as well as their command and control systems,
are deteriorating to a point where they are no longer reliable.
The first problem I shall address is manning the Russian military. Draft
avoidance is a national sport. In Moscow, in one year, only 7 per cent of those
drafted actually showed up. At the end of the 1990s, it was reported that 40 per
cent of new recruits had not attended high school or held a job in the two years
prior to their service. One in 20 recruits had a police record. These statistics
are taken from Russian sources. Other recruits included drug addicts, toxic
substance abusers, mentally disabled persons and syphilitics.
What do the Russians do? They set up a contract system. Those who choose to
serve longer will be provided an opportunity for enhanced training and higher
pay. This would give the military two categories of soldiers: conscripts and
professionals. This caused all kinds of problems. For those who chose the
contract system, the quality was very low and the pay was abysmal. Here I will
give you an example. The average monthly salary in September of 1995 was
$550,000 rubles. A contract service man made $278,000 rubles. In 2001, it was
reported that only 49.9 per cent of contract service men have an income above
the subsistence level.
A senior Russian officer probably put it best when he noted that those who
volunteered for the contract system would either be one of the long term
unemployed or someone who has already poisoned his mind with alcohol.
There is a major haemorrhage of officers leaving the service. Competition to
get into officers' school is so bad that some institutions are accepting anyone
just to fill their quotas. Ten per cent of all officers' posts are vacant. In
1998, 20,000 officers under the age of 32 resigned from the military, a figure
that is comparable to the graduates of all the military academies in one year.
Doctrine is much more important to the Russians than it is to NATO countries
in general. Doctrine determines what kinds of weapons to buy, personnel to
recruit, exercises to conduct and how to fight wars. The problem is that it is
based upon the ability to predict the country's military budget, something that
was not a problem during the Soviet period.
Since the collapse of the U.S.S.R., Russia has gone through at least three
military doctrine documents, and this country still does not know what its
doctrine is. Part of this situation is due to the severe underfunding of the
military. Even when it gets a certain amount of money, it cannot be certain that
it will eventually be spent. It is common for the military to get only 40 or 50
per cent of what it is allocated.
Another problem has been the unprecedented war that has been going on between
the country's two top military officers, Marshal Sergeyev and General Kvashnin.
The latter has publicly disagreed with the former, something unheard of in the
Russian military. Sergeyev argues in favour of strategic nuclear weapons,
Kvashnin in favour of conventional weapons.
Military reform has become a joke in Russia. Until the military gets a
predictable budget and someone takes charge, there is no chance of meaningful
reform. The military is planning to cut back its forces. They want to give
Moscow a smaller, more mobile and professional military. Perhaps the appointment
of Mr. Ivanov last week, as minister of defence, will be the thing that is
needed to push through the kinds of reforms the country needs. However, the
American factor, the missile defence system, has turned the situation upside
down for the Russians. At this point, the Russians do not know what to do. If
they modernize the conventional forces, there is a danger they could fall
further behind in the nuclear race. If they do not, there is a danger they will
not even have the minimal conventional forces that are needed to ensure the
country's national security.
Then there is the problem of NATO expansion. How should they respond to that
militarily? Conventional force build-up would seem to be the best alternative,
but how to get from here to there?
In regard to internal cohesion, I shall speak about only two issues. In
regard to cohesion in the military -- I suspect that military officers from any
military force would say this is vital -- the bottom line is that, at this
point, the military situation is disastrous. Discipline has been declining
steadily. Consider the following taken from the Russian news agency Interfax:
Russian military prosecutors have opened 852 criminal cases, 748 of them
involving crimes committed by servicemen since the beginning of the
anti-terrorist operation in the North Caucasus.
Large numbers of Russian peacekeepers in the Balkans had to be sent back
because of their involvement in criminal activities. Discipline problems are
important not only because they undercut a high level of combat readiness, but
they can also lead to a serious loss of life. I shall cite a few examples: In
1993, several Russian sailors starved to death in the Far East; in 1993, an army
ammunition dump blew up in the Far East with the explosive power of a nuclear
weapon; in 1997, 50 soldiers were shot by their fellow servicemen, and these
were only the ones on guard duty; and in 1998, four soldiers shot and killed
their commanding officers. The situation became so serious that Yeltsin had to
order an inspection of strategic rocket force facilities because disciplinary
infractions among those soldiers were so widespread.
In the year 2000, corruption is as widespread among senior officers as drug
trafficking is among soldiers. Finally, the problem of "dedovshchina,"
senior soldiers harassing junior soldiers, continues unabated.
Training is the second area that I wanted to mention in this category.
Training it critical to any military; without it, no army can hope to survive,
let alone prevail in the battlefield. Yet, the bottom has fallen out of training
in the Russian military because of a lack of funds. I will provide some
examples: NATO expects pilots to fly between 150 and 200 hours per year. The
Russians are lucky to get 40 to 50. Students graduating from pilot school are
being sent to other services because there are no planes for them to fly.
In 1994, generals were complaining that the military was not able to carry
out the tasks assigned to them. Here I will give one quote:
... the actual situation is as follows; the troops are manned by 45 to 50 per
cent: troops material provision has been cut by nearly 60 per cent, as a result
of which approximately 70 per cent of games and manoeuvres had to be scrapped:
combat flying practice has been reduced sharply; from 100-120 hours to 30-35
hours a year; and only one to two divisions are deemed fully combat-ready in
each military district, and one to two ships in each fleet.
By 1995, only 20 per cent of the country's tanks were functioning
effectively, and their supply of combat aircraft had fallen 20 times.
In 1998, Marshal Sergeyev noted that 53 per cent of aircraft, 40 per cent of
the anti-aircraft systems, helicopters, armoured equipment and artillery were in
need of repair. The navy was in even worse condition: 70 per cent of its ships
were in need of major repairs. In fact, the war in Chechnya has shown just how
bad off the Russian Armed Forces are at present.
As far as the recovery of the military is concerned, Sergeyev warned in 1999
that the country would not be able to increase military spending to the level
that would enable it to re-equip the military until 2006. This year, he noted
the magic date has slipped to 2008, and to 2010.
I do not want to give the impression that the Russians are not aware of just
how bad the situation is. My conversations with Russian officers has suggested
to me that they realize it even better than we do, and sometimes we
underestimate just how serious the situation is.
Consider this tidbit of information, which is rather ironic: Pavel
Felgehauer, one of the best Russian observers of the Russian military, has said
that today Russian soldiers are surviving mostly on bread and the stalks of
vegetables. Noting the irony of the situation, he has observed that it is food
from the U.S. Defence Department that is keeping Russian soldiers alive. This is
quite a difference from 15 years ago. Putin understands the enormity of the
One of the latter issues I wish to mention is political cohesion. One of the
basic characteristics of almost all democracies, and those who value civilian
leadership, is that soldiers stay out of politics; something that the military
did. True, it was politicized, but soldiers were never involved in the political
During the late Soviet period, some officers began to become involved, and
that was followed by the open involvement of military officers as political
candidates for office, or as political figures in the executive. This creates a
situation where officer A may be arguing publicly for policy B, while officer B
argues publicly in favour of policy C. If generals can openly disagree with each
other, how can we be sure that the military will carry out the tasks assigned to
it in the event of war or internal disruption?
In conclusion, I am reminded of two famous sayings. One is from the Chinese
sage who said, "May you be condemned to live in interesting times."
For those of us who follow events in Russia, and particularly the military, it
is certainly an interesting time. In fact, I would argue that it is too damned
interesting. Mr. Putin has seen to that.
The second is one I heard many times in the U.S. Navy: "Things are
always darkest just before they get pitch black." I would be the last one
to say that things will get pitch black. I learned that when I dealt with the
Polish crisis while I was in the State Department. Every day we would be asked
when the Polish economy would collapse, and guess what -- it never did.
Nevertheless, I think the enormity of the situation is obvious to everyone.
I would also like to point out that as one who has dealt with Russian and
Soviet militaries in the past, they were good soldiers and sailors. They knew
their jobs and did them, even in a much more brutal way than we would accept.
Right now, as bad as things are, I believe that the key to the future of the
Russian military is leadership. For the last 10 years, the Russian military has
been floating, without any sense of direction. Mr. Putin has taken the bull by
the horns and appointed Mr. Ivanov as the country's Minister of Defence. What
does he need to do? In this case, I am reminded of one of my personal heroes,
George S. Patton. Some of you may have seen the now-famous movie Patton. During
the latter part of the movie, Patton is given the task of moving his troops to
relieve the besieged bastion of Bastone during the Battle of the Bulge. The
situation is a mess, as Patton discovers when he drives up to a crossroads where
traffic is completely stalled. Patton does what any good leader would be
expected to do: He gets out of his jeep, tells the MP to get the hell out of
there and begins to direct traffic himself. Believe me, having a general like
Patton direct traffic got the soldiers' attention, and things began to happen.
I say this to point out that what the Russian military needs now is a traffic
cop if it hopes to join the world of modern and, hopefully, civilized
militaries. Whether or not Mr. Ivanov will be up to the task remains to be seen.
There is no doubt that he has the power and influence. He is the second most
powerful man in Russia, right behind Mr. Putin.
In saying this, I think it is also important not to expect miracles.
Rebuilding the Russian military will take time; a lot of time.
Senator Grafstein: Professor, your testimony is very helpful. It seems
to me that when one examines the Russian military from the inside as well as the
outside, there is a parallel between what happened in the United States with all
the costs but without the benefits of the post-Vietnam War period, which
transformed and changed very dramatically, if not military doctrine, the social
cohesion supporting military action and the ability to move abroad. We saw the
manifestation of that most recently in Yugoslavia when the military was prepared
to act, but act from a distance, by military might as opposed to soldiers on the
ground. Had soldiers moved in on the ground earlier and quicker, some military
thinkers suggest that the problem could have been solved with much less cost to
Mr. Herspring: Including the general who commanded the air war, to
whom I have spoken.
Senator Grafstein: There was a consequence of the transformation of
American attitudes toward military doctrine. With the Russians, my perception is
that there is a parallel in the Russian Armed Forces for three reasons: First,
there is the aftermath of the Afghanistan and Chechen conflicts and a weakness
in the effectiveness of the military; second, there is a lack of socio-political
cohesion in the country; finally, there are the underpinnings of the weak
economic situation. All these factors are having the same impact on Russian
military doctrine without the wealth benefits of the American reforms following
the Vietnam War.
If you agree with those comments in general principle, what military doctrine
could the Russian strategic thinkers adopt? Let me suggest one that I have read.
I am not sure that I agree with it, but it strikes me as reasonable. Obviously,
there must be substantive downsizing. By the way, I am dealing with conventional
forces here, not nuclear forces, which present an entirely different set of
problems. I want to separate the two.
When it comes to conventional military forces, it strikes me that the
American doctrine is very applicable to the post-Vietnam military doctrine of
being able to have mobile response teams that can be more effective than sheer
numbers of conventional forces. These response teams are fast, furious, fully
armed, fully loaded and highly mobile. Is that the direction in which the
Russians are moving in their debate with respect to military doctrine? That has
huge consequences about size. In other words, small could be better.
Mr. Herspring: The answer is yes, but they will do it in a very
Senator Grafstein: What do you mean by that?
Mr. Herspring: Russian military doctrine right now is in a state of
confusion. The number of military districts has been cut down. Primary emphasis
has been placed on airborne units. In fact, those are the only units that make
any sense anymore in terms of conventional forces.
The problem is that Russians intellectualize war far more than we do. Their
model comes from the old German general staff. You used to be able to go into
the general staff academy as a colonel and come out as a colonel, or you could
come out as a general depending on how well you did. I can tell you that having
taught at the American war college, some people go in and spend a holiday there.
The Russian model is very different.
The Russians attempt to look at the situation and determine how they will get
the pieces to fit together. Yes, they are cutting 365,000 personnel right now.
They know that they need fewer troops. Their problem is they do not know what
kind of military they want.
Mr. Ivanov was Secretary of the Security Council. He did the analysis of
military reform. He is coming into the defence ministry with his ideas in place.
The problem is that the Russians need a predicable budget. They do not live the
way we do, where we are told that we can have this, then all of a sudden someone
cuts it because they need operations here or because there is an agriculture
calamity -- so we steal money from the military. Our military adapts. Their
military does not. They sit down and ask themselves how much money they have for
planning, because the training they do must fit in with their doctrine and the
kind of personnel they have. Maybe we will go this way with the current review
that is going on in Washington right now.
When I was on the House Armed Services Committee, someone asked what we
should do with 20 tanks. I said that we should give them to the Marine Corps.
Why? Because I just put them down as going to the Marine Corps. We tend to do
things like that. For example, the Navy is building ships in Mississippi that
they do not want, but a particular senator has a lot of power and can get done
what he wants. A lot of that is going on around the U.S. The Russians do not
operate that way. Their military decides what it wants and everyone else reacts.
They are going through the process of democratization where people are saying,
"We do not want that." The generals are saying, "What do you mean
you don't want it? I told you that you want it." It is an entire mental
Then there is the new issue of theatre missile defence. They do not know what
Mr. Bush is really up to. They do not understand where the Americans are going
right now. My feeling is that Mr. Putin is a realpolitiker, just like Henry
Kissinger. He understands that kind of thing. However, is this something they
need to respond to, militarily? What happens if Slovakia or the Baltic states go
into NATO? How should they respond?
Senator Grafstein: You have led naturally into my next point. The
fuzziness and uncertainty of military doctrine compels the thinkers in Russia to
examine Star Wars on the one level that is somewhat easier, but essentially NATO
expansion which is realistic, that is on the ground, in a way that would compel
them to use other than military means, to see if they can create a stalemate.
Which means, where there is a separation between China and Russia, for example,
all of a sudden there might be a closer relationship between the two. Where it
means that there is a strategic aspect as it applies to the Arabian Gulf, we
might see a much more proactive political relationship developing. Where it
means that they would normally sort of stand aside and watch Iran act in an
irrational or perverse way, they could end up with common cause with Iran.
In effect, by moving rationally on NATO expansion, it compels the Russians,
without military strength to be able to support their contentions, to press
themselves into obverse, complex or unpredictable political strategic alliances
to strengthen themselves. Is that not deleterious, ultimately, to what we are
hoping for in Europe, which is calm and peace on the eastern front?
Mr. Herspring: I just did a study to try to understand Mr. Putin, and
I am not claiming that we do. First of all, the Russians have made it clear to
the Balkans: "Guess where you get your oil from?" and they have made
that clear to the western Europeans. They do not have to say much more than
Second, Mr. Putin knows that going to Cuba is going to tick off Washington.
He knows that dealing with Tehran will not make Washington happy. This is
something that we, as an alliance, must be very careful about: Mr. Putin
understands that Russia has an $8 billion military budget; the United States has
a $300 billion budget. He is a little guy right now, but I think he is sending a
message: "You can either work with me, or, boy, can I become a mystery
factor, and I will be a mystery factor all over the world because, no, I cannot
force you to do something you do not want to do; I am little, you are big. But I
can go around like a little dog and bite at your ankles." That is part of
what he is trying to say; to take them seriously, do not use the polemics that
are coming out of Washington.
Senator Grafstein: Would you agree with an earlier contention of this
committee that to proceed with NATO expansion willy-nilly at this particular
juncture, when Russia appears, on its surface, to be the weakest, from a
military standpoint, that that might have consequences which would be
counterproductive to the objectives of NATO expansion?
Mr. Herspring: Senator Grafstein, I was just at a conference in
Chicago full of generals, all of whom were NATO types. I challenged Ambassador
Hunter who was speaking. I understand that much of what the Russians are saying
now is bluster, but here we are talking about NATO expansion and nobody is
talking about the Russians. Something is missing. We do not have to do what they
want us to do, but we should be listening.
What is desperately needed now is a major conference on Russia. Bring
together people as obnoxious as General Milanov. Let them state their case, so
at least they have the impression that we are listening to them and we are
taking them seriously.
As far as NATO expansion, Slovenia is a freebie. They cannot be complained
about, because there is no border issue. Slovakia is a different situation. The
Baltics are another issue. I am not certain about Romania or Bulgaria, for other
I have another personal qualm, and I have done an op-ed piece for the
Washington Times on this subject. It burns me, as a taxpayer, to have the Czechs
say, "You owe us, because we have Article V; there is nothing you can do
about it. We do not have to do anything." Right now, the Czech ministry of
defence is an absolute disaster. Their planes are crashing. The Hungarians are
spending 1.7 per cent of their GDP in these areas.
In the future, we need to tell people, if they want to join NATO, to get
their house in order. Everyone wants in, and we know why. The Poles are at least
making a college try. They are not doing enough, that is fine, but they are
trying. However, the Czechs are basically thumbing their noses at us and not
doing a thing. The Hungarians have given us an air base that has been helpful.
The Chairman: In terms of your observation about looking at Russia,
that is what this committee is doing. As a result of our study on NATO that you
helped us with, and peacekeeping, this is what has provoked the members of the
committee to decide that we should be taking a look at Russia-Ukraine for some
of the reasons you have described.
Senator Andreychuk: I just want to push a bit more on your assessment
of Putin. Most people seem to say that next year will determine whether he is
serious about reforms and whether things will change. Thus, I wonder whether you
feel the track he is on is correct, putting the emphasis on economic reform
first and military reform second, and is he sincere about it?
Also, where does the threat to Russia lie if they will be developing a new
military doctrine? It may be one thing to have this problem of being a reduced
force as opposed to a previous superpower. That leads to all of the shenanigans
that go on, such as going to Cuba to grab attention. Where do Russians see their
threat? Putin has pointed out that he is very concerned about the movement
through his country of the drug trade and the fundamentalists who have contorted
the Islamic doctrine. Is that where he is restructuring? Do you see the military
sharing his views or are they in a total state of confusion?
Mr. Herspring: Mr. Putin's primary purpose right now is to rebuild the
Russian state. That is not our kind of state. For example, we were talking
beforehand about the freedom of the press. Mr. Putin says, "Well, you know,
Thomas Jefferson said total freedom of the press is a disaster."
In Putin's millennium speech, which I would advise all of you to read, he
laid things out very clearly. He wants a free press, but it must be a
responsible press, and he will determine what is a responsible press. If you ask
yourself what the motivation behind spy cases is, if they are after Americans
like Edmond Pope, they are not; they are sending a message to the local
population that the state is strong, and do not mess with the state. When he
goes after the governors, or the fisheries minister, or forces local
administration to rearrange their laws to be in accord with Moscow, all of these
things are basically done in an effort to build up the Russian state.
A month ago, people were writing that Putin had run out of gas. I do not
think anyone is writing that after what happened last week. He is clearly going
ahead. In economic reform he had a boom, 7, 8 per cent that was primarily
because of oil. The price went from $10 to $35 a barrel, and that was a big
help. He may not have that again this year.
The Chairman: What happened last week?
Mr. Herspring: Last week he appointed Mr. Ivanov as defence minister.
Many people were saying that he has run out of gas, and he certainly has
taken on the military. What Russia needs now more than anything else is
stability. Mr. Ivanov has also said that he will do it in a Russian fashion. It
will not be done in the way that we are used to doing in terms of what democracy
means. He says that Russians are not ready for that; they do not understand
democracy. He says that he will do it in a different fashion.
The military sees NATO expansion as hostile to them. They see theatre missile
defence as hostile to them. Much will depend on how the situation with China
comes out. That will feed into the entire situation. One gets the impression
that it does not really matter if the views are shared, because Putin is in
charge. Unlike Mr. Yeltsin, who said, "You guys go and play with your toys
and leave me alone so I can enjoy my vodka and not have to make any
decisions." Putin has taken on the military. The problems, as I have tried
to outline, are enormous. They share his view, just as Marshal Akhromeyev shared
Gorbachev's recognition, in 1989, that the country was falling apart and that
they had to do something. It turned out that Gorbachev went further than
Akhromeyev wanted him to go. I think the military understands Putin.It is just
that, in their own minds, they see a threat.
As an aside, when I was in the state department we had two sources of
intelligence, the CIA and the Defence Intelligence Agency. We never paid
attention to the DIA, because we knew what they were going to say: Threats have
gone way up. The CIA you could never predict. Sometimes they would say the
threats went down, but they were not working for someone else, they were doing
straight intelligence. That is what you have in the Defence Ministry now. If you
do not have a threat, why do you have the uniform? When you talk to these guys,
they are so unpolitical that, frankly, it is tragic. I mean, when you sit and
ask a Russian general a question, as I have many times, the answer is "Ja
nie znau, eto politichiski vopros," which translates as, "I don't
know, that's a political question." If I were to ask a Canadian Forces
officer, he would not sit there saying that was a political question; he would
give me his opinion. That is the same with French or German officers. Russian
officers have been so isolated from any concepts like that that they simply do
not understand them. To them, it is like a knee-jerk reaction.
That is why I am saying that I admire what this committee is doing and we
need to get more conferences directly with the Russian military. Let them
bluster around and say what they will say, and maybe we will do two things: A,
understand them better; and B, show respect. Nobody needs to tell a Russian he
is living in a sewer; he knows that. Telling him that is not going to help
anything. That is too much of what we have been doing. When I say
"we," I mean the whole alliance. I am not trying to accuse Canada, or
We need to be in a situation where we reach out more in terms of trying to
show that they have a legitimate position in the world. Let us face it, the war
in Yugoslavia would not have stopped had it not been for Mr. Yeltsin and Mr.
Chernomyrdin. He went and told Mr. Milosevic, "The game is over with."
If nothing else is, we owe them for that.
Senator Andreychuk: Just to follow up, you were here last time and you
spoke about the Black Sea fleet and the arrangements that have been made with
Ukraine and Russia. Perhaps you could comment and give us an update as to
whether that relationship, which was a very tense relationship, militarily,
between Ukraine-Russia, is working.
Perhaps you could also offer a further comment on nuclear pollution as well
as other pollution in the north, and whether that should be of greater concern
Mr. Herspring: The situation in the Crimea, in Sebastopol seems to be
working much more clearly. Putin has made it part of his policy to improve
relations with Ukraine. The problem is that Ukraine is in such a disastrous
state that I do not know if they will have the same president tomorrow or not.
It is hard to know where things are going.
By and large, militaries work very well together once they are given
instructions to do so. They can hammer that out and handle it nicely. The
problem is, the Russian fleet is just rusting; it is falling apart. One might
ask, "What fleet?"
The nuclear issue worries me. Soviet practice was to dump nuclear subs in the
northern sea. You would have to talk to a specialist, but my understand is that
has had profound effects. The last figures I saw were that 110 submarines are
tied up in both Murmansk and also in the Far East, with their cores in them. The
only decoring machine they have, we gave them. That machine can only do so many
submarines a year. The problem is that these submarines are sitting there,
rusting. I have asked submarine officers, "So what happens if sea water
gets in them?" I am told that they do not explode, they just pollute. The
problem is that that is what is happening.
To make it worse, Moscow sent out investigating teams to go to these various
boats and they walked right on board and there was nobody guarding them. There
is nobody to do that. It used to be that, in the old days, in the American Navy,
nuclear weapons were all controlled by marines.
If you want an experience on an aircraft carrier, be there when they have a
nuclear alert. You just better get yourself to a bulkhead, because it does not
matter what your rank is, the marines are flying to those weapons and they will
run right over you. The Russians used to use the KGB. It is not clear to me that
the KGB or FSB are even in that game now. So far, we have managed to keep the
controls in place.
Three years ago, the Norwegians shot up a satellite and the Russians took
that as an incoming missile because their systems are so decrepit. For years my
cousin was a missile maintenance officer in Montana. His argument is that you
must take them and practice with them. The missiles must be stored in certain
temperatures. They do not have air conditioning. The electricity has been turned
off on them. Frankly, the United States has been putting in a lot of money to
help keep scientists there and to pay them to stay there so they do not go to
some other place and cause trouble, and to help them to get rid of many of the
missiles. I fear that in the Bush administration they are talking about cutting
that program. That is not good news for anyone.
Senator Corbin: What are Mr. Ivanov's credentials and what can we
expect of him?
Mr. Herspring: That is a good question. That is one we are all
struggling with. Up until last November, he was a lieutenant general in the KGB,
or the FSB. He was a foreign intelligence officer, which is where he gets his
connection with Mr. Putin. Last November, Mr. Putin had him retire. At that
point, the speculation was that was so he could move into the defence ministry.
He is Mr. Putin's closest ally.
It is wrong to assume that because he was KGB, there is necessarily anything
sinister. There were two parts to the KGB: the foreign and the domestic. The
domestic part included the thugs who went around beating up people and
bulldozing picture shows and things like that. It is also important to recognize
that the KGB was the best and brightest. If one got into the KGB, it was because
you were very good. Mr. Ivanov is not stupid. He has put a lot of time into
trying to understand security issues. Thus, I think, to answer your question, he
will get things done. The big question will be will he have the money to get
things done or not?
Certainly, with Mr. Putin putting him there, it indicates that Mr. Putin has
made this a high priority area. The National Security Council was considered the
most important position. Now that is been taken over, and we have been told it
will focus on Chechnya, which is a hopeless situation. We can talk about that,
if you want.
Ivanov is not someone to take lightly. He is someone the generals know is
very important. At the same time, Putin has put people into the interior
ministry or the police. He has put people into other areas and they have all
been outsiders. One of the reasons he is doing that is to break up the clique
that has been running things and to say, "I, Vladimir Putin, intend to have
things happen there. I am not going to listen to you guys mumbo jumbo about how
you are doing military stuff. I will have my man in there who is not one of
you." That is pretty much what he has done.
I think things will happen, provided there is the financial wherewithal. I do
think that for once we will get generals to stop arguing with each other and get
people to pay attention to what is going on, as opposed to the chaos we have had
in the past.
Senator Corbin: I read a summary of your presentation at my party
caucus this morning. I found it quite interesting. However, the picture you
paint is very bleak. Frankly, it is discouraging. I do not see the light at the
end of the tunnel, certainly not in terms of what you told us this afternoon. I
think the agendas will be forever pushed back for some time in the future.
However, you do end your paper with a comment that I find challenging. You
write that, mentally, the Russian military remains "a super-power, bound by
the old ways. Whether or not they will change in coming years is open to
question. The one thing that is certain, however, is that whatever they do, it
will be Russian; something we must not forget."
I can believe that. You are asserting a fact. My history tells me, however,
that Russians become big, brave and a wonder to look at in situations of extreme
crisis. That is lacking at the moment. Russians have not been sufficiently
excited about the condition of their lives. Something must happen for them to
really rally and get moving on reform. That is my sense of things.
Mr. Herspring: One of the things that surprises me, to be honest with
you, is that Mr. Putin's popularity is at 70 per cent. How many politicians
would love to be able to say that?
Senator Corbin: What are the alternatives?
Mr. Herspring: It is not only that. I think the Russians, in a very
different way than under Mr. Yeltsin, are excited. They are excited in the sense
that they feel that they have a strong arm. They say, "Don't talk to us
about who votes for whom in this democracy. We want someone who will take charge
and get things done."
If we look at the last year, from 2000 to today, Mr. Putin has done things,
but he is very slow and methodical. People thought that they could never read
his mind.He would be a hell of a poker player. At the end of the year, they were
saying that he had run out of gas, and then, boom, he hits us with Mr. Ivanov.
This means that he is not running out of gas. He has taken on some very serious
Mr. Putin's biggest problem today is Chechnya. Chechnya is like a millstone
around his neck. He got into power because of Chechnya, and he does not know
what to do in Chechnya. Who will he negotiate with? Bandits? They would not
negotiate with him anyway unless it was for independence. He did not come to
Moscow to preside over the diminishment of the Russian empire.
It is a never-ending war. On average, 200 Russian soldiers a month are killed
in Chechnya. The army is pulling out and they are putting in the real thugs, the
interior troops who are much less disciplined and much more of a problem.
Part of what Mr. Putin is up against is that he was not trained for this job.
Most people, whether in this country or in my country, by the time they get to
be president, they have worked their way up. In the British system, they have
been a cabinet minister here and there. They understand the system. All of a
sudden, Mr. Putin goes from being a lieutenant colonel in the KGB to president
of the country. Mr. Putin's biggest dilemma is that he does not know what to do
with this power. Does he want it for self-aggrandizement? Does he want this
power to make the country better? He has not figured that out.
In a word, Mr. Putin is a problem-solver. When I was in the State Department
and someone said, "Here is a problem," the thing was to solve it and
find an answer. For example, how do we deal with the Chinese and the situation
on that island? The administration did not want problems; they wanted solutions.
This is Mr. Putin's world. This is what he has been trying to do, and he has had
some success. This last move with Mr. Ivanov shows that we are continuing on.
Senator De Bané: Is it true that when Mr. Putin participated for a
day at the last G7-G8 meeting, he impressed all the other experienced
Mr. Herspring: That is true. Everyone who has dealt with him has come
away with the feeling that they are dealing with a person who has it figured
He went out and got a law degree. A law degree in Russia is not the same as a
law degree in Canada. He was studying Marxism and Leninism, basically.
Senator De Bané: When those Western leaders said that he impressed
them, I am sure they were using their own criteria to judge him.
Mr. Herspring: The man is not ideological; he is completely
a-ideological. He said that Russians will not forget that communism did certain
things for them, but they will also not forget that communism nearly destroyed
Mr. Putin is a very pragmatic individual. If it means taking an idea from the
left, he will do it. If it means taking an idea from the right, he will do that
as well. He does not care. He wants to solve the problem. That is basically the
way I look at him, and that is the way he seems to have handled every issue he
has gone up against.
We were talking earlier about Brezhnev. I could write his speeches. I know
all his jargon. I knew what he would say. I cannot do that with Putin. I have no
idea what he is going to say. I have a better chance of figuring out what George
Bush will say than what Vladimir Putin will say because Mr. Bush is more
The Chairman: On that note, I will observe that Senator Andreychuk and
I met with President Putin between Parliaments. We were not actually a
committee. Senator Andreychuk, myself and three or four others had quite a good
Mr. Herspring: What was your reaction to him?
The Chairman: Speaking for myself, it was an amazingly successful
meeting. Each of us had a question on a particular subject. The questions were
very well put; they were very good questions. We kept getting waves from one of
our people about the protocol, and President Putin said, "Look, send the
protocol man away. The protocol works for us; we do not work for the protocol. I
want to answer these questions." And he answered them. He was there a
half-hour longer than expected. He was extremely impressive.
Mr. Herspring: He tends to take the question and go right to the heart
of the answer.
The Chairman: He answered very well some extremely well thought out
questions on a variety of subjects.
Senator Andreychuk: On the subject of perceptions, I think he answered
those questions very well, those that he chose to answer. Perhaps he did not
have the answers to some. For example, he chose to ignore my question and move
to answering things that tied into other questions.
We were impressed with Mr. Putin because we continue to repeat our own
mistakes. We have an idea of what a Russian leader is like. We were all
astounded when we discovered Gorbachev because I do not think we understood
Mr. Herspring: Not to mention Raisa.
Senator Andreychuk: That is right. It is exactly the same thing. We
are getting the new generation, the younger generation. We seem to be astounded
by him, which I think says more about us than it does about him.
I think you are absolutely right that he is a problem-solver. The question
is, when all the balls are in the air, you must examine the design of the entire
thing. A country does not run by solving individual problems; you must tie it
Mr. Herspring: I sort of get the impression from him that if he can
find the answer from Lenin, fine. If he can find it from Thomas Jefferson, that
is fine, too.
Senator Corbin: You mentioned President Bush. There are cynics who say
Russia is down on its back, and we should let it remain there. Is it in the
interests of the United States and the rest of the world to see Russia agonize
that way? If it has been formulated at this point in time, what is the U.S.
attitude towards Russia?
Mr. Herspring: First of all, it is not in anyone's interest to see
Russia down. Second, the U.S. does not have a policy.
Senator Corbin: They do not?
Mr. Herspring: At this point, there is no policy toward Russia. That
is part of the problem. Some people -- and I am just prognosticating because I
do not know the answer -- some people think that what has been set up is a new
set of standards; that this is the way the relationship will be carried on. We
will not try to make Russia over into us; we will relate on a different level.
I know Condi Rice and I think that the polemical tone she uses is wrong. I do
not think it is works with Russia right now, particularly when they are down.
When someone is down, what is the purpose of kicking them? They know they are
down. You also do not want to do their bidding, and we should not do that.
Your question asks about the Bush foreign policy. I do not feel comfortable
addressing that yet, because I do not know what it is. I think the elder Bush is
still around, and certainly Ms Rice knows Russia well. I have reviewed her books
and I know her personally. She is very competent. I am not worried that there is
ignorance at the top.
For internal, political reasons, the United States wants to say to the
establishment that there will be a 4 per cent increase in budget, period. That
means you must look at the entire budget across the board. There is also the
psychological feeling that we will not sit there and try to create a Bill-Boris
relationship where we try to make Russia over into our image. First of all, we
promised them this much and we gave them this much. Most Russians now look upon
capitalism as a form of repression, and look upon democracy as another form of
repression. We did not do a very good job when it came to the aid to begin with,
since much of it ended up lining various pockets.
This is manifesting itself right now in the question of how much will we help
on the nuclear non-proliferation issue. We are undergoing a military review
right now. Many of the generals are very unhappy with that, because they were
very happy to see Bush get in, rather than Gore, but they have basically been
told that there will be a 6 per cent increase in military budget and salaries.
Beyond that, stand by. We will do a top-down analysis and Bush has said there
will be a budgetary restraint on everything. Everything that comes up must meet
that budgetary restraint, and that includes nuclear non-proliferation. I hope
the money is put in there.
There is the feeling on the part of some in Washington that the Russians have
been squandering it. Part of that is a message: "If you want this money to
help, we are sick and tired of having it line people's pockets." Corruption
is the number one game in Russia right now. It is everywhere, and the military
is no better off.
One of the things that is really shocking is that when Mr. Ivanov went in,
they did something from a Russian standpoint that was absolutely unheard of.
They have a new deputy defence minister of finance who is a woman. This woman
has been brought into the Russian ministry of finance, and she is a civilian.
She was offered the rank of three-star general if she wanted it. I am not sure
if she has taken that or not. Her job is to destroy corruption. Again, someone
from the outside is being brought in and, on top of that, a woman. Which, from
the Russian military mentality does not make any sense. Women are almost always
in clerical or technical positions. You would never put a woman in a leadership
position in Russia. Here we have one who is a deputy defence minister and the
budget goes through her. That means the generals must come up and say,
"Madam, please..." They do not like that.
Senator Di Nino: I would like to return to the question of the nuclear
weapons. You spoke about the lack of professionalism in the military. One of the
concerns that I think the West has had is the safekeeping of not only the
weapons themselves, but also the technology which may walk with people who have
the skills and knowledge. Would you care to comment on that?
Mr. Herspring: There are several problems. First of all, as far as I
am aware, and I have talked to many people in Washington, we are not aware of a
single case where a warhead has been taken out of Russia. We had the case of the
poor Polish customs officers having the guy drive up and his Geiger counter
starts going off. He opens up the truck and there is some highly reactive
uranium. That must have made his day. We have had that kind of problem.
As far as I know we have not had that problem with the warheads, partially
because we have paid them to stay wherever they may be. The real problem is not
only in the missiles, but it is in the command and control systems. It is not
just worrying about someone stealing something; it is worrying about whether
those things will work.
I am not a missile man but, as I understand it, missiles are dependent upon
that command and control, and that is not working. That is why, three years ago,
when the Norwegians shot their weather satellite into the sky, the Russians
thought it was an incoming missile. They should be able to distinguish between
the two. It is not that difficult. However, the systems are either not being
replaced or are not working. Marshall Sergeyev has argued that the money should
all go into strategic systems, because that is all Russia has to deter an attack
on itself. In other words, you hit me, I will hit you; the deterrence thing that
we practised during the Cold War. As a result, conventional forces are
collapsing, tanks and cars do not run and that sort of thing.
Sergeyev understands the problem. The difficulty, from a budgetary standpoint
and the standpoint of one running the country, is where do you put your money
when it is so limited? There is a problem. The missiles themselves are decaying.
The storage areas are also decaying.
I would not say go and attack Russia because they will not retaliate; they
will, and they can. They still have a retaliatory capability. However, it is a
deep and difficult problem they are facing. How will they re-establish their
military? The second military doctrine had NATO as benign.What Gorbachev
basically did was say, "Give me a benign environment so I can reform my
internal environment." The third doctrine spoke of the dangers of
Canada has basically decided that its military force should be directed at
peacekeeping. That works well for Canada. The U.S. is trying to restructure the
military and determine a role. We still have a Cold War military. Their problem
is that not only do they not have the money, but they do not know how to
Mr. Ivanov has been given the real task. For the last three years there has
been an internal war. As one Russian observer said, there have been two defence
ministries -- the Chief of the General Staff, General Kvashnin, who wants
conventional forces, and the Minister of Defence, Marshall Sergeyev, who wants
strategic forces. Mr. Putin held a private meeting with them to tell them to
shut up. What you are getting at is the heart of the issue they are struggling
with. That is why the theatre missile defence system causes so many problems. We
thought we knew where they were going.
About six months ago, they announced that strategic missiles would be reduced
to a certain level. They put their money into conventional forces, and then
wham, here comes theatre nuclear defence. Now they do not know what to do.
"Is this guy Bush for real? Is he seriously planning to do this?"
It is hard for the Russians to understand how chaotic that situation really
is in the United States. I happen to be one of those who says "Go ahead and
investigate it, but for God's sake, don't deploy something that will not
work." We are 10 years away from having anything that would have any effect
and be able to do what they want to do. Nevertheless, that is their problem and
quandary. In the meantime, it is like a guy figuring out which hole to plug in a
ship because water is coming in.
I would not be surprised in the next two or three months if we see something
from Mr. Ivanov. You have a good researcher here who I am certain will shoot
something around and tell you that this is where they are going to put their
marbles, because we do not know.
Senator Di Nino: Does the U.S. know how to handle this issue? You
indicate that there may be a lack of real understanding by the U.S. of the
nature of the issue. Frankly, I think we all agree that if the U.S. blows it, we
Mr. Herspring: The answer to that question, in all honesty, is that I
do not know. The person at the top, Condi Rice, knows the issues. She is
extremely astute and speaks Russian. She understands the situation.
I can tell you right now that having spent a month last August with Pacific
Command, the attention is on China. Admiral Dennis Blair's primary concern is
China, not Russia. We all know where the tension is today.
I think the White House is learning. It is in a learning process. I think
they are peeved at Mr. Putin for Tehran, and for transferring nuclear
technology. The worry is the rogue states. He is doing it for money, not because
he likes them. He has come to us saying that we have to unite to fight the
Islamic fundamentalists. That is an area where we could cooperate with the
Russians. With the assistance of the Russians, we have just seen the break-up of
a drug ring in Moscow. It is possible to cooperate with them.
I do not know if I am answering your question, sir.
Senator Di Nino: I think that is fine.
You spoke about the corruption problem in Russia. Obviously, it must be just
as difficult and just as big a concern within the military. Will it create a
different problem? Are you aware of any problems created by corrupt senior
military personnel that must be dealt with?
Mr. Herspring: Sure. Soldiers starve because senior officers have been
diverting funds for their own purposes. Senior officers have been using soldiers
to build their dachas. Senior officers have been stealing money.
A major case is about to break. I suspect that Mr. Ivanov will start cracking
his whip. Someone has been brought in to get hold of the corruption because it
is very widespread. For example, planes cannot fly. Why? Because the soldiers
are taking the alcohol used in the plane and drinking it. Discipline has
I have watched the Soviet Navy bring big cruisers in and refuse to use
tugboats. They take a big cruiser and kiss it right up to a wharf. They know
what they are doing. They are good at their jobs. However, they cannot fly their
planes if there is no gas.
For $5,000, you can go over to Russia now and fly a MiG-29. I am not saying
you would do that, but you could. In the old Soviet Navy, you would never have
seen something like that.
The Chairman: We cannot help but be interested in the U.S. position
for the last little while. You have said that the Americans are probably sorting
themselves out as to their position. I have analyzed one thing with our
researchers. There seem to be two kinds of people -- the Soviet people and the
Russian people. Many people have made a living out of being Soviet specialists,
but there do not seem to be many people around who have developed a background
on Russia in the broader sense. Is that a problem in Washington?.
Mr. Herspring: I think it is, and I can tell you why. In the old days,
you could make money because there was the Cold War. You could go out and study
the impact of the African tsetse fly on military preparedness in Afghanistan.
Someone would say, "Good, here's $500,000. Go do it." You are right,
senator. There was a cottage industry. A lot of people did that.
When my book was published by the University Press in the mid-1990s on
Russian civil-military relations, the editor had to go to the chief editor and
argue like hell to get it published. The chief editor said, "Who cares? The
Russian military is gone." That was the mindset of the chief editor of a
If you count the number of people in this country or in the United States who
work on the Russian military seriously, I think you could do it on one hand.
The Chairman: There is what I call the idle-hands policy. We do not
really have an international crisis at the moment. I was born in 1935. Since the
events of 1990, I cannot remember in my lifetime when there was less of an
obvious crisis. However, idle hands look for something to do. Do you think that
is a factor?
Mr. Herspring: Who are you referring to?
The Chairman: When I go to Washington, I feel that there are many
people who would like to solve something in the realm of foreign affairs.
Mr. Herspring: I think that is very typical. Having been a foreign
service officer, that is what it is all about.
The Chairman: When there is no problem, it is difficult to do. That is
what I call the idle-hands problem.
Mr. Herspring: I think that is right. The issue is that when you build
up an elite of problem-solvers, and you look at Russia, which if anything is a
problem, then you say, "Let us solve it."
A famous French political scientist once said: "For political questions
there are no answers, there are solutions; and once you give a solution, the
solution begets its antithesis and you start all over again." You cannot
solve political questions, because they are too complicated. All you can try to
do is find a solution to one and go on to the next.
That is part of the problem. Americans and Canadians have an engineering
mentality. If there is a problem, manoeuvre the wooden widgets, put this one in
here, and it will be dealt with. When we carry that over to political life, it
does not work that way. There is too much irrationality and it is too
The Chairman: We hear a lot from the "NATO-ites." Sometimes
they have a difficult time realizing that we have had a new international
environment for the last ten years. To me, it is clear that the Russian military
has been withdrawing and downsizing since 1990, and trying to achieve some
manageable size. That is Putin's problem. Thus, he brings in Mr. Ivanov, whom he
knows, in order to deal with this. Hovering in the background is Chechnya, where
they have had a war since Potemkin's time. It is hard to see a solution to that
I spent a significant part of my youth in Algeria, during the Algerian Civil
War. The whole Chechnyan situation has a familiar ring to it: You control the
flat areas and you do not control the caves.
He has all these balls going on at once, you know, and actually he seems to
be getting somewhere. Is he getting somewhere?
Mr. Herspring: That is certainly my impression. I mean, you could say
that on a 10-mile trip he has gone a quarter mile. I think that would probably
be a fair statement. What you have now that you did not have under Yeltsin is
you have structure, order and what appears to be the outlines of a plan. The
plan appears to be to re-establish the Russian state and to gain respect in the
outside world. Those are the two pillars of what he is trying to do.
Yeltsin told all the local regions to go and take as much power as they
could, to have a ball, and they did. Putin comes in and he says, "Wait a
second, how can I run a country if half of the regions are ignoring me, and
passing laws that are against the Constitution?" They were not sending
money to Moscow.
Putin has started a process. Has he gained control over them? No. He tried to
influence elections and did not succeed. He has removed the most despicable
person, at least he certainly is not there, although his henchman is still
there. Has Putin gained control of the press? To a degree, yes, he has. Has he
gained control of the security system, which in the Russian mentality is totally
lost? Yes, he has begun to get control of that. Has he gained control of
Chechnya? Given where it was before he went in, yes, he has more control now. It
is more of an interior ministry problem than a military problem.
As you look at the economy, it is better than it was before. Pensioners were
paid last year. Military people got their salaries. Before last year, they were
often not getting their salaries. Members of the military were out driving taxis
or begging in the train stations.
The problem is, the education system has collapsed. AIDS and drugs are a
major problem. There is a moral collapse. I remember, back in 1989, talking to a
Russian admiral who was a senior political officer in the northern fleet. He hit
it on the head, and I think he outlined then the problem they are dealing with
now. He said, "In 1917, we destroyed the old gods. We took them and shot
them. We burned the churches down. We destroyed that. In its place, we put in a
new moral system. Our problem today is the new moral system has collapsed. We
have nothing to replace it."
The Chairman: I agree with much of what you have said. From my
perspective, I find what I call the idle hands policy does not have a habit of
being able to deal with this kind of complicated situation. We would all like to
see that brought under control, and that would make the world a much safer place
for all of us.
Leaving that and moving on to a purely military question, I noticed that, in
January in the French papers, joint manoeuvres were announced between Russia and
Ukraine. I do not know what the situation is with Belarus, because it does not
seem to be clear. I was interested, given the fact that there are so many
problems between Russia and Ukraine, that they were having joint military
Mr. Herspring: First of all, I am no expert on Ukraine, so I do not
want to pretend that I am. From the Russian standpoint, what Mr. Putin has been
trying to do is to bring Ukraine back into the Russian sphere of influence so he
can keep it out of NATO. This is part of a policy.
One of the problems we used to have with intelligence agencies is that they
sometimes begin to think that the military is an entity in and of itself.
Members of the military are part of society, and reflect society. When society
has drug problems, the military has drug problems. The military is more
contained and disciplined, in a sense.
Putin has been trying to build ties with Ukraine across the board simply
because he wants to draw them in his direction and not let them be drawn
westward. They are involved in the Partnership for Peace initiatives. There is a
Ukraine unit in the Balkans involved with peacekeeping. They have sent people to
be trained in the West, and so forth. That is more part of his whole approach.
As far as the idle hands theory, that is a problem. However, Russia is a
problem. It is a big problem, and someone better have working hands, or God pity
The Chairman: I certainly agree that Russia is a problem. I see the
idle hands factor in the sense of there being many people who want to make their
reputations. That can be a very dangerous business. This committee looked at the
Kosovo situation, and we are coming from that experience, in a way, where some
people might say -- not everyone would agree with this and we do not all agree
amongst ourselves -- that may have been one of the factors.
Senator Grafstein: My observation of meeting military officers
overseas who have now become political members of the OSC and members of the
Russian Parliament -- and there is that growth -- on the whole, I found them to
be amongst the brightest and the best. If you divide them between the military
and the KGB, the KGB are the brightest and the best, and right after them come
the military. There is that relationship. They are now elected officials, in
Thus, my observation of the military, up close and in other conversations, is
that the echelon, peer group or cohorts that are now at the political level at
retirement age, 45 to 55, are very competent and bright.
The same issue of the downsizing of the military hit the United States. It
hit Germany and it hit France. In a more comparative way, it hit China.
What did the Chinese do? The Chinese military includes some of the brightest
and the best because of their training, particularly in their engineering and
computer skills. The Chinese army now is in business. It has a commercial wing.
Some say it is subject to corruption. At the end of the day, it has been seen in
many parts as very successful in providing additional income to units. I am not
sure how the moneys flow, but essentially there has been a privatization of
military expertise into the commercial field. We see that in the United States,
where retired officers move quickly into the military complex. Has that happened
in Russia? Is it happening in Russia?
Mr. Herspring: Most of the retired military officers in Russia are
working for American companies, as are most of the former KGB officers.
Senator Grafstein: Doing what?
Mr. Herspring: They are consultants; they run businesses. Those are
the people the military hires. They go after the best and the brightest. Someone
from the KGB knows how the system works and how it does not work.
Senator Grafstein: I understand that, but I am really talking about
using the military itself as a base to commercialize some of its activities,
such as its information systems and communications devices.
Mr. Herspring: I do not see them going in that direction.
I think the China situation, as far as I am aware, is unique. The Chinese
military has done some work in that field, but I think that is unique. The
Russian military has never done that. What they have done is take a company away
from the military, sold weapons abroad, and put it back into civilian control
because they are concerned about corruption. I do not see the Russian military
moving in that way.
What upsets the Russian military is they finally produce a destroyer and it
is sold to the Chinese. The Russian military is sitting there with rowboats.
Ninety-five per cent of their weapons produced in the last year have been sold
Senator Grafstein: There is a huge naval establishment in Murmansk.
Mr. Herspring: The Severodvinsk naval yard.
Senator Grafstein: What is the status there? They have the largest
icebreakers in the world. Are they simply rusting?
Mr. Herspring: The icebreakers are different. They can be used for
Senator Grafstein: What has happened in Murmansk from a strategic
Mr. Herspring: The navy is falling apart. One example is the
Kuznetsov, Russia's big aircraft carrier. I am no naval engineer, but it is
sitting out in the northern sea. They do not have a pier big enough to berth it.
The weather in the northern sea is just pounding the living daylights out of it.
It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out what is going on.
Senator Grafstein: Is the carrier still commissioned?
Mr. Herspring: Russia has been trying to sell it. For a while, the
Chinese were going to buy it. For a while, India was going to buy it. Russia
will probably end up scrapping it, but 80 per cent of Russian ships need to be
Senator Grafstein: What has happened to all the missile capability in
Mr. Herspring: Look at what happened to the Kursk. It is as big as
five football fields. It is a giant boomer. I think we know now why it went
boom. Submarine officers explained the problem to me.
We stopped using hydrogen peroxide in 1955. Hydrogen peroxide is very
explosive, and the Russians are still using it. I have talked to the guys who
command these types of submarines and I have listened to the intelligence people
talk. The hydrogen peroxide went off, which set off a second explosion a minute
and a half later.
The idea of a British or an American submarine ramming the Kursk is absolute
nonsense. First, you could not keep British or American sailors' mouths shut if
something like that had happened.
I was in Pearl Harbor, quartered at the submarine base. The submarine that we
always had the problems with, the one which sank the Japanese ship, was tied up.
I looked out my window every morning and saw it. Believe me, if those subs are
brought into harbour, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out if one
has been rammed, because the damage can be seen.
Senator Grafstein: The sub fleets have always had the best of the
Mr. Herspring: They are in big trouble.
Senator Grafstein: To make the grade in nuclear subs has always been
the top of the service, as it is in the United States.
Mr. Herspring: Right.
Senator Grafstein: What has happened with the navy in that regard?
Mr. Herspring: My son graduated from Annapolis. He calls his
colleagues who went into the submarine fleet a bunch of geeks. He says they are
Senator Grafstein: They are brilliant. What is weird? One of your
Mr. Herspring: My former president was the second person picked by
Admiral Rickover. I also found out, because my son went to the naval academy,
that this particular president never opened a book. He majored in nuclear
Senator Grafstein: Sometimes, Mr. Chairman, we get the most
interesting anecdotes at the end of testimony.
Senator Di Nino: I want to return to a comment the professor made a
moment ago. A free press is one of the pillars a country looks to when it is
rebuilding. I think you said that Mr. Putin now controls the press.
I read an article this morning in The Globe and Mail that the air waves are
now controlled by the Russian government. I am not sure whether you meant that
Mr. Putin now controls the press in a positive or a negative way.
Mr. Herspring: That is a good question. Mr. Putin controls and does
not control. There are still independent television stations and independent
media outlets. The problem is something called self-censorship. It is like you
sort of know the rules, but there are certain things you will not mention.
Someone writing in the Toronto paper will not mention something pornographic.
Why? Because they would get into trouble. You will not be accused of having done
something unless there is proof of it because the paper will be sued. There is
that element in every situation.
Mr. Putin has made clear that he wants freedom of the press, but the press
must be responsible. He determines what is responsible. Mr. Putin says that when
the press attack him, that is not very nice. He says that the press should not
Yes, he controls the media and, no, he does not control it. There is still an
independent press, and there is a battle going on because several Russians have
commented that he does not know himself where the lines are. If we can say that
in Canada and the United States the continuum of what one can say rates a 50, in
Russia it is a 20.
Mr. Putin says he has no objection to criticism, but it must be constructive,
and he determines what "constructive" means.
Mr. Gorbachev had the same attitude. It is a very Russian approach. It is not
what we are used to where someone can say all kinds of things about you in the
press, or say all kinds of things about someone else in the press. So what?
That's life. We live with it.
Well, Putin says no, we do not live with it. He believes that the Russian
state must be strong and that we must not have irresponsible attacks on it,
whether it be from spying, whether it be from the press or from corruption.
Senator Andreychuk: We have talked about all of the neighbours, but
could you comment on the relationship between Russia and China? As well, how
does Russia see the "'stans" and their particular role with China?
Mr. Herspring: The Russians are scared to death of China. If we take
Vladivostok as an example, there are 3 million Russians and 80 million Chinese
facing each other across the border. The Russians are leaving Vladivostok. That
whole area was Chinese at one time. First, they are afraid of the Chinese.
Second, the Russians are selling weapons to the Chinese because they need the
money. They are selling weapons to the Iranians because they need the money. The
country is destitute.
If you asked the Russian military who they were pulling for between the
Americans and the Chinese, I think they would say the Chinese because they are
so sick and tired of the Americans putting them down. I would not read too much
into the Chinese connection, simply because the Russians do not like the
I cannot tell you how many stories I have read, or all of the racial epithets
I have heard about the Chinese. I have heard Russians ask, "How come you
people seem to like these people? They are a bunch of rabbits. They breed like
rabbits. They are a bunch of barbarians. One of these days they will attack
you." I heard that for years during the time when they were supposedly
With Putin, it is a marriage of convenience. That is true from China's
standpoint, as well. If the Chinese could get the weapons they need from us,
they would tell the Russians where to go. They are not stupid.
If the situation with China got totally out of control and we had a war, the
Russians may decide to side with the Chinese because of where they are right
now. However, ten years from now that situation might be totally different. I do
not see the Russians in bed with the Chinese for any reason other than
convenience. I do not know if that answers your question.
Senator Andreychuk: Also in regard to the strategic plan toward the
'stans, as there has been movement and talk about pipeline routes from
Kazakhstan across to China as a commercial route or a gas route. That has been
worrisome to Russians before Putin.
Mr. Herspring: I think it is economically driven. The flea-markets in
Vladivostok are almost all run by Chinese. The Chinese come across the border,
sell things made in China and go back. The Russians try to put border controls
on to stop it because they fear they will end up with more Chinese in
Vladivostok than Russians.
Putin would have to make his own decision. I do not know where he would come
out on that. My gut reaction tells me the relationship with China is one of
convenience. It is not one of, "I like being around the Chinese."
The Chairman: I want to thank our witness, Mr. Herspring. Our
discussions today have been very interesting.