Opening Remarks by Dr. James Schlesinger

DR. SCHLESINGER: Thank you, and danke sch--n, Herr Kissinger. (Laughter.)

As the Secretary indicated, I was kind of a utility infielder during the early years of the Nixon Administration. I had four separate jobs, the first of which was handling national security for the old Bureau of the Budget and presiding over what was a substantial administration-ordered decline in the defense budget associated with the President's intent to reduce substantially our forces in Vietnam and leading, by the way, to the first balanced budget in fiscal 1971 that we had enjoyed for some time.

Before moving into the Bureau of the Budget, I had been the Director of Strategic Studies at the Rand Corporation, at which our central concern was the growth of a Soviet counter-deterrent to America's strategic forces and what that might imply about America's credibility for extended deterrence protecting our allies in Europe. I shall return to that in a while.

The years of this volume, 1969 through 1972, I was wholly unencumbered with what passed through the channel. The existence of such a channel comes as no surprise, and should not have come as a surprise, and was quite welcome -- a subject that I will come back to later on.

But Henry has covered some of the important details of the period leading up to the administration. I remind you of some of them.

First, he has mentioned that the President had a profound contempt for the Department of State. I will add that he had a profound contempt for the Central Intelligence Agency as well. In 1968, the view in the intelligence community was that the Soviet Union was only going to try to match us with regard to strategic forces, that as we had leveled off at a thousand missiles, just over that, 1,056, all that the Soviet Union was prepared to do was to go up to that level, match us, and then stop deploying missiles.

It did not turn out that way. And incidentally, for you scholars, it was not the first time--or more recently is not the first time that intelligence assessments may have been influenced by the attitudes of the political authorities, who felt that the Soviets really felt endangered, that Détente was the way to deal with that problem, and that they would indeed stop.

Now, this was in the period just after the announcement of the Brezhnev Doctrine and the Soviet Union was feeling its oats in this period. America was preoccupied, or so they felt, with Vietnam. There were some of our diplomats who believed that that the Soviets really wanted to help us out in Vietnam. That was rather an illusion.

The Soviets were talking about the correlation of forces, in which through the forces of history, inevitably the balance of force was moving in favor of the Soviet Union and against the West generally, and the United States in particular.

As Henry has mentioned, in 1968 the Soviets had moved into Czechoslovakia. This came as a surprise to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. It was astonished because it was the feeling in the administration that the Soviets would not act in a way that would endanger Détente. They did.

Incidentally, for people in the Operations Directorate as opposed to the Intelligence Directorate at the CIA, Soviet action came as no surprise. They felt that the Soviets had no alternative but to move into Czechoslovakia or their empire in Eastern Europe would begin to fall apart.

Let me turn now to the central issue as far as I was concerned, which was the arms issue. The Soviets, in the eyes of all and in particular in the eyes of our European allies, had total conventional arms dominance. The allies, in particular, felt that within days of a hypothetical Soviet move against the West, that the Western position would collapse and that we would turn, or should turn, to the use of nuclear weapons. That was the standard view.

And up until that time, they had had great confidence in the threat of nuclear retaliation by the United States. But the growth of the Soviet counter-deterrent, which basically started at the time of Cuba when the Soviets discovered how naked they were compared to the United States, went on and slowly the Soviets had built up.

So our concern was that the Soviets might marry strategic nuclear dominance to their already conventional dominance. To deal with this, we strengthened our conventional deterrent--ultimately, a story that we may come back to later--but also changed our strategic doctrine.

The Europeans, as I mentioned, were squeamish in this period. Some, as the French were under Charles de Gaulle, believing that the Americans would never trade New York for Hamburg, as you may remember, and they were particularly squeamish because they had lost confidence in the United States reflecting Vietnam.

The Seventh Army, which had been stripped of its most valuable personnel to be shipped off to Vietnam, was in dreadful shape and the Europeans knew it. There was widespread use of drugs and there was their great protector--in their eyes, mistakenly--caught in Vietnam and with the declining forces and a declining capability to protect Europe. That went on for some years and I will come back to that.

In 1973, I became the Director of Central Intelligence, and in an early briefing to the National Security Council I pointed out what the immense advantages of the Soviet Union in terms of throw-weight might be if it were married to accurate MIRVed missiles or MIRVed reentry vehicles.

After the agreement on May the 14th of 1972, there was an explosion after the agreement of research and development activities in the missile area by the Soviets. We saw new missiles going--being tested, and in particular the SS-18 and the SS-19, which were substantial improvements over the earlier generation of missiles, the SS--11, the SS--13 and the like.

I publicly--by that time, I was the Secretary of Defense--I pointed out to the press at that time this explosion of R&D activity and what it might imply with regard to the arms balance. And indeed, I announced our plans to proceed with the MX missile, which was a large throw-weight missile.

At the same time, in respect to Détente and the need for avoiding the ability to attack or undermine the capacity of either side to retaliate, that we were prepared to give up on the MX missile if the Soviet Union were prepared to pull down its own throw-weight. However, if the Soviet Union proceeded in the direction that it was going, that we would indeed deploy the MX missile.

At the same time, I announced a change in our nuclear strategy which stressed that indeed we would be prepared to use strategic forces against the Soviet Union but that we would avoid cities in an attempt to persuade the Soviets in response to any initiation by the United States attacking our own cities. And following up on the discussion of the channel, that we would continue to seek to have intra-ward communications with the Soviet leadership under those circumstances. I think it important that during wartime that one--during a nuclear exchange, that one sustain those communications so that there would be less a risk of misunderstanding of what we were doing and presumably what they would be doing.

In 1972, you will recall the part of the Moscow agreement was the basic principles regarding coexistence. Those basic principles were substantially blown apart with the start of the Middle Eastern war in 1973. The Soviets came in strongly in support of their client-states; indeed, more importantly from our standpoint, they had been egging on their client-states to attack Israel. That was not consistent with the basic principles in which each side would avoid taking advantage of circumstances to improve their marginal position, in this case in the Middle East.

The 1973 war brought a significant change with regard to our standing in the world, and particularly with our allies. With the start of the airlift to Israel, of which most of our allies disapproved and some disapproved vehemently, starting with the French Government, but notably the British Government as well, that even though they disapproved of the airlift they did take note of the fact that the United States was quite competent in carrying out that airlift, that within 36 hours American supplies were landing in Israel to shore up the Israeli position.

And the squeamishness that many of our allies had had to that point began to disappear in that they recognized that the United States was quite capable of effective action despite their European misgivings about Vietnam.

I think that I will simply point out that with regard to SALT II that the Soviet negotiating stance was always one of seeking advantage relative to the United States despite their full knowledge that undermining the American strategic position would have consequences in terms of the Soviet standing in Western Europe.

For example, the Soviets were always seeking to force us to withdraw our so-called forward-based forces, forward-deployed forwards, and pull them back to the United States at the same time that they would pull their own forward-deployed forces back to within the borders of the Soviet Union. That is, we would withdraw 3,500 miles, they would withdraw a couple of hundred miles. I was always a strong supporter of the concept of Détente, but I wanted it to be a balanced Détente.

Henry mentioned General Goodpaster. I should point out that General Goodpaster had been a principal in the so-called Solarium conference at the start of the Eisenhower Administration in 1961, and that President Nixon, when he was Vice President, was fully aware of the existence of the Solarium conference.

Thus, the Nixon Administration was lodged with something called NSSM-1, which was, in effect, a review by the larger bureaucracy under the guidance of Henry Kissinger, of the position of the United States in the world. NSSM-1 came to the conclusion that the military forces of the United States should not be prepared for two and a half wars, but for one and a half wars, that there was a recognition that our relationship with China that had been previously quite hostile was undergoing change and would undergo further change. NSSM-1 was a splendid example of how a government coming--a new administration coming into power should review what it inherits from the past. I might point out that we will have a new administration in 2009 and I commend to that administration those kinds of procedures, recognizing the difficulties that now face American foreign policy and the likelihood that a new administration will be tested early on after 2009.

Thank you. (Applause.)