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SPEECHES – CNO at Leningrad, 12 October 1989


Leningrad Naval School, USSR
Thursday, 12 October 1989

This morning I want to discuss several topics so that you know exactly bow I feel on some subjects that I think are of our mutual interest My comments are of value to you only if I speak with complete candor, Naval Officer to Naval Officer. Empty rhetoric or mindless propaganda benefit no one. If we are to succeed in our efforts to reduce tension, we must each understand the position the other takes on issues of mutual interest or concern.

I preface my remarks by saying that we are living in an era of enonnous change. Just as I stated earlier that I never expected to be addressing you during my tour as Chief of Naval Operations, it is equally difficult to predict what the next few years may bring. However, to put my remaining comments in context, there are three things that I think will remain constant for the foreseeable future. First, the United States is a nation that relies on the sea for its economic and political livelihood. Second, the Soviet Union is the only nation in the world that has the capability not only to challenge our way of life, but perhaps even to destroy its very existence. And third, independent of the actions of the United States and the Soviet Union to reduce tensions, the rest of the world is becoming more economically inter-dependent, while concurrently becoming more independent politically and militarily. For this reason, I think we can expect to see a relative decline in the influence that the Soviet Union and United States exert on the actions of individual nations. With those thoughts in mind I am going to speak about the U.S. Maritime Strategy, Naval Arms Control, and the future international security environment as I see il First, U.S. Maritime Strategy.

A few years ago, as I am sure you are well aware, we published our Maritime Strategy in open literature. Since then this document has been the subject of controversy both in my own country and around the world. The U.S. Maritime Strategy is the maritime component of the overall U.S. National Security Strategy. It is not a war plan. Nor is it a document that outlines a predisposition of naval forces to wage war. The Maritime Strategy is a concept, repeat concept, of operations for the effective global employment of naval forces to protect the interests of the United States and our Allies and support our national policy objectives. It is the same strategy that the United States has pursued in the name of peace for the past forty years, and is based on three fundamental tenets.

The first tenet is deterrence. Its purpose is to deter any potential adversary from either attacking the United States and our Allies, or attempting to undermine the economic and political interests on which we rely. The strategy is sufficiently broad to cover the employment of naval forces across the entire spectrum of conflict, ranging from global nuclear or conventional war down through regional conflicts in peacetime and crisis.

Secondly, the strategy is built around a network of alliances. Since World War Two, the United States bas established agreements with over forty countries to provide mutual security for common defense. The strength is not in the military power of any one individual but the combined strength of the alliance in which each member shares the burden of defense. Granted, the United States is the leader in these alliances. In the coming years I expect to see many of our Allies begin to assume greater responsibility for the common defense. This may be particularly true with NATO. I think it is important to note that in the forty years that NATO has stood united and kept the peace in Europe, there has not been a single aggressive act by any one of its members against a nation in the Warsaw Treaty organization.

Third, and probably least understood and possibly most worrisome to potential adversaries, is the premise of forward deployment.

Now, some argue that forward deployment poses an offensive threat. Among them is Marshall Akhromeyev, who, on a visit to the United States in the summer of 1988, looked me in the eye and said, You, you’re the problem. Your nal?’ and bases surround my country and threaten the security of the Soviet Union. My response then and now is the same. The United States strategy is not intended to threaten anyone. Geographic reality is such that many of our Allies and trading partners are located on the periphery of the Eurasian landmass. If the United States is to effectively participate in mutual defense of our own and our Allies” interests, it is imperative that we have forces deployed close to regions of potential conflict. In the last several years the United States has placed increased emphasis on the role of naval forces in forward deployment because of the changing international environment. Since 1950, there has been a 60 per cent decrease in both the number of overseas basing facilities and number of host countries for our forces. But, there has been no decrease in our overseas interests. Quite the contrary, the United States relies more heavily on overseas trade than ever. Forward deployed naval forces give us the flexibility and mobility to continue to protect these interests. They are only a threat to someone who would intend to threaten our interests or those of our Allies.

The second topic I want to address is Naval Anns Control. The purpose of any negotiation for Arms Control must be a meaningful improvement in the security posture for all of the participants. While force reductions may produce reduced governmental spending as a by-product, that cannot and should not be the principal focus. The goal must be improved stability. Unfortunately, I think our respective definitions of stability are somewhat different. The writings, speeches, and proposals of some of your leaders lead me to believe that you view stability as being synonymous with predictability. Predictability, if it means that restrictions are placed on the movement and composition of ships on the high seas, can foster a climate ripe for deceit and adventurism. My definition of stability focuses less on attempting to limit, through agreement, a potential adversaries• options, and more on the well understood, historically demonstrated national policies of the countries involved, and the deterrent effect of these countries operating viable forces in their regions of interest. The principles that may govern stability on land cannot be translated to apply equally on the high seas. Navies don’t occupy territories. All nations have free and equal access to the seas. Naval forces by virtue of their mobility and global access can be concentrated to deter and then just as quickly depart without the adverse implications or difficulties involved in the use of land forces. And while Naval forces don’t singularly win wars, their absence can certainly result in the loss of wars, especially if one nation is depend~nt on the sea. On that point I’m sure we are in agreement.

Many of your leaders have stated that the single most significant obstacle to the continuing improvement in relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union is our reluctance to entertain the inclusion of Naval forces in overall arms control talks. That may be so from your perspective, but in my view such statements fail to recognize the fundamental differences between our respective geographies and National Security requirements. The United States is an island nation. Two of our states, Alaska and Hawaii, are separated from the mainland of the United States by thousands of miles of ocean. The vast majority of our trade is with nations across the great expanse of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. And again we are critically dependent on this trade for economic survival.

Contrast that picture with your own country. You are virtually self sufficient in basic energy and strategic requirements. The states of the Soviet Union are all on the same land mass. Your principal Allies and trading partners are also on the same landmass. Seaborne trade for the Soviet Union is not a matter of national survival.

So, when viewed from this balanced perspective, I strongly feel that my country’s reluctance to enter into naval arms reductions is justified by the facts and is a prudent and rational position.

Let’s look at a few specific proposals that members of the Warsaw Treaty Organization and some others have offered. One calls for the exclusion of anti-submarine capable forces from specific security zones. Another calls for the exclusion of all Naval force activity in certain strategic straits and high density shipping lanes. Other proposals seek to limit the scope and number of naval exercises, and when such exercises occur, provide for advance notification and the embarkation of observers. Still others seek to restrict the movement of ships that may be armed with nuclear capable weapon systems. In each case, I interpret these proposals as attempts to abrogate commonly accepted international law with respect to freedom of the high seas. Any one of these would result in the inability of my Navy to protect the global interests of the United States or to deter aggression. Naval forces must be free to operate when and where deterrent presence is required, and operate unimpeded by restrictive sanctions.

To those who would argue that my position on these measures is intractable, let me remind them that our two countries already have formal and informal measures which have proven effective in reducing the probability of conflict on the high seas. The Incidents At Sea Agreement of 1972 has enjoyed remarkable success in preventing inadvertent mishaps between U.S. and Soviet Fleet units. The Stockholm Accord of 1986 already carries stipulations that require advance notification of naval exercises within specific limits. The Madrid Mandate will expand on the Stockholm Agreement to include other naval activities, if such activities are functionally linked with operations on land. And this past summer when Admiral Crowe visited the Soviet Union, he and General Moiseyev signed an agreement to reduce dangerous military incidents in regions where the Armed Forces of our two countries routinely operate. These are all sound agreements that result in an increased measure of stability, but do not impinge on any nation’s free use of the high seas.

Another topic that seems to surface frequently when arms control is mentioned is sea-launched cruise missiles. I understand that the Soviet Union views the U.S. sea-launched cruise missile capability with concern. You, as military men and learned strategists, can appreciate it when I say that it is intended to concern you.

More than twenty years ago your Navy embarked on a weapons building program whose sole purpose was to target and counter U.S. aircraft carriers. The Soviet Navy developed a powerful Naval Air Arm, potent submarine force, and blue water surface force all capable of carrying large numbers of cruise missiles, many with nuclear warheads — and each one targeted aga.inst our aircraft carriers.

In response, we felt we were left with no option but to develop a capability to disperse the surface and land strike assets that were previously concentrated only in our manned aircraft aboard carriers. Hence, the sea launched cruise missile was developed and is now deployed on surface combatants and submarines. In addition to complicating an adversary’s targeting effort, the cruise missile gives fleet and battle group commanders another asset for a measured response, and one which does not endanger airmen’s lives in striking targets at sea or ashore.

I strongly oppose any negotiation that would impose undue restrictions on cruise missiles at sea. Contrary to what some may say, I believe that compliance with restrictions would be unverifiable without unacceptably intrusive inspections. I noted with interest some articles that appeared last August concerning the verification experiment conducted on board one of your Slava Cruisers. I’m referring to the experiment that was jointly sponsored by the Soviet Academy of Sciences and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the latter being a group of scientists and academicians who are not official representatives of the United States, but nonetheless technically knowledgeable. In essence, they concluded just what I said, that unintrusive verification is impossible using the tested techniques.

But more importantly, from my perspective, limits or reductions on cruise missiles would again make the U.S. Navy’s Seaborne strike capability reside solely in our aircraft carriers. And, then, your cruise missiles would again be aimed primarily at our carriers. This poses unacceptable risks to our ships, our people, and would severely inhibit my Navy’s ability to protect our global interests.

That brings me to the last topic on arms control I intend to discuss – U.S. Aircraft Carriers. In the past year, some of your country’s leaders have suggested that the United States should retire or place in storage half of our aircraft carriers in return for your retirement of about a hundred of your submarines. Such proposals do not reflect an understanding of the basic differences in economic and political dependencies between our countries. The aircraft carrier is the backbone of the United States Navy. When combined with supporting surface combatants and logistics ships, it provides a mobiJe, flexible, and self sufficient base to protect our interests and deter would be aggressors. In the past year we have seen examples where the presence of a carrier battle group positively influenced an otherwise potentially volatile situation. The USS NIMTIZ steamed off the coast of Korea during the Olympiad in Seoul. Prior to the games there had been much rhetoric from the North Koreans about interrupting the games with violence. The presence of the NIMITZ strongly discouraged the North Koreans from following rhetoric with action. Carrier battle groups on station in the North Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean have added a strong measure of deterrence to keep the fragile cease-fire between Iran and Iraq intact Most recently, the presence of the USS CORAL SEA and AMERICA battle groups in the Eastern Mediterranean halted the barbarous threats to murder more U.S. and foreign hostages being held captive by state sponsored terrorists in the Middle East.

The United States currently maintains fourteen deployable aircraft carriers. At fourteen, we are barely capable of maintaining our peacetime commitments in regions of the world where the stability they bring is required for peace. I must emphasize that every nation in the world community, not just the United States, benefits from the forward deployed presence and resulting deterrent effect of our carrier forces.

And let me add that these fourteen carriers are all frontline operating units, unlike the submarines your leaders propose to retire in exchange. It is clear that most of these submarines have surpassed their useful service life and will be retired anyway.

The last topic area I want to briefly address is the future security environment as I see it, and the implications it has for Naval forces. As I said earlier the world order is changing and many of the changes we see today may continue independent of actions by the United States or Soviet Union. We are witnessing a dispersion of power centers with a greater emphasis on economic influence than on military power. The relative world position of the superpowers is decreasing. The improving relations between our two countries may result in an overall reduction in the amount of money that both of us spend on our militaries.

But there are some other things going on in the world which are not so positive. The proliferation of sophisticated weapon systems among many nations in the world should trouble everyone. We’ve seen the indiscriminate use of chemical weapons by Iran and Iraq. Many other countries are building facilities to manufacture their own chemical weapons or are trying to buy them from others. Many nations that can’t feed their hungry populations are buying or building cruise missiles. By the year 2000, some intelligence estimates predict that 15 or more countries will have the capability to produce and launch ballistic missiles. The prospects for the proliferation of nuclear weapons are not much better.

Terrorist groups, many of which are sponsored and supplied by legitimate states continue to be the scourge of the civilized world. International drug cartels are getting rich at the expense of young people all around the world. In both instances, the values of human life and decency are absent .

Before your questions, I’ll conclude my remarks with this observation. All of us in this auditorium are military men. More than anyone else we have seen and understand the suffering and pain of war. Our governments’ principal charge to us is to deter war so that the warfighting skills we have trained long and hard to master will never be required. I am hopeful that this new era of understanding between our two countries will result in a world where our successors will not feel threatened by any nation. But the world has a long way to go to meet that goal. Trust and confidence in the intentions of other nations, including reluctance to use force to attain national goals, comes with time and corresponding actions that reflect those qualities. Our elected governments will control the speed of these developments in our two countries, and hopefully they can influence the rest of the world community to direct their energies in the same direction. In the interim, we, the military, must remain ready to defend our nations’ security interests. We must do so not by fancifully trying to assess the intentions of a potential challenge or threat, but by assessing the reality and true capability of those who may pose a threat. The citizens of our countries deserve nothing less.

I wish you fair winds and following seas. Let our crossings on the great oceans be signalled with friendship and respect. Thank you.

Naval Submarine League

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