General Milshtein (Pugwash), 1995

General Milshstein Interview, June 8, 1995 in Moscow:
Interviewer — Metta Spencer

GM: Let’s move to business.

MS: Sure. I believe you were involved in questions about reasonable sufficiency.

Milshtein: Let’s move to your questions.

MS: Where did the discussion of reasonable sufficiency come up?

Milshtein: I think it came after perestroika, due to the reason that we were working at the possibility of establishing a new military doctrine, according to the world situation, according to the fact that the Cold War was coming to an end, and the changed relationship between NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Organization. At that time, the Warsaw Treaty still existed, and so on. And as a result, a consequence of the international development and a result of the changed domestic policy of the Soviet Union.

MS: I would have personally thought that the notion of reasonable sufficiency was one of the ideas that preceded and promoted improved relations.

Milshtein: It is a chicken and egg question. It was a result of perestroika and perestroika helped developed the idea of reasonable sufficiency. If we stayed with the same views that we had during the Brezhnev period, then there was a Cold War. And what did it mean? Reasonable sufficiency had a certain definition. It would have been hypocritical at that time if we were to talk about reasonable sufficiency. There was a military buildup in the military sphere; there was the very strong role of the military-industrial complex; we were trying to catch the United States in the military field, in the nuclear field, and so on and so on. It could be born only with the changes of psychology, not only in the political field but in the military field too.

MS: Admiral Carroll told me that he thought the notion of reasonable sufficiency was not a new idea even when it began to be popular here because he said in discussions with Soviets he heard that language all along. Maybe it came to mean something different. Is that true?

Milstein: In some way that is true because slogans almost always are the same, but the question is whether you are fulfilling it or just making slogan without fulfilling the outside world or your own people. Reasonable sufficiency could be measured in many different way. Even if you take superiority, it could be reasonable sufficiency. If you take inferiority, it could be reasonable sufficiency. But fulfillment of the real meaning of reasonable sufficiency could be done only if there is less tension in the international situation. So it isn’t a problem of the term because you may find this term during the Clausewitz period or maybe earlier. The main thing is that we moved in reality to this — not very quickly; there were certain measures against this by the old generation, conservative people and so on, but in reality we moved to this. That means that not only the declaration of reasonable sufficiency but the realization this implies.

MS: Do you think that now there is agreement within the military about what that means? I might ask, are you speaking of sufficiency for deterrence or sufficiency for defence? And does it mean the same thing in the nuclear area as it means in the conventional area?

Milshtein: Well, now comes the problem — first the definition. The definition is this, that reasonable sufficiency means to have enough forces, not for aggression or even for the offense operation, but to have enough forces for the defensive purpose. It’s a main definition. But now, who is going to be a judge that your forces is enough for offense? Maybe it’s enough for aggression, but you say it is enough only for defence. The answer should be like this, that the other side should recognize that you have forces enough only for defence and not enough for aggression. That’s difficult because it means a general reassessment of everything and sometimes you can’t move to reasonable sufficiency because the other side doesn’t want to follow your line. That’s why it doesn’t recognize that you are moving to reasonable sufficiency because that means that there will be a reduction of military spending for the other side, so it raises the question of the aggressive policy and so on.

MS: Can you even talk about reasonable sufficiency in the nuclear field?

Milshtein: From my point of view you can’t talk about reasonable sufficiency in the nuclear field. That’s a crazy idea because, from my point of view, reasonable sufficiency in nuclear field must be zero. Otherwise there can be no reasonable sufficiency. You can’t say about reasonable sufficiency. I completely reject this.

MS: Well, that disposes of a whole line of argument.

Milshtein: No, no, you can’t speak of it. Like the American Academy of Science proposed to have 2000, 3000, or even 1000. That doesn’t mean anything. It means stage-by-stage elimination of nuclear weapons. Yes, I agree to this, but not to reasonable sufficiency.

MS: I interviewed Sergei Karaganov a couple of weeks ago and he took a different position. He was one of the people who promoted the concept of reasonable sufficiency. Maybe you don’t agree with his definition.

Milstein: I don’t. I don’t.

MS: — but he also is in favor of retaining nuclear weapons. Okay, tell me how your discussion along those lines goes.

Milstein: Well, there are certain people who are saying that it is a fantasy to speak of the elimination of nuclear weapons because, as long as it is invented, it is impossible to eliminate this, so we must propose some new idea about reasonable sufficiency in the nuclear field. Another part says that as long as the United States has a nuclear arsenal, we have to follow and have to make reductions on a mutual agreement basis. That’s another view. A third view, which is not very popular here, is that we have to get rid of nuclear weapons. I am one of the authors of a book that is going to be printed by Pugwash about a nuclear-free world.

MS: Wonderful.Okay, tell me about the early phases of this discussion here. You say it came in with perestroika. What are you talking about — ’86 or so?

Milstein: I cannot give the exact hour or day of this but it came after we started perestroika because we had to think how to get money and where we can get it from. Here comes the idea to have less military forces, to have less military production, and to spend less for military purposes. Then it comes to what way to move, and here comes the idea of reasonable sufficiency. But it was not really, and still I think it is not clear enough because, first of all, you have to make a definition of who’s your enemy. Against whom is it reasonable? Who is our enemy now? Now it’s all mixed up, this concept reasonable sufficiency.

MS: Okay, when you bring in this question of the economy I can see how that would have arisen at the same time, although I haven’t heard people talk about it as one of the rationales for it from the early point. Then you can also say the thing may have run aground because of opposition from the military industrial complex. How powerful are those forces and are you aware of how they actually impinged on the discussion?

Milstein: At the start of the reasonable sufficiency concept, it was born with the support of the political leadership, so no matter how strong (the military industrial complex is always strong—even now as we are collapsing— so it’s always strong). But with the support of the political leadership. But with ambiguous support, I would say, during the Gorbachev period. Ambiguous support. The concept was moving forward because the main idea was not the theoretical discussion. It should be done in a practical way. How many may have in the tank forces, for instance. In the paratroop and so forth. That’s the main idea of reasonable sufficiency because for education, we don’t have a lack of consultants and theoretician people in the field. But it is practical from many points of view. If you are going to reduce such a huge reduction, what impact you can have on the moral side of the military forces? What impact will it have on the economy? What should be done with apartments for people who are going to be released from the military forces, and so on? That should be done. It hasn’t been decided.

MS: Is it that it hasn’t been decided because of internal opposition or is it that it hasn’t been decided because there are not enough resources to do what you need to do?

Milstein: From my point of view, it was not decided for many reasons, including what you said. It was not decided because of some other problems which should be decided by the political leadership. We had already the start of some conflicts—that nobody knew how to deal with this. We had some troubles in the economy. We had some troubles in the military crisis. Then this coup came. So the events somehow ran ahead of the necessity and possibility to decide this. But now, I think, only we start practically to move forward. Practically and not theoretically. Only now, and still it is not clear, not due to that we are leading with this concept, but due to the objective situation. Even a country like Ukraine—economically it is not possible for the Ukraine to have big military forces.

MS: Do they know that yet?

Milshtein: No, they don’t. That’s the trouble. They will come to this conclusion because they will have some troubles with the population — no food, nothing to eat. Some countries, like Turkmenia said, Let’s have some forces together. Russia and Turkmenia. But who is going to pay for it; it is not decided yet. So about Russian military forces, it hasn’t been decided yet. It is decided that we must have three stages and, finally we’ll have 1.2 or 1.4 million forces, but it is in the end of the ’90s, at the beginning of the 2000s, though the declaration came in the 1980s. It will realized in 2000.

MS: What about having a professional army?

Milshtein: I am strongly for the professional army. I wrote an article in our magazine about this. I think it’s inevitable. Not because we need professional army but we are forced to have a professional army. We don’t now have military forces. They are very weak, they are collapsing and I don’t think anybody can order them now.

MS: There is some discussion about alternative service being proposed in parliament. What’s your position on that?

Milshtein: Well, that’s not a decision to solve the problem. The problem would be solved only by having a professional army for a certain period. Then our government could move forward with a professional army with some part of conscripts and some part of professionals. This year, already, there is going on the enlistment campaign. You know, it is not more than 25 or 27% of enlisted people coming.

MS: What happens to them. Do they go and get them?

Milshtein: Well, before, you know, it was not a problem because we knew what is the birth rate in Middle Asia, or in Georgia, or in Dagastan. Now they say we are not going to send you our young people. Go and have your own people. But in Russia the birth is less than the death.

MS: Aha!

Milstein: And they don’t want to serve, you know. Many thousands of young people just don’t come anymore. They are not afraid anymore.

MS: I was here last summer for the END convention and I heard these mothers of soldiers coming and protesting about their sons.

Milstein: Six thousand who are killed, nobody knows why. You see, it’s collapsing. You foreigners don’t have a real picture of what is going on in the Soviet Union in general, in spite of you are here. And the military forces in particular. It is much harder and more complicated than you think. You have a partial picture.

MS: I guess one of the things I am trying to find out is this. Gorbachev did not move very far, compared to what I would like and maybe you would like. I wonder to what extent he was constrained by other forces, which meant that he could not do what he would have liked.

Milstein: You have to judge. The leaders, including Gorbachev, are children of our system. They are homo sovieticus. We were grown up here. He moved one step forward and two steps backward, and the result is one step backward. So what he did, he destroyed everything. In a very good way. More democracy. Glasnost. But you can’t eat glasnost at your table during lunch, and as a result everything is destroyed. And Yeltsin, from my point of view, is a very good destroyer. Very good. And in a very extreme situation he is the only one who could save the situation.

MS: He could destroy better than Gorbachev?

Milstein: No, no. Enough destroyers! The only thing is, you have at the same time to think: What is following him? What will be after this? For instance, I think there is no other country in the world where the political leadership is so neglecting military forces.

MS: Today? Now?

Milstein: Starting with Gorbachev. He didn’t pay attention to the military forces at all. He was going to get out the forces from Czechoslovakia, from Poland, and the Western side applauded him and thought how nice he is. But he didn’t think where are we going to move our troops? What will we do about the people who are going out from the military forces? How about a man who spent all his life in the military forces; his children moved from ___ to Havaras, from Havaras to Tashkent, and now his children had no schools and now they have nothing. We’ll pay for this in a very short time. We’ll pay for Gorbachev’s mistakes. Which were followed by Yeltsin.

MS: Well, if he had taken all that into account, would he have just been paralyzed? Would he have been unable to make any decisions?

Milstein: Well, consultants and experts are very wise after the event. Including me. That it is easy. I am a military man. You see, you can’t neglect military forces, no matter whether you are a democratic man or a totalitarian. You have to deal with military forces, but he neglected military forces. Now they are trying to make an agreement with Germans to build apartment houses and so on. But it is late. Could Gorbachev have done better? Of course! Much better. He was not only very slow in making decisions, but he was very contradictory. One step forward, two steps backward. Now we are doing too many steps forward, not thinking about what will be the consequences.

MS: You think Yeltsin is making too many steps forward?

Milstein: Right. Just one easy example. Here is the prices of the goods, and there is no money anymore. Physical, real money. Imagine yourself. You are working. You have certain savings. Now you don’t receive money for three months. You go to your savings back, take money, go to a store. You want to buy a dress which costs 40 cents. Now it costs 5 dollars. So all your savings go, just like that! Now they say that we didn’t know that it would happen like this. So how do you evaluate leaders who didn’t know that when they raised prices, there would be a shortage of money? Terrible shortage. People like coal miners will not wait. They already don’t get money. Now they are going to print big money. Ten thousand rouble notes. You will see that there will be a crisis because you will not change this money. People will save this. You’ll come to a store, give this 10,000 rouble note, they’ll say “We don’t have change. Go to hell.” It will come to that.

MS: Let’s go back to your position in Pugwash. I used to know Anders Boserup. Actually, I had a lot of problems with that notion, particularly as it applies to Yugoslavia, for example, because everything that is nonprovocative defence with respect to an aggressor is good for using locally against your own people in small wars.

Milstein: Well, about nonprovocative defence, it is all symbolical. Because what does it mean, nonprovocative defence?

MS: Short range weapons.

Milstein: But nonprovocative defence, short range weapons, in a local context only. If you speak about great powers, what does it mean, nonprovocative defence? You have the anti-aircraft gun, is it provocative or nonprovocative, because you can use it not only against aircraft. You can use it with a range of 25, 30, 40 kilometers, it’s nonprovocative.

MS: It seems to me it only works in conjunction with a policy of nonintervention.

Milstein: How I will continue. Take for instance, Serbian ideas and some, for instance, the side that is against Serbian troops now. They have non-provocative defence and what is the result?

MS: I agree.

Milstein: So it is only for you to declare. It’s a game. That’s my statement. The other side has to recognize this. If the other side doesn’t recognize then there is no value of being nonprovocative.

MS: Tell me with whom these discussions took place when that policy was being developed here.

Milstein: Here? Well, it was discussed among academician circles. It was discussed in military circles with academicians. It was discussed among purely military circles. It was discussed within the government, military, scientific circles.

MS: Was it as acceptable to the military as it would have been to civilian institute analysts or to people around Gorbachev.

Milstein: To people around Gorbachev also it’s a mixture, you understand, because he was a poor chooser of people. Terrible mistakes. But among main parties of his surroundings, they were supporting this idea. And because Gorbachev supported this idea, the military — you see, there are military and military. Some of them supported this frankly. Some of them supported it officially, but inside they didn’t support this. Some of them didn’t support it. Because, you see, it has some weak points, this reasonable sufficiency. Which is that you have forces for defence and not for offence. But take for instance the case that there is an aggression against you. The aggressor took some part of your territory. How can you take back your territory? Only by offensive forces.

MS: How about the policy of nonintervention. It is not clear to me how that came about. In fact I am not sure how clear the policy is now. Would you say that the Russian government clearly has a policy of nonintervention?

Milstein: I can answer in a very short way: yes it has. But the new situation you have to take into consideration. Before by intervention we meant (or somebody meant) that our country is going to intervene in some other country. Czechoslovakia or in Afghanistan. Now of course we are not going to intervene. There is no more Afghanistan. Not only because we have such a policy. We do have such a policy, but we are unable to make intervention anyplace. Besides, politically we are against intervention. But now comes new idea because we have a commonwealth. Where are our troops now? In Georgia? Georgia is not a member of Commonwealth. In Armenia? We have an agreement with Armenia that if somebody makes an aggression against Armenia, we have to interfere. Is it intervention or not?

MS: Well, okay, but we come to a different level of question, which is — I sense in Canada that those who are active in promoting peace (I teach peace studies at the University of Toronto) and I make a clear distinction between common security and collective security but I don’t sense that —

Milstein: Well, what is the difference?

MS: I think of common security as all methods of war avoidance, such as negotiations, economic sanctions, a number of things that —

Milstein: And if you are unable to make it, what should be done?

MS: Well, I would go pretty far along those lines. I didn’t support the Gulf War, for example, for that reason.

Milstein: I don’t make any difference.

MS: That’s what I felt, that nobody here does, that the distinction between common security and collective security is not in this discussion.

Milstein: I don’t see what is the difference. Common security, you said, is to avoid the war. But the main thing of collective security is to avoid war, but in cases present in collective security, in case —

MS: Well, but you get into these paradoxes, such as that you have to fight a war to avoid a war. And then you are logically tied in knots.

Milstein: You know, the main point of our military objective now is to prevent war. I think it is a very weak point because military doctrine should not be to prevent war but to fight war. Somebody made an aggression against you.

MS: Well, it goes without saying that if you are going to have a deterrent you have to show that you have the possibility of doing it.

Milstein: So I don’t make any difference.

MS: And I guess that nobody else makes any distinction.

Milstein: And what is collective security?

MS: Collective security is exactly what you were describing with respect to Armenia where, if anybody attacks them…

Milstein: What is cooperative security?

MS: I don’t know. That’s not a term I use.

Milstein: There is such a term, cooperative security, and there is going to be a discussion in Pugwash about it in September in Berlin.

MS: We are having a meeting in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, which I am on the committee to organize. It is on the question of nationalities and minorities. Something different for Pugwash.

Tell me about the development of the concept of a nonintervention regime. Was there a debate about this as a general principle or is it simply that you had to get out of Afghanistan, people did get out of Eastern Europe for various reasons and, after the fact, because you’ve done these particular decisions, then you reach a general principle of nonintervention as a policy.

Milstein: You are correct.

MS: It was that way? There was not a theoretical discussion?

Milstein: There was a discussion in connection with these events. Czechoslovakia came up in connection with Afghanistan and was due to the fact that we are now opening the archives and everything. But not a special topic. I don’t know of special conferences or anything with the idea of nonintervention.

MS: Randall Forsberg has been promoting this idea of a nonintervention regime for a number of years and I don’t know how many people have listened to her.

Milstein: I haven’t met her for a long time. If you speak with her, give my high regards.

MS: I will do so.

Milstein: It looks like we covered all questions.

MS: One more thing. What about unilateral initiatives?

Milstein: You see, there is a fight between the necessity of unilateral steps and who are against this? Military people are against this. Because the United States and NATO countries don’t follow us, particularly in the nuclear field. We did a moratorium, there was no moratorium on the other side. So they gave this example, to support the idea, but not to follow the unilateral steps.

MS: A lot was done unilaterally. The decisions about moving troops, whether or not they were removed, that was unilateral.

Milstein: They are really removed! From some parts. That was a mistake of Gorbachev. To remove 400,000 troops, you cannot remove them in a day or in a month. You have to prepare places where they go. We have to find places for the wives of these people, where they go to work. You have to prepare apartments.

MS: But what I am saying is that there were very few occasions when the decisions that the Soviet Union took resulted from negotiations, or even went through a phase of negotiations. Gorbachev would just say, I am going to do this, and he did it. No negotiations. Was this decided as an approach in generally early on, that we are just going to do things, we are not going to negotiate?

Milstein: Gorbachev was severely criticized for this in certain circles because we didn’t get anything for our unilateral steps.

MS: That’s true.

Milstein: So what is the advantage of this? Just popularity of Gorbachev.

MS: Well, what do you think? Should he have done it his way?

Milstein: No, no. We should have done all these things but we should have got something back. Because, for our country, he not only solved troubles but he added troubles to many troubles that we had. So people are not thankful to him. He is very popular abroad but he is almost hated here. He is surprised himself. Why this?

MS: Okay, thank you very much.

The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy, by Metta Spencer, published by Lexington Books