James Bush (formerly US nuclear sub commander), 1991

Interview with James Bush (Submarine Commander)
Interviewer — Metta Spencer
We were on a ship cruising down the Dnieper river.

Spencer — Let’s start off by talking about CDI.

James Bush — Center for Defense Information is a group of retired military officers. The organization is directed by retired military officers that support an effective defence but oppose those policies that increase the likelihood of nuclear war or any war. And feel that strong social, economical and political institutions are as important to national security as military power. These positions generally put us in disagreement with the Department of Defence. We are best known as being critics of the department of defence.

Spencer — When was it created?

James Bush — 1972 by its current director Admiral La Rocque.

Spencer — How many other ex-military officers are there?

James Bush — Currently in the office there are Admiral La Rocque, Admiral Carroll and myself. Our chief of staff is an active Army Lieutenant Colonel, who is currently in the Army reserve as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Spencer — Is there any problem with his being an on duty…?

James Bush — There doesn’t appear to be, he does an annual two-week tour of duty with the department, with the army and it doesn’t seem to cause him any problems.

Spencer — How long have you been working?

James Bush — I have been with the centre since 1982.

Spencer — What drew you to it?

James Bush — What drew me to it specifically was when the Reagan administration was elected, I had done some of the work with some of the people who were in his administration. Like Bill Van Cleve who just started in the administration. He was a professor at the University of Southern California where I was a student in 1977-78, where I was working on a Phd which I didn’t complete. But Van Cleve was a very arch conservative and he and I got along reasonably well together. I certainly was aware of his beliefs and many of the people he worked with. Many of them were in the administration. Particularly from the Committee on the Present Danger, which was a prime force for the Reagan administration’s national security organization. I was really concerned that we were working ourselves into an accidental or not intentional nuclear war. And also that we were going to turn our backs on negotiating arms control agreements.

Spencer — Van Cleve was really a hawk then?

James Bush — Yes a really strong hawk.

Spencer — So how did that bring you to the CDI?

James Bush — Because I was concerned with Van Cleve and people like him were directing the nation’s national security policy. And that was likely to blunder us into a war or nuclear war. And I wanted to have a forum to express my views concerning these issues and CDI seemed to be the original place to go, particularly when I discovered that Gene Carroll was who I worked with in the Navy. He wasn’t there long before I came, maybe a year, but not much longer that that.

Spencer — So what is your specific role there?

James Bush — I am the associate director and we are kind of at the epicentre, seeing as it’s dominated by Navel officers. We have sort of what we call a “line” officer approach. Which is that a line officer approach in the navy is that you can do anything. The specific role I have would be commenting on issues involving submarines, because I was a submarine officer while I was in the Navy. But in general all issues of National security.

Spencer — You mean nuclear submarines?

James Bush — Yes nuclear submarines

Spencer — So you go around giving speeches, writing articles?

James Bush — I give speeches, write articles.

Spencer — What particular changes or restrictions would you be working for submarines.

James Bush — Well at present time we’re working for eliminating nuclear weapons at sea. That is not at the present time an extent to SLBM’s (Submarine launched ballistic missiles).

Spencer — Why?

James Bush — Well because we think that at least, well both sides have nuclear weapons, or while there are nuclear weapons, that the submarine-launched ballistic missile is the best deterrent for us.

Spencer — Yes I would have thought so too, actually. Is it still the case that two people can launch ballistic missiles from one of those subs?

James Bush — Well the situation is a little complicated for the lay person to understand. But suffice it to say that there are no mechanical conatraints on the submarine to prevent it from launching its missiles without an order from the president. Now there are mechanical contraints on all other, all weapons systems for other services. In the army and the air force, none of the navy’s nuclear weapons have what’s called a permissive action link or PAL, which is a physical constraint preventing launching of a nuclear weapon without orders from the president. An actual physical constraint, none of the Navy ships have it.

Spencer — I thought it was just submarines?

James Bush — No, the submarines are the only strategic weapons. The air force has the land based missiles and the bombers, and of the three links of the triad of the strategic weapons, submarines are the only ones that don’t have a permissive action, but that also a lot of people don’t realize that also applies to all other nuclear weapons that the navy has. So what it amounts to is that each ship establishes some minimal administrative constraints. Some of them are established by the Navy, administrative constraints that prevent you from launching your missiles, or attempt to prevent you from launching your weapons without permission or instructions. But in my mind administrative constraints are just that. Any number of circumstances that a ship could conceivably launch their weapons without permission.

Spencer — That’s one of the things I heard they changed.

James Bush — That has not changed. The Navy is a very conservative organization, and fights to change their philosophy is one they have fought very hard and one of the ones is changing this requirement for permissive action.

Spencer — Tell me about any deals with the Soviets with regards to the Arctic. As I recall I think it was Gorbachov’s speech at Vladivostok, I could be wrong, that proposals forced him to cooperate to some extent [can’t make this part out, counter at 159] . Canadians didn’t take it seriously enough to respond because they said they had so much stuff in the [counter 162] peninisula that they would never get out of that area. So it was a futile exercise even to discuss it. But later on, I understand, there was an offer [counter 166]. Can you tell me why, already they have but I haven’t heard about it, as far as I know there’s been no response from the west to any of those initiatives.

James Bush — That’s correct. The Soviet Union and Gorbachov have called for pertinently nuclear free zones in the Arctic and in the Baltic. Which are two likely places to become nuclear free zones. In the Baltic they took the nuclear weapons off their vessels that were in there. And to the best of my knowledge the Soviets were the only ones that had ships with at least continuously in the Baltic sea with nuclear weapons on them. So when they took their nuclear weapons out it was a reasonable thing to think that someone in the west would agree to a nuclear free zone. In fact it has been a policy of the US since the signing of the nuclear free zone for south central America to propose…. yeah I can never pronounce the name of the treaty so I just refer to it as central and south America. [Tlatelolco] The US is opposed to all nuclear free zones, they see this as a method of sort of getting rid of nuclear weapons incrementally, and also there’s a sort of criticism of the US for having nuclear weapons. So we did not sign the south Pacific nuclear free zone which meant no sense whatsoever because whether the US has nuclear weapons in the South West Pacific or not has no impact on the national security of the US and very little impact on the national security of the world. I mean there is no need to operate a nuclear unit in the South West Pacific. I mean I can’t find anybody that would… but we have to object to that. So when the proposal came up for the Arctic, that’s another one that could only benefit the west, because to the best of my knowledge the Soviets are the only people that operate nuclear forces in the Arctic with any regularity. There is a strong probability that they operate their missile submarines under the ice pack. We don’t, we didn’t when I had anything to do with it, and there’s no reason to operate missile submarines under the ice pack.

Spencer — There’s a book called American Lake by Zarsky… a negative story about how submarines bump into each other under the Arctic ice pack.

James Bush — Well what the US does, if they do it, is to send what we call attack subs or hunter killer submarines in Great Britian, to see if they can seek out the Soviet missile submarines that are up there. We don’t operate our missile submarines up there. Now the reason the Soviets operate their missile submarines up there is because it offers sort of a natural hiding place for them. We don’t need that because our submarines are so much quieter, we can operate ours in the mid ocean and not worry about detection and it’s a whole lot easier and safer to operate your submarines.

Spencer — Which is why they would be the best deterrent.

James Bush — A threat, because they can’t be detected.

Spencer — Did you know Rod Byers? He died a little while ago, but he was a Canadian strategic analyst, who was a specialist in submarine issues. I commented something about how submarines can’t be tracked, and he said yes they can and I was very surprised.

James Bush — He said yes they could be tracked?

Spencer — Yes.

James Bush — Sure, if they are not careful. I would say that American nor Soviet submarines can be routinely tracked. It’s just a case of, at least in this day and age, any submarine that’s not careful finding themselves being detected or being detected and they themselves might not know it. But back to the Arctic, because I know it means a lot to Canada, because I did attend a conference on that issue on the Arctic.

Spencer With Canadians?

James Bush — With Canadians, I was the only American there. I was really surprised with the intensity particularly from those inhabitants of the Arctic area, of their concern about using the Arctic as an area for prosecuting war. There is once again no reason whatsoever why the west shouldn’t agree to the Arctic as a nuclear free zone. It does not have any implications for us in procuring our own weapons. And what you mentioned before, we don’t carry them out there routinely. We might once in a while have an attack sub that has nuclear weapons on board out there looking for a Soviet submarine or just up on routine operations, they go up there for a couple weeks so they know how to operate under the ice. But, that’s the only time we put nuclear weapons in that area. Now it could do nothing to help the west to make it a nuclear free zone, even considering the Kola Peninsula. Agree or hint that they would be willing to send their nuclear forces on the Kola Peninsula, so any restrictions, anything that would create restrictions on the Soviet Union but not have any impact on the West seems to me to be to our advantage. I’m very annoyed at our refusal to look upon these proposals. I think that the major reason is that the US particularly is concerned that the next logical step is a nuclear free central Europe. That is something that they just really don’t want. Why I don’t know, it’s the same thing that applies there, it’s not of any great advantage to us to have nuclear weapons in central Europe.

Spencer — How would such a thing be negotiated? Who would it be, the EEC? Would it be CSCE? How could such a zone be handed out? You would have to have a treaty or something.

James Bush — I think the CSCE would be the logical place to go, all the nations who are concerned plus the US and Canada.

Spencer — Yes but the US could stop it there, the CSCE is a consensus-making, decision making body so all the US has to do is to say no.

James Bush — Sure and that’s the problem with almost any proposal for nuclear free zones anywhere: that the US won’t participate.

Spencer — But the EEC could negotiate something?

James Bush — Sure they could negotiate it and at least remove the nuclear weapons that they have and ask the US to take theirs out and I think we’d be required to do it.

Spencer — That’s something to look forward to. Back to the Arctic. The Soviets insist that they never come into Canadian waters, the US has openly come into Canadian waters a few times with submarines, I don’t know how often, but maybe often, maybe more often then we know and this was the issue that really got us into almost buying a bunch of nuclear subs. Because they say that they have to show the ability to maintain surveilance of those waters or the claim for soverignty is legally questionable….Do you see any promising way to go about pushing that? Canada, as long as Brian Mulhrony is Prime Minister, Canada will not say or do anything that offends the US, but it is after all a large Canadian territory. And, I don’t know it there’s any way that we could promote such a thing.

James Bush — Well I would quite frankly not particularly blame Brian Mulroney because it seems to me that’s always been the policy, whoever has been the Prime Minister of Canada. In fact I’ve taken the most classic case when the US sent the ice breaker on the surface and refused permission to do it, that I don’t think Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister at that time. That was the biggest I think, when that particular item happened.

Spencer — Because that was really a very confrontational thing, anytime anyone refuses to acknowledge sovereignty. A nation has to do something or else.

James Bush — And actually Canada did the weakest thing possible. What they did was they granted permission even though we didn’t ask.

Spencer — Oh is that how it went?

James Bush — Thereby continuing to claim sovereignty. But anyway, submarines are a little bit different because the US keeps submarine operations secret at all times, even within the US.

Spencer — So they are not going to say…

James Bush — That they are there. In addition a submarine can never exercise a right of free passage when submerged. A submarine is always considered to be in an aggressive mode when it is submerged. So even though the US could with an Ice breaker, as we did I believe, claim the right of free passage, you couldn’t do that with a submarine. And I can’t say that I fully agree, I haven’t looked at in a little while Canada’s claims for territorial waters, it seems to me that they were a little bit excessive. But at the same time that’s up to them, but I didn’t see how an acquisition of a nuclear submarine force that would be able to operate in those waters submerged would have done much to have them enforce their sovereignty because it was clear that Canada wasn’t going to attack anyone.

Spencer — Yes that was one of the questions we used to ask people. Suppose you found someone, what would you do—shoot them, ping them, what would you do?

James Bush — So it didn’t seem like the answer — getting nuclear submarines which also at the time Deer Lake was just about to break the defence budget for Canada. They would have nuclear submarines and nothing else, it didn’t seem too wise.

Spencer — We didn’t think so either. Anyway, as far as getting some sort of nuclear free zone in the Arctic, how are you going to go about working on that?

James Bush — Well what I have suggested is that the nations that are involved should get together and work out a nuclear free zone pact, which they could do without the US. I mean as [counter 361] Pacific has done so. Get as many nations as possible together and, many of the nuclear treaties such as the Nuclear Test Ban treaty, Nonproliferation treaty have additional nations signing them after they are negotiated. So why not have as many nations as you can get? There are some nations that are clearer that you could get off the bat: Canada, Norway, Finland. They should have some stake in the Arctic.

Spencer — Well what do you think the Soviets would do if the US said no?

James Bush — Well I don’t know. The question would be wether the Soviets have the import to give one of the two to such a … but if the Soviets came, I think everything should be done to keep the pressure on the US to do this. I can’t see how that would be detrimental to convene a conference, not even costing much money, for a nuclear free zone. And just the pressure to bear on the US to do that. There’s a lot of other pressure these days, not just from war, but there’s also the environmental issue of operating nuclear units in the Arctic ocean. A lot of concern about that and the US is being irresponsible as far as I’m concerned. By refusing to do this to come into such an agreement when it has no military significance to them. It’s just a concern that some day this idea of nuclear free zones might spread. There is no better place in my mind, for a nuclear free zone, than in the Arctic. And I think all the nations that are involved should get together and start working on it. It had to be the official policy of some governments.

Spencer — Some initiatives from some Scandinavian countries, some talk….

James Bush — Sure, Norway is a nuclear free country. Canada is nuclear free. Why not those nations that are nuclear free.

Spencer — Canada never officially declared itself, intending to be nuclear free, they just responded from pressure from the public saying get those things out of here. There were some a few years ago, some bombs stored somewhere.

James Bush — Well there is a contingency plan to store bombs in Canada which a lot of people objected to. We didn’t actually have to store them, but we had a contingency plan to store them in Canada if a war started. As revealed by Bill [410] from Greenpeace. I thought that Canada was a nuclear free country, a nuclear weapon free country.

Spencer — In fact they are in reality, but I don’t think there’s ever been a declaration that we will never have nuclear weapons. There were some…

James Bush — When that bruhaha came up that Bill Arkin stirred up in reference to our contingency plan to store nuclear weapons. What I do remember something about I think Canada was a nuclear free zone and I mean a nuclear free country and my position has always been that the best way Canada could bring attention to that fact is to insist that US ships that are visiting Canadian ports to be nuclear free, free of nuclear weapons. That of course requires the US to say that they don’t have nuclear weapons on their ships, which they won’t do. But in my mind that’s also an archaic out moded policy that should be changed. A country like Canada could do more to change any other country than any other country.

Spencer — Well that’s encouraging to hear you say that.

James Bush — Well it would be a terrible thing for Canada to not allow visits of nuclear, of any US ship.

Spencer — There’s a group that’s continuing to keep pressure on, there’s an underwater testing range in Nanoose Bay. They would have to go through Canadain waters to get there and there is a continuous effort…

James Bush — This is now, Right?

Spencer — No it’s been going on, I guess the question is how long has stuff been tested there and what kind of stuff is tested there. It’s been going on for a long time before any peace activists knew what was happening there. For at least five years they’ve been trying to call attention to it and pressure the government to refuse entry. But there hasn’t been any success. I’m very sure as far as, as long as the Conservatives are in power there won’t be any change. The New Democratic Party has policies that would be very different. And for a while it looked as if at the next election the NDP might win, but that’s not the case anymore because with the defection of Quebec or the leaving of Quebec and the rise of another right wing party, the Reform party out west, especially out west, but everywhere the fortunes of the NDP don’t look too bright. Including an Arctic basin policy which wasn’t official, it was pretty close to being official. All this is very important. In fact I may want to take part of this conversation and put it in my magazine, I’ll type it up and get it to you, okay?
So you have attended a bunch of meetings in the Soviet Union. Can you tell me about some of these contacts that you’ve had. Were these with other military people?

James Bush — Not with other Soviet people, but that’s been in the US. Most of the contacts I’ve had in the Soviet Union have been with peace groups through the Soviet Peace Committee. Although when I went to the destruction of the first missiles under the INF treaty I had a lot of interactions both with the US and Soviet military people that were there at the time.

Spencer — Do you know how the decision had to made to invite western peace activists and the press to watch the destruction of those missiles?

James Bush — No I certainly don’t. The Soviet Union chose to do that, the US didn’t. Not only that, they may have made no issue of the destruction on their weapons.

Spencer — One of my sociology colleagues and a peace activist in Toronto, said that he was the one who tried to get lots of publicity on to it and that two weeks later they had decided [459]. In every case I have to try to confirm, I thought you might know.

James Bush — No I don’t know, the type of military people I’ve been associated has been primarily retired officers in the shape of Mikhail Milshtein, Shtovia — a retired rear Admiral (ASTAFIEV — rear admiral).

Spencer — Is he part of Generals for Peace?

James Bush — Yes he’s the chairman right now. He’s the chairman of the Soviet contingent of the General for Peace. General Varvolio, who is the chairman of the Soviet Peace [485]

Spencer — And you’re working with the committee?

James Bush — I’m working with the committee, that’s correct.

Spencer — What’s the Soviet participation like? Is there agreement? Do all the members of the committee agree on a policy for peace in the oceans?

James Bush — The peace in the oceans committee as I read it right now, which may not be fully accurate, is sort of a pragmatic organization. They are not looking for long term great goals, they are looking for something that might be accomplished now and therefore their primary focus has been to eliminate nuclear weapons on surface ships. And then they begin to look at perhaps at threats to the environment from NATO ships, but they haven’t really firmed up their ideas on what that would be. I mean, I don’t think that they’re at the point right now where they would want to recommend the elimination of nuclear powered ships at sea. But they have recommended the elimination of nuclear weapons at sea, of surface ships, which is a very possible goal.

Spencer — It is?

James Bush — Yes because the US once again being the primary people to object to this, are doing something. First of all they are unilaterally removing a lot of their tactical nuclear weapons that are on their surface ships, then why not…

Spencer — Oh really, I didn’t know that. Why, how is that?

James Bush — They’ve also realized they’re not of any great significance with the US Navy. Actually, this is the big thing, the US Navy would be better off without, if you’re going to have a naval confrontation they would be better of without it being a nuclear confrontation because the US Navy are particularly aircraft carriers are more vulnerable to nuclear weapons than likely ships that would be part of the opposing forces. The Soviet Union is probably going to commission their first real aircraft carrier this year. Our Navy has some 15 of them, and they are the primary weapon in our Naval arsenal. So if you destroy the aircraft carriers you’ve essentially destroyed the US Navy.

Spencer — I didn’t know the Soviets were making an aircraft carrier, and I’m puzzled by it because I would think you’d have a hard time claiming that was a non-offensive system. I mean the only reason to have an aircraft carrier would be to project power, would it not be, far far away.

James Bush — Well, there could be arguements about that. You could say you are defending yourself against American aircraft carriers. The best defence against an aircraft carrier is an aircraft carrier.

Spencer — What do you think about the surface ships? They were not included in the INF treaty. In fact one of the arguments about the uselessness of installing the Euromissiles in the first place was that ships could do everything they could do from the English channel or the North Sea or so on. That’s still the case is it not? And yet the US removing…

James Bush — They are removing tactical nuclear weapons which are smaller weapons, smaller rockets. In fact putting on the sea-launched cruise missiles, the Tomahawk cruise missiles. They’re adding those but they’re taking away the tactical nuclear weapons. Now the [534] sea-launched cruise missile is another whole issue. Because it’s new and the Navy wants to put them on their ships. They trumpeted their use in the Persian Gulf War, and obviously it was with conventional warheads. So the question of the Tomahawk cruise missile is another issue.

Spencer — Yeah but if you say tactical that could mean anything short of its maximum range.

James Bush — There’s a definition problem between what is tactical and what is strategic. In my mind, which is in opposition to the Navy’s, the Tomahawk nuclear version is a strategic weapon. Primarily because it’s a, the differentiation I make for strategic weapons is who targets it. I mean with your lull and tactical weapon, it is targetted by the commander of the ship. With your long range strategic weapons they are targetted by a central nuclear command they call JSTPS in Omaha. And I’m absolutely certain that the Tomahawk cruise missiles are in the same category, they are targetted by JSTPS, they are or would be targetted in a war. There is just no way you could have some other command targetting these large long-range nuclear weapons, a 200 kiloton warhead. I mean ****counter 556***** around the world without being included as part of the overall US nuclear attack. There are a lot of problems involved in just someone else launching nuclear weapons other than the central nuclear command. So from my own mind, despite that the Navy tries to claim that they are tactical nuclear weapons primarily to keep them out of strategic weapons negotiations, they are in fact strategic weapons because they would be targetted by the strategic targetting command.

Spencer — Why don’t you tell me about….

James Bush — I don’t know if I can remember much about that. Most of the time I was invited overseas, particularly to Denmark, Sweden, Japan and Scotland and once in a while in Canada, dealt with nuclear arms ships visiting ports in these countries, Denmark and Sweden particularly Japan very strong. Japan has got all the evidence they need to know that the American ships coming into their ports have nuclear weapons on them, but they still want more. To the point where it kind of irritates me when they ask me, when they try to get me to say US ships have nuclear weapons coming in. I don’t say that. The standard statement from CDI is that US ships when they deploy overseas normally carry a wartime load of weapons. So if they’re scheduled to have nuclear weapons on board in war time they carry them with them for routine deployment. There are several books such as, Janes Fighting Ships, that indicate what ships have capability for nuclear weapons. The US doesn’t keep that secret. They will admit the capability of nuclear weapons, ships that have nuclear weapons. But they will neither confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons on ships. So we say that when ships deploy they have a nuclear [587] of nuclear weapons they’re supposed to at war time loaded. And we have never known ships to off load weapons to make a port visit. But that’s as far as we’ll go saying, when somebody calls up and saying “The SS Perry is visiting our port do you think it has any nuclear weapons aboard? We just want it to meet our standards”. Because Admiral LaRocque got in a little bit of trouble, a few years ago I said nuclear weapons were on ships.

Spencer — Yeah that would be good enough for anybody.

James Bush — And also Japan has so many other indications. They’ve got a secret statement that was declassified from the Ambassador. And Japan just shortly in the 50’s, Rickover I think it was, talking about the agreement, sort of secret agreement between the US and Japan concerning nuclear weapons.

Spencer — They would accept it?

James Bush — Yeah.

Spencer — What happens when they declassify something like that?

James Bush — Well they didn’t realize it. There are so many times, you know well I mean they just sort of declassified things massively. There was a group of Japanese that came over to visit and they came down to look at these declassified documents and they discovered this one document and they were very exited about it. But it wouldn’t make any difference.

Spencer — You can assume that it’s still [595] until someone else came up with another declassified document, [596]

James Bush — Sure but the big thing is that doesn’t make any difference. As long as the Japanese government is not saying officially that they know about this. All sorts of evidence is not going to change things.

Spencer — Three years ago Iceland did something, so far as I can read, sounded very similar to New Zealand. But when I talked to Olifur Grimsson, who is an Icelander, he said it wasn’t the same. Do you know what their action was?

James Bush — No I don’t remember, but I do think that you’ve got a situation there where there is a law or some agreement or some statement by the Icelandic government that has put the US in a position where they are not going to challenge it. In other words the law is in limbo basically because the US won’t send any ships up there to visit. The same thing is true, amazingly enough there is one Japanese port, Kobe, which has a local law prohibiting nuclear weapons from coming into their ports. and the US hasn’t challenged that.

Spencer — That’s interesting. Toronto is a nuclear weapon free zone and yet there was a ship visiting a couple of years ago which was fitted for nuclear weapons. And the Mayor, who I guess would have been the right person, in his high horse didn’t, I think these things are considered symbolic and it’s a nice way of keeping people satisfied that they’ve done something [632] They also wouldn’t put up signs around the perimeter of the city saying anything derogatory. So it’s kind of watery.

James Bush — Well it’s not as clear in the case of Canada that ships that are deploying out there or visiting out there do have nuclear weapons on board. Because lots of times a ship will make a shake down cruise after an overhaul and visit a Canadian port and not be outfitted with its normal complement of weapons. Maybe not any weapons. It is normal for a ship before it deploys overseas and Canada is considered overseas. But that doesn’t prevent the Canadians from requesting the US either confirm or deny. Now this is just about to be overcome by events because, my understanding is, we needed to have on the horizon or in existence testers who will determine if there are nuclear weapons on board. And once that happens…

Spencer — I know a few years ago, it seemed to me, that Gorbachev claimed that they could tell and everybody said that that was ridiculous. So there’s something to it?

James Bush — It would be part of the verification procedures.

Spencer — But this is not on sight. From a distance you can tell?

James Bush — Well I’m not really sure, but I think it would be obviously important to be a significant change. But actually the whole thing about inspecting, if the Soviets do achieve some sort of a treaty with us, where they are allowed to inspect our ships, then that almost makes the whole thing… Because those are the people we are supposed to keep this information from. Not the Canadians, not the American people in New York, but it’s supposed to be from the Soviets. So if the Soviets have the capability of inspecting our ships for nuclear weapons, it really becomes ridiculous to keep that informations from other organizations.

Spencer — Gorbachev a couple of years ago said that cruise missiles could be, they could tell whether they were conventional or nuclear from a distance and everybody said that that’s not possible. Is that similar to the technology you were talking about or is this technology something you can tell me about?

James Bush — Well I don’t know. I do know that the US used to have a capability that was randomly accurate for flying over ships to find out if they had nuclear weapons on board. But it wasn’t effective against a nuclear powered ship because the nuclear power blinds you. Seeing that you have so often a nuclear-powered ship to have nuclear weapons on board, it was not a good device anyway. My trip to China was very interesting as far as I was concerned in 1988 because we were over there at the invitation, three of us — Admiral Carroll, myself and David Johnson—at the invitation of the People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament or something like that. They didn’t, normally when I go over seas, people in places like Denmark, Sweden, Japan, Canada, people expect us to be saying something that indicates the government of the US is not being straigntforward — that they might have nuclear weapons on their ships or something like that. China on the other hand didn’t want that. They wanted, in fact they wanted us, the Chinese People’s Association for peace and disarmament, they want the anti-soviet. They wanted to be saying incriminating things about the Soviet government, not about the American organization. It was kind of an unusual trip for us. And it was really a more fact-finding trip for us then for them getting anything from us, almost a sightseeing tour.

Spencer — I have a feeling that they are even more prepared with canned speeches than the Soviet Peace Committee people used to be. It’s just a mechanical operation. It was interesting that after the interview I didn’t even publish it.

James Bush — Yeah well they are, I find them to be very difficult to understand too. More so than the Japanese people. Both of them having this ancient culture which is sort of not expressed. But the Chinese, I just didn’t see what they had in mind at all.

Spencer — I think they didn’t have anything in mind. If they were going through some ritual that really didn’t have any purpose because when asked about their own intentions with respect to nuclear weapons they basically said that well when every other country gets rid of their nuclear weapons completely we will too, or something equivelent to that and in the meantime don’t bug us. Is that the same kind of message you were getting?

James Bush — Well the other thing that I thought (seeing that the orientation of CDI being an information being in our name, now one of the things we’ve been trying to do on a regular basis is to provide information( is that the Chinese knew absolutely nothing about their nuclear capability. They had no idea how many weapons they had or what kinds of weapons they had or anything like that. It seemed to be totally secret. Now we do have some estimates ourselves about what their nuclear capabilities were.

Spencer — And were there [708]

James Bush — I don’t know, I thought [709]. Seeing that India is supposedly outside nuclear capability, probably China would like to. They could be in Japan too. There’s all sorts of targets that the Chinese could select.

Spencer — [712]

James Bush — Well the Chinese don’t like the job. It’s interesting, I don’t know if you’ve noticed this recent, Japan the leader, presently you don’t know that because it’s just been coming out here. The Prime Minister of Japan made a visit to China. He’s the first leader of a country to visit since Tiananmen Square, so it’s considered very symbolic. The Japanese are quite open about that — that we should forget about that and continue to bring China along or something like that. The Chinese want everybody in the country of Japan to apologize for WWII before they do anything else. Japanese are kind of getting out of the business of apologizing for WWII.

Spencer — I don’t think they were in it very strongly in the first place, were they?

James Bush — The Japanese?

Spencer — Yeah, they don’t apologize internally. I mean the Japanese people have no guilt whatever and don’t even know. Whereas the Germans have been talking about this and all the young people know about it. That’s not true in Japan.

James Bush — Yeah, the only place the Japanese were inhuman was in China. I suppose in Malaya and places like that, but the things we know about were in China. They’re changing their history books which is another thing that makes the Chinese very angry. The Japanese are changing their history books and downplaying what they did to the Chinese.

Spencer — So all these trips were primarily with regard to the porting issue, the safety and legality of it and so on?

James Bush — Right, now the trips to Italy or most of them, Italy’s been mostly sort of a, there’s an organization called Prayto Porlo Pachu. Prayto is a city outside Florence and Prayto obviously for peace, and this has been my involvement with them for 2 years and I’m going again this year. They’re primarily the ideological involvement of getting rid of nuclear weapons— let’s get weapons out of the Mediterranean. It’s not been a US is bad because they’re bringing in nuclear weapons, or US is bad at all, which is [739]. That was true of the Finns, the Finns weren’t angry with us for any reason whatsoever.

Spencer — What do you think the odds are of getting some sort of breakthrough there? You’ve already said to me … Any naval change, as far as I’ve known, have been apparently nothing naval. You’ve already said that the submarines will be the last to go.

James Bush — The US Navy is really stalling right now on any arms control agreements affecting the sub fleet. There’s a couple of reasons for this. First of all they point to the 1920 or 21 naval arms agreement that prior to WWII that had these formulas for that nations could build ships and so forth. And they didn’t do anything to prevent WWII. And what it did was that all the nations that had naval power and had military ambitions looked for ways to circumvent the treaty. There were two easy ways, neither aircraft carriers or submarines were part of the treaty so both the US and Japan built aircraft carriers unconstrained which actually made it possible for them to obviously put WWII.

Spencer — Aircraft carriers and what?

James Bush — Submarines. That’s one reason. The second reason is the Navy in conjunction with the government in conjunction with the American people today is claiming that the US is a maritime nation and therefore our responsibilities are greater in reference to having a Navy then any other service. You can restrain the army, you can restrain the air force, but you can’t restrain the Navy because the US is a maritime country. In addition they really talk about this, I’ve really been a maverick in reference to the Navy, because they talk about these sea lines of communications or SLOC’s and the necessity to keep the sea lines of communication open. I suppose that’s true in wartime, but I just can’t see why having a Navy in peacetime keeps the sea lines of communication open. To me it just has never made any sense. I mean the Japanese don’t have a significant Navy and they have tremendous sea lines of communication in peace time. And I don’t know of any nation irrespective of the size of their Navy that has a problem of keeping the sea lines of communication open in peacetime. I mean there aren’t any pirates out there.

Spencer — One of our NDP defence critics, a few years ago, had some cockeyed proposal for Canada’s role in NATO and paramount among them would be that Canada would keep the sea lines of communication open. Which I thought even in wartime it would be absurd because the war would be over before there would be any question.

James Bush — The same thing today, presuming that the war was going to be with the only other significant Naval power, namely the Soviet Union, it seems to me that the sea lines of communication are never going to be a factor in a war between the US and the Soviet Union. But anyway that is the primary song that the Navy sings: We’re a maritime nation and we need more, and amazingly enough the Soviets, it’s been interesting how this has evolved, because the Soviets have always focussed their military attention on their army obviously. And I think when we went into this mid cold war arms control discussions that looked like they were going to lead to a, someone putting strain on the forces in Europe, that the Soviets had hoped that the Soviets agreed and they agreed early on, Gorbachev agreed to reducing forces to equal levels. That was really a tremendous concession on the part of the Soviets, we didn’t really expect it, this is with CFE conventional forces Europe not [785]. When they agreed to come down to equal levels we didn’t expect, that we expected them to want to have a larger army. Because thats always been, and I think we were ready to give it to them because we realized that the Soviets looked at the army as being defensive as well as offensive. When they broke through Stalingrad they had a six to one advantage over the German army, but they didn’t view it as a victory for the offence, it was a victory for the defence. So having a larger army has been a defensive capability for the Soviets much like us having a larger Navy allows us to defend our country. So while the Soviets agreed to reductions to equal levels there was a great fear in the US that they were going to ask for the same thing in reference to Navies reduced to equal levels. And we were violently opposed to that and resisted all efforts by the Soviets to talk about it, even when we realize when the Soviets say you need a larger Navy then we do, they still won’t talk about any constraints on the Navy. It’s going to take the leadership coming from the President to say we will have Naval arms control.

Spencer — There also hasn’t been a peace movement action on those lines strategically.

James Bush — Well, Greenpeace has got this Nuclear free Oceans and they’re apparently a powerful organization as peace groups go. But it’s true within the US outside of Greenpeace, you don’t have any significant calls for, because it’s all complicated. It’s not like saying we don’t want a B2 bomber we want the MX missile. You can’t just say we want to eliminate nuclear weapons at sea, well you can say that but then you do run into this complication on missiles, because most everyone agrees that we should have submarine-launched ballistic missiles. So it is complicated.

Spencer — So this campaign, what’s the name of the committee?

James Bush — Peace in the Oceans.

Spencer — Peace in the Oceans committee is part of [823] but not looking for any breakthroughs?

James Bush — There is a possibility to reduce, eliminate nuclear weapons on surface ships. It was easier, more possible 2 or 3 years ago before we had the Tomahawk cruise missiles deployed. Now the Navy really likes the Tomahawk cruise missile. It would not really be any loss to the nation to not have those weapons available in my mind. We are currently planning on building 650 of them. The START agreement limited us to 880 more than we planned to build. The sea-launch cruise agreement that will accompany the START agreement will make that limitation, it’s not part of the START agreement. It’s a political agreement acompanying the START agreement. But those weapons are, the 650 of them we’re building, are single warhead 200 kilotons. The START agreement allows us to have 6000 warheads and we’re going to end up with somewhere around 9000. So the addition of 650 sea-launched cruise missiles is not significant. We don’t need those and also they have these other problems that are built in, namely the difficulty in retargeting. At the present time it’s really interesting, at the present time you put the targets in at some depot which means you have to take them to some shore station to put the targets in. Well that is so unwieldy for fighting a war.

Spencer — Is there any greater inherent difficulty in targeting from a ship than ground?

James Bush — Well in this case what the problem is, is the method of guidance. The sea launched cruise missile uses TERCOM. So what you’ve got to do is get the chart of the territory of where the ship is and where the target is.

Spencer — But do you have to be where you belong in order to get…

James Bush — No, but you’ve got to have that chart and you get that chart from satellite. And in this last war, Iraq was not an acknowledged enemy prior to the second of August, when we made it an acknowledged enemy. So we had to go in and chart all those targets. We had to build all those guidance programs. And my understanding was that they were ready on about the 15th of January and we went to war on the 16th or 17th of January.

Spencer — You know somebody told me something which I believe and don’t know what to make of. It’s a guy who’s a hacker who loves to break into systems just for fun and he doesn’t do any damage; he just looks around. And he gets into the US military satellite stuff, and he said that about June before the August invasion of Kuwait, that all of the US satellites suddenly retargeted to focus on Iraq and Kuwait. Suddenly the whole satellite system reconfigured so that it would focus on that area. Would that suggest to you….

James Bush — Well we knew that the Iraqis were amassing on the Kuwait border.

Spencer — Let me get back to what I was originally going to ask you about. That is the conversations you had with the Soviets. Tell me about some of the more significant interactions and the times that you felt there was something right going on.

James Bush — Well I guess I didn’t have any of those, quite frankly. We had this Admirals and Generals conference for 3 years in a row. One in Washington, I guess the first one was about 1987 ’88 ’89 or 88 ’89 ’90, where we had retired Admirals and Generals and although I was not an Admiral or General I was deeply involved in preparing for the conference and conducting the conference and then analyzing what came out of it. I would say uniformly of those conferences, nothing came out of them.

Spencer — This is not the same as Generals for Peace?

James Bush — No, different organization.

Spencer — Are there different people participating?

James Bush — From the Soviet side?

Spencer — Yes well any side.

James Bush — It was limited to only Americans and Soviets. None of the American delegation were part of that organization. I suppose we have some Americans in Admirals and Generals for Peace.

Spencer — I don’t think so actually.

James Bush — Well anyway maybe the Soviets were [873] and maybe some of the other ones. But the thing is that actually the American delegation too couldn’t speak for the US. The Soviet delegation didn’t deviate from the party line. At the time there was a party line in reference to such things as sea launched cruise missiles and so forth. They were aware what the party line was and they were committed. But there wouldn’t have been anything these meetings could have done anyway. It might have been symbolic, but it would have only been a symbol if the US government chose to make them so.

Spencer — Michael Harbottle told me that he thought that the participation in Generals for Peace had something to do with [884] He’s been involved in something called Just Defence in Britain [885]

James Bush — On what?

Spencer — Well there is an official policy on [887]

James Bush — Yeah he does have this, what is it?

Spencer — Defensive defence or non-offensive defence.

James Bush — All that really means is that the Soviets are reducing their military forces, A, and B to a certain extent reducing their offensive forces. Certainly it’s no Gene Sharp approach to, it’s not civilian based.

Spencer — No would you expect any…

James Bush — Major power adopted that yet. Yeah the Soviet Generals did talk about defensive oriented forces.

Spencer — And how much support did they give it?

James Bush — Good support but you’ve got to remember these people are on the peace committee.

Spencer — The military doesn’t have total support at all.

James Bush — I’m sure it doesn’t. One of the things that has really amazed me is how quiet the Soviet military has been. It’s not at all, from my point of view, not because of their concern about the strength of the Soviet country, the military, their defence capabilities, or their offence capabilities. What surprised me the most is the military in this country is very privileged in comparison to the rest of the country. They have housing, they have military stores, much like the US military does. When Gorbachev started demobilizing they are losing all of that. In fact things like [910] didn’t talk about things like this, when they’re putting people out they don’t know where to send them. Some of them have been in the military their whole lives. Their parents were in the military, along with their parents they went into the military themselves. So when a person like this goes out of the military they are not like the US, the people are authorized to live in Leningrad, they’re authorized to live in Moscow and if you don’t have that you can’t just go to Leningrad or Moscow to live. What they are doing is sending them back to where they were born and they have no ties there whatsoever. They are kind of throwing them into the pond. Where do you get an apartment, where do you get a job? This is a terrible thing for a military person. And I’m surprised they’re not reacting more strongly to that. You know there’s this big thing in Germany.

Spencer — The Germans have helped build housing.

James Bush — Well housing, but a lot of the Soviet army wants to stay there, wants to stay in Germany but the Germans won’t let them. But it would be preferable for the Soviets to stay there instead of coming home. It’s as unknown for them to come home as it is to stay in Germany. So there’s this big problem as far as loss of privilege goes for the Soviet military and I’ve been extremely surprised they’ve been so quiet about it. [925] That could never happen in the US.

Spencer — Yeah, if I understand, people who really have some historical sense of things you say there’s never been any tradition of having to worry about who, that the military is just not interested or…..

James Bush — Well what Milshtein said about that was that they were not [939]. Many different groups, so they couldn’t look for a military coup. Russian history has been replete with military coup. As I remember maybe not successful ones. I remember many efforts for coups and I think we’ve heard about a few of them.

Spencer — All right thank you.


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