Center for Strategic Communication

Ellen Tauscher, former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, recently spoke at the American Security Project on missile defense, the US-Russia relationship, and strategic stability.

Listen to the audio version of her talk and a lively Q&A here.

Ms. Tauscher, whose most recent government appointment was Special Envoy for Missile Defense and Strategic Stability, began by saying that we have “a lot to be optimistic about” in regards to the opportunity we now have to move forward with Russia.

Our relationship with Russia is a “large, dynamic, P-5” relationship that is important for myriad reasons. Iran, energy, and arms control and non-proliferation are all issues that we need to have Russian cooperation on, Ms. Tauscher said.

She alluded to the US – Russian relationship being in a “wait and see situation” that goes back to the Russian election a year ago. The Putin “election brought everything to a standstill.”  Now that the political situation has stabilized, and we have finished our election cycle, it is time to move forward with Russia, Ms. Tauscher continued.

The US wants assurances that Russia can become part of a European security system. Iran is the main European concern, and she stated that we have to share these concerns with the Russians. “Missile Defense is a network system where it is important to have friends involved in security.”

Ms. Tauscher said that a primary US strategic goal should be to build the kind of cooperative agreements with Russia that the US has with its European allies.

Within this broad framework is Ms. Tauscher’s theme of Mutually Assured Stability. The idea is to foster greater understanding of the other side’s intentions and capabilities, in both Russia and the US, by opening up communication and having a true dialogue with one another.

This can help foster a Russian relationship that is invested in European security, and may bring them back to the negotiating table on issues like the follow-on to the New START treaty.

During the question and answer session, Ms. Tauscher elucidated some of her earlier thoughts:

The US and Russia are “not foes, but we are not yet allies.” She reiterated that cooperation on New START, Iran and European security are all important administration objectives. She went on to say that it’s time to move the context of this relationship away from arms races by beginning a substantive dialogue.

“The old battle plan is not the same battle plan you are looking at now.” Russian overreliance on tactical nuclear weapons should be a signal to the US that some Russian officials are still acting and reacting according to a Cold War mentality.

She advocated the importance of a high number of interlocutors, and indicated that both sides have talented, experienced “players” that can bridge the gaps.

She also spoke quickly about US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. These are political weapons, she stated. They make our allies in Eastern Europe feel more secure, and there is an ongoing discussion about how to address that issue while moving those weapons out.

President Obama has not abandoned his Prague speech, she said. He is committed to making our nuclear arsenal more “safe, reliable and certifiable,” while at the same time making it more affordable and manageable.

Ms. Tauscher finished by touching on the importance of ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and that we want greater transparency from the Chinese on their stewardship and arsenal size reporting.

Click here for the audio of the event.

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