Russia’s 1992 Proposal for U.S.-Russian Alliance on SDI: Beat Swords into PlowsharesBy David Shavin
The U.S.’s National Security Archive released some new documents on Jan. 30, including a glimpse into the first post-Soviet meeting of Russia and the U.S. at the head of state level. Most interesting was the three-part proposal from Russian President Boris Yeltsin to U.S. President George H.W. Bush, presented at their Feb. 1, 1992 meeting at Camp David. After a private meeting, both sides gathered with other high-level officials. Yeltsin had brought with him Yevgeny Velikhov, the Vice President of Russia’s Academy of Sciences, and perhaps the key player in Russia’s SDI program.
Yeltsin first proposed that the two countries could begin by cutting the number of their nuclear warheads in half. Next, the uranium in the warheads would be repurposed, in facilities located in both countries, to provide fuel for a massive expansion of peaceful nuclear energy. But beyond this beating of the swords into the proverbial plowshares, Yeltsin laid out the larger mission:
“[L]et’s discuss our proposal for joint creation of a global defense system. The purpose is not to compete in creation of a space system like SDI. We have experience in space research and we have good nuclear weapon experts. We would like to float the idea, and discuss in general, establishing a joint global defense system with joint manufacturing.”
Russia had 2,000 scientists that had been working in building bombs. “Your and our research could be combined on space-based systems of command and control and communications. We could have a joint project. This would be much cheaper for both of us and would be a measure of trust between us. It would remove all suspicions. If we could announce today that we are no longer enemies and that we seek to be allies, that would herald a new era in relations between the U.S. and Russia.”
Yeltsin wanted their joint statement to reflect their turning from adversaries to allies, but he had just spelled out an alliance not in name, but one forged in a joint and large-scale science-driver project. Bush, however, insisted that the joint statement should refer to a more vague “friendship,” explaining that saying “allies” would give the impression that all issues between them had been resolved.
The SDI proposal made that day closely modeled the offer that President Reagan had extended to the Soviets in 1983. The intellectual author of that proposal, Lyndon LaRouche, who had conducted backdoor discussions on the SDI with the Soviets on behalf of Reagan’s administration, was at that time sitting in prison, in large part because of the success in getting Reagan to go for such grand and open diplomacy. And Bush, who had his own role in the actions against LaRouche, failed to embrace Russia’s SDI offer.