War Scare: Russia and America on the Nuclear Brink

By Peter Vincent Pry | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 21
The Warning: Alexandria, Virginia,
June 11, 1993

Cars whipped past my open window, their bright colors receding in my rearview mirror like shrinking balloons of blue, red, white, and glittering chrome. As usual, I was late. Weaving in and out of the noonday traffic on 395 South, just a few miles outside Washington, I nearly missed the King Street exit, and felt the "Gs" of force press me against the driver's- side door as I careened my Dodge Colt into Alexandria. The Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), a quasi-private institution with government connections, like the RAND Corporation, was just a mile down King Street, right next door to Copeland's, my favorite restaurant. Several of us planned to skip the Center's usually uninspired catered lunch and dine on the fine Cajun cuisine at Copeland's--after the Russians had briefed us.

Inside the usually somber Center for Naval Analyses, the atmosphere was almost festive. Many assumed that the presentation we were about to receive would be another nail in the coffin of the Cold War. General Vladimir Dworkin of the Strategic Rocket Forces and Alexei Arbatov, a well-known Russian civilian defense intellectual, would be speaking on "Emerging Russian Nuclear Strategy and Doctrine."

Just a few years ago, of course, it would have been unthinkable for a Russian general to come to Washington to explain the General Staff's nuclear strategy to an audience of U.S. military analysts. Most of us had spent entire careers trying to divine Russia's nuclear strategy from obscure scraps of data. Now, no less a figure than the director of the Main Research Institute of the Strategic Rocket Forces, the single most important military think tank in Russia, proposed to lecture us. Adding to the thrill was that Arbatov, perhaps Russia's foremost academic nuclear strategist, was also going to speak. Arbatov was a member of the Russian parliament's Committee for Defense, the equivalent of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, and director of the Center for Geopolitical and Military Forecasts, a Russian academic think tank. His reputation as a pro-Western reformer and critic of the Russian military whetted not a few people's expectations of glad tidings from the former USSR.

Dworkin and Arbatov stood at the podium together and bluntly declared to the smiling faces gathered before them that Russia had adopted a nuclear first-strike policy and could launch a preemptive strike early in any future confrontation.

-145-

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