Russell E. Hershey,
INT: What happened when Kosygin came over to the States in 1967?
WL: Well, McNamara, from all I know, lectured him on the virtues of MAD at great length. Now I have never seen a transcript of the conversation that occurred at Glassborough, I don't even know whether it's been released and is open in the archives. But to the best of my knowledge, Kosygin came in there saying the same thing he said, I believe in London on his way over that ABMs are a good thing, they do not threaten, they protect people and property and so forth, they're good things. He went home saying, again, the same thing. McNamara told him exactly the opposite. He gave them, to the best of my knowledge, he gave them the standard MAD destabilizing bad treatment. When Kosygin got back to Moscow and they put their heads together then they decided this is a marvelous opportunity for us, because, as I started to say, they had just reviewed their whole ABM program, realized that we had grabbed a twenty year technology lead, that what they were doing was a dead end and so they continued Moscow on a very slow pace and tried to make it work against MERVs, which it never really was good at, but it took 'em until 1977 before they could modify that system so it would have any capability against MERVs whatsoever. But the most the important thing is they redirected the defense of Moscow program to copy the 90X system as it then existed in 1966 as fast as they could. It took 'em twenty two years to do that. The other thing they did is they saw that we had deceived ourselves under other ABM, which we called the SA5, which is a dual purpose anti-aircraft, anti-ballistic missile system. They realized from McNamara's statements and probably from intelligence they had, that we had completely deceived ourselves, that the CIA had decided that that was just an anti-aircraft system, it had no ABM capability and so they saw the opportunity to move ahead on two tracks. On one they would negotiation in SALT, stop our ABM and the ABM treaty became their first priority and they would proceed with their national deployment of first the SA5, followed by the SA10 and by the next generation of big radar to support that program and they would get away with it, and they did. Beautiful. They built up on our own self-deception, which is always the best way to deceive the other guy. If he deceives himself first, then it's easy.
INT: Can I ask you just to repeat... I think it's confusing for the audience when we start to name the missiles. Can you just reply to the question again with the SA5, just that what they were able to do was to introduce other missiles, it just makes it more clear.
WL: Well, what they were able to do as a result of our proposing SALT and so forth, what they were able to do is they were able to stop our ABM and proceed with their own, not only in Moscow, but nationally. That's essentially what it was. And to this day, we do not recognize that they did exactly that. We still say they have nothing but the modern defenses to Moscow. And most of the public here, when polled, thinks we actually have a defense, ABM defense of this country, which of course we do not. We do not even have an air defense for all practical purposes any more. Because when McNamara succeeded in killing off the ABM defenses in effect, we got rid of the air defenses too, because it didn't make any sense to defend against a small number of bombers, when you had no defense against a huge number of missiles. And that's essentially what happened. We conned ourselves and they just built upon our own self-deception and none of the SALT agreements achieved any of the objectives that we said we were, thought we were going to achieve in that whole process, none whatsoever.
INT: Excellent answer. Speaking specifically about SALT, one of the things that's astonished me in what I've been reading about it is that at no time did anyone discuss seriously the problem of MERVs, why do you think that was?
WL: Well, yes they did discuss the MERV thing, but we went into SALT not realizing the Russians had already, in 1965-66, adopted a MERV ... In 1966, as head of that threat term, working on the ABM issue, we told Mr. McNamara that the Russians are not waiting for you to make a decision on our ABM in order to go ahead with their MERV program in order to overcome it. Instead, the Russians have decided to charge ahead with their own MERV program in order to kill as many as our missiles on the ground, our missiles, bombers and submarines, on the ground as they possibly could. He wouldn't believe it. He would not believe that. And the intelligence community did not tell anybody that such a threat was coming. They said, oh well eventually, the Russians may deploy a MERV of some sort. So it was 1973 when the flight testing started of four MERV systems, three of which clearly were designed for the counterforce shoot at silos mission. But all of a sudden, we woke up to the fact that the MERVs on the Russian side is here. In the mean time, McNamara, in order to hedge against a Russian ABM defense, because at that time CIA thought the Russians were just chomping at the bit to go ahead with the Moscow system and deploy it nationwide, which of course the Russians never had any idea of doing, that was a bummer of a system, but in order to do that, he went ahead and took advantage of prior technology development and in very short period of time we deployed a large MERV force, acquired a large MERV force while it was going in SALT.
INT: But didn't that negate everything that SALT set out to do?
WL: Well, in a sense no, because... we didn't think it negated everything because McNamara specifically ordered the army and the navy not to make those MERVs effective against Soviet silos or any other hard target, only against cities. So we thought we were doing simply what was permissible and understandable in the Mutual Assured Destruction, MAD frame of reference and we expected the Russians to do the same, maybe, some day, not to do what they did, which was entirely different, which if we'd paid attention to the evidence, we would have anticipated. And of course it never was admitted in our national estimates that any of these accurate estimates were actually made.
INT: So how important, given all the problems that you've talked , how important do you think the role of intelligence was in the Cold War?
WL: Well, it was very important. It was very important in the... you know, intelligence accomplished some things extremely well. We couna number of missile launches very well. Other things,... and that gave people great confidence that there was no big surprise, something we didn't know out there. What it didn't do, among many things it didn't do, is it did not count the number of missiles produced, which was far more than the number actually put on the launch because the Russians had this concept that they were going to fight and win a war and they were going to use the same launcher over and over again if necessary. and intelligence did not tell the cost of all this accurately. In fact, under-estimated it time and time again. CIA had to double their estimates of the Russian expenditures for the year 1970. They admitted that they did that. They falsified the reason that they did it. They did it again in 1982, covered that up entirely, and by 1985, they needed to double again for the third time, which they never did.
WL: So, no, intelligence gave the impression that while SALT was going on, intelligence was saying the Russian burden's declining. They were saying it has declined from ten per cent in 1960, down to around six per cent. So the Russians are spending less and less. Intelligence was saying one of the reasons the Russians went to the SALT is they want to reduce the defense expenditures, reduce the burden. The Russians were doing exactly the opposite and they had the evidence and they would not accept it.
INT: Do you think there was a massive amount of self-deception that went on?
WL: Far more self-deception went on that... Much as the Russians tried to deceive us by what they called active measures, they really were only successful in most cases when we deceived ourselves.
INT: And did that happen a lot?
WL: Oh, that happened a lot. And now with the examples I gave you were some of the biggest examples of self-deception. Another was they did very well at denial and deception of our collection effort and we did not to admit that.