Russell E.












INT: There was a nice phrase we used when we were talking earlier that you said it's much easier to deceive someone who's already deceived, could you just...

WL: That's just the way it is.

INT: Can you tell me that...

WL: Pardon?

INT: Can you tell me that phrase...


INT: Why do you think so much deception occurred?

WL: The deception occurred because again of this mirror imaging. Refusing to accept the evidence. It was so different from our own experience and we believed that people simply would not accept it. And then - and this is a very serious problem in the intelligence community - they will not admit mistakes, nor will they learn from them. And you cannot learn from mistakes unless first you admit then, and then you've got to go back and candidly examine why you made the mistake and say, OK, I'm not going to do it again. And they simply don't do that. As I said to my cardiologist the other day, I said, look, the intelligence community had the attitude toward learning... I mean if the medical community had the attitude toward learning that I mean if the intell... I'm sorry, I'm beginning again. If the medical community had the attitude toward learning that the intelligence community has, you'd still be treating me with leeches. And that's the way it is. They simply refuse to admit their mistakes and they almost never learn from them. And intelligence, like life, you learn a lot more from your mistakes than you do from your successes. It's even more so than life

INT: Do you think that that's down to an arrogance of the West?

WL: a lot of it is arrogance, cultural arrogance.

INT: How successful were the Russians in their intelligence?

WL: That I don't know. I do know that they were, in their own way, terrible mirror imagers and they were worst casers. They always put the worst spin they possibly could on anything and I believe Gordievsky is telling the truth when he said that they were deliberately deceiving themselves about our intentions to carry out a first strike against them. A lot of that was... they just made up their minds that that had to be what we were trying to do and they did not want to accept evidence to the contrary. An awful lot of that went on, awful lot. And that's one of the reasons they built such a large military establishment. They tried to make themselves immune to the worst case they could imagine and they practiced it. They practiced worst case situations and said, hey, we can do anything at all under the worst case situation, we'll do well under the best case and... But I don't know, I mean, you'd have to have access to archives that I don't think anybody will ever see in order to really, honestly answer the question that you asked.

INT: So do you think the Cold War was necessary?

WL: Necessary? I think it was inevitable. I do not think that any other outcome... it's hard to imagine at the end of World War Two that any other outcome could have occurred, that the misunderstanding on both sides, the ambitions, especially on the Russian side, I just don't see how it could have been avoided. It could have been brought to an end earlier I think, if we had pursued a much more realistic and active policy. But that's what happened. I don't know whether anything in history is ever necessary and I hate to think that anything is ever totally inevitable, but some things are sure a lot more inevitable than others and that was one of them.

INT: Final couple of questions. What do you make of McNamara and his whiz kids? You and your colleagues, what did you think about McNamara's new policies? He came in with a huge new broom.

WL: Well, a lot of people loved it. in the mid-1960s it became so popular in much of the intelligence community, especially CIA, they welcomed it, they thought it was the only sensible, rational thing. I thought from the beginning it was morally bankrupt, decrepit,... I mean, I just do not accept war... that the primary objective to war is to kill people. The primary objective of war is to win the bloody thing with as few losses first of all to your own side and second to the other side. (Inaudible) want to minimize both sides, but first of all yourself, but you want to win the thing and get it over as soon as possible. This business of just... I never bought it and I never thought it was a wise policy, aside from my moral objections to it. You know, I had served in Germany at the end of World War Two in Europe, I'd seen what the bombing had done in those days. It's one thing to shoot at the soldier on the side, I'm perfectly willing to do, not at civilians, sorry.

INT: Excellent answer.


INT: Bill, what do you know of... certainly in the early '60s, we'd completely over-estimated what the Russians had in the way of ICBMs...

WL: Yes, yeah.

INT: ...but by the mid-'60s, the Russians had caught up enormously, almost achieving parity at that point, what triggered that?

WL: Well, we knew for sure as of mid-1962 that they did not have a large number of ICBMs. What triggered the catch up, was simply the Russians had their targeting strategy, that what they want to do in order to fight a nuclear war and that is why the prediction of the SS9 as a counterforce system to go after they perceived then that they would not have to shoot at every Minuteman silo, they could shoot at only a hundred of launch control centers that controlled the thousand missiles. And of course they had to shoot at the individual Titan silos and so forth. They perceived that in order to carry out their strategy, they had to have a lot of ICBMs and then followed by that at the same time some (inaudible) launched ballistic missiles, in order to limit damage to themselves and to knock out the essential industries on our side and in order to, in their terms, win the war, and this is what they built to. And what they negotiated in SALT was their measure of sufficiency, which required, given their technology, given their objectives, an arsenal of about ten thnuclear weapons ready to go, on missiles. And that's exactly what they negotiated and you can work that out, and I did, worked the simple arithmetic of that out from the targeting strategy. You just match up the number of targets, the numbof times you have to hit each target in order to have high confidence of destroying a target, and that tells you the size arsenal. And it works out, in round numbers, at ten thousand. Now, as technology improved, they could have come down and they were willing finally, at the end, to come down a bit. But then, when the system started collapsing, that's when they finally caved in on all the (inaudible), not because they believed in arms control, not because we convinced them of it, because that their economy had started to collapse under the burden of all this.

INT: Interesting. But in '62-63, McNamara came up with this figure of a thousand missiles that we were going to have.

WL: Oh yes.

INT: Why... I mean, you give me a very logical answer to what the Russians were doing, what was the...?

WL: (Interrupts) There was no original logic as far as I know in our missile build up. It all started when we were so concerned and so convinced... I mean, we couldn't afford to be wrong about the Russians, better to have too much than too little and that is how we ended up with the number of nuclear submarines we ended with and that's how we ended up with a thousand or so missiles. The air force wanted to build two thousand, three thousand and so forth, McNamara just stopped and said, a thousand Minuteman is enough, and then we slowly got rid of the other systems, except for the Titan 2. We ended up with a thousand and fifty four. And we started with a program for the thirty one nuclear submarines and again the navy showed that they alone with seventy per cent of those submarines could knock the Russian cities, so we blundered into the concept called the Triod , which was very fortunate. We blundered into it, but it's very fortunate, because if the Russians faced a problem, no matter what they did, they could not kill all three legs of the Triod, so they had to have defenses and that was their weak point, because that's where, in both the air defenses and the missile defenses, that is where their lag in micro-electronics hurt them the most, their technological bit. So that blundering into that Triod, which was purely accidental, turned out to be a marvelous invention, in retrospect.

INT: Final question. Was the thousand missiles that was aimed - I know it was increased not long afterwards - but was that almost a politically expedient decision as opposed to a military decision?

WL: On the Russian side?

INT: No, on the American side.

WL: well I think it originally started out as a military decision without much rationale that was simply frozen as a political expedient and then when McNamara became converted to MAD, to Mutual Assured Destruction, it turned out that each leg of the Triod could, independently, destroy twenty to fifty per cent of the population. So, it was just said, hey, that's a pretty good idea. And indeed, in terms of the problem it posed to the Russians in the uncertainties in countering it, it turned out to be a marvelous idea. But it was more Topsy... grew like Topsy than thought out.

INT: Bill, thank you very much indeed. Excellent interview, thank you.