Paul H


John F.




INT: It's said that it's the moment when the United States and Russia said, or Bush and Gorbachev said that they could be friends and partners. Could you tell me about that?

JFS: Well, I... of course, since Mr. Gorbachev never came to the ship, I never got to see first-hand the obvious rapport that was developed between Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Bush, but we saw that on film afterwards, and it was clear from the mood of the President and the mood of his team that things were going very well, and that they had forged this personal relationship, which could then be the basis of an international relationship between the two countries, and that was clear, and of course made everyone feel very good about this summit. And even the travails that we had to go through in terms of this weather, seemed insignificant in terms of what was happening in the world at that point.

INT: Very good. And when you look back, do you see the summit at Malta as the moment when, if you like, the United States and Russia moved from being enemies, I suppose, to being partners, into a co-operative relationship?

JFS: I think Malta was a catalyst. I would say that the period of time was going to have the United States and the then Soviet Union moving closer together, regardless of whether there was a Malta summit or not. But I think that Malta became a catalyst again, that formed a rapport between the two heads of state, that allowed that process of ending the Cold War to accelerate, if you will. I think it was going to happen anyway, but I believe that Malta really accelerated it.

INT: And the significance of the link with Yalta, in a sense - do you look at it in a way that Yalta, a shipboard summit that began, I suppose in some people's minds, the Cold War, and Malta was the one that ended it? Do you look at it in that sort of way?

JFS: I do, I do, I see that clear connection between the two events, and...

(Request for full answer)

JFS: I think the history books will perhaps make a connection between Yalta and Malta, in that Yalta was again sort of the start of the Cold War, and Malta was the start of the end of the Cold War, and the two of those events both took place at sea on ships, and I think that that design, that part of the thinking in terms of putting this all together, was an effective strategy. I have to tell you a funny anecdote about the Yalta summit, before our summit started. The international press, US press and Russian press all had interviews with me and some of my crew on board the ship, and they all asked me the same question: "How do you feel about being commanding officer of the ship on which this historic summit is going to be held?" And I said, "How many of you remember the Yalta summit?" and of course everybody remembered the Yalta summit. And I said, "How many of you remember the name of the ship that that was held on?" and a few would remember that it was held on a ship named Augusta. And I said, "How many of you remember the name of the commanding officer?" and no one remembered that. I don't know the name of the commanding officer. I said, "That's my role." So that's how I fed into it. We had to prepare a place for the President to do some things that needed to be done in our world, and it was fun to be part of that.

INT: But unfortunately, you passed into, not notoriety, but you did really get more public attention than you'd been counting on.

JFS: Fortunately not as much as I could have had. (Laughs)

INT: OK. Do you have any other stories or anecdotes, if you like, about any conversation with President Bush or anything that would give us any more color or feeling for what it was like or what the team were like?

JFS: The only one that I could give you, I prefer not to give it, because I think that's more personal of Mr. Bush, so...

INT: OK, that's all right. ... But to sum up, would you say terrible (working relations?) with the American delegation?

JFS: The interesting things that the storm did is that it created... you know, everybody was not feeling at the top of their game, because just heavy seas like that, even people who don't get seasick, get a sort of a feeling of being very weary, very tired, because you're fighting the seas all the time, and that certainly happened to the team. I thought that in spite of that, they were really... because things were so positive and things were going so well, that I think that overcame that sort of heaviness that you feel in high seas, and they forged ahead in spite of just not feeling physically well because of the... because of the high seas. Again, Mr. Bush didn't have any problem with it; I think he's used to those kinds of things, but the rest of the team and thesecret service and a lot of the other people who were out there in support roles, were very ill. So that was an unfortunate downside of the heavy sea.

INT: Now you were obviously serving in the military to the end, as the Cold War came to an end. How did you feel when you realized the Soviet Union was not just negotiating terms to end the Cold War, but collapsing itself? Was there a feeling tthe structure of the world as we knew it and lived in it, was changing?

JFS: My career at that point had spanned over 25 years, approximately, and the whole focus of those 25 years was: how do we, if we have to, fight the Soviet navy at sea? And of course, it was a very... capable navy, and we spent a lot of time thinking about that; we trained for that when we were very young, and thought about it in terms of tactical and strategic terms as we got more senior. But that had been our whole focus for a long time, so as we started to get friendly with the Russians, and as we saw the Soviet Union start to break up, it was almost a feeling of "I wonder what our strategy is going to be next? because this has been our strategy for a long time." And it was a feeling of relief that we would not have to go to combat with this very capable navy. But at the same time, a very unsettling feeling about all the other things, because we had really built a navy that could handle just about anything, with its primary focus being Russia. Now we had to be able to handle lots of other things that were going to happen. And one of the downsides that we've seen, in my opinion, since the end of the Cold War, is that a lot of the smaller conflicts that were held in check because people really felt that if they got out hand, they could go to a full world war and a conflict between the superpowers - those things are no longer held in check, because that... doesn't exist anymore, that freezing effect doesn't exist anymore. So that's been a downside of the end of the Cold War, and we've had to deal with lots of things that we didn't have to think about before.

INT: How did you hear about the coup in Russia against Gorbachev in August '91, and what was your reaction?

JFS: Well, I heard about it the same way everybody else did: I saw it on television. And I don't think we really fully understood all the things that were happening in Russia. Mr. Gorbachev, because of what he had accomplished in terms of opening up the Soviet Union and bringing them to events like the Malta summit, was very popular in the West, and I don't think we as Westerners could completely understand what was happening in Russia, and why he was not as popular there. We knew that there was real turmoil as the Russians adopted their form of democracy, but I don't think it was completely understandable what was going on. My own personal feeling was one of disappointment, because I'd been there at Malta and I wanted to see Mr. Gorbachev go ahead and continue on as the head of state, and continue this reconciliation that was taking place between our countries.

INT: Did you see the dressing-down he got from Yeltsin when he returned from the coup, in the parliament? Do you remember that...?

JFS: I didn't see that.

(A bit of preliminary chat)

INT: So tell me, what was the solution that the ship's doctor came up with, or that traditionally come up with to sort out seasickness, and how did it (help that one out?)?

JFS: When you are prone to seasickness - and some are prone to it and some people aren't - there is a medical patch, and I'm not sure what the medicine is, but it goes right behind the ear, and it's a slow release of medicine in through the pores of the skin, and it actually desensitizes the middle ear, which is the cause of seasickness, to the motion and to this feeling of discomfort. So we prescribe those to anyone who is prone to seasickness. Now, in our crew there is a great resistance to use these patches, even though they're very effective, and the reason is sort of this macho self-image, that if you use the patch, somehow you're not as strong a sailor as the next person who doesn't have to use it. I worked very hard to convince our sailors that that wasn't the right answer, that the right answer was: "Use the patch; it'll be much more effective and you'll feel a lot better." So we used it, and we used it effectively during the storm. We gave it to everybody who was out there, and it worked in some cases better, in some cases not as well, but it did help.

INT: And did the American delegation have to have it?

JFS: I think everybody except Mr. Bush used them, and used them effectively. I think they helped a lot, but again, people still didn't feel at the top of their game, even with the patch.

INT: Now just to come back to the end of the Cold War - we talked about Gorbachev resigning on Christmas Day 1991, (inaudible words) resign, and the hammer and sickle was brought down over the Kremlin. He told President Bush he was going to do this, and President Bush then went on television to say that the Cold War was over. How did you feel when that announcement was made?

JFS: I remember the day that the President came on television and made that announcement that the Cold War was over, and I had mixed feelings, again it was... a good feeling that this period of sustained mutually assured terror, if you will, was ending. But again, there was a very uncertain feeling about the future. Some people were talking about a peace dividend, other people were talking about how dangerous a world this was that we lived in, and how were we going to handle some of the new dangers that would not be held in check by the two superpowers being opposed to each other. So it was really a mixed feeling at the time, and I also had a personal feeling like I was sorry to see Mr. Gorbachev resign, because again I had been part of Malta and sort of had a good feeling about him, as the man who had really made this happen.

INT: Do you think there was a victor? Was there a victor in the Cold War?

JFS: The victory in the Cold War was really democracy. I wouldn't lay it as one country or the other country. And in fact, later on I had the wonderful opportunity to do an operation near Vladivostok, on the Russian Pacific coast, with Russian marines and US marines, and we were very careful not to talk about winning the Cold War, because it was really some very bold decisions and some real courageous things that were done in the then Soviet Union that really led to the end of the Cold War. So I think it was a victory for democracy, but I wouldn't call it a victory for one country - I think that would be a mistake.

INT: Very good. What is the legacy of the Cold War?

JFS: The legacy of the Cold War is a very armed world, the development of some weapons that are unacceptable, that need to be held in check. Those things perhaps would have happened anyway, but I think that it was a period when I remember as a schoolchild hiding under my desk because of this possibility of a nuclear attack, and that period is not necessarily the best time to remember, but on the other hand it was an unprecedented period of peace, although there were things going on around the world. So it was a mixed blessing, and I think that (unclear) that history will show that. After the Cold War was over, again the absence of two superpowers I think left that check and balance unattended, and now we have things happening around the world that go on because there is no... that check doesn't exist.

INT: Do you think the world gained or lost?

JFS: Well, I think anything that has the term "war" in it has a sense of loss to it. I'm not enough of a historian to make that judgment. I think that judgment will have to be made 100 years from now. In the near term, I think it has gained from the end of the Cold War, but again there are a lot of things going on that only time will tell where they're going to go, and how they'll go.

INT: OK. How close during the Cold War do you think we came to a major nuclear exchange?

JFS: I'm really unqualified to answer that question, bethe one time that I think that it was probably as close as it came, was the Cuban missile crisis, and I was very young at that time; I was a midshipman at the Naval Academy. My father was a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard, and I remember that he had... received a call that he might be called up, and his unit would be one of the last units that would ever be called up for a reserve. So I knew it was quite a dangerous moment, but I really was too young to make a judgment as to how dangerous it was.

INT:In your opinion, do you think it's... now that the Cold War is over and the threat, if you like, of Russia and communism has been removed, is it necessary for America to be as armed as it is, on sort of hair-trigger alert still?

JFS: Well, actually we're not at the kind of hair-trigger alert that we were with the Cold War alive. It has been stood down; the armed forces have come down significantly in size since the end of the Cold War: probably, depending on what kind of units you're looking at, between a 30 and 50% reduction, sometimes more in some areas. But in terms of the state of our armed forces now, the kinds of things that are going on around the world, and the sort of ambiguous threats that we have, are much more difficult to deal with than the clear, very measurable threat of the then Soviet Union. We knew exactly what their capabilities were, we knew what kind of equipment they had; we really could design our armed forces to deal with their armed forces. Now, as I said, there are very different kinds of threats, ambiguous, sometimes transnational. We can't identify a particular nation; it may be an organization. Those kinds of things, the ability to control information, all kinds of new technologies, unbelievably destructive weapons in the hands of rogue states - all those kinds of things make this ... it's an over-used term, but it really is a dangerous world. And unfortunately, right now it appears that the United States is the only country that's got the ability to deal with it on a global basis, and we have an obligation to do that, so we have to maintain a very capable armed force. I think it's going to have to be a changed armed force, and we're looking at those kinds of strategies for the next century at this time. But it's clear that we're going to need a very capable, very ready armed force into the foreseeable future.

INT: And my last question: do you think the world is a safer place, or a more dangerous place since the end of the Cold War?

JFS: I think the world is a more dangerous place since the end of the Cold War. The potential during the Cold War was really destruction of the Earth as we know it, and so the probability of that was, I think, reasonably low, and it did hold in check a lot of other smaller conflicts. Since then, that check has gone away, and now the weapons of mass destruction and nuclear chemical, biological weapons are unfortunately proliferating to the point where we may return to a period where there is a potential for at least regional destruction, and we may not have those checks and balances in place. So I think it's perhaps a more dangerous world.

INT: Very good.