INT: Excellent answer. Assured destruction, how did someone decide what assured destruction would be?
RG: One of the... I'm not sure if one should call it a dilemma of deterrents, but one of the problems seen at least in devising actual strategies and forces to assure deterrents was calculating what the opponent, what the other side would see as assured destruction. After all, deterrents in one sense was in the eye of the beholder, it had to be something that influenced his thinking in order to deter him from deciding to launch an attack. And initially rather... arbitrary calculations were made to this effect, which quite frankly were simply... drawn from the realities of existing capabilities, so that it was, for example, quite feasible for the United States, and in due course for either side, to destroy, let's say a third or a half of the production capacity, of the population, of the whole infrastructure of the other side and something in the... in that range was considered to be devastation of such a magnitude that it would deter any rational would-be attacker. In reality, I think that the requirements for deterrents were very much short of that, that anything... Well, for example, at a time when the United States continued to have an overwhelming superiority at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in 1962, there was never any thought of course of the United States launching an attack on the Soviet Union and we were rather sure there was no real thought of the Soviet Union launching an attack on the United States. But the strategic relationship between the two was still in the background as measures were considered in terms of actions that might be taken in Cuba and arising from that situation. And at that time, the United States would have been able to launch an initial strike in one salvo say, in one day of something on the order of three thousand nuclear and thermo-nuclear weapons on the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union had a capacity for launching perhaps three hundred weapons against the United States. In practice, if the Soviet Union had struck first, the United States clearly would still have had an enormous remaining superiority. If the United States had struck first, the Soviet Union would have very minimal forces remaining for a strike. But even if only a few nuclear weapons, a few tens of nuclear weapons at most, let's say, were to strike that many American cities, obviously that was something that no American President would ever accept as a price warranting an action that might lead to a Soviet strike. So I think one of the lessons that might have been learnt from the Cuban Missile Crisis, although it was not, was that the actual requirements for deterrents were much less than the calculations which eventually became quite arcane and quite extreme in terms of figuring the precise vulnerabilities of missile silos and the number of weapons that might have to be launched to assure the destruction of some very large proportion of the enemy's forces. In short the kind of calculations that led both sides to feel strategic forces in the thousands and even in tens of thousands were probably an enormous over-kill, over what the real requirements of deterrents were.
INT: Quite early on we're talking about, the figure came up of the fact that America was to have a thousand Minutemen and that was later slightly revised, but how was that figure... was it strategically worked out that that was the number of missiles or was it just a political decision to go for a thousand missiles?
RG: The numbers of nuclear weapons available first in the United States and then on the other side as well, began in the 1960s to move into the thousands and the numbers of new systems, inter-continental ballistic missiles, for example, ICBMs, which could be dealt and were similarly open from the hundreds into the thousands, and indeed at one point the United States air force suggested that the ultimate American force ought to be something on the order of ten thousand ICBM launchers. In actual practice, in the Kennedy administration, there was a decision reached fairly early on that in practical terms, what counted was having assured destruction, rather than simply the maximum destruction that could be built up and that something on the order of a thousand ICBMs, land-based, and another five or six hundred submarine launched ballistic missiles, SLBMs, would offer a force that was entirely adequate. This was in keeping with the strategic concept of assured destruction. It was essentially, though I would say a political decision, one that MacNamara and President Kennedy reached at a time when we still had to consider both superiority, but at time when it was also expected and known that sooner or later, and the estimates on this varied and were not always quite accurate, but nonetheless in the broad sense, it was correctly understood that within a relatively few years, the Soviet Union would have similar numbers. But it was not seen as a situation in which it was necessary that the United States continue to build up as many ICBM launchers as we could build or something. So the figure was set very early in the Kennedy administration at a thousand Minutemen and at that time we had a few hundred older missiles, most of which would be phased out, and then at a later time the question would no doubt have arisen again and when the question did arise, several years later, a new technology had appeared in the form of multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles, MERVs, on each ICBM, so that each ICBM could carry a number, five, six, ten warheads and it was therefore possible with a force of a thousand ICBMs on launchers, silos protected, to still multiply the number of strategic warheads that could be fired against the other side and that is what happened. The United States first developed and deployed MERVs at the beginning of the 1970s, the Soviet Union was about five years behind, but of course ultimately did the same and the result was that instead of a few thousand by late in the 1970s, both sides had on the order of ten thousand strategic warheads.
INT: Excellent answer. How did the military - going back to the sixties - did the military feel that they were being limited by what MacNamara and Kennedy were suggesting?
RG: When MacNamara proposed levelling off the planned Minuteman ICBM force at a thousand and so on, there were a few people in the air force in particular who felt this was unduly limiting, that what we should do was to continue to build up as rapidly and as much as we could. But the military as a whole did not take that attitude and there was an acceptance of the idea that there was a limit, that it was not necessary and therefore also not wise to simply build as many strategic weapons as we could. There had to be a rationale and a strategy and a purpose and that it was more important to have a secure force that would be available to retaliate on the order of a thousand or a few thousand warheads total, rather than simply building up larger forces. this was not a controversial issue and it was not onthat pitted military judgement and military belief in requirements against the national decision.
INT: What was the American perception of the Soviets during the early part of the sixties of terms of did they regard them as a regime that had world dominating expansionist policies?
RG: The first important... questioning of Soviet objectives came of course in the period after Stalin died, in 1953, and at that time there was a recognition that the Soviet political process was somewhat more open, not in the sense at all of becoming democratic, but at least there were a number of leaders even though collective leadership tended to flow back predominantly to the hands of a single leader, but without quite the same feeling that there was one man who was calling the whole tune, which was certainly the belief and very largely the reality under the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin. Still, there was also a belief that Soviet objectives in the world were essentially unchanged and signs of flexibility by the post-Stalin Soviet leadership in the 1950s including their decision to withdraw from Austria and agree to Austrian neutrality, to end the Korean War and a number of others, were seen as ameliorative, but not really as changing the basic Communist objective of world domination. and this was the case because it was not considered only a matter of Soviet ambition, but also of a world view, a way of thinking, which saw the world as divided into two inevitably hostile and competing camps, a world of socialism and the world of capitalism and it was that view of the world on the Soviet side or at least the Western understanding of the Soviet view, which led in turn to the belief that a Western strategy of containment was necessary and a Cold War, waging, picking up the gauntlet that had been challenged, that had been thrown to us, and meeting the Communist threat of attaining (inaudible) in the world. Now in practical terms, of course, it was recognised that there were important differences, but in terms of any current realistic objectives of Soviet leaderships, even under Stalin and under his successors in the fifties and sixties and seventies and eighties, but there was also the feeling that this ideological impulse while it didn't lead the Soviet leaders into taking undue risks, did mean that their policy still was directed toward the ultimate achievement of a victory in this contest against the capitalist world and therefore a victory in the world at large.
INT: How important were the Western countries with independent nuclear capability, such as France, seen through this period?
RG: The Cold War developed of course in a period in which the United States had a nuclear monopoly and then the Soviet Union as well on the other side, with the attainment of nuclear capabilities by Britain and France, the initial reaction, I believe, was that the alliance was strengthened as two of our allies also had nuclear weapons, but there also became a growing awareness that many other countries, who were not American allies, might acquire nuclear weapons and that in general the diffusion of nuclear capabilities, as it was originally referred to and later the proliferation of nuclear capabilities, could be a destabilising factor and therefore in the West in general, but especially in the United States, a feeling did develop that proliferation of nuclear capabilities was undesirable and that efforts should be made to head off the... acquisition of such capabilities, which were within the technical feasibility of a number of Eastern, Western and neutral countries. So nuclear non-proliferation became an important objective in the 1960s. It was given additional weight when China exploded its first nuclear device in 1964, and considerable efforts were made to prevent if possible, or in any case to slow down and prevent to the extent possible, any acquisition of nuclear weapons by other countries including countries whose interest in nuclear weapons was in terms really of their own local situation, rather than in terms of the inter-content... of the global strategic balance, but nonetheless would have an impact on it. A common interest to some extent was found, between East and West on this issue, because of course, proliferation of nuclear capabilities of other countries was not in the interests and to the extent it was destabilising, was not in the interests of the Soviet Union any more than it was of the United States or the other Western powers. So, the problem was in finding a way to do this, to curb the spread of nuclear weapons to additional countries, in a way that did not... cause differences or exacerbate differences within the Western alliance, in view of the fact that Britain and France had nuclear weapons, that Germany and the other allies did not, and yet... there was a desire to have as much... of a single concerted alliance position as possible and to find ways in which the differences between the nuclear weapon possessing and non-nuclear weapon possessing members of the alliance would not acquire political significance and where all the members of the alliance, and particularly other major powers, such as Germany and Italy, would not find themselves disadvantaged in a non-nuclear status, as compared with Britain and France.