Friday, July 18, 2014

Peter Jones's "Open Skies"

Peter Jones is an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, Canada.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Open Skies: Transparency, Confidence-Building, and the End of the Cold War, and reported the following:
The page 99 test works pretty well. “Open Skies,” was first proposed by President Eisenhower in 1955, but rejected by the Soviets. The idea called for each side to allow the other to make short-notice overflights with unarmed surveillance aircraft as assurance against surprise attacks. This would have been a highly intrusive measure before satellites. The Russian rejection was seen as evidence of nefarious intent. We now know it was largely motivated by fears that their weakness would be exposed. Open Skies was a valuable propaganda victory, allowing American diplomats to juxtapose America’s transparency with Soviet secrecy.

As the Cold War came to a close, President Bush (41) proposed that Open Skies be revived as an Alliance-to-Alliance Treaty. He believed that it would test the new Soviet willingness to embrace openness and reform, as well as allowing smaller nations to independently monitor events. The Treaty was negotiated between 1990 and 1992, resulting in the first major European security agreement of the Post-Cold War era.

One of the major themes of the book is that, even though their leaders supported Open Skies, the US and Soviet military and intelligence bureaucracies remained deeply suspicious of it. The Soviet military put up obstacles to the achievement of real transparency. The US intelligence community sought to enshrine measures that would permit the US to gain an advantage by using far more sophisticated sensors than other nations could.

It was the insistence of Presidents Bush and Gorbachev that the regime be genuine and equal which overcame the resistance of their respective bureaucracies. But an important role was also played by the smaller nations of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, which did not have satellites and saw the benefits of the Treaty.

Page 99 concerns the revival of the negotiations, after two rounds in Ottawa and Budapest had failed due to the obduracy of the US and Soviet bureaucracies. President Bush had forced the US intelligence community to back off its attempt to gain a unilateral advantage. The NATO nations were reviewing their positions in hopes of tempting the Soviets back to the table. But the powerful Soviet military bureaucracy was holding out and there were signs of the impending coup attempt against Gorbachev of mid-August 1991. It was not until after this coup attempt had been defeated, and those opposed to Open Skies were removed from office, that the Soviets responded favorably. The negotiations resumed in Vienna, leading to an agreement.

Thus, page 99 encapsulates a major theme of the book – only high-level political guidance can overcome the resistance of self-interested bureaucracies to far-reaching change.
Learn more about Open Skies at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue