1997 Congressional Hearings
Intelligence and Security

Statement of William H. Webster
Threats to the U.S. National Security
13 February 1997

I am pleased to have this opportunity to participate in this hearing and to present a few of my views on current threats to United States National Security. I intend that this statement shall be brief, but will welcome the opportunity to respond to any of your questions. We tend to prepare ourselves to re-fight the last great war with methods and goals that worked well for us. But it is a vastly different world today than it was fifty years ago or, for that matter, even five years ago. Fifty years ago the Iron Curtain defined both the threat and the relationships; in many respects the bi-polar world cold war following World War II was more stable because less critical quarrels and contests were controlled or suppressed on each side to confront the greater threat of nuclear destruction. Five years ago the hope of a new world order following victory in the Gulf gave way to dysfunctional eruptions which we are unwilling or unable to keep in firm check. One factor currently operates in our favor: there is currently no functioning super power capable of replacing the threat once represented by the Soviet Union. Notice I said "currently". A range of serious security issues -- some in part arising from the end of the Cold War present themselves in this new environment:
1. Will the Chinese economic engine produce more democratic reform or will it be an empowerment to a traditional xenophobic form of government? Will China continue to be a major source for arms purchases in the third world?
2. Will North Korea, with its history of idiosyncratic government miscalculate and plunge large portions of the world back into war?
3. Will some combination of Islamic Fundamentalism erupt across the Middle East and the Near East, destabilizing governments that we have for years considered friendly to us and to our goals?
4. Will the political struggle inside Russia and other former Soviet states become a large scale replication of Yugoslavia? Can Russia control its arms stockpiles?

Threats to United States National Security normally consist of two types -- military threats to the United States or military threats to other states capable of involving the United States. Today, the latter threat can include violations of human rights against a nation's own populace; and terrorism, both state-sponsored and otherwise, has seriously undermined stability in diverse parts of the world. Nuclear destruction remains the greatest threat in terms of potential harm. At one time this threat was measured by which country could inflict the greatest harm on its enemy. We assumed it would come at us, if at all, from the Soviet government. All this has changed. Today we must consider how and to what degree the governments of Russia and other F.S.U. states have adequately protected both their nuclear devices and nuclear materials from an emerging black market that could result in nuclear explosions in other areas and for other purposes with direct or indirect impact on U.S. security interests. A similar vulnerability exists from proliferation of chemical and biological weapons. Russia is beset with a vast network of criminal organizations that grew out of the earlier black market economy. The Russian Mafia, whose combined membership exceeds 100,000, has spread into other parts of the world, including the United States. Russian authorities have been unable to deal with it and the trafficking of nuclear materials seems a logical extension of other criminal activity of large proportions. The threats I have described, along with additional problems ranging from drugs to information warfare call for more flexible military capabilities and timely intelligence. Our interests and our equities are increasingly transnational and our citizens will be increasingly in harms way. History is replete with conflicts that spread from incidents in unlikely places. We cannot be the world's policeman but we must find the means to work with friendly states to anticipate and control the forces which, unchecked, could wipe away the progress toward peace and stability that has been achieved at great cost.