Ed Rowny - a life as soldier and diplomat

Posted in United States | 01-Oct-04 | Author: Dmitry Udalov

Ed Rowny - a highly decorated warrior.
Ed Rowny - a highly decorated warrior.
Ambassador Edward Rowny has a unique life and career. His life is filled with achievements. Having experienced the Second World War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, he also fought the bureaucratic war of international arms control. He has a tremendous amount of military and diplomatic experience. It is an honor that Mr. Rowny has taken the time to share some of his thoughts and experiences with the readers of WSN. Dmitry Udalov, WSN Editor for Russia, interviewed Edward Rowny in October 2004 in Washington D.C. for the World Security Network.

General Rowny, it is an honor to have the opportunity to interview you. Let me first thank you on behalf of the staff of WSN and its readers that you have been able to find time to speak with us. Could you first say something about how you came to be involved in world politics?

Edward Rowny: Well, during my years of study at Johns Hopkins University, I won a scholarship and in 1936 I went to study for six months at the University of Krakow, Poland. I was about your age back then, and I had an opportunity to travel around Europe. I visited Vienna, Rome, Prague, Berlin and London. I also attended the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. After seeing the Nazis in power, I realized there would be a war. Therefore, after I graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1937 I decided to get enlist in the Army. I attended West Point Military Academy where I graduated in 1941. Six month later, the United States was at war. In early 1942, I was in one of the first units to be sent overseas. I was sent to Liberia. From there I was sent to Italy where I fought until the end of the war. Then I joined General Marshall’s planning staff and was involved in planning the final invasion of Japan; but then we dropped the Atomic bomb and the war was over shortly after that.

In 1949, I earned masters degrees in Civil Engineering and International Relations at Yale University. In 1949, I was assigned to the Far East Headquarters in Tokyo as a planning officer. At the outbreak of the Korean War, I fought in seven Korean campaigns and commanded the 38th. Infantry Regiment.

In 1963, I headed the Army Concept Team in Vietnam, testing new concepts for counterinsurgency operations, including the use of armed helicopters in Vietnam.

I returned to Europe and as Deputy Chairman of NATO's Military Committee, I initiated the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction (MBFR) negotiations. Then I was assigned as the Joint Chiefs of Staff Representative for the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II) in Geneva. I then resigned from this post, as I believed that President Carter had signed an unfair Treaty with Soviets, which would eventually hurt us. I testified against the treaty before Congress, and it was defeated.

When Ronald Read became President, I was asked to join his team. So I became his chief strategic negotiator for four years. I was a Special Advisor for Arms Control to Presidents Reagan and Bush.

Ambassador Ed Rowny - an American icon in arms control.
Ambassador Ed Rowny - an American icon in arms control.
In 1990 I retired from the government and became a consultant for international negotiations. I continue to advise the government on homeland security. I also was working on a concept for transforming the Army for fighting terrorism. I’m also interested in the project to establish higher standards at West Point.

You have a very unique biography. First of all, you are a representative of the Greatest Generation. You are one of the courageous individuals who saved our world from tyranny. But as you’ve mentioned, you had a kind of prediction in 1936 when you attended the Olympics in Berlin. Could you share your feelings? What attracted your attention in particular, since some top policy makers of that time didn’t consider Germany to be a serious power until the tragedy erupted?

Edward Rowny: I was always interested in international relations and I could see Hitler coming to power. I understood that Europe was weak. The French didn't have the strength to stand up against Nazism. Britain was also weak. While I was in Berlin, I saw the concentration of great discipline and Hitler's troops were greeted with passion. Our great athlete Owens, an Afro-American, won four gold medals but Hitler didn’t want to give him the medals. All if this made it very clear that the war was coming. This is what encouraged me to go to West Point.

When the war started, how would you describe the relations between the USSR and the US?

We had very mixed feelings about the Soviet Union. We were really very sad when we learned of the Soviet actions on the other side of the Visla River in 1939 when the war was uprising. My father was born in Poland. So I was really shocked by the massacre in the Khatin forest where 20,000 of the best Polish officers were killed. On the one hand, we didn’t like what the Soviets were doing but on the other hand, we needed them as an ally and sent them the Lend – lease supply. We had very mixed feelings. But we realized we needed them.

However, as the one war ended another one started – I mean the Cold War - and this was on the front line of the next war in Korea.

Already while I was studying at Yale, some of our professors were working on containment. I was very interested in this issue. I started studying Russian and nuclear weapons. We saw that the Soviets were becoming increasingly aggressive. So we went to Korea. Of course we were not fighting the Soviets directly, but we new they were supplying the North Koreans.

As you’ve said, since the time you studied at Yale you were interested in nuclear issues. Several years passed and then you became the chief American counselor on those issues. Most people think about arms control only when treaties are signed. The long and difficult meetings and consultations of experts are hidden from public view. How would you describe the negotiating process? What was the most difficult for you?

Mentor Ed Rowny with Dmitry Udalow.
Mentor Ed Rowny with Dmitry Udalow.
Edward Rowny: Well, the Soviets were very hard negotiators and they would not make any compromises. Our side wanted a treaty, so we made more and more compromises. The architect of Soviet diplomacy, Andrei Gromiko, was a very tough negotiator. We changed our Secretaries of State every four years and Gromiko was still in power. So it was a very one-sided negotiation when we would try to make a fair agreement with the Soviet delegation. I didn’t like it. They believed that the United States was weak because we made some compromises. Sometimes we couldn’t talk to them reasonably. They didn’t act as if they wanted the treaty. They acted like they were number one. Many people in the US wanted to be more kind to the USSR, to compromise more. For me, negotiating with the Soviets was like negotiating with a stone wall.

Speaking about Soviet people with whom we worked I could say that they were nice people, yet they didn’t have the power to compromise. Everything was so centralized.

When Carter came to power he was a very kind and very Christian man. He always thought that if the US would be nice to the Soviets they would be nice to us. But Gromiko started to act even harder.

Why did you find SALT II treaty unfair?

Edward Rowny: Carter – he wanted that treaty. He was likely to make concessions. I believed though that if we were to sign a treaty, it had to be equal. So the major reason I opposed a treaty is that we would have to reduce our arms and the Soviets wouldn’t have to because they would hide their weapons, as we could not have inspected them. There are also some other reasons. The Soviets insisted on having heavy missiles but we could not. So I resigned in protest. When President Reagan came to power, he agreed with me.

Did very much change when Gorbachev came to power?

Edward Rowny: Yes, things changed dramatically. The first sign of change was in Reykjavik. Gorbachev started to be reasonable with us. I think Gorbachev understood us better.

As the Soviet Union dissolved and transformed into a number of sovereign states, the nuclear problem could have become even more dramatic. Instead of one nuclear power there could have been 15 independent nuclear states. Did you have specific concerns about this?

Edward Rowny: We were concerned. Even though I was retired I traveled for talks in Moscow and the Ukraine. First we negotiated with the Ukraine and told them if they gave up these weapons, they would be better off. First they refused and claimed they needed them in order to be a strong power. We told them that they would not be a strong power, as they could not afford to maintain those weapons.

Pershing and SS missiles in the National Air and Space museum in Washington D.C. Thanks to such people as Edward…
Pershing and SS missiles in the National Air and Space museum in Washington D.C. Thanks to such people as Edward Rowny now they have become museum exhibits.
We had predicted that the Soviet Union would collapse, but we just didn't know exactly when this would happen. We estimated it might happen around 2006. However, it came rapidly in the 1990s.

Since then, the problem of nuclear weapons hasn’t been solved completely. The United States initiated the Nunn-Lugar program. What do you think of it? Could it be really successful?

Edward Rowny: We tried and are still trying to have a long-term non-proliferation program; we were predicting that by 2000 there would be 28-29 nuclear powers. This didn’t happen, but it is still a big problem. An example of this is the situation in North Korea. I was in touch with Nunn and Lugar and NGO’s as we tried to put Russian scientists to work. I support it.

We’ve touched on the problem of proliferation in North Korea. Since you participated in the early beginnings of the Korean crisis and since you know the situation very well, what are your thoughts? How could it be solved?

Edward Rowny: Yes, it’s a tough issue. Kim Jong-II is absolutely unreasonable. He has a starving police state. He has no transparency, no openness. Yet he spends the nation's money building nuclear weapons. I don’t see a solution until the Chinese tell the North Koreans to stop their nuclear program. The Chinese could really stop them.

The United States and South Korea are willing to provide economic aid to North Korea, but the North Koreans are still not negotiating. You see, we always knew we could negotiate with the Soviets because in the last analysis they were rational. Not like the North Koreans. They are like a mad man - absolutely irrational.

We also are now facing new challengers. We now not only must deal with definite states, but also with terrorist organizations. How we can safeguard our security?

Edward Rowny: Now we are in World War IV. The Cold War was the World War III. And World War IV has already brought a lot of casualties. We have a new type of enemy. So we are not dealing with states. This is a tough problem. My grandson pushed through to Baghdad in his tank. So I know a lot about the present situation and support the actions of President Bush. This is a new type of war!

So what should military and civilian authorities pay particular attention to: To intelligence gathering and strengthening military power or to economic and humanitarian issues?

Edward Rowny: Of course we have to strengthen our military. We need to protect ourselves. As to the future and places such as the Middle East, there would never be a military solution when 50% of the men there have nothing to do. They need to develop other industries in addition to oil production to become developed states. Through this way they would be heading toward democracy.