SCC Parties Clear Final Hurdle For ABM-TMD 'Demarcation' Accords


Craig Cerniello

ON AUGUST 21, the five participating states in the Geneva based Standing Consultative Commission (SCC)—the United States, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine—completed an agreed statement on so called "higher velocity" theater missile defense (TMD) systems, marking the conclusion of nearly four years of complex negotiations to establish a "demarcation line" between permitted TMD and restricted ABM systems. The five states will now review this agreed statement as well as four other agreements concluded last year in the SCC, with the expectation that the documents will be signed at the foreign minister level in late September at the UN General Assembly.

Before the SCC agreements can enter into force, however, they must be approved by the five states according to their respective constitutional procedures. It remains unclear whether the TMD agreements are restrictive enough to placate the Russian Duma, which generally is skeptical of U.S. missile defense efforts, or too restrictive to appease the U.S. Senate, which generally is opposed to any limitations on TMD programs. Some senators may also oppose the agreement that multilateralizes the ABM Treaty, fearing that adding new states to the treaty will make amending the accord virtually impossible in the future.

Claiming that the ABM Treaty needed clarification to accommodate TMD systems in the post Cold War era, the Clinton administration initiated the demarcation negotiations in November 1993. By October 1996, the SCC had completed and prepared for signature the texts of four agreements: an agreed statement pertaining to "lower velocity" TMD systems (those with interceptor velocities of 3 kilometers per second or less); an agreement on TMD confidence building measures; a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on ABM succession; and an agreement outlining new SCC operating regulations. The signing ceremony in Geneva was canceled at the last minute, however, when Russia announced that it would not sign the agreed statement on lower velocity TMD systems until negotiations pertaining to the more controversial issue of higher velocity TMD systems (those with interceptor velocities above 3 kilometers per second) were concluded. (See ACT, October 1996.)

Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin resolved this issue during their March 1997 summit meeting in Helsinki, when they agreed on a set of basic principles and provisions applicable to higher velocity TMD systems. (See ACT, March 1997.) Five months later, the SCC completed an agreed statement related to higher velocity TMD systems, based on the March 21 "Joint Statement Concerning the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty."

Under the agreed statement on lower velocity TMD systems, the five states will be permitted to deploy systems with interceptor velocities of 3 kilometers per second or less, provided that they are not tested against ballistic missile targets with velocities above 5 kilometers per second or ranges greater than 3,500 kilometers. This agreement would cover the U.S. Army's Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which is scheduled to be fielded in 2006, as well as the previously deployed Russian SA 12 system.

The agreed statement on higher velocity TMD systems reiterates the ban on testing such systems against ballistic missile targets with velocities above 5 kilometers per second or ranges that exceed 3,500 kilometers. The statement also bans the development, testing or deployment of space based TMD interceptor missiles, and requires an annual data exchange of TMD plans and programs. Each side will continue to make deployment decisions on higher velocity TMD systems based on their own national compliance determinations. The United States has already declared that the Navy's Theater Wide Defense system, scheduled for deployment in 2008, is compliant with the ABM Treaty.

Broadly speaking, the agreement on TMD confidence building measures (which applies to both lower and higher velocity systems) attempts to reassure the United States and Russia that TMD systems are not being developed for national missile defense purposes. In an effort to increase the transparency of TMD activities, these confidence building measures reportedly include prior notification of TMD test launches as well as data exchanges pertaining to TMD plans, programs and production.

The MOU on ABM succession designates the United States, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine as the only parties to the ABM Treaty, thereby resolving the issue of which states would assume the rights and obligations of the former Soviet Union under the treaty. The latter four states will collectively be limited to ABM deployment at a single site.

Finally, the agreement on SCC regulations details the new procedures under which the body will operate. This agreement became necessary in light of the multilateralization of the ABM Treaty.