On January 27, 1999, the Arms Control Association (ACA) held a press conference to assess the impact of Secretary of Defense William Cohen's January 20 announcement concerning the funding of preparations for the deployment of a national missile defense (NMD) system.
Cohen announced the administration's plan to commit additional funding to its NMD program to permit a deployment decision in 2000, and suggested the United States' willingness to withdraw, if necessary, from the ABM Treaty. The ACA briefing coincided with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's three-day trip to Moscow to ease the growing strain in U.S.-Russian relations.
Following the December 16–19 U.S.-British strikes against Iraq, the Russian Duma delayed its vote on START II ratification, just as a favorable vote seemed imminent. Cohen's NMD announcement further complicated the already testy relationship.
Panelists included Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr., president and executive director of ACA; John Pike, director of the Space Policy Project at the Federation of American Scientists; John B. Rhinelander, ACA vice-chairman and former legal advisor to the U.S. SALT I delegation that negotiated the ABM Treaty; and Susan Eisenhower, chairman of the Center for Political and Strategic Studies and member of the ACA Board of Directors.
The following is an edited version of their remarks.