U.S. Withdrawal From the ABM Treaty: President Bush’s Remarks and U.S. Diplomatic Notes

On December 13, President George W. Bush announced that the United States would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in six months. Although the United States and the Soviet Union agreed in 1972 that the treaty should be of “unlimited duration,” the treaty included a provision for either party to withdraw if “extraordinary events” jeopardized their “supreme interests” and required six months’ notice of an intent to withdraw, including a statement of the “extraordinary events.” The day of Bush’s announcement, the United States sent the required notice to Russia, as well as to Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. The text of Bush’s statement and the notice are reprinted below.

President Bush’s Remarks, December 13, 2001

Good morning. I’ve just concluded a meeting of my National Security Council. We reviewed what I discussed with my friend, President Vladimir Putin, over the course of many meetings, many months. And that is the need for America to move beyond the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.

Today, I have given formal notice to Russia, in accordance with the treaty, that the United States of America is withdrawing from this almost 30-year-old treaty. I have concluded the ABM Treaty hinders our government’s ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorist or rogue-state missile attacks.

The 1972 ABM Treaty was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union at a much different time, in a vastly different world. One of the signatories, the Soviet Union, no longer exists. And neither does the hostility that once led both our countries to keep thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert, pointed at each other. The grim theory was that neither side would launch a nuclear attack because it knew the other would respond, thereby destroying both.

Today, as the events of September the 11th made all too clear, the greatest threats to both our countries come not from each other, or other big powers in the world, but from terrorists who strike without warning, or rogue states who seek weapons of mass destruction.

We know that the terrorists, and some of those who support them, seek the ability to deliver death and destruction to our doorstep via missile. And we must have the freedom and the flexibility to develop effective defenses against those attacks. Defending the American people is my highest priority as Commander in Chief, and I cannot and will not allow the United States to remain in a treaty that prevents us from developing effective defenses.

At the same time, the United States and Russia have developed a new, much more hopeful and constructive relationship. We are moving to replace mutually assured destruction with mutual cooperation. Beginning in Ljubljana, and continuing in meetings in Genoa, Shanghai, Washington and Crawford, President Putin and I developed common ground for a new strategic relationship. Russia is in the midst of a transition to free markets and democracy. We are committed to forging strong economic ties between Russia and the United States, and new bonds between Russia and our partners in NATO. NATO has made clear its desire to identify and pursue opportunities for joint action at 20.

I look forward to visiting Moscow, to continue our discussions, as we seek a formal way to express a new strategic relationship that will last long beyond our individual administrations, providing a foundation for peace for the years to come.

We’re already working closely together as the world rallies in the war against terrorism. I appreciate so much President Putin’s important advice and cooperation as we fight to dismantle the al Qaeda network in Afghanistan. I appreciate his commitment to reduce Russia’s offensive nuclear weapons. I reiterate our pledge to reduce our own nuclear arsenal [to] between 1,700 and 2,200 operationally deployed strategic nuclear weapons. President Putin and I have also agreed that my decision to withdraw from the treaty will not, in any way, undermine our new relationship or Russian security.

As President Putin said in Crawford, we are on the path to a fundamentally different relationship. The Cold War is long gone. Today we leave behind one of its last vestiges.

But this is not a day for looking back. This is a day for looking forward with hope, and anticipation of greater prosperity and peace for Russians, for Americans and for the entire world. Thank you.

Source: The White House

Text of Diplomatic Notes to Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, December 13, 2001

The Embassy of the United States of America has the honor to refer to the Treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems signed at Moscow May 26, 1972.

Article XV, paragraph 2, gives each Party the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of the treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests.
The United States recognizes that the Treaty was entered into with the USSR, which ceased to exist in 1991. Since then, we have entered into a new strategic relationship with Russia that is cooperative rather than adversarial, and are building strong relationships with most states of the former USSR.

Since the Treaty entered into force in 1972, a number of state and non-state entities have acquired or are actively seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction. It is clear, and has recently been demonstrated, that some of these entities are prepared to employ these weapons against the United States. Moreover, a number of states are developing ballistic missiles, including long-range ballistic missiles, as a means of delivering weapons of mass destruction. These events pose a direct threat to the territory and security of the United States and jeopardize its supreme interests. As a result, the United States has concluded that it must develop, test, and deploy anti-ballistic missile systems for the defense of its national territory, of its forces outside the United States, and of its friends and allies.

Pursuant to Article XV, paragraph 2, the United States has decided that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of the Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests. Therefore, in the exercise of the right to withdraw from the Treaty provided in Article XV, paragraph 2, the United States hereby gives notice of its withdrawal from the Treaty. In accordance with the terms of the Treaty, withdrawal will be effective six months from the date of this notice.

Source: Department of State