"ACA's journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent."

– Hans Blix
Former IAEA Director-General
Press Releases

Top Pentagon Officials Make Case for Layered Missile Defense

Wade Boese

While the Bush administration is continuing its review of U.S. missile defense options, the Pentagon's top two officials in March revealed a clear preference for a future layered missile defense unconstrained by the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

In an interview published March 18 in The London Sunday Telegraph, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, appeared to be making the case for a layered defense consisting of multiple types of anti-ballistic missile systems, including sea-based systems. Wolfowitz asserted that "the best thing is to attack a missile several different ways" because that approach maximizes the chances of intercepting it. Rumsfeld added that that was the reason "people say that eventually one would anticipate that you'd have something that would be not a single system, but a layered system with flexibility and some redundancy."

In the interview, Wolfowitz said the "most attractive" time to shoot down a missile is when it is in the boost phase, which is when it is moving most slowly and its rocket engines are still firing, making it an easier target. The deputy secretary suggested that a sea-based missile interceptor would be "very effective" for boost-phase intercepts and stated that there is nothing "physically" preventing an anti-strategic ballistic missile from being stationed on a ship. (A Pentagon review recently reported that there is no near-term sea-based NMD option. See Pentagon Report Highlights Hurdles for Missile Defenses.)

As a presidential candidate last year, President George W. Bush campaigned against the Clinton administration's proposed limited national missile defense (NMD), which would initially consist of 20 ground-based missile interceptors stationed in Alaska to protect the U.S. homeland from strategic ballistic missile attacks. Bush described the system as "flawed" and said his administration would look into different technologies and deploy effective missile defenses "at the earliest possible date" with an expanded mission of protecting U.S. friends and allies in addition to U.S. territory and troops.

Rumsfeld asserted in the March 18 interview that the Clinton administration did "no real work" on missile defense because it had only one approach—developing a ground-based system—with the aim of staying "broadly" within the ABM Treaty. Rumsfeld said that would not be the case with the Bush administration, explaining, "We've asked our people to look at missile defense unconstrained by the [ABM] Treaty."

The 1972 ABM Treaty and its 1974 protocol proscribed nationwide defenses against strategic ballistic missiles but permitted 100 missile interceptors at a single site for a limited regional defense. The treaty further outlawed the development, testing, or deployment of sea-, air-, space-, and mobile land-based systems or components, thereby limiting permissible defenses against strategic missiles to ground-based designs.

Rumsfeld, who characterized the treaty as "ancient history" at his Senate confirmation hearing, declared in the interview that he does not see the accord as "having a central role in strategic stability." He said that at some point the United States would need to make changes to the treaty. As a candidate, Bush said that he would withdraw from the treaty if Russia did not accept U.S. proposals for amending the accord to permit a U.S. missile defense deployment. Russia rejected all Clinton efforts to amend the treaty.

At his February 27 confirmation hearing, Wolfowitz testified that the United States, hopefully with Russian cooperation, needs to relax ABM Treaty restrictions, explaining his view that U.S. NMD development over the past 10 years would have been very different "if the ABM Treaty hadn't been there or if it had been modified." According to Wolfowitz, the administration wants to "find the most effective, least expensive, and least provocative way" of developing a defense.

Earlier in the month, Rumsfeld reaffirmed Bush's campaign pledge that whatever missile defense system is pursued, the objective will be to protect all 50 U.S. states, deployed U.S. troops, and U.S. allies. Speaking on March 8, Rumsfeld declared that he no longer thought of missile defense in terms of "national" and "theater" systems. According to Rumsfeld, this purpose of such a unified approach is to avoid creating "significant differentials in vulnerabilities" between the United States and its allies. "One has to recognize that it's every bit as important to us…and to have our allies feel equally secure to the extent that's possible," the secretary stated.

For the time being, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), which oversees U.S. missile defense programs, is continuing work on the Clinton NMD. In February, a Pentagon spokesman noted that Rumsfeld had directed BMDO to "press on" with system testing and research, although no initial site preparation or construction activity in Alaska has been authorized. If the Bush administration opts to continue the Clinton system, it would be expected to approve construction by the end of 2001 if it hoped to start building in 2002.

Bush Administration Blunts International Opposition to NMD

Wade Boese

Two months into its term, the Bush administration's continued efforts to build foreign acceptance of, if not support for, U.S. deployment of a national missile defense (NMD) appear to be paying some small dividends. In mid-March, a top Chinese official, while still vehemently objecting to U.S. plans, welcomed talks with Washington on the issue. Meanwhile, Germany has edged away from its past opposition to NMD, and France has publicly quieted its criticism, although neither country has embraced the idea.

Unlike the Clinton administration, which largely neglected Asia on U.S. NMD plans and upset U.S. allies by focusing first on winning Russian acquiescence while taking their support for granted, the Bush administration from the outset has promised to consult fully with all interested countries. At the same time, Bush officials have emphasized they will not be dissuaded from their objective and have expressed confidence in their ability to persuade others to eventually accept a U.S. defense.

Starting a March 14 speech by noting, "It is no news that China is opposed to the U.S. NMD program," Chinese Ambassador Sha Zukang declared that he wanted to "make it clear that…we are ready to have a dialogue and discussion with Americans [on NMD]." The head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's arms control and disarmament department, Sha pointed out that only through consultations could the two sides "enhance mutual understanding and narrow down the differences." Sha, who in his speech equated NMD with "drinking poison to quench thirst," said Washington and Beijing need to talk "no matter how serious [the] issue."

While declaring that China does not want a confrontation with the United States over missile defenses, the ambassador warned that China will "not allow its legitimate means of self-defense to be weakened" and that Beijing wants to preserve "existing mutual deterrence" between China and the United States. Currently, China, which possesses roughly 20 ICBMs capable of reaching the United States, fears a U.S. national missile defense, no matter how limited, could negate its small arsenal, making China vulnerable to a U.S. first strike or eliminating its ability to deter the United States from intervening militarily in Asia, particularly with regard to Taiwan.

Like the Clinton administration did, Bush officials have declared that the system will not be directed at China, but at other states, such as North Korea and Iran, that are pursuing long-range ballistic missiles. Sha rejected this assurance, saying the United States has "over-exaggerated" such threats. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has said that only those who would threaten the United States or its friends and allies should be concerned about a U.S. defense.

Sha repeated long-standing Chinese charges that a U.S. missile defense could start another arms race, including one extending into outer space, and could possibly spur increased missile proliferation. Sha said that for those reasons China, which is already known to be modernizing its strategic forces, hoped Washington would abandon its plans. He added that China "should have reason to be confident that we can deal with it" if there is a U.S. deployment.

The ambassador further said that China does not oppose theater ballistic missile defenses (TMD) "utilized to protect a country's troops and for air defense purpose[s]," and he applauded the Russian proposal for a European TMD. But Sha warned against any U.S. transfer of TMD to Taiwan and against any system that could play a role in or serve as a "front" for a wider missile defense.

A week after Sha's speech, Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen raised the missile defense issue with both President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington. A senior administration official told reporters March 22 that at the meeting Bush reiterated that a defense would not be a threat to China. When asked whether there was now a better understanding between the two countries on the issue, the official replied "I wouldn't go that far…you'd have to ask his side if they felt that."

Visiting Washington a week later on March 29, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder expressed interest in Germany playing a future part in U.S. missile defenses if they were deployed. "Certainly, when it comes to the involvement and also participation in terms of industrial policy, certainly we'll be interested," Schroeder answered when asked by a reporter whether Germany would be willing to participate in a system.

However, Schroeder noted there were many issues that needed to be looked into, such as whether a missile defense will work, who will be covered, and how it will impact global disarmament and relations with Russia and China. Bush described himself as "grateful" that Schroeder was interested in the U.S. point of view, and the chancellor, who has been a leading European voice expressing reservations about U.S. missile defense plans, said he was "very pleased" that the president was open to discussion about the questions he had posed.

Quite vocal about its missile defense concerns last year, France has quieted its public protests following the Bush administration's promise to hold consultations with allies. A French official explained that France still has the same concerns it expressed in the past about the "potential negative effects" of missile defense but that it will raise those issues in private. Like Berlin, Paris seems to be reserving judgment on U.S. plans until it has had an opportunity to discuss them with Washington.

Russia has continued to voice its opposition to U.S. plans, and on March 6, Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, a critic of missile defenses, noted after a meeting with Powell that she had not changed her position. Lindh also said that the European Union presidency, which Sweden currently occupies, does not want to see the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty threatened.

South Korea Clarifies Position on NMD

After South Korean President Kim Dae Jung signed a February 27 joint statement with Russian President Vladimir Putin that called for the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to be "preserved and strengthened," Seoul rushed to explain that it is not opposed to a U.S. national missile defense (NMD).

Kim's signature of the statement was widely reported as evidence that South Korea was siding with Russia against U.S. missile defense plans, but Seoul announced the next day that it was "engaged in a serious review of the NMD issue" and that reports characterizing South Korea as opposing or indirectly criticizing missile defenses "have no factual ground." Seoul further pointed out that the controversial statement was a direct quotation of other statements that Washington has signed over the past year, including one that was issued by the nuclear-weapon states at the 2000 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference.

After meeting President George W. Bush at their March 7 summit in Washington, Kim reiterated to reporters that the joint South Korean-Russian statement "in no way reflects our position on NMD issues" and added that he "regretted the misunderstanding." In a joint U.S.-South Korean statement issued that day, the two leaders recognized that there were new threats in the world and that countering them would require a "variety of measures, including active non-proliferation diplomacy, defensive systems, and other pertinent measures."

A March 23 South Korean press report later quoted Seoul's foreign minister, Lee Joung-binn, as saying that the United States had requested a statement of support for NMD at the summit but that South Korea had declined. Lee subsequently retracted his remark, but on March 26 he and 10 other cabinet ministers and senior presidential secretaries were replaced by Kim in a move interpreted as an attempt to better relations with Washington. —W.B.

Bush Reviews Threat Reduction Programs, Contemplates Cuts

Philipp C. Bleek

Following a strong reaction in Congress to reports of impending budget cuts to nuclear threat reduction efforts in Russia, President George W. Bush announced March 29 that his administration was conducting a "full review" of the programs. The assessment will be conducted by senior National Security Council officials and is expected to last six to eight weeks, according to an administration official.

The United States funds numerous programs, managed by several departments, to help Russia dismantle its nuclear weapons and secure its deteriorating nuclear weapons complex. Reports that the administration's budget proposal will suggest cuts for these programs first appeared in mid-March, based on government and private sources. The cuts are reportedly directed primarily at Energy Department non-proliferation efforts, with possible cuts to the Defense Department's Cooperative Threat Reduction initiative.

Administration officials declined to provide specifics, but one official indicated that programs deemed "ineffective" by the recently launched review could be significantly scaled back or killed.

The size of the cuts under consideration remains unclear. Various sources have indicated that the Department of Energy (DOE) cutbacks will involve a relatively small reduction from this year's budget. However, any cuts would be significant because funding for key threat reduction efforts had been expected to increase considerably next year, and some programs will apparently be hit hard. Multiple reports indicate that the budget for the Nuclear Cities Initiative, which is working to create employment opportunities, will be cut from its current level of about $27 million to around $7 million, effectively crippling the program.

After being asked about the reported pending cuts at an impromptu White House press conference, Bush responded by stating that "we're reviewing all programs," citing a desire to ensure funds were being spent "in an effective way." Bush also emphasized that "we fully intend to continue to cooperate with the Russians" and that such cooperation is "in our nation's best interest."

Office of Management and Budget spokesman Chris Ullman noted in a March 29 interview that the review will not factor into the administration's initial budget proposal, due to be released April 9. But Ullman emphasized that the budget process between the executive branch and Congress allows considerable flexibility should the review conclude that either additional funding or cutbacks are necessary.

Threat reduction efforts in Russia enjoy bipartisan congressional support, and reports of impending cuts sparked significant concern on Capitol Hill. At a March 28 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) called the reports "absolutely stunning," stating that he hoped "wiser heads would weigh in" to persuade the Bush administration to alter its apparent position. Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) expressed concern that the administration "intends to take an axe" to "key" threat reduction programs and said he supports a ten-fold increase in Energy Department threat reduction spending. Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) also reiterated the call for substantial budget increases at the hearing.

A ten-fold increase in annual funding for DOE threat reduction efforts from about $300 million to $3 billion was advocated by a bipartisan panel report commissioned by the Energy Department and released in January. The report termed the deterioration of the Russian nuclear weapons complex "the greatest unmet national security threat to the United States." (See ACT, March 2001.)

Commission Warns U.S. Space Assets Vulnerable

Wade Boese

Tasked with reviewing the organization and management of U.S. national security-related space activities, a congressionally mandated commission issued a report January 11 faulting the government for neglecting U.S. space capabilities. The commission warned that U.S. space assets are vulnerable and recommended that Washington develop additional space capabilities for deterrence and defense—possibly including space-based weapons.

The 13-member "Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization," headed by Donald Rumsfeld until he was nominated to serve as defense secretary on December 28, noted that the United States is "more dependent on space than any other nation." This dependence, the commission reported, makes the United States an "attractive candidate for a 'Space Pearl Harbor.'" As evidence, the commission cited, among other examples, a Chinese news article that Beijing is exploring strategies to defeat the U.S. military in a high-tech and space-based war.

Because of U.S. dependence on space, the commission said Washington must remain engaged in shaping the rules and regulations for space use, cautioning that the United States should be leery of any agreement that could, even if unintentionally, restrict U.S. space activities. While the commission acknowledged the "sensitivity" surrounding weapons in space, it declared that ignoring the issue would be a "disservice." The commission further believed that conflict in space is a "virtual certainty" and that the United States should "vigorously pursue" capabilities to guarantee the option of deploying space weapons if necessary. China, Russia, and other countries are currently pressing for negotiations on preventing an arms race in outer space at the UN Conference on Disarmament, an effort Washington is opposing.

In addition, the report said the United States should review "existing arms control obligations in light of a growing need to extend deterrent capabilities to space." The 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty proscribes the development, testing, and deployment of space-based systems or components for defending against strategic ballistic missile attacks.

The commission, comprised of several retired U.S. military officers who previously held space-related commands, spent six months assessing U.S. space activities. Much of the commission's report focused on critiquing U.S. government management of its space activities, concluding that current responsibility for space issues is spread too broadly, leading to insufficient attention, direction, and funding of U.S. space programs. As a remedy, the commission called on the president to make space a national priority and for the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence community, as first steps, to better organize their space commands to improve "responsibility and accountability."

Clinton Administration Approves 'HEU Deal' Contract With Russia

Philipp C. Bleek

In its final week in the White House, the Clinton administration approved an amended contract to implement the U.S.-Russian Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Purchase Agreement. If approved by the Bush administration and the Russian government, the as-yet-unsigned deal would allow for the continued implementation of the agreement when its current contract expires at the end of the year.

Under the 1993 deal, the United States pledged to purchase, over a 20-year period, 500 metric tons of Russian weapons-origin uranium blended down to low-enriched uranium for use in commercial power reactors. Since 1995, Russia has converted and shipped to the United States 111 metric tons of bomb-grade uranium—enough to make 5,000 nuclear weapons. The so-called HEU deal is implemented in Russia by the government-run Techsnabexport (Tenex) and in the United States by the privately owned United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC).

With the expiration of the current implementation contract approaching, USEC and Tenex began negotiating an amended contract in the spring of 1999. Faced with a declining market price for enriched uranium, USEC sought to tie the HEU deal to market prices and pay a discounted price for the blended-down uranium so that it would be able to make a profit. In exchange, USEC agreed to purchase from Russia a limited quantity of commercially produced low-enriched uranium—in addition to the material blended down from weapons-grade uranium—in order to provide the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy with an additional revenue stream it sought.

Both USEC and Tenex were prepared to sign the agreement last May, but the U.S. Enrichment Oversight Committee (EOC) declined approval. Established by executive order in 1998, the interagency EOC has oversight responsibility for USEC and the HEU deal. According to former Undersecretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, who served as the Energy Department's representative to the committee, the EOC had become concerned that, because USEC had recently decided to close the Portsmouth enrichment facility, one of its two domestic enrichment plants, the HEU deal could leave the United States vulnerable to disruption of its uranium supply. Currently, Russia supplies about half of U.S. low-enriched uranium needs, which include both domestic nuclear power reactors and statutory commitments to supply fuel to other countries.

Political concerns, most notably fears about layoffs raised by unions representing workers at the Portsmouth facility, also appear to have played a role in the election-year decision not to approve the amended contract in May.

Following its refusal to endorse the contract, the EOC worked to craft an acceptable compromise that would permit continued implementation of the HEU deal, which, at its conclusion, will have removed from Russia enough material to make some 25,000 weapons, reducing a major proliferation risk. According to Moniz, the committee tried to find a solution that "preserved the existing non-proliferation program in full bloom" while meeting domestic energy security needs.

In the end, the EOC was able to address its concerns and approve the amended contract, as originally written, by clarifying with USEC that the purchase of commercially produced low-enriched uranium was a "one-time" offer, by deciding to keep the Portsmouth enrichment plant in a standby mode for five years, by assuring there would be no layoffs at USEC's other enrichment plant, and by restarting research and development on a less expensive domestic enrichment capability.


Congress Raises Concerns

In a January 30 letter to White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, a bipartisan group of House Energy and Commerce Committee members raised concern about the long-term implications of the amended contract. In the letter, Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin, ranking member John Dingell, and six other congressmen expressed concern that the amendment "dilutes the important non-proliferation objectives of the HEU Agreement" and may negatively impact the "struggling domestic uranium industry."

The congressmen appear to be concerned that the purchase of commercially enriched uranium, rather than additional weapons-origin material, is contrary to the intent of the original agreement and that the Russian commercial uranium would displace equivalent domestic production. The legislators also claimed that the Clinton administration had ignored a recommendation to assess the national security and domestic impact of the amended contract, contained in a December 2000 General Accounting Office report commissioned by the committee. Rice responded to Tauzin in a February 7 letter, stating that the administration would review "recent decisions related to this agreement."

Before USEC and Tenex can sign the contract, the Bush administration and the Russian government must approve it. USEC Vice President for Corporate Communications Charles Yulish stated in a February 22 interview that Tenex was prepared to sign the amended contract last May and that USEC "still" considers the prospects for Russian government approval "very good." If approved, the new contract will run through the end of the HEU deal in 2013.

S. Korea, U.S. Agree on Missile Guidelines, MTCR Membership

Alex Wagner

After five years of consultations with the United States, South Korea announced on January 17 that it would develop new guidelines extending the permitted range of its missiles to 300 kilometers, increasing its military capabilities while still allowing it to apply for membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The same day, the United States declared it would support Seoul's immediate membership in the MTCR.

The MTCR is a voluntary regime of 32 states that seeks to limit missile proliferation by restricting its members' exports of missiles—and missile technology—capable of delivering a 500-kilogram payload 300 kilometers or more. While this threshold typically applies only to MTCR members' missile-related exports, since 1993 the United States has required all new MTCR members—except nuclear-weapon states—to forgo possession of all missiles exceeding the regime's export threshold. Since all MTCR decisions, including membership, must be approved by consensus, new MTCR members must meet the U.S. requirement in order to join the regime.

The new guidelines will allow South Korea to build missiles capable of reaching most targets in North Korea, including Pyongyang. The guidelines also allow Seoul to build missiles with ranges exceeding 300 kilometers for research purposes and to develop rocket boosters of unlimited range for civilian purposes. Once it becomes a member of the MTCR, South Korea will be able to obtain civilian rocket technology from other regime members.

South Korea restricted its missile range to 180 kilometers in a 1979 agreement with the United States, in which Washington offered technology to support Seoul's prescribed missile systems. Wary of advances in North Korean missile capabilities, Seoul notified the United States in 1995 that it wished to adjust these restrictions, and bilateral negotiations ensued.

Amid the ongoing negotiations, in the fall of 1999, press reports claimed that South Korea was developing missiles that violated the 1979 arrangement—charges that South Korean and U.S. officials strongly denied at the time.

In October 2000, South Korean media reports indicated that a deal was imminent, but the South Korean embassy in Washington said that the parties were still working out "the modalities of the announcement." It appears likely that the parties postponed announcing a deal until after then-President Bill Clinton decided not to visit North Korea to work out a separate missile deal, since U.S. endorsement of longer-range South Korean missiles could have disrupted those negotiations.

While the new deal still has the potential to exacerbate thawing U.S. and South Korean relations with Pyongyang, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher described the new guidelines as striking "the right balance" between strengthening South Korean security and "respecting regional stability and global non-proliferation principles." Washington plans to support South Korea's MTCR membership at the group's March intersessional meeting in Paris.

Independent Panel Urges Increased Threat Reduction Efforts in Russia

Philipp C. Bleek

An independent panel commissioned by the Energy Department has called for a massive expansion of U.S. threat reduction efforts in Russia, identifying the proliferation danger posed by that country's poorly secured weapons of mass destruction and fissile material as "the most urgent unmet national security threat to the United States." The group urged the new administration to implement a series of targeted recommendations to remedy what it termed "inadequate" current efforts.

On January 10, the bipartisan "Russia Task Force," co-chaired by former Republican Senator Howard Baker and former Democratic White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler, delivered its "Report Card on the Department of Energy's Nonproliferation Programs with Russia."

In its report, the task force praises ongoing Department of Energy (DOE) threat reduction efforts, including the Material Protection, Control, and Accounting program, which upgrades security and accounting at a broad range of vulnerable Russian facilities, and the Nuclear Cities Initiative, an attempt to help Russia reduce the size of its nuclear weapons complex and redirect former weapons scientists to non-military activities.

But while emphasizing that current DOE programs have achieved "impressive results," the task force notes that management has been "too diffuse" and budget levels are "inadequate." The report warns that these shortfalls leave an "unacceptable risk of failure" and the potential for "catastrophic consequences," such as the leakage of weapons, weapons-usable fissile material, or weapons expertise to "terrorists or national regimes inimical to the U.S."

The panel recommends that President George W. Bush immediately draft a strategic plan to enhance threat reduction activities in Russia. The task force argues that a plan incorporating "clearly defined goals," "measured use of resources," and "appropriate exit strategies" would considerably improve the government's response to the threat. The panel suggests that the plan be formulated in collaboration with Congress and the Russian government.

Threat reduction activities in the former Soviet Union are managed by the departments of State, Defense, and Energy, and they are coordinated by the departments and by the National Security Council. But in recent years, programs have received only sporadic attention from senior White House officials. Suggesting that threat reduction efforts would benefit from sustained oversight, the panel recommends the establishment of a high-level position in the White House with responsibility for policy and budget coordination for all threat reduction and non-proliferation efforts.

The report also states that current funding for "controlling and securing nuclear weapons material in Russia," efforts conducted mainly through Energy Department programs, is insufficient to "meet the challenge." The panel recommends that funding be increased from the current level of about $300 million to $3 billion per year, which the panel notes is less than 1 percent of the U.S. defense budget. The panel indicates that Russia would be expected to contribute financially and that further funding could be sought from "major powers" such as the European Union and Japan, which to date have provided little assistance to threat reduction efforts.

According to the panel, the increased resources would allow "all nuclear weapons-usable material" to be "secured and/or neutralized" within eight to 10 years, after which Russia could assume any "remaining work." U.S. threat reduction efforts, which were conceived in 1991, were intended to be wrapped up within about a decade, but the programs were extended by the Clinton administration in 1999.

During the presidential campaign, Bush praised ongoing efforts and pledged to ask Congress to "increase substantially" U.S. assistance under the Pentagon's Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program. (See ACT, September 2000.) And in a January 12 interview with The New York Times, Bush said cooperating with Russia on proliferation is a "top priority" for his administration.

During Senate confirmation hearings, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham said that DOE threat reduction activities were a "high priority" and stated that he planned to meet with panel co-chairs Baker and Cutler to discuss their report, while Secretary of State Colin Powell said that he agreed with the report's conclusions "entirely."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appears less enthusiastic about threat reduction programs, however. Responding to written questions posed by the Senate Armed Services Committee, Rumsfeld noted that, while Russia "claims to lack the financial resources to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, [it] continues to invest scarce resources in the development of newer, more sophisticated ICBMs and other weapons." The defense secretary called for "a review of ongoing CTR projects and their respective national security benefits."

NMD Gaining Ground in Europe; Russia Pushes Alternative

Wade Boese

European opposition to U.S. national missile defense (NMD) plans appears to have been somewhat blunted by the Bush administration's repeated pronouncements that it will deploy an NMD system and will fully consult U.S. allies, Russia, and China along the way. Moscow and Beijing, however, remain adamantly opposed to the system.

In an interview in the February 6 International Herald Tribune, NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said that the question of "whether [a defense is] going to happen has been settled" and that it is time for intra-alliance discussions on how and when. Robertson's predecessor, Javier Solana, who is currently the secretary-general of the Council of the European Union, told reporters in Washington on February 5 it was in Europe's interest for Washington and Moscow to work out the issue together. But he also said that the United States has the right to deploy a defense and that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which proscribes national defenses against strategic ballistic missiles, is not "the Bible."

Nevertheless, considerable wariness about U.S. NMD plans persists. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer warned February 3 that a missile defense would have "far-reaching" international consequences and that it could have a "political impact long before it is implemented." He further cautioned that an increase in proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or a new arms race in Asia, where China fears the U.S. defense is geared toward it, would "create less rather than more security worldwide." French President Jacques Chirac declared January 29 that he feared a missile defense could spark a renewed arms race. Britain maintains that it is not opposed to Washington's NMD plans, but that it is reserving comment until there is an actual proposal from the Bush administration.

The Clinton administration engendered ill will by not officially briefing NATO on U.S. missile defense plans until December 1999—two months after the system's first intercept test. Apparently determined to avoid the same mistake, the Bush administration, at almost every opportunity, has stressed it will consult early and often with U.S. allies about its evolving missile defense plans, while underscoring that the final decision is Washington's. Speaking on February 9, Secretary of State Colin Powell invited allies to share their views but said that the United States is "not going to get knocked off the track" of deploying a defense if the technology exists.

Unlike the Clinton system, designed solely to protect U.S. territory, Bush declared during the campaign and since taking office that his system will protect not only the United States and its deployed forces but also U.S. allies. Echoing his boss, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told an international conference of high-level defense officials on February 3 that the United States was "prepared to assist friends and allies threatened by missile attack to deploy [missile] defenses."

Bush, Powell, and Rumsfeld have all expressed faith that they will be able to convince the NATO allies and others to accept a U.S. defense. When asked on February 23 whether Washington would be prepared to deploy a missile defense alone, Bush responded, "I don't think I'm going to fail to persuade people."

Visiting Moscow in mid-February, press reports quoted Fischer as saying that, despite Moscow's continued tough stance against a U.S. NMD, Russia would eventually accept the system. In Washington a week later, Fisher, according to a German official, clarified that he had found an increased readiness in Russia to discuss missile defense and that he believed it possible for Washington and Moscow to work out a solution on the issue in a cooperative climate.

Russia Responds

Since Bush assumed office, Russian officials at the highest levels, including President Vladimir Putin, have repeatedly said that Russia looks forward to "dialogue" with the new administration, while maintaining that they oppose U.S. deployment of an NMD. As an alternative to NMD, Russia has resurrected its proposal for joint cooperation on theater missile defense (TMD).

On February 20, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev presented NATO Secretary-General Robertson with a confidential proposal for a European missile defense. The newly proposed defense, according to comments by both Russian and NATO officials, would be against non-strategic ballistic missiles, keeping the system within and, therefore, preserving the ABM Treaty. The New York Times reported the proposal numbered nine pages and outlined a general, mobile land-based system.

Russia floated proposals last June that, instead of unilateral deployment of a U.S. missile defense, Russia, Europe, and the United States could work together on a TMD or boost-phase system to protect Europe if real threats existed. For the remainder of the Clinton presidency, Moscow never offered a detailed plan of what such systems would look like.

Briefing reporters February 22, a NATO official described the recent proposal as "very broad brush," and Powell, speaking on February 23, commented that "there isn't a lot there yet that we can get our teeth into." Despite the lack of details, Washington welcomed Russia's action, saying it would study the proposal. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral Craig Quigley noted the system would do nothing to protect the United States and was therefore "lacking in that regard." But he described the United States as "heartened" by the proposal because it indicated that Moscow has recognized the existence of a threat.

But Sergeyev and Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, who heads the Russian Defense Ministry's office on international cooperation, continue to speak of the need for evaluating the threat. Ivashov, quoted at length by the Russian news agency Interfax on February 20, said the proposal consisted of three stages: first, determining "whether there is any threat;" second, forming a plan on how best to deal with the threat; and, finally, "if the need for it arises," building the system.

While pledging consultations with Moscow and Beijing, top Bush officials—more than the Clinton administration—have pointed the finger at Russia and China, the two staunchest opponents of missile defense, as bearing some responsibility for the U.S. pursuit of a missile shield. Interviewed on CBS on February 11, Powell said that one way to eliminate the threat would be if "nations that would be friends of ours" not sell dangerous technologies to countries unfriendly to the United States. Three days later on PBS, Rumsfeld called Russia an "active proliferator" and "part of the problem." Moscow forcefully responded that it abides by all of its international commitments.

D.P.R.K. Threatens to End Missile Moratorium, Nuclear Cooperation

Alex Wagner

Pyongyang threatened on February 22 to abandon its missile testing moratorium and its participation in the Agreed Framework if the Bush administration followed a "different" North Korea policy from that of the Clinton administration. North Korea also criticized the Bush team for what it termed an "aggressive and brigandish" approach to future relations that would obstruct movement in the "direction of reconciliation, cooperation and improved ties."

The remarks were made in a Foreign Ministry statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency, the official government press organ. The statement claimed that the Bush administration "is not posed to seriously study" progress made by the Clinton administration toward ending Pyongyang's indigenous missile program and missile exports.

The statement reaffirmed that, while North Korea would not test long-range missiles during negotiations, a pledge originally made in September 1999, if dialogue were discontinued, the moratorium could not be maintained "indefinitely." Pyongyang also accused Washington of "not sincerely" implementing the Agreed Framework and emphasized that, should Washington continue to delay implementation, there would be "no need" to be "bound to it any longer."

The framework, signed in 1994, froze North Korea's nuclear program in exchange for two light-water commercial nuclear power reactors and for heavy fuel oil shipments during the reactors' construction. Since the framework's signing, the reactors' construction has suffered from setbacks, prompting North Korean protests.

The statement also denounced past U.S. characterizations of North Korea as a "rogue state" and U.S. national missile defense efforts.

At a February 22 press conference, White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice characterized Pyongyang's threat to resume missile tests as "counterproductive." Rice told reporters, "It's not helpful for the North Koreans to threaten to have missile tests in order to get [the United States] to do something to give up missile defense." Rice also said that the new administration is still reviewing its North Korea policy, which it is closely coordinating with South Korea and Japan.

However, earlier that same day, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher expressed the administration's willingness to continue the progress made to date on security issues, saying, "We will continue to use that as we form an overall policy." Boucher added that the United States expects Pyongyang to respect its pledge on ballistic missile testing and that the Bush administration would honor its commitments under the Agreed Framework "as long as North Korea does the same."

North Korea appears to have issued its statement in response to what it perceives as a more "hardline stance" by the new Bush administration. At his January 17 confirmation hearing, Secretary of State Colin Powell indicated that he plans to move carefully when engaging North Korea on missile issues. Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "The Bush administration will come in and work with North Korea and with our allies in the region…in a very, very cautious way."

While Powell stated that the United States should "encourage" the opening up of North Korea, he stressed that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il should be viewed with "clear-eyed realism." Powell emphasized that, even if Pyongyang agreed to end its indigenous missile program and missile exports, "we'd still be left with a situation of a dictatorial regime that has a very large army poised on the border between North and South Korea."

Powell also said that the new administration would only continue to engage North Korea through reciprocity and that it would measure progress by Pyongyang meeting tangible benchmarks. Any North Korea policy would have to be implemented "in a very, very realistic way" that does not "give them anything unless we get something in return, something that is really valuable to us, something that moves them in an entirely different direction."

Richard Armitage, a key foreign policy adviser to the Bush campaign who has advocated taking a tougher negotiating posture with Pyongyang, has been nominated to become Powell's deputy. In a 1999 paper for the National Defense University, Armitage called for regaining the "diplomatic initiative" with North Korea and moving toward "full normalization of relations" if Pyongyang satisfies U.S. concerns. However, should diplomacy fail, Armitage suggested that the United States would be faced with either living with and deterring a "nuclear North Korea armed with delivery systems" or "preemption, with the attendant uncertainties."

Work on Clinton Missile Defense System Scheduled to Continue

Wade Boese

While the new Bush administration mulls its missile defense options, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has approved continued work on the Clinton administration's limited national missile defense (NMD) system. The Pentagon is tentatively planning to conduct two NMD flight tests within the next four months. Rumsfeld has made no statement on the Clinton system, but Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral Craig Quigley said February 6 that Rumsfeld's guidance to the director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) was to "press on." BMDO is charged with overseeing U.S. missile defense programs.

Last September, then-President Bill Clinton decided not to begin deployment of his proposed missile defense, deferring the decision to his successor. Clinton, who cited doubts about the technology and spoke at length about international opposition and concerns, did ask the Pentagon to continue researching and testing the system, which, if approved, would be initially comprised of 20 ground-based missile interceptors deployed in Alaska. Eventually, this first-phase deployment would total 100 missile interceptors.

BMDO is gearing up for the first flight test of the booster that is being developed to carry the NMD system's exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV) into space. Once it separates from the booster, the EKV is designed to seek out and collide with an incoming warhead. All NMD flight tests thus far have used a surrogate booster.

Previously scheduled for early last year, the booster test, which will not include an intercept attempt, has been delayed by several issues related to integrating all of the booster elements. For example, a new "vibration dampening system" is being added to reduce the physical stresses that will be put on the EKV by the new booster's acceleration, which is greater than that of the surrogate booster. In a November 1999 report, an independent review panel questioned whether the EKV would be able to withstand the more severe vibrations and accelerations of the system's actual booster.

The system's next intercept attempt, which will still use a surrogate booster, could occur this coming May or June, according to BMDO. Of the three intercept attempts to date, the system has had one successful hit, which a top Pentagon program reviewer last year attributed, in part, to a large decoy balloon near the target that helped the EKV locate the mock warhead.

Despite the system's mixed test results and program delays, Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), a leading ballistic missile defense proponent, prodded President George W. Bush on February 14 to "move forward as fast as we can with the technology we have today." To demonstrate U.S. determination, Cochran said construction should begin on the system's X-band radar, which would track and discriminate incoming warheads.

The X-band radar is to be built on Shemya, a remote Aleutian island that is largely inaccessible for most of the year and has a short construction period due to severe weather conditions. Because of these conditions, building the radar will take more time than assembling the rest of the system's components, which is why Clinton had to decide last fall whether to authorize the beginning of construction in order to meet a 2005 deployment date. Clinton's deferral pushed the earliest possible deployment date back to 2006.

Even if Bush opts quickly to deploy the Clinton defense, which he described as inadequate during the campaign, starting actual construction this year would be "highly, highly unlikely," according to a BMDO spokesperson. The same official said that "maybe some site preparation" could be done for the X-band radar. To enable construction of the proposed Clinton defense to get fully underway next year, Bush would need to approve work before this December.


Subscribe to RSS - Press Releases