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

– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty

Bush Announces U.S. Intent to Withdraw From ABM Treaty

Wade Boese

Claiming that the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty prevents the United States from protecting itself against terrorist and rogue-state missile attacks, President George W. Bush announced December 13 that the United States would withdraw from the treaty in six months. Russian President Vladimir Putin, the leader of the only other state-party to the treaty, seemed resigned to the action, calling it “mistaken” but also declaring it did not threaten Russia or imperil future U.S.-Russian relations.

Flanked by his top security advisers at the White House Rose Garden, Bush repeated his administration’s nearly year-long contention that the ABM Treaty, which prohibits Washington and Moscow from building nationwide defenses against strategic ballistic missiles, is outdated because today’s threats differ drastically from when the two superpowers signed the accord in 1972. At that time, the United States and the Soviet Union posed the greatest threat to each other‘s security, but Bush argued that is no longer the case, saying terrorism and rogue states now pose the most danger.

Although agreeing in 1972 that the ABM Treaty should be of “unlimited duration,” Moscow and Washington included a provision for either party to withdraw if “extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests.” In such a case, the treaty requires six months’ notice of that state-party’s intention to withdraw, including a statement of the “extraordinary events.”

The United States sent the required note to Russia, as well as to Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, the day of Bush’s announcement. The note declared that some countries and nonstate entities “are actively seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction” and long-range ballistic missiles and that “it is clear, and has recently been demonstrated, that some of these entities are prepared to employ these weapons against the United States.” (See full text of the note.)

To protect against an attack “without warning,” Bush declared in his statement that the United States needed the “freedom and flexibility” to build missile defenses. “I cannot and will not allow the United States to remain in a treaty that prevents us from developing effective defenses,” the president said. Unless Bush reverses his decision, the treaty will no longer be binding on the United States on June 13.

Bush, who reportedly called Putin on December 7 to inform him of an imminent withdrawal announcement, asserted that the U.S. decision to pull out of the treaty should not impair forging closer ties with Russia. In addition to citing continuing cooperation in the war on terrorism and a November 13 U.S. pledge to reduce its deployed strategic nuclear stockpile to no more than 2,200 warheads, Bush said that he and Putin agreed U.S. withdrawal would not “in any way undermine our new relationship or Russian security.”

Speaking the day of the announcement, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld suggested that, with the treaty essentially out of the way, development of a new U.S.-Russian relationship is more likely because the announcement removed “a sticking point that’s just been sitting there for this period of time.” Rumsfeld has been the administration’s most outspoken opponent of the treaty.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is thought to have been the least supportive among top Bush officials of a unilateral U.S. treaty withdrawal, dismissed fears of possible arms races with either Russia or China. On December 13, he explained that U.S. defenses are not directed at Moscow or Beijing but at “irresponsible” rogue states. He also said that the United States and Russia would hold negotiations to put the new strategic framework, including the proposed strategic reductions, into “some legal form.”

Reactions From Abroad and Home

Putin assured the Russian public in a national television address the day of Bush’s announcement that the U.S. withdrawal would not threaten Russia because it has “long possessed an effective system to overcome anti-missile defense[s].” The Russian president, who also questioned in a Financial Times interview the same day whether it is even possible for the United States to deploy a system successfully, said he disagreed with the U.S. action and had rebuffed “insistent [U.S.] proposals” for the two countries to withdraw from the treaty jointly.

In the interview, Putin said Russia had been ready to modify the treaty but that the United States limited discussions to ways “to jointly leave this treaty.” Although Rumsfeld said that the United States made a “number of proposals,” he admitted December 13 that “the better part of the year” had been spent trying to find a “mutual basis on which we could withdraw together.”

Earlier in 2001, Putin and other top Russian officials warned that a unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty could lead to the demise of more than 30 other security and disarmament agreements, but Russia has not yet made withdrawal announcements from any other treaties.

Putin, however, implied in his Financial Times interview that Russia would consider START II, which has not yet entered into force and calls for a ban on land-based missiles with multiple warheads, as effectively dead when the U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty is completed. He also said Russia “will acquire [the] right” to “multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles” when the ABM Treaty and “all the associated restrictions have been abolished.” But Putin said that Russia might not take advantage of that right.

Putin further described the U.S. rationale for withdrawing from the treaty as “unconvincing.” Neither terrorists nor rogue states “have or are likely to ever have” strategic ballistic missiles, Putin told The Financial Times.

The Russian president also said the U.S. move would not by itself torpedo Russian relations with the United States or the West in general, highlighting the importance of building a better NATO-Russian relationship. Less than a week before, on December 7, the 19-member alliance and Russia committed themselves to create a new council at NATO that would permit the two sides to “identify and pursue opportunities for joint action at 20.” Negotiations on setting up the new council will take place over the coming months.

Kremlin officials said they are concerned that the U.S. treaty withdrawal will set a precedent for other countries. Appearing with Rumsfeld in Brussels on December 17, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov questioned whether other countries would abide by any international agreement, “thinking, logically, that if one country does not abide, why should we?”

Second only to Russia in publicly voicing objections to U.S. missile defenses over the past years, China said little after the Bush announcement. Powell spoke with the Chinese ambassador to the United States the day before Bush’s announcement to explain the president’s action, and Washington has been giving Chinese officials in Beijing briefings about U.S. missile defense plans to calm their concerns that the defense is directed against China.

In response to the withdrawal, a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson merely commented that China’s position on missile defenses “has always been consistent and clear” and that Beijing hopes Washington “will seriously consider the opinions of the majority of nations on the ABM Treaty.” The Chinese spokesperson appeared to be making reference to a resolution supporting preservation of the ABM Treaty, which the UN General Assembly passed November 29 by a vote of 82 to 5 with 62 abstentions.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed “regret” about the U.S. decision, worrying it could provoke an arms race and undercut other arms control efforts. He called upon all countries to explore “binding and irreversible initiatives” to forestall the possibility of new arms races.

Like Annan, France counseled for “binding international rules and instruments” to help guarantee strategic stability, but did not condemn the U.S. act. Other U.S. allies also said almost nothing critical publicly.

Briefing reporters December 18 after a meeting of NATO’s 19 defense ministers, a senior Pentagon official said no concern or opposition was voiced about the announced U.S. withdrawal. But one European diplomatic source in Washington said the low-key allied reaction reflected “resignation in the face of facts created by the [United States] rather than support on substance.”

Some of the strongest criticism of Bush’s announcement came from two senior Senate Democrats, who argued that the treaty did not constrain any necessary missile defense testing at this time and that pressing ahead with missile defense plans could spur future arms races, particularly in Asia. Both Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Joseph Biden (D-DE) argued in December 13 statements that pursuing missile defenses could come at the expense of addressing more likely threats and pointed out that the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe a long-range missile attack against the United States is the “least likely” threat to U.S. security.

A day before, when certainty existed that the president was going to make his announcement shortly, Biden told reporters he did not feel that the threats the Bush administration often cited met the criterion, outlined in the treaty, that a state-party’s supreme interests must be jeopardized to justify a withdrawal. Biden admitted that it would be a “nice legal argument” to debate but said that he was not sure it would have “any practical political consequence of being able to stop the president.”


Posted: January 1, 2002

Arms Control Association Calls Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty Withdrawal 'Neither Necessary Nor Prudent'

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For Immediate Release: December 13, 2001

Contacts: Daryl Kimball, 202-463-8270 x 107
or Wade Boese, 202-463-8270 x 104

(Washington, D.C.) Today, President George W. Bush formally notified Russia of the United States' intention to unilaterally withdraw from the landmark Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in six months. According to the independent Arms Control Association, the decision could negatively affect long-term U.S. relations with its allies, China, and Russia, and undermine efforts to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

"Abrogating the ABM Treaty, coupled with abandoning the strategic nuclear arms reduction process, will undercut four key elements of the strategic relationship with Russia: structure: predictability, stability, and transparency," warned Jack Mendelsohn, who served as a member of the U.S. delegations to the SALT II and START I negotiations and is currently on the Board of Directors of the Arms Control Association.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has reiterated his opposition to scrapping the 1972 ABM Treaty, which Putin has said Russia would be willing to amend to accommodate a more robust U.S. strategic missile defense testing program. In September 2000, candidate George W. Bush promised to "offer Russia the necessary amendments to the ABM Treaty so as to make our deployment of effective missile defenses consistent with the treaty." However, since taking office, Bush officials have not proposed amendments to the treaty, offering only joint withdrawal.

"In recent weeks, President Bush has also turned down the opportunity to lock-in reductions of Cold War-era U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons through a new agreement with Moscow, preferring unilateral, voluntary reductions over ten years," added Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

"U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty will likely inhibit Russia's willingness to implement deeper reductions of Cold War nuclear stockpiles and encourage China to accelerate its strategic nuclear weapons modernization program from two-dozen to over two-hundred nuclear-armed, long-range missiles," cautioned Kimball.

Bush and his advisors insist that the ABM Treaty must be discarded because it stands in the way of a robust national missile defense testing program and eventual deployment. To help make their case, the Pentagon formulated a new series of missile defense program activities, including construction of a "test bed" in Alaska in mid-2002, specifically designed to "bump up against" the ABM Treaty.

"In reality, deployment of a reliable national missile defense is decades away. President Bush is betting future U.S. security on an unproven technology that requires many more years of treaty-compliant developmental testing before operational testing can begin. President Bush has the opportunity to secure Russian agreement to modifications of the ABM Treaty to permit a wider range of national missile defense testing, but he has apparently spurned that opportunity," Kimball said.

"The Bush administration is single-mindedly focused on dismantling and discarding proven arms control agreements at the expense of cooperative international efforts to prevent the acquisition, development, and potential use of weapons of mass destruction," said Kimball. In recent weeks, Bush officials have also blocked progress on an international agreement to enforce the Biological Weapons Convention and boycotted international consultations on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

"Unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the ABM treaty also sets a dangerous precedent that could undercut other countries' participation in and adherence to other arms control regimes," warned Kimball.

"Eliminating proven arms control and nuclear risk reduction tools is a foolish approach, particularly when the United States seeks international support in the struggle to stem the spread of weapons of mass destruction and the threat of their use," Mendelsohn said.

"National missile defenses will do nothing to guard against more likely means of future terrorist attack, such as trucks, planes, or even suitcases, involving weapons of mass destruction," Kimball noted.

For expert analysis and background information see the ACA Web site at http://www.armscontrol.org.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, non-profit membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies.

Posted: December 13, 2001

ABM Treaty Withdrawal Neither Necessary nor Prudent

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ACA Press Conference
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An ACA Press Conference

On December 13, as President George W. Bush announced that the United States would pull out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, the Arms Control Association held a press conference to discuss the ramifications of the U.S. withdrawal.

The speakers were Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association; Joseph Cirincione, senior associate and director of the Non-Proliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Lisbeth Gronlund, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists; and John Rhinelander, a legal adviser to the ABM Treaty and SALT I delegation.

The following is an edited transcript of their remarks and the question-and-answer session that followed.

Daryl G. Kimball

Today, President George W. Bush is expected to formally notify Russia that the United States intends to unilaterally withdraw from the landmark Anti-Ballistic Missile [ABM] Treaty in six months. He is basing the withdrawal on his claim that the treaty blocks necessary testing of strategic anti-missile technologies and the eventual development of land-, sea-, and space-based strategic missile defenses.

From my perspective, this decision is unnecessary, unwarranted, and unwise. It will negatively affect long-term U.S.-Chinese relations, U.S.-Russian relations, and U.S. relations with its allies, as well as undermine efforts to curb the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons—work that has become more urgent since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

We will hear from three expert speakers who have long been involved in missile defense and ABM Treaty issues, and then we will entertain questions. But first I will make a few remarks to put this matter in a proper context, because we’re dealing with more than one treaty here, which is no small matter.

Bush’s intention to withdraw from the ABM Treaty is not all that surprising. After all, the president is on record supporting national missile defense [NMD] deployment. Withdrawal from the treaty is but the latest in a series of moves that reflect the Bush administration’s policy of unilateralist nonengagement with U.S. allies, partners, and erstwhile adversaries. And it marks the resumption of the Bush administration’s strategy—which it was pursuing before September 11—of dismantling and discarding proven arms control strategies and international efforts to prevent the acquisition, development, and potential use of weapon of mass destruction. In fact, in recent weeks the administration blocked progress on an international agreement to enforce the Biological Weapons Convention and boycotted international consultations on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Although not surprising, President Bush’s withdrawal notification is the administration’s most blatant and radical departure to date from three decades of U.S. support for multilateral and bilateral arms control and nonproliferation measures. Arms control and nonproliferation were valuable during the Cold War. And they will continue to be valuable in the post-Cold War, post-September 11 environment by providing confidence, transparency, and predictability, especially between the United States and Russia.

Bush argues that the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty is a Cold War relic that preserves mutual assured destruction policies. But so long as thousands of deployed and nondeployed strategic and tactical nuclear weapons remain, it will be necessary to have clear limits on strategic offenses and defenses to help establish lasting confidence and stability between the United States and Russia—two states with a long history of adversarial relations.

Another important point is that Bush’s withdrawal decision may set a very dangerous precedent for other countries’ adherence to and willingness to participate in multilateral arms control regimes. What message does this send when the world’s pre-eminent military, economic, and cultural power believes that it must be unconstrained by international rules of conduct to protect its security? This could tempt other states to pursue destabilizing weapon systems or to refuse to agree to limits on other military capabilities that they might wish to pursue. The Arms Control Association strongly urges Russia, which has warned that it would pull out of various arms control agreements related to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, not to respond in kind to President Bush’s announcement by withdrawing from START I, the implementation for which was just recently completed.

As Joe Cirincione will detail further, President Bush’s apparent decision to abandon the ABM Treaty will likely weaken U.S. efforts to win support for the paramount goal of stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, particularly from Russia and China. When coupled with the president’s dismissal of formal strategic arms reductions with Russia, U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty will likely inhibit Moscow’s willingness to implement deep, verifiable reductions in its nuclear stockpile. It will also likely complicate the already difficult task of securing and safeguarding Russian nuclear weapons and materials. So, Bush’s overall approach is also dangerous, especially in the aftermath of September 11 and news of al Qaeda’s quest for weapons of mass destruction. Bush’s decision may also encourage China to accelerate its nuclear weapons modernization program and increase its relatively small strategic force, and it could set off a dangerous arms race involving China, India, and Pakistan.

Lisbeth Gronlund will make the case that withdrawal from the ABM Treaty is, at least in the near future, an unnecessary move, given the immature state of the Pentagon’s national missile defense program. Bush and his advisers insist that the ABM Treaty must be discarded because it stands in the way of a robust testing program and eventual deployment. But as Lisbeth and her colleagues from the Union of Concerned Scientists have documented in a new report, these technologies will require many more years of treaty-compliant developmental testing before operational testing—some of which may not be permitted by the treaty—can even begin.

And as John Rhinelander will describe, President Bush has thus far bypassed opportunities to reach an understanding with Russia that would allow for a more robust national missile defense testing program while preserving the ABM Treaty’s basic framework. I should note that, as we all know, Russian President Vladimir Putin has reiterated his country’s opposition to scrapping the ABM Treaty, but President Bush has not come halfway with Putin in trying to reach an understanding on this issue. As a presidential candidate in September 2000, George Bush promised to “offer Russia the necessary amendments to the ABM Treaty so as to make our deployment of effective missile defenses consistent with the treaty.” However, since taking office Bush officials have refused to offer or even consider any such amendments.

Joseph Cirincione

I will play the role of Chicken Little and tell you what parts of the sky are going to fall and when. U.S. withdrawal from or abrogation of the ABM Treaty is not a helpful step at this point. It is bad news. You can tell how unpopular Bush’s decision will be around the world by its timing. It comes while a war is going on and we have lots of other things to talk about. It comes during a holiday season when people are distracted. You have to admire the administration’s skill in timing and executing this plan, however ugly the policy may be.

The consequences of U.S. withdrawal will be in four different areas: the U.S.-Russian strategic relationship, the U.S.-Chinese strategic relationship, U.S. relationships with its allies, and the overall nonproliferation regime.

First, I wouldn’t expect any nation to react immediately to this for three reasons. One, this is just an announcement of an action that is going to take place six months from now. So, we have a timeline of six months or more when it’s possible the president may reverse his decision. Two, the administration has signaled for some time its intention to do this. So, it has softened the ground. And three, most of the nations involved will want to see what happens next. It’s not just the withdrawal that matters; it is also important to find out what the United States intends to do afterward and whether it is possible to preserve some of the benefits of the treaty.

But if everything proceeds according to Bush’s plan, in six months the United States will become the first nation since World War II to withdraw from a major international security agreement. No country has done anything like this before. The closest example is North Korea’s announcement in 1993 that it was going to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. That provoked an international crisis, and we almost went to war. But fortunately, conflict was averted at the last moment when North Korea changed its mind. It’s possible the president will change his mind if the international reaction is as harsh as expected, but I believe that the administration seems intent on tearing down the international regime that its predecessors labored for many decades to construct.

What exactly will this mean for Russia? First, it undermines President Putin. There’s no question that this is a slap in his face. I don’t expect Putin to protest too loudly. He can’t admit defeat. He will express disappointment, concern, and Russian resolve. The real criticism will come from others, and we’re already seeing that in some of the papers—not just from the hardliners in the military and security establishment who have not been persuaded by Putin’s pro-Western tilt, but by members of Putin’s own alliance in the Duma.

For example, you may have seen quotes in The Washington Post today from Vladimir Lukin, a Duma leader, expressing concern that Russia went out of its way to cooperate with the United States in the war in Afghanistan and gave the United States everything it needed—logistical support and intelligence support—and as soon as the war appears to be over, this is how the United States repays Russia.

Take Lukin’s quote and multiply it several thousand times, and then you’ll have some idea of what the Russian reaction is going to be. They will feel betrayed and embittered. There will also be a feeling that President Putin has been played for a sucker, particularly over the way the United States orchestrated this with a period of phony negotiations. Washington had no intention of compromising with Russia, as The Washington Post reported today.

The irony is that Secretary of State Colin Powell, who maybe the only leading administration official who favored a compromise, turned out to be the bagman for the deal. He was sent over not to do negotiations but to deliver the news—here is how and when it’s going to happen. This will embitter the Russians.

What else does this mean for Russia? It means that Moscow is now likely to maintain a higher level of nuclear forces than it would have otherwise. That is, Russian nuclear forces are coming down. Nothing is going to stop that. Russia faces bloc obsolescence of its Soviet-era weapons, and it doesn’t have the money to replace old weapons at the rate that they are being retired. In fact, our projections indicate that, by the end of this decade, we expect the Russian force to be about 1,000 deployed strategic warheads.

But without the ABM Treaty and START II limitations that ban land-based MIRVed missiles, Russia could maintain a much larger force. Just by having MIRVs alone, it could maintain about 2,000 weapons. If U.S.-Russian relations deteriorate and Moscow devotes more resources to its strategic force, we calculate that, by the end of this decade, it could have as many as 4,000 deployed strategic warheads in its arsenal, rather than 1,000.

This matters for three reasons. First, no matter what some people may tell you, each side’s nuclear force is based primarily on calculations of the other side’s force. The reluctance of U.S. Strategic Command, for example, to go much below 2,500 deployed warheads is primarily based on a calculation of the number of warheads it needs to assure the destruction of the Russian arsenal. So, if Russia maintains more warheads, the United States will have to maintain more warheads.

Second, there are questions about the physical security of Russia’s nuclear forces. With a larger number of nuclear weapons, Moscow must maintain a larger production and maintenance complex, increasing the risk that its materials, weapons, and experts could leave for other countries or other groups.

Third, if the U.S.-Russian relationship deteriorates and we no longer have a safety net of treaties that is designed to regulate that relationship in bad times, it’s quite possible that Congress or the administration would seek to cut funds from threat reduction programs, which aid the destruction of Russia’s nuclear materials and safeguards those materials that exist. You can imagine the argument: “Why should we give Russia funding if they’re spending money to increase the number of nuclear weapons that they will aim at us?”

As for China, Beijing is perhaps most directly affected by Bush’s decision, even though it has played no part in the ABM Treaty negotiations. China must now calculate that the United States will deploy an anti-ballistic missile system that, by its very size and characteristics, is designed primarily for use against the Chinese nuclear force. Washington is designing an ABM force that can intercept 20 to 100 warheads. Since China is the only country that has 20 to 100 warheads, Beijing sees this system as an anti-Chinese system.

No Chinese leader can allow the Chinese nuclear force to be neutralized by the United States. China is already engaged in strategic modernization. No matter what the relationship with the United States is over the next 10 years, Beijing will have to consider the U.S. defensive system. This means that it will likely increase its pace of modernization, place multiple warheads on its missiles, and probably deploy countermeasures with those missiles. It may even sell countermeasures to other countries.

Regarding U.S. allies, I expect most of the allied reaction to range from disbelief to bitter disappointment. I don’t expect there to be many outright statements of condemnation or outrage. After all, there is a war going on. Our alliance partners are loyal. However, none of the allies see either the threat or the technology that the president imagines. They rely heavily on the international framework of treaties and arrangements that has kept the peace so successfully over the last 56 years, and they will see U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty as a threat to that framework.

Moreover, U.S. allies will be disappointed that the United States is not turning around and embracing multilateralism, as it appeared it would after September 11. Instead, the United States appears to be pursuing what I call “unilateral multilateralism.” That is, Washington wants international cooperation on its terms. You can see this policy in the way the United States dealt with its allies when it torpedoed the talks on the Biological Weapons Convention last week. You can see it in the way the United States has conducted the war. Allied support was requested, but very little cooperation was accepted to help conduct the war, much to the regret of the Germans, French, and others. This will mean that, in the future, U.S. allies will be a little more reluctant to offer their unconditioned cooperation with the United States. They will be more suspect of U.S. motives and less trusting of the United States’ vision.

Finally, for the nonproliferation regime, this is a body blow. It was bad enough that Washington rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, scuttled the verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention, rejected negotiations on small arms, and hasn’t signed the landmines treaty. It now appears that the United States is intent on tearing down the strategic arms treaties as well.

This sends the wrong message to other countries. If the world’s most powerful country feels that it can withdraw from an international agreement because it finds it inconvenient, why can’t other nations? For example, why can’t Iran decide that it needs weapons, not pieces of paper, to protect its security? Why can’t Iraq withdraw from a treaty that it no longer finds convenient?

International disenchantment with international nonproliferation regimes, when combined with Russian embitterment and China’s increased pace of strategic modernization, could lead to a new wave of proliferation—where countries withdraw from control regimes and seek their individual national interests instead of placing their faith in international cooperation.

Finally, as if this wasn’t bad enough, Bush’s decision undermines the domestic cooperation that has characterized life in Washington since September 11. After the terrorist attacks, Democratic congressional leaders suspended planned budgetary cuts to and restraints on the missile defense program. They took this action not because they agreed with missile defense after September 11 but because they sought to preserve national unity. However, the president apparently feels no such obligation. Withdrawal from the ABM Treaty will not go down well in Congress. I expect the debate on missile defense to pick up again in January with more vigor than ever. That’s my summary of the situation.

Lisbeth Gronlund

I want to talk a little bit about the rationale that the Bush administration has given for withdrawing from the treaty sooner rather than later. As previous speakers have noted, the administration has said it needs to withdraw from the ABM Treaty because the treaty prevents it from testing missile defense systems and finding out which technologies are suitable for deployment. In fact, the administration has indicated that there are several near-term activities that it wants to conduct that could run afoul of the treaty. However, the kinds of tests that the United States needs to conduct now are not restricted by the ABM Treaty, so the administration’s argument for withdrawal is specious.

The first of the administration’s near-term activities is a series of so-called tracking tests that would involve using a SPY radar on an Aegis ship to track an intercept test of the ground-based missile defense system that the Pentagon is developing, which would violate the treaty. The SPY radar is intended for use in two missile defense systems that are under development—but have not yet been deployed—to defend against short-range missiles. The administration has not been very clear about the purpose of using the SPY radar to track the launch of a long-range test missile and interceptor, but Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said this summer that these tests would enable the Pentagon to gather some basic data on the radar’s capability to track long-range missiles.

Well, this is something that the United States already has a lot of information on. The SPY radar is not new. The United States already has all kinds of tracking data for this radar. And the basic capability of a radar to track various kinds of objects is something that you can calculate using computer programs. In fact, the United States has presumably already done this because it has concluded in numerous fora that this radar is not suitable for tracking long-range missiles. The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization did a study in 1998 in which it looked at the utility of sea-based assets for national missile defense. In that study, it said that the Aegis SPY radar is not capable of supporting national missile defense-type engagements due to limited detection and tracking ranges for long-range ballistic missiles and their re-entry vehicles. A report last year by the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation echoed that sentiment.

The results of these studies are not surprising. If you look at the characteristics of the radar, it was designed to track large objects, such as airplanes that are fairly close. It doesn’t have the power to track smaller objects, such as re-entry vehicles, that are far away. So, the utility of testing these radars in this way is, at best, marginal, and I would argue is zero. As the Pentagon itself has indicated, it already understands the radar’s capabilities quite well.

The second rationale that the Pentagon has given for needing near-term relief from ABM Treaty limitations is that it is planning to add a new set of so-called testing facilities, in particular at Fort Greely, Alaska. These facilities would include five interceptor silos as well as some battle management nodes and an in-flight interceptor communication system. The Pentagon claims that this is part of a new “test bed” that will allow it to test the ground-based midcourse missile defense system more fully.

However, if you look closely at these plans, you will find that the United States can’t actually test-fire interceptors from Fort Greely because it’s an inland site and there are safety concerns. So, the Pentagon is building these five interceptor silos and planning to put five interceptors there, but it has acknowledged that it cannot actually test-fire the interceptors from this site. So the site will have no utility in the ongoing ground-based midcourse system flight-test program.

Well, the administration says, “Okay, that’s true, but there are other things we can do. There are other kinds of testing, other things that we can test if we build these silos. We can test whether the fuels in the missile interceptor will degrade in the cold Arctic environment.” Well, the Pentagon could test that without building five missile silos. And if it really has these concerns, the last thing it should be doing is building five missile silos if it doesn’t know whether the fuel is going to be able to withstand the temperatures at Fort Greely. So, if you look closely at the arguments that the Pentagon has given for why it needs to build these silos at Fort Greely, they fall apart.

Now, the Pentagon also says that it intends to have this missile defense site operational by 2004, in which case, it could serve as an “emergency defense.” So, in a sense, it is acknowledging that Fort Greely is a deployment site, not a testing site. And, of course, the ABM Treaty prohibits deployment in Alaska.

The Pentagon wants to start building these silos this summer. The six-month ABM Treaty withdrawal notice would allow it to begin construction and have construction finished by 2004, which is the next presidential election. So, in a sense, President Bush wants to put silos somewhere so that he can say that the United States has deployed a very rudimentary missile defense system. Ironically, the capability of this missile defense system will be extremely marginal because the interceptors will not have been tested and no adequate sensors will have been deployed to go along with the interceptors.

So, if you look at the two reasons that President Bush has given for needing to withdraw from the treaty soon—conducting SPY radar tracking tests and building facilities at Fort Greely—you will see that they are not a sound rationale.

Of course we can then ask, “Certainly, if these are not things that need to be done now, sooner or later, the U.S. development program will bump up against the ABM Treaty.” So the question is, how soon will the United States need to withdraw from the ABM Treaty if it wants to continue with a robust research and development program?

Well, despite Bush’s restructuring of the whole U.S. missile defense program since taking office, most of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization’s efforts remain devoted to the system President Bill Clinton began to develop—the ground-based midcourse system. If you take a look at last year’s budget and President Bush’s proposed budget for this year, you will see that this system will receive $3.2 billion in the next year. Now, there are three other programs devoted to intercepting long-range missiles—one is based on an idea to have a space-based kill vehicle that intercepts during boost phase; another idea is to have hit-to-kill interceptors launched from ships; and there is a notion to put an orbiting laser in space. President Bush’s request for the first program was $15 million; the second was $50 million, and the third was $175 million.

So, the ground-based midcourse system is receiving 20 to 200 times more funding than these other programs. That gives you a sense of how far along the other programs are. They are in the very early stages of research and development, and it will be years before the United States tests them against long-range missiles, which would be prohibited by the ABM Treaty.

The system that the United States is spending most of its money on and that is the furthest along in development is the Clinton ground-based midcourse system. The ABM Treaty permits the Pentagon to fully test that system; there are no treaty restrictions. The Pentagon has imposed lots of limitations while testing this system, but none of those are due to the ABM Treaty. They’re due to technology.

Finally, there are two theater missile defense systems that the United States is developing that might have some utility for defense against long-range missiles. The first is the Airborne Laser program, which would basically deploy a laser on an airplane. The idea behind it would be to fire a laser beam at a missile during the missile’s boost phase and weaken the booster so that it stops boosting. The intended result is for the warhead to fall short of its target. But there are basic technical questions that are unanswered for this program—the Pentagon doesn’t really know what will happen when it tries to fire the laser through the atmosphere.

The Defense Department is on schedule to conduct its first Airborne Laser intercept test against a short-range Scud-type missile in 2003. Assuming that the program remains on schedule, which is probably an optimistic assumption, and that these tests against short-range missiles are successful, the United States could not schedule a test against long-range missiles, which would not be permitted under the ABM Treaty, until after 2003. So, Washington has several years before it would want to conduct treaty-prohibited tests.

The other system the Pentagon is developing is the Navy Theater Wide system, which is a midcourse system. The Pentagon is hoping to deploy by 2006 the first phase of that system, which is intended to shoot down relatively short-range missiles. In the longer term, it is planning to upgrade the interceptor and perhaps the sensors, but that is not something that is scheduled to take place until the end of the decade.

So again, if you look at the programs the United States is working on, you will see that there is no justification to withdraw from the ABM Treaty for several years for testing purposes.

John Rhinelander

I’d like to cover three points. The first is that there is absolutely no compelling reason for the United States to withdraw from the treaty. The second point covers why are we withdrawing. Third, I want to talk about whether there is any legal way to challenge the president on his power to withdraw the United States from a treaty. The answer is no, and I’ll tell you why.

With respect to the treaty, there are three legal issues that must be dealt with that the White House fuzzes up. The first is the legality of the Alaska test range that the Pentagon intends to build. The test range would have three ABM components: five launchers at Fort Greely, two launchers at Kodiak Island, and an upgrade to a radar on Shemya Island to give it some ABM potential.

Under the treaty, the United States and Russia each have two test ranges. The U.S. sites are located at White Sands in New Mexico and Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. A 1978 agreed statement permits each country to establish additional test ranges, consistent with other treaty provisions, simply upon notification to the other side.

The Alaska test range would be permitted under the treaty if the United States submits one simple sentence notifying Russia that, pursuant to Article IV of the treaty and paragraph 5 of the 1978 agreed statement, it intends to establish a test range in Alaska. That’s all it takes. The Russians may not like it. They can complain about it. But, in fact, that’s all it takes. So answering the Alaska test range problem is simple: one sentence will take care of it. And I’m personally convinced—having talked to a number of Russians about this myself—that Moscow would accept it. Russia would raise questions and object to it but would accept it in the end.

The second issue is using the Aegis radar—designed for surface-to-air missile and theater missile defense purposes—concurrently with long-range missile defense tests. This would violate the explicit ban on concurrent tests of ABM and non-ABM systems at a test range. The simple answer to this issue is to stop using these Aegis radars. There is no technical reason whatsoever for using these radars to try to advance a national missile defense. The real problem is that the United States doesn’t have the interceptors or the radars for a true national missile defense. The Aegis radar is a surface-to-air missile system upgraded to be a missile defense system, but these tests are designed to violate the treaty rather than to advance an effective national defense.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cancelled the Aegis radar test scheduled for October. There’s another one scheduled for February, but there’s no reason in the world to go through with it. But if the Pentagon really wants to test the Aegis radar against an ICBM-capable missile, all it has to do is wait until the United States launches a satellite, which it does both from California and Florida. The Pentagon could then turn the radar on and get the same kind of readings.

Now, the third issue and only serious question involves Article V of the treaty, which prohibits the development, testing, and deployment of mobile ABM systems. As Lisbeth pointed out, the treaty makes absolutely clear that you can test ABM components as long as they are part of fixed land-based systems, as we’re doing right now out of Kwajalein. The United States is currently considering sea- and air-based mobile systems for boost-phase intercepts. There are three answers to this problem. First, air- and sea-based systems are years away from being ready for testing that would violate the treaty. I don’t know how many years because it depends on the pace at which Congress funds the programs. But it will be years before the Pentagon even arguably would come up against treaty limitations on what it can do with these systems.

Second, where does the treaty language draw the line on prohibiting development and tests of mobile-type systems? The fact is, in the almost 30 years that the treaty has been in effect, the United States hasn’t sought specific agreement with the Soviets or Russians on this issue. When the United States took the treaty before the Senate in 1972, based on discussions with the Soviets during the negotiations, the executive branch stated that the ABM Treaty ban begins at the field-testing phase. However, the parties have never sought to pin down this understanding in explicit language, leaving the Russians room to challenge U.S. activities. So again, another one-sentence solution would help fix the problem: “The United States and Russia agree that the ban in Article V begins at the field-testing phase.” That takes care of it for at least three to five years, again, depending on the pace of funding of actual tests approved by Congress.

Third, the more complete and permanent way to deal with this problem is to amend the treaty to suspend the ban on development and testing of air- and sea-based systems for a fixed period, such as 10 years. It would be a simple amendment but would, of course, have to go before the Senate. The first two solutions I talked about earlier, a sentence on the Alaska test range and a second sentence on testing, wouldn’t have to go to the Hill for approval. The Senate would be notified. But if the United States were to amend the treaty, which I think is the better long-term way to do it, the Senate would be involved.

When I was involved in the 1970s, the difficult issues were based 60 percent on technology and 40 percent on politics. At present, keys issues are decided 100 percent on politics and zero percent on technology.

Basically, the stage was set for withdrawal when Bush campaigned in favor of effective missile defense and getting rid of the treaty. And the final nail was put in the coffin November 9, when nine Senate Republicans delivered a letter to Bush saying, “You’ve got to get rid of that treaty.” If there was any possibility of a deal being cut with Russia, I think that letter ended it. Bush realized that, if he was going strike a deal with Moscow, the Senate might have to approve it, but it would be over the dead bodies of the senators who wrote that letter, plus a few more. Personally, I think the Senate would have approved an amendment if the president were behind it by a vote of roughly 80 to 20. But I think the president remembers, rightly or wrongly, that his father lost his re-election campaign because he lost the support of the right. Bush is determined not to lose the right’s support, and on this one, he’s not only not losing support, but he’s also giving red meat to the right wing. So I think this is politics pure and simple, and withdrawal is going to go forward.

On the third point, whether the president can withdraw the United States from the ABM Treaty, in my judgment, this is an issue for the president alone. Under the Constitution, Congress has no role whatsoever. They can complain about it and pass resolutions against it, but it will have no legal effect.

Furthermore, the federal courts will stay out of it. The last time this came up with an important treaty was in 1979, when President Jimmy Carter withdrew from the mutual defense treaty with Taiwan. Senator Barry Goldwater led a band of Republicans against Carter’s action. The Republican’s challenge went up to the Supreme Court, which threw the case out. The courts will have no role; that’s the precedent. Of course, now you have the political parties’ roles reversed. It will be the conservatives talking about the unlimited power of the president. If there’s any kind of legal challenge—which I don’t think there should be because it would be foolish—it would come from the Democrats.

The final irony here is that the withdrawal clause was first put in a treaty at the insistence of the United States to limit Moscow’s freedom of action. That happened in 1963 during the Limited Test Ban Treaty negotiations. At that time, Andrei Gromyko, foreign minister of the Soviet Union, was taking the position that the Soviets could withdraw from a treaty at any time for any reason that they wanted. That line of reasoning didn’t give the Americans much comfort, so the United States persuaded the Soviets to accept a formal withdrawal process, which, incidentally, would help get the treaty through the Senate. No country has withdrawn from a post-World War II arms control agreement to date. As Joe indicated, the North Koreans are the only ones who have ever given notice under a treaty, and even they suspended their withdrawal the day before it became effective.

Let me conclude with a couple of comments. First, Congress will become the replacement for the ABM Treaty. From now on, we’re going to have a fight in the fall over funding for ballistic missile defense, and Congress will assume prime responsibility for the pacing and shaping of ABM developments. This year, Congress let it go, given the situation in Afghanistan.

I would also like to remind you that Washington has twice deployed systems against strategic threats to the continental United States. The first was the Nike system from the 1950s, which had conventionally armed missiles and later nuclear-armed missiles to protect against long-range Soviet heavy bombers. The more than 200 Nike sites were basically disbanded after 20 years because they were totally ineffective in the missile age. The second system was the Safeguard ABM system, which the United States had up in North Dakota and operated for four months before shutting it down because it was ineffective.

Finally, I predict that, by the end of the Bush administration, whether it’s January 2005 or January 2009, we will have no ABM Treaty and no deployed ABM defense. Technically, there simply isn’t anything close to being proven effective for deployment. The good thing I can say about what Bush and Rumsfeld have done is that they didn’t follow Clinton’s plan of deploying something that was just foolish. They’re going to conduct tests first, but a deployable system is a long way off, and, as has been testified before the Senate, it will be at least a decade before the Pentagon knows whether it can build anything that is effective.

Questions and Answers

Question: How will U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty affect the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT]? Will non-nuclear-weapon states be more likely to pull out?

Rhinelander: I think no one is going to withdraw immediately from the NPT. A step before withdrawal could simply be to suspend performance and lay some conditions out for continued participation. It’s much more likely that the nonproliferation regime will just dribble away in terms of effectiveness and that the withdrawal from the ABM Treaty will prevent the United States from effectively saying, “Look, treaty constraints are the norm we all have to live up to.”

So I think the degradation of the regime is going to be a slow process. It’s not going to be a dramatic one. There are countries you could easily identify that are the leading candidates to go nuclear, some already parties to the NPT, others not. But I think the main point is that, in the end, we’ll be in a world without effective legal constraints. In terms of nuclear nonproliferation, we’ll have some constraints—the Nuclear Suppliers Group and things like that—but I think more and more we will not have effective legal constraints on proliferation.

In the final analysis, that’s the most serious thing of all, and I would just conclude by saying I think the biggest threat obviously from proliferation is from Russia. We’re not funding the Nunn-Lugar threat reduction programs the way we should, and that’s where the biggest threat of all of proliferation is. But I think proliferation threats are also going to come from other countries, and proliferation is going to be slow, but I think withdrawal from the ABM Treaty is really a fatal blow over the long term to the NPT regime.

Question: What about India and Pakistan specifically? Do you see any direct effect on those countries?

Rhinelander: Well, India and Pakistan haven’t joined the NPT and they cannot join it as it’s presently written if they keep their nuclear weapons capability. The treaty permits in that club only the five countries that had tested nuclear weapons before 1967. The fact that India and Pakistan have tested nuclear weapons and that the United States is now lifting the sanctions against them has adversely affected the nonproliferation regime. Decisions to go nuclear have a lot of factors involved. Obviously the NPT is only one, but I think undermining the NPT removes from our arsenal a tool for persuading countries not to go nuclear, something which is very important. Over the longer term, you’ll see more countries deciding to develop nuclear weapons, and we’ll have to deal with that.

Cirincione: The president’s actions cheapen the currency of international agreements. It makes it more likely that other nations will withdraw from their international obligations should they find them inconvenient.

I agree with John: deterioration of treaty restraints is a slow but steady process. The direction is very disturbing. Treaties are inanimate objects. They don’t enforce themselves. They reflect the will of the international community. They reflect the power of the countries that have established the treaties. They require leadership to continue to live and to be enforced. The leadership from this administration is moving in exactly the opposite direction. The administration is moving away from treaty-based international security toward international security based on preponderance of arms.

The regimes that the Bush team seems to favor hearken back to the strategies of the Eisenhower administration, when we thought we could control proliferation by controlling the technologies and establishing export control regimes. So the administration favors things like the Missile Technology Control Regime and the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Withdrawal from the ABM Treaty makes it less likely that India and Pakistan will join any international agreement, although the administration still may hope to draw them into arrangements like the Missile Technology Control Regime.

If U.S. relations with China develop in the way I indicated and China increases the pace of its modernization, India will certainly take note of that and operationalize its nuclear force. Pakistan will then be forced to operationalize its nuclear force. An increasingly nuclearized Asia will have serious implications for Japan’s international security, and Iran will, of course, take notice.

So the nuclear reaction chain could lead to the emergence of many more nuclear nations by the end of this decade. I’m afraid that the United States may have just lit the fuse.

Question: The administration has talked about the need for a new structure of international security, mixing offensive and defensive systems, and they’ve had some months to develop their thinking. Is there anything to their thinking, or is the “new strategic framework” a phony argument that they were making to us?

Cirincione: I think the strategic framework is a concept, but it remains an empty shell. The administration has not filled it in. In part, the events of September 11 may have disrupted any plan they had in mind and taken them off in new directions. But there’s no there there. There is no replacement course for the ABM Treaty regime. I think the best definition of the strategic framework consists of U.S. military and diplomatic leadership in the world, ad hoc international coalitions formed around specific events or specific regions that are then disbanded, control of technologies, and harsh punishment for those who violate the U.S. led norms.

But the treaties that the administration envisions are mostly bilateral. It believes that international security is guaranteed through strong alliance relationships, not the swamp of multilateral negotiations. But so far, you haven’t seen any of those other instruments strengthened or replaced. There’s nothing there yet.

Question: Earlier, you mentioned a period of “phony negotiations” with the Russians. Could you elaborate on that?

Kimball: We’ve heard for weeks and months from Bush administration officials that they have been engaged in a productive dialogue with their Russian counterparts. In reality—and if you ask them this directly, I think they will admit it—defense officials in the United States have mainly just conducted a series of briefings for Russian officials on the general outline of the planned test program for the U.S. missile defense system. What the Bush administration says it’s trying to do is regularize these discussions, much as our defense consultations with NATO are.

Up until as recently as just a few days ago when Secretary Powell met with Foreign Minister Ivanov, there had been no exchange of proposals as to how the ABM Treaty might be modified or amended to accommodate the United States’ more robust plans, if you will, for missile defense testing over the next two to three years.

What President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Donald Rumsfeld have gone to Moscow and offered was a pretty tough choice for the Russians: unilateral withdrawal from the ABM Treaty or joint withdrawal. These are options that the Russians, given their situation, have clearly not been interested in accepting, and they have apparently made it clear that they would be willing to entertain proposals for amendments to the treaty to allow additional testing.

The president, as I said before, has turned down that option, and it is very much I think a repudiation of the history of bilateral discussions between the United States and Russia and something of a snub to our newest and closest ally in the war on terrorism.

Cirincione: I agree with that assessment.

Rhinelander: Let me add one comment on this. The essence of a treaty is a mutuality of obligations. Many in the administration oppose any treaty on any subject dealing with security. But to the extent they’re willing to deal at all with treaties in this field, it’s only in terms of providing some information at some point in time. They simply say “absolutely no” to the kinds of treaties we’ve had since World War II, which have prohibitions or limitations on acts, including prohibitions applicable to us. They want an absolutely free hand where no document and nobody tells them what they can do, although they don’t mind restrictions on others. So treaties, in the way the arms control community has thought of them since World War II, are simply unacceptable to them.

Question: I’d like to follow up on Joe’s point about lighting the fuse for the nuclear buildup in Asia. China already has intermediate-range missiles that could hit India. If China builds more intercontinental ballistic missiles to counter a U.S. missile shield, why would that necessarily trigger a buildup in India?

Cirincione: Two things. First, none of the dire possibilities I’ve outlined may come to pass. It’s quite possible that U.S. relations will be very good with Russia and China for the next decade and that missile defenses will be deployed in small numbers in a cooperative fashion, or will be deployed and then withdrawn, or not deployed at all. So none of this necessarily needs to take place. I’m just laying out some of the possibilities and arguing that there’s no reason to run the risk, there’s no reason to get into a situation where those worst cases may unfold for all the reasons that Lisbeth articulated. We can do plenty of testing over the next four or five years within the ABM Treaty.

Second, on China, you have to look at this from India’s point of view. The Indians already see themselves in a rivalry with China. Their nuclear tests were not aimed primarily at Pakistan, whom they consider to be an annoyance and an unstable state that will soon pass from the scene. They’re concerned about their rival to the north. So their nuclear tests were aimed at China and at establishing India’s rightful place in the world.

China is in a modernization drive. It has 20 ICBMs that can reach the United States. It has 20 intermediate-range missiles that can reach India, plus shorter-range missiles. Even though China’s modernization is aimed primarily at the United States, India won’t necessarily see it that way. They have a very Indo-centric view of the world. They will think of China’s modernization as a challenge to them.They see themselves as a competitor in Asia in the world with China. They want to assert their role in the world, and they will feel compelled to keep pace, to modernize and operationalize their force and not leave it the way it is. Currently, India basically has unassembled components that could be put together quickly, but none of its weapons, as far as we know, are operationally deployed. India could change its posture and deploy assembled weapons. The arguments in the Indian nuclear community will have more force. The Indian politicians will feel more threats from this Indian-Chinese challenge.

China will assure India that its nuclear improvements aren’t aimed at them. India will respond very nicely, “Yes, we know that, and so our modernization isn’t aimed at you either.” But that dynamic is already in place. It’s already engaged. Any acceleration on either side will certainly lead to an acceleration on the other side.

Gronlund: I would like to add that in the near term there may be another treaty casualty that will come before the NPT: the fissile material cutoff treaty, which has been under preliminary discussions in the Conference on Disarmament and could offer a way to constrain India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programs, short of them giving up nuclear weapons.

But one thing that China has made fairly clear in those talks is, if the U.S. goes forward with missile defenses, it is not willing to cut off its future production because it wants to reserve the option of building up its forces. And if China won’t play, then India and Pakistan won’t play that game either.
So the effect of U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty may be something less draconian than a massive buildup; it may be the loss of an ability to constrain things.

Cirincione: And needless to say all this happens slowly. None of these are going to look like the Cold War buildup, where suddenly we were pumping out hundreds of missiles a year. This all happens much more slowly in Asia. It’s the direction that you have to worry about.

Gronlund: Right. The tragedy is really that U.S. withdrawal will probably prevent things from getting a lot better. Even if they don’t get a lot worse, the current situation—10 years after the end of the Cold War—is not very good.

Question: For the past year, the focal point of the debate in Congress has been adherence to the treaty. What is the congressional role in missile defense now, and how will missile defenses balance against other defense priorities?

Kimball: Prior to September 11, the Democrats in the Senate were pushing the administration quite hard on the rationale for the test program—for the reasons why the Bush administration wanted to or thought it needed to pull out of the ABM Treaty. I think those questions and those concerns continue to be there, despite the fact that Senator Carl Levin, for instance, withdrew his language that would have required congressional approval for any administration action that was inconsistent with the ABM Treaty.

Now, there still may be no action that is inconsistent with the ABM Treaty over the next fiscal year, but as John Rhinelander said, it is the president’s prerogative to withdraw from this treaty.

But in the final analysis, we are not going to have a missile defense system for many, many years. The technological problems are substantial. The financial problems are enormous when you take into consideration the additional expenditures that the United States has just made in the war on terrorism, which we’ve not yet reckoned with. We’ve not really seen how this is going to affect the overall budget balance and other priorities. Add on top of that the Bush administration’s plan for a layered missile defense system, which I think by most conservative estimates can be said to cost in the range of $150-250 billion over the next decade.

So it’s difficult to calculate, but my prediction is that in the end we’re not going to have a missile defense system that is effective, that fulfills the promise that the Bush administration is advertising, and the United States will not in the end be more secure but will be less secure because we are not making forward progress in the effort to stop the spread of weapon of mass destruction.

Rhinelander: Let me add a comment on the budget and on China. On the budget, the first Republicans I think who will fall off this whole thing are those in the House dealing with appropriations. They’re going to be the ones where fiscal tightness is going to be overriding some of the interests of others in terms of defense. In the past, it’s been those Republicans on the appropriations committee or allied with them who have been resistant to large expenditures. That’s going to come up again.

Just take one facet of this program, which is the space-based infrared system [SBIRS-low]. The current budget estimates range from $10 billion to $23 billion. The schedule is slipping and slipping and slipping. This was a program designed to take the place of the X-band radars, which we were going to put in Greenland and the United Kingdom and a few other places. If SBIRS-low doesn’t fly, then we’re going to be back to that problem of getting allies to agree to put big radars on their turf.

The history of all missile defense programs is that the actual costs are way, way above the estimates. In the end, it’s going to be the failure of the technology to do what the enthusiasts expect, and it’s going to be the budget overruns that are going to be the two fatal blows to missile defense. It’s going to take time. You never know what’s going to happen in the near term. This year was a free ride on the budget. In the end, Carl Levin pulled back his action in the Senate. But the idea that there will be unlimited money to do whatever the Pentagon wants in this field is not in the cards.

But let me go to one comment made earlier on China. I think what China is going to fear, among other things from this, is all of a sudden the constraints on weaponization of space—the development and testing of offensive and defensive space weapons—are out because that goes down with the ABM Treaty.

Now, we’ve got no space weapons ready to go as far as I know. I don’t think there have been any hard proposals, but certainly Donald Rumsfeld in his prior capacity just before he came in was a strong advocate of space weapons, and if we begin to make noises on aggressively testing and then deploying assets in space, I think that’s going to be a real tripwire with the Chinese.

Kimball: Let me make a couple of final comments. Article XV of the ABM Treaty does allow the United States to withdraw “if extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests.”

Now, we need to contemplate what that meant in 1972, and we need to ask the question—and I think President Bush needs to make the case—why we must pull out of this treaty to deal with supreme national interests.

In our view, withdrawal is neither necessary or prudent, given the nature of the long-range ballistic missile threat, which is low; the technological state of the NMD program; and Russia’s willingness to modify the treaty to allow the further testing that is necessary to find out if national missile defense can be effective some day in the future in a real world environment. So I think this decision to withdraw does not meet the Article XV standard.

Posted: December 13, 2001

Fuzzy Nuclear Math

At November’s Washington-Crawford summit, President George W. Bush announced his intention to reduce U.S. strategic nuclear forces from today’s 6,000 deployed warheads to 1,700-2,200 deployed warheads within 10 years. The proposal, along with the Texas-style hospitality extended to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was intended to signify Bush’s desire to move beyond the Cold War. By the administration’s strategic calculation, the United States and Russia are now “friends,” who should size and orient their respective strategic offensive and defensive arsenals to meet the threats of the future, not one another. (Continue)

Daryl G. Kimball

At November’s Washington-Crawford summit, President George W. Bush announced his intention to reduce U.S. strategic nuclear forces from today’s 6,000 deployed warheads to 1,700-2,200 deployed warheads within 10 years. The proposal, along with the Texas-style hospitality extended to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was intended to signify Bush’s desire to move beyond the Cold War. By the administration’s strategic calculation, the United States and Russia are now “friends,” who should size and orient their respective strategic offensive and defensive arsenals to meet the threats of the future, not one another.

Unfortunately, the president’s numbers do not add up to his commendable rhetoric. The size of the deployed U.S. arsenal 10 years from now would be only 300 fewer than the 2,000-2,500 START III framework ceiling approved by the U.S. Strategic Command in 1997. The vast majority of these weapons would still be assigned to striking Russia’s nuclear arsenal and industrial infrastructure. In other words, under Bush’s plan, friends would target friends with nuclear weapons.

The administration’s proposal fails to factor in other key variables, including the presence of the already large and growing stockpile of nondeployed “hedge” warheads. This reserve of some 4,500-5,000 strategic and tactical warheads was once mostly intended to provide the United States with the capability to quickly reverse reductions of its deployed arsenal to guard against a Russian buildup. Now, the presence of the hedge creates a strong disincentive for Russia to implement cost-saving nuclear reductions.

In addition, Bush has apparently rejected ideas contained in the START III framework that would make reductions irreversible through the verifiable dismantlement and destruction of delivery systems and warheads. As a result, Bush’s formula would simply lead to the reassignment of warheads from the deployed to the nondeployed side of the ledger. Bush’s handshake-brand of unilateral, voluntary arms restraint would not only make nuclear stockpiles more opaque, it would also do little to decrease their overall size.

President Putin welcomed Bush’s proposal and reiterated Russia’s offer to cut both sides’ strategic deployed forces to 1,500 warheads through a verifiable treaty. But the Bush administration has—so far—turned down the opportunity to codify U.S. and Russian reductions, arguing that negotiations and treaties are tedious, time-consuming, and unnecessary. Citing his father’s 1991 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives with Mikhail Gorbachev, Bush suggests that meaningful reductions can be achieved more quickly through unilateral reciprocal action.

The unilateral withdrawal and consolidation of tactical nuclear forces was a bold and clearly necessary tactic, especially in the midst of the Soviet Union’s collapse. If Bush sought to jump-START the arms control process through an immediate stand-down of a substantial number of U.S. strategic deployed nuclear forces, an informal rather than a formal approach might make sense. Instead, Bush proposes a drawn-out 10-year implementation period for U.S. reductions—time enough for negotiation and ratification of a firm agreement to make the cuts irreversible and verifiable.

Bush’s plan should nevertheless provide some renewed momentum for the arms reduction process. It will likely force congressional Republicans to allow the removal of a 1998 law prohibiting U.S. reductions prior to START II’s entry into force. However, Bush and Putin’s failure to reach an understanding on strategic missile defenses leaves open the possibility of unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Absent reasonable constraints on national missile defense, Russia will be tempted to maintain higher levels of strategic nuclear weapons to overcome a future U.S. missile shield. Although its nuclear forces are headed for lower levels, Russia is capable of maintaining a sizable deployed arsenal—as many as 3,800 warheads—including destabilizing multiple-warhead missiles, many on hair-trigger alert.

Some anti-treaty ideologues at the Pentagon have tried—and will try again—to convince President Bush that he must withdraw from the treaty to allow more robust missile defense testing. This argument simply does not stand up, given the fact that several more years of treaty-compliant developmental testing is necessary before beginning the operational tests required to demonstrate real-world effectiveness. In seeking an agreement with Putin on future U.S. missile defense testing and strategic offensive reductions, Bush would be wise to maintain the basic framework of the ABM Treaty.

Given the long history of adversarial relations and persistence of Cold War-era strategic thinking, it is unlikely that a gentleman’s agreement between two leaders can last beyond their terms in office. As a result, President Bush’s unwillingness to lock in reductions on all strategic weapons through a formal, verifiable agreement unnecessarily perpetuates vestigial Cold War-era nuclear dangers. Those who believe nuclear arms control has no place in the post-Cold War context should think again.

Posted: December 1, 2001

No Bush-Putin Agreement on ABM Fate and Missile Defenses

Wade Boese

During three days of mid-November talks held in Washington and Crawford, Texas, President George W. Bush failed to secure an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin that would let the United States move forward with its missile defense plans without potentially violating the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

Despite what seems to be a growing rapport between Bush and Putin and separate pledges by both presidents to cut their deployed offensive strategic nuclear forces by roughly two-thirds, the two did not appear to narrow their differences over how to reconcile U.S. pursuit of nationwide strategic ballistic missile defenses with the 1972 ABM Treaty, which prohibits such defenses. The Bush administration has made clear that it prefers unilateral or joint withdrawal from the treaty in order to pursue missile defenses unfettered, whereas the Kremlin wants to preserve the accord or at least keep in place some limits on future strategic missile defenses.

Speaking on November 13, the first day of Putin's visit, Bush acknowledged, "We have different points of view about the ABM Treaty."

Two days later, little had changed. When asked by Bush to respond to a student's question about missile defense, Putin told a school audience, "We differ in the ways and means" of addressing future threats.
Yet, the U.S. side downplayed the differences, contending that the U.S.-Russian relationship cannot be undermined by a dispute over a single issue. Bush said, "Our disagreements will not divide us." Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told reporters November 15 that the missile defense issue "is a smaller element of the U.S.-Russia relationship than it was several months ago" and that "it's not going to have an effect on the relationship as a whole."

Although speculation existed before the summit that Russia might agree to a deal to modify or suspend the ABM Treaty's prohibitions on testing sea- and air-based components of strategic defenses to forestall a possible U.S. withdrawal from the accord, no such agreement was concluded. The presidents, however, pledged to continue their discussions, and Putin sounded confident about the possibility of reaching an agreement, saying, "One can rest assured that whatever final solution is found, it will not threaten…the interests of both our countries and of the world."

Before traveling to the United States, Putin told U.S. journalists at a November 10 press conference that Moscow is ready to compromise and that a deal can be struck, but he said Russia needs specific U.S. proposals first. For example, with regard to the ABM Treaty, Putin asked, "What exactly [does the United States] want changed? What exactly hinders the implementation of the [missile defense] project devised by the U.S. administration?" Putin explained that Russia needs this type of information "in the practical proposals of our American partners."

While commenting that he "partially" agreed with U.S. officials that the ABM Treaty is a Cold War relic, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said November 3 that "before scrapping one agreement or another…we believe that this should be better done only after something has been created in the ways of replacement."

Ivanov's comment underscored a key hurdle impeding the two countries from finding common ground on missile defense. Russia wants to fashion the new U.S.-Russian relationship through treaties in which obligations and responsibilities are clearly spelled out and legally binding, whereas the Bush administration asserts that such treaties are unnecessary between countries that are no longer enemies.

No Change in U.S. Missile Defense Plans

U.S. officials indicated that, despite the lack of a summit agreement, the administration plans to push ahead with its missile defense testing program.

While reiterating in her November 15 post-summit briefing that the United States would not violate the treaty, Rice stated, "The testing program is going to eventually have to commence in a way that we believe is inconsistent with the treaty."

Last July, the administration outlined potential plans, which could violate the treaty, to employ ABM and air-defense radars concurrently in a February 2002 missile defense test and to start construction next spring on a new missile defense "test bed" at Fort Greely, Alaska. When The New York Times questioned Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on November 14 on whether the Pentagon was still preparing for these activities, he said, "You bet."

Unless the ABM Treaty's constraints on missile defense testing are relaxed or eliminated before these events take place, it is likely they will have to be postponed because there is not enough time for the Bush administration to free itself from the treaty by unilaterally withdrawing, which requires six-month notice. The Bush administration has repeatedly said it will not violate the treaty.

Bush has warned that the United States would unilaterally withdraw from the treaty if an agreement with Russia to "move beyond" the accord could not be reached, but it is unclear if and when that might happen. Bush gave Putin no deadline for when an agreement would have to be concluded, although Rice said the Russians "understand that we're soon going to run up against certain constraints of the treaty."

Days before Putin's visit, nine Republican senators-including minority leader Trent Lott (R-MS), Jesse Helms (R-NC), and Jon Kyl (R-AZ)-wrote a letter to Bush encouraging him to withdraw from the treaty. The senators argued that it is not "plausible" to reach an agreement with Russia to permit "full" U.S. missile defense testing while keeping the treaty intact. Trying to give the treaty "flexibility" to allow U.S. testing would "only give continued life to an obsolete agreement which has become the most significant obstacle to improved relations between the United States and Russia," the senators wrote. They concluded by telling Bush that he had their "full support" to withdraw from the treaty.

Top Democrats have offered alternative counsel to Bush. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden (D-DE) warned in a November 15 speech that a unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the treaty would be a "tragic mistake." Biden described himself as "very happy" that Bush appears "not to be intent at this moment on withdrawing from the ABM Treaty."

Earlier, in a November 5 speech, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) said that working with Russia to modify the ABM Treaty to permit missile defense testing would be "far better for [U.S.] security than acting in a unilateral manner that could be perceived by Russia as undermining its security." Levin warned that a unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the treaty could lead Russia to stop dismantling its nuclear forces, compel China to increase the size of its nuclear arsenal, and strain relations with U.S. allies in Europe and Asia.

Posted: December 1, 2001

Pentagon Puts Off Missile Defense Testing, Citing ABM Treaty

Wade Boese

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced October 25 that the Pentagon had decided against carrying out October and November missile defense testing activities that he said could be viewed as violating the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

According to Rumsfeld, the Pentagon “decided not to go forward” with plans to use Aegis ship-based radars to track the target and interceptor in an October 24 test of the midcourse strategic missile defense system or to track a rocket being used to launch a satellite November 14. The secretary said a plan to use a radar at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to track the target missile in the October 24 intercept test had also been dropped.

The ABM Treaty bans development, testing, and deployment of sea-based components and systems for strategic ballistic missile defenses. The same prohibitions apply to air-, space-, and mobile land-based systems as well. The accord also limits radars that can be used in testing strategic defenses to those that have been solely designated for such a role, which the California-based radar is not.

The intercept test and the satellite launch will still take place; they will simply be conducted without inclusion of the ship-based and California-based radars, which were added to the test program sometime after the main tests had been scheduled. It is uncertain when Pentagon planners requested using the radars to track targets—Pentagon and White House spokespersons either did not respond to inquiries or said that they did not know.

It is also unclear why Rumsfeld announced the delay of the October 24 test the day after it was supposed to have taken place—particularly since the Pentagon had already announced a few weeks earlier that the October 24 intercept would not take place until late November or early December. That delay had been caused by pre-test inspections and preparations, not anything treaty-related, according to a spokesman for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), which oversees U.S. missile defense programs.

When asked by a reporter October 29 whether his announcement had been “somewhat incomplete” for failing to mention that the test had already been delayed for technical reasons, Rumsfeld replied, “Well, if it was, I’m sorry.” The secretary, however, went on to say that “the important thing is that we are not using one radar on [the test]” because of treaty concerns.

However, it is unclear what purpose in the test the Aegis radar, which is not part of the strategic midcourse missile defense system, would have served. A Pentagon report released last March stated the Aegis radar is “not capable of supporting [strategic]-class engagements due to its limited detection and tracking range.” The BMDO spokesman explained that Pentagon testers simply wanted to “see what the radar can do.”

The timing of Rumsfeld’s announcement, sandwiched between the October 21 meeting of President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin and the two leaders’ upcoming mid-November summit, appeared designed to serve two purposes.

The test cancellations seemed to be a goodwill gesture toward Russia that Washington would hold off on any potential treaty-busting tests while discussing with Moscow what to do about the ABM Treaty. At the same time, the move suggested time was running short to reach an agreement on the treaty’s future because the accord is already hobbling the Pentagon’s missile defense testing that it claims is necessary.

That the Bush administration’s proposed testing program would raise treaty compliance issues was not unexpected. Missile defense planners were told to ignore ABM compliance concerns, according to two senior defense officials in a July 11 background briefing, and foreign governments were told by the United States in July that there is “no intent to design tests to conform to, or stay within the confines of the [ABM] Treaty.”

In fact, in July 17 Senate testimony, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz volunteered that adding a ship-based radar to a strategic missile defense test could conflict with the treaty, though he assured attending senators that the United States would not violate the treaty.

In his October 25 briefing, after noting that the Pentagon had been telling Congress and Russia “for some time now” that the U.S. missile defense program would “bump up against” the treaty, Rumsfeld declared, “That has now happened.” He asserted that this “reality” should serve as an “impetus” for the two presidents’ three-day discussion, which begins November 13 and is expected to focus on missile defenses, the ABM Treaty, and strategic nuclear cuts.

Since early this summer, Bush and other top administration officials have been trying to persuade the Kremlin to abandon the ABM Treaty so the United States can freely test and build national or strategic missile defenses. If unsuccessful, Bush has said the United States would unilaterally withdraw from the accord, which requires a six-month notice. For his part, Putin has rejected scrapping the treaty but has hinted that Russia would be open to amending it.

Two other possible missile defense activities identified by Wolfowitz in his testimony could also soon run afoul of the ABM Treaty. The first involves a missile intercept test next February that would involve both ABM and air defense radars operating concurrently, and the second is the start of construction next spring of a new Alaska-based missile defense test site, including five new missile interceptor silos. These activities have not been postponed or cancelled, and Rumsfeld did not say whether any final determination has been made about whether they would violate the treaty or not.

Posted: November 1, 2001

U.S., Russia Still Seeking Common Ground on Missile Defense

Wade Boese

After meeting on October 21 in Shanghai, President George W. Bush and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin reported progress in their talks on missile defenses and nuclear-force cuts, but the two leaders reached no agreements and remained divided over the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

Speaking at a joint press conference following their third face-to-face meeting, the two presidents sounded optimistic about being able to fashion a new U.S.-Russian strategic relationship. Putin said he believes that an understanding that the two countries could “reach agreements” exists, and Bush declared that both countries see progress in their “efforts to build a new strategic framework.” The presidents were attending a summit for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation members’ heads of state.

Yet other remarks made by the two leaders at the press conference revealed that they remain apart on the key issue of what to do about the ABM Treaty, which prohibits the United States and Russia from building nationwide defenses against strategic ballistic missiles. Despite Russian, as well as Chinese, opposition, the Bush administration has made clear it wants to get rid of the treaty so that it can pursue a layered missile defense consisting of land-, sea-, air-, and potentially space-based elements. The treaty limits the United States to 100 ground-based missile interceptors in North Dakota and bans all sea-, air-, space-, and mobile land-based systems.

At the October 21 press conference, Bush described the treaty as “outdated” and “dangerous” and repeated his call for the two countries to work together to “move beyond” the accord. Putin, however, said the treaty is “an important element of stability,” although he again implied that Moscow is open to amending the accord. A U.S. government spokesman interviewed October 24 said that, to his knowledge, neither the United States nor Russia had proposed specific treaty amendments.

Bush further argued that the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington made the case stronger for abandoning the ABM Treaty because the treaty prevents the United States from defending against the possibility of terrorists using ballistic missiles to deliver weapons of mass destruction. Putin, who joined Chinese President Jiang Zemin a day earlier in supporting the ABM Treaty, questioned Bush’s reasoning, saying, “It would be difficult for me to agree that some terrorists will be able to capture intercontinental missiles and will be able to use them.”

Near the close of the press conference, Bush acknowledged his differences with Putin, commenting, “We’ll continue working with each other and see if we can’t find common ground on the ABM Treaty.”

No Deadline

Prior to the Shanghai meeting, press reports based on interviews with unnamed Bush administration officials suggested that, at their meeting, Bush would tell Putin of U.S. intentions to withdraw from the ABM Treaty by the end of the year. But national security adviser Condoleezza Rice told reporters after the presidents’ joint press conference that Bush had delivered no deadline for U.S. treaty withdrawal.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, who also traveled to Shanghai, underscored October 22 that Bush had given no formal or informal notification of U.S. intention to withdraw from the treaty and said, “We are under no constraints with respect to our thinking.”

Both Powell and Rice made clear that the key issue for the Bush administration is ensuring that the ABM Treaty does not limit U.S. missile defense testing. While emphasizing that Bush does not want the U.S. missile defense program to be “constrained artificially” by the treaty, Powell also noted that the administration is “looking at” Russian suggestions that the United States could “probably do moretesting” than it thought it could under the treaty. Rice later told The New York Times that she believes Russia is starting to see near-term U.S. missile defense testing as not a threat, suggesting a possible deal could be worked out to relax the treaty’s constraints on testing without having Washington withdraw from the accord. At the same time, however, the Pentagon announced October 25 that it had delayed testing activities because they could have potentially violated the treaty, which the Bush administration said it would not do. (See Pentagon Puts Off Missile Defense Testing, Citing ABM Treaty.)

Speaking October 22 to the private Council on Foreign Relations, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden (D-DE) said he believes that the administration’s missile defense testing program could be carried out without violating the ABM Treaty. The senator also asserted that he thinks the president “seems to be moving in the direction where he may not unilaterally walk away from the ABM Treaty.”

Nuclear Reductions

Pre-Shanghai press reports also suggested Bush would tell Putin the much-anticipated level to which the United States would be willing to reduce its offensive strategic forces as part of the envisioned strategic framework and as a way to help win Russian acquiescence to U.S. missile defense plans. The president, however, said he offered no specific number.

Bush explained October 21 that the United States is still “analyzing” its nuclear arsenal. Rice and Powell both said Washington would soon have a figure for the Kremlin, presumably before Putin’s November 13-15 visit to the United States.

 

Currently, Russia and the United States are committed to deploying no more than 6,000 strategic nuclear warheads each by the end of this year. Putin has proposed cutting both arsenals to 1,500 strategic warheads in the future, but Bush has not indicated whether he would go that low, saying only that he supports significant reductions.

Putin said October 21 that both sides reaffirmed their “mutual intention” to reduce strategic weapons. The task now, Putin commented, is to “develop parameters of such reductions and to design a reliable and verifiable method” for making the cuts. The Bush administration, however, has repeatedly insisted it has no interest in negotiated reductions, voicing a preference for unilateral mutual reductions.

Rice downplayed the lack of any formal agreement at the Shanghai meeting and appeared to be seeking to lower expectations for the upcoming November meeting as well. At her Shanghai press conference, Rice stated, “We’re not looking for any specific breakthrough at any given meeting.” She further remarked that the two sides would be working on U.S.-Russian strategic relations before, during, and after Putin’s November visit, which will be split between Washington and Bush’s Texas ranch.

Posted: November 1, 2001

Democrats Say Debate on Missile Defense Not Over

Wade Boese

On October 1, less than two weeks after the Senate shelved legislation designed to curb the Bush administration’s missile defense plans, two senior Democrats said that the debate regarding U.S. missile defenses and possible withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty was not over.

Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) made their remarks the day before the Senate unanimously passed a bill authorizing $343.5 billion for fiscal year 2002 defense spending, including nearly $8.3 billion for missile defense. The Senate and the House are currently meeting to reconcile their two versions of the defense bill before sending it to the president for signature.

Over Republican objections, Levin and his fellow Democrats on the Armed Services Committee had voted September 7 to shift $1.3 billion from missile defense to other Pentagon programs. They also inserted a provision into the defense authorization bill requiring a specific congressional vote to approve funding for any missile defense activity “inconsistent” with the ABM Treaty, which prohibits the United States and Russia from deploying nationwide defenses against strategic ballistic missiles.

But Levin subsequently removed the restrictions after the September 11 terrorist attacks, arguing that it was not an appropriate time for a divisive debate.

However, in a speech on the Senate floor October 1, Byrd questioned whether Democrats had acted too hastily in dropping their efforts to constrain missile defense testing. He expressed concern that the Senate not ignore or devalue its responsibilities to debate important issues even when legislators want to show a united front. Although describing as understandable the wish to “respond quickly to urgent needs,” Byrd suggested that a fast response to pressing matters should not serve as an “excuse to trample full and free debate.” He specifically asserted that a debate over the ABM Treaty should not be “lightly dismissed.”

Byrd said he was not sure where he stood on the ABM Treaty, which he characterized as a “major policy issue,” but he declared, “I do know I am not prepared to trade [the ABM Treaty] in on a still-to-be-developed, still-to-be-proven national missile defense program without giving the matter a great deal of thought and consideration.” He said that he wanted to hear others’ views on the subject and that the debate should take place “sooner rather than later.”

Levin, who took the floor after Byrd, defended his decision to remove the restrictions on missile defenses from the defense bill. Levin said he knew the president would veto the bill if it included the ABM language and therefore removed it and placed it in a separate bill that could be debated at a later, less emotional time.

Levin acknowledged that it would be difficult to pass restrictions on ABM testing as a separate, stand-alone bill, but he explained that by postponing the debate, which he said “will not go away,” there would be “a better chance of arguing the pros and cons of our position in an environment where we at least maximize our opportunity to prevail.”

Levin said he believes the debate over missile defense will continue because the Bush administration is unlikely to withdraw unilaterally from the ABM Treaty in the near term for fear of upsetting the international coalition that Washington is forging to wage its “war” on terrorism. Russia, which has been an outspoken critic of missile defense, has been courted by Washington as a key ally in the fight against terrorism. “Acting unilaterally to withdraw from an arms control treaty in this setting, it seems to me, is highly unlikely,” Levin said.

For his part, President George W. Bush reaffirmed in an October 11 press conference his distaste for the ABM Treaty, describing it as “outdated, antiquated, and useless.” Bush, who said the September 11 attacks made the case against the treaty “more strong today than it was on September 10,” did not answer a specific question whether he would withdraw from the treaty before the end of the year, but he underscored that he would continue to push Russian President Vladimir Putin to join the United States in developing a “new strategic relationship,” which the administration contends requires scrapping the treaty.

Behind the scenes, the administration sent a cable after the terrorist attacks to U.S. missions abroad, instructing them to be “proactive” in arguing that the ABM Treaty is “an outdated agreement that is inappropriate for the current security environment.” The cable added that U.S. officials should “also convey the Presidents [sic] determination to move beyond” the treaty. “Missile defenses remain an imperative,” the cable declared.

Posted: November 1, 2001

A Debate Deferred: Missile Defense After the September 11 Attacks

Senator Carl Levin

The unanimous Senate vote to approve the defense authorization bill that took place in the wake of the horrific September 11 terrorist attacks may have left many arms control advocates with a number of questions. Has the debate over national missile defense, the Bush administration’s most controversial defense policy, been abandoned as the nation and the Congress understandably closed ranks in the wake of the attacks in New York and Washington? Have critics of the administration’s headlong rush to unilaterally deploy a national missile defense system simply thrown in the towel? And is it now inevitable that the administration will withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, a key element in global arms control policy for almost three decades?

In short, the answer to those three questions is “No.”

No, the debate over national missile defense policy has not been abandoned. This debate has simply been deferred to a time when the issue can be effectively debated in Congress.

No, critics of the administration’s approach have not given up the fight. Those of us who have argued that unilaterally deploying a missile defense system could make the United States less, not more, secure find fresh evidence for our position in the administration’s admirable multilateral response to the recent terrorist attacks.

No, it is not inevitable that the administration will withdraw from the ABM Treaty in the coming months. In fact, given recent statements by Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin in Shanghai and the complex realities of the post-September 11 world, that possibility, once thought to be a forgone conclusion, appears less likely. Indeed, the November summit between the two leaders in Washington and Crawford, Texas, is an opportunity for the United States and Russia to make progress toward modifying but not abandoning the ABM Treaty while preserving strategic stability and permitting significant nuclear reductions.

The political landscape throughout the last year had made it appear all but inevitable that the administration would unilaterally withdraw from the ABM Treaty. President Bush’s inauguration put an unconditional supporter of national missile defense in the White House, and the direction of the Bush foreign policy that emerged in virtually every arena suggested that unilateralism would be the watchword of the new administration. The president used his office to argue that, without a national missile defense system, our country would be vulnerable in the face of nuclear threats by rogue states, such as North Korea, in the event that they acquired long-range ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.

The president’s position won support from most Republicans and some Democrats despite the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community that there are other, far more likely means of delivering a weapon of mass destruction than a ballistic missile. These other means of delivery are a small plane, truck, ship, or briefcase, because these methods would be more accurate, more reliable, less costly, harder to detect, and—unlike a ballistic missile—have no “return address” that the United States could easily identify and retaliate against. But no matter how many blue-ribbon, bi-partisan reports sounded the alarm over these more likely means of delivering a weapon of mass destruction to U.S. soil, it was difficult to compete with the administration’s relentless advocacy of national missile defense as its top priority.

Less than five months into the Bush presidency, Senator Jim Jeffords’ decision to leave the Republican party created a new balance of power in the Senate and new opportunities to weigh the administration’s missile defense plans against a broader assessment of our security needs. As the new chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, I believed that many in Congress who were swayed by the administration’s argument would nevertheless be reluctant to pursue national missile defense in a manner that would upset the delicate balance of arms control agreements that had helped to restrain a wider nuclear arms race during the Cold War and that provided needed stability in the post-Cold War world.

For those of us concerned that unilateral action could ultimately leave the United States less secure, the challenge became fashioning a position that put a brake on the administration’s efforts while garnering the support of a majority on the Armed Services Committee and in the full Senate. The defense authorization bill, in its original form, did just that within the committee.

First, the committee agreed that the following four criteria—developed under the Clinton administration—should continue to be applied prior to deployment of a national missile defense system: (1) the threat should warrant deployment; (2) the system should be demonstrated through realistic testing to be operationally effective; (3) the cost should be weighed against other critical defense needs; and (4) deployment should make the United States more secure, taking into account the likely response of other nations.

Second—and following the logic of these four criteria—the committee supported research, development, and testing to give the United States the option to deploy a national missile defense system if the situation warranted. At the same time, we scrutinized the administration’s request of $8.3 billion for missile defense in fiscal year 2002—a $3 billion, or 57 percent, increase over the 2001 funding level approved under President Bill Clinton. Recognizing that most defense programs cannot sustain such large infusions of funding and still spend those funds wisely in a single year, our committee redirected $1.3 billion of this requested funding increase to other more pressing defense needs, such as combating terrorism. This reduction amounted to almost half of the president’s requested increase for missile defense.

Finally, the committee conditioned the expenditure of funds for missile defense activities in fiscal year 2002 on a vote by Congress if the president determined that one or more of those activities would conflict with the ABM Treaty. Such a provision was necessary because our committee never received a clear answer as to whether any of the proposed activities we were being asked to fund in fiscal year 2002 would conflict with the treaty.

In its responses to repeated committee inquiries on this critical question, the administration wavered between vagueness and inconsistency. On June 13, 2001, the director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, Lieutenant General Ronald Kadish, had informed the committee that, as far as he knew at the time, the proposed missile defense program did not include activities that would violate the ABM Treaty in fiscal year 2002. But just two weeks later, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told the committee that he did not know whether that was the case.

Then, a few weeks later, the administration presented a far different view. In July, the administration prepared a policy paper that stated, “As we have informed our allies and Russia, we expect our [research and development] efforts will conflict with the ABM Treaty limitations in a matter of months, not years.” Days later, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz testified to the committee that “one or more aspects” of the missile defense testing program “will inevitably bump up against treaty restrictions. Such an event is likely to occur in months rather than in years.”

In early July, I tried to end the confusion. I sent a letter to Secretary Rumsfeld asking the following question: “Are there any activities proposed to be carried out with the funding you are requesting for missile defense in fiscal year 2002 that would not be in compliance with the ABM Treaty and, if carried out, either would cause a violation of the Treaty or would cause the United States to give notice under the provisions of the Treaty that we would withdraw from the Treaty?”

In his September 10 answer to my letter, Secretary Rumsfeld stated that the administration “has no plans to violate the treaty…in 2002.” But this response ducked the key question because the secretary failed to answer whether the administration’s proposed tests would prompt it to give notice under the treaty that the United States would unilaterally withdraw from the treaty.

The administration’s vagueness and inconsistency on this important question was of deep concern to the committee because such a unilateral withdrawal from the ABM Treaty could have serious implications for the security of the United States and our relations with other nations. Unilateral withdrawal could strain our relations with allies and friends in Europe and Asia who recognize that the treaty has allowed nuclear arms reductions and promoted stability for three decades. It could lead Russia to stop dismantling nuclear weapons and to retain or eventually increase its multiple warheads on long-range missiles. It also could lead other nations such as China to speed the deployment, or increase the number, of their long-range nuclear missiles.

All these activities would result in more nuclear warheads on the territory of other nations and could lead to an increased risk of theft or proliferation of such warheads or their materials to rogue states or terrorists. Indeed, a bipartisan task force chaired by former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker and former White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler stated in its January 2001 report that “the most urgent unmet national security threat to the U.S. today is the danger that weapons of mass destruction…could be stolen and sold to terrorists or hostile nation states and used against American troops abroad or citizens at home.”

In addition, Russia and China could respond to unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty by producing, deploying, and probably selling missile defense countermeasures and decoys to our potential adversaries. A spiraling race of countermeasures and counter-countermeasures could then ensue.

Democrats on the Armed Services Committee realized that, if we approved funds that could be used for activities that would conflict with the ABM Treaty and that prompted a unilateral U.S. withdrawal, Congress would bear joint responsibility for the consequences. Conditioning the expenditure of funds for missile defense activities in fiscal year 2002 on a vote by Congress—assuming the president determined that one or more of those activities would conflict with the treaty—was a reasonable way of ensuring that Congress could make a clear and informed decision based on an understanding of the circumstances at the time the activity was proposed. Because this language made no pre-judgment as to the wisdom of unilateral withdrawal, we were able to gain the support of a majority of the committee, including some who support deployment of a national missile defense.

Claiming that such a vote by Congress would tie the hands of the president in his discussions with Russia over a “new strategic framework” that would permit a national missile defense, every Republican on the committee voted against the bill. President Bush threatened a veto. The New York Times reported an impending “floor fight.”

Then came September 11. With the country and the Congress understandably rallying around the president in the war on terrorism, it would have been a highly disadvantageous time to debate a controversial national security issue. The claim—although incorrect—that our bill tied the hands of the commander-in-chief would have resonated with many. An already difficult floor fight would have been made even more so, and a reasonable debate over missile defense would have become impossible.

Fortunately, a solution was achieved. The requirement for a congressional vote before missile defense funds could be used for activities in conflict with the ABM Treaty was put in a separate bill, which was placed on the Senate calendar so that the majority leader could call the bill up for debate in the future.

We also avoided a counterproductive fight over the $1.3 billion in funding reductions to the president’s increase in missile defense funds. These funds were restored, but we broadened their potential use to afford the president the choice of using them for missile defense and/or to fight terrorism, whichever he deems to be in our national security interest. I sincerely hope that, given the choice between spending more than $1 billion on unproven missile defense systems and spending that money to confront the terrorist threat against America, the president will wisely choose the latter.

The subsequent unanimous Senate vote on the defense bill sent a message of unity to our military men and women, the country, and the world just as U.S. forces prepared for military operations against terrorists and their Taliban protectors in Afghanistan. It also preserved the national missile defense debate for a later and more appropriate time. When that debate resumes, it will be in a political environment forever changed by the events of September 11.

Never again will supporters of national missile defense be able to claim, as President Bush did in May, that ballistic missiles in the hands of rogue regimes constitute “today’s most urgent threat.” The attacks of September 11 illustrated that ballistic missiles are not the tools of terrorists such as Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network. Nor are terrorists likely to obtain ballistic missiles for future attacks. When the missile defense debate resumes, there must be a renewed appreciation that every dollar we spend on the least likely threat of ballistic missiles is a dollar not spent on the most likely threat: terrorism.

Also changed—and hopefully not just for the moment—is the administration’s basic approach to foreign affairs. Gone virtually overnight is the unilateralist, go-it-alone approach so prevalent before the attacks. Unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty—with all its attendant risks to U.S. security—once seemed inevitable. Now it seems less likely as the administration works to sustain a broad, international coalition, which includes Russia, to fight terrorism. In a world of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, it is increasingly clear that nations will be more or less secure together. In the wake of the discussions between Presidents Bush and Putin in Shanghai, there appears to be some hope that the United States and Russia can reach agreement on missile defense and nuclear reductions.

When they meet in November, the two presidents will hopefully work out an agreement that will preserve strategic stability and increase mutual security. Such an agreement would permit significant nuclear weapon reductions and testing and eventual deployment of limited national missile defenses, either by a modification of the ABM Treaty or its replacement by a new agreement. Either way, the key ingredient is to pursue a cooperative approach with Russia, rather than a unilateral course. That is the best way to enhance America’s security.


Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

 

Posted: November 1, 2001

Will Prudence Prevail?

Daryl G. Kimball

This month, American and Russian leaders will try to resolve the decade-long impasse over further strategic nuclear reductions and the United States’ national missile defense ambitions. The opportunity for an agreement is close at hand, but success will require prudent adjustments in the White House strategy on missile defense and on the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, as well as fundamental changes in U.S. nuclear weapons requirements.

Ten years ago, Presidents George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the START I agreement. By December 2001, this treaty will have reduced each country’s 1990 levels of deployed strategic forces by more than 40 percent, to 6,000 warheads. Although both sides agreed to two more rounds of strategic reductions and to new guidelines on anti-missile testing, festering disagreements over missile defenses have blocked implementation of deeper arms cuts. As a result, the START process is in limbo, and the two sides maintain excessive Cold War-era nuclear arsenals, large portions of which remain poised for a quick and massive attack.

There now appears to be a genuine desire on both sides to reach an agreement on strategic offenses and defenses. President George W. Bush has adopted the language of arms control and disarmament proponents, calling U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons “expensive relics of dead conflicts.” Because the premises of Cold War nuclear targeting should no longer dictate the size and posture of the U.S. arsenal, he favors unilateral reductions of U.S. forces and removal of as many weapons as possible from hair-trigger alert. For his part, President Vladimir Putin supports reductions of deployed strategic forces to 1,500 warheads, using existing START verification provisions.

But after nine months of consultations, neither side has detailed negotiable proposals on strategic nuclear offenses and missile defenses. Until his October 21 meeting with Putin in Shanghai, Bush and his advisers insisted that the ABM Treaty must be discarded “within months” because it stands in the way of a robust national missile defense program. Administration officials gave the Russians the choice of joint withdrawal or unilateral U.S. withdrawal. To create additional pressure, the Defense Department has formulated missile defense program activities, including construction of a “test bed” in Alaska, designed to “bump up against” the ABM Treaty.

In Shanghai, Putin reiterated the importance of the ABM Treaty to strategic stability, though the Kremlin appears ready to allow more robust missile defense testing. To guard against worst-case scenarios, Russian leaders would prefer agreed legal constraints on strategic defenses commensurate with further cuts in strategic offenses. However, U.S. officials have thus far refused to offer or even discuss adjustments to the ABM Treaty and have not detailed planned U.S. nuclear reductions.

In reality, demonstrating the operational effectiveness of a nationwide anti-missile system will require many more years of tests, which can be pursued for a considerable time before final deployment and without violating the ABM Treaty. Rather than unilaterally withdrawing from the treaty in the near future, Bush could propose modifications of the ABM Treaty to permit a wider range of national missile defense work. Last month, the Pentagon announced its decision not to employ ABM Treaty-prohibited radars in the next round of missile defense tests. But if he is to reach a historic breakthrough this month or soon after, Bush must rein in hard-liners within his administration who are impatient to withdraw from the treaty.

President Bush also faces resistance from within his own administration to the fundamental changes in U.S. nuclear force doctrine that he has promised. Without U.S. nuclear reductions below 2,500 warheads, Bush will lose an important inducement to Russian flexibility on missile defense. A modest trimming of the nuclear target list, as some Pentagon planners might propose, or reassigning nuclear warheads from the active to inactive reserve stockpile, will do little to assuage Russian concerns or change Cold War nuclear postures. As a fundamental step toward his own goal of moving beyond the concept of mutual assured destruction and eliminating the mutual suspicion generated by large nuclear arsenals, Bush should direct the Pentagon to drop mass-attack nuclear war options and disarming first-strike capabilities. With this shift in presidential guidance, Bush could quickly secure a firm agreement with Putin, leading to phased reductions of each country’s strategic nuclear warheads—deployed and reserve—to 1,500 or less.

A historic agreement on deep nuclear reductions and missile defense research and development within the framework of the ABM Treaty is long overdue and would come at a crucial juncture in the U.S.-Russian relationship. If he makes the right choices, Bush can solidify the foundation for future cooperation, rather than confrontation, with Moscow.

Posted: November 1, 2001

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