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Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty

NMD Double-Talk

NMD Double-Talk

May 2000

By Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.

The Clinton administration's hypocritical and dangerous approach to national missile defense (NMD) has been starkly exposed in recently released documents that detail its proposed changes to the ABM Treaty. (See document.) Earlier this year, the United States gave Russia a draft protocol to the existing ABM Treaty that would legalize precisely what the treaty was designed to prohibit. The talking points used in presenting the protocol also make clear that the administration is prepared to sacrifice progress on strategic reductions beyond START III to the dubious cause of an NMD system. These documents stand in gross contradiction to a May 1 statement by the five nuclear-weapon states, including the United States, at the NPT review conference calling for "preserving and strengthening the ABM Treaty as a cornerstone of strategic stability and as a basis for further reductions of strategic offensive weapons."

The U.S. protocol to the ABM Treaty would explicitly permit the first phase of the proposed U.S. NMD system as an exception to the treaty's overarching prohibition of a defense of either country's territory or the base for such a defense. Not satisfied with legalizing the first phase of the proposed U.S. NMD system, at the request of either party, the protocol would require after March 1, 2001, "good faith" negotiations on more effective national missile defenses-meaning, of course, subsequent phases of the proposed U.S. NMD system. Lest there be any misunderstanding as to its intentions, the United States included a unilateral statement that it would exercise this right "if the threat will grow as we expect it will." The protocol would therefore institutionalize a slippery slope to dismantle the ABM Treaty-a most unusual way to strengthen the "cornerstone of strategic stability."

To reassure the Russians of the protocol's benign nature, the accompanying talking points address a number of military situations, including a surprise U.S. disarming strike against Russia. Even in this extreme case, Russia was assured that its force of 1,500 to 2,000 nuclear weapons on alert would be able to overwhelm even the full U.S. NMD. Because the complete system would not be operational before 2010, this remarkable diplomatic monologue signaled that the United States does not expect to go below the 1,500-2,000 level of deployed strategic warheads for the foreseeable future. Moreover, it also appeared to signal that the United States does not intend to move in the direction of de-alerting strategic forces. Unintentionally, the U.S. negotiators made the strongest possible argument why the proposed NMD system would preclude future progress in reducing strategic nuclear arsenals and therefore why the ABM Treaty was crafted the way it was in the first place.

The talking points actually start with the blunt statement that "President Clinton is counting on making the decision to deploy the national missile defense system no earlier than mid-2000." This must come as something of a surprise to Clinton, who has repeatedly emphasized that no decision on NMD deployment has been made. But to Russia it must come as a U.S. threat to withdraw unilaterally from the ABM Treaty if Russia does not agree to share responsibility for making it impotent and obsolete.

When Clinton signed the legislation making it U.S. policy to deploy an "effective" NMD as soon as technologically possible, he emphasized that his decision on deployment in mid-2000 would depend on technical progress, evaluation of the threat, the financial cost, and the impact on U.S. arms control objectives-including necessary changes to the ABM Treaty. So far, none of these four criteria comes close to justifying a decision to deploy. Technically, the system is years away from a responsible deployment decision; the so-called rogue state threat remains an unlikely hypothetical possibility; the cost is several times original estimates and rising; and the negative impact on further nuclear arms reductions and U.S. leadership in nuclear non-proliferation is becoming increasingly apparent.

Russians at every level from President Vladimir Putin on down have rejected modifying the ABM Treaty, and the United States has won no support for its cause from other states. Friends attribute U.S. interest in NMD deployment to domestic politics; potential adversaries see it as part of a sinister U.S. plot for world hegemony. The world at large looks on in amazement as the one remaining superpower and the leading advocate of arms control appears prepared to sacrifice several decades of arms control progress out of fear of a poverty-stricken North Korea with whom accommodation finally seems possible.

The tactics of persuading a reluctant Russia to accept a flawed position have overpowered the strategic objectives of U.S. self-interest. The president must recapture control of the process from his over-eager lieutenants so that he can retain the option to make a reasoned deployment decision on the basis of the four wise principles he originally set forth.

Posted: May 1, 2000

NMD Testing Schedule Slips, Delaying Pentagon Review

NMD Testing Schedule Slips, Delaying Pentagon Review

Wade Boese

THE PENTAGON REVIEW of the proposed national missile defense (NMD) system, originally scheduled for June, will be deferred a month so that data from an intercept test delayed to June 26 can factor into a Pentagon recommendation on whether the system's development status can support a presidential deployment decision. Announced March 21, the delays further compressed an officially acknowledged "high-risk" schedule that calls for system construction contracts to be awarded this fall. President Clinton will decide on whether to deploy the system, which Russia continues to oppose, later this year.

In the last intercept attempt, which took place January 18, the anti-missile system's exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV) failed to hit the target warhead. After conducting an "intensive" review, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), which oversees U.S. missile defense programs, concluded that the "most likely cause" of the miss was moisture freezing in orifices, no wider than two human hairs, in the cooling system for the EKV's infrared sensors, which guide the EKV during the intercept's final seconds.

BMDO Director Lieutenant General Ronald Kadish said March 21 that "no major design or redesign" of the EKV would be needed before the next test. Fixing the problem, however, will take until April 9, requiring the next test—originally slated for April 27—to be postponed two months and delaying the start of the planned June deployment readiness review until July. A BMDO spokesperson speculated that the readiness review would "take two or three weeks or longer given the number of participants involved, as well as the complexity of the overall technology involved in the system."

Describing the delays as "prudent," Kadish explained that the period for reviewing the upcoming intercept test results would shrink from 60 days to 30 days as a result. While permitting only 85 percent of the analysis of the approximately $100 million test, Kadish said the shortened period would be "sufficient" for evaluating the system's operation.

Kadish also downplayed an internal Pentagon criterion that calls for two successful intercepts before a deployment recommendation is given. He said there are "about 999 other criteria that we're watching very closely" in addition to the flight-test outcomes and argued that the first successful intercept test on October 2, 1999, was enough to allow the granting of construction contracts. A February Pentagon report, however, noted that a large balloon decoy deployed with the target aided the intercept and that a successful intercept would have been "uncertain" without the decoy. (See ACT, March 2000.)

A similar decoy will be used in the upcoming test and the target warhead will carry a Global Positioning System beacon, which during previous tests has provided data used in formulating the trajectory of the interceptor prior to launch and in mid-range tracking of the target. Except for the system's planned booster, this third intercept test will integrate all NMD surrogate and prototype elements, including the In-Flight Interceptor Communications System, which will permit the EKV to receive target update data and make in-flight adjustments after separating from the booster.

BMDO confirmed in March that the first flight test of the actual NMD booster, originally scheduled for April 17, has also been delayed. A new test date has yet to be set. Three flight tests of the booster are planned before it will be integrated with the prototype EKV in a 2001 intercept test. Yet this booster will not be mated with a production-representative EKV until 2003—a point stressed last November by an independent NMD review panel headed by retired Air Force General Larry Welch. The panel questioned whether the EKV would withstand the actual booster's severe vibrations, acceleration, and shock loads, which are expected to be "over an order of magnitude greater" than the booster currently in use. (See ACT, November 1999.)

Adding to questions surrounding the program, The New York Times detailed on March 7 an ongoing lawsuit against TRW, a company that competed for the EKV contract, filed by former employee Nira Schwartz. In the suit, Schwartz alleges TRW falsely certified that its technology could successfully discriminate between decoys and warheads—a task she claims only happened 5 to 15 percent of the time during computer simulations. The Pentagon distanced itself from the story March 7 by noting that TRW lost the contract, though the TRW design is the backup for the selected EKV system and the company is involved in other NMD program activities.


Delay Counseled at Home; Russia Still Opposed

On March 3, Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), the ranking minority member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urged Clinton to delay his decision on NMD deployment. Speaking at Stanford University, Biden said "technical concerns alone merit delaying this decision" even if it delays deployment past the 2005 deadline. Ten other Senators, including two Republicans, have also counseled delay.

Biden underscored that "politics remains a major driver" behind deployment. The likely Republican presidential nominee, Texas Governor George W. Bush, has endorsed deployment of a missile defense as soon as possible and, if necessary, withdrawal from the 1972 ABM Treaty, which bars the United States and Russia from deploying national missile defenses.

As an alternative to withdrawing from the treaty, which would require six-months notice, the Clinton administration has actively sought negotiations with Russia to amend the ABM Treaty to permit deployment of the proposed U.S. system. Moscow, however, has resolutely opposed amending the treaty.

Having just returned from another round of meetings with Russian officials in Geneva, John Holum, senior adviser for arms control and international security, told the same March 3 Stanford audience that the "best description I can offer is that on ABM amendments we persist in interpreting the Russian 'nyet' as a contraction of 'not yet,' while they, with force and persistence, tell us we couldn't be more wrong."

For its part, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement, according to a March 3 Interfax news agency article, which said that U.S.-proposed modification of the treaty would "devoid it of any meaning and render it impossible to reduce strategic offensive weapons." Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov warned in late February that Moscow would withdraw from START I and START II, which it has yet to ratify, if Washington withdraws from the ABM Treaty.

In addition to considering the NMD system's cost, its technological readiness, and the status of the threat, Clinton has said the system's impact on arms control would factor into his deployment decision. Holum noted that in advising the president on deployment, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright would be "very focused" on this fourth criterion, taking into consideration the impact of the system on U.S. arms control and non-proliferation objectives, as well as on relations with European and Pacific allies, Russia, and China. But Holum stressed that "no country" would have a veto over NMD deployment.

With the intercept test delay, the date for a presidential decision has become less clear. Originally expected in July, some press reports have suggested the president will make a decision as late as October. A National Security Council official simply stated the decision will come "later this year," but that all the information needed to make the decision is expected to be available this summer.

Posted: April 1, 2000

How a Limited National Missile Defense Would Impact the ABM Treaty

The Clinton administration plans to decide next summer whether to begin deployment of a limited national missile defense (NMD) system intended to defend all of the United States from attacks by a small number of long-range ballistic missiles. Because deployment of this system would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, the administration is seeking to negotiate treaty changes with Russia to permit its NMD deployment to take place legally. Russia has agreed to discuss such treaty changes, and U.S.-Russian talks began in August, although apparently no progress has been made to date.

Administration officials have indicated that they aim to obtain Russian agreement on changing the treaty prior to the scheduled July 2000 deployment decision. At the same time, the Clinton administration has made it clear that if it decides to deploy and Russia has not agreed to the required treaty changes, then the United States would be prepared to exercise its right to withdraw from the treaty by giving the required six-months notice. If the administration sticks to its current goal of completing deployment of an initial NMD system by 2005 with interceptors and a new radar in Alaska, it must begin construction in Alaska in the spring of 2001. This schedule imposes a fall 2000 deadline for negotiating necessary treaty changes, so that the United States can give its required six-months notice prior to beginning construction, which would be an unambiguous violation of the treaty.

The administration continues to describe the ABM Treaty as "central to U.S. security objectives" and maintains that it is possible both to make the needed modifications and to preserve the essential guarantees the treaty provides. In an October 17 appearance on CNN's "Late Edition," Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said that it was time to re-examine the ABM Treaty and "the possibility of adjusting it slightly in order to be able to have a national missile defense."<1> Undersecretary of Defense Walter Slocombe has made the point more explicitly: "There is no substantive reason we should find ourselves in the position of having to choose between having the capability to defend our people against rogue state ballistic missile attack, on the one hand, and jeopardizing our interest in strategic stability, a sound relationship with Russia, and further reductions in American and Russian strategic offensive arms on the other."<2>

While Russia has agreed to discuss changes to the ABM Treaty, it has also indicated that it is strongly opposed to modifying the treaty. According to Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, "Russia is firmly against any violation of the ABM Treaty, which has prevented large-scale nuclear tragedies since 1972." With regard to changing the treaty, Russian Deputy Chief of Staff Colonel-General Valery Manilov stated, "No compromises here are possible. It would be like trying to preserve a house after leaving it without a foundation."<3>

Many in the international community seem to agree with the Russians. On November 5, the First Committee of the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution, sponsored by Russia, China and Belarus, calling for strict compliance with the ABM Treaty. While there were numerous abstentions, only three countries (Israel, Latvia and Micronesia) joined the United States in opposing the resolution. Even U.S. allies in Europe have expressed serious reservations about the suggested missile defense system and the treaty changes it would require. French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin recently warned that "the global strategic equilibrium could be threatened" by U.S. efforts "to free itself from international discipline in the field of strategic weapons."<4>

Where does the truth lie? Are the required changes minor or is the currently planned NMD system fundamentally incompatible with a meaningful ABM Treaty and the security benefits it provides? In assessing the security costs and benefits of deploying the planned NMD system, it is essential to examine carefully its impact on the treaty. Far from being a Cold War relic, as some have suggested, the ABM Treaty continues to preserve a stable U.S.-Russian deterrent relationship and is necessary to effect deeper reductions in nuclear arms. The Clinton administration claims it can have it both ways: that it can deploy its planned NMD system while simultaneously preserving the ABM Treaty. But a close analysis of the treaty's mechanisms and the architecture of the proposed NMD system shows that, in fact, it is not possible to make the required changes without fundamentally compromising the treaty and the security benefits it provides.

The Role of the ABM Treaty Today

At its core, the ABM Treaty provides reassurance that ballistic missile defenses will not undermine mutual U.S. and Russian nuclear deterrence. By guaranteeing that neither country possesses, or is able to rapidly build, defenses capable of protecting it against the nuclear missile forces of the other, it allows both countries to retain high confidence in the retaliatory capabilities of their nuclear deterrent forces, even at reduced force levels.

This state of mutual vulnerability that the treaty enforces stabilized the U.S.-Soviet nuclear balance for the latter half of the Cold War, and despite their differing positions on amending the treaty, both the Clinton administration and the Russian government continue to insist that the treaty remains the "cornerstone of strategic stability." With good reason: The U.S.-Russian strategic relationship continues to be based on deterrence provided by nuclear-armed ballistic missiles (albeit at lower force levels than during much of the Cold War) and there is no evidence that either country is interested in moving away from this stance.

In fact, even with the end of the Cold War, the United States and Russia still maintain nuclear postures that require large numbers of nuclear weapons to be deployed on high-alert levels so that they can be launched in a matter of minutes in response to an incoming attack. One must assume that the military and political leaders of both countries would be unwilling to maintain such an operational policy, which increases the risks of accidental, unauthorized or inadvertent launch, unless they believed it necessary for security.

A fundamental problem here is that missile defenses can be defeated by a wide range of relatively simple countermeasures.<5> The 1999 National Intelligence Estimate on the ballistic missile threat to the United States concluded that not only would emerging missile states such as North Korea or Iran be likely to develop such countermeasures, but also that they could do so by the time they flight-tested their long-range missiles.<6> It is extremely unlikely that missile defenses will ever be demonstrably reliable against missiles with countermeasures, meaning that the nuclear-weapon states will not replace deterrence with defenses if they are not otherwise willing to give up deterrence. Thus, contrary to what some proponents argue, missile defenses will not facilitate a transition from offense to defense.

As long as deterrence based on long-range nuclear-armed missiles remains the underlying policy of the nuclear-weapon states, there will continue to be a link between offensive reductions and the deployment of missile defenses capable of intercepting such long-range missiles. Because national missile defenses make a first strike more feasible, the greatest problems for stability will result from the combination of one country with an NMD system and counterforce capability and another country with vulnerable forces. Yet this is just the situation that will exist if the United States deploys an NMD system.

Even as the United States deploys its NMD system, which it argues is not aimed at Russia, it will continue to deploy ballistic missiles with considerable first-strike capabilities against Russia's nuclear forces. In particular, the highly accurate Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) are not only capable of attacking and destroying even heavily hardened targets, but could potentially do so with little or no warning by exploiting gaps in the crumbling Russian early-warning system. Moreover, U.S. nuclear-powered attack submarines continue to operate near Russian ballistic-missile submarine bases, threatening the few missile submarines Russia is able to maintain at sea at any given time. In the event of a deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations, Russian planners could find themselves with only small numbers of warheads capable of surviving a U.S. attack-perhaps only a few tens to low hundreds.

Moreover, even though the planned NMD system would almost certainly be ineffective against its missiles, Russia would likely still feel threatened. Although Russian scientists understand that countermeasures would defeat the system, Russian policy makers may not have such confidence and are instead likely to wonder why the United States would pour tens of billions of dollars into an ineffective system. In addition, Russian leaders will realize that U.S. actions will be based not on the system's actual effectiveness, but on U.S. perceptions of its effectiveness. Furthermore, a U.S. NMD system would create uncertainties against which Russian military planners would want to hedge.

Finally, current arms control goals may actually increase the need for limits on strategic-capable defenses. Rather than trying to prevent a U.S.-Soviet arms race, arms control goals now include attaining deep cuts in the nuclear forces of all the nuclear-weapon states; making such cuts difficult to reverse by requiring warhead dismantlement and controlling fissile material production; and moving toward the abolition of nuclear weapons, as required by Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. As arsenals get smaller, stability will likely become more rather than less sensitive to defensive deployments. In addition, as arms control agreements seek to include the smaller nuclear-weapon states, especially China, the size of their offensive forces will need to be taken into account as well. And as arms control agreements make nuclear reductions more difficult to reverse, the need for guarantees against missile defense breakout will increase.

Thus, limits on defenses are still needed if the world is to move away from its current nuclear policies and the inherent dangers they present. But the question remains whether it will be possible to modify the treaty so as to allow the planned limited U.S. NMD system, while still retaining its benefits for arms reductions and security.

The Essence of the Treaty

The treaty presently preserves deterrence in three ways:

  • First, and most obviously, it bans the deployment of strategic-capable defenses with nationwide coverage. In fact, with the exception of one limited, regional system for each country, the treaty bans all deployments of strategic missile defenses. <7>
  • Second, it guards against a rapid breakout from its limits. The treaty contains provisions intended to provide several years notice of any effort to break out of the treaty, thereby providing time for the other country to build more offensive missiles or take other steps to counter the defense.
  • Third, it contains measures designed to prevent circumvention of its provisions, so that neither country can acquire prohibited defensive capabilities in an indirect or surreptitious way.
  • Bans nationwide defenses

    This central goal of the ABM Treaty is laid out in its first article, which prohibits the parties to the treaty from deploying "ABM systems for a defense of the territory of its country."

    The treaty does permit each country to deploy an ABM system "for defense of an individual region" under certain conditions specified in Article III of the treaty; in agreed statements A, B and C; and in the 1974 Protocol to the Treaty. Each country is permitted to deploy one limited, regional defense around either the national capital or an area containing ICBM silos. The Soviet Union (one of the two original signatories to the treaty) chose to deploy a defense around Moscow, which Russia (the successor state to the Soviet Union) still maintains. The United States chose to deploy its permitted defense near an ICBM field at Grand Forks, North Dakota, but the system was deactivated in 1975 after only a few months of operation.<8>

    In addition to limiting the single permitted regional defense site to no more than 100 interceptors and 100 launchers, there are several additional restrictions on this defense. First, the treaty limits the number and size of the radars at this site. Second, all the components of the ABM system must be deployed in a relatively small area, one with a radius of less than 150 kilometers. This restriction, which applies to the defense radars as well as the interceptors, is quite significant. Because the Earth is round and the United States and Russia are large countries, neither country can be completely defended using radars at a single site. The planet's curvature prevents these radars from being able to "see" missiles on many of the possible trajectories that could be used to attack large parts of either country, and because the defense interceptor must be guided to its target by a radar (or by some other sensor substituting for the radar), the treaty's requirement that the ABM radars be located at a single site with the interceptors ensures that the system can defend only an "individual region."<9> Several ABM radars, located in different parts of the country, would be needed to provide nationwide coverage.

    Guards against rapid breakout

    In addition to prohibiting each party from deploying a nationwide defense, Article I also prohibits each country from providing "a base for such a defense." The treaty effectively reinforces this prohibition on building an infrastructure that could support the rapid deployment of a nationwide strategic defense by restricting the deployment of all ABM components-interceptors, launchers, and radars-to one site. However, because interceptors can be built relatively quickly (and could even be built covertly and stockpiled), it is the limits on sensors that are key to providing confidence that a rapid breakout is not possible. Modern phased-array strategic missile defense radars are large and take years to build. Their construction is readily detectable by satellites, and the absence of such radar deployments provides high confidence that a country is at least several years away from breakout. Indeed, it is because such radars take several years to build that the United States must begin construction of the radar in Alaska in spring 2001 if it is to finish deployment of the initial NMD system in 2005.

    The treaty reinforces its guarantee that neither country will have the capability for a rapid breakout through its Article V prohibition on the development, testing and deployment of any ABM components that are sea-based, air-based or mobile land-based. Those deployment modes would permit ABM components to be rapidly relocated to provide nationwide coverage. Article V also prohibits space-based ABM components, since such components inherently have not only nationwide but global coverage.

    Prohibits circumvention

    The treaty prohibits several types of activities that might enable circumvention of its restrictions. First, Article VI prohibits giving any "missiles, launchers, or radars" that are not ABM components the capability to defend against long-range strategic ballistic missiles, and prohibits testing them against such missiles. Thus, air defenses and theater missile defenses may not be given the capability to shoot down strategic missiles or even be tested against such missiles. (This prohibition for theater missile defenses was weakened by the U.S.-Russian "demarcation" agreements, which were concluded in September 1997, but which have not yet been ratified by either country.)

    Similarly, radars (other than those permitted as part of the single regional ABM defense or at designated test ranges) may not be given the capability to counter strategic missiles or be tested against such missiles. Because radars deployed to provide early warning of an incoming ballistic missile attack could also be used for defense, the treaty restricts the location and orientation of such early-warning radars. Article VI states that each country can deploy early-warning radars only "along the periphery of its national territory and oriented outward." These restrictions prevent early-warning radars from being able to track missiles or warheads once they pass over the border, thereby limiting the radars' ability to guide relatively short-range interceptors (of the type envisaged at the time the treaty was signed).<10> Because radars deployed to track objects in space (or used for arms control verification) could also track strategic missiles, space-tracking radars, though permitted, were prohibited from being tested against strategic missiles.

    The treaty also prevents circumvention by the development of new technologies. When the treaty was written, ABM systems consisted of three types of components: interceptors, launchers and radars. Agreed Statement D explicitly allows for the possibility that other means to perform the functions of these ABM components could be developed in the future, and might then need to be restricted as well. It states that any ABM components based on "other physical principles," including components "capable of substituting for" ABM interceptors, launchers or radars, would be subject to negotiation. Unless an agreement was reached on an amendment permitting such components, their deployment would be illegal.

    The Planned NMD System

    The United States plans to build the NMD system in several stages, with the capability of the system increasing in each stage.

    A "preliminary" architecture released by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) in March 1999 describes the NMD system as being deployed in three phases.<11> (See chart.) Although, as discussed below, this plan has apparently changed somewhat, for specificity, we will base our discussion on this system architecture. The first system configuration-dubbed the "capability-1" or "C-1" system-is designed to defend against an attack of a "few, simple" warheads. This initial system would subsequently be augmented to provide a "capability-2" or "C-2" system, designed to defend against a "few, complex" warheads. The stated goal of the NMD program is to deploy the "capability-3" or "C-3" system, designed to defend against "many, complex" warheads.

    The term "few" apparently refers to five or fewer warheads; accordingly, the term "many," although vague, clearly refers to more than five warheads. The dividing line between the terms "simple" and "complex" is not well-defined (at least publicly), but these terms refer to the extent to which the attacker has incorporated countermeasures to defeat the defense. The planned system is designed to be compatible with further expansions, such as more ground-based interceptors deployed at additional sites or space-based weapons (such as the space-based laser currently under research and development).

    Perhaps the most obvious difference between these three system configurations is the number of interceptors each would deploy. The NMD interceptor will consist of a kill vehicle on top of a three-stage missile booster and will be based in an underground silo. The kill vehicle is "hit to kill," meaning that it is designed to destroy its target by direct impact with it. According to the March BMDO plan, the C-1 system would deploy 20 interceptors in central Alaska (where they would be optimally situated for an attack by North Korea); the C-2 system would increase the number of interceptors at this site to 100; and the C-3 system would deploy 250 interceptors, half of which would be located at a second site in North Dakota. Recent administration statements indicate that this plan has been changed somewhat. In October, the administration announced that the initial system would deploy 100 interceptors in Alaska by 2006, and that the longer-term goal would be to deploy subsequent stages of the system, including the second interceptor site, in 2010 or 2011.<12>

    More important, however, the number and types of sensors available to the NMD system would increase as it evolved from the C-1 to the C-3 configuration.

    All three systems would use the five current U.S. early-warning radars, located in California, Massachusetts, Alaska, Greenland and Britain. These radars are designed to provide warning of a nuclear attack and to permit the launch of U.S. nuclear weapons before the incoming warheads land. Currently they are not able to track targets accurately enough to be used to guide interceptors. However, under the Upgraded Early Warning Radar program, the United States is developing upgrades to these radars to give them this capability. These modifications would be complete by C-1 deployment. The C-3 system might include a new, sixth early-warning radar deployed in South Korea.

    However, the upgraded early-warning radars will be extremely limited in their ability to discriminate real warheads from decoys or to deal with other types of countermeasures. Therefore the system will also deploy new phased-array X-band radars specifically designed for NMD use. ("X-band" refers to the frequency of the radar waves produced; in this case the frequency is 10 gigahertz.) These radars will be able to track targets more accurately than the early-warning radars, and will be able to make detailed measurements that might be used to distinguish warheads from decoys or other false targets.

    The number of X-band radars would increase significantly as the system evolves from the C-1 to the C-3 configuration. For the C-1 system, the United States would deploy one X-band radar at Shemya at the western end of the Aleutian Island chain, where it would be well-positioned to view missile launches from North Korea. The C-2 system would deploy three additional X-band radars, co-located with the existing early-warning radars in central Alaska (near the interceptor site), Greenland and Britain. The C-3 system would include several additional X-band radars in the continental United States, Hawaii and South Korea.

    The United States also plans to deploy a satellite-based missile-tracking system for use by both the NMD system and some of its planned theater missile defenses. Originally named "Brilliant Eyes" and then renamed the Space and Missile Tracking System, the system is now called the Space-Based Infrared System, low-earth orbit (SBIRS-low). The full system will have approximately 24 satellites, each equipped with several types of sensors designed to detect missiles during their boost phase and then track targets in midcourse accurately enough to guide interceptors. In addition, SBIRS-low is also intended to help discriminate the warhead from decoys or other objects. SBIRS-low is currently scheduled for deployment in 2006 (although this date will likely slip) and would first be deployed with the C-2 system.

    Treaty Changes Needed

    The administration has indicated that at this time it is only seeking those treaty changes that are required to permit deployment of the C-1 system, and that the United States will subsequently seek additional changes to permit the later phases of the system.

    Some have suggested that the C-1 system could be accommodated if the location of the single ABM defense the United States is permitted to deploy were moved from North Dakota to Alaska. This is far from true. Even the C-1 system violates the treaty in several fundamental ways. Since it is intended to defend the entire United States, the C-1 system would violate the Article I prohibitions on deployment of a nationwide defense and on providing a base for a nationwide defense.

    Moreover, even though the C-1 system deploys all its interceptors at one site, it is not a single-site system of the type permitted by Article III. The X-band radar will be deployed at Shemya in the Aleutians, roughly 1,000 kilometers from the interceptor site in central Alaska. The C-1 system also incorporates the five early-warning radars, which will be upgraded to serve as ABM radars and without which the C-1 system could not provide coverage of the entire country.

    The upgraded early-warning radars deployed in Thule, Greenland and Fylingdales, Great Britain would be key components of the C-1 NMD system and would violate the Article IX prohibition on deploying ABM components in other countries.

    Deployment of the C-2 and C-3 systems would involve additional serious violations of the treaty. In particular, both systems will include the SBIRS-low satellite-based tracking system. These satellites are designed to provide tracking data that is accurate enough for interceptor guidance and thus they can substitute for an ABM radar. Thus, the Article V prohibition on space-based components would be violated. Deployment of SBIRS-low without Russian agreement would also violate Agreed Statement D, which requires discussion of and agreement on any new technologies capable of substituting for ABM components.

    Clearly, major changes would be required to the treaty to accommodate the planned NMD system. How could such changes be made? One obvious possibility would simply be to go through the treaty and eliminate or modify any articles that the NMD system would violate. However, this approach would require extensive changes to the treaty. For example, three out of the first five articles of the treaty would have to be changed significantly (Article II, which defines components, and Article IV, which exempts components at test ranges, would not have to be modified). Not only would this approach be difficult to negotiate, but it would be difficult for the administration to portray the end result as one that preserved the treaty.

    From a political and negotiating standpoint, a far more attractive approach may be to negotiate an exemption to the treaty for a limited NMD system. For example, to permit deployment of the C-1 system, language could be added to the treaty stating that any NMD system with 100 or fewer interceptors at a single site would be permitted, regardless of the number of sites at which ABM radars were deployed. Or the modified treaty could be more specific; for example, for the C-1 system, it could exempt any NMD system with 100 or fewer interceptors at a single site in Alaska, and permit one X-band radar at an additional site and up to five upgraded early-warning radars at other sites. In either case, such language might replace Article III, which currently defines the permitted regional defense. While such an outcome might be easier to portray as a relatively minor change to the treaty, its consequences would nonetheless be similar to those of the previously discussed approach, as it would effectively override most of the treaty's key provisions.

    The Changes' Effect on the Treaty

    As explained above, the current ABM Treaty strengthens deterrence in three basic ways: it prohibits nationwide defenses, it guards against rapid breakout, and it prevents circumvention. A new treaty that permitted a limited nationwide defense would, of course, no longer prohibit nationwide defenses, but the treaty changes required to permit the deployment of the C-1, C-2 and C-3 systems would also all but eliminate the treaty's ability to guard against rapid breakout and to prevent circumvention to a larger NMD system.

    Breakout Guarantee

    If the treaty permitted a limited national missile defense, it would be especially important for the treaty to prevent the possibility of a rapid breakout to a larger defense with more interceptors.

    Unfortunately, the multiple X-band radars and the SBIRS-low satellite system that would be deployed as part of the C-2 and C-3 systems would constitute a complete sensor infrastructure and therefore completely eliminate the treaty's ability to control breakout. This sensor network would be able to support a much larger system that deployed many hundreds or even thousands of interceptors. Since interceptors can be built relatively quickly, once the C-2 system was deployed, rapid breakout would always be a possibility.

    If only the C-1 system were permitted, only one X-band radar would be deployed and the SBIRS-low system would not be permitted. Although the upgraded early-warning radars would provide nationwide coverage for tracking missiles, they would be unable to discriminate warheads from simple decoys. Thus, the C-1 system could clearly be defeated by a country using simple countermeasures, provided the missiles were targeted at points outside the field of view of the single X-band radar in the Aleutians. Enough X-band radars to provide nationwide coverage would be needed to provide a defense that could even in principle deal with simple countermeasures. However, this limited alternative is politically irrelevant, since the current U.S. goal is to deploy the C-3 system and the United States has already indicated it will eventually seek further treaty changes to permit the C-3 system.

    It is important to note that a rapid breakout potential is not an unavoidable consequence of deploying a limited national missile defense; rather, it depends on the type of technology used. For example, rapid expansion could be precluded by deploying an NMD system that used only dish radars, which cannot track many objects simultaneously, instead of the phased-array radars the planned system will use. Indeed, several years ago, the Air Force proposed building a rapidly deployable limited NMD system that would use such dish radars.


    As noted earlier, the United States and Russia signed two agreed statements in September 1997 intended to clarify the demarcation between permitted theater missile defense (TMD) systems and prohibited strategic missile defenses. These "demarcation" agreements have not yet been ratified by either country. More importantly, although the two countries spent four years negotiating, they did not resolve their disagreement about where to draw the dividing line. The first agreed statement clearly states that any missile defense system with interceptors slower than 3 kilometers per second (km/sec) would be considered legal under the treaty so long as they were not tested against targets moving faster than 5 km/sec (or with a range of 3,500 kilometers).

    However, the second agreed statement did not resolve the issue of under what conditions missile defense systems with interceptors faster than 3 km/sec would be considered permitted theater defenses or prohibited strategic defenses. For TMD systems with such higher-speed interceptors, the agreement introduced a new "force-on-force" interpretation of the prohibition of strategic capability: it permits the deployment of such TMD systems (even if they have a strategic capability) so long as they "do not pose a realistic threat to the strategic nuclear force" of the other country,<13> but it is not clear how to assess whether a high-speed system meets this criteria. These agreements also did not clarify whether using a space-based tracking system (such as SBIRS-low) with the theater defenses would be permitted or prohibited, with the United States taking the former position and Russia the latter.

    Thus, under the agreed statements, the U.S. THAAD (Theater High-Altitude Area Defense) system, which has an interceptor speed of 2.7 km/sec, would clearly be legal. However, the legal status of the U.S. Navy Theater Wide (NTW) system, which would be deployed on Aegis ships and has an interceptor speed of 4.5 km/sec, is not clear. The United States wanted the agreement explicitly to permit Navy Theater Wide; Russia did not. However, the United States is proceeding with the development and testing of the NTW system, arguing that it does not have the capability to intercept long-range missiles as long as it only uses the existing Aegis ship-based radars and will only acquire such a capability once SBIRS-low is deployed. But as a recent BMDO report acknowledges, the NMD system's X-band radars could support the NTW interceptor equally well in engagements against long-range strategic missiles.<14> Thus, even under the new force-on-force requirement, Navy Theater Wide could be a treaty violation.

    The C-2 and C-3 systems, which would deploy both a network of X-band radars and the satellite-based SBIRS-low system, would permit the integration of Navy Theater Wide interceptors into the NMD system. Indeed, the recent Pentagon study cited above concluded that the NMD system could be upgraded by integrating the hundreds of interceptors to be deployed as part of the ship-based Navy Theater Wide missile defense system. Even if the treaty were modified to permit only a limited national missile defense, the changes required to permit the C-2 and C-3 systems would also facilitate the circumvention of the treaty limits by interceptors that were nominally intended for theater missile targets.

    What's Left and Is It Useful?

    If the treaty is changed to permit deployment of the planned NMD system, at best what will remain is a treaty that permits only a limited NMD but that cannot prevent either rapid breakout or circumvention to a much larger NMD system. Is such a treaty useful? Proponents of the NMD system argue that because its capabilities will be limited by the number of interceptors deployed, the U.S.-Russian strategic balance will not be threatened and the treaty will still serve its intended purpose.

    It is true that a limit on the number of launchers and interceptors would place an upper bound on the number of warheads against which the NMD system could defend. For example, a system with 250 interceptors obviously could defend against no more than 250 warheads (and against considerably fewer if multiple interceptors were launched at each target). The permitted system clearly could not defend against a large-scale attack. Russia deploys thousands of nuclear weapons, and it is on this basis that many argue that the planned U.S. NMD system and the required treaty changes could not threaten Russia's deterrent or otherwise pose arms control problems.

    However, there are at least four serious problems with this argument. First, Russian planners will not be concerned about whether the NMD system would interfere with a Russian first strike against the United States, but about how it might affect Russia's ability to launch a retaliatory attack in response to a first strike on Russia's nuclear forces. Thus, the relevant question is not whether the number of permitted NMD interceptors is limited relative to the entire Russian arsenal, but whether the number is limited relative to a Russian retaliatory attack. The size of a Russian retaliatory strike depends on the survivability of Russian land-based ICBMs and SLBMs, which in turn depends on both Russian and U.S. operational practices and on the accuracy and yield of U.S. nuclear weapons.

    Second, while it is true that Russia currently deploys thousands of nuclear weapons, it is not desirable to create a situation where Russia feels it needs to retain large forces to maintain deterrence in the face of a U.S. NMD system. The presence of an NMD system will always raise the level of offensive forces that would be needed to maintain a retaliatory capability. The original goal of the ABM Treaty was to prevent a buildup of offensive forces; now it provides an opportunity to allow deterrence at greatly reduced force levels.

    Third, although China is not a party to the ABM Treaty, it clearly bases its nuclear planning at least in part on the guarantees the treaty provides. While a limited national missile defense might not threaten Russia's forces at existing levels, it would pose a direct threat to China's current arsenal, which includes only some two dozen long-range single-warhead missiles capable of reaching the United States.

    Fourth, the modified treaty will permit the infrastructure (in particular, the sensors) needed for a much thicker nationwide defense. Russia (and China) cannot be confident that in the future the number of interceptors would not greatly exceed 250. The United States already plans to deploy several hundred Navy Theater Wide interceptors, which could be integrated into the NMD system. The NMD system is also explicitly designed to be compatible with further upgrades, including more interceptors at additional sites and the space-based laser that the United States is currently developing. Indeed, if the United States moves forward with its planned NMD deployment, there will be strong pressures to upgrade and expand the system. Even the C-3 system would have only a single layer, which makes achieving high effectiveness nearly impossible. It cannot defend against shorter-range ballistic missiles launched from near U.S. coasts or against ballistic missiles armed with chemical or biological submunitions. Finally, its deployment is likely to produce responses such as a Chinese buildup, thus creating a need to expand the system.

    Thus, the deployment of the planned U.S. NMD system and the changes to the ABM Treaty needed to permit its deployment will eliminate the central security guarantees that the treaty provides. The United States would have an NMD system with a number of interceptors comparable to or greater than the number of survivable missile warheads possessed by Russia or China and the ability to rapidly expand this defense into a much larger system. This situation is precisely the one the treaty was intended to prevent, and it will provoke reactions of the type the treaty sought to avoid.

    It may be possible to modify the treaty and portray such changes as saving it, but it is not clear what purpose this would serve or for what audience this charade would be intended. Russia, China and other countries will understand what the reality is, and the consequences of such a deployment will eventually be felt. Perhaps it would be possible to deceive a domestic U.S. audience eager to have its cake and eat it too, but it is essential that the reality of the situation be acknowledged in order to permit a discussion of the real security costs and benefits of NMD deployment. Pretending that the planned NMD system can be deployed while simultaneously preserving the ABM Treaty precludes this much-needed discussion.

    Many missile defense proponents in the United States seek the outright elimination of the ABM Treaty. However, the greatest danger to the treaty may now be from those who claim they are working to preserve it, while planning to deploy an NMD system that would destroy it.


    1. Quote from Joyce Howard Price, "ABM Treaty Changes Pushed," Washington Times, 18 October 1999, p. 1.

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    2. Speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, 5 November 1999.

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    3. As quoted in Bill Gertz, "U.S. Missile Plan Hits Roadblock," Washington Times, 22 October 1999, p. 1.

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    4. As cited in FBIS-WEU, 22 October 1999, "French Premier Jospin Warns of Renewed Arms Race."

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    5. George N. Lewis and Theodore A. Postol, "Future Challenges to Ballistic Missile Defenses," IEEE Spectrum, Vol. 34, No. 9 (September 1997), pp. 60-68; George N. Lewis, Theodore A. Postol, and John Pike, "Why National Missile Defense Won't Work," Scientific American, Vol. 281, No. 2 (August 1999), pp. 37-41.

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    6. National Intelligence Council, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, "Foreign Missile Development and the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States Through 2015," unclassified summary, September 1999.

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    7. The term "ABM" refers to any ballistic missile defense system intended to counter long-range strategic ballistic missiles (defenses against shorter-range missiles are known as theater missile defenses or TMDs). Thus the terms "ABM defense" and "strategic ballistic missile defense" are essentially synonymous, and each can refer to defenses covering either part of a country or the entire country. The term "national missile defense" or "NMD" is now generally used instead of "ABM," but NMD is generally applied only to systems covering an entire country.

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    8. Initially, each country was permitted to deploy two widely separated regional systems, one to defend the capital and one to defend ICBM silos. To prevent the two sites from supporting each other, they were required to be separated by a distance of at least 1,300 kilometers. The 1974 Protocol to the Treaty limited each country to only one of these sites.

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    9. For more details, see David Wright and Lisbeth Gronlund, "Underflying Brilliant Pebbles," Arms Control Today, May 1991, p. 16, or the longer discussion in L. Gronlund and D.C. Wright, "Limits on the Coverage of a Treaty-Compliant ABM System," Physics and Society, April 1992, pp. 3-6.

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    10. Two U.S. early-warning radars deployed in Thule, Greenland and Fylingdales, Great Britain, were grandfathered.

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    11. Briefing slide TRSR-082 (25), Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, 3 March 1999. See also Michael C. Sirak, "NMD 'C3' Architecture Could Feature up to Nine X-band Radars," Inside Missile Defense, 19 May 1999, pp. 13-14.

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    12. Testimony of Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Walter Slocombe before the House Armed Services Committee, 13 October 1999. See also Michael C. Sirak, "Administration Seeks Phased NMD Fielding, Phased ABM Treaty Changes," Inside Missile Defense, 20 October 1999, pp. 1, 33-34.

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    13. "Second Agreed Statement Relating to the Treaty Between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems of May 26, 1972," 26 September 1997. Higher-speed TMD systems are also subject to the 5 km/sec limit on the speed of targets in tests.

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    14. Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, "Summary of Report to Congress on Utility of Sea-Based Assets to National Missile Defense, 1 June 1999.

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    Lisbeth Gronlund is a senior staff scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists and a research fellow at the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). George Lewis is an associate director of MIT's Security Studies Program. [Back to top]

    Posted: November 1, 1999

    How a Limited National Missile Defense Would Impact the ABM Treaty

    Lisbeth Gronlund and George Lewis

    Preliminary Architecture for C-1/C-2/C-3 NMD Systems

      C-1 Configuration1 C-2 Configuration2 C-3 Configuration3
    Number of Interceptors Deployed in Alaska 20-100 100 125
    Number of Interceptors Deployed in North Dakota 0 0 125
    Upgraded Early-Warning Radars Beale (CA); Clear (AK); Cape Cod (MA); Fylingdales (England); Thule (Greenland) Beale; Clear; Cape Cod; Fylingdales; Thule Beale; Clear; Cape Cod; Fylingdales; Thule; South Korea
    X-Band Radars Shemya (Aleutians, AK) Shemya; Clear; Fylingdales; Thule Shemya; Beale; Clear; Cape Cod; Fylingdales; Thule; South Korea; Grand Forks (ND); Hawaii
    SBIRS-Low? No Yes Yes

    Source: U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Organization

    1. C-1 (capability-1) system is defined as defense against a "few, simple" warheads, where "few" referes to five or fewer warheads.

    2. C-2 (capability-2) system is defined as defense against a "few, complex" warheads.

    3. C-3 (capability-3) system is defined as defense against "many, complex" warheads.

    Posted: November 1, 1999

    National Missile Defense: Collision in Progress

    On July 22, 1999 President Clinton igned legislation proclaiming it to be the policy of the United States to deploy a national missile defense (NMD) system "as soon as technologically possible." The stated purpose is to protect all U.S. territory against limited ballistic missile attacks launched deliberately by "rogue" opponents. An additional purpose widely inferred is to defend against an accidental or unauthorized missile launch from any source. In his accompanying statement, the president noted that the expression of intent did not yet authorize an actual deployment or appropriate funds to carry it out. He indicated, however, that he would make a specific deployment decision by July 2000 and promised to take technical performance and threat assessments, as well as all the costs and arms control implications of a deployment program, into account.

    At the time of that announcement, the design of an NMD system had not been completed and no intercept tests had been conducted. The first such test occurred on October 2 and demonstrated that the final-stage homing mechanism could intercept a target warhead traveling at intercontinental-range speed (7 kilometers/second) when placed on a near-collision course under ideal conditions. But that test was directed against an unrealistically cooperative target, and the homing mechanism, known as the exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV), was the only major component of the eventual system involved. The first integrated test involving the radar and information management components of the envisaged system will occur in the spring of 2000, and even that test will use a surrogate booster rocket. Only three of the 19 intercept tests expected to be necessary for full system development are currently anticipated before July 2000, and the full sequence is not expected to be completed until 2005. Nonetheless, NMD development program officials are suggesting that the as-yet-unspecified and untested system might achieve its initial operating capability in 2005.

    This schedule is widely assumed to have been inspired by domestic politics, since it makes no sense in technical or strategic terms. As indicated by the carefully limited character of the October test, the intercept technology is not ready for operational application, and it will clearly require more than the year allotted to make a reasonable technical judgment about overall system performance. Meanwhile, none of the alleged rogues have actually initiated deployment of ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States. The principal suspect, North Korea, has held only two tests of a missile incapable of delivering even a very small payload over intercontinental distances and has announced an indefinite moratorium on further tests pending the outcome of negotiations with the United States to terminate their program. To deploy an inadequately tested defensive system before an offensive threat is realized virtually guarantees that any threat which does subsequently appear will be able to penetrate the system. It is a disadvantage in this game to make the first technical commitment and irresponsible to do so without some form of restraint on the opposing offense-the equivalent of using antibiotics indiscriminately and thereby generating drug-resistant strains.

    Why indulge in such behavior? The generally inferred answer is that President Clinton is determined to avoid a direct confrontation with congressional Republicans on the topic lest their assertive advocacy of an NMD program provide a significant partisan advantage in the upcoming presidential election. By extension of that supposition, it is assumed that the decision made in July 2000 will be arranged to sound like a deployment commitment, whatever hedges might be built into it. Prevailing judgment on Washington political circuits holds NMD to be inevitable-an assertion generally accepted by the national press.

    International Reactions

    There are some inescapable implications of the announced commitment, however, that are serious enough to put the eventual outcome very much in doubt. There is no realistic prospect that an NMD system could perform as advertised over the foreseeable future-a couple of decades or more. Even at the outer edges of plausible success, missile intercept systems cannot expect to keep pace over that period of time with projected improvements in offensive capabilities. Anyone seriously in the business of deploying ballistic missiles can be expected to adopt penetration techniques sufficient to get through a rudimentary NMD system. Those sufficiently concerned could also arrange to bypass the system using readily available cruise missile technology or various methods of clandestine weapons delivery. Those who are very intensely concerned could develop the capacity to negate the system by attacking its sensors. So evident are those facts that potential opponents of the United States are virtually certain to impute a far more ominous intention to a NMD deployment effort. It will be seen as cover for an effort to enhance the already imposing offensive capacities of the United States, and reactions will predictably be driven by that interpretation.

    That perspective will weigh particularly heavily on Russia and China, whose assessments of the situation are potentially the most consequential. Both maintain nuclear deterrent forces based primarily on ballistic missiles that are implicitly directed against the United States. Both do so at substantial disadvantage. Russia inherited a large force from the Soviet Union with thousands of weapons nominally available but without the current financial assets or the longer-term economic base necessary to sustain that force. China has relied all along on a much smaller force of some 20 missile launchers not maintained on immediate alert status. When it comes down to daily operating conditions, both of these forces are in principle quite vulnerable to an attack initiated by the larger and technically more capable American nuclear forces.

    They have substantial conventional force disadvantages as well. The sensing systems and information-handling capacity associated with the projected NMD system would meaningfully enhance the pre-emptive potential of U.S. offensive forces, both nuclear and conventional. Even the limited initial deployment of 100 interceptors designed for 4-to-1 engagements would threaten the residual deterrent forces that Russia and China could expect to survive an initial U.S. attack. Once the sensors and information management assets were in place, the number of available interceptors could be rapidly increased, particularly since the United States is simultaneously pursuing theater missile defense deployments that could be adapted to the national defense mission. Rapid expansion of the initial system would bring the United States to the threshold of a decisive disarming capability under which, in theory, the credibility of China's small deterrent force and Russia's deteriorating one would collapse completely. Summary dismissal of these concerns by official U.S. interlocutors and the failure of domestic political discussion to credit them is seen by Russia and China as indication of American disingenuousness-an impression that significantly compounds the problem.

    North Korea's assessments are also consequential but on a different scale because North Korea is not remotely capable of waging a sustained military confrontation with the United States, as Russia and China might conceivably manage to do if given no other option. With a small, isolated, deteriorating economy and a society in obvious internal peril, North Korea has to fashion some form of accommodation as a matter of the most basic survival. And despite the rogue image routinely imposed upon it-an image that it has historically done a great deal to deserve-the North Korean government has indicated serious interest in accommodation since the 1994 signing of the Agreed Framework, an accord that effectively terminated its production of fissionable material. As a natural extension of that initiative, North Korea has expressed a willingness in principle to eliminate its ballistic missile program in exchange for appropriate compensation, and the test moratorium announced in September is certainly consistent with such an intention, if not yet a guarantee. As a practical matter, by the time a U.S. NMD deployment might actually be completed, North Korea is unlikely to exist in its current form. If it does survive, it will mostly likely have done so by achieving a broad accommodation with the United States that decisively restrained its missile development efforts. In the very unlikely event that the North Korean regime manages to hang on while maintaining "rogue" status, then they will presumably have mastered penetration techniques along with the other basic features of missile technology. Like Russia and China, such a North Korea would have strong reason to worry about the offensive implications of a U.S. NMD effort, but there would be less they could do about it.

    At this point it is impossible to determine with any confidence how these three countries-or any of the others inherently threatened by a U.S. NMD effort-would actually react to an NMD deployment. They themselves have probably not yet made that determination. It is very apparent, however, that the situation presents those states with a severe policy dilemma that is bound to have serious consequences. If they choose to accept the U.S. NMD effort under the rationale that it is only a limited system, they can avoid immediate political confrontation and play for time, hoping that the United States will eventually acknowledge their legitimate concerns after realizing NMD's technical difficulties and strategic implications. However, that approach locks in a rationale and accepts a momentum of U.S. investment that will inexorably lead to increasing military inferiority. In a future conflict, such a stark disadvantage could be decisive. It would be exceedingly difficult for either military planners or political leaders in Russia and China to accept that danger. If, on the other hand, the major rivals and alleged rogues assertively defend their longer-term security interests, they could find themselves in an immediate political confrontation with the United States that would seriously disrupt their efforts to work out productive terms of economic engagement. A conflict between security and economic interests is as agonizing a problem as the world of policy has to offer, and when driven into desperate circumstances, people do desperate things.

    U.S. allies will probably not fully credit the fears of potential opponents, but they are likely to comprehend their dilemma and will assuredly want to dampen its consequences. However popular romantic images of national missile defense might be in the United States, they will not sweep the world, and in the end, world opinion does matter for the United States.

    Impending Collision

    At the moment, the United States and Russia are on a collision course over this issue. The U.S. NMD program unambiguously contradicts the 1972 ABM Treaty, and Russia would have to agree to enabling amendments in order to legalize the effort. Otherwise, the United States would have to formally withdraw from the treaty or simply violate it in order to proceed with an actual deployment. The United States has proposed amendments that would accommodate the first phase of the projected program by validating the system's national coverage and providing for an interceptor site and enhanced radar facility in Alaska. It is also apparent that at subsequent phases of the program, the United States would have to ask for treaty amendments allowing both for improvements and new construction at five existing ground-radar installations and new construction at four additional sites. And it is expected that the eventual system will depend on a new network of infrared sensors deployed in space, a provision that would also require a treaty amendment and is certain to be of particular concern to Russia. Once completed, these facilities would clearly provide the basis for rapid deployment of a larger number of interceptors and a more capable overall system.

    Although Russian President Boris Yeltsin has agreed in principle to discuss ABM Treaty adjustments, it is evident that Russian military analysts do not consider even the initially suggested amendments to be acceptable because they do not believe Russia can tolerate the projected deployment. Reported offers by the United States to assist in the completion of two radar installations will not make a meaningful difference in their judgment, which the Russian political system is unlikely to override. Implied U.S. threats to withdraw from the treaty if the amendments are not accepted are generally considered in Russia to be an ultimatum they cannot responsibly accept. Consensus opinion in Russia holds that the abandonment of the ABM Treaty would invalidate all of the offensive force limitation agreements. As a practical matter that amounts to a counter-ultimatum.

    There is no plausible resolution of the impasse yet in sight, and a direct legal collision appears imminent. Russia could make a legal case that the October test in connection with the July legislation is already a violation of the ABM Treaty. If a deployment commitment is made in July 2000, even provisionally, construction for the interceptor site in Alaska is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2001, and the United States itself admits that pouring concrete at that site would violate the current terms of the treaty. With that in mind, close observers of the situation are freely speaking of a train wreck in progress. Given the U.S. Senate's vote against ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, it is not difficult to visualize catastrophic consequences-the cascading failure not only of the ABM Treaty but of START I, START II, and ultimately the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty itself. That sequence would be a major crisis of international security and could shake the U.S. alliance system to its foundations.

    Although life is notoriously uncertain and occasionally generates miraculous escapes at the last moment, it is prudent to assume that the impending collision will not be avoided within the framework of current policy. The specific issues in question are embedded in a much broader set of security problems that cannot be resolved by the sort of marginal deals currently being discussed by the official negotiators. In the wake of the Cold War, there is a monumental imbalance in military capability throughout the world, with U.S. allies enjoying much greater protection against traditional threats than any others. This inherent discrimination is very difficult to justify or to sustain even among the current alliance members for a very practical reason: it imposes unmanageable burdens on the major societies not included-dangerously unmanageable ones in the case of Russia.

    Russia's economic base is currently assessed at less than 2 percent of the United States', and it is plagued with deep structural problems highly related to the Soviet Union's ultimately unsuccessful effort to keep pace with Western military development. There is no socially feasible economic reform program yet devised that would plausibly deal with this problem, and as a result, there is no realistic prospect for rapid and sustained expansion of Russia's economic base. An unavoidable implication is that the Russian government does not have adequate financial assets to perform any of its major functions, including support of its 1.2 million-person military establishment. That establishment has been financially starved under the Russian Federation and has been progressively deteriorating for a decade. It is nonetheless responsible for what is inherently one of the most demanding security missions in the world: defense of a 20,000-kilometer perimeter, with NATO to the west and China to the east. None of the military's central missions can be performed to the standards of traditional contingency planning. No international security arrangement provides direct assistance of meaningful consequence.

    Faced with an overall security problem that is essentially unmanageable in traditional terms, Russia has drifted, inevitably one might say, into comprehensive reliance on the deterrent effect of nuclear weapons to cover virtually all major security missions. But even that is not an assured redoubt. The nuclear weapons component of the Russian military establishment will deteriorate and, at any rate, is destined for financial reasons to be substantially smaller and less capable than that of its major potential opponent-the United States. In this context, the implicit threat that the U.S. NMD program poses to the highly beleaguered Russian deterrent force has very broad and very powerful resonance.

    It would be unlikely under any circumstance that declarations of benign intent, however sincere and however formally expressed, would provide what Russian military planners could reasonably consider to be adequate reassurance. But even that precarious possibility has been severely prejudiced by recent history. The Soviet government that allowed German unification to occur in a swift and graceful manner believed it had been assured that NATO would not subsequently extend its jurisdiction eastward. Nonetheless, NATO quickly proceeded to do so and currently talks as if it will continue the project. In the course of its expansion process, NATO assured the Russian government that it was exclusively a defensive alliance and would never attack unless one of its members was first attacked. But a scant two years after Russia formally acceded to NATO expansion, thus granting the appearance of a consensual process, NATO conducted an air assault against Yugoslavia despite vehement Russian opposition. It did so, moreover, at its own initiative with no attempt whatsoever to secure approval from the UN Security Council, where Russia would have had legal standing to object. In the aftermath, NATO believes its action to have been fully justified, while Russia sees the entire exercise not only as a breach of promise and a violation of international legal procedure, but also as an implicit threat to Russia itself. As a result of this sequence, NATO as a whole, the United States included, has seriously undermined its ability to credibly reassure Russia for quite some time.

    It is not yet evident-mercifully, perhaps-whether or when the accumulating pressures on Russia will produce a catastrophic breakdown or how such a breakdown would be manifested. It is quite evident, however, that through its actions the world as a whole is flirting with that dangerous possibility. The combination of intractable security burdens and perceived provocation makes the impending collision over the ABM Treaty very perilous indeed.

    Imaginable Outcomes

    With major elections scheduled in both the United States and Russia, there is a strong presumption that neither government can manage any major policy initiative before 2001, and there is no public indication that either government is considering one. Both election campaigns can be expected to encourage assertive nationalism and to suppress any inclination for accommodation of the scope required. Nonetheless, hopeful speculation is not completely pointless. Precisely because the danger is considerably more serious than currently admitted, there is an occasion for constructive statesmanship, and it is worth considering how it might be accomplished.

    The simplest answer is a judicious delay. Despite the mantra of inevitability currently being chanted by most of the political pundits in Washington, NMD deployment is not a sure thing. It would not require all that great a feat of political leadership to point out to the sensible, but always distracted, American majority that the zealots on this subject are far outside of rational bounds. The NMD program will obviously not be ready for a responsible decision on deployment for several years because adequate testing will not have been done and also because the diplomacy necessary to legitimize it clearly cannot be accomplished by July 2000. To pretend otherwise is to assure failure both of the program and of the diplomacy. Majority opinion is evidently prepared for such a message; when asked, most people are vaguely in favor of missile defense but do not consider it a major priority. They surely do not want to pay an exorbitant price in economic, political, legal and strategic terms for a system that will not work anytime soon.

    But postponement alone is not an enduring answer, and it is questionable whether restoration of the traditional answer-indefinitely restricted defense to preserve nuclear deterrence at lower force levels-can endure either. Regardless of the presence or absence of national missile defense in the United States, Russia cannot safely sustain the large, highly alert deterrent operations inherited from the Cold War. The pre-emptive damage that the United States and NATO are capable of inflicting on Russian forces virtually precludes the comprehensive forms of retaliation envisaged by traditional deterrence doctrine and virtually compels reliance on rapid-reaction practices to assure even the most minimal deterrent standard. Russia cannot maintain its forces on rapid-reaction status without running an unreasonable risk of triggering an accidental, unauthorized or inadvertent engagement. The United States is better able to do this, but there is no good reason for either country to preserve a swift and massive deterrent threat. They do it because they have habitually done it, but that is not an acceptable reason. The coupling together of deterrent forces under fallible managerial control is the single greatest danger to both sides. Any residual inclinations for aggression that either side might harbor can readily be deterred by a force configuration that does not maintain any weapons on alert status and is not prepared for massive retaliation. Such an arrangement would emphasize reliable reassurance rather than overwhelming deterrence. It would be a great deal safer than the current situation and as a result would provide superior overall security to both sides and the rest of the world as well. In principle, the transition to that improved state might be initiated through collaboration on missile and aircraft surveillance, a central feature of any NMD effort.

    Basically the process of transition would involve full integration of Russia and eventually of China into the sensing and information management network necessary to support any national missile defense deployment. At a minimum, that means they would reliably receive the surveillance and tracking data generated by the system at the same time as the United States does and would have all the algorithms required to interpret it. That would not give them command authority over U.S. NMD operations but it would give them full vision and intimate involvement. Although they would be unlikely to do so, in principle they could use the information for their own NMD operations and would supply the United States with any data they independently generated.

    At first glance-and for sometime thereafter-intimate collaboration of that sort would be considered unimaginable, especially by the most assertive NMD advocates. But despite the prevalence of what might be called standard belligerent attitudes, the United States in fact has inherently powerful interests in such an arrangement. The surveillance of threatening missile trajectories and of air traffic generally is one of the most glaring deficiencies of the current Russian deterrent operation, and it has distinctly dangerous consequences. If the United States is not attacking Russia, we need them to know that with complete confidence at all times, lest confusion trigger Russia's nuclear force, which is poised for rapid reaction because of its inherent vulnerability. Although we might be supremely confident about our own benign intentions, it would be the height of arrogance-potentially fatal arrogance-to suppose that the Russians are as confident. At the moment, conveying reliable reassurance is a far greater problem for the United States than preserving reliable deterrence.

    Truly comprehensive collaboration in maintaining missile launch and air traffic surveillance is one of the more promising methods for addressing the problem of reassurance. In order to be effective in that regard, joint surveillance would have to be extended to the pre-launch conditions of all nuclear weapons delivery systems, so that the collaborating partners would know beyond question that a pre-emptive attack could not be undertaken without their detecting the preparations well in advance of the time any ballistic missile or other delivery method could actually be launched-a realization in effect of the de-alerting idea that has been tentatively discussed. The most direct method would be to separate warheads from all transport vehicles and to store them with attached devices that confirm that status, but the principle could be embodied in many different ways. If residual deterrence and not disarming pre-emption is in fact the only intention the United States has, then comprehensive joint surveillance is a strong mutual interest, as is a deterrent force configuration that removes all weapons from alert status. Joint surveillance extended to pre-launch conditions would be a verification arrangement for such a force configuration.

    At the moment the U.S. political system clearly does not understand the problem of reassurance and is not willing to consider the measures necessary to address it. The impending collision over NMD might well be the occasion for some enlightenment, however. In the end, the passion of national missile defense, if it is in fact a passion, cannot be satisfied unless comprehensive reassurance is practiced and the operational configuration of offensive forces in whatever residual numbers is transformed accordingly. That would in fact be a much better security arrangement. If the conditions of decisive reassurance could be achieved, including the transformation of offensive forces, there would still be a practical question as to whether a limited or not-so-limited national defense deployment is worth the expense and effort involved, but under those conditions, that would be a relatively harmless question. Under existing conditions, the question is certainly not harmless. It is in fact exceedingly dangerous.

    John Steinbruner is director of the Center for International Security Studies and a professor in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland. [Back to top]

    Posted: November 1, 1999

    Just Say 'No'

    The Clinton administration is considering deployment of a limited national missile defense (NMD), which would require amendment of every substantive article in the ABM Treaty. Not surprisingly, Russia adamantly opposes this action. If President Clinton decides on deployment next July without Russian agreement, he will set the stage for U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, which will have far-reaching adverse implications for U.S. security.

    In signing congressional legislation making it U.S. policy to deploy an "effective" NMD as soon as technologically possible, Clinton stated his decision would depend on technical progress, evaluation of the threat, the cost and the impact on U.S. arms control objectives, including necessary changes to the ABM Treaty. Despite Clinton's repeated assertions that no decision has been made, senior members of his administration have argued so strongly for NMD deployment as a necessary response to a possible North Korean ICBM threat that it is widely believed the decision has already been made.

    It has been clear for some time on technical grounds alone that a responsible deployment decision cannot be made in mid-2000. Most recently, a committee of experts headed by General Larry Welch, retired Air Force chief of staff, concluded that the "demonstration of readiness to deploy will not come until 2003 at the earliest." The system is currently being tested with elements that are surrogates for the undemonstrated actual components, except for the kill vehicle, which the committee judged may not prove compatible with the extremely high accelerations of the untested high-performance booster. The committee found that the lack of spares and an "underestimation of the complexity" of the problem in this "very high risk" program make further slippage likely.

    The North Korean ICBM threat is dismissed by the rest of the world as either a paranoid U.S. fantasy or a thin cover for other objectives. The U.S. estimate depends on a worst-case assessment of how quickly a minimum North Korean capability might conceivably be achieved, divorced from any consideration of how such a capability might be exploited by North Korea. The notion that a poverty-stricken state without allies would suicidally launch ICBMs against the United States, inviting its own obliteration, or even threaten such an attack, risking a pre-emptive U.S. strike, is simply not credible. Moreover, in the real world, North Korea is engaged in negotiations that may well lead to the abandonment of its missile program.

    The direct cost of the proposed limited NMD system is very uncertain given the inchoate state of the program's architecture, with the first phase alone estimated at $20-30 billion and all three phases estimated at twice as much. Given the history of far less demanding high-tech systems, one would expect current estimates to double. A more comprehensive system, desired by true NMD believers in Congress, would probably cost between $100-200 billion.

    The actual costs and consequences of deployment coupled with U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty are far more dangerous than any potential "rogue" state threat. Russia believes that the proposed NMD would provide the base for a much larger deployment that would be directed at them. U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty would undoubtedly end the strategic arms reduction process because Russia would want to design its force to assure penetration of a future NMD by retaining its MIRVed land-based ICBMs, which are banned under START II. China would accelerate its strategic modernization program since even the proposed limited NMD could defend against any Chinese missiles that survive a pre-emptive U.S. strike. Such reactions will hardly contribute to improved U.S. relations with Russia and China, which are essential to future U.S. and world security.

    U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty coupled with collapse of the strategic reductions process and following Senate rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would drastically undercut U.S. leadership in the non-proliferation regime. Even U.S. allies and friends see the NMD program as unnecessary and provocative. Others see it as part of a strategy of unilateral hegemony permitting the United States to intervene anywhere with impunity. In a recent UN First Committee vote, only Israel, Latvia and Micronesia supported U.S. opposition to a resolution supporting the ABM Treaty.

    Political pundits pontificate that it is a foregone conclusion that Clinton will decide next summer to deploy an NMD to remove this issue from the presidential campaign. But the president will have to make this fateful decision against the weight of all of the criteria he has established. If Clinton does not want to burden his final legacy with the destruction of the ABM Treaty and the strategic arms reduction process, he has a simple alternative to deployment just say 'No!'

    Posted: November 1, 1999

    Russian Officials Continue to Oppose Changes to ABM Treaty

    J. Peter Scoblic

    U.S. ATTEMPTS TO renegotiate the ABM Treaty to allow for deployment of a limited national missile defense (NMD) system continued to meet with strong public and private opposition from top-level Russian political and military officials, whose concerns were echoed by Chinese and European leaders and formalized in a UN draft resolution urging the preservation of the treaty. The United States answered Russia's protests, which were punctuated with missile tests and suggestions of improved nuclear forces, by insisting that U.S. NMD efforts were not intended to threaten Russia's nuclear deterrent.

    Despite Moscow's vehement public opposition to changing the treaty, the United States and Russia have been holding high-level talks on the ABM Treaty since mid-August. Most recently, Undersecretary of State John Holum met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Berdennikov in Moscow on October 21-22. According to reports published just before the meeting by The New York Times, the United States had offered to help Russia complete its missile-tracking radar site at Mishelevka, near the Siberian city of Irkutsk, in exchange for treaty amendments that would permit the U.S. to deploy a limited NMD system. But on October 21, State Department spokesman James Rubin said that the United States had made no formal offers to the Russians and that discussions on the treaty were still at "an early stage."

    In proposing changes to the treaty, U.S. officials have repeatedly emphasized that the planned NMD system is not designed to counter a Russian attack and would be easily overwhelmed by the sheer number of missiles in the Russian arsenal. "Nothing we have in mind to construct...would in any way jeopardize their strategic systems," Secretary of Defense William Cohen said November 4. U.S. officials have also tried to point out that the danger of "rogue nations" armed with ICBMs is one that affects both Russia and the United States. "We believe the Russians face a similar threat...and we have proposed a number of ways to cooperate with them in helping them meet that threat," Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said in an October 26 press briefing.

    But Russia continued to reject the notion that it could cooperate with the United States in amending the treaty. "We are not engaged in haggling with the Americans on the ABM Treaty," said Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on October 28, and in the days that followed, Russian military officials repeatedly stated that Russia would easily be able to penetrate any missile defense erected by the United States. Nikolai Mihailov, Russia's first deputy defense minister, indicated that Russia was already considering ways to increase its strategic capabilities to compensate for a U.S. NMD system, including modifying its single-warhead Topol-M (also known as the SS-27) to carry multiple re-entry vehicles, a measure prohibited by START II, which Russia has signed but not yet ratified.

    Russia then took its public opposition to treaty amendment a step further with a series of "combat readiness" exercises. On November 2, it launched a missile interceptor from the Sary-Shagan test site in Kazakhstan. The missile was part of Russia's A-135 system, which is deployed around Moscow as Russia's one missile defense permitted under the ABM Treaty. (The United States deployed its ABM system around an ICBM field in North Dakota but dismantled it in 1975.) Then, on November 18, a Russian nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea test-fired two ballistic missiles.

    Russia's forceful posture was matched by increasingly firm U.S. rhetoric. In a November 5 speech to a Washington think tank, Undersecretary of Defense Walter Slocombe said that if the Russians were not willing to negotiate, "the president would have to decide whether to withdraw from the ABM Treaty under the supreme national interest clause." "We will not permit any other country to have a veto on actions that may be needed for the defense of our nation," Slocombe said. The Clinton administration has said that it will make an NMD deployment decision in July 2000 based on four criteria: technological readiness, the maturity of the "rogue nation" ICBM threat, cost factors and arms control considerations.

    Arms control experts continued to express concern that U.S. efforts to alter the ABM Treaty would have a devastating effect on the arms control regime, recently weakened by the Senate's October 13 rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Indeed, Russian officials have indicated that if the United States withdraws from the ABM Treaty, Russia will consider its obligations under the START agreements null and void. "If the ABM Treaty collapses, all achievements in the field of the limitation and reduction of nuclear weapons will be suspended," said Anatoly Anatov, a Russian envoy to the United Nations.

    The international community also expressed its concern with U.S. plans to amend the ABM Treaty, formalizing its opposition on November 5 in a UN resolution co-sponsored by Russia, China and Belarus. The draft resolution, which called for the preservation and strengthening of the ABM Treaty as the "cornerstone for maintaining international peace and security and strategic stability," was adopted by the First Committee of the General Assembly by a vote of 54-4, with 73 abstentions. The United States, Israel, Latvia and Micronesia were the only states to vote against the resolution.

    However, despite its public rhetoric, in late November Russia indicated a willingness to continue discussions. In an interview with Russian Public Television on November 19, Colonel-General Vladimir Yakovlev, commander of Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces, suggested that the United States and Russia set up a joint commission to assess the "rogue state" missile threat, according to Reuters. Then, in a press conference held in New York on November 22, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian ambassador to the UN, suggested that a U.S. missile defense against rogue states could be addressed within the "demarcation" agreements to the ABM Treaty that Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin signed in 1997, defining the limits on theater missile defense permitted under the treaty.

    Posted: November 1, 1999

    U.S., Russia to Begin 'Discussions' on START III, ABM Treaty

    HOPING TO RESTART their interrupted strategic dialogue, the United States and Russia held face-to-face meetings in June at the Group of Eight summit in Cologne, Germany. During talks, both sides agreed to press for ratification of START II and to hold dual-track "discussions" later this summer on both START III and possible amendments to the ABM Treaty that would allow deployment of a limited national missile defense (NMD) system. The Clinton administration is expected to make an NMD architecture decision in the coming months so that it can determine what specific treaty amendments deployment would require. However, a decision on whether to deploy an NMD system will not be made until June 2000. (Continue)

    Craig Cerniello

    HOPING TO RESTART their interrupted strategic dialogue, the United States and Russia held face-to-face meetings in June at the Group of Eight summit in Cologne, Germany. During talks, both sides agreed to press for ratification of START II and to hold dual-track "discussions" later this summer on both START III and possible amendments to the ABM Treaty that would allow deployment of a limited national missile defense (NMD) system. The Clinton administration is expected to make an NMD architecture decision in the coming months so that it can determine what specific treaty amendments deployment would require. However, a decision on whether to deploy an NMD system will not be made until June 2000.

    Although no major breakthroughs on arms control were achieved at the June 18-20 summit, the "Joint Statement Between the United States and the Russian Federation Concerning Strategic Offensive and Defensive Arms and Further Strengthening of Stability" (see document) is significant because it indicates that both nations are now prepared to resume an agenda that had been essentially frozen during the 78 days of NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia.

    In their June 20 statement, the United States and Russia reiterated their strong commitment to the START II ratification process. Although the Senate gave its advice and consent in January 1996, the Russian Duma has not yet approved the treaty. A long-awaited vote on START II had been scheduled for April 2, but it was quickly shelved after NATO began its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia on March 24.

    By late June, however, START II was showing new signs of life. On June 21, Duma speaker Gennady Seleznyov said the treaty would be on the agenda for the fall session, which begins in September. Two days later, the Duma approved legislation guaranteeing funding for Russian strategic nuclear forces through 2010. Previously, Roman Popkovich, chairman of the Duma's defense committee, had argued that this bill was a prerequisite to START II ratification.

    The Cologne statement also reaffirms U.S. and Russian readiness to negotiate START III. At the March 1997 Helsinki summit, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin reached an agreed framework for such a treaty, under which the United States and Russia would deploy no more than 2,000-2,500 strategic warheads each by the end of 2007 and would adopt measures promoting the irreversibility of deep reductions. The United States has reiterated its willingness to begin formal negotiations on START III, which has already been the subject of expert-level discussions, as soon as the Duma ratifies START II.

    ABM Discussions

    With respect to strategic defenses, the United States and Russia reaffirmed their commitment to the ABM Treaty and noted their obligation under Article XIII "to consider possible changes in the strategic situation that have a bearing on the [treaty] and, as appropriate, possible proposals for further increasing [its] viability." In a June 20 White House briefing, National Security Adviser Samuel Berger said that the Cologne statement "is very significant because for the first time the Russians have agreed to discuss changes in the ABM Treaty that may be necessitated by a [NMD] system were we to decide to deploy one." However, agreement to hold discussions on the ABM Treaty does not mean that Russia has endorsed amendments allowing for NMD deployment. Consistent with earlier statements, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said June 23 that U.S. NMD plans are "dangerous" and have the potential to upset strategic stability.

    The Cologne statement also emphasizes the importance of the September 1997 package of strategic agreements signed in New York. These agreements extend the START II implementation period by five years, clarify the demarcation line between strategic and theater missile defenses and identify the successor states to the former Soviet Union under the ABM Treaty. (See ACT, September 1997.) The Cologne statement notes that the United States and Russia "will facilitate the earliest possible ratification and entry into force of those agreements." In his briefing, Berger restated the administration's position that it would not submit the strategic package to the Senate until the Duma has ratified START II.

    Other Developments

    The joint statement also recognizes the importance of the September 1998 U.S.-Russian agreement to share early-warning information on the worldwide launches of ballistic missiles and space-launch vehicles. (See ACT, August/September 1998.) Efforts to implement this long-term sharing arrangement, as well as efforts to establish a temporary joint early-warning center in Colorado Springs to deal with the Year 2000 computer problem, have been on hold as a result of the NATO air strikes. Edward Warner, assistant secretary of defense for strategy and threat reduction, said June 28 that the United States hopes to "re-engage" Russia on these issues in the near future.

    At Cologne, the sides also agreed to continue the dialogue under the Joint Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation, co-chaired by Vice President Al Gore and Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin. The Gore-Stepashin Commission, which conducts business on a broad range of issues, including arms control, will meet July 27 in Washington. Gore and then-Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov were scheduled to meet in late March, but the meeting was postponed because of the Kosovo conflict.

    Posted: June 1, 1999

    Eau de Cologne

    Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.

    Taking advantage of the fortuitously timed G-8 summit in Cologne, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin made a concerted effort to put the bitter U.S.-Russian confrontation over Kosovo behind them with the promise of renewed progress on the stalled strategic arms control agenda. Whether they have the will and ability to translate the encouraging rhetoric into action during the limited time available to both of them remains to be seen.

    In their joint statement, the presidents committed their governments to "do everything in their power to facilitate the successful completion of the START II ratification process in both countries." They also reaffirmed their commitment to the ABM Treaty, which they recognized as a "cornerstone of strategic stability" that is of "fundamental importance" in achieving further reductions in strategic offensive arms. And, in reaffirming their commitment to their joint Helsinki statement of March 1997, they agreed to begin later this summer "discussions" on both further nuclear reductions under a START III agreement and "possible proposals for increasing the viability of the [ABM] Treaty."

    The presidents were right in emphasizing the critical importance of START II ratification. Although conventional wisdom now holds that there is little chance that the Duma will act on the treaty in the foreseeable future, the Duma was prepared twice in the past six months to act favorably on ratification. The votes were aborted, however, by the pre-Christmas bombing of Baghdad and the pre-Easter bombing of Yugoslavia, which the overwhelming majority of Duma members and their constituents considered unacceptable actions reflecting U.S. disregard for Russian views. If the United States really attaches high priority to START II ratification, it can influence its prospects by acts designed to gain Duma support, such as increasing financial support, eschewing further expansion of NATO and, above all, avoiding actions perceived as deliberately hostile to Russian interests.

    The net impact of the decision to initiate "discussions" on START III and the ABM Treaty is hard to predict. Discussions on START III, with its lower ceilings on forces, should help START II ratification by responding to Duma concerns about START II force levels that would require expensive modernization efforts by Moscow. But the fact that the discussions will apparently include measures to improve transparency and ensure the irreversibility of the reduction process—while excellent arms control measures—will require protracted negotiations, probably delaying any agreement until the next administration and thereby reducing the favorable impact on early ratification of START II.

    The discussion of U.S. proposals to amend the ABM Treaty, however, presents a much more difficult, and probably intractable, problem. Moves to relax the constraints of the ABM Treaty run exactly counter to the overarching objective of reducing the levels of strategic nuclear arsenals. While Russia is obligated by the treaty itself to listen to U.S. proposals to amend the treaty to make possible a limited U.S. national missile defense (NMD), Moscow continues to oppose any changes to the accord. Despite U.S. arguments about the need to maintain the "vitality" of the treaty in a world of emerging rogue nations, it will not be easy to convince Russia that North Korea presents a clear-and-present danger to the sole remaining superpower. Rather, it will be perceived by Russia as a first step to a more robust NMD system that would threaten the retaliatory capability of a reduced Russian strategic force, which is the stated objective of many NMD advocates.

    Clinton has emphasized that no decision has been reached on NMD deployment and that any system "must be operationally effective, cost-effective and enhance our security." When making a deployment decision next June, Clinton stated that, in addition to reviewing flight tests, cost estimates and evaluation of the threat, progress in negotiating any necessary amendments to the ABM Treaty would be considered. As the architecture for a system capable, at least on paper, of effectively defending every square foot of all 50 states has not been determined, the Pentagon will undoubtedly press for maximum relaxation of treaty constraints. If Russia does not accept this approach, the architecture should be modified to provide a system consistent with the existing provisions of the ABM Treaty—even though the system might not cover the Aleutian and Hawaiian Islands. Or more rationally, the president should defer entirely a deployment decision since none of the criteria he has set will have been met by next summer.

    The new joint statement has certainly served as welcome eau de Cologne to cover the foul state of U.S.-Russian relations after Kosovo. The resulting atmosphere could be the first step in an improved relationship. But daunting problems stand in the way of achieving the promise of the Cologne rhetoric. There is little hope that these barriers will be overcome unless Clinton and Yeltsin, despite domestic distractions, actually treat the problem as a highest national priority without any further delay.

    Posted: June 1, 1999

    Joint Statement Between the United States and the Russian Federation Concerning Strategic Offensive and Defensive Arms and Furth

    June 20, 1999

    Confirming their dedication to the cause of strengthening strategic stability and international security, stressing the importance of further reduction of strategic offensive arms, and recognizing the fundamental importance of the Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems (ABM Treaty) for the attainment of these goals, the United States of America and the Russian Federation declare their determination to continue efforts directed at achieving meaningful results in these areas.

    The two governments believe that strategic stability can be strengthened only if there is compliance with existing agreements between the Parties on limitation and reduction of arms. The two governments will do everything in their power to facilitate the successful completion of the START II ratification processes in both countries.

    The two governments reaffirm their readiness, expressed in Helsinki in March 1997, to conduct new negotiations on strategic offensive arms aimed at further reducing for each side the level of strategic nuclear warheads, elaborating measures of transparency concerning existing strategic nuclear warheads and their elimination, as well as other agreed technical and organizational measures in order to contribute to the irreversibility of deep reductions including prevention of a rapid build-up in the numbers of warheads and to contribute strengthening of strategic stability in the world. The two governments will strive to accomplish the important task of achieving results in these negotiations as early as possible.

    Proceeding from the fundamental significance of the ABM Treaty for further reductions in strategic offensive arms, and from the need to maintain the strategic balance between the United States of America and the Russian Federation, the Parties reaffirm their commitment to that Treaty, which is a cornerstone of strategic stability, and to continuing efforts to strengthen the Treaty, to enhance its viability and effectiveness in the future.

    The United States of America and the Russian Federation, recalling their concern about the proliferation in the world of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, including missiles and missile technologies, expressed by them in the Joint Statement on Common Security Challenges at the Threshold of the Twenty First Century, adopted on September 2, 1998 in Moscow, stress their common desire to reverse that process using to this end the existing and possible new international legal mechanisms.

    In this regard, both Parties affirm their existing obligations under Article XIII of the ABM Treaty to consider possible changes in the strategic situation that have a bearing on the ABM Treaty and, as appropriate, possible proposals for further increasing the viability of this Treaty.

    The Parties emphasize that the package of agreements signed on September 26, 1997 in New York is important under present conditions for the effectiveness of the ABM Treaty, and they will facilitate the earliest possible ratification and entry into force of those agreements.

    The implementation of measures to exchange data on missile launches and on early warning and to set up an appropriate joint center, recorded in the Joint Statement by the Presidents of the United States of America and the Russian Federation signed on September 2, 1998 in Moscow, will also promote the strengthening of strategic stability.

    Discussions on START III and the ABM Treaty will begin later this summer. The two governments express their confidence that implementation of this Joint Statement will be a new significant step to enhance strategic stability and the security of both nations.

    Posted: June 1, 1999


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