[EXCERPTS] Remarks as Delivered
Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen

Navy League Exposition
Washington, D.C.
Thursday, March 27, 1997


First, on strategic nuclear reductions. Here, both President Clinton and President Yeltsin underscored how important it is to secure the ratification of the START II Treaty by the Russian Duma, and that is by no means a guaranteed action on their part. In response to the Russian concerns over the cost of dismantling bombers, missile silos and submarines, both Presidents agreed to extend START II's deadline for the elimination of those weapons to the end of the year 2007. All the systems scheduled for elimination under the treaty will, however, have to be deactivated by the end of the year 2003 by removing their warheads through an agreed-upon method. So by stretching out the elimination period, it should help facilitate the Russian ratification of START II (which is in their interest and our interest), and the deactivation at the same time preserves the security benefits of START II.

Then, to enhance our security even more, both sides also agreed to pursue a START III Treaty that would establish a ceiling of somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 nuclear weapons for each side by the year 2007. That's a substantial cut from where we were when President Reagan first started this process -- about two-third's reduction from when President Reagan first began.

So in addition to these accomplishments, both Presidents reaffirmed the significance of the ABM Treaty and they reached an agreement that gives a green light to the deployment of theater missile defenses that we need to protect our troops in the field from ballistic missile attacks.

For years, I must tell you, both sides have been grappling with the very difficult technical issue of how we distinguish theater missile defenses from national missile defenses which are limited by the ABM Treaty.

In Helsinki, I believe we appear to finally have cut this Gordian knot.

First of all, we agreed that TMD systems will not be tested against targets whose velocity exceeds five kilometers per second or whose range exceeds 3500 kilometers.

Second, we agreed that neither side will develop, test, or deploy space-based theater missile interceptors. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a concession. It's simply a recognition there's no such thing as a space-based TMD interceptor. Any space-based interceptor that's capable of knocking down a theater missile defense, by its very nature, is also capable of taking out ICBMs, which of course, is precluded by the ABM Treaty. So this provision has given up nothing, given up zero. It simply confirms the fact of where we are today.

Third, to help build confidence we've agreed to exchange information, detailed information, annually, about our theater missile defense plans and programs.

But I think it's important that we understand what was not agreed to at Helsinki. The agreement reached by both Presidents does not impinge on the development, testing, or deployment of any of our planned TMD systems -- whether we're talking about the Hawk, the Patriot, MEADS, THAAD, Navy Area, Navy Theater Wide, or Upper Tier systems. Every one of these programs can go forward as planned. And the agreement places no limitation on the speed of the TMD interceptors, contrary to what you may have read in the press.

The agreement does not contradict congressional legislation on the topic -- in fact, just the opposite. Congress has been on record since 1990 as endorsing the negotiation of a demarcation agreement so that our TMD systems could proceed without being challenged as violating the ABM Treaty. Moreover, in 1995, the Republican-led Congress endorsed the precise terms that the President outlined in Helsinki -- limiting targets to a speed of five kilometers per second and a range of 3500 kilometers. I should know. I was a principal author of those laws.

I might add at the time that some members of Congress even questioned whether the President would ever be able to get the Russians to agree to this. Well, at Helsinki we pushed on the door and the Russians opened the door, so we should be very pleased with that particular result.

Finally, we have not foreclosed our future options on national missile defense, including the option to conduct research on space-based lasers. Nothing agreed to in Helsinki in any way is inconsistent with the 3+3 proposal that was really authored by former Secretary Perry, whom I just talked to on the phone a few minutes before coming here. He's doing very well, thank you, in California, and enjoying his life.

But he helped develop the concept of the 3+3 approach. Namely, that for the next three years we would conduct research and development of a national missile defense system -- by the year 2000. We should then make an assessment as to whether we should deploy that system based upon the intelligence we have available at that time.

Of course, the demarcation agreement on the thresholds of five kilometers per second and 3500 kilometers of range have no applicability whatsoever to the national missile defense program which we can test against any target at any velocity of any range.

So these agreements that are reached in Helsinki, they are important in their own right. On the one hand, the START agreements help us close a chapter on the past; the demarcation agreement helps us deal with the present as well as the future.

But I want to say that Helsinki is just a piece of a much more fundamental issue that we're grappling with today. That is, what is the geopolitical role of America today and into the future?

First, we want our military forces and posture to be able to shape the strategic environment. Shaping the environment can involve actions that range all the way from the forward deployment of forces, joint exercises with these new emerging democracies, to dismantling nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union under START I, START II, and, hopefully, START III. All of these activities help make the strategic environment more hospitable to our interests and to lessen the chances that we're going to have conflict or that will increase the chances for peace and stability.