USIS Washington File

02 June 2000

Byliner: National Security Adviser Berger on Arms Control

(Op-ed column from The USA Today 06/02/00) (440)

(This column by National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger first
appeared in The USA Today June 2 and is in the public domain. No
republication restrictions.)

By Samuel R. Berger

(The author is President Clinton's National Security Adviser)

The United States has made serious progress in reducing the
nuclear-weapons stockpiles in the former Soviet Union and the U.S.
through mutual reductions.

Over the past decade, more than 8,000 deployed nuclear weapons already
have been taken out of commission. Having a common path for cutting
U.S. and Russian stockpiles is important to continuing these

We are now pursuing a START III treaty with Russia that in combination
with START I and II would reduce both nations' nuclear forces by 80%
from their Cold War heights little more than a decade ago.

Negotiated arms-control treaties may take time, but doing so ensures
that each side has an understanding of the other side's intentions and
capabilities, and helps build the confidence that is necessary for
nations to reduce their stockpiles in a way that is transparent and
irreversible. Arms-control treaties help prioritize reductions so that
we can focus on getting rid of the most dangerous kinds of weapons,
such as land-based multiple warhead missiles.

They give our military planners greater predictability regarding
Russia's nuclear capabilities. And the treaties include strict
verification and inspection provisions to guard against cheating, so
both sides have the confidence to go to lower levels.

As President Reagan often said, we should be able to "trust but
verify." That is made possible through agreed reductions. In the
mid-1990s, it was the START I treaty and the non-proliferation treaty
that formed the legal structure for taking Soviet nuclear weapons out
of Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus. Without these treaties, we would
have had three new nuclear-weapons states together with more than
3,000 nuclear weapons.

As we consider a limited national missile defense aimed at the
emerging ballistic-missile threat, we are far more likely to avoid
tensions with Russia and enhance our security if we seek to preserve
the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and continue the process of
negotiated arms control.

Abandoning this process and unilaterally reducing nuclear forces while
building up a Star Wars-like, full-fledged missile defense sounds
tempting, but it's destabilizing. It risks reigniting the arms race
and reversing 20 years of arms-control gains.

(Samuel R. Berger is President Clinton's National Security Adviser.)

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