THE ABM TREATY (Senate - October 09, 1997)

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Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, 10 days ago was the 25th anniversary of a policy in this country that was articulated in a treaty called the ABM Treaty. It was a treaty that many of us at that time did not think was in the best interests of this country. It was a treaty that came from the Nixon administration, a Republican administration. Of course, Henry Kissinger was the architect of that treaty in 1972.

Essentially what it did was say to any adversaries out there that we will agree to disarm and not to be prepared to defend ourselves if you agree to do the same thing. Some people refer to it as mutual assured destruction, a policy I certainly did not adhere to at the time, did not feel was good policy for this country. However, there was an argument at that time, because we had two superpowers--we had the then Soviet Union and of course the United States--and at that time we had pretty good intelligence on them, they had pretty good intelligence on us, so I suppose we would be overly critical if we said there was just no justification for that program, even though I personally disagreed with it at that time.

Since that time, starting in 1983 in the Reagan administration, we have elevated the debate that there is a great threat out there and that threat is from the many countries that now have weapons of mass destruction. Over 25 nations now have those weapons, either chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. The critics, those who would take that money and apply it to social programs as opposed to defending our Nation, use such titles as `star wars,' and they talk about the billions of dollars that have been invested.

Anyway, we are at a point right now where something very interesting has happened just recently. That is, on this 25th anniversary, we have found that the Clinton administration, just about 10 days ago, agreed to create new parties to the ABM Treaty. That would be Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Russia. This is going to have to come before this body. I think this is an opportunity that we need to be looking for, because all it would take is 34 Senators to reject this multilateralization of the ABM Treaty.

Right now we have a number of systems that we are putting into place to defend the United States of America, both the national missile defense as well as a theater defense. Certainly, with what is going on right now in Russia and Iran, the need for such a system has been elevated in the minds of most Americans.

We have right now, as we speak, 22 Aegis ships that are floating out there in the ocean, already deployed. They have the capability of knocking down missiles when they are coming in. All we have to do is take them to the upper tier, and we will have in place a national missile defense system. Certainly that is something that could take care of our theater missile needs. So several of us feel that we should go ahead and conclude that is the system that we need. However, that does violate, probably violates, the ABM Treaty, as it is in place today. So I believe we should take this opportunity that is there, when it comes before this body for ratification, to reject this and thereby kill the ABM Treaty, which certainly is outdated.

By the way, it is interesting, the very architect of that treaty, Dr. Henry Kissinger, someone whose credentials no one will question, even though they may question some of his previous policy decisions, Dr. Kissinger, who is the architect of the 1972 ABM Treaty, now says it is nuts to make a virtue out of your vulnerability. He is opposed to continuing the ABM Treaty at this time.

So I hope we will take this opportunity to get out from under a treaty that imposes restrictions on our ability to defend ourselves and reject the upgraded system, or the treaty, as it comes before us and take this opportunity to defend America.

We have an opportunity to get out from under the restriction imposed upon us by the ABM Treaty.

We have an opportunity to elevate our Aegis system.

We have an opportunity to defend America.

After all, Mr. President, isn't that what we are supposed to be doing?

I ask unanimous consent that a decision brief from the Center for Security Policy be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

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A Day That Will Live in Infamy: 25th Anniversary of the A.B.M. Treaty's Ratification Should Be Its Last

(Washington, D.C.): Twenty-five years ago tomorrow, the United States ratified the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty; this Friday will mark the 25th anniversary of that Treaty's entry into force. With those acts, America became legally obliged to leave itself permanently vulnerable to nuclear-armed ballistic missile attack.

It is highly debatable whether such a policy of deliberately transforming the American people into hostages against one means of delivering lethal ordnance against them (in contrast to U.S. policy with respect to land invasion, sea assault or aerial attack) made sense in 1972. It certainly does not today, in a world where the Soviet Union no longer exists and Russia no longer has a monopoly on threatening ballistic missiles or the weapons of mass destruction they can carry.


Indeed, as long ago as March 1983, President Reagan dared to suggest that the United States might be better off defending its people against nuclear-armed ballistic missile attack rather than avenging their deaths after one occurs. And yet, while Mr. Reagan's address spawned a research program that became known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)--into which tens of billions of dollars have been poured over the past fourteen years, the ABM Treaty remains the `supreme law of the land.' As a consequence, the United States continues to fail what has been called `the one-missile test'. No defenses are in place today to prevent even a single long-range ballistic missile from delivering nuclear, chemical or biological warheads anywhere in the country.

This is all the more extraordinary since Republicans and like-minded conservatives have generally recognized that such a posture has become not just dangerous, but also reckless in the `post-Cold War' world. In fact, one of the few commitments of the `Contract With America' that remains unfulfilled was arguably among its most important--namely, its promise to defend the American people against ballistic missile attack. Successive legislative attempts to correct this breach-of-contract have all foundered for essentially two reasons.


First, most Republicans have shied away from a fight over the ABM Treaty. Some deluded themselves into believing that the opportunity afforded by the Treaty to deploy 100 ground-based anti-missile interceptors in silos at a single site in Grand Forks, North Dakota would allow the U.S. to get started on defenses. Even though such a deployment would neither make strategic sense (it would not cover the entire United States from even a limited attack) nor be justifiable from a budgetary point of view (while estimates vary widely, costs of this minimal system could be well over $10 billion), some missile defense proponents rationalized their support for it by claiming that the anti-defense crowd would not object to this `treaty-complaint' deployment and that it would be better than nothing. To date, however, all these `camel's-nose-under-the-tent' schemes have come to naught.

Such a system would create a basis for addressing new-term missile threats and complement space-based assets that may be needed in the future. The only problem is that the ABM Treaty prohibits such an affordable, formidable sea-borne defensive system. It must no longer be allowed to do so.


As it happens, the opening salvos in what may be the endgame of the ABM Treaty fight were sounded this weekend at the first International Conservative Congress (dubbed by one participant `the Conintern'). One preeminent leader after another--including House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, once-and-future presidential candidate Steve Forbes, former UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, Senator Jon Kyl and nationally syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer--denounced the idea of making it still harder to defend our people against ballistic missile attack. Several, notably Senator Kyl and Mr. Forbes, have explicitly endorsed the AEGIS option to begin performing that task.

In an impassioned appeal for missile defenses as part of a robust military posture, Lady Thatcher said yesterday:

`A strong defense, supported by heavy investment in the latest technology, including ballistic missile defense, is as essential now, when we don't know who our future enemy may be, as in the Cold War era. And my friends, we must keep ahead technologically. We must not constrain the hands of our researchers. Had we done so in the past, we would never have had the military superiority that in the end, with the dropping of the atomic bomb, won the war in the Far East and saved many, many, lives, even through it destroyed others. We must always remain technologically ahead. If not, we have no way in which to be certain that our armed forces will prevail. And the research and technology of the United States is sheer genius, and it always has been.'

With such leadership, there now looms a distinct possibility that the American people can finally be acquainted with the ominous reality of their vulnerability and empowered to demand and secure corrective actions. Thanks to the Clinton ABM amendments and the new technical options for defending America, we have both the vehicle for getting out from under an accord that was obsolete even in Ronald Reagan's day and the means for making good and cost-effective use of the freedom that will flow from doing so.

Mr. INHOFE. I yield the floor.

Several Senators addressed the Chair.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arkansas.