Rome, 20th-21st April 1993

Official Record

Office of the Clerk of the Assembly of WEU




Tuesday, 20th April 1993


(The sitting was opened at 2.40 p.m. with Mr. Lopez Henares, Chairman of the Technological and Aerospace Committee, in the Chair)

How to cope with the challenges


Countering proliferation:

new criteria for European security

Dr. PAYNE (Professor of National Security Studies, Georgetown University, President of the National Institute for Public Policy, United States). - The point of departure for this presentation is President Bush's January 1991 reorientation of the strategic defence initiative, the SDI. Since its entrance in 1983, the SDI had been designed to provide protection against a massive Soviet missile threat.

In 1991, however, President Bush redirected the programme. Henceforth it was to provide protection against a very limited missile threat, such as that posed by the modest missile arsenals of developing states or the threat of an accidental or unauthorised missile launch.

The President's reorientation of the SDI was in recognition of two emerging features in the international environment: first, political relations with the Soviet Union had improved to the point where the launching of a massive, co-ordinated missile attack against the United States was considered so unlikely as to no longer constitute a basis for planning. Second, the proliferation of missiles and weapons of mass destruction posed a rapidly-emerging threat to United States overseas forces and allies - a threat involving a relatively modest number of missiles but against which there was no defence.

As part of this reoriented SDI programme, United States allies were encouraged to analyse their own need for defences and to consider participation, particularly in defence against shorter-range missiles (TMD). Co-operation among the

traditional western allies would be a logical means of utilising the technology developed under SDI to meet common security needs. The United States identified several general avenues for allied co-operation:

- participation in basic research and development programmes that have application to defence against limited threats. This could mean participation in technology research and development, or in GPALS-related experiments;

- government-to-government co-operation specifically in TMD-related aspects of missile defence, as may be of particular interest to a number of America's allies;

- independent acquisition of a TMD system, either purchased from another country or indigenously developed, which could be interoperable with other elements of a GPALS system.

Based on recent sympathetic expressions about missile defence by some European leaders, it appears that the many concerns previously held by allies with respect to missile defences have been alleviated, at least to some extent, by the obvious maturing of the proliferation threat and the dramatic reorientation of East-West relations. European leaders having endorsed missile defence now include the new French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur, Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, NATO Secretary-General Manfred Woerner and German Defence Minister Volker Ruehe, among many others. In this regard, various options for United States co-operation with Western uropean Union on missile defence, especially in the area of TMD, are reasonable.

The war in the Gulf appears to have vindicated the

reorientation of the United States missile defence programme toward the proliferation threat. The coalition was able to gain complete mastery of the air, but it could not prevent the launching of Iraqi missiles throughout the Gulf war. Indeed, a single Scud strike in Saudi Arabia inflicted 127 casualties, the greatest loss from an individual incident in the war.

Unfortunately, the proliferation of missiles and weapons of mass destruction shows no sign of abating. An increasing number of countries are capable of producing missiles indigenously, and there appear to be both buyers and suppliers of missile technology.

According to official United States public figures, by the end of the decade fifteen or more countries in the developing world will have the indigenous capability to produce ballistic missiles. Six are likely to have missiles with ranges of 2000 km or more, and several may possess missiles with intercontinental ranges. The trend is toward the proliferation of missiles with greater range and lethality. For example, two years ago, Iran purchased the 500 km-range Scud-C ballistic missile from North Korea. According to United States officials, Iran now appears to be in the process of purchasing the new 1000 km-range Nodong I missile from North Korea. According to both Russian and United States reports, the Nodong I can carry conventional, chemical and, possibly, nuclear warheads. Nodong deployment in Iran could place much of Turkey at risk and, if transferred to North Africa, it could threaten numerous targets in southern Europe.

With regard to the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons: by the close of the 1990s, at least eight developing countries will have nuclear weapons or an advanced nuclear weapon programme, thirty are likely to possess a chemical weapons capability, and seven or more will possess biological weapons.

Proliferation during the 1990s will lead to an unprecedented situation: by the early years of the next decade numerous countries will be armed with ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. The implications of this for western security and international stability are tremendous.

First and foremost, the vulnerability of population centres in Europe, Russia and, eventually, America could lead to very high western casualty levels in a future conflict with a regional power.

In addition to this direct threat, unless countered,

proliferation will impose significant constraints on the future deployment of western coalition forces for peace-keeping, peace- making, or even humanitarian reasons. When considering sending expeditionary forces western leaders will have to reckon with the possibility of ballistic missile strikes against their forces and cities. It is not difficult to envisage the debilitating effect this could have on the West's capacity to establish an allied coalition in response to aggression.

Similarly, in the future, unilateral military actions that hitherto have been considered reasonable options, such as the British recovery of the Falkland Islands or French support for Chad against Libya, could become too risky. Even the humanitarian use of military force, such as now being conducted in Somalia, could be considered too dangerous if it might provoke a party armed with missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

Perhaps more important, however, is the fact that western powers could be paralysed from action by a missile threat, even if the prospective opponent has no intention of actually launching its missiles. An implicit or explicit threat to strike western cities would force western leaders to consider the vulnerability of their cities, and respond accordingly - the paralysing effect on western political will would be the same whether or not the attack actually came. This role for missiles as instruments for deterrence and coercion is well-appreciated by proliferant states and even terrorist groups.

In the future, ballistic missiles will pose a much more significant direct threat, first to Europe, but inevitably also to the United States. Unless countered, that emerging threat will undermine our will and capacity to respond to aggression.

The fielding of missile defences by the West, preferably in co-operation with Russia, is a necessary, if insufficient, response to proliferation. Three other prospective countermeasures have possible roles under certain circumstances. These are: deterrence policies, export controls and pre-emptive offensive strikes. Permit me to discuss each one of these briefly.

First, the counter to the proliferation threat suggested most frequently is the traditional policy of deterrence. The notion that western threats of retaliation will reliably deter in the future is comforting. Unfortunately, predictions about how other countries will behave, based on one's interpretation of what constitutes rational behaviour, frequently are wrong.

Mistakes and misreading of intentions and likely behaviour abound in international relations, occasionally leading to conflict that simply was not anticipated. In 1904, for example, the Tsar simply refused to believe that the Japanese would dare to attack.

In like manner, in 1941, United States foreign policy advisors in Washington persuaded President Roosevelt that the Japanese would not dare risk an attack against the United States. At the same time, Japanese Prime Minister Tojo Hideki reported to the Emperor that "our empire has no alternative but to begin war".

Finally, following the British defeat of Argentina in 1982, General Galtieri lamented about how unreasonable British behaviour had been in his view: "Why would a country situated in the heart of Europe care so much for some islands located far away in the Atlantic Ocean, in addition, islands which do not serve any national interest? It seems so senseless to me."

The point of these historical anecdotes is to underscore the fact that for deterrence to function requires that countries behave in predictable ways, and share a common definition of what is rational. Yet, opponents frequently are not so obliging or similarly-minded.

The increasing number of developing countries that will possess missiles and weapons of mass destruction, and our general lack of knowledge and understanding of those countries, reduces the confidence western leaders can place on deterrence "working" adequately in a multipolar world. This is not because third world leaders should be considered "irrational", but because the high level of mutual understanding and effective communication necessary for deterrence is unlikely to characterise western relations with many of the developing countries now acquiring advanced military technology.

In the future, reliance on deterrence for protection will almost certainly continue to be useful in some cases. It cannot, however, be considered a reliable substitute for missile defence in the emerging international environment.

The second response to proliferation commonly suggested involves international controls by the industrialised countries on the export of ballistic missile technology.

The industrialised countries should indeed focus on

international efforts to restrict the export of ballistic missile technology and components. Such efforts, however, will at best serve only to slow missile proliferation - primarily because such technology control measures do little to dampen the incentive to acquire missiles; and because civilian missile technologies can be adapted for military use.

Those countries desiring missiles tend to persevere until they find willing suppliers or develop indigenously those technologies and materials which they find difficulty importing. Experience with the existing international effort to control the export of missile technology, the missile technology control regime (MTCR), demonstrates the inadequacy of such efforts.

The key problems encountered by MTCR are inherent in any attempt on the part of supplier countries to control the transfer of technology and materials. For example, not all potential supplier countries participate. So long as there is a strong demand for missile systems and technology, their export value will encourage some potential suppliers to disregard export controls and supplant those who do abide by MTCR's limitations.

In addition, export controls will have only a marginal effect on those countries capable of indigenous production. As I mentioned earlier, the trend is toward increasing numbers of countries being able to produce or purchase missiles independently of the industrialised participants in the MTCR.

Efforts to retard the proliferation of missile technology through multilateral export controls may be helpful in delaying the problem. Experience with the MTCR and supplier cartels in general, however, strongly suggests that such measures alone cannot provide a solution - missile defence will remain a necessary part of the solution.

The third and final suggested countermeasure is a policy of preventive or pre-emptive offensive strikes. The Israelis demonstrated this method in 1981 with their air strike on the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak. More recently, the air strikes of Desert Storm pre-emptively destroyed at least some of the Iraqi missile capability and weapons of mass destruction.

It is, however, virtually inconceivable that the United States, for one, could pursue pre-emptive strikes against proliferant countries as a general policy response to proliferation. Only when a third party's missiles obviously represent a "clear and present danger", such as would be the case in crisis or wartime, could an offensive strike be acceptable politically. In short, while offensive strikes in response to proliferation may be appropriate in some circumstances, they generally will not be politically acceptable and could prove very difficult to implement effectively.

It appears that each of the responses to missile proliferation typically discussed - deterrence, export controls, and offensive strikes - has a potential role to play.

Nevertheless, missile defence will be critical for those cases when a missile threat is present, but deterrence or pre-emptive action cannot be considered reliable.

As a final topic, I would like to discuss developments in the United States-Russian dialogue on a global missile defence system.

From the introduction of the SDI in 1983 until late in 1991, the official Soviet position was strongly negative toward the United States proposal for co-operative efforts to expand missile defences. In January 1992, however, Russian President Boris Yeltsin completely rewrote the terms of the debate about missile defence. He proposed a co-operative global protection system (GPS) to defend against limited missile strikes.

Continued serious Russian interest in a co-operative missile defence effort was demonstrated in June 1992 by the creation of a joint high-level group and working groups to pursue further study and conceptual development of a GPS. The high-level group has met twice since June and the first working group meetings were held in late October. As reported publicly, substantial progress in narrowing the differences between the two sides was made at these meetings.

There are several reasons, I believe, for this new Russian enthusiasm for co-operative missile defences, including the emerging proliferation threat to Russia. In addition, it is clear that Russian officials see the prospect for a co- operative, multinational defence system as both reflective of a new East-West security relationship and as a long-term means of further solidifying that relationship.

For example, at the October 1992 meeting of a United States- Russian working group, the Russian side observed that it viewed co-operation on a global protection system as part of a broad range of new and important contacts which will fundamentally alter the strategic relationship between Russia and the West. The Russians also observed that this fundamental development would transcend any political changes that might take place in either country.

The ABM treaty does not appear to be a necessary stumbling- block for United States - Russian co-operation. At the October United States-Russian working group meeting, the Russian side suggested that outstanding issues to be resolved, "to include ABM treaty relief, did not pose an insurmountable problem". Indeed, some senior Russian officials, including Grigoriy Berdennikov, a member of the joint high-level group, have observed that the ABM treaty does not in any way hinder a GPS because the ABM treaty restricts national missile defence programmes and a GPS would be developed, created and operated on a multinational basis. Numerous Americans and Russians, including Henry Kissinger, the chief United States architect of the ABM treaty, have declared that treaty to be archaic in the new international environment.

It now appears that charges of missile defence being a catalyst for heightened arms competition and instability are out of date. The Russian Federation and the United States clearly have mutual incentives and intentions to move together to revise the ABM treaty and to deploy missile defences, with each gaining greater security.

In summary and conclusion, the proliferation of increasingly lethal ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction will introduce an unprecedented threat, first to Europe, Japan and Russia, and then to the United States. In the absence of missile defence, countries armed with ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction will pose a direct threat to our cities and be able to challenge both our will and capability to respond to regional aggression. In the absence of missile defence, the type of coalition-building and successful out-of- area power projection recently conducted against Iraq will be increasingly difficult and risky.

A number of responses to proliferation have been suggested and pursued. These responses include: deterrence, export controls and offensive strikes. An examination of these proposed counters suggests, however, that none can replace missile defence. Individually or in combination they cannot promise protection against limited missile threats. In short, there are complements, but no reliable substitutes for missile defence.

The need for defences in the emerging strategic environment will become increasingly obvious during the 1990s. It seems nearly certain that both the West and the Russian Federation ultimately will pursue missile defence - proliferation will compel it. This opportunity to pursue common security interests - not at the expense of one another, but in co-operation - could help to define the character of the post-cold war order.

I thank you for your attention, and will be pleased to respond to any questions or comments you may have.