Deployment of Missile Defense System Could Cause New Arms Races With Russia, China

CNN THE WORLD TODAY January 19, 2000; Wednesday

President Clinton has said he will decide after a third test whether to keep the new missile defense system on the fast track for deployment. Despite the latest failure, most analysts expect him to say yes to that, although it could cause new arms races with Russia and China.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Whether the missile defense system lives or dies, it will have an effect far beyond today's domestic politics. The next president of this country, our allies and adversaries as well, all have a stake in the program's ultimate success or its failure.

Here's CNN's David Ensor.


DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Pentagon badly wanted another success like last October, when an interceptor missile did manage to knock out a mock warhead in space. But U.S. officials say the failure this time was no surprise.

JAMES RUBIN, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: It's an enormous complex challenge to hit a bullet with a bullet at an extremely high rate of speed.

ENSOR: Advocates of a national missile defense were quick to downplay the failure.

SEN. THAD COCHRAN (R), MISSISSIPPI: Our scientists and engineers have already proven that we can have a national missile defense interceptor program that works. What we need now, though, is to make sure it works every time.

ENSOR: The president has said he will decide this summer, after the third test, whether to keep the missile shield, with an estimated price tag of $13 billion, on the fast track for deployment. Despite the latest failure, most analysts expect him to say yes to that.

With North Korea and Iran pushing ahead to acquire missiles that can hit the U.S., Republicans and Democrats agree that running against a national missile defense in an election year would be foolhardy.

COCHRAN: If somebody's going to run for president against that, I think they are going to get beat, because the American people do not want to remain vulnerable to the threats that exist now from rogue states.

JOHN PIKE, FED. OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS: I think that Clinton's political advisers are basically going to say, let's go ahead and deploy this thing, take away the Republican's campaign issue, and we'll let President Gore sort the mess out after he gets elected.

ENSOR: That mess, say critics, could include a new arms race with China and with Russia, or both.

RUSLAN PUKHOV: Do you really want China and Russia to have the unified nuclear strike forces? I don't think so. I don't think so.

ENSOR (on camera): Clinton administration officials say there are four questions that need to be answered before a decision can be made: Will the system work? How much does it cost? How serious is the threat from the rogue states? And is the added security worth the possible fallout from nullifying a key arms-control treaty with the Russians?

David Ensor, CNN, Washington.

Content and programming copyright 2000 Cable News Network Transcribed under license by Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. Formatting copyright 2000 Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to Cable News Network. This transcript may not be copied or resold in any media.