American Forces Press Service

Missile Defense Would Counter Nuclear Blackmail


  By Jim Garamone
 American Forces Press Service

 MUNICH, Germany, Feb. 7, 2000 -- The National Missile Defense 
 program would allow the United States to defend against rogue 
 states threatening international blackmail, Defense Secretary 
 William S. Cohen said here Feb. 5.
 Cohen, speaking at an international defense conference, said the 
 United States doesn't want to be in a position where a rogue 
 nation or group might threaten Western cities. 
 Cohen postulated what would have happened to Kuwait and Saudi 
 Arabia had Saddam Hussein had a limited number of ICBMs. He 
 could have threatened to launch those missiles if the allied 
 coalition tried to move against him.
 "[If Hussein had said] 'If you try to expel me from Kuwait, I'll 
 put one in Berlin, one in Munich, one in New York, Washington, 
 Rome, Los Angeles, etc.,'" Cohen said. "How many [countries] 
 would have been quite so eager to support deployment of some 
 500,000 troops to expel him from Kuwait?" A limited national 
 missile defense would allow the United States to resist that 
 type of blackmail, he said. 
 Cohen said the threats of limited attacks by rogue nations or 
 terrorist groups are growing. He listed North Korea, Iraq, Iran 
 and Libya as countries actively seeking missile technology. "We 
 know that Iraq, in fact, came very close to having an 
 intercontinental missile capability, and we know for a fact that 
 they have developed chemical and biological agents to be 
 deployed in their warheads," he said.
 North Korea has tested a multistage rocket and Iran, with the 
 help of other countries, is developing longer-range missiles 
 with "chemical, biological and, if possible, nuclear 
 A limited missile defense would not be effective against a 
 massive assault, Cohen said. Rather, it would defend against a 
 small number of missiles directed at North America. President 
 Clinton has not decided to deploy such a system. Factors 
 affecting his decision include the question, is there a threat? 
 Cohen said yes.
 Another factor is whether the United States can build such a 
 system. "We are rapidly developing the technology, and we 
 believe that we will satisfy that requirement," he said. A test 
 of the system is planned for April, and the president will use 
 those results in any decision he makes.
 Cost is another factor. The DoD budget request has $10.4 billion 
 included through fiscal 2005 for the program. If approved, the 
 budget would allow DoD to upgrade early warning facilities, 
 build a radar complex in Alaska, ad provide 100 ground-based 
 interceptors and fund additional testing.
 Finally, the president will consider the concerns of Russia, 
 China and the European allies, Cohen said. A Russian 
 representative at the conference said the target of the U.S. 
 missile defense system was Russia and China. 
 "Nothing could be farther from the truth," Cohen said in 
 response. "Our goal is not in anyway to diminish your strategic 
 capability, which is vast, but rather to protect us against 
 those whom we have less confidence in."
 Wang Guangya, vice foreign minister of the Peoples' Republic of 
 China, said during a presentation to the conference that the 
 U.S. would threaten stability if it built the system. The 
 Chinese see any National Missile Defense system as breaking the 
 Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty the United States and Russia 
 signed in the 1970s. 
 "The objective of disarmament is to enhance security, but true 
 security has to be based on common security of all countries," 
 Wang said. He said building the missile defense system would 
 upset the strategic balance and "may even trigger a new round of 
 arms race. For this, the international community cannot but 
 express deep apprehension."
 Cohen said national missile defense has strong bipartisan 
 support in Congress. He asked conferees to examine the threat 
 and to keep an open mind about the system.