January 19, 2000


SUMMARY: Potential U.S. plans to build and deploy a national missile defense (NMD) system and related efforts to secure Russian agreement to amend the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty met with widespread criticism from the vast majority of editorial writers from Russia, Europe, Asia and elsewhere. In available comment, several papers judged that U.S. efforts to "abrogate" the ABM Treaty, taken together with last year's U.S. Senate rejection of the CTBT, reflect a "dangerous" U.S. trend toward "unilateralism" on security issues--whereby it relies on "great power policy" and advanced weapons technology, rather than "engagement" abroad and "waffly and unenforceable treaties." With "three decades of U.S.-led disarmament policy" already "endangered" by the test ban vote in the view of many, observers derided the Clinton administration for "compounding this irresponsibility by gutting another arms control treaty, the ABM Treaty." Having "lost its leadership role on nonproliferation," the U.S. is now "hurrying to establish an NMD system," a move which many argued could "upset the balance of deterrence" and "spur a new arms race." Only a very few voices from Russia, Israel and Canada perceived U.S. plans favorably, arguing that a "new geostrategic reality" marked by rogue states' weapons development dictated the need for missile defense. Following are key regional themes:

RUSSIA: The prevailing sentiment in Moscow media of all political stripes was that the U.S. "ultimatum" on ABM--"either Russia agrees to a radical revision...or the U.S. withdraws from it"--posed a severe "danger" to bilateral relations, and had more to do with Washington's desire to preserve its "sole superpower" status than with any "supposed dangers" from "third" countries. Some papers further stressed that Russia and China must "jointly resist U.S. plans." "If the U.S. deploys [NMD], the Russian-Chinese agreement on the peaceful exploration of space may become more of a political-military agreement," insisted one. A couple of papers stood apart in asserting that the ABM Treaty is "no holy writ" and urging the Kremlin to "come to terms with the present U.S. administration" on "making minimum amendments" to the treaty.

EUROPE: U.S. NMD was greeted skeptically by analysts in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Denmark, who warned repeatedly that a U.S. decision to go forward with it would result in a "decoupling of the U.S. and Europe." The "danger" of "a new U.S. shield," some maintained, was that "the more secure the Americans feel on their own continent, the greater the U.S. temptation to question its 'solidarity' with Europe." Many also underscored another risk posed by Washington's NMD: While such a shield may be directed against rogue states, Beijing and Moscow "will be tempted to build or adapt their own missile systems," sparking a new arms spiral. In a typical view, a London daily noted, "The U.S. will have to weigh these known political obstacles to NMD against the unknown of whether such a system would actually work."

ASIA: Papers from China to Singapore to India inveighed against the "threat to global harmony" posed by the U.S.' "breaking the ABM Treaty." Official Chinese media were vocal in warning that it could "open a Pandora's box," prompting others to "follow the U.S. example in stressing their own supreme national interests," thereby "inciting a new arms race."

ELSEWHERE: Israeli media had divergent views: One argued that NMD could prompt a "ballistic arms race," while another saw it as a "powerful deterrent...on rogue nations."

This survey is based on reports from October 1999-January 2000. EDITOR: Katherine L. Starr

For more information, please contact:

U.S. Department of State

Office of Research

Telephone: (202) 619-6511


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