Reaction to Administration National Missile Defense plan:
1. In Russia - START II imperiled ("Russia Says Start II Is Imperiled;
U.S. Missile System Plan Could End Hopes For Ratification" - Washington
Post - January 22, 1999 - David Hoffman )
2. In China - discomfort ("Missile Plan Puts U.S. In Quandary On China" -
New York Times - January 22, 1999 - Elizabeth Becker)
3. From the Washington Post - more or less support ("Moving To Missile
Defense" - Washington Post - January 22, 1999)
4. From the New York Times - endorsement of Clinton plan ("Defense Against
A Missile Attack" - New York Times - January 22, 1999)
5. From Jesse Helms - scrap the ABM Treaty ("Amend The ABM Treaty? No,
Scrap It" Wall Street Journal - January 22, 1999 - By Jesse Helms)
"Russia Says Start II Is Imperiled; U.S. Missile System Plan Could End
Hopes For Ratification"
Washington Post - January 22, 1999 - David Hoffman
MOSCOW, Jan. 21—The Clinton administration's decision to move ahead with a
national ballistic missile defense system could stifle any last hopes that
the Russian parliament will approve the START II strategic arms treaty,
Russian specialists said today.
The U.S. announcement, made Wednesday by Secretary of Defense William S.
Cohen, appears certain to aggravate relations between Moscow and
Washington, which have gotten off to a tense beginning this year with U.S.
sanctions against Russian scientific centers, diverging views over Iraq and
Kosovo, and Russian impatience with Western debt relief and loans.
The administration pledged to spend $6.6 billion over five years to field a
missile defense system and said it would seek unspecified changes in the
1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with Russia. The treaty sharply
limits the development of missile defenses. Cohen said the United States
might unilaterally pull out of the treaty if Russia does not agree to changes.
Until now, the administration had expressed doubt about whether such a
missile defense system was necessary or feasible. Russia has long expressed
opposition to any changes to the treaty.
The START II treaty was close to ratification last year before the December
attacks on Iraq, which triggered a backlash in the lower house of the
Russian parliament, the State Duma, and caused a postponement of the vote.
The START II treaty, which would cut both sides' nuclear arsenals nearly in
half, was signed in 1993 and ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1996, but it
has never been approved by the Duma.
President Clinton sent a letter to President Boris Yeltsin warning him of
the impending U.S. announcement on missile defense. The initial Kremlin
reaction today was low-key, with advisers saying they are studying the
letter while Yeltsin is in the hospital with a stomach ulcer.
But several specialists said the move will provoke a negative reaction in
Russia. Dmitry Trenin, deputy director of the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace Moscow Center, said there is a growing anti-American
sentiment, and START II ratification could be the first casualty.
"The whole window of opportunity for START II that opened up last year has
now closed," he said.
Alexei Podberiozkin, a Communist Party member of parliament who recently
decided to support START II ratification, said the U.S. decision to build a
missile defense system could be the death knell of the strategic arms treaty.
"Certainly it will make ratification of START II impossible," he said. "But
we don't know how far this decision goes beyond the ABM treaty. It must be
studied carefully. . . ."
Paul Podvig, a researcher at the Center for Arms Control, Energy and
Environmental Studies here, said draft legislation in the Duma to accompany
the START II ratification already stipulates that the United States must
stick by the ABM Treaty. "It will be very difficult to get START II
ratified if the United States is serious about changing the ABM Treaty," he
"The reaction to this kind of proposal, from the Duma, politicians, and the
military will be very negative," he added. "I have an impression that the
United States has given up on START II. They see that the chances to get it
ratified by the Duma are very small . . . that Russia is going to destroy
our missiles with or without START II. They see that Russia is going to
so why worry that much?
"The Duma got as close to ratification as it could" before the air attacks
on Iraq, Podvig said. "Everything was more or less in place. I think that
somebody in the State Department or the administration should have thought
about that, about timing, and they didn't. Which means they just don't care."
"Missile Plan Puts U.S. In Quandary On China"
New York Times - January 22, 1999 - Elizabeth Becker
WASHINGTON -- Having planned a major outlay for defensive missiles, the
Clinton administration now faces a major diplomatic and military quandary
with China. The sensitivities are so acute that the Clinton administration
has twice delayed sending Congress a classified report on a proposed
missile system to defend Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, and the U.S.
troops stationed in the region, officials said Thursday.
Anxieties arose when North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan and
into the Pacific Ocean on Aug. 31. They are behind general U.S. plans to
develop and test a limited national system of missile defense, at a
proposed cost of $10.5 billion over six years.
The development may also involve the renegotiation of agreements with Russia.
During a tour of Japan this month, Defense Secretary William Cohen met with
top Japanese officials to discuss a joint venture to develop regional
missile defenses. Immediately, the Chinese accused the United States of
trying to start "a revival of Japan's military ambitions."
As a result, in Washington "They've gone over the draft several times,"
said one administration official who has seen the documents. "No one wants
China to be offended."
After the North Korean missile firing, Japanese public opinion shifted
nearly overnight toward supporting such a system and the Japanese
Parliament approved joint research with the United States after years of
quietly fending off U.S. proposals.
The launching of the North Korean missile with its greatly increased range
also raised alarm in Congress and the Clinton administration. The 37,000
U.S. troops based in South Korea and nearly 50,000 others serving in Japan
appeared far more vulnerable, officials said, to the improved North Korea
Since North Korea remains dependent on China, the administration
immediately asked the Chinese to persuade Pyongyang to demonstrate that it
would stop firing missiles over Japan, but to no avail.
China is directly at issue in the question of defending Taiwan, which is
threatened only by Chinese missiles. Since the early 1990s China has more
or less doubled, to several hundred, the number of missiles on the coast
facing Taiwan. And any system protecting Taiwan would have to be crafted to
neutralize those Chinese missiles.
That creates a double blow, in the Chinese view, that makes any proposed
system look like an offensive weapon aimed at Beijing and not a shield
"One of the biggest ironies of this debate is that it was China's client --
North Korea -- that brought this debate into full daylight and that is
causing such problems for China," said Richard Armitage, a former Defense
Democrats and Republicans in Congress agree. By mandating the report last
year, Congress asked the administration to describe, however vaguely, what
a system would look like.
The missile defense plan is expensive and as yet unproved; it will be years
before such a system could be ready, which is one of the arguments the
administration is making to the Chinese to calm their fears.
But while administration officials continue to debate how to sell the idea
to China, there is little doubt that the research will go ahead.
"It's not a question of whether we will do this," said Joseph Nye, former
assistant secretary of defense in the first Clinton administration and now
dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. "It will go
ahead. The question is how we do it. What is open for discussion is the
fine print about it. The Chinese should not overreact."
To critics who question why the United States is pushing ahead with a
system that could add to the fraught relations between Washington and
Beijing, congressional aides answer that the issue is North Korea.
Taiwan has yet to decide whether to join with the United States in the
system. Taiwan already has Patriot missiles, and the price tag for
undertaking the new missile defense research is high. The Japanese Defense
Agency is expected to spend up to $260 million for its five- to six-year
The administration plans to meet its latest deadline, after receiving two
extensions, and give the classified report to Congress next week.
"Moving To Missile Defense" - Washington Post - January 22, 1999
THE CLINTON administration has moved toward the position on a ballistic
missile threat held by its Republican critics, but not all the way. Critics
have held that the threat of rogue state nuclear attack on the United
States is so urgent that deployment of an anti-missile shield should begin
forthwith. The administration accepts, in policy statements and in
financial readiness, that the threat is pressing and that deployment plans
-- but not yet a deployment decision -- should be made. It inserts the
sensible condition that the systems finally chosen to provide the
protection should work.
For years, President Reagan's call for a space-based total-shield missile
defense against an all-out Soviet attack was widely mocked as "Star Wars."
But North Korea's open missile testing and secret nuclear program, and
Iran's and Iraq's pursuit of weapons of terror, have convinced increasing
numbers of Americans that some American forces abroad are already exposed to
hostile missile attack and that it will not be long before the United
States itself could become similarly vulnerable on its home soil.
Threat is half the rationale for considering a defensive deployment. The
other half, which still needs to be filled in, is whether the technology is
there to do the job. The administration's answer is to commit to deployment
but actually to proceed with it, with a ground-based system, when we have
one that can do what it is designed to do.
Besides the technological hurdles, a political hurdle exists in the
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed by the Soviet Union/Russia and the
United States in 1972. In what was meant as a gesture of mutual confidence,
it condoned certain limited missile defenses but barred a national defense.
Over the years the theory ("Mutual Assured Destruction") underlying the
treaty has come to be as mocked as "Star Wars," albeit from a different
place on the political spectrum. But the treaty is in effect, and still
represents to an unsteady Russia a crucial American commitment to mutual
The United States has good reason to keep the treaty from confounding its
emerging security requirements for a limited national missile defense; no
defense against the still-great Russian nuclear arsenal is contemplated or
even conceived of. But it also has good reason to unhitch from relevant
treaty obligations in a way that does not undermine Russian confidence.
It's a hard task but a doable one.
"Defense Against A Missile Attack" - New York Times - January 22, 1999
During the cold war, when the only real missile threat to America came from
the Soviet Union, building missile defenses was rightly seen as a bad idea.
The other side would simply build more offensive missiles so that some got
through any shield. Today's world is different, with reckless lesser powers
like North Korea developing long-range missiles that could one day reach
The Clinton Administration is right to devote money and effort to designing
a limited missile defense system to counter this potential threat.
But America's preparations have to be guided by the imminence of the
danger, the technical challenges and the possible diplomatic consequences
for managing nuclear relations with Russia and China.
The Administration is acting responsibly in moving ahead with a $4 billion
research and testing program over the next six years and setting aside $6.6
billion for possible future construction. But the White House must not let
itself be rushed into a premature decision to proceed with construction.
North Korea is closer to being able to launch a missile attack on the
United States than was previously thought. The three-stage rocket it tested
last year, once perfected, would probably be able to reach parts of Alaska
What must now be determined is what kind of technologies can be produced to
intercept a limited number of missiles.
Despite 40 years of research and testing, America does not yet have a
reliable shield against long-range missiles. The challenge is formidable,
akin to shooting at speeding bullets. But some day a reliable system will
probably be developed. The actual building of a defense system should wait
until it is.
Missile defenses are currently restricted by a 1972 treaty between the
United States and Russia. That treaty underpins current nuclear arms
reduction agreements between the two countries, since neither would be
willing to reduce its arsenal if its missiles were likely to be intercepted
Renegotiating the treaty to allow a limited defensive system directed
against North Korea and other rogue states may be possible, despite
Russia's current reluctance to do so. But the subject must be approached
carefully. Defense Secretary William Cohen's threat that America could
simply renounce the treaty if Russia resists amendments was a poor way to
"Amend The ABM Treaty? No, Scrap It"
Wall Street Journal - January 22, 1999 - By Jesse Helms
Under pressure from the Pentagon and congressional conservatives, President
Clinton reluctantly decided to request $6.6 billion over six years in his
new budget for missile-defense research. And Defense Secretary William
Cohen announced yesterday that the administration wants permission from
Russia to re-negotiate the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty.
But administration officials have made it clear that unless the Russians
are willing to give that permission, they have no intention of actually
deploying a nationwide missile defense system. Why? Because the
administration believes that any such deployment would violate the ABM
Treaty. And, as National Security Adviser Samuel Berger affirmed in a
speech just last week, "We remain strongly committed to the 1972
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty [as] a cornerstone of our security."
What that means is that in Mr. Berger's view, deploying even the most
limited missile defense would require getting permission from Russia to
revise the ABM Treaty. Consider that for a moment: The Clinton
administration wants to negotiate permission from Russia over whether the
U.S. can protect itself from ballistic missile attack by North Korea.
The ABM Treaty is the root of our problems. So long as it is a
"cornerstone" of U.S. security policy, as Mr. Berger says, we will never be
able to deploy a nationwide missile defense that will provide real security
for the American people.
We do not need to re-negotiate the ABM Treaty to build and deploy national
missile defense. We can do it today. The ABM Treaty is dead. It died when
our treaty partner, the Soviet Union, ceased to exist. But rather than move
swiftly to declare the treaty dead, and to build and deploy a national
missile defense, the Clinton administration is attempting to resuscitate
the ABM Treaty with new protocols to apply its terms to Russia and all the
other nuclear states that were once part of the Soviet Union.
The world has changed a great deal since the ABM Treaty was first ratified
27 years ago. The U.S. faces new and very different threats today—threats
which are growing daily. China has 19 intercontinental ballistic missiles,
13 of which are aimed at the U.S. As recently as 1997 a senior Chinese
official issued a veiled nuclear threat, warning that the U.S. would never
come to the defense of Taiwan, because we Americans "care more about Los
Angeles than we do Taipei."
Saddam Hussein is doggedly pursuing nuclear, chemical and biological
weapons and the long-range missiles to deliver them, and the will of the
international community to confront and disarm him is crumbling. Iran,
which is also developing a nuclear capability, just tested a new
missile--built with Russian, Chinese and North Korean technology--which can
strike Israel and
Turkey, a NATO ally. And, according to the Rumsfeld Commission, Iran "has
acquired and is seeking advanced missile components that can be combined to
produce ballistic missiles with sufficient range to strike the United
States." If Iran succeeds, the commission warns, it will be capable of
striking all the way to St. Paul, Minn.
North Korea's unstable communist regime is forging ahead with its nuclear
weapons program, and test-fired a missile over Japan last August which is
capable of striking both Alaska and Hawaii. And Pyongyang is close to
testing a new missile, the TD-2, which could allow it to strike the
America is today vulnerable to ballistic missile attack by unstable outlaw
regimes, and that missile threat will increase dramatically in the early
years of the 21st century. What are we doing today, in this waning year of
the 20th century, to defend ourselves against these emerging threats?
When the Senate votes on the new protocols expanding the ABM Treaty to
Russia and other post-Soviet states, we will in fact be voting on the ABM
Treaty itself. For the first time in 27 years, the Senate will have a
chance to re-examine the wisdom of that dangerous treaty. If I succeed, we
will defeat the ABM Treaty, toss it into the dustbin of history and thereby
clear the way to build a national missile defense.
The Clinton administration wants to avoid that at all costs. So the
president has delayed sending the new protocols to the Senate for approval.
But Mr. Clinton does not have a choice--he is required by law to submit the
ABM protocols to the Senate. On May 14, 1997, Mr. Clinton agreed to
explicit, legally binding language that he submit the protocols, a
condition that I required during the ratification of another treaty, the
Conventional Forces in Europe Flank Document. It has been 618 days since
Mr. Clinton made that commitment under law. I am going to hold him to it.
Today I am setting a deadline for the president to submit the ABM protocols
to the Senate. I expect them to arrive by June 1. In the meantime, I will
begin ratification hearings on the treaty shortly, so that the Foreign
Relations Committee will be ready to vote and report the treaty to the full
Senate by June 1. I say to the president: Let your administration make its
case for the ABM
Treaty, we will make our case against it, and let the Senate vote. If I
have my way, the Senate this year will clear the way for the deployment of
national missile defense.
Not until the administration has submitted the ABM protocols and the Kyoto
global-warming treaty, and the Senate has completed its consideration of
them, will the Foreign Relations Committee turn its attention to other
treaties on the president's agenda.
Mr. Clinton cannot demand quick action on treaties he wants us to consider,
and at the same time hold hostage other treaties he is afraid we will
reject. The president must submit all of them, or we will consider none of
By Jesse Helms, is a North Carolina Republican and chairman of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee.
Council for a Livable World
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