USIS Washington File

16 February 2000

Transcript: Holum WorldNet on Arms Control, Non-proliferation Feb. 15

(President's senior advisor John Holum) (7,370)

Arms control remains central to America's national security interests
and to the international security environment, and the United States
will continue to take a leadership role in non-proliferation efforts,
according to President Clinton's Senior Advisor for Arms Control,
Non-Proliferation and Security Affairs, John Holum.
Arms control is "far preferable to building more offensive weapons and
greater defenses. It is much less costly, it is much more reliable,"
he said February 15 during a Department of State WorldNet interactive
television program between Washington and Paris.


A member of the television audience in Paris asked Holum about
proposed U.S. changes in its Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with
Russia to allow for a national missile defense system against threats
from rogue states. Holum emphasized that the system would have "a very
limited capability," using only the same number of interceptors
already authorized under the treaty.

"The treaty doesn't prohibit missile defenses -- it limits them to a
hundred interceptors defending a region. What we are proposing is a
system that has a hundred interceptors. The only difference is that it
have a national defense capability."

Holum said this would represent a "minor shift" in the ABM Treaty,
"and further future efforts will depend on whether and how the threat
evolves, or whether we are capable of limiting it through

One of the criteria for deploying a national missile defense system,
he said, is the overall security environment, "and clearly our
relationships and the views of our NATO allies play an important part
of that." This is why the United States believes it is extremely
important to engage in "detailed discussions" with its European
colleagues on both the substance of the proposed changes and on the
negotiating process with Russia.

Asked if this course might cause a split in NATO, Holum said he didn't
think it should and he hoped it wouldn't. One thing that would ease "a
lot of the concerns we have heard from our allies is if this agreement
can be negotiated with Russia.... It won't take away all the concerns,
obviously, but it will take away most of the concerns from people who
see this as an abandonment of the historic efforts towards arms
control," he said.

In explaining America's motivation to amend the ABM Treaty, Holum
noted that it was negotiated almost 30 years ago when the strategic
environment was "dramatically different."

"No one could envision that there would be the danger of developments
of ICBM capabilities and weapons of mass destruction capabilities in
third countries, additional countries, that might not be affected by
traditional rules of deterrence," he said. "So we need to continuously
look at the changing security environment."

Regarding renewed efforts to win Senate ratification of the CTBT,
Holum said that, as a practical matter, it is unlikely the Senate will
reconsider it during the remainder of President Clinton's term in
office. What the Clinton Administration hopes to do, he said, "is to
be prepared in case the opportunity [of another Senate vote] presents
itself, and at a minimum to hand off the treaty to the next
administration in much better shape for a possible ratification
Holum also discussed non-proliferation issues as they affect South
Asia, East Asia, and the Middle East.

Following is a transcript of the WorldNet program:

(begin transcript)

Office of Broadcast Services
Washington, D.C.

GUEST: John Holum, President's Senior Advisor for Arms Control,
Non-Proliferation and Security Affairs


POST: Paris
HOST: Nathan Roberts
DATE: February 15, 2000 
TIME: 09:00 - 10:00 EST

MR. ROBERTS: Good afternoon, and welcome to this special edition of
WorldNet's "Dialogue." I am your host, Nathan Roberts.


ANNOUNCER: Meanwhile, the United States is pressing ahead on all
fronts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. A leading means is
the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT, and its system of
strengthened safeguards.

In keeping with their disarmament obligations under the NPT, the
United States and Russia have made massive reductions in their nuclear
arsenals. Since 1988, America alone has dismantled more than 13,000
nuclear warheads. And with both countries ahead of schedule in their
START II reductions, U.S. and Russian officials have begun to discuss
a START III treaty, which would cut both countries' strategic arsenals
even more deeply, to 80 percent below their Cold War peaks.

But the path to further reductions is hardly straightforward. Russia,
China, and even some of America's allies in Europe and elsewhere, have
expressed concern that U.S. missile defense plans will upset the
strategic balance and break the momentum of nuclear disarmament. And,
more broadly, developments around the world show that the global
non-proliferation consensus is in constant need of tending. These
include: Saddam Hussein's continued defiance of United Nations weapons
inspectors; nuclear tests on both sides of a disputed border in South
Asia; serious questions about North Korea's military intentions; and
concerns about the vulnerability of civilian populations to chemical
or biological attacks.

Now with the growing availability of mass weapons and missile
technology, some in the international community question whether the
United States continues to value international arms control
arrangement, including the Non-Proliferation Treaty coming up for
review in April as a key first line of defense.

(End videotape.)


MR. ROBERTS: We are most fortunate to have with us today a senior
government official who has been at the center of these issues since
early in President Clinton's first term, John D. Holum, the
administration's senior advisor for arms control, non-proliferation
and security affairs. Previously Mr. Holum was the director of the
U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. And Mr. Holum, welcome to
WorldNet's "Dialogue." We are delighted you could be with us this


Q: (Inaudible) -- with Le Monde. How do you address the opposition of
most of the Europeans to the U.S. project of the missile defense
system? They consider it destabilizing. They don't feel threatened by
rogue states. They feel there will be sort of an agreement between the
Russians and the Americans on their back. How do you address this
skepticism or hostility of the Europeans towards the U.S. missile
defense project?

MR. HOLUM: Well, let me emphasize two points: one, process; and the
other substance. On process, we think it's extremely important to
engage in detailed discussions with our European colleagues on these
plans as we go forward, both on the substance and on our negotiating
process with the Russians. After the president made his decision, I
came to Paris immediately after stopping in Moscow to explain the
state of play there. I came to Paris, as well as to several other NATO
countries, to outline where we were. And we are continuing those
discussions, both bilaterally and through the NATO headquarters in
Brussels. Each time we have a negotiation or a discussion part of our
team stops in Brussels. And we will continue that process.

One of the criteria for deploying the system is the overall security
environment. And clearly our relationships and the views of our NATO
allies play an important part of that.

Now, on substance, one of the points I'd stress is that we are
proposing to adjust the treaty in a very limited way, only sufficient
to develop a national missile defense capable against a few tens of
unsophisticated warheads from a country like North Korea. If Russia
and the United States both were to develop this kind of system, which
is unlikely, because the Russians don't seem to have any plans to do
so, that would have no interference with the deterrent forces of our
European allies, France and the U.K., who have nuclear capability. So
we are working on a very limited adjustment.

So it's overblown, I think, to suggest that what we are proposing to
do here will dramatically upset the nuclear balance or undercut the
basic principles of nuclear disarmament that we have been pursuing for
the last 20 or 30 years.

Q: And you do not think it will drive a wedge in NATO or split in

MR. HOLUM: Well, I certainly hope it won't. And I don't think it
should. Remember that the United States here is dealing with a unique
risk, for the near term at least. The intelligence estimates that we
have shared with our allies point to a danger over the next five or
six years that North Korea would develop an ICBM capability, an
inter-continental ballistic missile capability, that could threaten
parts of the United States. Now, that same threat, that same danger,
probably doesn't apply in the case of Europe, because the United
States has a unique security relationship with South Korea.

And our concern here -- it may be useful to amplify on it a little bit
-- is not that we expect a bolt out of the blue or an attack from
North Korea, but rather an attempt to use this capability for coercion
in for example preventing the United States from coming to the
assistance of South Korea, should they be threatened with attack. So
it undercuts our alliance relationship potentially in that region.
Now, that is not something that in the near term endangers Europe, but
it does endanger our alliance relationships in Asia.

Should the threat in the Middle East develop, that obviously will have
some bearing on Europe, and something we need to continue to discuss.
But the basic question it seems to me on decoupling and division is to
turn the question around and ask would the United States be a better
ally if it is threatened with nuclear capabilities from North Korea?
If it remains vulnerable to those capabilities, and it seems to me
that the United States is a better ally to the extent it feels more
secure, more able to carry out its alliance commitments.

Q: (Inaudible) -- again from Agence France Presse. Can I ask you
clarify the statement or commitment or plans to extend the missile
shield to the allies of East Asia, Taiwan and Japan? And to answer the
anxieties that have been expressed here at the official level about
how that might unleash a new arms race with Beijing -- (off mike).

MR. HOLUM: I missed the first part of the question. Did you talk about
extending the shield to allies in Asia or allies in Europe?

Q:  In Asia.

MR. HOLUM: Yeah, the state of play there -- and we are now talking
about theater missile defenses rather than national missile defenses
-- and we haven't ruled out the possibility of sharing theater
capabilities in Asia. But this is further off than national missile
defense decisions. The theater capabilities are unlikely to be
available until around 2007.

The only decision that has been made so far, or the policy direction,
is that we plan to deploy TMD, theater missile defense, to protect
U.S. forces stationed in the region. Now, as far as protecting others,
we are jointly engaged in research with Japan, who has expressed some
interest. South Korea has not expressed interest in theater missile
defense, believing it's excessively costly, and is focusing on air
defenses. Taiwan has expressed some interest. And we haven't ruled
that out, but neither have we ruled it in. It's a matter for continued
discussion. It's no secret, as you are well aware, that China is
adamantly opposed to any deployment of theater missile defenses on
Taiwan. And obviously we need to discuss this issue with China as it

One point that we make continuously in those discussions is that
Taiwan's interest in theater missile defense is a direct result of
China's deployments of missiles offshore or threatening Taiwan's
territory. So what we are hopeful is that there can be restraint, a
regime of restraint that would make this unnecessary. But as of now it
is too early to draw any definitive conclusions.

Q: I'll go back to the substance. There is an argument here in Paris,
as well as other places in Europe, that if you build even a small
missile defense system it is an incentive for other states -- like
Pakistan or India or North Korea -- to develop more missiles so that
they are capable to defeat your missile defenses, so that actually to
build a missile defense system is an incentive for proliferation from
states which would proliferate. How do you answer that argument?

MR. HOLUM: Well, first of all, I would make the point that our missile
defense -- we don't regard it as oriented against countries like India
or Pakistan, and don't anticipate a threat to the United States from
those countries. This has a limited -- at least as conceived -- has a
limited life in the sense that it's entirely possible over a period of
time that a country like North Korea would develop either large enough
numbers of missiles or sufficiently sophisticated penetration aids to
defeat the system. Whether they'll do that is a matter of conjecture.
You could argue, as you have, that building a defense encourages them
to do that.

On the other hand, if you have a system that is capable against a few
tens of missiles, it sends the signal to North Korea that anything
they invest in the first few tens of missiles is wasted, that before
they have any military effectiveness or diplomatic effectiveness they
have to go considerably beyond where they now seem to be headed, out
of a very impoverished economy. So it could work, as you say, to cause
them to build more and more sophisticated weapons. On the other hand,
it could convince them that this process isn't worth the cost and the
effort and cause them to negotiate a settlement to avoid missile

Let me emphasize in that context -- I am sure you are aware of this --
that under the guidance of former Defense Secretary Bill Perry and
Ambassador Wendy Sherman, the counselor in the State Department, we
have been engaged in a very active effort to prevent these
developments in North Korea, and obviously that could have an impact
as well on the long-term picture.

Q: My name is Julian Lidley French (ph) from WEU Security Studies in
Paris. First is a point really -- and I really liked your response to
it, but we are talking here about the future, talking here about a
mixture of missile defense and arms control. And my concern is that
given the advances in technology of the British and French system in
the last 10 years -- (inaudible) -- been able to see how START III
cannot involve U.K. and French forces and so forth, because as the
build-down goes on in START I and START II, their relative importance
decreases. Now, given that allies do oppose ballistic missile defense,
are you not, A, in danger of weakening your allies' deterrent
capability; and, B, preventing further progress on arms control?

MR. HOLUM: I don't think so. But it depends on where this all evolves
over the long term. Remember -- and I emphasize again that this is a
very limited capability with only the same number of interceptors that
are already authorized under the ABM Treaty. Remember that the treaty
doesn't prohibit missile defenses -- it limits them to a hundred
interceptors defending a region. What we are proposing is a system
that has a hundred interceptors. The only difference is that it have a
national defense capability. So this is a minor shift in the treaty.
And further future efforts will depend on whether and how the threat
evolves, or whether we are capable of limiting it through

Now, as to START III -- I think beyond START III there is a realistic
possibility that strategic arms reduction talks and the process will
gradually involve allied forces. It's too little understood I think
that in fact through their own actions our allies are already reducing
their strategic arsenals. France for example has eliminated its
intermediate-range missile capabilities and is relying on its
submarine forces. The U.K. has also taken significant steps downward
unilaterally in strategic arsenals. Given the degree of sophistication
of France and the U.K.'s missile capabilities, even at reduced
numbers, this system would not be capable against them if the Russians
elected to follow suit and build their own system. So, again, we are
talking about a very limited step -- not a dramatic step to throw out
the entire theory of the ABM Treaty in the offense-defense trade-off.

Q: Thank you for that answer. If I could just follow up that answer
specifically on an issue of the ABM Treaty. This issue of a slight
adjustment -- as I understand it, Article 2 and Article 6 refer to
exotic technologies -- (inaudible) -- very clear about the --
(inaudible) -- further development of exotic defense. How in your
opinion is what is currently going on outside of the laboratory
actually not affect the ABM Treaty fairly fundamentally?

MR. HOLUM: You mean in terms of the testing that is underway on
theater missile defense and the national missile defense tests?

Q:  That area.

MR. HOLUM: We have been very scrupulous in making sure that the kind
of both laboratory research and physical testing in the field for both
theater and national missile defenses are in compliance with the
limits of the treaty. The treaty doesn't prevent the development of
national missile defenses short of the first steps towards deployment.
What we are proposing to do in the context of the treaty is a very
limited set of amendments that would essentially say -- or adjustments
to the prohibitions of the treaty -- that would essentially say you
can go this far and no further. You can take the 100 interceptors you
are already authorized -- obviously those interceptors could be tested
and deployed under the treaty -- you can take those interceptors and
put them at a site where they would have a capability of defending
nationally. That would take 100 interceptors, a new ABM radar at
Shemnya (ph) in Alaska, and five upgrades to existing early-warning
radar. So it's a very modest set of proposals.

I think one thing that would, I am quite confident, would solve a lot
of the concerns we have heard from our allies is if this agreement can
be negotiated with Russia. If we can have this -- it won't take away
all the concerns, obviously, but it will take away most of the
concerns from people who see this as an abandonment of the historic
efforts towards arms control.

Q: Precisely regarding the ABM Treaty, I would like to ask you a very
political question, maybe polemic. I read in the American press that
it is such a priority for the United States now to have these changes
in the treaty that it explains that the U.S. government had such a
soft position or reaction regarding to the war in Chechnya, so as not
to antagonize the Russians, because in exchange you would like to get
this change in the ABM Treaty.

MR. HOLUM: I wouldn't place any -- I don't know where that appeared,
but I wouldn't place any credence in it. You'll recall that when
Secretary Albright was in Moscow at the end of last month she was very
outspoken, both publicly and in her meeting with Acting President
Putin and Foreign Minister Ivanov about our strong objections to the
approach the Russians are taking in Chechnya. So I don't think we have
down-pedaled that area of disagreement at all.

I think one of the things that we tried very hard to do, and that it's
important to do, is to pursue multiple lines of engagement at once. We
are going to clearly have areas of continued disagreement with the
Russian Federation, but that shouldn't prevent us from being able to
cooperate where our interests coincide.

And the question that Russia will need to face -- and we have also
emphasized with Russia as we approached this decision is, is it a good
idea to force President Clinton to choose between the ABM Treaty in
its entirety and proceeding with a deployment that is widely regarded
on a bipartisan basis in the United States as necessary to protect our
security. We want to preserve the benefits of the ABM Treaty. So does
Russia. And I think we should be able to engage on that, even as we
maintain a rather rigorous disagreement that I know is shared by the
European Union and many others around the world.

Q: Julian Lidley French (ph) from the Western European Union Institute
again. I have a question for the future, I might. You just talked
about the European Union. There are many developments taking place
inside the EU -- a common European security policy is part of that.
These have long-term implications. And one of the issues that we
Europeans are now starting to address is the role of nuclear forces in
policy. What is the United States' position on the prospect of a role
for Anglo-French nuclear forces as part of the European defense

MR. HOLUM: Well, the -- I think the NATO collectively has addressed
this issue in 1990 and 1991 in visiting NATO's strategic concept. And
at that time, and then more recently at the NATO summit last year, we
made clear that nuclear weapons, whoever they belong to, have a very
limited role in NATO's strategic concept. They are truly weapons of
last resort. Their role has shrunk. As you know, United States'
tactical nuclear weapons in Europe have been dramatically reduced, and
the weapons that have come out, by and large both in terms of delivery
systems and actual warheads, been eliminated.

Q: This is -- (inaudible) -- from Agence France Press. Back to the
substance of non-proliferation and what could be done to further that
goal, and how that ties up with America's plans for a missile defense.
I mean, it does seem to me that the philosophy behind the --
(inaudible) -- has been that the nuclear powers are a club and they
will act together. Large and small have the same -- (off mike) -- the
United States adopts to enter a separate system, its own separate
defense, then that kind of pulls the carpet out from under the general
-- (off mike) non-proliferation, and therefore it is in a sense, as we
go forward an incentive to other states to regard what has been so far
achieved. That's certainly an argument put forward here.

MR. HOLUM: Well, first of all, we collaborate with the P-5 nuclear
weapons states in a variety of ways and in a variety of fora; for
example, in the Conference on Disarmament there was a great deal of
close work together in agreeing on the test ban. But we also have
different fora where we work not in concert, entirely in concert, with
each other. For example, up until now, as was referred to earlier, the
strategic arms reduction process has been a bilateral one, aimed at
getting the U.S. and former Soviet Russian forces down to levels where
it made some sense to broaden the talks to include the other three
nuclear weapon states. This has been a matter of keeping each other
informed, but not a matter of negotiating a common position.

We work together -- and I want to bring us back briefly to the
Non-Proliferation Treaty, because we have been working very hard to
have a common view among the P-5 on the Non-Proliferation Treaty and
its benefits, as well as our pace of fulfillment of commitments under
Article 6 to pursue the disarmament process. So this is a mixed

Now, as to the ABM Treaty, it is a bilateral treaty between the United
States and Russia. The motivation for adjusting the treaty -- and I'd
emphasize the decision to proceed with deployment has not yet been
made -- but the motivation for adjusting the treaty was something that
was not foreseen when the treaty was negotiated in 1972. At that time
the strategic environment was dramatically different. No one could
envision that there would be the danger of developments of ICBM
capabilities and weapons of mass destruction capabilities in third
countries, additional countries, that might not be affected by
traditional rules of deterrence. So we need to continuously look at
the changing security environment. This is something that NATO has
done routinely, that we have done among the P-5 routinely.

But the United States needs to also deal, as I mentioned earlier, with
its distinct security relationships, such as that with South Korea. We
are asking for understanding, we are asking for support, and we are
certainly being entirely transparent in what our plans are. But I
don't think that this is a common decision as opposed to a common
interest and concern.

Q: (Off mike.) Just a point to follow up your last comment. Certainly
in Europe, and I think it would go for allies around the world, in
what is a robust relationship -- I spent my life for example in
capitals and in Brussels in particular, and there was a need for an
improved PR campaign I would say on behalf of the U.S. to carry allies
with it. Yes, there are direct bilateral links; yes, there are talking
going on at a high level. But either at the senior political level
there is an ignorance about what the United States is trying to
achieve, and I believe could damage the alliance in the longer term. I
think it's very important that we face up to that as allies. And I
would call upon the United States to redouble its efforts to convey
exactly the objectives, the treaty-borne objectives, and the
strengthening of the alliance that the end result can achieve.

MR. HOLUM: I think that's a fair point, and I accept the
responsibility for me and others to be more publicly visible as well
as in our bilateral and alliance-wide discussions. Remember that
President Clinton and his administration resisted the idea of national
missile defense throughout his administration -- took a lot of
political heat for it. It's been a political issue in the 1996 and in
other campaigns. So the president comes to this reluctantly.

The way U.S. thinking evolved was last year, 1999, there was a new
intelligence estimate that dramatically accelerated the timetable by
which the threat of ICBM and WMD capabilities from North Korea and
then potentially Iran was going to arrive. It used to say 10 or 15
years; now it says basically within the next few years. They
accomplished that in one sense by what I think is a logical analytical
change, and that is to say you don't decide that the threat is there
only when there is a fielded force of a number of missiles and a
trained set of operators. The danger actually occurs when there is a
single missile that is capable of carrying a WMD warhead to the United
States. We too often are mirror-imaging our own approach, and saying
we wouldn't deploy anything until it was fully tested, and we had the
forces fully trained. But this intelligence estimate I think logically
said, look, the capability of coercion and of actually wiping out a
U.S. city happens when there is one ICBM that can get there, and it
doesn't have to be tested as thoroughly as we might do in our own

So once that new threat assessment arrived the president pursued the
kind of response that would be specifically tailored to that threat.
There are some who say let's abandon the entire treaty -- it's
outmoded, negotiated almost 30 years ago, it doesn't fit at all, and
why can't we defend America? The president has fully recognized the
importance of the treaty to strategic stability. We want to keep the
treaty. We want to continue the arms reduction process. And he still
hasn't made a decision as to whether to proceed with this first phase
program. It will be guided, as I am sure you have heard, by both not
only the technology, but by the cost, by the threat as it evolves, and
by the strategic environment. And the strategic environment includes a
whole range of considerations including arms control, including
relations with our allies. So this is still very much an alive
process, and we want to hear the views of our allies. We are
soliciting them. And that will all be factored into the decision. But
this has been a hard process for this administration, which had
resisted demands to abandon the treaty and demands to proceed
precipitously with the national missile defense.