USIS Washington File

16 February 2000

Bohlen Sees CTBT, Missile Defense as Arms Control Priorities

(Views 2000 as time for consolidating gains of recent years) (830)
By Ralph Dannheisser
Washington File Congressional Correspondent

Washington -- The Clinton administration is realistic about the limits
on what it can accomplish in its final year in office, but still plans
to push some major arms control efforts, a State Department official
dealing with that issue says.

Avis Bohlen, assistant secretary of state for arms control, told a
dinner meeting of Women in International Security February 15 that
efforts at building support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
(CTBT) -- turned down once by the Senate -- and work toward a
presidential decision on deploying a National Missile Defense (NMD)
system rank highest on the list of priorities.

That makes for "not a very exciting agenda" of new initiatives, "but
rather a lot that needs to be consolidated," Bohlen said. "We've
bitten off an awful lot in the past couple of years, and I think we
have not yet digested it."

The arms control official termed the Senate's rejection of CTBT last
October "a very sobering experience" that dealt a sharp setback to the
administration's goal of achieving "a complete, comprehensive test

Noting that the vote marked the first time that the Senate had
rejected a major international accord since the Treaty of Versailles
after World War I, she said it reflected "a lack of national consensus
on the goals of the treaty."

"It is essential in this country to have a bipartisan consensus if we
are to move ahead on arms control," Bohlen said. But, "On this (CTBT)
issue, at least, the tradition of bipartisanship in foreign policy has
really been very badly eroded," she observed.

Bohlen conceded that, in the current climate, there is "very little
likelihood" that the CTBT will be brought to another Senate vote this
year. But, she said, administration officials will mount an effort to
correct "misconceptions" that led to the earlier Senate defeat, and
attempt to develop "a quiet dialogue" with moderates in both parties
that could set the stage for eventual approval.

She expressed optimism that a newly organized task force, led by
General John Shalikashvili, will be able to help the process along by
correcting senators' "misperceptions" of the treaty's impact in the
course of such a dialogue, convincing skeptics that its adoption will
not endanger U.S. security.

Bohlen described as "the other burning issue of the day" the complex
of factors related to President Clinton's upcoming decision on whether
to deploy a limited NMD system.

"Here we're trying to find a balance between deterrence, defense, and
arms control -- a kind of tripod if you want -- that can command
bipartisan support on the issues of National Missile Defense, the ABM
(Anti-Ballistic Missile) Treaty, and continuation of the START arms
reduction process," Bohlen said.

Citing "a growing threat to the United States from the ballistic
missile capabilities" of potentially hostile countries -- she listed
North Korea, "probably" Iran and "possibly" Iraq -- Bohlen said that
Clinton would make a deployment decision "not earlier than this
summer," based on four criteria:

"Our assessment of the threat at that time; the technological
feasibility of the system; the cost; and a range of national security
considerations which include the impact on arms control" as well as on
U.S. relations with Russia, China, and European and Pacific allies.

Bohlen stressed that any system Clinton might approve would be far
more limited than the Strategic Defense Initiative envisioned by
former President Reagan. "We're not talking SDI here. This is a very
limited system," she said.

Still, she acknowledged, it would be inconsistent with the existing
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and so require continued negotiations
with the Russians aimed at persuading them to accept some
modifications to the treaty. "This administration is not prepared
simply to go ahead with NMD and abandon the ABM Treaty," she said.

Bohlen said that the Russian decision to advance national elections
from June to March is a positive development, since it "gives us a
larger window of opportunity for negotiations" with the newly elected
Russian leadership before Clinton makes his deployment decision.

She noted that the administration has learned from the unsuccessful
effort to gain approval of the CTBT that "we must consult closely and
at early stages with the Senate" on NMD.

The arms control official listed several other issues expected to
receive consideration over the next year. Among them: the adapted
treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe recently signed in
Istanbul -- whose limits, she charged, Russia is exceeding in
Chechnya, thereby delaying its presentation to the Senate for the
required consent; implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention;
and what she termed "a great deal of work to be done" on a protocol to
the Biological Weapons Convention.

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