USIS Washington File

27 April 2000

Text: Helms Statement on U.S.-Russia Arms Agreements

(Senator vows to block any accord negotiated by President Clinton)

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms said April 26
that he will work to block approval of any arms agreement that
President Clinton might negotiate with Russia before he leaves office.

In a statement on the Senate floor, Helms said that "For the remainder
of this year, the Foreign Relations Committee will continue its
routine work -- we will consider tax treaties, extradition treaties,
and other already negotiated treaties. But we will not consider any
new, last minute arms control measures that this administration
negotiates in its final, closing months in office."

President Clinton will meet June 4-5 in Moscow with Russian President
Vladimir Putin. In a recent statement welcoming the Russian State
Duma's approval of START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) II, Clinton
said, "Now, we and Russia can and must seize this opportunity to
intensify our discussions on both START III and the ABM Treaty, so we
can take further concrete steps this year to strengthen the security
of the United States, Russia and indeed the whole world." For further
information on the Clinton administration's arms control policy, see

Following is the text of Senator Helms' statement:

(begin text)

Mr. President, the news media are buzzing with speculation that
President Clinton will attempt, in his final months in office, to
strike a major arms control deal with Russia -- including a new ABM
(Anti-Ballistic Missile) Treaty that would limit the United States'
ability to defend itself against ballistic missile attack.

White House officials have openly stated their concern that Mr.
Clinton faces the prospect of leaving office without a major arms
control agreement to his credit -- the first president in memory to do
so. (And for this President -- a man uniquely absorbed with his
"legacy" -- that perhaps would be, to him, a personal tragedy.)

So, Mr. Clinton wants an agreement, a signing ceremony, a final
photo-op. He wants a picture shaking hands with the Russian President,
broad smiles on their faces, large ornately bound treaties under their
arms, as the cameras click for perhaps the last time -- a final
curtain call of sorts.

I must observe, Mr. President, that if the price of that final curtain
call is a resurrection of the U.S.-Soviet ABM Treaty that would
prevent the United States from protecting itself against missile
attack, then that price is far too high.

With all due respect, I do not intend to allow this President to
establish his "legacy" by binding the next generation of Americans to
a future without a viable national missile defense.

For nearly eight years, while North Korea and Iran raced forward with
their nuclear programs, and while China stole the most advanced
nuclear secrets of the United States, and while Iraq escaped
international inspections, President Clinton did everything in his
power to stand in the way of deploying a national missile defense.
Want some facts? Let's state some for the record:

-- In 1993, just months after taking office, President Clinton ordered
that all proposals for missile defense interceptor projects be
returned unopened to the contractors who had submitted them;

-- In December of that same year (1993), he withdrew the Bush
administration's proposals for fundamentally altering the ABM Treaty
to permit deployment of national missile defenses (at a time when
Russia was inclined to strike a deal);

-- By 1996, three years after taking office, Mr. Clinton had
completely gutted the national missile defense program, slashing the
national missile defense budget by more than 80 percent;

-- In 1997, he signed two agreements to revive and expand the
U.S.-Soviet ABM Treaty, including one that would expand ABM
restrictions to prevent not just national missile defense for the
American people, but to constrain theater missile defenses to protect
our troops in the field as well;

-- Then, for the next three years, the President, heeding some of his
advisors, refused to submit those agreements to the U.S. Senate
(despite making a legally binding commitment to do so) for fear that
the Senate would reject them in order to clear the way for rapid
deployment of missile defenses. To this day, he still has not
fulfilled his legal requirement to submit those treaties for the
Senate's advice and consent;

-- In December 1995, Mr. Clinton vetoed legislation that would have
required the deployment of a national missile defense with an initial
operational capability by 2001;

-- Three years later, in 1998, he again killed missile defense
legislation -- the American Missile Protection Act (which called for
to the deployment of national missile defense as soon as its
technology was ready), by threatening a veto and rallying Democratic
senators to filibuster the legislation;

-- Only in 1999 did he at long last sign missile defense legislation
into law -- but only after it passed both houses of Congress by a
veto-proof majority, and only after the independent "Rumsfeld
Commission" had issued a stinging, bipartisan report declaring that
the Clinton administration had dramatically underestimated the
ballistic missile threat to the United States.

But while Mr. Clinton was doing all this -- costing America almost
eight years in a race against time to deploy missile defenses -- our
adversaries were forging ahead with their missile systems.

While Mr. Clinton was dragging his feet, foreign ballistic missile
threats to the U.S. grew in terms of both range and sophistication.
Today, several third world nations possess, or are developing,
ballistic missiles capable of delivering chemical, biological, or
nuclear warheads against U.S. cities.

According to the Rumsfeld Commission, both North Korea and Iran are
within five years of possessing viable ICBMs (intercontinental
ballistic missiles) capable of striking the continental United States
-- and North Korea may already (today) have the capacity to strike
Alaska and Hawaii. And just last month, Communist China explicitly
threatened to use nuclear weapons against U.S. cities should the U.S.
take any action to defend democratic Taiwan in the event that Beijing
launched an invasion.

So Mr. Clinton is in search of a legacy? He already has one. The
Clinton legacy is our nation's continued, inexcusable vulnerability to
ballistic missile attack. The Clinton legacy is eight years of
negligence. The Clinton legacy is eight years of lost time.

But, in the twilight of his presidency, Mr. Clinton now wants to
strike an ill-considered deal with Russia to purchase Russian consent
to an inadequate U.S. missile defense -- one single site in Alaska, to
be deployed, but not until 2005 -- in exchange for a new, revitalized
ABM Treaty that would permanently ban any truly national missile

The President is attempting to lock the United States into a system
that cannot defend the American people against even the limited
threats we face today. And the President is trying to resurrect the
U.S.-Soviet ABM Treaty to make impossible any future enhancements to
national missile defense.

The agreement Mr. Clinton proposes would not permit spaced-based
sensors; it would not permit sufficient numbers of ground based
radars; and it would not permit additional defenses based on alternate
missile interceptor systems -- such as Naval sea-based interceptors.
All of these, and more, are necessary to achieve a fully effective
defense against the full range of possible threats.

Mr. Clinton's proposal is not a plan to defend the United States; it
is a plan to leave the United States defenseless. It is, in fact, a
plan to salvage the antiquated and invalid U.S.-Soviet ABM Treaty. It
is a plan, Mr. President, that is going nowhere fast in protecting the
American people.

After dragging his feet on missile defense for nearly eight years, Mr.
Clinton now fervently hopes that he will be permitted, in his final
months in office, to tie the hands of the next president. He believes
he will be allowed to constrain the next administration from pursuing
a real national missile defense?

Well I, for one, have a message for the President: Not on my watch,
Mr. President. Not on my watch!

Let's be clear, to avoid any misunderstandings: Any modified ABM
treaty negotiated by this administration will be dead-on-arrival at
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

This administration's failed security policies have burdened this
nation long enough.

In a few months, the American people will go to the polls to elect a
new President, a President that must have a clean break from the
failed policies of this administration. He must have the freedom and
flexibility to establish his own security policies.

And to the length of my cable-tow, Mr. President, it is my intent to
do everything in my power to ensure that nothing is done in the next
few months, by this administration, to tie the hands of the next
administration in pursuing a new national security policy, based not
on scraps of parchment, but rather on concrete defenses; a policy
designed to protect the American people from ballistic missile attack;
a policy designed to ensure that no hostile regime -- from Tehran to
Pyongyang to Beijing -- is capable of threatening the United States of
America with nuclear blackmail.

The decision on missile defense will be for the next president to

It is clear that the United States is no longer legally bound by the
U.S.-Soviet ABM Treaty. Isn't it self-evident that the U.S.-Soviet ABM
Treaty expired when the Soviet Union -- our treaty partner -- ceased
to exist? Legally speaking, I see no impediment whatsoever to the
United States proceeding with any national missile defense system we
choose to deploy.

That said, for political and diplomatic reasons, the next president
may decide that it is in the U.S. interest to sit down with the
Russians and offer them a chance to negotiate an agreement on this
matter. (Personally, I do not think that a new ABM Treaty can be
negotiated with Russia that would permit the kind of defenses America

As Henry Kissinger said in testimony before the Foreign Relations
Committee last year:

"Is it possible to negotiate a modification of the ABM Treaty? Since
the basic concept of the ABM Treaty is so contrary to the concept of
an effective missile defense, I find it very difficult to imagine
this. But I would be open to argument, provided that we do not use the
treaty as a constraint on pushing forward on the most effective
development of a national and theater missile defense."

Like Dr. Kissinger, I am open to the remote possibility that a new
administration -- unencumbered by this president's desperate desire
for a "legacy" and this administration's infatuation with the
U.S.-Soviet ABM treaty -- could enter into successful negotiations
with the Russians.

The Republican nominee for president, Governor Bush of Texas, has
declared that, on taking office, he would give the Russians an
opportunity to negotiate a revised ABM Treaty, one that will permit
the defenses that America needs. But, Mr. Bush made clear that, if the
Russians refuse, he will go forward nonetheless and deploy a national
missile defense.

Mr. Bush believes in the need for missile defense, and he will
negotiate from a position of strength.

By contrast, President Clinton clearly has no interest whatsoever in
missile defense. His agenda is not to defend America from ballistic
missile attack, but to race against the clock to get an arms control
agreement -- any agreement -- that will prevent him from going down in
history as the first president in memory not to do so.

It is obvious, therefore, that any negotiations he enters into in his
final months will be from a position of desperation and weakness.

For this administration -- after opposing missile defense for eight
years -- to attempt at the 11th hour to try to negotiate a revised ABM
Treaty is too little, too late. This administration has long had its
chance to adopt a new security approach to meet the new threats and
challenges of the post-Cold War era. The administration chose not to
do so.

Now, this administration's time for grand treaty initiatives is at an
end. For the remainder of this year, the Foreign Relations Committee
will continue its routine work -- we will consider tax treaties,
extradition treaties, and other already negotiated treaties. But we
will not consider any new, last minute arms control measures that this
administration negotiates in its final, closing months in office. And,
as chairman of this committee, I should make it clear that the Foreign
Relations Committee will not consider the next administration bound by
any treaties this administration may try to negotiate in the coming

The Russian government should not be under any illusion whatsoever
that any commitments made by this lame-duck administration, will be
binding on the next administration. America has waited eight years for
a commitment to build and deploy a national missile defense. We can
wait a few more months for a president committed to doing it and doing
it right -- to protect the American people."

(end text)

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