USIS Washington File

27 April 2000

Cohen Decries Russia's Tying START II Ratification to NMD

(Says deployment decision to be based on threat to U.S. security)
By Susan Ellis
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Defense Secretary Cohen told a Senate Appropriations
subcommittee April 26 that, although he commends Russian President
Vladimir Putin for "getting the Duma to ratify" START II (Strategic
Arms Reduction Treaty), he believes that tying ratification to "no
deployment for national missile defense (NMD) is simply unacceptable.

"They should ratify START II based on the agreement, period," the
Clinton administration official said.

Cohen said the United States will negotiate with the Russians to see
"whether or not we can amend the ABM treaty to take into account a
national missile defense system, if the president should choose to go

He advised the senators, whenever they travel to Moscow, "to try to
arrange to meet your counterparts. It's very important that you talk
to them and you talk very straight with them. I always try to meet
with Duma members and to lay out our strategy and what our goals are."

Cohen said President Clinton's decision on whether to deploy NMD this
summer will be based solely on whether considerations set out have
been met.

The first such consideration, he said, is whether there is a credible
threat to U.S. national security. The defense secretary said he
believes the threat is real and will increase.

Other tests include technological capability and costs and, he said,
"the next question is, what is the impact upon our arms reductions and
stability in the world, in terms of strategic systems? Those are the
four tests the president is going to apply."

After the tests, set for late June or early July, there will be about
a 30-day period in which Cohen will examine the results and then make
a recommendation to the president. "But it will be separate and
distinct from Russia's ratification of START II," Cohen said. "And I
would not have the Duma be in a position to tie the two together. We
have to look at what the threat is to our country. We have to look in
terms of the countries that are most critical of NMD, that also have
participated in spreading that technology to some degree.
"We will look at what our national security interests are and then see
whether this system, as contemplated, is designed to defeat a threat
from a rogue nation. But I can't tell you that now; I'll be in a
position this summer to make a recommendation to the president," Cohen

Asked by Senator Richard Shelby (Republican, Alabama) about the
timeframe for removing remaining U.S. troops in the Balkans, Cohen
declined to name "a fixed period" adding, "I can tell you there has
been great progress....We have seen our forces come from 20,000 in
number down to roughly 4,300 or so. In Kosovo, we have seen a rather
significant change on the ground from last year, when we were in the
middle of waging an air campaign....But it's going to take some time."

Shelby asked Cohen whether, given the drawdown in U.S. forces, it is
still U.S. policy to "maintain a military capable of fighting and
winning two major-theater wars almost simultaneously."

"The answer to that is 'yes'," Cohen said, qualifying that by adding
that there would be much higher risk "on the second MTW (major theater
war) than is desirable."

Asked whether the two theater war policy might be reviewed, Cohen said
it is always under review and subject to the Quadrennial Defense
Review coming up in the next administration. "We feel that we still
need to maintain that capability for the foreseeable future, because
we still have at least two major-theater war potentials that we have
to address, namely the Gulf region and also in the Korean peninsula."
he said.

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