Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


7-8ABM Treaty / National Missile Defense System

DPB #118
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 1999, 12:37 P.M.


QUESTION: Did you find anything out on Deputy Secretary Talbott's talks in Moscow and any comment on the Post story about where your position is on ABM?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. The United States is committed to the development of a limited national missile defense system. The system is designed primarily to counter the threat posed by emerging rogue state missiles. No decision has been taken on whether to proceed with deployment. A decision on whether to deploy a limited national missile defense will not be made until the year 2000 or later.

In our view, the ABM treaty remains a cornerstone of strategic stability and the United States is committed to continued efforts to strengthen that treaty. It is clear, however, that there is an emerging ballistic missile threat from rogue states. We are moving forward as quickly as we can with our national missile defense research and development program and will make a decision on deployment consistent with considerations of feasibility, threat, cost, and arms control. The President has said that he will make a decision on deployment next summer. It is now clear that deployment would require changes to the ABM treaty.

With this in mind, the President has made some decisions that will enable us to begin engaging Russia now on changes to the ABM treaty that would be necessary if we seek to deploy a limited national missile defense system. We are beginning those discussions with Russia - that is what Deputy Secretary Talbott is doing - with our allies and with members of Congress. We haven't taken a decision on deployment. We do believe that changes will be required to the ABM treaty and we are now becoming more specific on the kind of program and what changes would be necessary.

The approach we are taking is to ensure that we get the level of protection we need from the immediate missile threat and proceed in a responsible fashion with our allies and Russia. We anticipate that any initial national missile defense deployment would be Alaska-based and we have made no decisions regarding the location of a second site, but our long-term goal includes a second site along with additional interceptors and radars and we will address future threats as we project them now.

So what we are trying to do is take a responsible approach as we develop more certainty on what changes would be necessary in the ABM treaty, to consult with the Russians pursuant to the discussions at Helsinki both about the defensive side of the equation as well as about START III and the offensive side of the equation.

QUESTION: The numbers (inaudible)

MR. RUBIN: Well, what I can tell you is that we do anticipate that the initial deployment would be Alaska-based.

QUESTION: And from Talbott's discussions today, can you say anything about, you know, the willingness of the Russians to engage, you know, anything in terms of substance?

MR. RUBIN: There are a number of matters on the US-Russian agenda that Deputy Secretary Talbott has been discussing. Clearly, when Secretary Albright was there earlier this year, they do have concerns. That is why we are consulting with them. That is why we have developed such a relationship with Russia where, when they have concerns about a particular issue, we can talk our way through with them.

What we are trying to do is, through these discussions, explain to the Russians that the dangers of a rogue state missile threat are faced not only by the United States but also by Russia, and that we believe with these modest changes to the ABM treaty we cannot only protect this important treaty but also enable both the United States and Russia to be in a position to defend ourselves from those potential rogue state missiles. We want to cooperate with Russia in technology and in information and science on this subject so that both Russia and the United States can be in a position to be protected from this danger while still ensuring that the ABM treaty is in place and that therefore we, the United States, can be protected and have our security enhanced by having the Russian nuclear threat reduced further and further.

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