1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty

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Russian Criticizes U.S. Missile Plans

By David Hoffman
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, May 5, 2000; Page A21

MOSCOW, May 4 – An outspoken Russian military leader declared today that the latest U.S. proposals for amending the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty are a dead letter and cannot be negotiated further.

"These proposals are not constructive and cannot be a subject of further consultations," said Gen. Leonid Ivashov, who has been one of the most anti-Western voices in the Russian military establishment in recent years.

Ivashov heads a small Defense Ministry department for international cooperation, and his views are often more hawkish than those of the Foreign Ministry and other Russian officials.

He was commenting on proposals presented to Russia in January and discussed recently in Washington with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov under which the United States plans to build a limited missile defense system and seeks to amend the treaty to permit it.

The United States has proposed starting with construction of 100 launchers and interceptor missiles with upgraded radar in Alaska to guard against possible attack from North Korea.

Russia has repeatedly expressed opposition to ABM changes, saying they would undermine the entire arms control regime. However, both sides appear to be continuing to look for a possible compromise, and the issue is expected to dominate President Clinton's June summit with Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin.

Putin, who will be sworn in Sunday as Russia's second president, today signed the START II arms reduction treaty, which was recently ratified by the parliament after seven years of delays. Russia has said it is eager to move on to deeper cuts in strategic nuclear arms, in part because its own arsenal is shrinking with age and lack of money.

Ivashov has often spoken out against Western security policy and was a staunch opponent of NATO expansion, which Russia eventually agreed to. But his comments at least suggest that some elements of the Russian security establishment will stand fast against changes in the treaty; it is not known in what direction Putin will ultimately lean. He has been courting Western leaders lately.

Ivashov told Interfax news agency that "Russia does not view these proposals as a basis for consultations, as they may ruin the ABM Treaty."

As in the past, Ivashov rejected U.S. statements that the antimissile system is necessary to protect against possible missile launches by North Korea, Iran and Iraq.

"These countries, in the near future, will hardly acquire guaranteed means of delivering weapons to U.S. territory," he said.

"One may get the impression at first glance," he added, "that the U.S. plans to deploy 'a limited missile defense system' in one region, as terms of the ABM Treaty require. What is actually meant here is a system with such control and target-acquisition means, including space-based, [that it] can be easily expanded to national dimensions."

© 2000 The Washington Post Company