By Bill Gertz
THE WASHINGTON TIMES - PAGE A6/FRIDAY, MARCH 14,1997
Clinton administration efforts to expand the number of signers of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty will create a "roadblock" to building a national missile-defense system within the treaty, U.S. and Russian experts told a Senate panel yesterday.
"Our concern is that any negotiations to revise the treaty can only be complicated, slowed and perhaps rendered impossible by the introduction of multiple new agendas and interests," Keith Payne, president of the National Institute for Public Policy, told the Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee on international security.
The testimony was based a private U.S.-Russian study produced over the past two years by the U.S. Institute for Peace on the prospects for U.S.-Russian accommodation on missile defense and the ABM treaty. Mr. Payne was a co-author of the study's report.
The report by several U.S. and Russian experts concludes that deploying a limited national missile defense will not undermine strategic deterrence and is something Russia may agree to.
"My own bottom line on the ABM treaty is simple," said Sen. Thad Cochran, Mississippi Republican and subcommittee chairman. "We seek to cooperate with Russia, but ultimately the defense of our country is more important than the defense of a treaty that puts our country at risk."
Mr. Cochran said the study suggests that a new arms-control agreement integrating strategic offensive and defensive forces "could supersede the ABM treaty." The study was endorsed by Vladimir Lukin, current head of the Russian parliament's international relations committee.
Andrei Kortunov, president of the Moscow Public Science Foundation and co-author of the study, told the subcommittee that the Clinton administration's decision to back out of a joint U.S.-Russian missile-defense program proposed by Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1992 undermined Russian willingness to cooperate. Mr. Kortunov said the withdrawal "left an unfortunate aftertaste with the Russians, indicating perhaps a lack of sufficient U.S. interest in cooperation on missile defense." He urged the establishment of a new forum on U.S.-Russian missile-defense cooperation.
The initiative to explore a possible joint system against limited missile attacks was announced at the June 1992 summit between Mr. Yeltsin and President Bush. The Clinton administration, which opposes deployment of a national missile defense, ended talks in 1993.
Yesterday's testimony supported legislation introduced earlier this year by Senate Republicans that would require deployment of a limited national missile-defense system by 2003. The experts said a national missile-defense system designed to knock out a limited number of long-range missiles could be deployed without undermining strategic nuclear deterrence.
The administration is close to concluding a side agreement to the ABM treaty in Geneva that would add Belarus, Ukraine and Kazhakstan - former Soviet nuclear arms states - to the list of treaty signatories.
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