Baltimore Sun
October 6, 1999

U.S. `Kill Vehicle' Test Violates Arms Treaty, Russia Charges

`Negative consequences' hinted at by Moscow

From Wire Reports

MOSCOW -- Russia said yesterday that the United States had violated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and undermined arms control efforts by testing a "kill vehicle" designed to destroy long-range strategic weapons.

Washington said Sunday that it had successfully completed the first test of a prototype weapon over the Pacific Ocean that could lay the groundwork for a national missile defense system.

In the test, the "kill vehicle" was launched from the Marshall Islands. It intercepted and destroyed a modified Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile fired from California. The launch sites were 4,300 miles apart.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said the test ran against the grain of the 1972 ABM treaty, which limits the systems that Russia and the United States can deploy to ward off enemy missiles. "Such actions by the U.S. side effectively lead to the undermining of key provisions in the treaty with all the negative consequences which that entails. Responsibility for this lies with the United States," he told a news briefing.

He said the test threatened the global arms control system including the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction. "Russia doggedly insists on the preservation and increased effectiveness of the ABM treaty as the most important element for securing strategic stability in the world and for continuing the process of nuclear disarmament," Rakhmanin said.

Moscow has consistently opposed Washington's efforts to have the 1972 treaty amended. Washington says it needs to develop a national missile defense system because of the increased threat of attack from various countries. A U.S. intelligence report last month said that during the next 15 years the United States would "most likely" face long-range ballistic missile threats from Russia, China and North Korea, "probably" from Iran and "possibly" from Iraq.

A senior official in the Russian Defense Ministry was quoted yesterday as saying Washington was deliberately inventing new threats to justify its plans to build a missile defense system to put Moscow at a disadvantage. "The unlikelihood of such states [as North Korea, Iran and Iraq] developing missile systems capable of reaching U.S. territory in the next few decades compels Washington to seek new threats," Interfax news agency quoted Leonid Ivashov, head of the ministry's international cooperation division, as saying.

The head of Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces, Gen. Vladimir Yakovlev, told the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Moscow had retaliatory cards up its sleeve.

If the defense system is built, Russia might drop out of all disarmament treaties, close its borders to U.S. arms observers and begin stockpiling nuclear weapons, the commander of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, he said.