Policy Statement on Missile Defense and The Helsinki Summit

Issued March 19, 1997

At the U.S.-Russian summit meeting in Helsinki on March 20-21, President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin are scheduled to discuss proposals that could dramatically limit our ability to defend the territory and people of the United States, our troops, and our allies. These dangerous proposals, about which Congress has not been consulted, come at the same time that missile threats against the U.S. and our allies are escalating.

Limiting U.S. theater missile defenses, or expanding the outmoded ABM Treaty to include new parties, would be fundamentally inconsistent with the national security of the United States.

Dictatorships across the globe are currently working to produce or acquire weapons of mass destruction, and the missile technology to deliver them. The vast missile arsenal of the former Soviet Union--the largest in the world--is under increasingly insecure control and potentially available to Third World nations. And potential adversaries, including the People's Republic of China, are steadily increasing their missile development and procurement efforts.

These developments will soon enable as many as two dozen nations to threaten the destruction of American cities. As a result, effective missile defenses are needed to protect the American people from this growing threat to U.S. territory.

Today, long-range and theater missiles already threaten U.S. troops in South Korea and Japan; our forward-based air and naval forces in Northeast Asia, the Mediterranean, and the Persian Gulf; and key U.S. allies like Israel, South Korea, and Taiwan. For these reasons, theater missile defenses are critically needed now to protect our forces and our allies from very real danger.

Within recent days, published reports have indicated that the Clinton Administration is pursuing negotiations with Russia that could drastically undercut U.S. defenses. Congress has not been consulted on the Clinton Administration's reported plans to propose in Helsinki that the quarter-century old ABM Treaty be expanded to include new signatory countries. This relic of our Cold War confrontation with the Soviet Union is dangerously outmoded. Yet if the published reports are true, the Clinton Administration is seeking to extend it, imposing its outmoded terms and technology restrictions on new nations not militarily aligned with Russia.

Neither has Congress been consulted on a reported Clinton Administration attempt to conclude a further agreement with Russia that would expand the definition of missile defenses restricted by the 1972 ABM Treaty. As written, the ABM Treaty does not cover theater missile defenses. The Administration is now proposing to Russia that it should. Without any warrant in the language of the Treaty, their proposal is to extend ABM restrictions to theater defenses such as the Army's Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and the Navy's Upper Tier. These revisions would seriously impair the development, fielding, and operation of U.S. theater missile defenses. They would also impose crippling new limits on the performance and velocity of theater missile interceptors, on sensors supporting those interceptors, and on the testing and deployment of theater missile defense systems.

The obsolescent terms of the ABM Treaty should not be extended to new countries and new categories of technology. The ABM Treaty was premised on the notion of "Mutual Assured Destruction" (MAD), and a precarious balance of terror between two hopefully rational superpowers. Today, as dozens of nations and even rogue terrorist organizations are acquiring nuclear and chemical weapons mounted on missiles, adherence to MAD is itself the definition of madness. Instead of restricting purely defensive systems, America should provide its citizens and troops protection against terrorist attacks.

Nowhere is this more true than in the case of theater missile defense, which is reliable, available, and affordable. New international agreements are not required to develop, test and deploy effective theater missile defense systems, because no existing international agreements now restrict such activities. What is needed is that which the Clinton Administration may well give away in Helsinki--a willingness to protect our territory, our troops and our allies from ballistic missile attack.

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Created by the House Republican Policy Committee..
Last updated April 28, 1997