American Forces Press Service

Cohen Cautious on Russian TMD Counterbid, Seeks More Detail

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

MOSCOW, June 12, 2000 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin last week presented his own theater missile defense idea, but it would cause problems for the United States, Defense Secretary William Cohen said June 9 in Brussels, Belgium.

Putin suggested a theater missile defense system in Europe that could intercept incoming missiles having a range of 3,500 kilometers or less, but he offered no details. Speaking in Brussels after meeting with Russian Defense Minister Marshal Igor Sergeyev, Cohen said he would discuss Putin's idea further when he meets the two Russian leaders here June 13.

"I understand that Marshal Sergeyev said the system he has in mind would be a theater missile defense system," Cohen said. It would not violate the ABM Treaty because it would fall under the threshold of the "Demarkation Agreement" to the treaty, an unratified amendment Russia and the United States negotiated in 1997.

"What this means ... it would have capability only against missiles with ranges of under 3,500 kilometers," he continued. "If that in fact is what Russia has in mind, we have a serious problem. Any effective defense for Russia, the United States or Europe would have to work against long-range missiles, and defenses against missiles of that range would require amendment to the ABM Treaty.

"Most European nations are more than 3,500 kilometers away from potential launch sites in Iran, and it's obviously more than 3,500 kilometers from North Korea to Europe," he continued. "A system limited to shorter-range threats would not protect the American population."

Cohen said Russia and the United States now agree that rogue nations such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq present a growing threat as they try to buy or build weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles to deliver them.

Russia and the United States agree the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty should remain a cornerstone of stability and that diplomatic efforts are needed to halt proliferation. "Russia and the United States agree to explore ways to cooperate and look for ways to defend against a threat we all face," he said.

Cohen said as Russia and the United States continue to discuss theater missile defense the United States would insist on the protection of all U.S. territory. "If it is a European defense, I would assume that the Europeans would want to protect all European countries as well," he said.

Cohen said the United States is ready to explore ways to meet the security needs of Russia, the United States and Europe, "as long as the solutions emerge in time to meet the evolving threat."