American Forces Press Service

Russia, U.S. Agree to Expand Cooperation, Disagree on NMD

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2000 -- Russia and the United States will expand cooperation in a number of areas, but they disagree on missile defense issues.

Following June 13 meetings in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Marshal Igor Sergeyev, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said he made generally good progress.

"We talked about ways our troops could cooperate even further, not only in Kosovo and Bosnia on the ground, but with our sea forces, air forces and strategic forces," Cohen said. He said the United States is "certainly willing to cooperate" with the Russians on theater missile defense research. The Russians have proposed an "umbrella" defense over rogue states.

"The United States is interested in exploring further the umbrella over the emerging threat areas," he said. The Russians have proposed a boost-phase anti-missile system that Cohen said presents many technical challenges. The targeted missile's boost phase, generally speaking, is the first five minutes of flight, when it's still climbing in altitude under power.

How and where such a defense system would be based poses political problems, Cohen said. Others would be who would control such a system and how it would distinguish between legitimate rocket launches and attacking intercontinental ballistic missiles.

"The United States feels it is important to continue our research and development efforts in the field of national missile defense for the possible deployment of a limited style system," Cohen said during a joint press conference with Sergeyev.

For his part, the Russian defense minister said the umbrella could be put in place by negotiating with the United States and countries affected by the plan -- either because they wish the protection or will host the system's radars, interceptors, etc. Through an interpreter, he contended the Russian boost-phase ABM would be more effective, less costly and "less detrimental to the nuclear infrastructure of either side."

Sergeyev said the United States going ahead with its currently envisioned limited National Missile Defense programs would mean pulling out of the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty. He called the treaty the cornerstone of nuclear limitation talks between Russia and America and said the U.S. proposal would mean restarting the arms race. "It would mean an escalating battle between the shell and the armor," he said.

The meeting cleared up confusion about theater missile defense proposals Putin floated two weeks ago just before President Clinton visited Russia. During the NATO Ministerial in Brussels last week, the thought was that Putin's proposal was based on Russian S-300 or S-400 missiles, roughly the equivalent of U.S. Patriot 2 and 3 systems.

However, following the meeting it was clear the Russians were proposing a boost-phase system. The Russians have not spent any money researching such a system, said a senior U.S. defense official.

The United States will test its exoatmospheric NMD in early July, Pentagon officials said. Cohen will use test information to determine whether such a defense is technically feasible. He will make his recommendation to President Clinton in August. The president will then decide whether to go forward with the system.

U.S. intelligence analysts have determined that rogue states such as Iran, Iraq and North Korea could be capable of launching ICBMs against the United States and Western Europe by 2005.

During their meeting, Cohen and Sergeyev also signed the plan of cooperation between DoD and the Russian Ministry of Defense. Included in the plan are reciprocal visits between the secretary and the minister.

Russia and the United States will cooperate on peacekeeping and combating terrorism. The countries will also exchange specialists to discuss matters related to training chemical- biological specialists. The agreement also continues activities under the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.

Cohen also mentioned that Putin said the Russians and Americans should move quickly to set up a shared early warning system in Moscow. "We'd like to have it operational in the fall," the secretary said.

He said the most important aspect of the meetings wasn't NMD or shared early warning, but the fact the Russians are talking again. They broke off many military-to-military contacts following operations against Serbia last year and had stopped attending the NATO-Russia Joint Permanent Council.

Sergeyev came back to NATO June 9, and Russia is again speaking with the United States and NATO allies on a number of different initiatives.