News Briefings

DoD News Briefing

Thursday, October 21, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Presenter: Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA


Q Can I follow that with another issue -- the issue of terrorism affecting Russia and the United States, especially terrorist missiles, attacks. I take it Russia is just as vulnerable as the United States. Have we been getting any positive results from talking to the Russians about an anti-ballistic missile system for cheap shots? For one-shots -- you know, for terrorism-type of inspiration?

MR. BACON: These are long and complex negotiations. They've only started in the last month or so with Deputy Secretary of State Talbott's trip to Moscow, followed by Secretary Cohen's trip and his meetings with Marshal Sergeyev and other officials, including members of the Duma. We are in the process of laying out our case to Russia and trying to make it clear to them that we do believe we face a common threat, and that it's a threat to which they should respond by protecting themselves just as we're attempting to with the national missile defense system. So those conversations will continue.

QKen, along the same lines, China and Russia today submitted a resolution to the U.N. demanding that the United States adhere strictly to the ABM Treaty and not deploy any missile defenses. Do you have any response to that resolution?

MR. BACON: This is why we're talking to the Russians. We'll continue to talk to them. We've made it very clear that the treaty gives us the right to seek adjustments, to meet our national security requirements, and that's what we're attempting to do.

QHas there been any offer to the Russians? Is the U.S. offering Russia anything in exchange for allowing the U.S. to build this limited national missile defense?

MR. BACON: We've talked to them about a range of possible cooperative ventures that we think would do two things: one, would prove to them that our national missile defense system is not aimed at them, it's aimed at an entirely different, and much smaller, threat than the Russians would present if they were to threaten us; and two, we're trying to convince them that we can both benefit by cooperating in dealing with this threat because it's a threat against them as well as against us.

So we have made a number of possible suggestions of ways that we could cooperate. The one that's been discussed most publicly is the shared early warning center. In fact, President Clinton and President Yeltsin have agreed to set one up. It's supposed to be set up in Moscow. Assistant Secretary Warner has briefed you on that. He's been over there, discussed it with them. Discussions about that are continuing. We've also talked about sharing a satellite, the so-called RAMOS (sp) satellite, and sharing information from that satellite. We've talked about sharing other information that we gather with them, and we've talked to them -- we've made suggestions about possible cooperation in other ways, as well.

QHas there been any discussion of providing them with a missile defense system?

MR. BACON: The short answer is -- on that, I believe, is no at this stage.

QAnd are we asking for an amendment to the ABM, or just to be able to work this within the existing language of ABM?

MR. BACON: The treaty would have to be revised in certain ways; it would have to be amended. We have to remember that the treaty allowed countries to build sites to protect national capitals or to protect missile fields from a devastating first strike. We briefly deployed -- started to deploy an ABM system in North Dakota to protect a missile field, but we dismantled and we have not had any element of an ABM system for some time, several decades. The Russians do have an ABM system deployed to protect Moscow. We have no ABM system deployed.

So now we're proposing to build a national missile defense system, and we would -- we could build -- rebuild on the site in North Dakota where we'd built before. Instead, for a variety of reasons, mainly to achieve complete coverage of the United States, we've decided that we have to move that site to Alaska. And so the first thing we're proposing is to be able to move that site. Moving a site requires certainly an adjustment to the treaty, and I don't know whether "amendment" is the right term, but a revision. And so to start with, we have to negotiate with them over that. There are some other elements we have to negotiate as well.

I think that as -- you know, we've just begun these talks, and I think as the talks continue we should be able to present our case more clearly to the Russians than we have so far.

QKen, do you have an -- sorry.

MR. BACON: President Clinton, of course, has not made a decision yet to deploy a national missile defense system. He's expected to make a decision on whether to deploy or not to deploy next summer.

QDo you have an estimate from this building on what it would cost to complete the Russian radar, as we have suggested we might do, and whether it would come under Nunn-Lugar funds?

MR. BACON: I don't have those facts at my fingertips.

QWell, we have promised them that we would help them complete the radar

MR. BACON: But I don't think "promise" is the right word. We have discussed with them a number of ways that we might -- in which we might cooperate. And without getting into specifics, there are a number of actions we could take. They've made it very clear in the last couple of days that they haven't accepted any of these proposals. So the negotiations continue.

QKen, if I could come back to one of Chris' points, and one you've covered very well. But I just wondered if there's any possibility of there being overlaying areas of coverage where the United States could, in fact, help defend the -- Russia with a system that we might have in our territory.

MR. BACON: I'm not aware that there have been discussions along those lines. But what I've tried to make clear is that we are open for ways to cooperate with Russia. How extensive that cooperation would be remains to be seen. Right now Russia has made it clear that it's not interested in cooperation in this area beyond the shared early warning center which President Yeltsin and President Clinton have agreed to set up. So I think we have to -- this is a work in progress. We're in the early stages. And work is continuing to achieve what we think is a fair and nonthreatening revision to the treaty.

One of the points we're trying to make is that our national missile defense system is not a threat to Russia. It is designed to deal with a very limited strike from a rogue nation. And it would be quickly and totally overwhelmed by a strike of the type that a major nuclear power could -- and that's what Russia is -- could launch against the United States.

Let's face it. We have protected ourselves through deterrence for the last 40 or 50 years. We have built a very substantial nuclear force to deter the Russians from attacking us. The Russians have built an equally substantial nuclear force to deter us from attacking them. That's worked. And we assume that it will continue to work. What we are worried about are so-called rogue nations -- or terrorists that might not be subject to the same persuasive powers of deterrence that have worked with Russia and the United States for so long.

So that's what the national missile defense system is designed to combat.

Q Ken, the Chinese are also opposed to U.S. building a missile defense system. And although they are not party to the ABM Treaty, are you talking to them about trying to address their concerns?

MR. BACON: I don't know whether we have started talks with them. But we are willing to talk to anybody who is concerned about this.

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. BACON: Well, I just said I don't know whether we have begun conversations with them. I don't believe -- I can't tell you -- we don't have an ambassador over there right now. As you know, Admiral Prueher has been nominated to be ambassador to China. That probably limits our communications with them somewhat.

But they can't say that at no level has this been discussed. But if they have concerns, we'll try to address those concerns.

QThank you.