News Briefings

DoD News Briefing

Thursday, November 4, 1999
Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen

DoD Media Availability with Minister of Defense Eduardo Serra of the Kingdom of Spain

Q: ... the Russians have announced that they've tested an ABM interceptor missile and they characterize it as a response to American efforts to amend the ABM treaty. Do you take it the Russians are hardening their position and making it more difficult to resolve that?


On the second question, as far as Russia is concerned, if a test was conducted, it was to demonstrate that they have their own ABM system and it's something we do not have. But secondly, for the Russians to say this is a signal of our discontent with the United States seeking to provide a missile defense system for protection of its people, our people, it seems to me that they're overstating their case because we have made it very clear nothing that we have in mind to construct and could construct would in any way jeopardize their strategic systems. We do not pretend, do not aspire to have a system that could try to defeat several thousands of missiles possibly were they ever launched at the United States. We have tried to convey to them as directly and candidly as possible we believe there's an emerging threat from states such as North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya or any other country that might acquire such capability in the future that it places our citizens at risk. We need to develop a capability to defend against that, but it's limited in nature and not directed against the Russians. And I think they understand that. Whether they're trying to make a point to defeat any effort on the part of the United States to go forward with this remains to be seen. I, as you know, spent time in Moscow meeting with various officials outlining the architecture of what we have in mind should the President, and I have to make this very clear, should the President decide to go forward with a deployment decision. That has not yet been made. We hope he will be able to make that by next June or July. But in the event that he does, this is the kind of system that's limited in scope and nature, does not pose a threat to the Russians and we hope to be able to persuade them of the reasonable position we have taken and the need to amend and modify the treaty in order to accommodate that. Absent that, we'll have to see how the situation unfolds, but we have tried to make it very clear and I'm hoping over the course of the next four or five or six months, we'll be successful in our persuasion.

Q: You said if they tested. Is there reason to suspect --

Secretary Cohen: I have not seen reports about the test itself. I've been tied up for the last day or so, so I haven't seen any reports. I read about it this morning and they indicated they have tested it and they certainly have a system in place, something we do not have. So assuming they tested it, it only confirms that they have an ABM system and we do not. So I'm not sure of the point they were trying to make.

Q: Mr. Cohen, if the interceptor tests continue to be as full as the last tests, will you in early summer of next year be recommending to the President that there should be a deployment of a anti-ballistic missile system?

Secretary Cohen: I think we should wait until next June after tests have been conducted and after these discussions with the Russians have been completed before I make any recommendation to the President.


Q: Thank you.