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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 31, October 1998

Missile Defence Developments

In Geneva on 13 October, the US, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine signed a final set of agreements establishing the five States as parties to the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, originally signed by the US and USSR in 1972. The agreements follow-up the details of the main accords, 'multilateralizing' the treaty, signed in New York in September 1997, and in particular the Agreement on Confidence Building Measures (CMBA), dealing with data exchange and notifications relating to certain theater ballistic missile systems (for definitions of permissible systems, see Disarmament Diplomacy No. 18, September 1997, pp. 33-36).

The changes to the treaty have to be ratified by all parties before taking effect. The Russian Duma is strongly in favour of the changes; the US Government's position is that it will submit the agreements to the Senate as soon as Russian ratification has occurred. The Clinton Administration, and the Russian Government, also expect the signing of the September 1997 follow-on agreements to bring Duma ratification of START II closer. As an unnamed US official remarked in Geneva on 13 October: "We understood that the Duma wanted us to get the ABM issues squared away before they were willing to act on START II. And now we have done that. We believe that everything has been accomplished. It is now in their hands."

Unfortunately, many members of the Duma appear unlikely to accept that 'everything has been accomplished' until the US Senate approves the changes - and the present, Republican-controlled Senate is predominantly hostile to the changes. To add further gloom to the situation, Jesse Helms (Republican - North Carolina), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has stated that he will not recommend Senate consideration of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty - which he opposes - before the Administration submits the 1997 ABM agreements to his Committee - where Helms would recommend their rejection. According to Helms' spokesperson Mark Thiessen, speaking on 20 October: "As far as we're concerned, the [ABM] Treaty doesn't exist," and had not existed since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Earlier in the month (5 October), Helms, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (Mississippi) and six other Republican Senators wrote to President Clinton insisting unequivocally: "It is our position that the ABM Treaty has lapsed and is of no force and effect unless the Senate approves the [September 1997] Memorandum of Understanding, or some similar agreement, to revive the treaty." On 5 August (see issue No. 29), the House of Representatives voted to bar the Administration from participating in the treaty's Standing Consultative Commission (SCC).

In the last issue, we reported on Congressional approval of the Financial Year 1999 US Defense Budget, totalling - including $21.3 billion nuclear-weapons-related expenditure by the Department of Energy - $270.8 billion. On 21 October, President Clinton approved a total, omnibus spending package for FY99 allocating an additional $9 billion to the Department of Defense (DoD), $1 billion of which is to be dedicated to accelerating its ballistic missile defence (BMD) programmes - roughly a doubling of BMD expenditure allocated in the new budget. Congress left the choice of projects to benefit from the extra money up to the Defense Secretary, William Cohen. The omnibus report states:

"[T]he funds are for the sole purpose of enhancing our ability to confidently and expeditiously develop and deliver ballistic missile defense capability, and shall be available only for allocation by the Secretary of Defense.

The Secretary shall use these funds only to accelerate development and enhance testing of theater and national ballistic missile defense programs, and shall also give consideration to allocating these funds to program and infrastructure activities which accelerate this nations' efforts to field theater and national ballistic missile defense capability."

Pentagon spokesperson Kenneth Bacon told reporters on 16 October that, if the extra funds were confirmed, they would "be a welcome addition. We will have no trouble at all spending it... This Congressional action is great news for the Defense Department..."

On 5 October, the DoD announced that it planned to conduct a sixth test-flight of its prototype Theater High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile-interceptor system in the first quarter of 1999. The first five tests of the system, developed by Lockheed Martin, have all failed. Lockheed Martin has agreed to pay $75 million if three out of the next five tests are also unsuccessful, but pressure is growing for a second contractor, probably Raytheon Corporation, to develop an alternative prototype, either instead of or as an alternative to the Lockheed Martin model. The THAAD project so far has cost an estimated $3.2 billion.

In mid-October, Defense Secretary Cohen went on a tour of the Persian Gulf, visiting Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). One main agenda item in his discussion, Cohen told reporters in Kuwait on 12 October, was to stress the "imperative" of co-operation on regional BMD issues, in particular "as far as deployment" of a future BMD system is concerned. Cohen noted: "The response, I think has been quite positive."

Reports: Republicans Warn Clinton over missile treaty, Reuters, 5 October; US 'THAAD' anti-missile test set for next year, Reuters, 5 October; Cohen - Gulf allies want defense, Associated Press, 12 October; Final set of ABM-Treaty related agreements signed in Geneva, United States Information Service, 13 October; Pentagon big winner in budget deal, Associated Press, 16 October; Spending bill gives DoD $1 billion to hasten missile defense, Defense Daily, 21 October; Albright seeks test-ban hearings, Associated Press, 21 October.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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