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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 35, March 1999

US Senate NMD Legislation: Statement by President Clinton

'Statement by the President,' The White House, Office of the Press Secretary,' 17 March 1999

Editor's note: on 17 March, by 97 votes to 3, the Senate voted for legislation - The National Missile Defense Act of 1999 (S.257) - mandating the United States to deploy a national missile defence (NMD) system as soon as technologically feasible, with two provisos: that any such deployment decision is commensurate with America's commitment to continue the strategic arms reduction (START) process with Russia; and that any NMD system is funded through the usual, standard process of annual appropriations and authorizations. The attachment of these provisos persuaded President Clinton to withdraw his threatened veto. See News Review for background, and next issue for further details and reaction. The full text of S.257 reads as follows:

"Section 1. Short Title.

This Act may be cited as the 'National Missile Defense Act of 1999'.

Section 2. National Missile Defense Policy.

It is the policy of the United States to deploy as soon as is technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack (whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate) with funding subject to the annual authorization of appropriations and the annual appropriation of funds for National Missile Defense.

Section 3. Policy on Reduction of Russian Nuclear Forces.

It is the policy of the United States to seek continued negotiated reductions in Russian nuclear forces."

The President's Statement

"I am pleased that the Senate, on a bipartisan basis, included in its national missile defense (NMD) legislation two amendments that significantly change the original bill, which I strongly opposed.

By specifying that any NMD deployment must be subject to the authorization and appropriations process, the legislation now makes clear that no decision on deployment has been made. By putting the Senate on record as continuing to support negotiated reductions in strategic nuclear arms, the bill reaffirms that our missile defense policy must take into account our arms control objectives.

We are committed to meeting the growing danger that outlaw nations will develop and deploy long-range missiles that could deliver weapons of mass destruction against us and our allies. Next year, we will, for the first time, determine whether to deploy a limited national missile defense against these threats, when we review the results of flight tests and other developmental efforts, consider cost estimates, and evaluate the threat. In making our determination, we will also review progress in achieving our arms control objectives, including negotiating any amendments to the ABM [Anti-Ballistic Missile] Treaty that may be required to accommodate a possible NMD deployment.

This week, the Russian Duma took an encouraging step toward obtaining final approval of START II. We want to move ahead on the START III framework, which I negotiated with President Yeltsin in 1997, to cut Russian and US arsenals 80 percent from Cold War levels, while maintaining the ABM Treaty as a cornerstone of strategic stability. The changes made in the NMD bill during Senate debate ensure these crucial objectives will be fully taken into account as we pursue our NMD program."

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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