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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 53, December 2000 - January 2001

Bush Team Stresses Missile Defence as Russia Champions ABM Treaty


The defence and national security team nominated by President-elect Bush has been keen to stress its commitment to the development, testing and deployment of an extensive national missile defence system requiring either the substantial renegotiation of the 1972 US-Russia Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty or a willingness by Washington to risk the collapse of the Treaty and, with it, potentially the bulk or entirety of the US-Russia strategic nuclear arms control regime. Given this dark prospect, Russia has been continuing intense efforts to save the Treaty, harnessing international opinion, public and political, generally sceptical and fearful of US plans. During his January 20 inauguration address, in remarks generally interpreted as referring in part to his administration's determined effort to deploy an NMD, the new President stated: "We will build our defenses beyond challenge, lest weakness invite challenge. We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is spared new horrors. The enemies of liberty and our country should make no mistake: America remains engaged in the world by history and by choice, shaping a balance of power that favours freedom. We will defend our allies and our interests. We will show purpose without arrogance. We will meet aggression and bad faith with resolve and strength."

In the context of its commitment to missile defence, the new administration has spoken of its willingness to reduce, perhaps unilaterally, US strategic nuclear forces below the level of 2,500 warheads set by the Clinton administration as the baseline of any START III agreement. A Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) will be conducted to review options. Cautioning against high expectations, Defense Secretary-designate Donald Rumsfeld noted during his Senate confirmation hearing on January 11: "I don't know whether we can reduce or not. ... I'm afraid that the likelihood is that...there is a minimum below which you can go and maintain the kind of target list that rational people think is appropriate." In a written response submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee and made available on January 11, Rumsfeld stated: "The President's advisers plan to undertake a review of how best to pursue...[the] goal of further reductions. Logically, this could involve traditional arms control, innovative unilateral initiatives, or some combination. In any case, an approach to any nuclear reductions would need to be developed in the context of a number of interrelated factors. These include decisions on the ABM Treaty and National Missile Defense as well as measures relating to tactical nuclear weapons, the evolution in Russia's unilateral strategic force posture, and the outcome of the planned Nuclear Posture Review."

Note: in addition to the statements and comment featured below, see Documents & Sources for Congressional testimony by Rumsfeld and Secretary of State-designate Colin Powell.

Statements & Comment


President-elect Bush, January 8: "It's our obligation to do everything we can to protect America and our allies from the real threats of the 21st Century... It's a sensitive subject for leaders of different countries around the world... The missile defense subject and the budgetary matters are all matters that require a lot of discussion and a lot of give and take and a lot of listening..."

The President-elect, December 29: "As to missile defense, there's a selling job to do..."

Donald Rumsfeld, remarks during Senate confirmation hearing, January 11: "[The ABM Treaty] is ancient history... It dates back even farther than when I was last in the Pentagon [as Secretary of Defense to President Ford, 1975-77]. That's a long time. Think what's happened to technology in the intervening period. I mean, to try and fashion something that fits within the constraints of that and expect that you're going to get the most effective programme, it boggles the mind. ... [T]he President-elect has indicated that it is his intention to deploy a missile defense system. I know of no decisions that have been taken by him or by me with respect to exactly what form that might take. ... I would really like to avoid setting up hurdles on this subject [of how to define adequate testing of missile-interceptors]. The reality is, they work without being fired; they alter behaviour."

Rumsfeld, written response to Senate Armed Services Committee, released January 12: "I am aware that concerns have been expressed by some of our allies about NMD and the prospect of US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty. I believe these concerns can be addressed through close consultation. In the long run, I believe that deployment of an effective NMD system can strengthen US and allied security."

Secretary of State-designate Colin Powell, exchange during Senate confirmation hearing, January 17:

"Question (Senator Biden): "[What would be the effect on NMD plans if] you could get an ironclad agreement ending North Korea's long-range ballistic missile development programmes, and its sale of long-range missile technologies to countries like Iran?'

Powell: 'I think if we could move North Korea in that direction that certainly would be factored into any calculation one would make about the threat. But there are still other nations that are moving in this direction, particularly Iran. And until Iraq comes into compliance and we could be assured of what they're able to do, I would say that at this point, we should continue to move ahead as aggressively as possible... We can always make a judgment later as to whether to deploy or slow the deployment.'"

Powell, December 16: "I have watched the debates on national missile defense for many, many years, and I think a national missile defense is an essential part of our overall strategic force posture...So we're going to move forward. We have to spend time discussing it with our allies, discussing it with other nations...that possess strategic offensive weapons and don't yet understand our thinking... These will be tough negotiations. ... But they will have to come to the understanding that we feel this is in the best interest of the American people and...the people of the world..."

National Security Advisor-designate Condoleezza Rice, article in the Chicago Tribune, December 31: "Washington must begin a comprehensive discussion on the changing nuclear threat. ... The Russian deterrent is more than adequate against the US nuclear arsenal, and vice versa. But that fact need no longer be enshrined in a treaty that is almost 30 years old and is a relic of a profoundly adversarial relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union. ... Today, the principal concerns are nuclear threats from the Iraqs and North Koreas of the world and the possibility of unauthorized releases as nuclear weapons spread. Moscow, in fact, lives closer to those threats than Washington does. It ought to be possible to engage the Russians in a discussion of the changed threat environment, their possible responses, and the relationship of strategic offensive-force reductions to the deployment of defenses. In addition, Moscow should understand that any possibilities for sharing technology or information in these areas would depend heavily on its record - problematic to date - on the proliferation of ballistic-missile and other technologies related to weapons of mass destruction. It would be foolish in the extreme to share defenses with Moscow if it either leaks or deliberately transfers weapons technologies to the very states against which America is defending."

Outgoing Defense Secretary William Cohen, January 11: "I'm trying to give Moscow every benefit of the doubt... [But] my own judgment is that the Russians are not serious about cooperating with the United States and, at this point, I don't see any real commitment... I could be wrong, but I have not seen any real evidence that there is a genuine commitment to any kind of shared effort to develop an NMD system that would protect Russia, Europe, and the United States."

Outgoing National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, January 17: "National Missile Defense is a complex issue - technically, internationally and strategically. I hope the new administration will not be driven by artificial deadlines. And it is inconceivable to me that we would make a decision on NMD without fully exploring the initiative with North Korea and the potential of curbing the missile programme at the leading edge of the threat driving the NMD timetable today."

Senator Jesse Helms (Republican - North Carolina), Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, January 11: "Now, as President Bush prepares to take office, I want to make something perfectly clear to our friends in Russia. The United States is no longer bound by the ABM Treaty - that treaty expired when our treaty partner [the Soviet Union] ceased to exist. ... Personally, I do not think that a new ABM Treaty can be negiotiated with Russia that would permit the kind of defenses that America needs. But, as Henry Kissinger told the Foreign Relations Committee last year: 'I would be open to argument, provided that we do not use the treaty as a constraint in pushing forward on the most effective [NMD] deployment...' With that caveat....I concur - President Bush must have, and will have, the freedom to proceed as he sees fit."

Senator Thad Cochran (Republican - Mississippi), January 11: "President Bush has an opportunity to signal he is going to follow the law that Congress passed, which is that we should develop and deploy a national missile defense as soon as the technology permits... I think the technology is ready."


Russia-Canada Joint Statement, December 18: "Canada and the Russian Federation agree that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty is a cornerstone of strategic stability and an important foundation for international efforts on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The two countries hope for the earliest entry into force and full implementation of the START II Treaty. They also hope for conclusion of a START III Treaty as soon as possible, including far-reaching reductions in strategic offensive weapons while preserving and strengthening the ABM Treaty. The Prime Minister of Canada and the President of the Russian Federation are committed to exploring concrete new bilateral and multilateral approaches to limiting the proliferation of missiles and missile technologies. In this context, Canada and the Russian Federation will continue together with other countries to work on proposals for confidence-building measures and normative instruments developed by the member-states of the Missile Technology Control Regime as well as the Russian proposal for a global control system over non-proliferation of missiles and missile technologies."

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ottawa, December 18: "We believe dialogue with our American counterparts [on NMD] will continue in a positive vein. Canada feels it could play the role of a political mediator between Russia and the United States on [the missile defence issue]... [T]he dialogue with Canada, with Western Europe, and with the other active participants of international discourse, is for us extremely important."

President Putin, December 11: "If any individual countries or groups of countries have concerns over their individual security, all these problems can be resolved without upsetting the existing balance, on the basis of international consultations and agreed international solutions. Such solutions exist. And it is both possible to finalise them, both politically and from the point of view of military-technical approaches..."

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, speech to the European Forum, November 25: "[Our objective should be to achieve] dramatic progress in disarmament while maintaining and strengthening treaties and agreements currently in force. ... We appreciate the fact that many European states, together with us and the overwhelming majority of the world community, came out in support of strategic stability [in the UN First Committee]. Let us hope that the number of ABM Treaty supporters on this continent will increase..."

Igor Ivanov, December 30: "We intend without delay to start a serious dialogue with the new American administration on the entire range of disarmament issues, including the retention of the [ABM] treaty... [W]e are ready to look in the most detailed way at the worries of the US administration..."

Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev, written answer to question from Reuters, December 5: "At the moment various opinions are being expressed about solving the problem of retaining the ABM Treaty. I should like to stress again that Russia's position...is consistent and unchangeable. Russia will not agree to any 'adaptation' of the ABM Treaty that would allow national anti-missile defences to be deployed and thus, in fact, destroy the treaty..."

Note: General Sergeyev's remarks were widely interpreted as a deliberate distancing of the Russian government from the idea of an 'ABM Tariff' alluded to in comments by General Vladimir Yakovlev, Commander of Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces, on November 13 (see last issue). Under the 'tariff', any strategic advantage accruing to the US through missile defences would be offset by decreases in US offensive nuclear capability.

General Sergeyev, December 5: "Strong cooperation [with NATO] could possibly lie ahead in the area of setting up a European [non-strategic] anti-missile system which should be aimed at guaranteeing that strategic and regional stability is maintained in Europe... [We hope to] bring this initiative to life..."

Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, Head of International Cooperation Department, Russian Defence Ministry, December 21: "The US administration should think whether it is worthwhile to go counter [to the wishes of the] the whole world community... It is not accidental that today the whole world except for three states - Albania, Micronesia and Israel - does not support the plans of the US..."

Chinese Foreign Ministry Statement, January 11: "We hope the United States will seriously heed the wise appeals of the international community and abandon as soon as possible the NMD plan..."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhu Bangzao, January 16: "[NMD deployment] will have a major impact on 21st Century global strategic balance and security. The Chinese side expresses serious concern...[and urges the Bush administration to] strictly abide by the ABM Treaty and quickly drop [its] plans..."

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, December 18: "[Canada is in] a geographical bind... Our preoccupation, and the preoccupation of everybody, is to make sure that the stability that exists at this moment is not undermined by the [NMD] plan..."

German Foreign Ministry spokesperson Andreas Michaelis, January 12: "We have always said that this is a decision for the United States but one which has international repercussions. We want to discuss these repercussions..."

Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, January 11: "[If the US deploys NMD] then you must expect Russia, China and India to find a way where they can also protect themselves... You must expect other countries to argue that they are now naked against the US capability because the US is armoured. It's not balanced..."

UK Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain, December 16: "What we don't want to see is any unilateral steps by Washington which could breach the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, especially in terms of Russian interests."

UK Conservative Party leader William Hague, January 12: "I think the United States should be supported in pushing forward this project and in pursuing the necessary research... [A purely American system] would heighten the fear that America's enemies would instead target vulnerable US allies. ... I cannot accept that an agreement [the ABM Treaty] designed for a very different time in world politics should stop us from taking steps that will improve the chances of peace and security in this very different age."

Reports: Address by Igor S. Ivanov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Russian Foreign Ministry text, November 25; Never say nuclear, The Hindu, December 3; Russian defense chief rules out ABM changes, Reuters, December 5; Russian defense chief talks tough on ABM, Reuters, December 5; US questions Russian cohesion on missile defense, Reuters, December 6; Defense minister underlines Moscow's strong stand on ABM, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, December 7; Putin, in Cuban TV interview, urges any new US leader to abide by missile treaty, Itar-Tass, December 11; Missile defense high on Bush agenda, Associated Press, December 16; Transcript - President-elect Bush, Colin Powell press conference, US State Department (Washington File), December 16; Interview with Defense-Secretary Designate Dick Cheney, Extracts from ABC Television's 'This week' programme, December 17; Joint Statement by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, December 18; Remarks by President Vladimir Putin, Ottawa, Russian Foreign Ministry transcript, December 18; Canada, Russia promise closer ties, Associated Press, December 19; Russia to see to security if US quits ABM Treaty, Itar-Tass, December 21; Analysis - Bush's Pentagon choice moves 'Star Wars' closer, Reuters, December 29; Russia wants 'serious dialogue' with Bush Admin., Reuters, December 30; Exercising power without arrogance, Condoleezza Rice, Chicago Tribune, December 31; Bush cautious on missile system, Associated Press, January 8; Bush courts key lawmakers for support on defense goals, New York Times, January 9; Leader comments on missile system, Associated Press, January 11; Text - Helms outlines his foreign policy priorities in new Congress, US State Department (Washington File), January 11; Cohen offers President-elect Bush his views on military agenda, US State Department (Washington File), January 11; Rumsfeld says he will consult more closely with allies, US State Department (Washington File), January 12; Bush's choice for defense sees immediate bid to raise spending, New York Times, January 12; Hague backs 'Star wars' scheme, BBC News Online, January 12; Hague defends 'Star Wars' stance, BBC News Online, January 12; Germany, US to discuss missiles, Associated Press, January 12; China calls on US to scrap missile shield plans, Reuters, January 12; China seeks better ties under Bush, Associated Press, January 16; Powell pledges active foreign policy approach, bipartisan spirit, US State Department (Washington File), January 17; Remarks by Samuel R. Berger, Assistant to the President for national security Affairs, The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, January 17; President George W. Bush's inaugural address, White House transcript, January 20.

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.