|ARMS CONTROL, AGAIN|
May 4, 2000
KWAME HOLMAN: The last few weeks have been a busy time for American and Russian diplomats, as they prepare for next month's summit in Moscow between President Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin. And the top item on their agenda will be an old standby from Cold War days, arms control. The administration is working to persuade Russia to agree to changes to the 1972 Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty that would allow the United States to deploy an antimissile defense system in this country. The ABM. Treaty prohibits a national missile defense system that is capable of shooting down incoming missiles. But despite meetings last week between Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, the two sides had differences.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, Secretary of State: We've had much to talk about in these past two days, and although we don't agree on all the issues, as I told the foreign minister, this is only to be expected; after all, we can't both be right all the time.
IGOR IVANOV, Foreign Minister, Russia: (Translated) We believe, and it has been stressed at the highest level, that the ABM. Treaty of 1972 should remain a cornerstone of the strategic stability and the basis for strategic stability in the world.
KWAME HOLMAN: The American plan now on the drawing board is much less ambitious than the so-called "star wars" system proposed in 1983 by President Reagan to stop a massive missile assault from the Soviet Union. Within the next three months, President Clinton is expected to decide if the U.S. should go ahead with the system aimed at stopping a small number of missiles launched from such countries as North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. Also on the U.S.-Russian agenda is a new treaty to reduce further both nations' nuclear arsenals. Last month, the Russian Duma ratified both the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty which was rejected last year by the U.S. Senate, and a strategic arms reduction treaty with the U.S. called START II. That pact calls on each country to reduce its deployed nuclear weapons from 6,000 to between 3,000 and 3,500. START II would take those totals even lower.
SPOKESMAN: The President of the Russian federation and the President of the United States.
KWAME HOLMAN: When Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin met in Helsinki three years ago, they agreed START III should reduce each side's deployed nuclear weapons to between 2,000 and 2,500. Now there are reports Russia wants to go even lower. But last week, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, North Carolina Republican Jesse Helms, declared the Senate would not consider any arms treaty negotiated by the Clinton administration.
SEN. JESSE HELMS, (R) North Carolina: Not on my watch, Mr. President. Not on my watch, it's not going to happen.
KWAME HOLMAN: It was the next day when Albright offered this response.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: As far as what was said yesterday from the Hill, I believe that the American people support a policy that seeks to both further reduce nuclear dangers left over from the Cold War and to address new threats. And we're going to continue to pursue this policy in the months ahead.
KWAME HOLMAN: But the Russian government upped the ante, saying it would not go ahead with START II reductions if the U.S. pushes forward on a national missile defense system.
RAY SUAREZ: For more on U.S.-Russia arms control, we get three perspectives.
Edward Warner is Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Threat
Reduction, and is the pentagon's senior representative to the arms control
talks with Russia. Stephen Cambone is Director of Research at National
Defense University's Institute for National Strategic Studies, and was
staff director of the commission to assess the ballistic missile threat.
And Bruce Blair is the President of the Center for Defense Information,
and was a nuclear missile launch officer in the early 1970's.
EDWARD WARNER, Assistant Secretary of Defense: Well, first I must say that because there was a change to the START II Treaty that was negotiated in 1997, the two ratifications aren't quite in sync, so there still is a piece of an agreement to needs to go before the Senate. When START II comes into effect, it calls for a reduction down to 3,000 to 3500 total strategic warheads. It has a ban on all land-based multiple warhead intercontinental range ballistic missiles and a series of other sub ceilings. It will bring the forces down from START I levels that are up around 6,000 weapons, to the 3,000 to 3500.
RAY SUAREZ: And START III talks are in the air, and people are talking about what they may bring. Aren't the Russians looking for a much lower eventually total of deployable warheads than the United States is?
EDWARD WARNER: The two Presidents, President Clinton and President Yeltsin, agreed at Helsinki in 1997, that once START II is ratified they would move onto negotiate START III. The agreed ceiling to be sought at that time was 2,000 to 2500, down 1,000 from the START II level. By the way, the START II level wouldn't be implemented at this point until 2007. So we've still got some years. Yes, the Russians within six months began to talk about a somewhat lower level, as low as 1500, versus the 2500. We continue to believe, we did detailed analysis on the accept ability of the 2000 to 2500 at that time back in '97. We continued to look at those issues. We believe that the basis for at least the ongoing negotiations, there's now discussions, nearly negotiations, is still the number agreed at Helsinki, but we're prepared to hear out the Russians on their ideas for going lower.
RAY SUAREZ: Stephen Cambone, should we meet the Russian desire to lower those thresholds even further than previously planned?
STEPHEN CAMBONE, National Defense University: To reach a START III levels, you mean. I don't think so at this point. I think, as Ted has pointed out, we did do a careful look at the numbers of 2,000, 2500. We're certain that the numbers of warheads at that limit will meet our defensive requirements. And we understand that the Russians would like to see a lower number, mostly for economic reasons. But if they can live at 1500 and they can understand that our requirements are met at 2500, I think that's a reasonable situation. And we don't need to go down to lower numbers.
RAY SUAREZ: Bruce Blair, should we catch the spirit of the moment and try to meet the Russians' eventual totals?
BRUCE BLAIR, Center for Defense Information: Absolutely. I think that the numbers that they are bandying about of 1500 strategic warheads are none too low for the United States. I think the President can step up to this issue and proclaim that mutual deterrence and stability does not require the ability to launch 2,000 or 3,000 nuclear weapons at one another, and that we can and should continue the process of further reductions of nuclear weapons if for no other reason than to send the right message to the rest of the world, and to the 180 odd countries meeting in New York right now that we are serious about disarmament, and wish to see a successful extension of the nonproliferation treaty.
RAY SUAREZ: Can START II be implemented and can we start talking about START III, while on this separate track looms the issue of anti-ballistic missile systems?
BRUCE BLAIR: Well, we've painted ourselves into yet another corner on nuclear arms control. The Russians, as Secretary Warner pointed out, insist that the U.S. Senate ratify a number of protocols that were negotiated with the Clinton administration in 1997. And among those are protocols that essentially preserve the A B M Treaty. They also say that before START II will go into effect, that we have to have a START III Treaty negotiated, that is they will not deactivate weapons under START II until START III is more or less in the bag. At the same time, the Clinton administration says we won't negotiate a final deal on START III until the Russians have agreed to yet new amendments or revisions of the AB M Treaty to allow us to go forward with national missile defense. And of course, then the Republican Senate says nyet, no to all of the above, a pox on all your houses, they want to jettison the ABM Treaty. So we've put in jeopardy really the whole network of arms control treaties, the start regime, anti-ballistic missile treaty, any number of other treaties, according to Putin are in jeopardy, along with the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. So the outcome of this diplomacy on national missile defense, this negotiation with the Russians, will be extremely consequential for American security.
RAY SUAREZ: Secretary Warner, does the ABM proposal put START in jeopardy?
EDWARD WARNER: There is no doubt that at this point there is a close inter linkage between the issue of the potential modification of the ABM Treaty and arms reductions. In some sense that's been the case from the very beginning. The original SALT agreements in the late 60's, early 70's, were the first SALT agreement and the ABM Treaty. So offense and defense are connected to one another. We want to modify the ABM Treaty because there is an emerging threat from the likes of North Korea and Iran with long range missiles coupled with weapons of mass destruction that will over the coming few years be able to threaten the United States territory. We ought to have the capability to protect the American people and the American homeland. The ABM Treaty of 1972, between Russia and the United States, then the Soviet Union of course, does permit limited defenses. The Russians have a limited defense system around Moscow. Now their system given 70's technology is a limited regional defense. We would propose a defense that is very thin in its ability too shoot down incoming enemy weapons. But it would cover all 50 states. So there is no doubt that the proposal we have represents a departure from the treaty as signed and agreed way back in the 70's. We need to be able to proceed to field that defense. There is strong consensus for that on the Hill, there's consensus among the major Presidential candidates on this issue and so forth. The Russians so far would certainly prefer that we stick with the current ABM Treaty and not be permitted to field the defense. Wee been in intensive discussions with them since last fall to try to convince them that we can move in tandem to deploy a limited national missile defense, sustain the main purpose of the treaty, which bans the deployment of an extensive defense that could threaten either side's nuclear deterrent. This thin defense won't do that. And we could move on from START II to START III. The two need to move in parallel at this point. We should be able to do so. We've sought to convince the Russians of this. So far they have not, as you saw from Foreign Minister Ivanov a few moments ago, we believe as they come to realize, that limited national missile defense is very likely to be in the American future, that they will come to decide that it's worthwhile to preserve the fundamental purposes of the ABM Treaty by in fact modifying.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, Steven Cambone, where does that leave arms reduction talks?
STEPHEN CAMBONE: Well, I think it will depend on whether the Russians indeed do come to the conclusion that missile defense is going to go forward. There is some history here that we ought to remember and recall. In 1993, when START II was originally negotiated, the preamble to that treaty said that it was being done in cognizance of, in recognition of that we had an ongoing discussion then in 1993 with the Russians for a much broader system of defense than we were even proposing today. So the Russians have known that this process has been going forward for quite some time. So, that's one. Two, the agreement that was reached in '97 that is the subject now of discussion, has two parts to it really. One part has to do with theater missile defenses, let's leave that to the side for the moment. The other part is succession, that is, that there is that there now be four signatories to the treaty other than the United States. Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.
RAY SUAREZ: All former members of the Soviet Union.
STEPHEN CAMBONE: Now the Russians have attached to their ratification of START II the requirement that that succession agreement be in turn ratified by the United States Senate. It is that maneuver, if you will, that Senator Helms is objecting to.
RAY SUAREZ: Leaving the United States to negotiate with four foreign powers instead of one.
STEPHEN CAMBONE: Four, rather than one. And so then the question becomes, how can we get to a reasonable defense if the prior requirement is that we have to negotiate now with four and not just one? So the Senate is reacting and saying wait, slow down, let make sure we understand what we're going to do with defenses and how we're going to get there, and having made that set of decisions, we can reasonably move to the next question, which is moving beyond 2000 to 2500 number which in fact was agreed as well in 1997. So the package has been reopened not by Washington, but by Moscow.
BRUCE BLAIR: Well, Moscow does feel threatened by this proposal for deployment of national missile defense. And I think it's really important to understand that it will provoke reactions by Russia and China that could very well increase the net nuclear threat to the United States -- for example, in particular, by reinforcing Russia's reliance on nuclear weapons and on their strategy of prompt, early, massive use of nuclear weapons in the face of threat.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, let me get a quick response to that idea from Secretary Warner, that would push Russia to produce more warheads, not fewer.
EDWARD WARNER: Two things happened with Russia in the 90'S. As Russia's conventional forces collapse, there's no doubt within their doctrine and their general policies they are more prepared to use nuclear weapons if they are faced with grave threats to their security. But that's because conventional weapons are down. On the other issue, the Russians, I think in the last analysis, will agree to reductions in strategic offensive arms, and the lowering, and the modification of the AMB Treaty. They're going to lower it due to economic necessity, the end of service life in many of their systems, under any condition.
RAY SUAREZ: Gentlemen, thank you all.