|NUCLEAR WEAPON DEBATE|
May 31, 2000
President Clinton offers to share missile defense technology with European allies and possibly Russia. Gwen Ifill leads a debate.
GWEN IFILL: For more, we turn to four arms control experts. Walter Slocombe is Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. Thomas Graham was President Clinton's special representative for arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament. He is currently president of the Lawyers Alliance for World Security. Robert Zoellick is a foreign policy advisor to Presidential Candidate George W. Bush, and served in the state department during the Bush administration. And Daniel Goure served in the Pentagon during the Bush administration, and is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. Mr. Secretary, what is it that President Clinton plans to take to President Putin this weekend in Russia?
WALTER SLOCOMBE: He plans to take the proposition that almost 30 years after the ABM Treaty was signed, it is in our interests, both us and Russia and the rest of the world, to modify to permit limited defenses against these rogue state threats and that it is far better that we deal with this within a context of arms control, which will allow further reductions, and ensure that limited defenses don't threaten each other's deterrent. That's the basic proposition. I don't expect we'll reach a final agreement in Moscow, but that's the basic proposition that we're advancing.
GWEN IFILL: Is it even conceivable that the Russians would accept this kind of trade-off, which we're told the administration is thinking, which is to say that they would be willing to... you would be willing to agree to their reduction in nuclear arms if they agreed to your request for a missile defense system?
WALTER SLOCOMBE: We think that keeping an arms control framework, as we keep the option to move toward up defense against rogue states is very important. One of the reasons it's important is it does open the way for further reductions in offensive arms.
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Zoellick, what is Governor Bush's response to that?
ROBERT ZOELLICK: Well, the start is a point he made in his speech is that we need to recognize ten years after the end of the Cold War that the Soviet Union no longer exists, and we need to get beyond some of the nuclear security logic and arms control logic of that period. As part of that, we can move beyond some of the old approach of balance of terror and mutually assured destruction that left both countries with thousands and thousands of these weapons where they could wipe each other out many times over. So one of his responses was to say that the United States should set its own nuclear security plan it needs based on what we believe is appropriate for deterrence against different threats. And frankly, Russia isn't the major concern we have.
GWEN IFILL: Does that include a missile defense system?
ROBERT ZOELLICK: The second part of his approach would be missile defense. And, as your clip demonstrated, what he believes we need is an effective missile defense on the best available options as soon as possible. The problem that we have had with the approach the administration has talked about is that the minor modifications they've talked about in the ABM would not allow the most effective missile defense systems. And it was striking that this very month there's an article that's come out by three Democratic security officials, two of whom have served in the Clinton administration who make the exact same case. And I think what you can see building here is a desire that people need the United States to be defended against the types of rogue threats and unauthorized launches. I think there's a pretty broad consensus on that. The question is: How do you do that? And I think there's a growing view that the administration's approach has been, first, late and now, wrong.
GWEN IFILL: Ambassador Graham, is there any sense on your part that the Bush administration is too ambitious, the Clinton administration not ambitious enough, and that in any case, Russia or China would accept any of this?
THOMAS GRAHAM, JR.: Well, I think in one sense, both sides are too ambitious. I don't think we need to make a deployment decision now. I don't think we should rush ahead with respect to this system. I think the most important thing is reducing the numbers of nuclear weapons, as Governor Bush did suggest. But I think that, as far as a missile defense system is concerned, there's very serious problems with it. We could create serious problems with the Chinese, possibly with the Russians. To my mind, there's a real threat as to the degree to which, a real question as to the degree to which there's a real threat there. So I think that we have to be very careful in proceeding ahead with missile defense, which just a few days ago was agreed by all the parties to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, including the United States, that it is the cornerstone of strategic stability and should be preserved and strengthened. And none of these plans sound to me like they're likely to do that.
|Sharing missile technology|
| GWEN IFILL: Mr. Goure, one of the things
the President suggested today is he would be willing to share missile
technology that was kind of a carrot for the European nations
is this something that...but he was very unclear about whether Russia
would be included in this sharing arrangement. Is that a good idea?
DANIEL GOURE: Well, it's not only a good idea, but it's also not a new idea. In fact, in the prior Bush administration, the effort was made in fact, there was an initial dialogue about sharing then missile technology with the Yeltsin government. Seven years later, the Clinton administration is sort of now back, to if you will, square one. It's probably a very good idea if we're talking limited defense. The other thing about missile defense technology is this is this is also the sensor technology and the communications technology which provide for enhanced situational awareness and stability when you have nuclear weapons involved between two states.
THOMAS GRAHAM, JR.: I think it's a good idea to do that in principle, and we have talked about it in the past, as Bob Zoellick suggested, but it never really got very far. There's a lot of resistance within the bureaucracy to actually doing that. So saying it is one thing. Actually doing it is quite another thing.
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Zoellick?
ROBERT ZOELLICK: Well, the President's remarks raise what is a very important point, which is not only protection of the United States' homeland, but protection of allies and forces. And I'll tell you the scenario people are really concerned about. They're concerned about another Gulf War situation where this time Saddam Hussein or the person who follows him, has nuclear weapons and missiles. And then the question is: Would the United States Senate, in a close vote, be willing to vote to deploy U.S. forces to protect U.S. security needs if the United States, London, Berlin or our forces were threatened? And that's the problem with the current administration proposal. Its missile defense system doesn't protect the allies, and it doesn't protect the forces abroad. And so I compliment them for making a move in this direction, but the worst thing to do would then be to enshrine that flawed system in the ABM Treaty.
WALTER SLOCOMBE: Could I....
GWEN IFILL: Certainly, Mr. Secretary.
WALTER SLOCOMBE: The reason that we think it's important to move toward a decision this year has got nothing to do with politics. It does have to do with the threat and with the fact that we believe, if the next test is successful, that we will be in a position to say, "Now is the time to take the steps necessary to have the option for the next President to deploy a system." The system that we are talking about has the advantage of being the experts that we've talked to in the Defense Department, who actually have the responsibility and the information for this is the one that can be made available most quickly and will be effective against the kind of threat we face early on.
|Who are our enemies?|
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Secretary, who are our enemies now? Where is the threat?
WALTER SLOCOMBE: The threat that we're most concerned about is the threat of rogue states. We can't entirely dismiss the fact that Russia still has thousands and thousands of nuclear weapons. And while there is a place for unilateral actions, and we've taken limited unilateral actions we've gotten rid of four or made plans to get rid of four to Trident submarines. But there is an important role for agreed measures, as well, because those come with real verification measures. They do allow tradeoffs in other areas that are important. And on this business of Cold War thinking, we have moved already in important areas to cooperate with the Russians. Some of these things were begun under the Bush administration, but there have been new initiatives in this administration. For example, we have the cooperative threat reduction program to actually, it has actually been the means in which literally thousands of weapons have been dismantled in Russia during the eight years that this administration has been in office. We have agreements on de-targeting weapons, which means that, if there should be an accidental launch, the chances of which are very, very small, the weapon wouldn't have a target to go to. We are going to make proposals to have what's called shared early warning, so that the two sides exchange information to reduce still lower the risk of misunderstanding what a test or some unexplained event would be. And we're working with the Russians on non-proliferation issues. The idea that we're locked in Cold War thinking is simply not true.
GWEN IFILL: Ambassador Graham, are we stepping up to the plate and fighting the right enemies in the right way?
THOMAS GRAHAM, JR.: Well, I think that we are not. To me, the principal threats out there are very real and very serious. And they do involve rogue states and sub-state actors, such as terrorist organizations and the like. But the least likely way they're likely to use weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, against the United States, is by long-range ballistic missile. They're much more likely to use small boats, Cruise missiles, other ways of bringing weapons into this country. I think we need to concentrate for the most part on those types of measures which are most directly addressed to the real threat, which is what I just said.
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Zoellick?
ROBERT ZOELLICK: Well, you know, Gwen, it's interesting, the whole focus of this program is on arms control, which is what we used to discuss with the Soviet commissars and what I hope that President Clinton will talk about is the need to get that economy moving in a private sector fashion and in the area of proliferation, that he would try to get the Russians to stop helping the Iranians, who are the next generation of threat. So part of the whole problem here is for the President's first visit, I think arms control in a sense is a captive of the past as opposed to the next agenda or, for example, his relations with his neighbors who feel concerned. But the critical part is we have a new leader in Russia. Russia for all its failings, is no longer the nuclear strategy threat and that's what I mean about being locked in the Cold War. And the ABM Treaty, it's hard to escape, that is a Cold War treaty because that enshrines this balance of terror of leaving each side vulnerable to each other. Why would we want to do that?
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Secretary, are we locked in that... I no know you think you've answered this question one time already, but is it possible that having an arms control summit is passé?
WALTER SLOCOMBE: Not at all. We need to explain to the Russians, and we have been explaining to them that we face a real threat and I disagree with Tom Graham. The most important part of that threat is in fact the long-range missile threat for exactly the reasons that Bob Zoellick identified. That is, the possibility of using the threat of an attack that were... if the missile worked, would be sure to cause millions, or at least hundreds of thousands of fatalities in the United States, if it hit a big city. And that is a real problem and something we should work on and something we need to explain to the Russians that we need to work on. But we need to do that in the context, which recognizes that, while we hope to have good relations with Russia, it is still an uneasy relationship. The Russians, for various reasons, good, bad and indifferent, are worried about us. We're sometimes worried about some of the things that could happen in the future with a different Russia, so that there is a role for arms control. And simply to dismiss arms control as an overhang from the Cold War is, among other things, simply to ignore the Russian position. For example, one of the ways in which we have been able to work with the Russians on trying to reduce the leakage of Russian technology into Iran is by making the point that it is not in their interest, that we should work together to stop it. The Russians have said that one of the things they will do if arms control collapses entirely is drop not just the bilateral agreements but some of the multilateral non-proliferation agreements. I don't know whether they would do that. It would be stupid for them to do it, but we can't ignore that that's a part of the problem.
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Goure, should we talking arms control in this first meeting with Mr. Putin, or should there be other things on the table?
DANIEL GOURE: My view is that arms control is not the most important issue, as Bob Zoellick said. It's really the question is: Will Putin lead Russia in a new direction? Having said, that there are real arms control issues on the table for the United States. Even if we don't come to an agreement, it is reassuring to our allies and to others in the world that a dialogue continues. It's going to be very difficult to have progress on nuclear reductions, on other risk-reduction measures or on arms control and ABM Treaty revisions if you're not talking with the Russians. So it's clearly something you have to do, even if it isn't or shouldn't be the main focus of what you take on.
GWEN IFILL: Well, we'll have to end is there. We'll watch what's happening at the Kremlin this weekend. Thank you all very much.