Bush goes to Europe: The president travels to Europe to talk NATO,
missile defense and global warming.
The World Ahead: The international challenges faced by the Bush team.
When President Bush traveled to Europe in June, he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The meeting, the first for both presidents, focused on Bush's plan to build a missile defense shield for the U.S and its allies.
But to build the shield, the U.S. needs Russia's agreement to cancel or change a treaty that basically outlaws it.
Despite the handshakes
exchanged in the photo-ops, the two presidents did not reach an agreement.
Rice, the national security adviser, said the U.S. would proceed with
the shield whether the Russians agree to it or not.
Mr. Bush wants to build the missile shield because he believes the U.S. is vulnerable to missile attacks from "rogue" nations like North Korea or Iraq.
In theory, missile defense would work like a giant umbrella, protecting the U.S. from incoming missiles. Using sophisticated radar systems and inceptor missiles, the system would detect and destroy incoming missiles before they hit. Unfortunately, most of the preliminary tests failed. Some scientists describe the system as "trying to hit a bullet with another bullet." In a nutshell, not easy.
A Treaty with Russia
In 1972, U.S. President Nixon and Soviet Communist Party leader Leonid Brezhnev signed a document called the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Basically, the two nations (who were then enemies) promised not to build anti-missile systems and outlaws either nation from building missile defense shields covering more than one territory. In other words, the U.S. has already promised not to do exactly what the president wants.
President Bush says the treaty is outmoded and a relic of the Cold War. Others say the treaty is no longer "real" because the Soviet Union no longer exists.
In the 1970s the U.S. deployed a shield over missile fields in North Dakota but later shut it down to comply with the treaty.
The treaty assumptions are simple; if both sides are vulnerable to nuclear attacks than nobody will be the first to strike. If one side is protected by a shield, there is nothing to stop them from attacking first.
A whole bunch of questions
The Russians aren't the only ones with reservations about missile defense. Even the leaders of Europe -- who would theoretically be protected by the shield -- have doubts.
"It's obvious that anyone who wanted to attack another country and was confronted with this defense shield...would have a natural reaction to send more missiles," said French President Chirac. "This is a fantastic invitation to proliferate."
Instead, some leaders, like German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, want to focus on disarmament -- reducing the number of weapons in each nation's stockpile.
Others say there's no point in building a shield against nuclear missiles when anyone who wanted to hurt the U.S. or its friends could easily use biological or chemical weapons instead.
And some Americans are worried about how much the shield would cost. The U.S. has already spent millions on research and is expected to spend billions more on development.
threats are threats based upon uncertainty,
the threats that somebody who hates freedom or hates America or hates
our allies or hates Europe, will try to blow us up," said
President Bush. " I think people are coming our way. But people
know that I'm intent upon doing what I think is the right thing in
order to make the world more peaceful."
What do you think? Should the U.S. proceed with its missile defense system? How important is it to stick by treaties?
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