Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said treaty violations are inevitable, and will likely occur in a matter of months.
“As the program develops and the various testing activities mature, one or more aspects will inevitably bump against treaty restrictions and limitations,” Wolfowitz said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Although he did not describe the new test facility in detail, Wolfowitz appeared to be referring to sites in Alaska, which would be part of an expanded network of facilities for testing missile defense systems.
The news comes just days before a planned flight test of interceptors designed to shoot down long-range missiles. It is the first major test in a year.
A leading skeptic on national missile defense, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) grilled Wolfowitz on the test plans and balked at intentions to proceed before they have legal assurance that the tests will not violate the treaty.
“You’re proceeding without it and you’re asking us to proceed without it. And I hope we don’t,” Levin said.
The Russian government has said that it opposes U.S. withdrawal from the treaty and Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that a violation could touch off a new nuclear arms race. He has suggested negotiations to reduce U.S. and Russian arsenals.
Vladimir Rushailo, head of Putin’s Security Council, went on to say that “a unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the ABM treaty would lead to the destruction of strategic stability, a new powerful spiral of the arms race, particularly in space, and the development of means for overcoming the national missile defense system.”
The Bush administration says they hope to reach a new understanding with Russia soon so before it violates the 1972 ABM treaty between the United States and the former Soviet Union.
The ABM treaty prohibited building any anti-missile system that would cover the entire nation or that uses satellites as the primary means of tracking incoming warheads. Many have called it the cornerstone of Cold War arms control agreements.
The United States currently has one missile defense site around missile silos in North Dakota, and Russia has a defense system around Moscow.
The Pentagon plans to begin ground-clearing work in Alaska in August, and to begin construction of the missile defense site next April.
They hope to develop a multi-layered shield that will include ship-launched missiles and lasers mounted on airplanes within four years, senior Pentagon officials said yesterday.
The State Department has notified its diplomats around the world that the tests will conflict with the treaty, stating in a 14-page memo that the United States “will pursue all promising technologies and basing modes, including those prohibited under the treaty.”