Missile-defense experts, academics and Cold War veterans came before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday to advocate the amending or abrogation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the building of a national missile defense (NMD) system.
"If one focuses on the strategic realities of today, I would submit that there is no strategic rationale for the ABM Treaty," said James Woolsey, director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1993-95. "The only rationale for the ABM Treaty today is rooted in current foreign relations concerns: The Russians do not want us to withdraw from it."
He said only "a very major modification" or a "withdrawal" from the ABM Treaty - something the Clinton administration opposes - "would meet our strategic needs."
The United States and the Soviet Union agreed in the 1972 treaty that neither country would build a national missile-defense system. The idea was that "mutually assured destruction" would prevent either side from using its nuclear weapons.
Moscow fears that if the United States breaks out of the treaty it will be unable to compete in a missile-defense race and will find itself with no way to deter a U.S. first strike.
Mr. Woolsey said that at one time he supported the ABM Treaty and actively opposed President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, popularly derided as "Star Wars." But circumstances have changed, he said, and "we cannot perpetually let our security . . . be held hostage to Russia's not wanting us to have defenses." On March 15, the new Patriot PAC-3 interceptor hit and destroyed a missile warhead, undermining the criticism that missile-defense technology would not work. On March 17, the Senate voted 97-3 in favor of the Cochran-Inouye National Missile Defense Act, which requires that the United States deploy a national missile defense as soon as it is technically feasible. …