Bush Outlines Arms Control and Missile Defense Plans

By Boese, Wade | Arms Control Today, June 2000 | Go to article overview
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Bush Outlines Arms Control and Missile Defense Plans


Boese, Wade, Arms Control Today


JOINING A GROWING chorus of Republicans, Texas Governor George W. Bush warned President Bill Clinton on May 23 against concluding a deal with Russia that would limit any future U.S. national missile defense (NMD). Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee also charged the Clinton administration with being mired in Cold War logic and vowed to pursue significant reductions in U.S. nuclear weapons levels but failed to provide specifics.

Speaking less than two weeks before Clinton's scheduled June 3-5 Moscow summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bush denounced Clinton's efforts to win Moscow's agreement to amend the 1972 ABM Treaty, which bars missile defenses capable of protecting a country's entire territory, to permit an initial U.S. national defense composed of a single site of 100 missile interceptors located in Alaska. "No agreement would be better than a flawed agreement," the governor declared. He further called on the president not to "hamstring the ability of the next president to fully develop an antiballistic missile system."

Flanked by senior foreign policy officials from earlier Republican administrations, the governor said a missile defense should protest all 50 states, U.S. allies, and U.S. forces deployed overseas from missile attacks by socalled rogue states and from accidental nuclear launches. He left open the door for sharing information and technology with Russia, depending on "how Russia behaves."

Though not describing the exact architecture of the missile defense he would pursue, Bush remarked that "laser technology is evolving" and that "there is a lot of inventiveness in our society that hasn't been unleashed on this particular subject." But in looking at the ABM Treaty which proscribes the development, testing, and deployment of ABM systems or components that are sea-, air-, space-, or mobile land-based, Bush said he sees a treaty that "makes it hard for us to fully explore the options available."

Bush's comments follow an April 24 letter by 32 Republican senators to Secretary of Defense William Cohen that asserted the "ultimate value of sea-, air- and space-based assets in ballistic missile defense is unmistakable." Only the "political will" is needed, according to the senators, to defend the "American people as quickly and comprehensively as our technology allows." Bush has pledged to withdraw from the ABM Treaty if an agreement cannot be reached with Moscow to modify the accord.

In addition to advocating a more robust missile defense, Bush said he would ask the secretary of defense to conduct "an assessment of our nuclear force posture and determine how best to meet our security needs.

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