Joint Chiefs of Staff 'Uncomfortable' with START III Reductions below 2,000-2,500
Bleek, Philipp C., Arms Control Today
FURTHER COMPLICATING THE
Clinton administration's already tenuous negotiating position at the June 3-5 Moscow summit, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) appeared to reject START III reductions below 2,000-2,500 deployed strategic warheads. The chiefs' testimony, presented at a May 23 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, represents their first public statement on the issue and appears to deprive the administration of one of its few bargaining chips to induce Russian agreement to modify the AntiBallistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.
In recent months, Russian officials have repeatedly called for START III cuts to 1,500 warheads, a level below the 2,0002,500 warhead ceiling agreed to by Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin in Helsinki in 1997. Due largely to fiscal constraints, the Russian strategic nuclear arsenal is declining-deeper negotiated reductions represent Russia's only chance at reducing anticipated disparities between the U.S. and Russian strategic arsenals. For its part, the administration is seeking Russian agreement to amend the 1972 ABM Treaty to facilitate deployment of a limited national missile defense, which Russia fears may threaten its nuclear deterrent.
Senator John Warner (R-VA), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, called the hearing in an apparent attempt to preempt administration agreement to deeper START III cuts at the Moscow summit. The JCS and the commander-in-chief of the U.S. Strategic Command, Admiral Richard Mies, had discussed the issue of deeper reductions at a closed Pentagon meeting May 10 at which Mies reportedly rejected reductions below 2,000-2,500. Mies' comments were subsequently leaked to The Washington Times and printed in a May 11 story. …