Arms Control Masquerade

Article excerpt

The coming days are likely to produce paroxysms in diplomatic circles, the media and advocacy groups over the need to preserve and enhance various international arms control agreements. Specifically, with the opening yesterday of the quadrennial Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference in New York, the United States faces a multiweek thrash over its failure to do more to disarm.

Unfortunately, the Clinton-Gore administration's response to such criticism has generally been to grovel, apologize and pander. It refuses to make the case (and presumably does not believe) that the world is a safer place thanks to America's pre-eminent military strength. It recoils from acknowledging that arms control is utterly failing to keep dangerous nations from acquiring deadly weapons of mass destruction - and the means to deliver them against the United States and/or its friends and forces overseas.

Instead, the administration proposes to redouble its efforts to secure still further, ineffectual agreements. For example, it makes no effort to conceal its contempt for the majority of the U.S. Senate that voted last fall to reject the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). It ignores the Senate's conclusion that that accord was unverifiable, unenforceable and would have precluded the United States from maintaining the sort of safe, reliable and effective nuclear deterrent the nation will need for the foreseeable future.

(If any further confirmation of these deficiencies were needed, it can be found in the Russian Duma's ratification of the CTBT last week.) To the contrary, President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright assert that the Senate vote has no impact on the status of that accord, that the United States will continue to be bound by it, and that the CTBT should be brought into force at the earliest possible time.

The Clinton-Gore administration's failure to recognize - and speak the truth about - the futility of arms control under present and future circumstances seems likely to bear its bitterest fruit, however, in the area of missile defense.

In an oped article in yesterday's New York Times, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov telegraphed the punch he intends to deliver during remarks at what arms controllers call the NPT RevCon and in bilateral negotiations with the Clinton administration. "There is [an] important issue: the close connection between the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II) and the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which bans the signatories from deploying national anti-ballistic missile systems. The United States is considering the creation of such a system, which would be an open violation of the treaty."

Here again, the Clinton-Gore administration's lack of integrity about arms control has subjected the United States unnecessarily, if not dangerously, to Russian blackmail. Like the family that studiously ignores the presence of a crazy aunt in the parlor, the administration has simply refused to acknowledge reality: There is no ABM Treaty in legal force today.

As former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Douglas Feith and former Justice Department official George Miron put it in the most comprehensive and rigorous analysis to date concerning the legal status of the ABM Treaty (a study sponsored by and available from the Center for Security Policy): "The ABM Treaty lapsed by operation of law - that is, automatically - when the U. …