Beyond the Axis of Evil: Additional Threats from Weapons of Mass Destruction. (Legislation and Policy)

Article excerpt

[The following are the remarks presented to the Heritage Foundation Washington, D.C. May 6, 2002.]

I am pleased to be able to speak to you today about the Bush Administration's efforts to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to state sponsors of terrorism and terrorist groups is, in my estimation, the gravest security threat we now face. States engaging in this behavior, some of them parties to international treaties prohibiting such activities, must be held accountable, and must know that only by renouncing terrorism and verifiably forsaking WMD can they rejoin the community of nations.

The New Security Environment

Eight months into the war on terror, the United States and its partners have made great strides. We have helped the Afghan people overthrow an oppressive, terrorist-harboring regime in Afghanistan, foiled terrorist plots in places such as Germany, Yemen, Spain and Singapore, and stanched the flow of funds that allowed al-Qaeda's schemes to come to fruition. We have captured the number three man in al-Qaeda, and will bring him to justice. And this is just the beginning.

The attacks of September 11 reinforced with blinding clarity the need to be steadfast in the face of emerging threats to our security. The international security environment has changed, and our greatest threat comes not from the specter of nuclear war between two superpowers, as it did during the Cold War, but from transnational terrorist cells that will strike without warning using weapons of mass destruction. Every nation, not just the United States, has had to reassess its security situation, and to decide where it stands on the war on terrorism.

In the context of this new international security situation, we are working hard to create a comprehensive security strategy with Russia, a plan President Bush calls the New Strategic Framework. The New Strategic Framework involves reducing offensive nuclear weapons, creating limited defensive systems that deter the threat of missile attacks, strengthening nonproliferation and counterproliferation measures, and cooperating with Russia to combat terrorism. It is based on the premise that the more cooperative, the post-Cold War relationship between Russia and the United States makes new approaches to these issues possible.

Accordingly, President Bush has announced that the United States will reduce its strategic nuclear force to a total of between 1,700 and 2,200 operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads over the next ten years. President Putin has made a similarly bold and historic decision with respect to Russian strategic nuclear forces.

In preparation for the summit meeting in Moscow and St. Petersburg later this month, we have been working closely with the Russians to embody the reductions in offensive warheads into a legally-binding document that will outlast the administrations of both Presidents. We are also working to draft a political declaration on the New Strategic Framework that would cover the issues of strategic offensive and defensive systems, nonproliferation and counterproliferation. We are optimistic that we will have agreement in time for the summit in Moscow, May 23rd to 25th.

Strengthening the U.S.-Russian relationship has been a priority of the Bush Administration, even prior to the September 11 attacks. In the current security climate, cooperation with Russia becomes even more important, so that we can work together to combat terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction, which threaten both our countries.

Preventing Terrorism's Next Wave

President Bush believes it is critical not to underestimate the threat from terrorist groups and rogue states intent on obtaining weapons of mass destruction. As he said on the six-month anniversary of the attacks, "Every nation in our coalition must take seriously the growing threat of terror on a catastrophic scale terror armed with biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons. …