President Bush's Speech on Nuclear Strategy; A Response from Senior Democrats

Article excerpt

In a speech at National Defense University (NDU) May 1, President George W. Bush announced his intention to develop a new strategic framework that would involve deploying mis

sile defenses and reducing the U.S. nuclear arsenal. (See p. 18 for news coverage.)

The president maintained that the world is "vastly different" than when the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty entered into force in 1972, holding that more countries either have or are seeking nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, leaving the United States vulnerable to attack or blackmail. Bush contended that in this new world, deterrence "is no longer enough" and that the United States would have to "move beyond the constraints of the 30-year-old ABM Treaty" and build missile defenses to protect itself. The treaty, he said, "prohibits us from exploring all options for defending against the threats that face us, our allies, and other countries."

The president said that the new framework he wishes to develop would "encourage" cuts in nuclear weapons and that

he is "committed to achieving a credible deterrent with the lowest possible number of nuclear weapons consistent with our national security needs."

Bush pledged to dispatch teams of high-level representatives to friends and allies around the globe to discuss his plans, while saying Washington would also consult with Russia, China, and "other interested parties."

The Democratic leadership responded the next day, questioning the urgency of the missile threat, the feasibility of an effective missile defense, and the notion that nuclear weapons are not enough to deter "rogue states." They also warned that deploying missile defenses could cause Russia to cease nuclear reductions and provoke China to expand its nuclear capabilities.

The following is the text of the president's May 1 speech and a transcript of comments made by four Democratic senators May 2.


Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary I appreciate you being here. I also want to thank Secretary Powell for being here as well. My national security adviser, Condi Rice is here, as well as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Myers. I appreciate Admiral Clark and General Ryan here, for being here as well. But most of all, I want to thank you, Admiral Gaffney and the students for NDU for having me here today.

For almost 100 years, this campus has served as one of our country's premier centers for learning and thinking about America's national security. Some of America's finest soldiers have studied here: Dwight Eisenhower and Colin Powell. Some of America's finest statesmen have taught here: George Kennan. Today, you're carrying on this proud tradition forward, continuing to train tomorrow's generals, admirals, and other national security thinkers, and continuing to provide the intellectual capital for our nation's strategic vision.

This afternoon, I want us to think back some 30 years to a far different time in a far different world. The United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a hostile rivalry. The Soviet Union was our unquestioned enemy, a highly-armed threat to freedom and democracy. Far more than that wall in Berlin divided us.

Our highest ideal was--and remains-individual liberty. Theirs was the construction of a vast communist empire. Their totalitarian regime held much of Europe captive behind an iron curtain.

We didn't trust them, and for good reason. Our deep differences were expressed in a dangerous military confrontation that resulted in thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at each other on hair-trigger alert. Security of both the United States and the Soviet Union was based on a grim premise: that neither side would fire nuclear weapons at each other, because doing so would mean the end of both nations.

We even went so far as to codify this relationship in a 1972 ABM Treaty, based on the doctrine that our very survival would best be insured by leaving both sides completely open and vulnerable to nuclear attack. …