Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Countering the Missile Threat

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Countering the Missile Threat

Article excerpt

The purpose of this article is to propose a way out of the impasse that is currently preventing the deployment of an effective defense against ballistic missiles without undermining the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. To achieve this the topics of missile technology proliferation, the ABM Treaty and ballistic missile defense are reviewed to illustrate the manner in which they have become inextricably linked. The linkage is such that it is adversely affecting plans to deploy an effective Theater Missile Defense (TMD) as part of the evolving Counterproliferation policy. A solution is proposed that will enable a defense to be deployed without undermining any international treaties.


There have been so many articles recently, warning of the growing proliferation of missile and unconventional warhead technology,(1,2,3) that there can be few readers who will not acknowledge that the longstanding policy of Non-Proliferation needs to be reinforced. This does not mean that the policy of Non-Proliferation should be viewed as a failure. It was inevitable that leakages of technology would occur and it is a testament to the effectiveness of its implementation that so much time has elapsed before the policy had to be re-examined. What is being proposed in its stead is an extension of Non-Proliferation policy to one of Counterproliferation, Non-Proliferation relied upon discussion, denial, disarmament (and arms control), and diplomatic pressure. Counter proliferation includes these with the extension of four more categories which are clearly the responsibility of defense departments. These are defense, deterrence, defuzing and destruction and they appear in recognition of the fact that proliferation has occurred. If Non-Proliferation means proved inadequate, then counterproliferation provides the increased measures to protect against threats from proliferation, whether these arise from States or sub-national groups. The passage of the Missile Defense Act 1991, coupled with subsequent amendments modifying the original objective of deploying a National Missile Defense to one of achieving a TMD, appeared to put the US clearly on the road to countering the growing missile threat with a defense. The change from the Bush to the Clinton Administration, did nothing initially to dispel this belief.

In early 1993, Les Aspin, then a newly-appointed Secretary of Defense, issued policy and programming guidelines for 1993 and 1994 budgets, giving the highest priority to TMD. Even though Congress cut the requested Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) budget from some $3.8 billion to less than $3 billion for 1994, with similar reductions for 1995, the allocations seemed to indicate that TMD remained an important program and would be pushed through to completion. The Counterproliferation policy has, however, been placed in substantial jeopardy, by the recognition that a conflict exists between the previously declared intention of abiding within the restrictions of the ABM Treaty, and deploying an effective TMD. It is important to put the treaty into a historical perspective to understand the emotion generated by this apparent conflict. The ABM Treaty is the only arms control agreement struck with the Former Soviet Union (FSU), which has stood the test of time and for many staff, on both sides of the old Iron Curtain, represents the pinnacle of their achievements.

The ABM Treaty

In the late 1960's, the two Superpowers conducted negotiations under the banner of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), in an attempt to curb the dangers and the increasing cost of the arms race in which they were involved. The objectives of the two powers in entering the talks were quite different. The Americans were concerned that the Soviets were introducing modernized Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), at a yearly rate of about 250, and new Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), at about half that rate. The Soviets, on the other hand, wanted to curb the US deployment of an Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) System, called Safeguard, which was being prepared for deployment at multiple sites. …

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