Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Senate Puts Missile Defense System on 'Go'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Senate Puts Missile Defense System on 'Go'

Article excerpt

Ignoring administration warnings that it is inciting a new arms race, the Senate held fast Thursday to plans to build a new missile defense system.

The action would in effect alter the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which limits the United States and Russia to building an anti-missile system at one location each.

By a 51-49 vote, the Senate rejected a Democratic effort to remove the plan's language from the defense spending bill. The plan would fundamentally change the U.S. stance toward the treaty.

The defeated amendment, offered by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., would have removed wording that orders the Pentagon to build a national missile defense system by 2003 and which interprets what defense systems are allowable under the treaty.

President Bill Clinton has threatened to veto the measure, and the administration campaigned against the plan, which was sponsored by Republicans. Defense Secretary William Perry said it would "put us on a pathway to abrogate the ABM treaty." Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman John Shalikashvili said it could lead to Russia refusing to ratify the START II nuclear disarmament treaty.

Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., ranking Democrat on the Armed Forces Committee, said, "We're asked to take a gratuitous poke in the eyes of the Russians. Why do we want to get thousands of more warheads pointed at the United States?"

The supporters said the speedup was needed because up to 20 countries are developing or are acquiring missiles that could reach parts of the United States and some of them are developing nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

But Sen. John Warner, R-Va., who wrote the language, said, "We must accelerate the development and deployment of effective land- and sea-based theater missile systems to protect our troops, defenses that are not artificially or wrongfully limited and constrained by this ABM treaty."

Supporting the GOP plan were Missouri Sens. John Ashcroft and Christopher S. Bond, both Republicans. Opposing the language were Illinois Sens. Carol Moseley-Braun and Paul Simon, both Democrats.

Earlier Thursday, the Senate defeated, 51-48, an attempt to eliminate $300 million that the Senate Armed Services Committee added to the $371 million the administration had requested for long-range missile defenses. …

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