Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Make SDI Conform to the ABM Treaty

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Make SDI Conform to the ABM Treaty

Article excerpt

FROM its inception, the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) has been on a collision course with the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. This conflict has come to a head with the Senate's approval of a proposal by Armed Services Committee chairman Sam Nunn to amend the ABM Treaty to accommodate SDI. The Senate has it backward: It should be trying to reform SDI to preserve the ABM Treaty.

Signed in 1972, the ABM Treaty was the first and most lasting achievement in strategic arms control. It bars the United States and the Soviet Union from deploying nationwide defenses against long-range missiles - strategic defenses. The superpowers recognized that defenses would only create incentives for larger, more capable nuclear forces.

The ABM Treaty has allowed the superpowers to restrain the nuclear arms race and build a stable relationship; it remains a key condition for future reductions in their vast nuclear arsenals, bloated relics from the cold war. Senator Nunn's amendments would cut at the heart of the ABM Treaty by permitting the nationwide deployment of strategic defenses.

The best way to promote nuclear arms reductions would be to protect the ABM Treaty by incorporating its constraints into the structure of the SDI program. Specifically, the US should divide SDI into three sections with three separate missions, each subject to different treaty constraints. This would not stand in the way of SDI's most widely accepted aims, but would rein in its more dubious elements.

*-SDI's first mission should be to develop and deploy defenses against short-range missiles, so-called tactical missile defenses. Missiles with ranges of hundreds of miles are now widely proliferated in the Middle East and elsewhere, where they can be used as terror weapons against neighboring countries.

To enforce its limits on strategic defenses, the ABM Treaty requires that tactical defenses not be given the capability to intercept long-range missiles. …

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