Nominee Sought Limited Missile Defense: Holum Didn't Want to Upset Moscow

By Gertz, Bill | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 29, 1999 | Go to article overview

Nominee Sought Limited Missile Defense: Holum Didn't Want to Upset Moscow


Gertz, Bill, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


President Clinton's nominee for a top State Department arms control post sought to limit U.S. development of missile defenses during the early 1990s to further arms talks with Russia.

John Holum, the nominee for the new position of undersecretary of state for arms control, stated in a classified memorandum to the Pentagon in late 1994 that testing plans for the Theater High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) should be limited to avoid upsetting contentious talks with Moscow on regional defenses against short-range missiles.

"The key near-term objectives, in my view, are achieving a needed negotiating breakthrough on [Anti-Ballistic Missile/Theater Missile Defense] demarcation and protecting effective TMD program development," Mr. Holum stated in a "secret" memo to Deputy Secretary of Defense John Deutch.

Mr. Holum said that testing THAAD "insensitively" would set back arms talks with the Russians on regional missile defenses.

Mr. Holum, who was director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency before it was disbanded under a State Department reorganization, wrote the memo seeking a "meeting of the minds" between his agency and the Pentagon.

He said he would only support extended THAAD testing "in conjunction with a vigorous and sustained high-level diplomatic effort to achieve the outlines of an agreement" that could be rushed to completion in time for the U.S.-Russian summit in May 1995.

Mr. Holum's urging of limits on THAAD tests was counter to a Pentagon legal review conducted earlier in 1994 that said building and testing the system would not violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Despite the ruling, the Clinton administration entered talks with the Russians in an effort to expand the ABM Treaty to cover short-range missile defenses like THAAD.

President Clinton has made preserving the ABM Treaty his administration's most important strategic goal. The treaty prohibits deployment of nationwide defenses against long-range missiles.

The Pentagon opposed making too many concessions in the talks because the Russians appeared to be using the negotiations to limit the effectiveness of U.S. missile defenses now in development. …

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