A New Threat to the ABM Treaty: The Administration's TMD PR
Eight days after the Clinton administration presented a new proposal to permit development, testing and deployment of advanced anti-tactical ballistic missile (ATBM) systems to the Standing Consultative Commission of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in Geneva, the Arms Control Association (ACA) held a news conference to discuss the dangers the new proposal posed to the central point of the treaty--to prevent development, or the basis for development, of a nationwide anti-ballistic missile system. While focusing on the specific issues that threaten the safeguards built into the ABM Treaty, the panel also looked at the role Congress has played in the past, and many again play in response to the administration's proposal. Panelists for the December 8, 1993 news conference included Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr., ACA president and executive director; Jack Mendelsohn, ACA deputy director; John Rhinelander, vice chairman of the ACA board of directors; John Pike, director of the Space Policy Project of the Federation of American Scientists; and Kenneth Luongo, senior Washington representative for Arms Control and International Security at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
SPURGEON M. KEENY, JR.: Welcome to this morning's press conference sponsored by the Arms Control Association on the administration's proposal on theater missile defenses (TMA) that could constitute a new threat to the ABM Treaty.
We have called this press conference on very short notice because of a shared concern that the proposal the administration presented in Geneva last week to the Standing Consultative Commission of the ABM Treaty is so permissive that it would undercut the central objective of the ABM Treaty--to prevent deployment, or the basis for deployment, of a nationwide ballistic missile defense. The criteria would permit Russia or the United States to deploy missile interceptors in any number with any level of capability or sophistication provided they are not actually tested against targets with reentry velocities of more than 5 kilometers per second, which translates roughly to a missile with a 3,000-kilometer range.
Some of us here recall the great debate in the early 1970s about the potential capabilities toward a national defense of the Soviet Union provided by the Soviet SA-5, a primitive air defense missile by today's standards. And in the 1980s, the United States was very concerned that Soviet testing of the SA-12 surface-to-air missile (SAM) against the 900-kilometer range SS-12 ballistic missile, which had a re-entry velocity in the 2-kilometer-per-second range, would provide the base for a Soviet nationwide defense system. In discussing this problem yesterday, the secretary of defense admonished us all not to look at it from a strictly Cold War perspective and I think this is good advice.
I do not think this proposal threatens to reignite a major U.S.-Russian offensive ballistic missile race as would have been the case if there had been a threatened nationwide defense at the height of the Cold War. But even though this proposal probably would not interfere with START I or even START II, it could very easily have a delaying or chilling effect on efforts to move toward significantly lower levels of strategic offensive missile deployments if we are faced with the possibility of nationwide defenses not only in Russia, but in many other countries as well. This is because this proposal would permit either Russia or the United States not only to deploy, but to sell or provide, these systems to other countries.
Moreover, the threat requiring this proposal is not clear. In his comments, Defense Secretary Les Aspin made a major point that there were some 20 countries actively engaged in the development of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction. This threat has not been documented, and I think the statement is quite misleading.
He also suggested that there are a dozen countries with ballistic missiles at the present time. …