Little Progress on ABM, START at Moscow Summit; Putin Proposes Joint Anti-Missile 'Umbrella'

By Boese, Wade | Arms Control Today, July/August 2000 | Go to article overview

Little Progress on ABM, START at Moscow Summit; Putin Proposes Joint Anti-Missile 'Umbrella'


Boese, Wade, Arms Control Today


AS CLINTON ADMINISTRATION

officials expected, Russia rebuffed U.S. entreaties at the June 3-5 Moscow summit to amend the 1972 ABM Treaty to permit the United States to deploy its proposed limited national missile defense (NMD). As an alternative, Moscow proposed putting an "umbrella" over potential missile threats, but Washington said that such a plan could only supplement, not replace, a U.S. NMD system. In addition to building upon two secondary arms control agreements (see p. 28), Presidents Bill Clinton and Vladimir Putin issued a compromise "Joint Statement on Principles of Strategic Stability," committing the two sides to further intensify discussions on ABM issues in parallel with talks on future strategic reductions.

Aiming to protect all 50 states from a limited attack by or accidental launch of strategic ballistic missiles, the Clinton administration is currently developing a landbased missile defense system for deployment by 2005. The proposed system would violate the ABM Treaty, which prohibits strategic missile defenses capable of protecting a country's entire territory or the base for such a defense. Not wanting to abrogate the treaty, Clinton has sought negotiations with Russia to modify the accord to allow the planned U.S. system, but Moscow has staunchly refused every effort.

Putin proved no more receptive to U.S. missile defense plans during the summit with Clinton, the first between the two presidents. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, speaking June 4, said Putin made it "absolutely clear" that Russia still opposes amending the ABM Treaty and fears a U.S. NMD will "undermine strategic stability, threaten Russia's strategic deterrent, and provoke a new arms race." If Washington withdraws from the treaty, Putin and other Russian officials have warned that Moscow will withdraw from other arms control accords, including START II and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

The 100 missile interceptors currently planned for the first phase of the U.S. defense could be easily overwhelmed by Russia's current strategic arsenal, but the Clinton administration has made clear that after winning amendments to facilitate the initial NMD deployment, the United States will seek additional amendments for an expanded NMD. Russian leaders fear that system could be rapidly augmented in the future, when Moscow assumes it will have a much smaller nuclear force, threatening Russia's deterrent capability.

While disagreeing on U.S. NMD plans, the presidents were able to reach a compromise statement that emphasized the importance of the ABM Treaty-reaffirming it as a "cornerstone of strategic stability"while also noting that new threats could alter the international security environment. Administration officials pointed out that the statement also provided for consideration of "possible proposals for further increasing the viability of the Treaty" However, Talbott emphasized that this provision did not imply Russia had agreed to amend the accord; it only meant that discussions on possible changes could take place.

According to the statement, talks on the ABM Treaty will be held in parallel with future strategic reduction discussions within the framework of a START III accord, which, according to a 1997 agreement, would limit Russia and the United States to 2,000 to 2,500 deployed strategic warheads apiece. Moscow wants a lower agreed level of 1,500 warheads each. Talbott explained that the joint statement established a "clear agreement between [Russia and the United States] that these two processes are going to have to move forward together-the control of strategic defenses and the reduction of strategic offenses."

Clinton, as well as other U.S. officials, highlighted Russia's acknowledgment in the joint statement that the world faces a "growing threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery." Yet shortly after the summit, Russian leaders challenged the perception that they had moved closer to sharing the U. …

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Little Progress on ABM, START at Moscow Summit; Putin Proposes Joint Anti-Missile 'Umbrella'
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