SDI and Western European Support for the ABM Treaty
While most Western European governments and intergovernmental forums such as the Western European Union (WEU) and North Atlantic Assembly (NAA) support American SDI research, they draw a sharp distinction--or firebreak--between research and deployment.1 The keystone of this distinction is the 1972 ABM Treaty which, according to all European governments, must be preserved at least until the alternatives are well examined. That is, the deployment of missile defenses must contribute to arms race stability and eventual reductions of offensive weapons if it is to replace the ABM Treaty regime.
Assuring continued adherence to the ABM Treaty is the first priority for most critics of SDI. In this sense, European critics would prefer that SDI (as a research program) be used to pressure the Soviet Union into improving its compliance with the ABM Treaty. In a similar vein, purported Soviet ABM Treaty violations are down played by most European governments for fear that discussing and substantiating these violations will encourage further erosion of the ABM Treaty, especially by the United States.
European support for the ABM Treaty has been clear from the beginning of the SDI debate. Staunch supporters of SDI, such as West German Chancellor Kohl, have stated that "in the short and medium term, observance of the ABM Treaty has priority."2 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher expressed her support for the ABM Treaty in one of her "four points," which stated "that any testing or deployment of the system in contravention of existing treaties should be a matter of negotiation." In the November 4, 1985, draft resolution of the WEU, the Assembly stressed "the fundamental importance of the ABM Treaty as a cornerstone of all attempts at East-West agreement and arms control."3