"The Arms Control Association’s work is an important resource to legislators and policymakers when contemplating a new policy direction or decision."

– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

What Next for NMD and Arms Control?


President Clinton announced on September 1 that he would not deploy the proposed national missile defense (NMD) system, leaving the decision to his successor. The decision drew praise from several countries that view the system as a threat to strategic stability and arms control. Clinton's decision not to authorize any predeployment activity provides both Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush the opportunity to articulate their own visions of what their NMD and arms control policies will be without being tied to any construction or deployment activity already underway.

On September 6, the Arms Control Association held a press conference to discuss the impact of Clinton's decision on the NMD program and on domestic and international opinion, as well as on the campaign for the White House.

Panelists for the discussion were Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr., President and Executive Director of the Arms Control Association; Richard Garwin, Senior Fellow for Science and Technology at the Council of Foreign Relations; Jack Mendelsohn, Vice President and Executive Director of the Lawyers Alliance for World Security; and Mark Mellman, CEO of The Mellman Group, a polling and consulting firm.

The following is an edited transcript of their remarks and the question-and-answer session that followed.

Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.

Good Morning. Welcome to today's press conference sponsored by the Arms Control Association on President Clinton's decision not to deploy an NMD. We thought it most appropriate to provide an independent assessment of this decision, and to consider where NMD goes from here. Let me introduce the other members of the panel who will be speaking today: Richard Garwin, a distinguished scientist in the field of nuclear weapons and advanced systems technology, who, like myself, has been involved in this NMD debate for the last 40 years. He's currently working with the Council on Foreign Relations on scientific issues; Jack Mendelsohn, who I think most of you know, a former senior foreign service officer, who's now Vice President of the Council for . . . of the LAWS group, who has been following this issue diplomatically a couple of decades as well; and we'll be joined shortly by Mark Mellman, of the Mellman Group, who is, I think, the best informed pollster/public opinion man, who has been following the public views on national missile defense for some time.

I personally believe that Clinton did the right thing in just saying no to deployment of NMD. And I believe this is probably one of the most important security-related decisions of his presidency. I know he also said no to any hedging decisions to undertake preliminary preparations for deployment that might or might not be considered compatible with the ABM treaty. Now there's been a great deal of speculation over the last year as to what Clinton would finally do with regard to NMD. And many pundits felt it was a foregone conclusion that for political reasons that he would opt for deployment. I think it's really not too surprising that he chose not to call for a deployment of an NMD and not to take any preliminary steps when you look at his own record and the position he has consistently taken on this issue. When he signed the legislation a year ago, calling for a deployment of an NMD system when it was technically feasible, he made clear that his decision would be based on four criteria. One is, that the system was technically mature enough to make a responsible decision to deploy; two, the threat required it; three, that the cost was acceptable in terms of other priorities; and finally, that the implications of the decision for the overall security of the United States, including the future of arms control.

Now looking at these things, briefly—and I think the President addressed them very well in his Friday statement—none of these conditions have been met, in terms supporting a deployment decision. The case of technology is not—clearly not ready for a responsible decision on this particular system. And even more significant, there are seriously questions as to whether the system is inherently, even if technology proceeds favorably, suitable to achieve even its limited mission. And Garwin, Dr. Garwin will discuss this issue and where this business will go in the future in some detail. The second issue is the threat itself. Now although there is considerable dispute as to what the capabilities of the North Koreans are at present and what they could become, I think there is a general agreement that the North Koreans have at their disposal, a range of other options for the delivery of weapons of mass destruction, which are simpler and more at hand. And are not in any way dealt with the proposed, limited NMD national missile defense system. And I would add, in addition, the country that is the principal point of concern, North Korea, is currently engaged in a complicated adjustment to the real world and there is good reason to believe that there is a possibility or even a probability, or even a probability, that they are prepared to trade their missile capability and their missile program for other considerations. And these negotiations are currently underway at a number of levels. With regard to the cost, the United States can certainly afford a $60 billion tab if this were really needed. However, this will compete with other more, I believe, and I believe the military believes, more pressing military requirements. And if this turns out to be the first step to a much more elaborate system, as Gov. Bush would have us believe or states to be his objective, you are talking about a system that would cost several hundred billion dollars, and that would be something that would really get one's attention. But the real problem, and it was clearly recognized by President Clinton in his decision, were the costs, the non-financial costs, of a deployment decision in our relations with the rest of the world.

The proposed deployment is strongly opposed, as I'm sure you all know, by Russia and China. And even some of our principal NATO allies. In fact, with the exception of Israel, I find it hard to identify any country that supports the United States in this endeavor. We truly are going against the tide of world opinion. The Russians and just a word, and Jack Mendelsohn will elaborate on this part of the problem, the Russians see it as a slippery slope to a system that could eventually threaten their deterrent. The Chinese feel that it is an open threat to their minimum deterrent, and do not take seriously the assertions that it's really directed at North Korea. And the NATO allies have a range of reasons, that Jack is an expert on, but basically, they are very concerned about what we are about to do in our general relations with Russia and with the future of arms control—two issues on which they are pleased with the progress to date and wish to see more. Now I think it's significant, particularly significant, that in making his decision, President Clinton has specifically decided not to fund advanced procurement initial preparation of the site for the radar on Shemya, which was alleged to be necessary to keep going for a operational date of 2005. I would note that no one in the pentagon believes anymore that the date of 2005 would be met, so in a sense, this point is moot. Nevertheless, it would be seen by many people, many observers, many in the press, that the likely outcome is a way that Clinton could hedge his position by not deploying, by at the same time saying he was facilitating the deployment process. By deciding not to go down this path, I think he has not prejudiced the position that will face the next president, albeit Gore or Bush in deciding how they choose to proceed in this matter.

There is, was an interesting debate, that many of you are aware of, as to whether this initial deployment would be legal under the ABM Treaty, but I think that debate is largely moot at the present time, and I think you could argue it on either side. But on thing is clear: and that was it would be seen by the rest of the world as essentially a U.S. decision to proceed with the deployment of the system and simply giving the courtesy of the decision to the next president. The, President Clinton clearly decided that he did not want to go down that path.

Well, now that Clinton has built some time into this decision process, I think it's interesting to speculate a bit as to where this leaves the next President, be it Gore or Bush. In the case of President Gore, in the case of President Gore, he has associated himself with the President's logic in dealing with this decision, so he will have to contend with the same considerations but without the pressure of an election. And I think that I would make the observation that none of the points were missing in Clinton's process of arriving at a decision will change significantly for some time. The technology is not going to, the next test does not resolve the technology problems with the worth of the system. And the threat, hopefully, will, its likelihood will further reduce on the basis of present negotiations, and there is no indication that I am aware of, it's my judgement that the President may not share, but Russia is about to change its position on not desiring to modify the ABM treaty and it will be a hard sell to explain to the Chinese why this is not relevant to their security. If Bush is the next president, he has staked out in very broad terms what he would like to do, namely, have a much more effective system that will protect the rest of the world, and he will want to move quickly on this. But he does want to talk with our allies and the Russians on this first. I think bush is going to have a very complicated time defining just what this system is that he is talking about, and it will certain involve much more complicated and troublesome technological problems and a longer timescale than the limited NMD that the Clinton administration has talked about. it will involve rather large financial commitments, and I think that bush as any president, if one can look back on the history of president Nixon and others, but what he actually, if he is actually in position of power, he will have to consider the broader implications of this decision and its interaction with the rest of the world. And that will not that will take some time to accomplish.

I have also observed that this time that has been bought by pushing the problem down the road gives us an opportunity to accomplish some things that may well affect the decision itself. and one is to let your diplomacy a chance in trying to work with the north Korean problem. it gives us time to try and build an international consensus on dealing with Iraq.

And finally, it gives us some time to consider alternatives to this particular limited NMD system if it should finally be decided for whatever reasons that we must have a system of some sort to deal with this issue. So the time…time will be a valuable commodity in our—the future of the NMD architecture and system.

Finally, I would note that the immediate question that a lot of people are all interested in, is how this is going to affect the election, if it affects it at all. And my own view, despite the fact that a clear difference between bush and gore on this issue, with Bush calling for a much more expansive system and Gore, apparently, supporting the general approach of president Clinton, on the basis of 40 years of involvement on this issue, my feeling is that this simply will not be a significant issue in this election. I think the domestic issues that have been staked out are so encompassing that it is unlikely that this will be a central issue or that it will affect very many votes.

However, I would hope that Mark Mellman, who has been following this very closely from the public opinion point of view, can tell us some more about this—what people really think about this issue and how deep those feelings are. Do they reach a level that affects their decision on how to vote compared with the other principle issues, which will be on their plate. well, with this long introduction, let me turn the microphone over to Dick Garwin, who I think can give us some interesting insight, insights as to the technical situation.

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Richard Garwin

Thank you, Spurgeon. I am delighted with the occasion for my appearance here today. I'd be saying the same thing, but without such a happy grin on my face if the President had made some other decision. As Spurgeon said, the President outlined in July 1999 his four criteria and even in this political year, he followed through. Looking at the objective facts, it's not hard to see that this is the only decision that could have been made and should have been made sooner, because the threat is vanishing or at least not emerging, the technology is clearly not there, the cost is not really stated, and the overall impact on national security has got to be negative. The system is not ready for a favorable deployment decision.

You know about the three reports from the independent review team, led by General Larry D. Welch. In its first report, it emphasized that these hit to kill systems were really a rush to failure. They were being done too fast to provide an increment to national security. In the second report, they said frankly that the defense readiness review provided by the defense department in preparation for the President's decision expected this summer, could not be a defense readiness review, at best it would be a feasibility review to judge that the technology was indeed feasible. So is this technology possible? That is a system that sees missiles being launched, alerts some radars, launches an interceptor from Alaska or North Dakota, sends it toward the threat-cloud, intercepts in mid course, picks out the re-entry vehicle from confusing objects like the third-stage of the missile or possible decoys. And the answer is, yes and no. Yes, it was demonstrated in a way by a hit to kill collision of a mock national missile defense interceptor with a mock-warhead in October 1999. And no, because that demonstration was with a cooperation warhead like a friendly puppy dog that wags its tail and just wanted to be petted. If it were more like a cat and went to hide in the corner, you wouldn't have a chance. And that's more than a metaphor, that's the reality of missile defense and offense. And I've been working on it at least as long as Spurgeon going back to 1953 or so. On both sides, that is, getting U.S. missiles to penetrate potential defenses that we could imagine, and see with greater clarity as our satellite reconnaissance evolved, and in evaluating proposals for U.S. defenses against various missile threats where countermeasures have always been the problem, and remain the problem.

In January and July of this year we had two more attempts at intercept. These were gross failures, but not to worry. It wasn't the key technology that failed, it was only getting the food to the table that failed, so you couldn't evaluate the performance of the cook. Or the Olympic contestant who would have won, maybe, if he hadn't taken the wrong train. We can have results like that, at much lower cost, if we don't even try to test. But this system of mid-course intercept has inherent problems. These were recognized in 1984, when the Fletcher Committee was put together under Jim Fletcher, to put some substance on what President Reagan had announced on March 23, 1983 on his SDI and Star Wars speech. Those folks recognized in their report, that we would be unable to do the job against warheads in space, that they would have to catch them in boost-phase, while the rocket was still burning, and before decoys and other countermeasures such as radar jammers and chaff could be deployed. But there has been no detailed analysis of countermeasures in the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization program, neither how well the system would work against specific countermeasures or what countermeasures could be achieved even by these three states of concern, also known as rogue states, that were identified in intelligence and in the Rumsfeld Commission report of July 1998.

To fill this lack, a group of us, sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists and MIT, in April of this year produced this report, "Countermeasures to National Missile Defense," Which you can get on www.ucsusa.org. This is a thorough analysis that discusses what countermeasures are, how defenses deal with them, specifically for a mid-course intercept hit-to-kill system where the interceptor actually has to run into a warhead. There are three effective countermeasures that we believe are well within the ability of a nation deploying it first ICBM. I'll tell you about the first two of these, because they're easy to explain and hard to argue against. Remember, this NMD system is a counter to strategic attack by long-range missiles with biological or nuclear warheads. But it would not protect against BW, such as an infectious agent like anthrax or tularemia or Venezuelan equine encephalitis or any of the other agents we used to work on in this country until President Nixon in 1969 issued an executive order banning work on them. But that doesn't protect us against other people using BW against us. The most effective way to do this is not to drop a ton of anthrax in the middle of Washington on a long-range missile. If you use a long-range missile, it's much more effective to divide the payload into bomblets weighing a few pounds each—hundreds of them—and liberated them on ascent, after the missile has gotten up to its full speed. The 100 bomblets would spread to about a ten-mile pattern and land individually on the target. This increases their effectiveness in killing people and, incidentally, it prevents any mid-course system from destroying these bomblets one at a time, if it could see them. What do people say in support of the proposed NMD system against the BW threat? Well, they say, of course it won't work against this, it was never designed to do so. And yet people claim that the system is necessary to defend us against strategic attack of BW as well as nuclear warheads.

The second countermeasure protects the nuclear warhead. In case a country is foolish enough to mate a first generation, unreliable nuclear warhead with a first-generation unreliable ballistic missile, it should not use decoys that try to mimic this warhead with fusing antennae and things like that so that we could try with our radar to try to separate the warheads from the decoys. You would instead put an aluminumized Mylar balloon, the kind that you see at children's parties, around the warhead. And you have similar, low-cost aluminumized Mylar balloons that are decoys. Although a feather and a lead weight dropped from the leaning tower of Pisa will strike the ground at different times, if they were dropped in the vacuum of space, they go at exactly the same speed. We cannot tell them apart. This is not a new observation; it goes back as far as ballistic missiles and was analyzed by White House strategic military panel in the 1960s and 1970s. Furthermore, North Korea need not test these countermeasures in flight. It would actually be suicidal for North Korea to launch such a system, whether it worked or not against the United States, whether it was intercepted or not. For North Korea, Iraq, or Iran, the object is to have a not incredible threat. And how can we know that they would not under certain circumstances commit suicide by launching such things and threatening some small part of the U.S. population of 280 million people, perhaps 100,000, would be at risk from a first-generation nuclear warhead. And somewhat more from one of these biological warhead attacks, with lesser payloads and simpler technology.

The midcourse intercept concept is not a dead end, it's dead on arrival-before it can be deployed. If the long-range threat is there, the countermeasures will be there as well. Now this was contested in a July report from Israeli team Uzi Rubin that was send to BMDO and the UCS-MIT group, including myself, have written a response, which you can find on the UCS website.

The Rumsfeld Commission in July 1998 identified the potential long-range missile threat from these three countries. That's what we were set up to do. Our report was predictably misused because that's what its instigators wanted this commission to say: namely that such a threat existed and they said, therefore, there must be a defense, which must be the one under development. Now that consensus is falling apart, having forced the Administration to pursue a defense that may or may not emerge is very hard to sell. While these threats are in development, we have no idea whether they're going to emerge as full-fledged threats. So the Rumsfeld Commission postulated long-range missile threats from three countries, North Korea, Iran, and Iraq in as little as five years. But unnoticed, its report also warned that the defense would have to take into account the possibility of BW bomblets, and also, BW or nuclear warheads on short-range cruise missiles or ballistic missiles launched from ships against U.S. cities within 100 miles or so of the coast. But the goal of this NMD is to defend against a few missiles launched from North Korea.

Well, what to do if this threat could emerge and the midcourse will not work? We should slow the development, although some day we may have some use for such things, and we should look at boost-phase intercept, which would not be affected by countermeasures. North Korea is ideally located for striking the missiles while they are still burning during the four or five minutes, that a first-generation ICBM takes to get up to speed. We already have had half of this system operating for 30 years, that is, the geosynchronous orbit Defense Support Program (DSP) satellites that, according to the Defense Department, saw every missile launched during the Gulf War in 1991. And now they see them in stereo, one can get the information from them within 100 seconds of ICBM ignition to permit the launch of an interceptor located within maybe 600 miles of the launch site of the ICBM in order to catch it comfortably while the booster is still burning. It has to be a big interceptor in order to get up to ICBM like speeds, even though it's not like chasing the ICBM. Many boost-phase intercept systems have been mentioned in the last year or so. Most of them don't have a chance to handle the threat from an inland site, even in North Korea or Iraq or Iran. But a system utilizing national missile defense class interceptors launched from a joint U.S.-Russian site, north of North Korea, or from U.S. military type cargo ships in the Japan Basin, 100 miles 200 miles from North Korea could handle this threat. Will it work? I know that BMDO and other people are looking at it.

What is the needed reliability or effectiveness? The idea that we're going to go to war and not lose a combatant or that we will be able to shrug off any threat that anybody throws against us by countering that threat, given the fact that the short-range missiles are undefended against, and the same countries can detonate nuclear weapons in harbors in shipping containers on ships that do not even know they are carrying nuclear weapons, the reliability and effectiveness, need not be very great. But the effectiveness would be greater for a boost phase intercept system which can be available in my opinion with single minded effort sooner than this national missile defense and can be deployed incrementally first against North Korea, which it is essentially surrounded by water, Iraq could be handled later from a single site in southeast Turkey, and Iran—a much bigger country, four times as large as Iraq—would probably need two interceptor bases, one cooperatively with the Russians in the Caspian Sea, perhaps, and the other from the Gulf of Oman.

Now President Putin, at the June Summit, nodded favorably at helping the United States with boost phase intercept. Exactly what the Russians mean by this is not clear. But a favorable nod is useful, since such a system could not be deployed in conformity with the ABM treaty. However, that treaty could easily be modified if there's agreement between the two sides to do so, which should be much easier for the system than the present NMD system since this boost phase system would not be any threat to the Russian or Chinese deterrent.

So I see in the future, more emphasis on a system that would really work against the real threats, and less emphasis on a system that is politically undesirable because one party wants it and the other party doesn't, and serves as a bone of contention. We will see how that issue plays out. Whether or not it's an issue in the forthcoming campaign, I'm sure it will rear its ugly head in the next administration, and has to be decided on its merits. Thank you.

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Jack Mendelsohn

I'm very glad to be here to talk about a subject that has been with us for, as our previous two speakers have indicated, three to four decades. For those of you that are not aware, the Lawyers Alliance has recently published a white paper on missile defense, which reviews a lot of the arguments that have been brought up today and which you know from the debate.

I'd like to start by making a kind of contrarian statement about the whole issue. If you look at the criteria for national missile defense, none of them can justify deploying the system. If you look at the threat, if you look at the technology, if you look at the impact, and if you look at the cost, it's really very hard to find solid, supportive reasons under any of those criteria to go ahead. Nonetheless, the program has a strong dynamic, and is still in play; nonetheless, we are still concerned about missile defense deployments. Why?

I'd like to make one suggestion on this and then move on with what the impact of this is. We're not really dealing with rational arguments for missile defense in the debate in the United States. This is really politically driven at the present time. What's going on is that there has been for decades, a struggle for the soul of American foreign policy between those who believe American security is best assured in the long run by interdependence, by agreements, by cooperation, by integration into a larger community, and those who believe that America should be absolutely free to make the decisions it needs to make and wants to make on behalf of its own defense. Those, if you want, might be called the unilateralists. Let me just read you one, short sentence by a member of the U.S. Senate. "I agree with Governor Bush and the officials from previous administrations"—which stood with him on May 24, at the big Madame Toussaud wax-works national security speech —"that we need a different approach to national security issues," dash, dash "an approach that begins with the premise that the U.S. must be able to act unilaterally in its own best interests." This is your firm supporter of missile defense Senator Jon Kyl. He goes on, incidentally, to say that, "I believe that we should work to secure peace and our safety first through our own strength."

So what we're really dealing with here is not a rational analysis. We're dealing with a fundamental struggle over what the future of U.S. policy should be; and if we're moving in a unilateral mode, it obviously has a massive impact on our relationships with our allies, with our potential adversaries, and with a whole category of countries that are just out there perhaps without any particular position. I'd just like to mention one recent statement by the French foreign minister Védrine, who points out in his annual lecture to the French ambassadors that, as far as the United States is concerned, and talking again about missile defense, [that] "we are at the beginning of a sort of neo-unilateralism," sounds like he's been reading Kyl's statement. This results, Védrine says, almost automatically from the United States being what the French like to call a hyper-power, not a superpower, but a hyper-power. And this is, I think, the interesting statement: "It calls into question the idea that the United States ought to negotiate with others, adversaries or allies." This is where we are internationally, with the realization in Europe that the United States and national missile defense issues are being driven by this fight for the soul of American foreign policy: to be pursued cooperatively in an interdependent way, or pursued unilaterally. And the unilateralists are the ones pursuing missile defense.

Clearly, the President's speech did not solve the NMD issue. It's put it off, if you will, to next year, or the year after. But the next administration is going to have to make a decision on where missile defense is going. Whether they're going to avoid deployment and stay in a development mode, which is what we've been doing for years; whether we're going to pursue the present program, which as Dick Garwin indicated has some real technological liabilities. If Gore wins, he'll have to make a decision on that. Or whether we're going to adopt a new approach, as the Bush people have hinted. God only knows what it is. That is one of the problems in dealing with both our Allies and our potential adversaries. There is no clear program. Nobody knows what the national missile defense program is really going to look like. This makes it exceedingly difficult to conduct a negotiation if you're trying to alter the ABM Treaty. What is it that you're trying to alter it for and where do the alterations that you have in mind stop?

That was the lesson of the draft protocol and the talking points that were leaked earlier this year. Where it was quite clear that the United States had at best a ten-month position. Because one of the articles said everything in this protocol was only good until March of 2001 when the issue can be opened again.

Let me talk first about the Europeans. First of all, the Europeans can't be all lumped together; there are clearly some distinctions. The Europeans agree in their support of the ABM Treaty. They like the predictability and they like the structure given to the strategic relationship by the ABM treaty. They do not want the United States unilaterally to modify the treaty or drop the treaty and upset this strategic predictability. They don't believe it's wise to provoke an unnecessary response. On these points, I think the Europeans are quite united. After that there are lots of divisions and particular angles. One group of Europeans: the U.K., Denmark, and count Canada as a NATO/European ally because they all have some equities in this discussion. They're all basing countries for current sensor systems and whatever adjustments might happen in the future and in the case of Canada it shares the air defense responsibilities with the United States, and has to be very cautious about what they do. The U.K. has a special relationship, which it doesn't want to jeopardize, and feels under a great deal of pressure to walk a line. Although they've all made it clear that they have great concern about where the missile defense program is going, they haven't absolutely said that they will refuse to cooperate. Incidentally, this includes Australia, which has a downlink for some sensor information that would be collected under the NMD program in the future. There are four basing countries that are all on the spot, because they're close allies of the United States. They don't want to pull the rug out, but they are not by any means happy.

The French and the Germans and other Europeans, which are not joint-basing countries, have been freer to criticize. The French make a very simple argument, as do some of the other Europeans, namely the three D's. They are concerned about "decoupling," they're concerned about "disarmament," and they're concerned about "deterrence." And I think the Europeans in general share these concerns. Whenever the United States takes any kind of a policy decision, strategic forces, conventional forces, the Europeans always look at it through the optic of decoupling. And that is, does it in some way reduce American attachment to the defense and support of Europe? The European sense is that NMD has the potential to somehow differentiate the security that's available to them as opposed to the United States, and that differentiation might have some impact on U.S. decisions to support or not support the Europeans in a crisis. Now, that may or may not be a sound argument, I think there's some doubt about it; but Europeans are very concerned about the impact of NMD on U.S. support. The NMD undercuts "disarmament." The French have gone so far as to say, national missile defense and U.S. current policy is an expression of, and this is a quote "contempt for the NPT." This reflects the belief that the U.S. is essentially thumbing its nose at the interdependence represented by the nonproliferation regime. The same applies to other agreements as well. And lastly the key role of deterrence, which they believe the NMD undermines or threatens by saying the U.S. no longer has confidence in deterrence. On those issues I think the Europeans are fairly clear and understand what that all means.

I'd just like to mention a couple of other issues that are of interest to the Europeans. Some Europeans are interested in missile defense, but they're interested in theater missile defense. They don't see how national missile defense is going to help them on this, and they would like much more attention spent on theater missile defense. And, if you look at the kind of threats that U.S. actually might face, they are either short-range attacks from off the coasts of the United States or shorter range attacks on our allies. And that's what our allies are concerned about. They would like us to be spending less time on national missile defense and give more thought more money, and more effort to theater missile defense. That's their concern. Now you could argue that maybe if we did both, theater missile defense and national missile defense we should be able to buy off some of their concerns.

In an interesting way, American behavior on this issue is driving the Europeans in the direction of thinking more about a common security and foreign policy interest. If America is dashing down the unilateralist trail, then the Europeans ought to be thinking a little more about having a joint policy on some of these issues. So, in a way, you could argue that the national missile defense issue is encouraging deeper European thought about common policies on security. If the United States will no longer take into consideration European concerns, then Europeans may have to think about fending for themselves.

Now, Russia has a kind of bifurcated reaction to the President's decision. Some of them, understandably, consider this is a victory for Russian policy. Putin personally stood up to this, whereas Yeltsin might not have been such a staunch opponent, and therefore Russians can read this as partly a victory for Putin and his policies. Others are concerned that this is really a phony victory, and that the issue has not gone away and America is just, if you will, the famous French word, drawing back in order to spring forward later. To come back to a point I made earlier, Russia has a serious problem dealing with the United States on this issue because the United States cannot present them with a fixed plan for the future. So the Russians refuse to deal on the details of the current plan because once they do that, they've opened the entire negotiation to what they cannot foresee. So Russia to date has had a very simple position, and that is: any NMD is in violation of the fundamental principles of the ABM Treaty. It does not want to talk about whether the U.S. can do this, or whether it will modify that, because fundamentally, it's in violation of the treaty. Russia has refused to move from this very principled opposition to defense, to talk details because it understands that once it starts it's a slippery slope since the U.S. does not have a fixed position.

Now, Russia has a little more leeway on actually dealing on missile defense, if and when we ever get the program we can negotiate, because after all, they do have several thousand deliverable long-range warheads, and a small missile defense, because 100-150 interceptors would not necessarily present the Russians with an insurmountable problem. But that's not the case for China.

China's concern is considerably different. For China, even a small U.S. NMD program would have a direct impact on its very small deterrent capabilities. Even without NMD, China is concerned about U.S. theater missile defense programs. And lastly, a point that the Chinese make, and I should feedback as a concern as well for Russia, is that they are very concerned that our NMD system is just the first step in a path towards to the total militarization of space. They say this openly, they say this in Geneva, and they say this in every meeting, that this is really just the first step. And the sensors that we intend to deploy in connection with even the minimalist Clinton/Gore program, the second phase of the space-based interceptors, which are supposed to track midcourse warhead flight, are just an example of where the United States is going. They read what goes on in the military press as well as we do. The Russians also share this concern with the Chinese. Again, as I said, they could probably absorb a deployment of 100-150 interceptors, but the issue for the Russians is: where are you going with the sensors connected with NMD? It sounds like the U.S. wants to wire the universe, and that means the U.S. is laying a base for something much more significant in the future.

China considers the North Korean threat to be a total pretext for the deployment, and make no bones about it. It makes the very interesting point that they are not going to consider U.S. stated intentions regarding North Korea, they intend to look at U.S. capabilities. And that goes back to a fundamental debate about how does one address security, how does one address arms control? Does one deal with intentions or does one deal with capabilities. For years, the United States insisted that it dealt only with capabilities, when talking about strategic forces, now the U.S. is telling the Chinese and the Russians, don't worry about anything, our intentions are totally benign. [Back to top]

Mark Mellman

Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here with such a distinguished group. I'm going to bring the intellectual level of the discussion down about 20 or 30 notches real quickly and focus not on public policy and erudite discussions thereof, but rather, on politics and practical day-to-day politics. Usually somebody like me, a pollster, comes to a press conference to talk about issues that are important, salient, and significant to the public. I find myself in the rather unusual position of being here to talk about an issue, that from a political point of view—not from a substantive point of view—is frankly trivial, insignificant, and inconsequential. And that is an unusual position, but I think it's quite clear from looking at the data that that is the nature of this issue, in the public mind. From an electoral perspective, it is trivial, it is insignificant, and it is inconsequential.

First, it's quite clear that people are just not interested in this debate. In a recent CNN/USA Today poll, 11% of the American public said they were following this debate about national missile defense. In a CBS News poll, only 6% of the American public even said they heard a lot about it, so there are some people that say they've been following the debate but hadn't heard anything yet, but basically very few people are paying any attention to this issue whatsoever. Second, to the extent that we can determine, this national missile defense is an extraordinary low priority for the American public. In a poll we did in the spring, we asked people what the most important issue facing the country was, gave them a list that included maintain a strong national defense, including developing missile defense, and 4% of the American public selected maintaining a strong national defense as the most important problem facing the country, less than 1% said a national missile defense was the most important problem. Indeed, when you look at people's professed priorities, spending for national missile defense is a much lower priority than spending on a host of defense-related programs. So when we asked people, which was more important, spending money on education or spending money on national missile defense, by 77%-14% people said education as more important. We asked about social security and Medicare, by 72%-17% people said pending on social security and Medicare was more important than national missile defense. And with crime, the numbers were 49% in favor of spending more on crime rather than on national missile defense. Indeed, even the much-maligned tax-cuts received more support than spending on national missile defense. Even within the defense area, when you look at training and pay, by 59%-24%, more than two-to-one, people said it's more important to spend money on training and pay than to spending money on national missile defense. By 56%-26% people said it's more important to spend money defending against terrorism than to spend money on national missile defense. No matter how you look at it, no matter how you cut the data, the reality is that NMD is an extraordinarily low priority for the American public, almost every other domestic issue, almost every other defense issue is a higher priory for the American public than is national missile defense.

Finally, it's quite clear that voters are reluctant, not surprisingly, to spend money to deploy a system that doesn't work. Now this ought to cause no surprise to anybody except some of the advocates of national missile defense, who would have you believe that people are anxious to spend money on a system that doesn't work.

We asked a question of the public, again in the spring whether they thought we ought to go ahead and deploy a national missile defense system under current circumstances or there ought to be a required certification that substantial progress had been made toward achieving success with NMD first. By 54%-14% people said let's not deploy, let's require substantial progress before we make any decision. The rest of the folks admitted they had no idea what we were talking about at all. Indeed, two thirds of the American public, without the technical knowledge of Dr. Garwin, came to the same conclusion. Sixty-Eight percent of the American public said that within the next five to ten years, our enemies would be able to develop countermeasures that will render any national missile defense we put together as ineffective and ineffectual. They've seen Mylar balloons at their kid's birthday parties, they may not know how to use them as decoys, but the reality is they come to the same conclusion. And indeed, when people are told if there's doubt about whether such a system would work, by 55%-25% in a recent CNN/USA Today poll, people said, well, let's not build it if it doesn't work. Again, it's hardly surprising in this day and age that people are reluctant to spend money on programs that don't work, that can't be proven to work. The data, I think, is clear and overwhelming.

So, just to reiterate: the reason this issue will not play any significant role in voter's decision-making processes as we enter the fall, is that it is an extraordinarily low priority, it is an issue which people are not paying attention to, and which they are not following, and indeed, it is an issue where they agree with the fundamental premise that money should not be spend, deployment should not be undertaken, until and unless we can be sure the system works. After that, there are other consideration, foreign policy, diplomatic, and arms control considerations, all of which they are willing to entertain, but first and foremost, people are unwilling to deploy a system to expend more money on a system that doesn't work and where scientists doubt that it can be made to work in any reasonable time frame. Thank you.

[Back to top]

Questions and Answers

KEENY: Thank you very much. We're open to questions now. Any aspect of this from the audience?

QUESTION: Quick question on the poll? How many people and when did you do it?

MELLMAN: Although I cited several different polls, in the ones we had done, one of them was done in September 1999 and the other in April 2000. Each of them had, I believe, 1000 samples.

QUESTION: To Mark Mellman. Given your polling results, do you think the Bush campaign and Republican congressional candidates are not going to spend any money on this issue this year?

MELLMAN: I can't predict what they will do, but I can predict what would be wise for them to do and what would be foolish. They may well spend money on this, but it would be foolish for them to do so in the course of this election. We thought last year in this last cycle, we would see ads about national missile defense. It was suggested at one point that they might be run in the California Senate race for example, but none of these ads ever materialized. When campaigns are called upon to make real spending decisions, they are going to focus their message on what voters believe are the most important issues. Not one person in the country, to my knowledge, chose to make missile defense an issue in the campaign. There's no question that I think it would be foolish for them to do so now. That's not to say they won't do so. Part of the reason they might do so is, I think, a fundamental misreading of the poll we made. If you look at the rest of the polling data, where Democrats and republicans are on various issues, the one issue on which Republicans are trusted more than Democrats by significant margins is national defense. So I think part of what's led Republicans, incorrectly, down the path towards this as a potential political issue, is to focus on that one single number, that says they're more trusted on defense than Democrats. Therefore, they have to find a defense issue to ride, and this might be it. But that analysis ignores the fundamental fact that people aren't that interested in national missile defense issues and haven't been for some time, and it's going to be extraordinarily difficult to make them interested. And second, it ignores the other point that I made in terms of the fundamental position of the public on this issue.

QUESTION: Couple questions on the polling. How much of an influence do you think the poll results had on Clinton's decision last week?

MELLMAN: Very little.

QUESTION: He's not paying attention?

MELLMAN: I can't tell you what he's paying attention to, but my sense is his decision, and this is substantiated by the other speakers, his decision was based on the criteria he developed for making this decision, independent from polling.

QUESTION: And could you defend your poll a little bit, on the objectivity of the questions. We often hear about poll results from Frank Gaffney and the questions are so loaded as to elicit the response that his side is looking for. Can you give assurances that your poll…?

MELLMAN: You have my personal assurances. I'd be happy to share with you the questions. In some of the polls I've said, the CBS/New York Times poll, USA Today/Gallup poll, some are our own polling, but any question that provides information is necessarily loaded in some way. A lot of questions I've tried to refer to are questions that don't provide any information, others do, I'd be happy to show you what the arguments are, but I think to the extent that we've provided people with information, we've done so in a way that fairly captures what both sides are saying. The fundamental point here, from a polling perspective is, given how you have a public that knows nothing about this and isn't very concerned-and I think it's very hard to find yourself with anything different than that-if you give them the option of either being protected or unprotected, people are going to choose to be protected. You wonder who the people are that say, I prefer to be not protected-who are they and what's wrong with them. But when you start to suggest that there are arguments on both sides, dealing with technical feasibility, diplomacy up against arguments on the other side in terms of threat and so on, the balance starts to shift, and shift pretty dramatically, but people are largely unaware of the arguments on both sides. Given the choice between being protected and unprotected, they're going to choose to be protected, but they're not willing to spend money on a program that doesn't work or that will heat up the arms race, even though there is, as seen from the other side, a possibility for threats and so on. Part of what your seeing from the other side is a fairly simplistic analysis, not very robust sense of what Republican opinion is, because what's important is the people that care about this issue.

QUESTION: Jack, what's the status of the Russian missile defense? Don't they have a ring around Moscow of some kind?

MENDELSOHN: They have a system that's been deployed since the 1960s of 100 interceptors, which the U.S. does not consider to be any threat to our offensive forces.

QUESTION: Does it work?

MENDELSOHN: We don't know. It has nuclear warheads, so you didn't have to strike directly on the incoming target, so probably if you launched nuclear warheads up above Moscow, you probably would knock down some incoming warheads. But that was never a concern of the United States.

QUESTION: So it's not a violation of the ABM Treaty?

MENDELSOHN: No, you were permitted 200 interceptors, a protocol was added to the treaty in 1974, which cut that back to 100 interceptors, and that's what the Russians have now. It's not a system that I think they can rely on.

QUESTION: Doesn't that give us a right to 100 interceptors?

MENDELSOHN: We have a right to 100 interceptors. We had 100 interceptors operational in, let me guess 1975, but over six months, we figured out it was a waste of money.

QUESTION: But the difference is national or…?

MENDELSOHN: The difference now is that we're asking to, we don't know what we're asking for, the Clinton-Gore program is for 200 interceptors located at least one site that is not permitted under the treaty and it would involve new sets of sensors in locations that are not permitted. Plus, who knows what else we're going to do.

KEENY: Let me add one thing on the history here. The treaty as amended in 1974 allowed you to pick your national capital or a missile field for the one site you wanted to defend. And the U.S., in its infinite wisdom during the Nixon administration, decided to deploy at a missile field and the Russians chose Moscow. At that time, both sides' interceptors were armed with nuclear warheads. But they were also relatively short-range. And the Moscow system only really defends the greater Moscow area, couple-hundred miles at most. Against a very small attack, those nuclear-armed interceptors would in fact, be effective. The problem is that against a massive attack, the use of nuclear warheads jams the system itself, so it would tend to collapse, but against a very small attack, it would be useful. As Jack said, we chose to discontinue deployment at Grand Forks because it just wasn't worth he cost of sustaining it. By the treaty, we could move the site back to Washington, but we can't move it anywhere else, like Alaska, without an amendment to the treaty. Now there's a debate within the community whether the Moscow system is still fully operational, it could be, but it's sort of a relic in some ways, and some judge it as no longer operational, others judge it could be. The thing to understand in all of this is that the ABM treaty allowed a single site for a region, and the treaty in its first article makes it clear that you cannot have a national missile defense of the whole territory of the country.

MENDELSOHN: That's the point the Russians have make in principle, that anything you do to have a national missile defense will be a violation of Article 1. There's one other point about the sensor is that is not just about location but, if we have space-based sensors that can actually track incoming objects, then you are beginning to put ABM battle management capabilities into space and that also is blocked by the ABM treaty. So there are lots of things about the administration program, which are not immediately obvious, that makes them in violation of the treaty.

QUESTION: If we were to have a national missile defense, I don't think a smart enemy would attempt to penetrate it with ICBMs, unless he had a backup play, another option in the event that his attempts were to fail. I think this tells us that backup option could be attacks requiring a lot of theater missile defense; ancillary attacks against important U.S. strategic positions around the world. This presents us with an argument, not for national missile defense, because that may be insufficient, but rather for something we would call global missile defense, where our national missile defense would have to be interlocked with a lot of theater missile defense systems. If we don't do that, having only national missile defense is certainly not going to be enough to protect U.S. targets. Mainly because we are not a homeland body, America is expanded all around the world. So I would like some comments on that. I would also like, if I may, a related comment, where public perceptions are concerned. No American cared about missile defense, and then there was a speech by Ronald Reagan, his famous Star Wars speech, and within a few weeks Congress provided around $25 billion in its first batch of research funds to the DOD. Smart salesmanship could probably do that again, so I'm not sure that this 2% of interest that exists would be overturned almost overnight by a very canny speaker on the TV set.

KEENY: Well, let me start out and then turn it over to the other panelists. The Star Wars speech came as quite a surprise to a lot of people, particularly the technical and scientific communities, who didn't think it made any sense, but it was certainly a new idea. But that was in 1983, and it never went anywhere. Despite the interest in Congress and elsewhere, it didn't really sell itself. It's been a constant puzzlement to some of the extreme hawks in the Republican party, why that notion doesn't catch fire with the American people, and that's why I think these surveys are interesting. The advocates feel, as you suggest, that a national missile defense is something that ought to sell, and it doesn't sell. And for that reason, I don't think you can pump up Star Wars again and try to sell it a second time. As to the theater missile defense idea, this is a policy that's being pursued. The U.S. is developing, with some considerable difficulties, a range of theater missile defenses. Garwin will want to say something about this. If I understand you, you're sort of suggesting a global system made up of a national missile defense plus theater missile defenses to defend everybody else. This is quite an undertaking and I suppose that is one formulation of what our current policy appears to be. Now those who want a limited defense or even a more extensive defense would offer TMD to the rest of the world. I think the next step on that is the one that Bush apparently is toying with, an integrated defense that's capable of defending all of our allies, essentially the globe, as part of the package. And let me tell you, the technology of that is pretty daunting and the cost is incredible. But Dick, how do you deal with this?

GARWIN: I should say I'm in favor of many kinds of defenses, among them theater missile defenses, but those are against high-explosive missiles. If people start using nuclear warheads in theaters, we have a much bigger problem than if they have only high explosives. If your opponent uses only high-explosive missiles you can win an offense-defense battle if you're smarter than the other guy. But incidentally, we should be content with shorter-range systems for defending rather than trying to reach out to cover whole theaters, because that gets to be a national missile defense problem and it's too easily defeated. Local systems do have an appeal, we solve this decoupling problem, and they give something to everybody to join in. The Russians know that, so they have a propaganda campaign, and maybe there's something underlying it, but they haven't been clear yet to explain it, for a global missile control regime of some kind. Which would set rules of the road and might involve some kinds of defenses. Russia has three proposals approaching the table: one for a global missile control regime, one with boost-phase intercept to help the U.S. with its problems that it sees in North Korea, and one for theater missile defense, where Russia would just love to get a contract to help defend Europe from missiles launched from the middle east or north Africa.

As for selling a global system, they've tried. It's not as if it will come out of the blue now, with a catch phrase, but the Reagan speech of March 1983 was not only a surprise to the scientific community, it was astonishing to the Secretary of Defense, to the Secretary of State, and to all but three or four people in the administration. In fact, you can read the Frances Fitzgerald book, but if you don't have time to read the book you can read of review of it, which was in the Los Angeles Times, if you go to my web page.

So I don't think it's going to come out of nowhere and overwhelm people. And this is the wrong place to start. You don't want NMD as the keystone of an expanding system that's built on sand, but on foam. You want to have something that really works against a real threat before you start expanding it to have a bigger, greater capability defense.

KEENY: Mark, do you have something to add on the selling of national missile defense?

MELLMAN: Just really a few words. First of all, when Reagan gave that speech in 1983, he did get initial support, but that support quickly melted away. In fact, it was not too long after that a majority of Americans opposed the Star Wars program, and indeed it became a term of ridicule, very quickly. The reference is now a pejorative, not a positive. Second, in 1983 the fundamental, underlying public opinion was significantly different in the following respects: people were much more concerned about the potential for nuclear war, about the potential of a major conflict between the superpowers, and the whole issue of national defense was higher on people's agenda than it is today. So in 1983, Reagan was essentially saying to the country, there's already prior concern about this threat, so let me give you a definitive solution. When it became apparent there was nothing there, it quickly became an object or ridicule. Today, a President would be saying, let me try to convince you that this problem's actually more important than you think it is, and then let me try to give you a solution that has already been ridiculed.

QUESTION: I'm a reporter from the New China News agency with a question on China. Let me give you a little background to the question. Mr. Mendelsohn, while addressing the recent response to the NMD deployment, talked comparatively little on China's concerns. For Chinese, the United States seems to be preparing a war with China and even the preliminary deployment of 100 interceptors is just enough to cap China's nuclear weapons. In fact, as reported by the AP and Reuters, a congressman has said, in a written report, that the real purpose of NMD is to deal with China. So, in your opinion, what is the real purpose of NMD?

KEENY: I think we could all deal with that, because the point you make about China's concern is completely understandable. Since China does not take North Korea's threat seriously and the location of the proposed U.S. national missile system would appear to be ideally suited to deal with China, China has every reason to raise the question. I know the administration says they are going to work very hard to persuade the Chinese that they have no reason to be concerned, but I think that's a pretty difficult assignment to carry out, unless the administration is prepared to say the system is so ineffective that China doesn't have to worry about it working. But let me ask Dick for his response.

GARWIN: The proposed NMD has various purposes according to the people that are supporting it. Those whom work on it like the challenge, they have a job to do, that's their purpose. Many supporters of the NMD support it, in my opinion, just because it will work in principle against the Chinese strategic force. North Korea, in the fable of the three bears, is too little—the baby bear—too easy. Russia is the papa bear—too hard. But the middle bear—momma bear—China, is just the right size. In fact, Jim Woolsey, a fellow member of the Rumsfeld Commission and former Director of the CIA, when he testified in February of this year before the Senate Foreign Relations committee, was asked by Senator Biden, if the proposed system worked perfectly against the states of concern but had no effectiveness against China or Russia, would he support it? And Mr. Woolsey said no, because his interest is having something that would work, obviously not against Russia, but against China. From the point of view of China, that's the downside. The upside is that China could easily deal with the system with penetration aids at some expense. But the Chinese government is probably no more sensible than the American government; the Chinese military would come in and say, besides the countermeasures, we have to build a lot more strategic weapons. And it would probably be hard for the Chinese government to resist.

KEENY: There's no question that the statements, by people like Jim Woolsey and Sen. Kyl (R-AZ) in supporting their interests in a national missile defense, are extremely controversial and extremely confrontational with China, Russia, and other countries. This is part of the problem that President Clinton had to balance in coming to a decision whether or not to move forward with deployment. Going forward would certainly be interpreted by China, Russia, and lots of other countries as having these other hidden objectives. But I can assure you that no one at this table takes any responsibility for the statements of Woolsey or Kyl.

QUESTION: Mr. Mendelsohn made the point that Chinese system seems to be threatened by a TMD system as well, and TMD has a lot more political support than NMD. Doesn't that suggest that China will probably decide to increase their nuclear arsenal anyway?

GARWIN: Two problems with that. China is very upset about the prospect of TMD of Taiwan. And this is a political problem; I don't know if the United States will help Taiwan with a theater missile defense, we do not believe that China should be encouraged to throw missiles at Taiwan. Taiwan does not have nuclear weapons, so it's not destabilizing to have a defense. China has some hundreds of nuclear weapon, but only about 20 of them are on long-range ballistic missiles capable of striking the U.S. The fall 1999 National Intelligence Estimate, in its unclassified version, says China is in the process of deploying mobile missiles, which are not subject to preemptive attack and destruction before launch. That has been the problem with the Chinese missiles; yet, China doesn't appear to worry about it. If a war started, those missiles would be destroyed before they could be used. So one doesn't need a national missile defense to counter the existing Chinese force. The mobile missiles that would face a national missile defense, should we deploy it, would have to be deployed with penetration aids. No, China does not have a need to develop more than perhaps an additional 20 mobile missiles, in the absence of a national missile defense. And if they have appropriate countermeasures, they could stick with that as well. But they may decide for their own domestic political purposes because of the political strength of the military—which is not very great—that they should build more missiles, which of course would cut into their other military capabilities, in a fixed budget.

KEENY: Any other questions? I think then we can adjourn our meeting and stay within the club rules that we would be thrown out at 11:00 if we were not finished. Thank you all very much for coming.

The Domestic and International Impact of Clinton's NMD Decision

Subject Resources:

Russian Ratification of START II and Its Implications for Arms Control



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An Arms Control Association Press Conference

Monday, April 17, 2000

The Carnegic Endowment for International Peace

The Russian State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, approved START II on Friday, April 14. Signed in January 1993 by Presidents Bush and Yeltsin, START II would reduce U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals to a level of 3,000 to 3,500 deployed strategic nuclear warheads, which is roughly half that allowed under START I and 25 percent of levels deployed during the Cold War. Russian ratification of START II will permit initiation of formal negotiations on START III, which would establish ceilings of 2,000 to 2,500 deployed strategic nuclear warheads or possibly lower.

The panel will address the significance of START II and START III, the relationship between Russian START II ratification and U.S. efforts to amend the ABM Treaty, and the status of legislative barriers in the United States to bringing START II into force.

The Panelists:

(Click on the underlined names of the participants to jump directly to their portions of the transcript in the May 2000 issue of Arms Control Today.)

  • Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr., President and Executive Director of the Arms Control Association; former Deputy Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.
  • Ambassador Thomas Graham, Jr., President of the Lawyers Alliance for World Security; former Special Representative of the President for Arms Control, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament from 1994-1997, and former Acting Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.
  • Jack Mendelsohn, Vice President and Executive Director of the Lawyers Alliance for World Security; former member of the U.S. delegations to the SALT II and START I negotiations.
  • Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers.
  • Questions and Answers

ACA Press Conference

Country Resources:

NMD and Prospects for Arms Control



Annual ACA Membership Meeting and Luncheon

Friday, March 31, 2000

Washington, DC

The Arms Control Association's annual membership meeting and luncheon was held Friday, March 31, 2000 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at two locations on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC. The luncheon was at Hart Senate Office Building, Room 902 and the preceding panel discussion was held at Russell Senate Office Building, Room 236.

National Missile Defense and Prospects for Arms Control

The Panelists:

(Click on the underlined names of the participants to jump directly to their portions of the transcript in the April 2000 issue of Arms Control Today.)

  • Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr., President and Executive Director of the Arms Control Association; former Deputy Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
  • Steve Fetter, Associate Professor, School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland, College Park
  • Joseph Cirincione, Director, Non-Proliferation Project, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Jack Mendelsohn, Vice President and Executive Director, Lawyers Alliance for World Security
  • Questions and Answers

The Luncheon Address by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI)

Senator Levin is the ranking minority member on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Jump to the transcript of Senator Levin's address and a brief question and answer period. (From the April 2000 issue of Arms Control Today.)











ACA Annual Membership Meeting

Subject Resources:

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT): A Damage Assessment of Senate Action



An Arms Control Association Press Breakfast

Thursday, October 14, 1999

The Brookings Institution

The Arms Control Association assembled this panel to assess the domestic and international security implications of U.S. Senate action on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Topics addressed included the impact on the international nuclear non-proliferation regime, prospects for further progress in arms control and the credibility of U.S. leadership in fighting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The final, edited version of the panel discussion appears in the September/October 1999 issue of Arms Control Today.

The Panelists:

(Click on the underlined names of the participants to jump directly to their portions of the transcript in the September/October 1999 issue of Arms Control Today.)
Please note that this is a rush transcript. An edited version will be posted as soon as available.

  • Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr., President and Executive Director of the Arms Control Association; former Deputy Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
  • Ambassador Thomas Graham, Jr., President of the Lawyers Alliance for World Security; former Special Representative of the President for Arms Control, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament from 1994-1997 and leader of U.S. efforts to indefinitely extend the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
  • John Steinbruner, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution; Professor of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, as of November 1, 1999
  • John Isaacs, President and Executive Director of the Council for a Livable World
  • Questions and Answers

The presentations were followed by a brief period of questions and answers which is included at the end of the transcript.

Background Material:

See the CTBT Debate briefing for background material and analysis.

ACA Press Conference

Arms Control in 1999


Annual Arms Control Association
Membership Meeting and Luncheon

Friday March 26, 1999

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

The Arms Control Association's annual membership meeting and luncheon was held Friday, March 26, 1999 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC. The day included a panel discussion on arms control issues in 1999 (panelists listed below) and an address by John D. Holum, acting under secretary of state for arms control and international security affairs. Below are links to rush transcripts of the proceedings. Final, edited versions of both the panel discussion and the lunch address appear in the March 1999 issue of Arms Control Today.

The Panelists:

(Click on the underlined names of the participants to jump directly to their portions of the transcript in the March 1999 issue of Arms Control Today.)

  • Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr., President and Executive Director of the Arms Control Association
  • John Rhinelander, former legal advisor to the U.S. SALT I delegation that negotiated the ABM Treaty
  • Matthew Bunn, Assistant Director of the Science, Technology and Public Policy Program, Harvard University
  • David Albright, Director of the Institute for Science and International Security
  • Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers
The presentations were followed by a brief period of questions and answers which is included at the end of the transcript.


The Luncheon Address by John D. Holum:

John D. Holum served as Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) from 1993 until it's integration into State Department on April 1, 1999. In December of 1997 he simultaneously took on the role of Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, the position he currently holds. As director of ACDA, Holum served as the principal adviser to the Presient and the Secretary of State on the full range of arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament matters.

Previously, Mr. Holum served on the policy planning staff in the State Department from 1979 to 1981, working on arms control and legal issues. From 1965 to 1979, he was a member of Senator George McGovern's staff, serving as legislative director and managing the Senator's work on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Jump to the transcript of Holum's presentation and question and answer period. (From the March 1999 issue of Arms Control Today.)

ACA Annual Membership Meeting

Country Resources:

National Missile Defense, The ABM Treaty and the Future of Start II



The Brookings Institution

Wednesday, January 27, 1999


The Panelists:

(Click on the photos of the participants to jump directly to his or her portion of the transcript published in the November/December 1998 issue of Arms Control Today.)

Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr., President and Executive Director of the Arms Control Association; former Deputy Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.

John Pike, Director of the Space Policy Project at the Federation of American Scientists. Author of over 200 studies and articles on space and national security, and co-author of The Impact of U.S. and Soviet Ballistic Missile Defense Programs on the ABM Treaty.

John Rhinelander, Senior Counsel at the law firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge; former legal adviser to the U.S. SALT I delegation that negotiated the ABM Treaty.

Susan Eisenhower, Chairman of the Center for Political and Strategic Studies and President of the Eisenhower Group, Inc. She has written and spoken extensively on U.S.-Russian relations. Q&A The presentations were followed by a question and answer period, click to procede directly to that portion of the transcript.


From the invitation:

The panel will address Secretary Cohen's recent announcement on the U.S. national missile defense program and its implications for the ABM Treaty, Russian ratification of START II and further progress in reducing strategic nuclear arms. These issues were central to Secretary Albright's meetings in Moscow this week.

[Jump to the Transcript]


Press Conference Briefing Materials:

ACA Press Conference

Country Resources:

Arms Control and the Helsinki Summit: Issues and Obstacles in the Second Clinton Term

In conjunction with its March 26 annual luncheon, the Arms Control Association (ACA) held a panel discussion on the arms control issues facing President Bill Clinton following the outcome of the Helsinki summit, including NATO expansion, future strategic arms reductions and prospects for Senate approval of pending arms treaties. Panelists 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; and
John Steinbruner, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The following is an edited version of the panel's remarks.

Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.: Today, I am going to forgo the practice of the last several years of giving a review and grading the accomplishments of the Clinton administration during the last year, and confine myself to the comment that they have successfully graduated in the arms control area, but without great honors. They now are in the graduate program that will define for history what the accomplishments of the Clinton administration will be.

There are three major tests that the administration is going to face in the immediate future, and the outcome of these will clearly define what to expect over the next four years. One was the Helsinki summit, which we can now begin to assess. The second will be the ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention [CWC]. And the third is the Duma's action on START II ratification. These events can indicate a very successful four years or, at the other extreme, they could suggest there will be little progress during this period.

In these three tests, President Clinton shares with President Yeltsin a particular handicap: they both suffer from a situation where there is almost a disconnect between the executive and legislative branches. In the area of security and arms control and foreign policy, I think the problem is probably more serious than we have seen, certainly in recent times.

Prior to the summit, there was general concern that the proposed expansion of NATO would prevent a successful summit and prevent agreement on any measures leading to the ratification of START II. As you know, the Duma has held up START II ratification for a number of reasons, but basically the Russians felt that START II was an inequitable agreement that would force them into a major, expensive buildup that they could not afford. There were also serious concerns in the Duma about U.S. intentions in the area of ballistic missile defenses, which would affect their willingness to enter into substantial reductions. Certainly, the initial outcome of the Helsinki summit was, in view of the low expectations, very favorable. But there are some very serious questions that remain, and it's not even clear in some instances what was and wasn't agreed to at the summit.

With regard to NATO expansion, it was formally stated that the two sides disagreed on the desirability and acceptability of expansion. Yeltsin, however, either through wisdom or weakness, accepted that he, in any case, could not stop the expansion process. He sought to get some amelioration for the problems that it would cause in Russian eyes. I think he got something, but less than the Duma and Russians would have expected. He did not get a formal charter between Russia and NATO outlining the limits of expansion and Russian rights, but rather a commitment to a document that was intended to minimize the potential consequences of disagreement. This document would seek, to some extent, to compensate Russian concerns. However, it was specifically indicated that it would not be a formal treaty but rather a heads of government document constituting a political commitment. This document does not exist, and it may not be that easy to formalize it between Russia and NATO. The Duma will be very disappointed in this outcome with regard to NATO expansion.

Much will be said about the pros and cons of NATO expansion, but I believe that the biggest danger involved, certainly from the perspective of arms control, is that it places Yeltsin in a very difficult political position. Not just Yeltsin, but all of those around him who are prepared and clearly desire to make progress in arms control and reduce the military burden on Russia's economy. It creates a situation where the nationalists and the former communists can attack both the outcome of the summit and Yeltsin himself.

At the summit, the presidents agreed on a framework for START III, and it was agreed that this would be negotiated after START II entered into force. A number of us have pressed for this type of solution&emdash;to have a pre agreement on a framework that would answer some, if not all, of the Duma's understandable concerns about the treaty. The agreement went further than I expected. In addition to calling for a limit of 2,000 to 2,500 deployed strategic nuclear warheads by the end of 2007, it also calls for a variety of undefined measures to improve the transparency of the actual stockpiles of nuclear weapons, and of ways to assure that there will be elimination of the nuclear weapons themselves. Whether this will be just the beginning of a process or actually a solution of this very complex problem is not clear.

The good news is that these are necessary and very important measures for creating the circumstances where deep reductions&emdash;beyond the level of 2,000 to 2,500&emdash;are credible and can be carried out. The fact that these measures are now formally recognized is a major accomplishment. The potential bad news, however, is that it's going to be a long negotiation to encompass these measures as other than simply wished for first steps. This could defer completion of START III for a number of years.

Recognizing this, the presidents agreed on a specific proposal to immediately address the Duma's concerns, namely, a protocol to START II which would stretch out the elimination period called for under the treaty from the beginning of 2003 to the end of 2007&emdash;a deferral of five years. This deferral will be alleviated to some extent by the requirement that by the end of 2003, the systems covered by START II will have to have the warheads "deactivated," meaning, I assume, removed from the delivery systems. However, from the perspective of the Duma, this gives Russia the right to maintain the key weapons to have been eliminated under START II for an additional five years, in particular the 150 SS 18s which were the principal muscle in the Russian strategic forces. This protocol will, as I understand it, be included in the Duma's ratification process of START II and will then be submitted to the U.S. Senate as an amendment to the treaty.

Another joint statement addressed the long standing issue on the demarcation between theater missile defense [TMD] systems and national missile defenses. The document is somewhat ambiguous, but the U.S. interpretation, which was stated in a press conference on Monday [March 24] by Bob Bell, is rather clear cut and relaxes, significantly, the constraints on theater missile defenses. According to Bell, theater missile defenses&emdash;with the exception of space based interceptors, which are explicitly prohibited by the ABM Treaty&emdash;will have no constraints on them except that they cannot be tested against targets traveling at more than 5 kilometers per second, which is equivalent to a ballistic missile with a range of 3,500 kilometers.

This statement is a major step back from the position the Russians have held for a long time, and it's certainly not a step forward from the point of view of the integrity of the ABM Treaty. It's true that it calls for consultations between the sides and transparency in whatever they are doing, but neither side can veto the outcome. It's essentially self policing within these very limited constraints as to what will actually be done. It is not clear to me, at this point, how this will favorably influence the Duma's concern about the possibly open ended nature of the U.S. interest in upgrading and extending missile defenses into an area that clearly encroaches on the prohibition against national missile defense systems.

This presumably would be more acceptable to the Senate's interest in having minimum constraints on theater missile defense programs. But, for openers, it doesn't seem to have accomplished that purpose. Newt Gingrich came forward with an extremely strong statement denouncing this agreement in purple prose. Whether this will be the standard for the Republican leadership remains to be seen. What he was objecting to were any constraints at all on theater missile defenses; that is, presumably the constraints on space based interceptors.

The Chemical Weapons Convention [CWC] will certainly be a second test of the administration. It is very important for this treaty to be ratified before the convention enters into force on April 29. Clinton and Yeltsin agreed to push for ratification&emdash;Yeltsin having submitted the convention to the Duma just prior to the summit.

As you all know, Senator [Jesse] Helms [R NC] and a small group of Republican senators have strongly opposed this bipartisan treaty, which was negotiated and signed under the Bush administration. Their approach initially was to design conditions on the resolution of advice and consent, which would prohibit the United State from submitting its instruments of ratification unless impossible conditions were met. In recent weeks, Helms has extended his attack to call for actual amendments to the treaty arguing this should be no problem, despite the fact that the convention has been signed by some 160 countries and ratified by 70 of them.

I would have said a day or two ago that the prospects for ratification by the April 29 deadline were less than 50 percent. The administration is making a very strong push, unlike its rather casual approach in 1996, and there are several high level negotiations going on, specifically between [Samuel] Berger and the principal conservative Republican senators, another one between Senator [Joseph] Biden [D DE] and Helms, and finally the efforts of Secretary of State [Madeliene] Albright to negotiate directly with Helms. Secretary Albright seems to have had a very successful exchange with Helms, who now says he thinks that he will hold hearings after the current recess and implied that the treaty will be brought to the Senate floor. On the basis of this, I would say today that the prospects are reasonably good that there will be some sort of solution to the CWC ratification problem, because once the treaty reaches the Senate floor it will probably be approved.

The thing we don't know is what this resolution of advice and consent may contain. Aside from the "killer" conditions that will have to be eliminated, some of the other reservations that are being discussed have far reaching implications that are very negative to arms control.

In addition, it's not clear what unrelated concessions Senator Helms may have obtained. He has called for the abolition of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency [ACDA] as a precondition to the CWC. He seemed very pleased with himself in the photographs of his meeting yesterday with Secretary Albright. I would suggest that term insurance rates on ACDA have probably gone up very sharply, and I don't know how many other institutions and activities may be in danger.

If the CWC fails to win Senate approval or it's kicked down the road a long way, it will certainly have a very serious, negative impact on the prospects for early Senate action on a number of even more important treaties, in particular the Comprehensive Test Ban [CTB] Treaty, signed last September, which is waiting in the wings for U.S. ratification.

Returning to the Duma, on the schedule that is implied in the Helsinki agreements, it will have to act in the not too distant future on START II; but it's hard to identify any time that is particularly auspicious for such action by the Duma. We have made a positive outcome significantly less likely by our espousal of NATO expansion. Certainly the question of how NATO expansion is going to relate, even hypothetically, to the Baltics, to Romania, to Ukraine, is going to be a very critical issue to the Duma in its action on the ratification of START II. It seems unlikely that there are any actions that could be taken at this late date that would defuse this problem from the perspective of Russian politicians. But I would hope that careful consideration is given to providing Russia significant additional assurances as to NATO intentions.

In conclusion, I believe that we have to be pleased with the Helsinki summit. It avoided an immediate impasse over NATO expansion, which would have closed off progress for years in the Clinton administration. I think we have Yeltsin to thank; whether as a reflection of his wisdom or weakness, Yeltsin was prepared to avoid a confrontation on this issue. However, I would emphasize that it's too early to tell whether Helsinki set the stage for major progress and further reductions, or simply for bitter domestic disputes both in Russia and the United States between the executive and legislative branches over next steps in arms control. If U.S. diplomacy for the next several years focuses on trying to force the NATO expansion issue against second thoughts in NATO and the United States and increasing Russian opposition, Helsinki will indeed have been a Pyrrhic victory.

Jack Mendelsohn: I'm going to try to deconstruct the summit from an arms control point of view. I submit that the purpose of this summit was to get START II ratified. Clearly, we did not change Moscow's mind on NATO expansion. And clearly, we did not resolve the ABM TMD issues. So, I think the proof of the pudding in the summit will be whether or not we get a START II ratification in the immediate future¾by Madrid or by the end of the year.

On NATO, it's quite clear what Yeltsin decided to do was to take the consolation prize and bring it back and see if it could be sold back in Moscow. Remember, there were three big issues holding up START II ratification. One of them was the emotional response to NATO expansion that's taking place in Moscow and the linkage placed on it by certain members of the Duma&emdash;if NATO expands, then we should not ratify START II. The second was problems inherent to START II; concerns that the Russians had about certain aspects of the treaty. And the third problem was getting a handle on U.S. high velocity TMD systems. Those were the three sets of problems that the summit tried to address.

The first one was a consolation prize&emdash;the charter. Whether Yeltsin can sell this as acceptable to delink NATO expansion from ratification remains to be seen. He did make an effort to point out how important it was that 16 nations would be signing it at the highest level and that this would be a binding document. And actually on some nations in Europe, it's likely to be a binding document. The distinction between politically binding and legally binding in some countries doesn't exist.

But, on the other hand, he misunderstood it. He made an explicit statement that in the charter there would be a commitment not to use Warsaw Pact infrastructure. Later, the U.S. briefers took great pains to disabuse their audience of that statement. So, it's not sure that Yeltsin actually even knows what's going to be in the charter or that it will be, again coming back to the original point, sellable in Moscow.

On START II, we did rather well on trying to deal with the inherent problems. We agreed to lower levels; 2,000 2,500, which you may remember was the original Russian position. But since they're now coincident in time, it's the START II START III levels. There isn't going to be a 3,500 level for any practical purposes, although, at some point they will get to 3,500 on the way to 2,500.

And secondly, we agreed to stretch out the time line to the end of 2007. That's also an original position. When was the treaty signed? In January of 1993. How long was it supposed to run? January of 2003. So basically, what we did is shift the 10 years to begin at the current date. It's understandable, and I think that will be a simple argument to make, when we go in front of the Senate and say: "Look, this was done in 1993. It isn't going to come into force until 1997, and it had a fixed date at the end." Clearly, it makes sense to move that fixed date.

The bottom line on the time extension is that we will deactivate to 3,500 by December 31, 2003. And we will eliminate&emdash;to 2,500&emdash;by December 31, 2007. Now, when the Russians ratify START II, they will ratify&emdash;at least as the current planning goes&emdash;an amendment or a protocol at the same time, saying, the treaty text notwithstanding, the implementation date is extended to 2007. That document, the extension document, comes back to the U.S. Senate for approval because the term of the original treaty will have been changed.

Now, I would submit that the most important thing in the summit was the time extension, not only because it relieves the mechanical financial problems related to START II, but because it gives Russia political breathing room, as well. It gives them time&emdash;and this is the argument that Yeltsin will make in front of the Duma&emdash;to evaluate the true impact of NATO expansion and the TMD programs on their own security interests.

I can't over stress this: What we have basically done is push the problems down the road in order to get START II up and running. And the Russian argument will have to be: We can do this because we've got more time.

One of the arguments that appeared constantly in the Russian debate was this double whammy scenario: "If we eliminate all of our weapons, including our SS 18s, in the year 2003&emdash;according to the original START scenario&emdash;in 2004 the U.S. begins deploying TMD. And in 2004, also, five years after the first tranche comes into NATO, the Baltics are invited to join." And that's the political breathing space, if you will, that we have given the Russians by the extension.

There will also be an effort in START III to deal with stockpiles and warhead destruction and special nuclear materials. Measures relating to the transparency of inventories, which we've been talking about with not much success in the past, are on the agenda for START III. Destruction of strategic nuclear warheads is on the agenda, as well. That's likely, again, like the transparency of inventories, to be a very, very difficult and perhaps prolonged negotiation. And one hopes that, although it's mentioned as part of START III, that if it becomes too difficult to deal with expeditiously that it could be separated from the simpler issue of START III lower levels.

Now, there's also an agreement to talk about technical and organizational measures to promote the irreversibility of deep reductions. That has to do with the Russian concern, and our concern as well, that there could be a rapid reconstitution capability. In other words, there will be a lot of empty spaces on missiles as a result of downloading under START II and START III. The Russians have said they are quite concerned that we could easily reconstitute our forces. They would like to talk about ways to make this reconstitution more difficult.

I did a piece on START II in Arms Control Today a couple of months ago that talked about some ideas of getting rid of empty spaces on missiles to deal with this reconstitution problem. Another reconstitution issue that the Russians have been concerned about is the ease with which heavy bombers can be reoriented, or oriented, if you will, from strategic missions or conventional missions, and then from conventional back to strategic, because there's no obligation in START II to remove the nuclear launch capability wiring and systems from these reoriented bombers. These are the kinds of technical measures that they probably have in mind.

One other issue for START III is making the treaties unlimited in duration. As you know, they last 15 years and may be renewed for five year periods. The first START agreement is a five party agreement, and the second and third agreement are two party agreements, so there will have to be some kind of mixing and matching to get all of this together so START I, II and III run indefinitely.

In separable negotiations, the sides have also agreed to deal with sea launched cruise missiles [SLCMs] and tactical nuclear systems in general. Under START I, we have a politically binding agreement to limit the number of nuclear SLCMs, which have actually been taken out of the force but are not banned by START I. That's a Russian concern. On tactical nuclear systems, it's a U.S. concern that we don't have a good feel for how well the unilateral commitments in 1991 to withdraw tactical nuclear weapons from the force have been implemented and carried out.

Both sides are arguing, "Look, as we go down to lower levels of deployed systems, the non deployed and non covered systems gain in significance, and we've got to begin to take a look at the hedge, the stockpile, the tactical nukes, the nuclear SLCMs, which are not explicitly dealt with in the reduction of deployed systems." In other words, the value of these stockpiles, of non deployed systems and tactical weapons, is greater as deployed levels reduce.

Let me talk a little bit about what happened on ABM and TMD. That's the third issue. Remember, we're trying to give Yeltsin a package that he can take back to the Duma and say, "Okay, we've had three problems that have impeded your action on the treaty. Here's the solutions I can present you." Will this package be adequate to convince the Duma to move on START II? We don't know the answer.

What did we get on ABM and TMD? Well, the Russians have for some time maintained that they needed to see the color of our money on high velocity TMD systems. What is it exactly we were prepared to do? And in effect, what we said we were prepared to do was very little, and we pushed this issue down the road as well.

The Russians wanted explicit constraints on testing programs for TMD, and they wanted explicit limits, geographic and numerical, on deployments. And they also were not prepared to give an "okay" to deployments. They got none of this in the package.

Basically, what they got was a very simple second phase agreement, which allows everything, and will be, I think, if there's not more to follow, destructive of the ABM strategic force reduction relationship that we have enjoyed in the past. They agreed that the targets will have restrictions on their range and speed. They agreed to a detailed information exchange on plans and programs for TMD.

And thirdly, they got a commitment not to do something we weren't going to do anyhow, which is not deploy space based kill vehicles. I said this carefully&emdash;"kill vehicles." There isn't a limit on other space based elements. So, that's the second phase agreement that the Russians can look forward to.

Will this be useful or not, or adequate or not for ratification? We don't know. They also got a series of "no plans" statements, which deal partly with the specific limits that they were trying to negotiate. They've got: "We have no plans to test high velocity TMD before the middle of 1999." So, we've got a couple of years there before these are actually going to come on board. They got: "We have no plans for land or sea or air based TMD with interceptor velocities above 5.5. And we have no plans for sea based TMD with velocities above 4.5. We have no plans to test against MIRVs and no plans to test against strategic re entry vehicles."

So that's the ABM part of the package that Yeltsin's going to bring back. He got a package of "no plans" statements. And he got a commitment to continue discussions on high velocity TMD. We agreed that any questions or concerns either side may have regarding TMD activities, including matters related to the agreement to be completed on the high velocity systems, can be discussed with a view to precluding violation or circumvention of the ABM Treaty.

The fourth part of the package that may be useful to the Russians is a recommitment by both sides to preserve the ABM Treaty, to prevent circumvention and to enhance its viability. And there's also a commitment that the scale of deployment of TMD, in number and scope&emdash;which, remember, the Russians were trying to get explicit limits on&emdash;will be consistent with programs confronting that side.

In sum, the best the Russians got were a series of challenge points, in addition to the very, very bare bones second phase agreement. Will that be a convincing package for the Duma that they can control TMD? I think that Yeltsin will have to argue, as he will on NATO expansion, that as a result of the extension of the reductions of strategic forces under START II, Russia retains its leverage on TMD. Now, you may not find that a convincing argument, and it may not be one, but that's going to have to be the basic argument that he's going to make. Rather than having eliminated all of its strategic forces by 2003, as I have said earlier, and then at 2004 having to face the TMD deployments, they got a discussion forum, they got challenge points and they retained leverage. It's not bad leverage, because the reduction process will be ongoing and that strengthens the Russian hand there. But clearly the Russian hand is weakened at the table. They've agreed to a phase two agreement which has absolutely no explicit constraints on high velocity TMD systems.

John Rhinelander: By my count, there may be as many as eight to 10 treaties during Clinton's second term, and I am going to focus on five of them. I would say it's uncertain at best what, if anything, is going to get through; the one exception being the Chemical Weapons Convention.

I would like to offer three general observations on the U.S. treaty process. First, it's very, very difficult. It takes two thirds of the Senate to approve a treaty, and that is not easy, under even the best of circumstances, when you're dealing with a controversial subject. Second, when you're dealing in a partisan setting where the Senate and the White House are controlled by different parties, the process is not impossible, but almost impossible. The third point, which is my rule, came to me during the Carter administration when the Republicans were controlling the Senate and Howard Baker was their majority leader; it's simply that you could only get one controversial treaty through the Senate every two years, at most. In the Carter years, it was a choice between the Panama Canal and SALT II treaties. The choice was the Panama treaty, which was important to get through. Baker led the charge against SALT II, which is not what he would have done in other circumstances.

Then we get to the Russian side, which, of course, is new. In the old days, we had a rubber stamp process and it was relatively easy. Now, I would say the Duma is probably corrupt, it's incompetent and it's dominated by communists and nationalists, which isn't a good combination.

The first treaty of importance is the Chemical Weapons Convention. It will enter into force on April 29 because more than the minimum number of 65 states have already ratified it. It's not a question of whether the CWC enters into force; it's a question of whether the U.S. will be an original party when it does. I believe that if the Senate votes before then, the treaty will get the necessary votes and it will get them by a very large margin. If the vote is not held before April 29, I don't think you will get a positive vote. So, I think the deadline is going to force a positive vote.

If the Senate does vote positively, then, of course, the debate swings over to the Duma. At one point, people were saying that the Duma would have an easier time with the CWC than it would with START II. I don't know whether that's still the case. Yeltsin has now sent the CWC before the Duma.

My own sense is the Senate will give its advice and consent. I have felt this for a number of weeks, and I think that's about as clear as you can have in this uncertain town. There will be something like 21 understandings with the resolution of ratification, but these will not be reservations. The CWC prohibits reservations, which are conditions changing the treaty and which have to go to other parties. The 21 conditions will include things such as the legal right or the legal obligation on the part of the president to respond with the full panoply of our arsenal if chemical weapons are ever used against us. I haven't seen this condition in writing yet, but I don't believe that it can possibly be legally binding on a future president. It's good rhetoric domestically, but it's bad rhetoric internationally.

Second, as you know, the Senate has given its advice and consent to START II and we're waiting for the Duma to act. My personal assumption is if the Duma vote is going to be favorable, it's going to have to occur before the NATO summit in July. If there is no vote before then, it's going to get so complicated with the negotiations on the new entries to NATO that you won't get a vote.

There are four negatives as to why this Duma vote won't happen. First, Yeltsin's health, both physical and political, has to be the biggest uncertainty of all. Yeltsin has never pushed START II. He announced he was going to support it, but I'm not sure that he is physically up to it. Even if he were, I'm not sure he would have the stamina or the money to get it through. It's going to be one very expensive proposition to get START II through the Duma. Second, the major focus in Moscow, from what I understand, is the budget. Domestic issues, such as unpaid salaries and unpaid taxes, are swirling around in Moscow. Third, I think personally the ABM Treaty amendments agreed to at Helsinki regarding TMD systems will probably be viewed in Moscow by those who care about it as a negative. But all of those factors are swamped by the fourth one, which is NATO enlargement. There isn't a single member of the Duma who approves of it, and I think that could well still be the killer of START II.

At the same time, there are two positive factors in the START II debate. The first is the START III framework agreement that reduces the number of warheads; the second is the five year extension to the elimination period under the treaty. If the Duma goes forward and does it right by my way of thinking, they would not make the five year extension part and parcel of the original approval of START II. They would take note of it, but they wouldn't make it a condition. This way, they would approve the treaty and it wouldn't have to come back to the Senate, and START II then enters into force.

I think a conservative lawyer would tell them that the better way for the Duma to protect its own interests is to make this a condition to START II ratification. It would be an amendment, which would change the terms of the treaty and require that the treaty come back to the Senate for its advice and consent. In our diplomatic history, we have one example where this happened, I think it was between the U.S. and Turkey, three times. The ball bounced back and forth and each time the parties changed it. In the end, it never got through.

I don't think we're going to get there because I don't think the Duma is going to approve START II in the first place. That's my own judgment. If I'm right, it will have important consequences politically between the U.S. and Russia because this is what Helsinki was about. If it wasn't enough, I think it can lead to a deterioration in relations. Programs like Nunn Lugar are going to be in further trouble on the Hill.

The third treaty that would go to the Senate would be the two TMD amendments to the ABM Treaty dealing with lower velocity and higher velocity systems. There is also a third amendment, which adds new parties&emdash;Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan&emdash;to the ABM Treaty. It is my opinion that adding successor states of the former Soviet Union to the ABM Treaty should not be viewed as an amendment which would require advice and consent of the Senate. Unfortunately, those who are in power in the Senate see otherwise, and they're looking for all kinds of ways to make mischief.

Clinton is going to run into trouble with the Republicans on two fronts. First, some Republicans say there are no limits on TMD systems, so what you have here are basically limits that didn't exist before. Those who say this, including the Wall Street Journal editorial page, are absolutely dead wrong. Treaty Article VI was explicitly put in there by the U.S. because of our concern over Soviet surface to air missile [SAM] systems. Second, a lot of the Republicans just don't want the ABM Treaty; they don't want anything done to give a positive spin to the treaty, so anytime it's mentioned they will vote against it.

I would congratulate the administration, and Bob Bell in particular. Bob has stressed time and time again that we need these amendments for the U.S. legally to go forward with the testing, and ultimately the deployment, of most of these TMD systems. That is correct. But I predict that there is not a chance in hell that the Senate is going to give its advice and consent to these amendments. If I'm correct in this, then the question is: What happens when we begin to test and deploy, and we haven't approved the changes which would make it legal? I don't know what the time period for that is; it partly depends on the funding from Congress. To me, the good news is that because of the cost limitations, budget problems and the continuing failure of key tests, the limits on TMD systems are going to be generated back in the U.S. The funds for taking six programs forward won't be there. These are going to be the real tests, perhaps more so than the new, elastic ABM Treaty agreed upon in Moscow.

The fourth treaty I want to mention is the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the CTBT, which was signed in September 1996. It needs 44 ratifications, including India, which has announced it will not ratify it. It also needs the U.S. I think it is clear that the Senate will not give its advice and consent. Look at the troubles we're having with the CWC, which was first proposed in the Reagan administration and completed under the Bush administration, where more than half of all the Bush people, including former Secretary of State James Baker, had been strong supporters of it. You don't have that situation with the CTBT, which both administrations were adamantly against. So, I don't think there's any chance of getting the CTBT through a Republican controlled Senate.

Now, that's the bad news. The good news is there is a way to get 90 or 95 percent of it and the president could do it alone. The president could state that the substantive provisions of the treaty not to test further are now legally binding on all those who signed it, as long as the treaty is pending for ratification or has been approved and it has not yet gone into effect. That is a legally compelling case and a way which would avoid the non action by the Senate. ACDA agrees with this position. John Holum, the director of ACDA, made a speech about that last September. But the administration has not yet made a decision on that because there is opposition elsewhere in the administration.

The fifth treaty I would mention involves NATO enlargement. If you talk to people in the administration, expansion is a done deal and it's going to go sailing through the Senate. I think that is wrong. The United States and the other members of NATO will be negotiating between July and December the protocols and agreements with the new members. This will turn 1998 into the year of ratification. The fact that [Senate Majority Leader] Trent Lott [R MS] has now come out publicly in favor of expansion clearly improves the chances for Senate action. But my own sense is that it's still very uncertain whether the Senate will give its advice and consent when it comes to that point in time.

There are at least four factors to consider. The first, of course, will be the cost. Cost figures are all over the lot. The administration is trying to low ball it, saying the new entries and the European allies will pick up much of the cost. I think that won't prove to be the case. Secondly, most members of the Senate don't have a clue as to what the NATO treaty is really about. They wouldn't know what Article V states if they had to answer a multiple choice question. When they understand what is there, I think it will raise some concerns. I can see opposition coming from both the left and the right, particularly if everything is not peaceful in Europe. If we have our forces out of Bosnia by then and Bosnia goes back to where it was earlier, I think it will chill the view of some as to whether we want to keep enlarging NATO and have the automaticity of Article V, as it is presently stated. Finally, you've got the fact that some people are going to be left out, particularly the Baltics, which is a big political issue in this country. I'm not sure that's going to help the process of getting the first stage&emdash;and maybe the only stage&emdash;of NATO enlargement through.

There are four or five other treaties that will probably come up during the second Clinton administration, and I think they have no chance of getting through the Senate. These include two nuclear free zone treaties. They're important in the non proliferation world, but I don't see them moving. Then we may have a follow on [Conventional Armed Forces in Europe] CFE Treaty. The map is already agreed upon but CFE II is going to take further negotiations. It's not clear to me how long that will take. It could be done by this summer, as some have suggested, but I think that's probably going to overload the system.

START III is another one. Obviously, you don't get to START III unless you get START II into effect. If you do get START II into effect, START III is not going to be a simple adjustment of the numbers. So, I don't think it's going to be negotiated within this period of time, and even if it were, remember we weren't very fast getting the advice and consent to START II.

Finally, you have the so called compliance protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention [BWC]. This is not yet negotiated. When the BWC was signed in 1972, it was done without any kind of on site inspection or enforcement regime. It is absolutely necessary to do. If, in fact, that is done in time, it's going to be controversial because the industry there is not going to be onboard as the chemical industry is with the CWC.

In summary, if we don't get the CWC and START II, then we will have arms control really going into a deep freeze, and that is going to adversely affect relations. I think we will get the CWC, and how it will play if we don't get START II is anybody's guess. In terms of new initiatives, we have to go by means other than formal agreement. George Bunn wrote back in 1969, "by agreement or otherwise." I think we have to be going by "otherwise," that is, parallel unilateral actions of one kind or another. It's been done in the past, as with the Bush Gorbachev arrangements on tactical nuclear weapons. We simply have to go that way with imagination, and not bring any more formal agreements before the Senate or the Duma because I just don't think we're going to get action.

John Steinbruner: Over the longer term, the most important fact to keep in mind is that the Russian military is not in a viable position. They can't sustain the burdens that are imposed upon them with the financing available in the security circumstances they face. They can't perform any of their basic missions to anything like historical standards. That is a core problem of security in Europe. We don't have that problem in sight yet, and therein lies the issue of the longer term.

NATO expansion promises at the moment, under the current formula, to seriously aggravate that problem. In the first instance, I would argue, because expansion really does embody a principle of discrimination. That is big trouble for the Russians. It's saying we will incorporate into our security arrangements those people who are culturally most similar to us, as we define that. We made it very clear that the Russians are not about to qualify any time soon. I don't think we can overemphasize the importance of that.

I would compare that formula to the separate but equal formula for the education system in the United States in the pre civil rights era. Everybody thought this was defensible. Many people defended it. In retrospect, we can see that wasn't destined to make it. I don't think the principles we're currently using for security in Europe are going to make it, either, for the same reason&emdash;they're fundamentally discriminatory. And the reason is that the Russians need quite the opposite under the conditions there.

But there's a less philosophical issue related to the situation I just described: The process of NATO expansion is predictably putting some very serious and dangerous pressures on Russian nuclear weapons operations, and we have to worry about their reactions. What they've been telling us&emdash;and we should listen carefully&emdash;is that this is driving them into broad reliance on nuclear weapons to cover virtually all the primary missions. And we should note that from the perspective of the Russian military, the forward expansion of NATO potential&emdash;and that is what's going on, despite the rhetoric&emdash;is very bad news indeed because it brings U.S. tactical war operations that much closer to the full array of sensitive targets that, in principle, we might take on.

That means that their nuclear weapons operations, which are already basically on a hair trigger policy, get all the more committed to that. They have to react very quickly, in principle, if there's ever any trouble, and they basically don't have the assets to do that safely. They don't have the early warning system or defense system that would enable them to manage such a situation. So, we're driving them down a very dangerous track: broad reliance on nuclear weapons configured for very rapid reaction because of the pressure they feel potentially from Western operations.

Now, I don't want to exaggerate at the moment how dangerous this is, yet they're talking this way. They haven't done very much of what would actually be involved in implementing such a policy. But this is, to put it mildly, the wrong track to be driving them down, and we ought to realize that is the track that we're driving them down.

The third element of the situation that is troublesome is the reason why they are relying on, or saying that they have to rely on, nuclear weapons is that their conventional force establishment is basically in shambles. They cannot finance it; they are not financing it. In order to preserve internal coherence and standards of operational safety, they badly need to cut the size of their forces to levels that they can finance. The chances of their doing so under current conditions are as close to zero as anything gets, because they're telling themselves that, ultimately, they have to aspire to the full requirements of providing for their own security. It's very hard to believe that a planning system will tell itself you can do with less than 1.5 million people&emdash;which is their current aspiration&emdash;and do all the missions that they traditionally say they can do, particularly in the Far East. It's a big problem in that regard. And that, of course, is not even on the table in the CFE Treaty discussions.

The bottom line is that the planning system is very likely to hold for this 1.5 million person aspiration, and not be able to take on the more realistic program of cutting their forces to sizes that they might actually be able to finance and sustain, which is probably closer to 500,000 people. In this context, they're not going to do what they need to do, and that means we're embedding this increasingly burdensome and reactive nuclear weapons operation into a deteriorating force structure. And, to put it mildly, that's not a good thing to be doing. To put it more strongly, we're not going to survive this for two decades&emdash;unless we get onto a better track&emdash;without having a very, very bad experience.

Can we turn this situation into an opportunity? Can we bring these underlying issues to the surface and begin to deal with them? Can this process of NATO expansion, which is having a direct perverse effect, be turned into an opportunity to goad us into dealing with this underlying problem? Well, I might note that the problems I just mentioned would be virtually as serious if, magically, the whole process of NATO expansion disappeared. The problem simply is that it's exacerbating on the margin a deep, underlying problem and potentially obscuring our view of the problem. However, our opportunity may be that precisely because it is making it worse. This process might lead us to discover the problem and do something about it.

What do we need in order to do that? First of all, it sounds philosophical but it's extremely important, we need to project a constructive principle of engagement here that the Russians believe in. Believe me, we have not yet done that. The Russian military system does not believe, and I think we can forgive them for this, that we have truly benign intentions and that we do not intend to put them into a permanent position of inferiority and hold them there. We need to reassure them in that regard, and to present and develop a full scope policy of engagement. We have not yet done that.

Even if you imagine that we made some more systematic effort than we have currently done, however, rhetoric is not going to get us through this, even the most forthcoming and benign rhetoric. So, we have to have concrete measures to back that rhetoric up. What are the most important measures?

If we're trying to project an image that says: "We're not trying to isolate you, force you into deterioration or subordinate you. We are trying to help you solve your own security problems. We do have benign intentions," then probably the single most important thing we need to do is to respond to their currently intractable air defense problem. That is the thing that they probably worry about the most, in particular when they look at the European theater.

The way to do that is to integrate them into military air traffic control arrangements throughout all of Europe. This would have the effect of reassuring them, on a daily basis, that we aren't running any nefarious maneuver against them, and that they would have to be kicked out of the system for us to do that. Otherwise, there's no way of reassuring them, because they cannot create the capacities that such a system would require on their own anytime soon. So, I would say that provision is extremely important, and it has the virtue that at least the government, at the moment, has not ruled it out of bounds. They haven't yet done it, but they've been thinking about it.

Related to that, I think we ought to realize that we've got an agenda with regard to nuclear weapons that goes far beyond the scheduled reductions that are being talked about in START III. We have got to back the Russians out of the reactive posture that they're in, in order to achieve higher standards of operational safety, and there's no way of telling how much time we have to do this before it gets to be dangerous. But I would say it is a lot more urgent than the decade long implementation of START III that's now being talked about.

It is unwise for us to count on being able to get through a decade without improving the standards of safety within the Russian nuclear weapons operation. We're going to need much broader scope engagement in order to deal with that. Reducing the number of nuclear weapons is, in essence, a marginal matter from this point of view. We have not recognized as yet the urgency of that agenda. There is no way that the Russians are going to back off their current configuration, unless they do it in tandem with us under a very explicit discussion. That is a whole agenda that hasn't even been taken on.

The START III provisions under discussion do provide some seeds here. The sides are now discussing provisions to promote irreversibility, to directly control warheads and to enhance transparency. That is a good part of the agenda that will have to be developed to get at these underlying issues. So, you can see in the official discussion the small glimmerings, if you will, of the right sort of things to expand the talks. The bottom line is that we really need to enhance or advance or upgrade the prominence given to these provisions, and to begin to articulate their importance and develop them on a much more rapid schedule.

Similarly, the CFE discussion is potentially extremely significant, in that the Russians are not going to be able to solve their fundamental problem&emdash;which is they have a force structure too large to finance—unless there are general arrangements for reducing the size to levels that they can sustain. So, the good news is that the CFE talks go in that direction. The not so good news is that the CFE adaptation process has no hope of actually accomplishing this until Asia is included in the picture. Obviously, that's a big bite. It would require a fundamental reconceptualization of the whole thing, and more initiative conceptually and politically, than it's easy to believe in at the moment.

So, while struggling to be positive, let me say I think we're in fairly serious trouble here, and hopefully, the trouble will be the cause of our digging out of the hole. But we don't have the problem very fully in view here. We're not doing the sort of things that will be required to get hold of it, and we don't have anything like the 10 years scheduled under START to begin to deal with it. We've got to start hustling.

For more information please contact:

Spurgeon M. Keeny Jr. or Jack Mendelsohn


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