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Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty

NPT States Convene for PrepCom, Discuss Treaty Implementation

May 2002

By Alex Wagner

Delegates from more than 100 countries met April 8-19 in New York to debate the implementation of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), with the United States drawing muted criticism for policies that some believe undermine the vitality of the nonproliferation regime.

The meeting, known as a preparatory committee (PrepCom), provided the first forum since the 2000 NPT review conference for countries to address concerns over adherence to the treaty and strove to lay the groundwork for the next review conference in 2005.

The gathering was the first of its kind not to aim to produce a final document agreed to by consensus. Rather a “factual summary” from Chairman Henrik Salander of Sweden was produced, identifying the meeting’s major themes without making the judgments or recommendations customarily found in final declarations.

In an interview, Salander said he was “relatively satisfied” with the meeting’s outcome, noting it was “the first PrepCom in a long time with a clear and uncontested result.”

A senior Western official who attended the meeting hailed the outcome as “a credible first step in the review process” and noted that not having to seek consensus language prevented delegations from “running [their] heads against a brick wall that is not going to move for at least three years.”

Previous PrepComs’ failure to achieve a consensus final document motivated NPT member states at the 2000 review conference to require only the last of the three PrepComs before the next conference to attempt to adopt a consensus document. In the interview, Salander remarked that “given this new, untested process, it was not realistic to expect much more than what we achieved.”

Salander’s summary emphasized a greater need for nuclear nonproliferation efforts in the post-September 11 world. It also reflected general agreement among member states to seek universal adherence to the NPT, to increase transparency in states’ nuclear programs, and to make “credible progress” toward nuclear disarmament.

The report further described specific issues discussed at the meeting, including widespread support for the U.S.-Russian strategic reductions dialogue, negotiated controls over fissile material, concern about Iraq’s and North Korea’s continued noncompliance with the NPT and UN resolutions, and “strong support” for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). However, the document also noted some states’ concern over the Bush administration’s decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

Salander’s report also reflected states-parties’ widespread perception that the Bush administration is disinterested in multilateral arms control and questionably committed to nuclear disarmament, as required by the NPT. Despite a U.S. statement that it views “the NPT as the bedrock of the global effort to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons,” delegates questioned and admonished Washington for backing away from some of the political commitments it agreed to in 2000.

At the 2000 review conference, the United States and the other four nuclear-weapon states committed to an “unequivocal undertaking” to eliminate their nuclear weapons totally. They also agreed to 13 “practical steps” that could help them move toward that goal.

However, the Bush administration has effectively abandoned two of these steps with its decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty and not to seek ratification of the CTBT. The Pentagon’s recently leaked nuclear posture review—which lists countries against which the United States should be prepared to use nuclear weapons and which discusses the development of new nuclear weapons—also caused delegations to question the U.S. commitment to nuclear disarmament and its negative security assurances, which it reaffirmed during the meeting. U.S. negative security assurances pledge that the United States will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-armed states, provided they are not allied with a nuclear-weapon state.

The United States and France further raised concerns and nearly derailed the PrepCom when they resisted devoting special time to report progress on nuclear disarmament and to discuss Middle Eastern nuclear weapons issues. Salander threatened to end the meeting a week early if the issue was not resolved, but Canada helped broker a compromise, under which broader related issues could also be raised during the specially reserved time.

The second of three preparatory committee meetings will be held April 29-May 9, 2003, in Geneva.

NPT States Convene for PrepCom, Discuss Treaty Implementation

Rhetoric or Reality? Missile Defense Under Bush

Philip Coyle

Since it assumed office, the administration of President George W. Bush has made missile defense one of its top priorities, giving it prominence in policy, funding, and organization.

First, the administration outlined an ambitious set of goals that extend well beyond the Clinton administration’s missile defense aims. In early January 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld described the administration’s top missile defense objectives this way: “First, to defend the U.S., deployed forces, allies, and friends. Second, to employ a Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) that layers defenses to intercept missiles in all phases of their flight (i.e., boost, midcourse, and terminal) against all ranges of threats. Third, to enable the Services to field elements of the overall BMDS as soon as practicable.”

Then, in its nuclear posture review, the administration outlined the specific elements of a national missile defense that it wants to have ready between 2003 and 2008: an air-based laser to shoot down missiles of all ranges during their boost phase; a rudimentary ground-based midcourse system, a sea-based system with rudimentary midcourse capability against short- and medium-range threats; terminal defenses against long-range ICBMs capable of reaching the United States; and a system of satellites to track enemy missiles and distinguish re-entry vehicles from decoys.

Finally, to speed implementation, the administration has taken a number of tangible steps. It announced on December 13, 2001, that the United States would withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, ostensibly because the treaty was restricting testing of mobile missile defenses against ICBMs. In its first defense budget, the administration requested a 57 percent increase in funding for missile defense—from $5.3 billion to $8.3 billion, of which it received $7.8 billion. Then, Rumsfeld reorganized the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization into the new Missile Defense Agency, cancelled the internal Pentagon documents that had established the program’s developmental goals, and changed the program’s goal from being able to field a complete system against specific targets to simply being able to field various missile defense capabilities as they become available.

All in all, a lot has happened in missile defense in the first year or so of the Bush administration. But have these actions brought the United States any closer to realizing its missile defense goals, especially deployment of a national missile defense? And what elements, if any, of a national missile defense capability might it be possible for the United States to deploy by 2008, as called for in the nuclear posture review?

Despite the Bush administration’s push for missile defense, the only system likely to be ready by 2008 is a ground-based theater missile defense intended to counter short-range targets—i.e., a system to defend troops in the field. Before Bush leaves office, the only system that could conceivably be ready to defend the United States itself is the ground-based midcourse system pursued by the Clinton administration. None of the other elements mentioned in the nuclear posture review as possible defenses against strategic ballistic missiles is likely to be available by 2008.

To understand why, let us examine each of the missile defense programs—starting with the short-range, theater missile defense systems and moving to the longer-range, strategic systems—to see what has happened since the Bush administration took office 16 months ago. The results suggest that the Bush administration should not base its foreign policy on the assumption that during its tenure it will be able to deploy defenses to protect the United States from strategic missiles.

Theater Missile Defenses

Each of the U.S. military services has been pursuing tactical missile defense programs designed to defend U.S. troops overseas. None of these programs was designed to defend the United States against ICBM attacks, and none has any current capability to do so. However, the administration hopes to be able to apply some of the technology from these service programs to a layered national defense capable of defending the U.S. homeland. (For an explanation of the various stages of development discussed below, see the box below.)


The Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) is a tactical system designed to defend overseas U.S. and allied troops in a relatively small area against short-range missile threats (such as Scuds), enemy aircraft, and cruise missiles. Developmentally, it is the most advanced U.S. missile defense system, and a small number have been made available for deployment although testing has not yet been completed.

PAC-3 flight testing began in 1997. From 1997 to 2002, 11 developmental flight tests were conducted, including four flight intercept tests with two or three targets being attempted at once. Most of these tests were successful, but in two of the tests one of the targets was not intercepted. In February, PAC-3 began initial operational testing, in which soldiers, not contractors, operate the system. Three operational tests have been conducted, all with multiple targets. In each, one of the targets has been missed or one of the interceptors has failed.

A year ago, PAC-3 was planned to begin full-rate production at the end of 2001. However, problems with system reliability and difficulties in flight intercept tests have delayed that schedule. This means that full-rate production likely will be delayed until more stressing “follow-on” operational tests can be conducted against targets flying in a wide range of altitudes and trajectories. In March, Lieutenant General Ronald Kadish, who heads U.S. missile defense programs, testified to Congress that the full-rate production decision would be made toward the end of 2002 (before operational testing has been completed), representing a delay of about a year since last year. The full system will be deployed once all operational testing has been completed, perhaps around 2005.

A future version of PAC-3 is being considered for terminal defense of the United States. However, PAC-3 was not designed to counter long-range threats, and no flight intercept tests have been conducted to demonstrate how it might be incorporated in a terminal defense layer. Further, the ground area that can be defended by PAC-3 is so small that it would take scores of systems to defend just the major U.S. cities. A version of PAC-3 that could be effective in a national missile defense is probably a decade away.


The Theater High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) system is designed to shoot down short- and medium-range missiles in their terminal phase. THAAD would be used to protect forward-deployed troops overseas as well as nearby civilian populations and infrastructure. THAAD is to defend a larger area against longer-range threats than PAC-3, but it is not designed to protect the United States from ICBMs.

From 1995 to 1999, 11 developmental flight tests were performed, including eight in which an intercept was attempted. After the first six of those flight intercept tests failed, the program was threatened with cancellation. Finally, in 1999, THAAD had two successful flight intercept tests. The THAAD program has not attempted an intercept test since then, instead focusing on the difficult task of developing a new, more reliable, higher-performance missile than the one used in early flight tests.

A year ago, full-rate production was scheduled to begin in 2007 or 2008, but because there were no intercept tests in 2000 or 2001, that schedule has likely slipped two years or more. In fact, no flight intercept test is scheduled until 2004, and it is therefore unlikely that the first THAAD system will be deployed before 2010.

The Bush administration is considering THAAD for use in a layered national missile defense system. Conceptually, THAAD might be used in conjunction with PAC-3 as part of a terminal defense, or it could be deployed overseas to intercept enemy missiles in the boost phase. However, in its current configuration THAAD is incapable of performing these missions—even once it has met its Army requirements for theater missile defense—and therefore a role for THAAD in national missile defense is probably more than a decade away.

Navy Area Theater Ballistic Missile Defense

The Navy Area Theater Ballistic Missile Defense was the sea-based equivalent of PAC-3. The Navy Area system was being designed to defend forward-deployed Navy ships against relatively short-range threats. But in December 2001 the program was cancelled because its cost and schedule overruns exceeded the limits defined by law. (Ironically, the cancellation came just one day after President Bush announced that the United States would pull out of the ABM Treaty because its missile defense testing was advanced enough to be bumping up against the constraints of the treaty.)

The Navy still wants to be able to defend its ships against missile attack, and the program will most likely be restructured and reinstated once the Navy decides on a new approach. In the meantime, the Navy Area program is slipping with each day that passes. As with PAC-3, the Bush administration has considered extending the Navy Area system to play a role in the terminal segment of a layered national missile defense. However, at this point the program is too poorly defined to allow speculation about when it could accomplish such a demanding mission.

Navy Theater Wide

The Navy Theater Wide program was originally intended to defend an area larger than that to be covered by the Navy Area system—that is, aircraft carrier battle groups and nearby territory and civilian populations—against medium-range missiles during their midcourse phase. In this sense, Navy Theater Wide is the sea-based equivalent of THAAD.

In January, the Navy Theater Wide program conducted its first successful flight intercept test, but a dozen or more developmental flight tests will be required before it is ready for realistic operational testing. About a year ago, full-rate production was scheduled for spring 2007, meaning that the system could be deployed before the end of the decade.

But since then, the Pentagon has given new priority to a sea-based role in defending the U.S. homeland. Navy Theater Wide was not designed to shoot down ICBMs, but the Bush administration has restructured the program so that it aims to produce a sea-based midcourse segment and/or a sea-based boost-phase segment of national missile defense.

Either mission will require a new missile that is twice as fast as any existing version of the Standard Missile, which the system now uses; a new, more powerful Aegis radar system to track targets; a new launch structure to accommodate the new, larger missiles; and probably new ships. As a result, the Navy Theater Wide program requires a great deal of new development. It is unlikely that Navy Theater Wide will be ready for realistic operational testing until late in this decade, and it will not be ready for realistic operational demonstration in a layered national missile defense for several years after that.

Airborne Laser

The Airborne Laser (ABL) is a program to develop a high-power chemical laser that will fit inside a Boeing 747 aircraft. It is the most technically challenging of any of the theater missile defense programs, involving toxic materials, advanced optics, and the coordination of three additional lasers on-board for tracking, targeting, and beam correction. The first objective of the program is to be able to shoot down short-range enemy missiles. Later, it is hoped the ABL program will play a role in national missile defense by destroying strategic missiles in their boost phase.

The ABL has yet to be flight-tested. About a year ago, full-rate production of the ABL was scheduled for 2008. The plan was to build seven aircraft, each estimated to cost roughly $500 million. At that time, the first shoot-down of a tactical missile was scheduled for 2003. Recently, the ABL program office announced that the first shoot-down of a tactical missile had been delayed to late 2004 because of many problems with the basic technology of high-power chemical lasers—about a one-year slip since last year and about a three-year slip since 1998. Accordingly, full-rate production probably cannot be started before 2010, and the cost will likely exceed $1 billion per aircraft.

Assuming all this can be done, it is important to note that the ABL presents significant operational challenges. The ABL will need to fly relatively close to enemy territory in order to have enough power to shoot down enemy missiles, and during a time of crisis it will need to be near the target area continuously. A 747 loaded with high-power laser equipment will make a large and inviting target to the enemy and will require protection in the air and on the ground. Finally, relatively simple countermeasures such as reflective surfaces on enemy missiles could negate the ABL’s capabilities.

Deployment of an ABL that can shoot down short- and medium-range tactical targets is not likely before the end of the decade, and the Airborne Laser will not be able to play a role in national missile defense for many years after that.

National Missile Defense

The Bush administration hopes to build a layered national missile defense that consists of a ground-based midcourse system, expanded versions of the theater systems discussed above, and, potentially, space-based systems. The Bush administration does not use the phrase “national missile defense” because it was the name of the ground-based midcourse system pursued by the Clinton administration and because the Pentagon’s plans to defend the country are now more robust. But national missile defense is a useful shorthand for any system that is intended to defend the continental United States, Alaska, and Hawaii against strategic ballistic missiles, and it is in that sense that it is used here.

For all practical purposes, the only part of the Bush national missile defense that is “real” is the ground-based midcourse system. It is real in the sense that six flight intercept tests have been conducted so far, whereas versions of the THAAD or Navy Theater Wide systems that might be used to defend the United States have not been tested at all. Space-based systems are an even more distant prospect. For example, the Space-Based Laser, which would use a laser on a satellite to destroy missiles in their boost phase, was to be tested in 2012, but funding cuts have pushed the testing date back indefinitely. Deployment is so far in the future that it is beyond the horizon of the Pentagon’s long-range planning document, Joint Vision 2020.

As a result, despite the Bush adminis-tration’s attempts to distinguish its plans from its predecessor’s, Bush’s layered national missile defense is, in effect, nothing more than the Clinton system.
Since 1997, the ground-based midcourse program has conducted eight major flight tests, known as IFTs. The first two, named IFT-1A and IFT-2, were fly-by tests designed simply to collect target information. The next six tests, IFT-3 through IFT-8, were all flight intercept tests. IFT- 4 and IFT-5, conducted in January 2000 and July 2000 respectively, both failed to achieve an intercept, which became a principal reason why, on September 1, 2000, President Bill Clinton decided not to begin deployment of ground-based midcourse components, such as a new X-band radar on Shemya Island in Alaska.

Another year passed before the next flight intercept test, IFT-6, was conducted. The intercept was successful except that the real-time hit assessment performed by the ground-based X-band prototype radar on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands incorrectly reported the hit as a miss. IFT-7, conducted in early December 2001, was also successful. Until then, all of the flight intercept tests had had essentially the same target cluster: a re-entry vehicle, a single large balloon, and debris associated with stage separation and decoy deployment. Then, in IFT-8, conducted on March 15, 2002, two small balloons were added to the target cluster. This flight intercept test also was successful and marked an important milestone for the ground-based midcourse program.

However, despite these recent successes, there have been significant delays in the testing program. Several of the flight tests were simply repeats of earlier tests, and as a result IFT-8 did not accomplish the tasks set for it in the original schedule. In short, the testing program has slipped roughly two years—i.e., what was originally scheduled to take two years has taken four. This is not to say that the program has made no progress but rather that key program milestones have receded into the future.

The pace of successful testing will be one of the primary determinants of how quickly the United States can field a national missile defense. If the ground-based midcourse system has three or four successful flight intercept tests per year, as it has during the past year, it could be ready for operational testing in four or five years. If those operational tests also were successful, then whatever capability had been demonstrated in all those tests—which would probably not include the capability to deal with many types of decoys and countermeasures or the capability to cover much of the space through which an enemy missile could travel—could be deployed by the end of the decade or even by 2008.

However, the ground-based midcourse system has difficulties beyond the testing pace of its interceptor. The system requires a new, more powerful booster rocket than the surrogate currently being used in tests—a task that was thought to be relatively easy. That new booster was to be incorporated into the continuing series of flight intercept tests to make those tests more realistic and to be sure that the new booster’s higher acceleration did not adversely affect other components or systems on board.

But development of the new booster is about two years behind schedule. Indeed, on December 13, just hours after President Bush announced U.S. plans to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, a test of the new booster had to be aborted and the missile destroyed in flight for safety reasons because it flew off course. Flight intercept tests that were to have used the new booster have come and gone without it. Indeed, development of the booster is so far behind that the Pentagon recently issued another contract for a competing design.

Equally problematic is uncertainty over how the system will track enemy missiles in flight and distinguish targets from decoys. One approach is to use high-power radars operating in the X-band (that is, at a frequency of about 10 billion cycles per second). A prototype X-band radar on the Kwajalein Atoll has been part all of the ground-based midcourse flight intercept tests so far, and technically, X-band radar progress has been one of the most successful developments in missile defense technology.

A year and a half ago, Lieutenant General Kadish testified to Congress that establishing an X-band radar in Alaska was the “long pole in the tent” for missile defense. This meant that the X-band radar was critical to a ground-based midcourse system and that if that radar was not built soon, the program would start slipping day for day. Then, as now, there were many other developments that would take as long or longer than building an X-band radar at Shemya, but the Pentagon’s official position was that construction needed to start in the spring of 2001 at the latest. Nevertheless, Clinton deferred taking action on the radar.

Surprisingly, the Bush administration has not requested funding for an X-band radar at Shemya in either of its first two budgets. This may be because the administration views such an installation as inconsistent with the ABM Treaty, which the administration has said it will not violate while the treaty is still in effect. Or the administration may not have requested funding because the Missile Defense Agency has been exploring “portable” X-band radars—that is, X-band radars deployed on ships or barges.

Some defense analysts believe that the Space-Based Infrared Satellite (SBIRS) program could be used in place of the X-band radar to assist a national missile defense. SBIRS—which would consist of two sets of orbiting sensor satellites, SBIRS-high and SBIRS-low—is designed to detect the launch of enemy ballistic missiles and could be used to track and discriminate among them in flight. However, the program has significant technical problems.

SBIRS-high, which will consist of four satellites in geosynchronous orbit and two satellites in highly elliptical orbits, is to replace the existing Defense Support Program satellites, which provide early warning of missile launches. A year ago, the SBIRS-high satellites were scheduled for launch in 2004 and 2006, but recently those dates have slipped roughly two years because of problems with software, engineering, and system integration. A year ago, realistic operational testing was scheduled for 2007; now, it may not occur this decade, which means that full deployment may not occur this decade. SBIRS-high is also well over cost and is in danger of breaching the legal restrictions covering cost growth.

SBIRS-low is to consist of approximately 30 cross-linked satellites in low-Earth orbit. A year ago, the launch of the first of these satellites was scheduled for 2006, but SBIRS-low has slipped two years because of a variety of difficult technical problems. The developmental testing program for SBIRS-low is very challenging, and realistic operational testing will probably not begin this decade. This could delay deployment of the full constellation of SBIRS-low satellites until the middle of the next decade. SBIRS-low is also dramatically over budget and was threatened with cancellation in the latest round of congressional appropriations.

For now, the administration has been saying that it will upgrade an existing radar on Shemya called Cobra Dane. Under this plan, the Cobra Dane radar would become an advanced early-warning radar with some ability to distinguish among targets. But the Cobra Dane radar operates in the L-band with about eight-times poorer resolution than a new X-band radar would have, raising questions about the effectiveness of any national missile defense using it.

In sum, the only element of a “layered” national missile defense that exists on anything but paper is the ground-based midcourse system pursued by the Clinton administration. Accordingly, it is nearly impossible to predict when, if ever, an integrated, layered national missile defense with boost, midcourse, and terminal phases might be developed. As noted above, given the most recent pace of testing, some part of the ground-based midcourse system could be deployed by the end of the decade or possibly by 2008.

However, the capability such a system would have would be marginal and probably would not be able to deal with many types of decoys and countermeasures or to cover much of the space through which an attacking ICBM might fly. The Bush administration has said it will deploy test elements as an emergency capability as early as possible, but such a deployment would be rudimentary and its capabilities would be limited to those already demonstrated in testing. It would likely not be effective against unauthorized or accidental launches from Russia or China, which might include missiles with countermeasures. It also would not be effective against launches from Iraq, Iran, or Libya since those countries are to the east, out of view of a radar on Shemya.


During the first year of the Bush administration, all U.S. missile defense programs—both theater and national—have slipped. In general, the shorter-range tactical missile defense systems are further along than the medium-range systems, and those medium- range systems are further along than the longer-range systems intended to defend the United States against ICBMs.

PAC-3 is the most developmentally advanced of any U.S. missile defense system, but full deployment will not likely take place before 2005, and realistic operational testing will continue for many years after the first Army units are equipped in the field. The THAAD program has slipped two years or more and will not be deployable until 2010. The Navy Area Wide program has been cancelled, and the Navy Theater Wide program has slipped two years or more and will not be deployable in a tactical role until the end of the decade. If the Pentagon restructures the program so that its priority is boost-phase or midcourse defense against strategic missiles, it will likely take longer. The Airborne Laser has slipped one year and will probably not be deployed as a theater missile defense before the end of the decade.

SBIRS-low has slipped two years and doubled in cost and probably will not be deployed before 2008.
For all practical purposes, national missile defense is technically not much closer than it was in the Clinton administration. There have been no flight intercept tests of the boost-phase or terminal-phase elements suggested by the Bush administration, and developmental testing could take a decade or more, depending on the pace of testing and the level of success in each test. The only element that can be flight-intercept tested against strategic ballistic missiles today is the ground-based midcourse system. Part of that system could be deployed by 2008, but elements fielded before then will have only a limited capability.

Thus, while making foreign policy, the Bush administration would do well to consider that probably only a limited-capability version of PAC-3 will be fielded during its tenure and that an effective, layered national missile defense will not be realized while it is in office. It would make little sense to predicate strategic decisions on a defense that does not exist.

It is important for Congress and the American public not to be frightened into believing that the United States is—as some missile defense proponents like to assert—defenseless against even a limited missile attack by a “rogue state” such as North Korea. Powerful and effective options exist, both military and diplomatic.

In Afghanistan, U.S. attack operations with precision-guided weapons have been highly effective. Those same precision weapons would be effective against an enemy ICBM installation. In fact, given current capabilities and the ever-improving technologies for precision strike, it would be fantasy to believe any national missile defense system deployed by 2003 to 2008 would work better and provide greater reliability at a lower cost than the precision-guided munitions used in Afghanistan.

On the diplomatic front, in 1999 former Secretary of Defense William Perry made a series of trips to convince North Korea to stop developing and testing long-range missiles. He was remarkably successful. Although Secretary Perry would not say that North Korea was no longer a threat, it was obvious that the North Korean threat had been moderated. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was able to build on his trip the next year to secure a pledge from Pyongyang to halt flight testing of missiles. Dollar for dollar, Secretary Perry has been the most cost-effective missile defense system the United States has yet to develop. The most straightforward route to missile defense against North Korea may be through diplomacy, not technology.

Many decision-makers in Washington—and, from what one reads, the president himself—seem to be misinformed about the prospects for near-term success with national missile defense and the budgets being requested for it. It takes 20 years to develop a modern, high performance jet fighter, and it probably will take even longer to develop an effective missile defense network. Taking into account the challenges of asymmetric warfare, the time it can take to develop modern military equipment, the reliability required in real operational situations, and the interoperability required for hundreds of systems and subsystems to work together, it would be highly unrealistic to think that the United States can deploy an effective, layered national missile defense by 2004 or even by 2008.

In the meantime, policymakers should be careful that U.S. foreign and security goals and policies are not dependent on something that cannot work now and probably will not work effectively for the foreseeable future. A case in point is President Bush’s decision to abandon the ABM Treaty with Russia. That decision was certainly premature given the state of missile defense technology and likely could have been avoided or postponed for many years if not indefinitely.

This is not to say that missile defense technology ought not to be pursued—only that it should be pursued with realistic expectations. Policymakers must be able to weigh the potential merits and costs of missile defense based on a sound understanding of both the technology and the possible alternatives. No one weapon system can substitute for the sound conduct of foreign policy, and even a single diplomat can be effective on a time scale that is short when compared with the time that will be required to develop the technology for national missile defense.

Stages of Development

Missile defense, especially national missile defense, is the most difficult program ever attempted by the Department of Defense—much more difficult than the development of a modern jet fighter like the F-22 Raptor, the Navy’s Land Attack Destroyer (DD-21), or the Army’s Abrams M1A2 tank complete with battlefield digitization, endeavors that all have taken 20 years or more. Each new major weapons system must proceed through several stages of development, which are listed below. Most U.S. missile defense systems are currently in developmental testing and are therefore not close to deployment.

Research and Development (R&D): The period during which the concepts and basic technologies behind a proposed military system are explored. Depending on the difficulty of the technology and the complexity of the proposed system, R&D can take anywhere from a year or two to more than 10 years.

Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD): The period during which a system design is engineered and the industrial processes to manufacture and assemble a proposed military system are developed. For a major defense acquisition such as a high-performance jet fighter, EMD can take five years or more. If substantial difficulties are encountered, EMD can take even longer.

Developmental Testing: Testing that is performed to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of proposed military technologies and the application of those technologies to a new military system in a military environment. Generally, developmental testing is oriented toward achieving certain specifications, such as speed, maneuverability, or rate of fire. Developmental testing is conducted throughout the R&D and EMD phases of development and becomes more stressing as prototype systems evolve and mature.

Operational Testing: Testing that aims to demonstrate effective military performance against operational requirements and mission needs established for a system. Testing is performed with production-representative equipment in realistic operational environments—at night, in bad weather, against realistic threats and countermeasures. Military service personnel, not contractors, operate the system, which is stressed as it would be in battle. Operational testing of a major defense acquisition system typically takes the better part of a year and is usually broken into several periods of a month or two to accommodate different environments or scenarios. If substantial difficulties are encountered, several years of operational testing may be required.

Production: The phase of acquisition when a military system is manufactured and produced. Early on, during “low-rate production,” the quantities produced are typically small. Later, after successfully completing operational testing, a system may go into “full-rate production,” where the rate of production is designed to complete the government’s planned purchase of the system in a relatively short period of time, about five years.

Deployment: The fielding of a military system in either limited or large quantities in military units. The first military unit equipped may help develop tactics, techniques, and procedures for use of the new system if that has not already been done adequately in development.—P.C.

Flight Stages of Ballistic Missiles

All ballistic missiles have three stages of flight.

The boost phase begins at launch and lasts until the rocket engines stop firing and pushing the missile away from Earth. Depending on the missile, this stage lasts three to five minutes. During much of this time, the missile is traveling relatively slowly although toward the end of this stage an ICBM can reach speeds of more than 24,000 kilometers per hour. The missile stays in one piece during this stage.

The midcourse phase begins after the propulsion system finishes firing and the missile is on a ballistic course toward its target. This is the longest stage of a missile’s flight, lasting up to 20 minutes for ICBMs. During the early part of the midcourse stage, the missile is still ascending toward its apogee, while during the latter part it is descending toward Earth. It is during this stage that the missile’s warhead, as well as any decoys, separate from the delivery vehicle.

The terminal phase begins when the missile’s warhead re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, and it continues until impact or detonation. This stage takes less than a minute for a strategic warhead, which can be traveling at speeds greater than 3,200 kilometers per hour.—ACA

Philip Coyle, a senior advisor at the Center for Defense Information, was assistant secretary of defense and the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation from 1994 to 2001.


Missile Defense Test Site Contracts Awarded

Major construction activity on a proposed U.S. missile defense test site at Fort Greely, Alaska, is projected to start this June under two contracts awarded April 16 to private construction companies.

Boeing, the lead private contractor on the proposed U.S. ground-based midcourse missile defense (GMD) system currently being tested, awarded the Bechtel Corporation a contract April 16 for construction of missile interceptor silos at Fort Greely. The work is to begin in mid-June, and Bechtel will receive approximately $60 million.

Pentagon plans envision stationing five missile interceptors and possibly one spare at Fort Greely by September 2004. The interceptors are for testing purposes, but Pentagon officials claim that the interceptors also could be used in an emergency.

Lieutenant General Ronald Kadish, who manages U.S. missile defense programs, told congressmen at a late February hearing that he would have “high confidence” that, if testing went according to plan, the interceptors at Fort Greely could be used in 2004 to shoot down a ballistic missile launched unannounced by North Korea.

The other April 16 contract, awarded by the Army Corps of Engineers, calls on Fluor Alaska, Incorporated to construct a base for operationally realistic missile defense testing, including four buildings at Fort Greely to house electronics, communications, and maintenance equipment associated with the GMD system. If certain options are exercised, the contract’s total value could exceed $250 million.

Because weather conditions at the central Alaska site limit outside work to a seven-month period, the contract calls for finishing the buildings’ exteriors by October so that interior work can be done throughout the winter. Construction under this contract is to be completed by June 2004.

A mid-April discovery at Fort Greely of about 20 barrels with U.S. government markings suggesting they could contain toxic chemicals is not expected to delay site construction. An Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson in Alaska said April 19 that an analysis showed that the substance in the barrels was not toxic and that preliminary work at the site started last August would soon resume after being halted for several days.


Russia's Strategic Priorities

Celeste A. Wallander

President George W. Bush announced in December that the United States planned to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in six months. For years, Russia had warned that loss of the treaty would undermine the nuclear strategic stability on which the delicate balance of terror had rested during the Cold War. It had claimed that, without the ABM Treaty, other arms control agreements could not stand, including START I and II, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and even the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Russia’s leaders threatened a new arms race that would restore Cold War acrimony.

Yet, sometime between the first serious Russian warnings in 1999 and the December 2001 decision, something changed. Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to the decision by calling it merely a “mistake” and said that it would not harm improving U.S.-Russian relations. Russia has not withdrawn from any arms control agreements; in fact, Russia and the United States are moving forward with discussions for a new offensive arms limitation agreement, perhaps in time for a Bush-Putin summit in early summer 2002.

What has happened to make Russia sanguine about a world without the ABM Treaty? Russia’s priorities have changed, as well as its assessment of what U.S. testing portends for the strategic relationship in the next 10 to 15 years. The political relationship has improved, and the Putin leadership cannot reverse course without closing off vital opportunities for integration and chances to secure resources to solve the terrible problems that plague Russia. In short, what has happened is that the Russian government has bet it will not lose as much from a world without the treaty as it will gain from a United States willing to cooperate. Most of all, Russia’s leaders have realized that U.S. missile defenses will not be a reality for some time and that they can preserve options for responding to potential defenses over the next few years.

The Stakes

The ABM Treaty provided Russia with status, partnership, and security. Status came from locking the United States into a bilateral relationship that no other country shared. The ABM Treaty preserved an aspect of superpower status that Russia could claim even as its conventional forces shrunk to nearly one-fourth their former size and its strategic nuclear arsenal dropped to nearly half of its Cold War high. By the same token, the treaty created a claim for partnership in negotiating strategic stability in the new security environment. Although the Bush administration tried to relegate Russia to a lower priority in U.S. foreign policy in the early months of its term, it found it needed to take Russia seriously to try to find a compromise on the ABM Treaty, if only to reassure European allies that the United States remained a reliable partner.

At the same time, the ABM Treaty provided security benefits. Nuclear deterrence policy is not merely about mutual assured destruction and the threat of being able to launch a few missiles at vulnerable cities. It remains based on counterforce calculations: we hold at risk not merely (or primarily) cities and citizens to deter leaders in other states, but military, defense, and industrial infrastructure.1 By preventing the United States from deploying defenses, the ABM Treaty limited U.S. counterforce capability.

The decision to forego these advantages without vehement objection is due in part to a new leadership style (Putin’s pragmatism vs. Boris Yeltsin’s high drama), but it is more importantly rooted in a shift in priorities. Putin’s foreign policy serves his domestic economic goals: to stabilize, regularize, and restructure the economy to support a 21st century Russian society and cultivate a newly confident Russian state. The Putin leadership wants Russian businesses to produce and invest, not merely strip assets and hide them abroad. It seeks good business relations with export markets and potential foreign investors.

The opportunity for substantially improved relations with the United States is key to Putin’s priority for economic growth and integration. Economic and business relations with Europe are strong, but they are not enough. Russia needs U.S. support for accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), which should expand Russia’s export markets and provide leverage for cleaning up Russia’s business practices. If that happens, Russian businesses would become more competitive, and international investors might become willing to invest substantial amounts of capital into new and reformed Russian enterprises.

On the security front, the biggest problems facing Russia this decade are NATO and instability and terrorism in Eurasia. Russia and the United States now agree that counterterrorism is their central security priority. It does not make sense for Russia to undermine its partnership in a vital security issue by worsening relations over the less immediate concern about missile defenses. NATO’s future as a military alliance in Europe is much more important than future missile defenses because it affects how Russia will reform its conventional military forces. Putin has invested considerable diplomatic effort in reassuring European partners that Russia is a responsible neighbor. One element of Putin’s campaign has even been to propose joint development of European missile defense systems, possibly in the context of NATO. For such a cooperative security posture toward Europe to remain credible, Putin can hardly break off relations with the United States and embark upon a nuclear arms race.

However, these economic and political priorities alone would not matter if the Russian security leadership had not come to the conclusion that the U.S. decision poses no threat to Russia in the short term and does not rule out long-term options to preserve Russia’s nuclear capability. Russian government statements since the decision have repeatedly asserted that U.S. testing is unlikely to result in a successful comprehensive national missile defense system. Therefore, although Russia loses the ABM Treaty, it retains assured retaliation capability for the short and medium terms. Both Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov have stated explicitly that Russia can afford to wait and watch as the United States tests and develops missile defense because it is not expected that even a limited U.S. system—let alone one big enough to negate Russia’s deterrent capability—will be ready for 10, 15, or maybe 20 years.2

Russia’s Strategic Future

Earlier Russian threats to withdraw from a broad array of international and bilateral arms control treaties have largely disappeared. Such actions would be clearly counter to Russia’s own interests. Russia will concentrate on specific measures and capabilities to preserve its assured retaliation capability, not on destroying international treaties simply to make a point about U.S. unilateralism.

Russia’s immediate focus will be the new offensive arms control talks and a potential agreement linking offensive and defensive systems. Numbers for the new agreement are not in dispute. Russia can accept the 2,200-warhead ceiling the United States has proposed, although Russia envisions reductions to 1,500 warheads. Russia prefers a treaty, although Putin might accept a formal executive agreement if that is as far as the United States will go, especially if it includes transparency measures in defensive systems.3

The most important problem is likely to be the meaning of “operationally deployed warheads” in a new treaty. As proposed by the Bush administration, the term would not apply to warheads removed from delivery vehicles that had been removed from launch platforms. Such a definition would mean that the United States would preserve the ability to reconstitute American strategic forces well beyond the 1,700-2,200 warheads being discussed if the new agreement does not mandate destruction of the delivery vehicles and launch platforms. The Russians well understand this, and they are very much opposed.4

If the United States insists on the treaty limiting only operationally deployed warheads and preserving delivery vehicles and launch platforms for a reconstitution capability, Russia will insist on maintaining the same option (if not same capability). This could mean that Russia might preserve warheads in excess of 1,500, as well as delivery vehicles and launch platforms. This would make little economic sense because Russia simply cannot afford to preserve the Cold War Soviet arsenal, even in storage, on a military budget (projected for 2002) of only $9 billion. However, arms control is political, so if the United States is granted the right to preserve a hedge force, any bilateral agreement will have to grant Russia the same rights. Russia may not exercise the right, but such a hedge force would provide Russia with additional options for countering a significant U.S. missile defense system, should such a system be successfully developed and deployed.

The resulting negative nonproliferation implications are clear: if Russia did exercise the right to preserve a hedge force, large numbers of warheads and delivery vehicles would have to be stored, maintained, and secured. A renewed threat reduction effort might be joined to the treaty to provide for safe and secure storage of nondeployed Russian warheads and delivery vehicles. However, having the U.S. taxpayer preserve Russia’s ability to reconstitute its nuclear forces (against the United States) might be a complicated political issue. Even if Washington were willing to pay, Moscow might be unwilling to allow U.S. involvement in creating and maintaining systems to secure a nuclear arsenal meant to be reconstituted against a reconstituted U.S. force. Without some system to secure non-operationally deployed Russian warheads, further arms reductions risk creating a greater proliferation danger.

START I may survive loss of the ABM Treaty with or without new agreements on reductions and defense transparency. Russia has some interest in the treaty as a way to limit U.S. nuclear forces to some degree and (more importantly) to keep the verification regime and attendant Russian claims on U.S. transparency. Russian sources claim that withdrawal remains a possible response if things go badly in the security relationship, especially given substantial discontent with the treaty in the Russian military.5 U.S. sources are skeptical that Russia would give up an international treaty that gives Russia a claim on how the United States shapes its nuclear forces. If a new offensive arms agreement succeeds in creating new limits and a verification regime, START I might not be needed. If the negotiations fail, START I becomes more valuable for the existing transparency and verification system, but also more difficult to preserve if Russia views the failure as due to American bad faith.

Even if START I remains in force, Russia is considering options to enhance its retaliatory capability in the event the United States does successfully test and deploy missile defenses. It is virtually certain that START II will never come into force. The Russian Duma ratified the treaty on the condition the ABM Treaty remain in force. Without START II, Russia can maintain existing MIRVed ICBMs permitted under START I, including SS-18s and SS-24s, considered important by Russian analysts to increase the invulnerability of Russia’s retaliatory capability against an enhanced counterforce capability that would accompany a missile defense shield. Whether Russia would in fact keep these missiles is questionable because they are aging beyond their service life and need to be retired regardless of arms control treaties, but preserving them is one way for Russia to keep its options open.

Russian officials talk most about the option to put up to three warheads on the new SS-27 (Topol-M). Designed in response to the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative in the 1980s, the SS-27 incorporates features meant to make it more difficult for a missile defense system to track and destroy. Russia may resume production of 10 SS-27s per year—up from the six per year that production had fallen to in 2000 and 2001 due to budget constraints—although this level would remain well below the 30-40 SS-27s Russia had originally planned to deploy each year.6

In the weeks since the U.S. decision, however, President Putin and Defense Minister Ivanov have both stated that Russia has no immediate plans to MIRV its SS-27s. Although deploying multiple warheads per missile would be cheaper than maintaining more missiles, it would not be costless to deploy fully operational MIRV systems for the SS-27. Clearly, the Russian government plans to maintain the option of MIRVing SS-27s, as well as maintaining existing MIRVed ICBMs permitted by START I in the event the United States does successfully deploy missile defenses. Putin has also said that Russia’s decision on MIRVing will depend on the “quality” of the U.S.-Russia relationship. His criteria are most likely a new arms agreement, U.S. support for Russian WTO membership, and the NATO-Russia relationship.

Russia’s other option is to develop countermeasures, such as decoys and technology to maneuver warheads in flight.7 Countermeasures would be expensive, and a decision to develop them would depend on how threatened Russia believed its retaliatory capability to be by new U.S. defense systems. Russia can live with a U.S. capability to shoot down 20-30 incoming warheads. Beyond that, Russia would begin to explore countermeasure options. The problem of expense for such research and development could well be mitigated by Russian-Chinese cooperation in countermeasures development, which is one reason their joint opposition to U.S. missile defense played such an important role in the 2001 Russia-China Friendship and Cooperation Treaty.8

The Long Term

Putin’s popularity and effectiveness as president remain high. His public opinion support numbers are around 80 percent, and his legislation breezes through the Duma and Federation Council. He continues to move supporters and associates into key positions and has achieved greater control over Russia’s regional leaders. Putin’s decision to support the U.S. war on terrorism and accept the U.S. decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty have not been enthusiastically supported, but they have not caused visible opposition. As long as the Russian economy remains strong, Russian public support for Putin will hold.

The greater risk is that Putin will face opposition within defense, security, and foreign policy circles if he has nothing to show for pragmatic cooperation with the United States. Russian analysts warn that Putin risks being as alone, and vulnerable, as Mikhail Gorbachev was in 1991.9 Putin probably would not be toppled from office, but that does not mean that his problems in Russian defense and security circles would not affect U.S. interests. U.S.-Russian security cooperation, particularly for securing and disposing of Russia’s numerous weapons of mass destruction, requires active support from Russia’s defense interests, not just lack of active opposition.

For example, initiatives to support alternative employment for Russian scientists that used to work on weapons of mass destruction have been sometimes hindered when Russian security officials block access to facilities in which the scientists are working in new commercial enterprises because defense-related work also continues there. Security officials are also sensitive about Western access to information about Russia’s submarine force (nuclear-weapons capable boats as well as those simply powered by nuclear reactors), the dismantling and securing of which is a major U.S. nonproliferation concern. The sensitivity of the issue and influential role of the FSB in limiting transparency is evidenced in the conviction in December 2001 of Grigory Pasko, a journalist who revealed dumping of nuclear waste in the Pacific by the Russian navy, and in the prosecution of Igor Sutyagin, a researcher who relied upon unclassified information to write analyses of Russia’s navy under a Western contract.

In these and other cases, cooperation and transparency are sensitive because American intentions in dismantling Russia’s weapons of mass destruction are questioned. In many instances, concerns have been allayed and cooperation achieved, as evidenced in the impressive achievements of the Cooperative Threat Reduction program and related projects for nonproliferation cooperation. But success requires willingness and goodwill on the part of Russian officials at all levels, not merely those at the top.10 As the counterterrorism campaign takes on the threat of weapons of mass destruction, the stakes in how the United States and Russia manage their post-ABM relationship will grow.

1. For an excellent and succinct explanation of war-fighting, counterforce, and deterrence, see Bill Keller, “Missile Defense: the Untold Story,” The New York Times, December 29, 2001.
2. “Putin hits at US decision to pull out of ABM Treaty,” The Financial Times, December 14, 2001; “Russian Defense Minister Says Proposed U.S. Missile Defense May Never Happen,” Associated Press, December 18, 2001.
3. Discussion with Russian officials in Washington, December 2001; Fred Weir, “Russia Remains Skeptical of Paperless Disarmament,” The Christian Science Monitor, January 4, 2002.
4. For a Russian analysis of U.S. “downloading” and the implications of warheads that are not “operationally deployed,” see Pavel Podvig, “The End of Strategic Arms Control?” PONARS Policy Memo Series #217 (Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2001).
5. Nikolai Sokov, “Void Left by the ABM Treaty in Danger of Widening,” Jane’s Defense Weekly, January 2, 2002.
6. For numbers, design characteristics, and capabilities of Russian nuclear forces, see Pavel Podvig, ed., Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001).
7. Mikhail Khodarenko, “Na povestke dnya-gonka vooruzheniy,” Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye, December 21, 2001.
8. Nikolai Sokov, “What Is at Stake for the United States in the Sino-Russian Friendship Treaty?” PONARS Policy Memo Series #200 (Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2001).
9. Aleksei Arbatov, “Dogovor po PRO i terrorizm,” Nezavisimaya gazeta, December 26, 2001.
10. Oleg Bukharin, Matthew Bunn, and Kenneth Luongo, “Renewing the Partnership: Recommendations for Accelerated Action to Secure Nuclear Material in the Former Soviet Union,” report of the Russian-American Nuclear Security Advisory Council, August 2000; “Russia ‘Nuclear Regionalism’ and U.S. Policy,” proceedings of a conference held by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute for International Studies, March 19, 2000.

Celeste A. Wallander is director and senior fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


President George W. Bush announces that the United States will withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

Special Section: The U.S. Decision to Withdraw From the ABM Treaty

President George W. Bush announced on December 13 that the United States would unilaterally withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has opposed scrapping the treaty, which he said Russia would have been willing to amend to accommodate U.S. missile defense testing. Moscow has warned it may pull out of other arms control agreements in response to the U.S. withdrawal. Congressional leaders and key U.S. allies have also questioned the wisdom of abandoning the treaty and the value of rushing ahead with unproven national missile defenses.

This special section contains three commentariesRussia’s Strategic Priorities by Celeste A. Wallander, Can China’s Tolerance Last? by Bates Gill, and Withdrawal Is Premature by Charles Peña and Ivan Elandexamining the rationale for the U.S. withdrawal and the Russian and Chinese reactions to the decision. The section also includes a transcript of an Arms Control Association press conference on the U.S. withdrawal as well as the text of President Bush’s announcement and the U.S. diplomatic notes on the matter to Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. See Bush Announces U.S. Intent to Withdraw From ABM Treaty for news coverage.

ABM Treaty Withdrawal: Neither Necessary nor Prudent

An ACA Press Conference

On December 13, as President George W. Bush announced that the United States would pull out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, the Arms Control Association held a press conference to discuss the ramifications of the U.S. withdrawal.

The speakers were Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association; Joseph Cirincione, senior associate and director of the Non-Proliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Lisbeth Gronlund, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists; and John Rhinelander, a legal adviser to the ABM Treaty and SALT I delegation.

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

Daryl G. Kimball

Today, President George W. Bush is expected to formally notify Russia that the United States intends to unilaterally withdraw from the landmark Anti-Ballistic Missile [ABM] Treaty in six months. He is basing the withdrawal on his claim that the treaty blocks necessary testing of strategic anti-missile technologies and the eventual development of land-, sea-, and space-based strategic missile defenses.

From my perspective, this decision is unnecessary, unwarranted, and unwise. It will negatively affect long-term U.S.-Chinese relations, U.S.-Russian relations, and U.S. relations with its allies, as well as undermine efforts to curb the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons—work that has become more urgent since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

We will hear from three expert speakers who have long been involved in missile defense and ABM Treaty issues, and then we will entertain questions. But first I will make a few remarks to put this matter in a proper context, because we’re dealing with more than one treaty here, which is no small matter.

Bush’s intention to withdraw from the ABM Treaty is not all that surprising. After all, the president is on record supporting national missile defense [NMD] deployment. Withdrawal from the treaty is but the latest in a series of moves that reflect the Bush administration’s policy of unilateralist nonengagement with U.S. allies, partners, and erstwhile adversaries. And it marks the resumption of the Bush administration’s strategy—which it was pursuing before September 11—of dismantling and discarding proven arms control strategies and international efforts to prevent the acquisition, development, and potential use of weapon of mass destruction. In fact, in recent weeks the administration blocked progress on an international agreement to enforce the Biological Weapons Convention and boycotted international consultations on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Although not surprising, President Bush’s withdrawal notification is the administration’s most blatant and radical departure to date from three decades of U.S. support for multilateral and bilateral arms control and nonproliferation measures. Arms control and nonproliferation were valuable during the Cold War. And they will continue to be valuable in the post-Cold War, post-September 11 environment by providing confidence, transparency, and predictability, especially between the United States and Russia.

Bush argues that the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty is a Cold War relic that preserves mutual assured destruction policies. But so long as thousands of deployed and nondeployed strategic and tactical nuclear weapons remain, it will be necessary to have clear limits on strategic offenses and defenses to help establish lasting confidence and stability between the United States and Russia—two states with a long history of adversarial relations.

Another important point is that Bush’s withdrawal decision may set a very dangerous precedent for other countries’ adherence to and willingness to participate in multilateral arms control regimes. What message does this send when the world’s pre-eminent military, economic, and cultural power believes that it must be unconstrained by international rules of conduct to protect its security? This could tempt other states to pursue destabilizing weapon systems or to refuse to agree to limits on other military capabilities that they might wish to pursue. The Arms Control Association strongly urges Russia, which has warned that it would pull out of various arms control agreements related to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, not to respond in kind to President Bush’s announcement by withdrawing from START I, the implementation for which was just recently completed.

As Joe Cirincione will detail further, President Bush’s apparent decision to abandon the ABM Treaty will likely weaken U.S. efforts to win support for the paramount goal of stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, particularly from Russia and China. When coupled with the president’s dismissal of formal strategic arms reductions with Russia, U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty will likely inhibit Moscow’s willingness to implement deep, verifiable reductions in its nuclear stockpile. It will also likely complicate the already difficult task of securing and safeguarding Russian nuclear weapons and materials. So, Bush’s overall approach is also dangerous, especially in the aftermath of September 11 and news of al Qaeda’s quest for weapons of mass destruction. Bush’s decision may also encourage China to accelerate its nuclear weapons modernization program and increase its relatively small strategic force, and it could set off a dangerous arms race involving China, India, and Pakistan.

Lisbeth Gronlund will make the case that withdrawal from the ABM Treaty is, at least in the near future, an unnecessary move, given the immature state of the Pentagon’s national missile defense program. Bush and his advisers insist that the ABM Treaty must be discarded because it stands in the way of a robust testing program and eventual deployment. But as Lisbeth and her colleagues from the Union of Concerned Scientists have documented in a new report, these technologies will require many more years of treaty-compliant developmental testing before operational testing—some of which may not be permitted by the treaty—can even begin.

And as John Rhinelander will describe, President Bush has thus far bypassed opportunities to reach an understanding with Russia that would allow for a more robust national missile defense testing program while preserving the ABM Treaty’s basic framework. I should note that, as we all know, Russian President Vladimir Putin has reiterated his country’s opposition to scrapping the ABM Treaty, but President Bush has not come halfway with Putin in trying to reach an understanding on this issue. As a presidential candidate in September 2000, George Bush promised to “offer Russia the necessary amendments to the ABM Treaty so as to make our deployment of effective missile defenses consistent with the treaty.” However, since taking office Bush officials have refused to offer or even consider any such amendments.

Joseph Cirincione

I will play the role of Chicken Little and tell you what parts of the sky are going to fall and when. U.S. withdrawal from or abrogation of the ABM Treaty is not a helpful step at this point. It is bad news. You can tell how unpopular Bush’s decision will be around the world by its timing. It comes while a war is going on and we have lots of other things to talk about. It comes during a holiday season when people are distracted. You have to admire the administration’s skill in timing and executing this plan, however ugly the policy may be.

The consequences of U.S. withdrawal will be in four different areas: the U.S.-Russian strategic relationship, the U.S.-Chinese strategic relationship, U.S. relationships with its allies, and the overall nonproliferation regime.

First, I wouldn’t expect any nation to react immediately to this for three reasons. One, this is just an announcement of an action that is going to take place six months from now. So, we have a timeline of six months or more when it’s possible the president may reverse his decision. Two, the administration has signaled for some time its intention to do this. So, it has softened the ground. And three, most of the nations involved will want to see what happens next. It’s not just the withdrawal that matters; it is also important to find out what the United States intends to do afterward and whether it is possible to preserve some of the benefits of the treaty.

But if everything proceeds according to Bush’s plan, in six months the United States will become the first nation since World War II to withdraw from a major international security agreement. No country has done anything like this before. The closest example is North Korea’s announcement in 1993 that it was going to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. That provoked an international crisis, and we almost went to war. But fortunately, conflict was averted at the last moment when North Korea changed its mind. It’s possible the president will change his mind if the international reaction is as harsh as expected, but I believe that the administration seems intent on tearing down the international regime that its predecessors labored for many decades to construct.

What exactly will this mean for Russia? First, it undermines President Putin. There’s no question that this is a slap in his face. I don’t expect Putin to protest too loudly. He can’t admit defeat. He will express disappointment, concern, and Russian resolve. The real criticism will come from others, and we’re already seeing that in some of the papers—not just from the hardliners in the military and security establishment who have not been persuaded by Putin’s pro-Western tilt, but by members of Putin’s own alliance in the Duma.

For example, you may have seen quotes in The Washington Post today from Vladimir Lukin, a Duma leader, expressing concern that Russia went out of its way to cooperate with the United States in the war in Afghanistan and gave the United States everything it needed—logistical support and intelligence support—and as soon as the war appears to be over, this is how the United States repays Russia.

Take Lukin’s quote and multiply it several thousand times, and then you’ll have some idea of what the Russian reaction is going to be. They will feel betrayed and embittered. There will also be a feeling that President Putin has been played for a sucker, particularly over the way the United States orchestrated this with a period of phony negotiations. Washington had no intention of compromising with Russia, as The Washington Post reported today.

The irony is that Secretary of State Colin Powell, who maybe the only leading administration official who favored a compromise, turned out to be the bagman for the deal. He was sent over not to do negotiations but to deliver the news—here is how and when it’s going to happen. This will embitter the Russians.

What else does this mean for Russia? It means that Moscow is now likely to maintain a higher level of nuclear forces than it would have otherwise. That is, Russian nuclear forces are coming down. Nothing is going to stop that. Russia faces bloc obsolescence of its Soviet-era weapons, and it doesn’t have the money to replace old weapons at the rate that they are being retired. In fact, our projections indicate that, by the end of this decade, we expect the Russian force to be about 1,000 deployed strategic warheads.

But without the ABM Treaty and START II limitations that ban land-based MIRVed missiles, Russia could maintain a much larger force. Just by having MIRVs alone, it could maintain about 2,000 weapons. If U.S.-Russian relations deteriorate and Moscow devotes more resources to its strategic force, we calculate that, by the end of this decade, it could have as many as 4,000 deployed strategic warheads in its arsenal, rather than 1,000.

This matters for three reasons. First, no matter what some people may tell you, each side’s nuclear force is based primarily on calculations of the other side’s force. The reluctance of U.S. Strategic Command, for example, to go much below 2,500 deployed warheads is primarily based on a calculation of the number of warheads it needs to assure the destruction of the Russian arsenal. So, if Russia maintains more warheads, the United States will have to maintain more warheads.

Second, there are questions about the physical security of Russia’s nuclear forces. With a larger number of nuclear weapons, Moscow must maintain a larger production and maintenance complex, increasing the risk that its materials, weapons, and experts could leave for other countries or other groups.

Third, if the U.S.-Russian relationship deteriorates and we no longer have a safety net of treaties that is designed to regulate that relationship in bad times, it’s quite possible that Congress or the administration would seek to cut funds from threat reduction programs, which aid the destruction of Russia’s nuclear materials and safeguards those materials that exist. You can imagine the argument: “Why should we give Russia funding if they’re spending money to increase the number of nuclear weapons that they will aim at us?”

As for China, Beijing is perhaps most directly affected by Bush’s decision, even though it has played no part in the ABM Treaty negotiations. China must now calculate that the United States will deploy an anti-ballistic missile system that, by its very size and characteristics, is designed primarily for use against the Chinese nuclear force. Washington is designing an ABM force that can intercept 20 to 100 warheads. Since China is the only country that has 20 to 100 warheads, Beijing sees this system as an anti-Chinese system.

No Chinese leader can allow the Chinese nuclear force to be neutralized by the United States. China is already engaged in strategic modernization. No matter what the relationship with the United States is over the next 10 years, Beijing will have to consider the U.S. defensive system. This means that it will likely increase its pace of modernization, place multiple warheads on its missiles, and probably deploy countermeasures with those missiles. It may even sell countermeasures to other countries.

Regarding U.S. allies, I expect most of the allied reaction to range from disbelief to bitter disappointment. I don’t expect there to be many outright statements of condemnation or outrage. After all, there is a war going on. Our alliance partners are loyal. However, none of the allies see either the threat or the technology that the president imagines. They rely heavily on the international framework of treaties and arrangements that has kept the peace so successfully over the last 56 years, and they will see U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty as a threat to that framework.

Moreover, U.S. allies will be disappointed that the United States is not turning around and embracing multilateralism, as it appeared it would after September 11. Instead, the United States appears to be pursuing what I call “unilateral multilateralism.” That is, Washington wants international cooperation on its terms. You can see this policy in the way the United States dealt with its allies when it torpedoed the talks on the Biological Weapons Convention last week. You can see it in the way the United States has conducted the war. Allied support was requested, but very little cooperation was accepted to help conduct the war, much to the regret of the Germans, French, and others. This will mean that, in the future, U.S. allies will be a little more reluctant to offer their unconditioned cooperation with the United States. They will be more suspect of U.S. motives and less trusting of the United States’ vision.

Finally, for the nonproliferation regime, this is a body blow. It was bad enough that Washington rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, scuttled the verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention, rejected negotiations on small arms, and hasn’t signed the landmines treaty. It now appears that the United States is intent on tearing down the strategic arms treaties as well.

This sends the wrong message to other countries. If the world’s most powerful country feels that it can withdraw from an international agreement because it finds it inconvenient, why can’t other nations? For example, why can’t Iran decide that it needs weapons, not pieces of paper, to protect its security? Why can’t Iraq withdraw from a treaty that it no longer finds convenient?

International disenchantment with international nonproliferation regimes, when combined with Russian embitterment and China’s increased pace of strategic modernization, could lead to a new wave of proliferation—where countries withdraw from control regimes and seek their individual national interests instead of placing their faith in international cooperation.

Finally, as if this wasn’t bad enough, Bush’s decision undermines the domestic cooperation that has characterized life in Washington since September 11. After the terrorist attacks, Democratic congressional leaders suspended planned budgetary cuts to and restraints on the missile defense program. They took this action not because they agreed with missile defense after September 11 but because they sought to preserve national unity. However, the president apparently feels no such obligation. Withdrawal from the ABM Treaty will not go down well in Congress. I expect the debate on missile defense to pick up again in January with more vigor than ever. That’s my summary of the situation.

Lisbeth Gronlund

I want to talk a little bit about the rationale that the Bush administration has given for withdrawing from the treaty sooner rather than later. As previous speakers have noted, the administration has said it needs to withdraw from the ABM Treaty because the treaty prevents it from testing missile defense systems and finding out which technologies are suitable for deployment. In fact, the administration has indicated that there are several near-term activities that it wants to conduct that could run afoul of the treaty. However, the kinds of tests that the United States needs to conduct now are not restricted by the ABM Treaty, so the administration’s argument for withdrawal is specious.

The first of the administration’s near-term activities is a series of so-called tracking tests that would involve using a SPY radar on an Aegis ship to track an intercept test of the ground-based missile defense system that the Pentagon is developing, which would violate the treaty. The SPY radar is intended for use in two missile defense systems that are under development—but have not yet been deployed—to defend against short-range missiles. The administration has not been very clear about the purpose of using the SPY radar to track the launch of a long-range test missile and interceptor, but Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said this summer that these tests would enable the Pentagon to gather some basic data on the radar’s capability to track long-range missiles.

Well, this is something that the United States already has a lot of information on. The SPY radar is not new. The United States already has all kinds of tracking data for this radar. And the basic capability of a radar to track various kinds of objects is something that you can calculate using computer programs. In fact, the United States has presumably already done this because it has concluded in numerous fora that this radar is not suitable for tracking long-range missiles. The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization did a study in 1998 in which it looked at the utility of sea-based assets for national missile defense. In that study, it said that the Aegis SPY radar is not capable of supporting national missile defense-type engagements due to limited detection and tracking ranges for long-range ballistic missiles and their re-entry vehicles. A report last year by the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation echoed that sentiment.

The results of these studies are not surprising. If you look at the characteristics of the radar, it was designed to track large objects, such as airplanes that are fairly close. It doesn’t have the power to track smaller objects, such as re-entry vehicles, that are far away. So, the utility of testing these radars in this way is, at best, marginal, and I would argue is zero. As the Pentagon itself has indicated, it already understands the radar’s capabilities quite well.

The second rationale that the Pentagon has given for needing near-term relief from ABM Treaty limitations is that it is planning to add a new set of so-called testing facilities, in particular at Fort Greely, Alaska. These facilities would include five interceptor silos as well as some battle management nodes and an in-flight interceptor communication system. The Pentagon claims that this is part of a new “test bed” that will allow it to test the ground-based midcourse missile defense system more fully.

However, if you look closely at these plans, you will find that the United States can’t actually test-fire interceptors from Fort Greely because it’s an inland site and there are safety concerns. So, the Pentagon is building these five interceptor silos and planning to put five interceptors there, but it has acknowledged that it cannot actually test-fire the interceptors from this site. So the site will have no utility in the ongoing ground-based midcourse system flight-test program.

Well, the administration says, “Okay, that’s true, but there are other things we can do. There are other kinds of testing, other things that we can test if we build these silos. We can test whether the fuels in the missile interceptor will degrade in the cold Arctic environment.” Well, the Pentagon could test that without building five missile silos. And if it really has these concerns, the last thing it should be doing is building five missile silos if it doesn’t know whether the fuel is going to be able to withstand the temperatures at Fort Greely. So, if you look closely at the arguments that the Pentagon has given for why it needs to build these silos at Fort Greely, they fall apart.

Now, the Pentagon also says that it intends to have this missile defense site operational by 2004, in which case, it could serve as an “emergency defense.” So, in a sense, it is acknowledging that Fort Greely is a deployment site, not a testing site. And, of course, the ABM Treaty prohibits deployment in Alaska.

The Pentagon wants to start building these silos this summer. The six-month ABM Treaty withdrawal notice would allow it to begin construction and have construction finished by 2004, which is the next presidential election. So, in a sense, President Bush wants to put silos somewhere so that he can say that the United States has deployed a very rudimentary missile defense system. Ironically, the capability of this missile defense system will be extremely marginal because the interceptors will not have been tested and no adequate sensors will have been deployed to go along with the interceptors.

So, if you look at the two reasons that President Bush has given for needing to withdraw from the treaty soon—conducting SPY radar tracking tests and building facilities at Fort Greely—you will see that they are not a sound rationale.

Of course we can then ask, “Certainly, if these are not things that need to be done now, sooner or later, the U.S. development program will bump up against the ABM Treaty.” So the question is, how soon will the United States need to withdraw from the ABM Treaty if it wants to continue with a robust research and development program?

Well, despite Bush’s restructuring of the whole U.S. missile defense program since taking office, most of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization’s efforts remain devoted to the system President Bill Clinton began to develop—the ground-based midcourse system. If you take a look at last year’s budget and President Bush’s proposed budget for this year, you will see that this system will receive $3.2 billion in the next year. Now, there are three other programs devoted to intercepting long-range missiles—one is based on an idea to have a space-based kill vehicle that intercepts during boost phase; another idea is to have hit-to-kill interceptors launched from ships; and there is a notion to put an orbiting laser in space. President Bush’s request for the first program was $15 million; the second was $50 million, and the third was $175 million.

So, the ground-based midcourse system is receiving 20 to 200 times more funding than these other programs. That gives you a sense of how far along the other programs are. They are in the very early stages of research and development, and it will be years before the United States tests them against long-range missiles, which would be prohibited by the ABM Treaty.

The system that the United States is spending most of its money on and that is the furthest along in development is the Clinton ground-based midcourse system. The ABM Treaty permits the Pentagon to fully test that system; there are no treaty restrictions. The Pentagon has imposed lots of limitations while testing this system, but none of those are due to the ABM Treaty. They’re due to technology.

Finally, there are two theater missile defense systems that the United States is developing that might have some utility for defense against long-range missiles. The first is the Airborne Laser program, which would basically deploy a laser on an airplane. The idea behind it would be to fire a laser beam at a missile during the missile’s boost phase and weaken the booster so that it stops boosting. The intended result is for the warhead to fall short of its target. But there are basic technical questions that are unanswered for this program—the Pentagon doesn’t really know what will happen when it tries to fire the laser through the atmosphere.

The Defense Department is on schedule to conduct its first Airborne Laser intercept test against a short-range Scud-type missile in 2003. Assuming that the program remains on schedule, which is probably an optimistic assumption, and that these tests against short-range missiles are successful, the United States could not schedule a test against long-range missiles, which would not be permitted under the ABM Treaty, until after 2003. So, Washington has several years before it would want to conduct treaty-prohibited tests.

The other system the Pentagon is developing is the Navy Theater Wide system, which is a midcourse system. The Pentagon is hoping to deploy by 2006 the first phase of that system, which is intended to shoot down relatively short-range missiles. In the longer term, it is planning to upgrade the interceptor and perhaps the sensors, but that is not something that is scheduled to take place until the end of the decade.

So again, if you look at the programs the United States is working on, you will see that there is no justification to withdraw from the ABM Treaty for several years for testing purposes.

John Rhinelander

I’d like to cover three points. The first is that there is absolutely no compelling reason for the United States to withdraw from the treaty. The second point covers why are we withdrawing. Third, I want to talk about whether there is any legal way to challenge the president on his power to withdraw the United States from a treaty. The answer is no, and I’ll tell you why.

With respect to the treaty, there are three legal issues that must be dealt with that the White House fuzzes up. The first is the legality of the Alaska test range that the Pentagon intends to build. The test range would have three ABM components: five launchers at Fort Greely, two launchers at Kodiak Island, and an upgrade to a radar on Shemya Island to give it some ABM potential.

Under the treaty, the United States and Russia each have two test ranges. The U.S. sites are located at White Sands in New Mexico and Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. A 1978 agreed statement permits each country to establish additional test ranges, consistent with other treaty provisions, simply upon notification to the other side.

The Alaska test range would be permitted under the treaty if the United States submits one simple sentence notifying Russia that, pursuant to Article IV of the treaty and paragraph 5 of the 1978 agreed statement, it intends to establish a test range in Alaska. That’s all it takes. The Russians may not like it. They can complain about it. But, in fact, that’s all it takes. So answering the Alaska test range problem is simple: one sentence will take care of it. And I’m personally convinced—having talked to a number of Russians about this myself—that Moscow would accept it. Russia would raise questions and object to it but would accept it in the end.

The second issue is using the Aegis radar—designed for surface-to-air missile and theater missile defense purposes—concurrently with long-range missile defense tests. This would violate the explicit ban on concurrent tests of ABM and non-ABM systems at a test range. The simple answer to this issue is to stop using these Aegis radars. There is no technical reason whatsoever for using these radars to try to advance a national missile defense. The real problem is that the United States doesn’t have the interceptors or the radars for a true national missile defense. The Aegis radar is a surface-to-air missile system upgraded to be a missile defense system, but these tests are designed to violate the treaty rather than to advance an effective national defense.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cancelled the Aegis radar test scheduled for October. There’s another one scheduled for February, but there’s no reason in the world to go through with it. But if the Pentagon really wants to test the Aegis radar against an ICBM-capable missile, all it has to do is wait until the United States launches a satellite, which it does both from California and Florida. The Pentagon could then turn the radar on and get the same kind of readings.

Now, the third issue and only serious question involves Article V of the treaty, which prohibits the development, testing, and deployment of mobile ABM systems. As Lisbeth pointed out, the treaty makes absolutely clear that you can test ABM components as long as they are part of fixed land-based systems, as we’re doing right now out of Kwajalein. The United States is currently considering sea- and air-based mobile systems for boost-phase intercepts. There are three answers to this problem. First, air- and sea-based systems are years away from being ready for testing that would violate the treaty. I don’t know how many years because it depends on the pace at which Congress funds the programs. But it will be years before the Pentagon even arguably would come up against treaty limitations on what it can do with these systems.

Second, where does the treaty language draw the line on prohibiting development and tests of mobile-type systems? The fact is, in the almost 30 years that the treaty has been in effect, the United States hasn’t sought specific agreement with the Soviets or Russians on this issue. When the United States took the treaty before the Senate in 1972, based on discussions with the Soviets during the negotiations, the executive branch stated that the ABM Treaty ban begins at the field-testing phase. However, the parties have never sought to pin down this understanding in explicit language, leaving the Russians room to challenge U.S. activities. So again, another one-sentence solution would help fix the problem: “The United States and Russia agree that the ban in Article V begins at the field-testing phase.” That takes care of it for at least three to five years, again, depending on the pace of funding of actual tests approved by Congress.

Third, the more complete and permanent way to deal with this problem is to amend the treaty to suspend the ban on development and testing of air- and sea-based systems for a fixed period, such as 10 years. It would be a simple amendment but would, of course, have to go before the Senate. The first two solutions I talked about earlier, a sentence on the Alaska test range and a second sentence on testing, wouldn’t have to go to the Hill for approval. The Senate would be notified. But if the United States were to amend the treaty, which I think is the better long-term way to do it, the Senate would be involved.

When I was involved in the 1970s, the difficult issues were based 60 percent on technology and 40 percent on politics. At present, keys issues are decided 100 percent on politics and zero percent on technology.

Basically, the stage was set for withdrawal when Bush campaigned in favor of effective missile defense and getting rid of the treaty. And the final nail was put in the coffin November 9, when nine Senate Republicans delivered a letter to Bush saying, “You’ve got to get rid of that treaty.” If there was any possibility of a deal being cut with Russia, I think that letter ended it. Bush realized that, if he was going strike a deal with Moscow, the Senate might have to approve it, but it would be over the dead bodies of the senators who wrote that letter, plus a few more. Personally, I think the Senate would have approved an amendment if the president were behind it by a vote of roughly 80 to 20. But I think the president remembers, rightly or wrongly, that his father lost his re-election campaign because he lost the support of the right. Bush is determined not to lose the right’s support, and on this one, he’s not only not losing support, but he’s also giving red meat to the right wing. So I think this is politics pure and simple, and withdrawal is going to go forward.

On the third point, whether the president can withdraw the United States from the ABM Treaty, in my judgment, this is an issue for the president alone. Under the Constitution, Congress has no role whatsoever. They can complain about it and pass resolutions against it, but it will have no legal effect.

Furthermore, the federal courts will stay out of it. The last time this came up with an important treaty was in 1979, when President Jimmy Carter withdrew from the mutual defense treaty with Taiwan. Senator Barry Goldwater led a band of Republicans against Carter’s action. The Republican’s challenge went up to the Supreme Court, which threw the case out. The courts will have no role; that’s the precedent. Of course, now you have the political parties’ roles reversed. It will be the conservatives talking about the unlimited power of the president. If there’s any kind of legal challenge—which I don’t think there should be because it would be foolish—it would come from the Democrats.

The final irony here is that the withdrawal clause was first put in a treaty at the insistence of the United States to limit Moscow’s freedom of action. That happened in 1963 during the Limited Test Ban Treaty negotiations. At that time, Andrei Gromyko, foreign minister of the Soviet Union, was taking the position that the Soviets could withdraw from a treaty at any time for any reason that they wanted. That line of reasoning didn’t give the Americans much comfort, so the United States persuaded the Soviets to accept a formal withdrawal process, which, incidentally, would help get the treaty through the Senate. No country has withdrawn from a post-World War II arms control agreement to date. As Joe indicated, the North Koreans are the only ones who have ever given notice under a treaty, and even they suspended their withdrawal the day before it became effective.

Let me conclude with a couple of comments. First, Congress will become the replacement for the ABM Treaty. From now on, we’re going to have a fight in the fall over funding for ballistic missile defense, and Congress will assume prime responsibility for the pacing and shaping of ABM developments. This year, Congress let it go, given the situation in Afghanistan.

I would also like to remind you that Washington has twice deployed systems against strategic threats to the continental United States. The first was the Nike system from the 1950s, which had conventionally armed missiles and later nuclear-armed missiles to protect against long-range Soviet heavy bombers. The more than 200 Nike sites were basically disbanded after 20 years because they were totally ineffective in the missile age. The second system was the Safeguard ABM system, which the United States had up in North Dakota and operated for four months before shutting it down because it was ineffective.

Finally, I predict that, by the end of the Bush administration, whether it’s January 2005 or January 2009, we will have no ABM Treaty and no deployed ABM defense. Technically, there simply isn’t anything close to being proven effective for deployment. The good thing I can say about what Bush and Rumsfeld have done is that they didn’t follow Clinton’s plan of deploying something that was just foolish. They’re going to conduct tests first, but a deployable system is a long way off, and, as has been testified before the Senate, it will be at least a decade before the Pentagon knows whether it can build anything that is effective.

Questions and Answers

Question: How will U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty affect the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT]? Will non-nuclear-weapon states be more likely to pull out?

Rhinelander: I think no one is going to withdraw immediately from the NPT. A step before withdrawal could simply be to suspend performance and lay some conditions out for continued participation. It’s much more likely that the nonproliferation regime will just dribble away in terms of effectiveness and that the withdrawal from the ABM Treaty will prevent the United States from effectively saying, “Look, treaty constraints are the norm we all have to live up to.”

So I think the degradation of the regime is going to be a slow process. It’s not going to be a dramatic one. There are countries you could easily identify that are the leading candidates to go nuclear, some already parties to the NPT, others not. But I think the main point is that, in the end, we’ll be in a world without effective legal constraints. In terms of nuclear nonproliferation, we’ll have some constraints—the Nuclear Suppliers Group and things like that—but I think more and more we will not have effective legal constraints on proliferation.

In the final analysis, that’s the most serious thing of all, and I would just conclude by saying I think the biggest threat obviously from proliferation is from Russia. We’re not funding the Nunn-Lugar threat reduction programs the way we should, and that’s where the biggest threat of all of proliferation is. But I think proliferation threats are also going to come from other countries, and proliferation is going to be slow, but I think withdrawal from the ABM Treaty is really a fatal blow over the long term to the NPT regime.

Question: What about India and Pakistan specifically? Do you see any direct effect on those countries?

Rhinelander: Well, India and Pakistan haven’t joined the NPT and they cannot join it as it’s presently written if they keep their nuclear weapons capability. The treaty permits in that club only the five countries that had tested nuclear weapons before 1967. The fact that India and Pakistan have tested nuclear weapons and that the United States is now lifting the sanctions against them has adversely affected the nonproliferation regime. Decisions to go nuclear have a lot of factors involved. Obviously the NPT is only one, but I think undermining the NPT removes from our arsenal a tool for persuading countries not to go nuclear, something which is very important. Over the longer term, you’ll see more countries deciding to develop nuclear weapons, and we’ll have to deal with that.

Cirincione: The president’s actions cheapen the currency of international agreements. It makes it more likely that other nations will withdraw from their international obligations should they find them inconvenient.

I agree with John: deterioration of treaty restraints is a slow but steady process. The direction is very disturbing. Treaties are inanimate objects. They don’t enforce themselves. They reflect the will of the international community. They reflect the power of the countries that have established the treaties. They require leadership to continue to live and to be enforced. The leadership from this administration is moving in exactly the opposite direction. The administration is moving away from treaty-based international security toward international security based on preponderance of arms.

The regimes that the Bush team seems to favor hearken back to the strategies of the Eisenhower administration, when we thought we could control proliferation by controlling the technologies and establishing export control regimes. So the administration favors things like the Missile Technology Control Regime and the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Withdrawal from the ABM Treaty makes it less likely that India and Pakistan will join any international agreement, although the administration still may hope to draw them into arrangements like the Missile Technology Control Regime.

If U.S. relations with China develop in the way I indicated and China increases the pace of its modernization, India will certainly take note of that and operationalize its nuclear force. Pakistan will then be forced to operationalize its nuclear force. An increasingly nuclearized Asia will have serious implications for Japan’s international security, and Iran will, of course, take notice.

So the nuclear reaction chain could lead to the emergence of many more nuclear nations by the end of this decade. I’m afraid that the United States may have just lit the fuse.

Question: The administration has talked about the need for a new structure of international security, mixing offensive and defensive systems, and they’ve had some months to develop their thinking. Is there anything to their thinking, or is the “new strategic framework” a phony argument that they were making to us?

Cirincione: I think the strategic framework is a concept, but it remains an empty shell. The administration has not filled it in. In part, the events of September 11 may have disrupted any plan they had in mind and taken them off in new directions. But there’s no there there. There is no replacement course for the ABM Treaty regime. I think the best definition of the strategic framework consists of U.S. military and diplomatic leadership in the world, ad hoc international coalitions formed around specific events or specific regions that are then disbanded, control of technologies, and harsh punishment for those who violate the U.S. led norms.

But the treaties that the administration envisions are mostly bilateral. It believes that international security is guaranteed through strong alliance relationships, not the swamp of multilateral negotiations. But so far, you haven’t seen any of those other instruments strengthened or replaced. There’s nothing there yet.

Question: Earlier, you mentioned a period of “phony negotiations” with the Russians. Could you elaborate on that?

Kimball: We’ve heard for weeks and months from Bush administration officials that they have been engaged in a productive dialogue with their Russian counterparts. In reality—and if you ask them this directly, I think they will admit it—defense officials in the United States have mainly just conducted a series of briefings for Russian officials on the general outline of the planned test program for the U.S. missile defense system. What the Bush administration says it’s trying to do is regularize these discussions, much as our defense consultations with NATO are.

Up until as recently as just a few days ago when Secretary Powell met with Foreign Minister Ivanov, there had been no exchange of proposals as to how the ABM Treaty might be modified or amended to accommodate the United States’ more robust plans, if you will, for missile defense testing over the next two to three years.

What President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Donald Rumsfeld have gone to Moscow and offered was a pretty tough choice for the Russians: unilateral withdrawal from the ABM Treaty or joint withdrawal. These are options that the Russians, given their situation, have clearly not been interested in accepting, and they have apparently made it clear that they would be willing to entertain proposals for amendments to the treaty to allow additional testing.

The president, as I said before, has turned down that option, and it is very much I think a repudiation of the history of bilateral discussions between the United States and Russia and something of a snub to our newest and closest ally in the war on terrorism.

Cirincione: I agree with that assessment.

Rhinelander: Let me add one comment on this. The essence of a treaty is a mutuality of obligations. Many in the administration oppose any treaty on any subject dealing with security. But to the extent they’re willing to deal at all with treaties in this field, it’s only in terms of providing some information at some point in time. They simply say “absolutely no” to the kinds of treaties we’ve had since World War II, which have prohibitions or limitations on acts, including prohibitions applicable to us. They want an absolutely free hand where no document and nobody tells them what they can do, although they don’t mind restrictions on others. So treaties, in the way the arms control community has thought of them since World War II, are simply unacceptable to them.

Question: I’d like to follow up on Joe’s point about lighting the fuse for the nuclear buildup in Asia. China already has intermediate-range missiles that could hit India. If China builds more intercontinental ballistic missiles to counter a U.S. missile shield, why would that necessarily trigger a buildup in India?

Cirincione: Two things. First, none of the dire possibilities I’ve outlined may come to pass. It’s quite possible that U.S. relations will be very good with Russia and China for the next decade and that missile defenses will be deployed in small numbers in a cooperative fashion, or will be deployed and then withdrawn, or not deployed at all. So none of this necessarily needs to take place. I’m just laying out some of the possibilities and arguing that there’s no reason to run the risk, there’s no reason to get into a situation where those worst cases may unfold for all the reasons that Lisbeth articulated. We can do plenty of testing over the next four or five years within the ABM Treaty.

Second, on China, you have to look at this from India’s point of view. The Indians already see themselves in a rivalry with China. Their nuclear tests were not aimed primarily at Pakistan, whom they consider to be an annoyance and an unstable state that will soon pass from the scene. They’re concerned about their rival to the north. So their nuclear tests were aimed at China and at establishing India’s rightful place in the world.

China is in a modernization drive. It has 20 ICBMs that can reach the United States. It has 20 intermediate-range missiles that can reach India, plus shorter-range missiles. Even though China’s modernization is aimed primarily at the United States, India won’t necessarily see it that way. They have a very Indo-centric view of the world. They will think of China’s modernization as a challenge to them.They see themselves as a competitor in Asia in the world with China. They want to assert their role in the world, and they will feel compelled to keep pace, to modernize and operationalize their force and not leave it the way it is. Currently, India basically has unassembled components that could be put together quickly, but none of its weapons, as far as we know, are operationally deployed. India could change its posture and deploy assembled weapons. The arguments in the Indian nuclear community will have more force. The Indian politicians will feel more threats from this Indian-Chinese challenge.

China will assure India that its nuclear improvements aren’t aimed at them. India will respond very nicely, “Yes, we know that, and so our modernization isn’t aimed at you either.” But that dynamic is already in place. It’s already engaged. Any acceleration on either side will certainly lead to an acceleration on the other side.

Gronlund: I would like to add that in the near term there may be another treaty casualty that will come before the NPT: the fissile material cutoff treaty, which has been under preliminary discussions in the Conference on Disarmament and could offer a way to constrain India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programs, short of them giving up nuclear weapons.

But one thing that China has made fairly clear in those talks is, if the U.S. goes forward with missile defenses, it is not willing to cut off its future production because it wants to reserve the option of building up its forces. And if China won’t play, then India and Pakistan won’t play that game either.
So the effect of U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty may be something less draconian than a massive buildup; it may be the loss of an ability to constrain things.

Cirincione: And needless to say all this happens slowly. None of these are going to look like the Cold War buildup, where suddenly we were pumping out hundreds of missiles a year. This all happens much more slowly in Asia. It’s the direction that you have to worry about.

Gronlund: Right. The tragedy is really that U.S. withdrawal will probably prevent things from getting a lot better. Even if they don’t get a lot worse, the current situation—10 years after the end of the Cold War—is not very good.

Question: For the past year, the focal point of the debate in Congress has been adherence to the treaty. What is the congressional role in missile defense now, and how will missile defenses balance against other defense priorities?

Kimball: Prior to September 11, the Democrats in the Senate were pushing the administration quite hard on the rationale for the test program—for the reasons why the Bush administration wanted to or thought it needed to pull out of the ABM Treaty. I think those questions and those concerns continue to be there, despite the fact that Senator Carl Levin, for instance, withdrew his language that would have required congressional approval for any administration action that was inconsistent with the ABM Treaty.

Now, there still may be no action that is inconsistent with the ABM Treaty over the next fiscal year, but as John Rhinelander said, it is the president’s prerogative to withdraw from this treaty.

But in the final analysis, we are not going to have a missile defense system for many, many years. The technological problems are substantial. The financial problems are enormous when you take into consideration the additional expenditures that the United States has just made in the war on terrorism, which we’ve not yet reckoned with. We’ve not really seen how this is going to affect the overall budget balance and other priorities. Add on top of that the Bush administration’s plan for a layered missile defense system, which I think by most conservative estimates can be said to cost in the range of $150-250 billion over the next decade.

So it’s difficult to calculate, but my prediction is that in the end we’re not going to have a missile defense system that is effective, that fulfills the promise that the Bush administration is advertising, and the United States will not in the end be more secure but will be less secure because we are not making forward progress in the effort to stop the spread of weapon of mass destruction.

Rhinelander: Let me add a comment on the budget and on China. On the budget, the first Republicans I think who will fall off this whole thing are those in the House dealing with appropriations. They’re going to be the ones where fiscal tightness is going to be overriding some of the interests of others in terms of defense. In the past, it’s been those Republicans on the appropriations committee or allied with them who have been resistant to large expenditures. That’s going to come up again.

Just take one facet of this program, which is the space-based infrared system [SBIRS-low]. The current budget estimates range from $10 billion to $23 billion. The schedule is slipping and slipping and slipping. This was a program designed to take the place of the X-band radars, which we were going to put in Greenland and the United Kingdom and a few other places. If SBIRS-low doesn’t fly, then we’re going to be back to that problem of getting allies to agree to put big radars on their turf.

The history of all missile defense programs is that the actual costs are way, way above the estimates. In the end, it’s going to be the failure of the technology to do what the enthusiasts expect, and it’s going to be the budget overruns that are going to be the two fatal blows to missile defense. It’s going to take time. You never know what’s going to happen in the near term. This year was a free ride on the budget. In the end, Carl Levin pulled back his action in the Senate. But the idea that there will be unlimited money to do whatever the Pentagon wants in this field is not in the cards.

But let me go to one comment made earlier on China. I think what China is going to fear, among other things from this, is all of a sudden the constraints on weaponization of space—the development and testing of offensive and defensive space weapons—are out because that goes down with the ABM Treaty.

Now, we’ve got no space weapons ready to go as far as I know. I don’t think there have been any hard proposals, but certainly Donald Rumsfeld in his prior capacity just before he came in was a strong advocate of space weapons, and if we begin to make noises on aggressively testing and then deploying assets in space, I think that’s going to be a real tripwire with the Chinese.

Kimball: Let me make a couple of final comments. Article XV of the ABM Treaty does allow the United States to withdraw “if extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests.”

Now, we need to contemplate what that meant in 1972, and we need to ask the question—and I think President Bush needs to make the case—why we must pull out of this treaty to deal with supreme national interests.

In our view, withdrawal is neither necessary or prudent, given the nature of the long-range ballistic missile threat, which is low; the technological state of the NMD program; and Russia’s willingness to modify the treaty to allow the further testing that is necessary to find out if national missile defense can be effective some day in the future in a real world environment. So I think this decision to withdraw does not meet the Article XV standard.


On December 13, as President George W. Bush announced that the United States would pull out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, the Arms Control Association held a press conference to discuss the ramifications of the U.S. withdrawal.

Withdrawal Is Premature

Charles Peña and Ivan Eland

The development of a limited national missile defense to protect the U.S. homeland may eventually require withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, but now is not the time to have made that decision.

First, the testing program for the most mature strategic missile defense technology—the limited, land-based, midcourse system—remains in its infancy. National missile defense is the most complex weapon system ever developed, and the technology is unproven. Therefore, as with any other high-tech weapon system, a thorough test program is needed. Because the ABM Treaty permits research of fixed, land-based ABM technology, development of this system—including increasingly more complex and operationally realistic tests, such as those using countermeasures and decoys—could continue within the constraints of the treaty.

Eighteen tests of the land-based strategic midcourse system are scheduled and, although the results of testing to date have been promising (three of the five tests conducted so far have been considered successful), it is still too early to determine the operational viability of the system. The technological difficulties have been recently highlighted by a test failure of the system’s rocket booster and the repeated delays in the space-based infrared system, which is designed to provide tracking and guidance for the system. In other words, it is far too early to make a deployment decision—and that is the only point at which the United States would need either to withdraw from the treaty or to modify it.

Punctuating the immaturity of U.S. missile defense technology and the need for more testing before a deployment decision can be made, the Pentagon cancelled a Navy program for ship-based, short-range ballistic missile defense the day after the U.S. announcement to withdraw from the ABM Treaty. The program, Navy Area Wide, was supposedly one of the most advanced of the theater ballistic missile systems, whose slower-moving targets present far less of a technical challenge than the ICBM warheads that the land-based strategic system will be intended to counter.

Apparently, Navy Area Wide had problems with integrating targeting computers with the Aegis radar system, and the land-based system could experience similar problems with integrating its various components. Ironically, one of the reasons the Bush administration decided to withdraw from the ABM Treaty was to pursue sea-based missile defense against long-range ballistic missiles. But canceling the Navy Area Wide program does not bode well for the more difficult prospect of sea-based missile defense against long-range missiles.

In light of this cancellation, the claim made by Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., president of the Center for Security Policy, that at the president’s direction, the Navy’s Aegis-equipped ships could be “immediately upgraded as a matter of the utmost priority… [and] given limited capability to intercept ballistic missiles roughly six months after the ABM Treaty expires” needs to be viewed with healthy skepticism. Indeed, Lieutenant General Ronald Kadish, the head of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), said that strategic, sea-based defenses could not be ready before the end of the decade. Although advocates would wish otherwise, the truth is that the technology and system integration for effective missile defense cannot be rushed as a simple matter of political will and presidential direction.

Second, President George W. Bush claims that the ABM Treaty “hinders our government’s ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorist or rogue-state missile attacks.” But those threats are not existing ones that warrant an immediate withdrawal from the ABM Treaty. Ballistic missiles are the least likely means by which terrorists would deliver a weapon against the United States because terrorists would have greater difficulty developing, acquiring, or using an ICBM than they would delivering a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon by other means.

Rogue states are also unlikely to use missiles because they provide a known point of origin, which would likely result in immediate U.S. retaliation with the most powerful nuclear arsenal on the planet. Furthermore, it is not inevitable that a rogue-state ballistic missile threat will emerge. For example, in 1998 North Korea set off alarm bells when it tested over Japan a missile deemed to have intercontinental range, but it has since agreed not to test-fire long-range ballistic missiles before 2003. If a North Korean missile threat were to emerge, it would not do so for at least five years, allowing plenty of time to test the fixed, land-based system before making a deployment decision that would necessitate withdrawal from the ABM Treaty.

Finally, although President Bush stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed that the “decision to withdraw from the treaty will not in any way undermine our new relationship or Russian security,” withdrawing from the treaty (much like NATO expansion) could unnecessarily antagonize the Russians and result in unintended consequences as Russia responds with its own national security interests in mind. Some hardliners in Russia reacted to the ABM Treaty decision by immediately calling for retaining more land-based ICBMs than had been planned and fitting them with multiple warheads in contravention of START II. Some in Russia have talked of scrapping all past arms control agreements. The withdrawal could also impede the two nations’ continued cooperation on the war on terrorism and on safeguarding Russia’s dangerous stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. Some in Russia have characterized the U.S. decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty as a “slap in the face” and “calculated to offend Russia” after Putin has stood by the United States in its war on terrorism.1

In addition, despite a somewhat muted response to the announcement, China opposed U.S. withdrawal from the treaty. Although the Chinese will modernize their modest and antiquated nuclear force regardless of whether the United States develops and deploys a missile defense system, the decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty will most likely accelerate their efforts. At a minimum, the United States should expect that China will invest in countermeasures for its intercontinental ballistic missiles as one means of offsetting a potential U.S. missile defense system. The Chinese could also sell these countermeasures (or the technology to develop them) to rogue states such as North Korea, whose missiles have been influenced by Chinese designs. Also of great concern is whether Chinese nuclear modernization will include expansion, resulting in hundreds—rather than tens—of long-range nuclear missiles.

Because both the threat and a thoroughly tested, limited, land-based missile defense system are still well in the future, making a withdrawal decision now simply incurs all of the negative international consequences of withdrawing from the treaty in the short term while yielding no security benefit for many years, if ever.

Indeed, the only argument for withdrawing from the ABM Treaty is to develop strategic missile defenses on sea-, air-, space-, and mobile land-based platforms, which are prohibited by the treaty. Although the Bush administration claims that such platforms would provide a layered defense that would better protect the United States, the truth is that a land-based system is perfectly adequate for handling the limited potential threat from rogue states. In reality, the administration’s primary purpose for a layered defense seems to be construction of a global missile defense designed to protect friends and allies around the world. As the BMDO stated, the U.S. objective is to “develop the capability to defend the forces and territories of the United States, its allies, and friends against all classes of ballistic missile threats.” Furthermore, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has directed that the program focus “on missile defense as a single integrated BMD [ballistic missile defense] system, no longer differentiating between theater and national missile defense.”

It would seem, then, that national missile defense has quietly and unassumingly become global international missile defense, designed to protect not just the United States (although missile defense is portrayed to the American public as defending the United States) but also its allies and friends around the world. Indeed, the Bush administration plan seems no different than the “from anywhere to anywhere” threat rationale used for the GPALS (Global Protection Against Limited Strikes) system proposed by the previous Bush administration. This should come as no surprise since many of the top thinkers and decision-makers in the current Bush administration are holdovers from the elder Bush’s tenure.

But why should the United States shoulder the burden of a global missile defense system (likely to cost well in excess of $100 billion, if not several hundred billion dollars) when many of the friends and allies that such a system would protect are wealthy enough to pay for their own missile defense, already spend too little on their own defense, and already benefit from U.S. security guarantees?

Furthermore, such a system mimics the overextended U.S. defense perimeter, which is built on the misperception that vital U.S. national security interests require defending every region of the globe and responding to every crisis in those many regions. The belief is that a global missile defense system would create a shield that would give the United States freedom of action to operate with relative impunity throughout the world. But if policymakers feel more secure, they may also feel more emboldened to engage in reckless overseas military adventures against nations armed with weapons of mass destruction and the long-range missiles needed to deliver them against the United States. And because no missile defense system can guarantee that all incoming warheads will be destroyed, such reasoning might lead to a false sense of security that could actually undermine U.S. national security.

If the United States is going to abandon the ABM Treaty and build a new strategic framework with Russia, it should do so to provide real national security for the U.S. homeland rather than to be the world’s policeman. Advocates of missile defense are quick to paint a “doom and gloom” picture that the United States and its citizens are currently defenseless against attacks from ballistic missiles. Why then should the United States pursue a global system that would defend the world, take much longer to put in place, and be significantly more expensive than a system designed to defend the United States? Such reasoning smacks of “bait and switch” tactics.

The single most important function of the U.S. government is to protect the American people. To the extent that a truly national missile defense system is technically and operationally feasible, fiscally affordable, and strategically wise, the United States should strive to develop and deploy such a system. But any defense expenditure, including spending on missile defense, must be commensurate to the threat. The potential rogue state threat is limited. Terrorists armed with ballistic missiles are an even more limited and more remote threat. It is disingenuous to say “America is defenseless” as a rationale to gain public support for missile defense but then to pursue an exorbitantly expensive global system to defend U.S. friends and allies overseas.

In sum, the United States can do all the research it needs to develop a limited, land-based national missile defense system to protect the United States homeland within the constraints of the ABM Treaty. It is premature to withdraw from the treaty until that technology is proven and the system is ready for deployment. Even a limited land-based system, the system closest to fruition, will probably not be fielded until the turn of the decade. Sea- and air-based technology will take longer, and pie-in-the-sky space-based defensive weapons are way in the future. Finally, such a grandiose missile defense would probably cost well over $100 billion, compared with the approximately $60 billion required for a limited land-based system.


1. Steven Mufson and Sharon LaFraniere, “ABM Withdrawal a Turning Point in Arms Control,” The Washington Post, December 13, 2001; Michael Wines, “Facing Pact’s End, Putin Decides to Grimace and Bear It,” The New York Times, December 14, 2001.

Charles Peña is a senior defense policy analyst and Ivan Eland is director of defense policy studies at the Cato Institute.


The development of a limited national missile defense to protect the U.S. homeland may eventually require withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, but now is not the time to have made that decision.

Can China's Tolerance Last?

Bates Gill

Many observers seemed surprised by China’s muted reaction to the Bush administration’s December 13 announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. But analysts should not have been surprised. Since early 2001, Beijing had steadily toned down its anti-missile defense rhetoric and over the past year had gradually come to tolerate—while still opposing—the U.S. missile shield effort. The ability of the United States and China to keep a lid on heated and damaging rhetoric opens the door to a more serious dialogue that, if carefully managed, may help avert undesirable outcomes arising from the changing strategic nuclear dynamic between them.

With the ABM Treaty withdrawal announcement past, the questions are, how did China come to this more subdued position, and can it last?

Toning Down the Rhetoric

China’s official response to the ABM Treaty withdrawal was moderate—in many ways even more conciliatory than Moscow’s reaction. It consisted of four main points. First, Beijing maintained its opposition to the buildup of strategic missile defenses by the United States. Second, official Chinese statements noted that the ABM Treaty has served as a cornerstone of strategic stability and that its abandonment risks a destabilizing arms race. Third, Beijing urged Washington to take heed of the international community’s views on this issue, pointing to the November 29 United Nations General Assembly resolution which for the third year in a row called for the strengthening and preservation of the treaty. Finally—an indication of China’s concern with “high politics” and “atmospherics”—the official Chinese statements emphasized the important international role of the United States and China, which share common interests in maintaining global peace and which should find solutions to their differences through constructive dialogue.

It was left to the Foreign Ministry spokesman to issue the “toughest” language, expressing “regret” and “concern” over “worrisome” developments. Although China among the nuclear powers stands to lose the most in the face of U.S. missile defenses, its leaders did not even go so far as Russian President Vladimir Putin, who characterized the ABM Treaty withdrawal decision as a “mistake.” Instead, Chinese President Jiang Zemin took the high ground in his officially released statements, expressing China’s willingness “to work with other countries to make efforts to safeguard world peace and stability.”

The basis for this relatively gentle response had been laid over many months. Beginning in late 2000 and accelerating in early 2001, official and unofficial U.S. interlocutors had sent clear messages to their Chinese counterparts about the likely direction of missile defense plans in the United States, especially with the arrival of the Bush administration in Washington. These messages included the point that, although Beijing was in no position to veto U.S. missile defense plans, Chinese policies and practices—positive or negative—would have some impact on how missile defense affected the U.S.-China relationship.

As for the Chinese side, the outlines of a more “friendly” Chinese approach toward the United States were already in evidence in early 2001, with a more serious, nuanced, and flexible understanding of missile defenses a part of that overall change in tone. During exchanges in the early part of 2001, Chinese strategists identified a number of steps they hoped the United States would take as a way of gaining greater Chinese acquiescence regarding U.S. missile defense plans. In essence, the Chinese response to the ABM Treaty decision was muted because the Bush administration has taken a number of these steps.

First and foremost, the Chinese needed reassurances about the tenor and direction of U.S.-China relations overall and about the intended “targets” of the missile defense system in particular. Symbolism and rhetoric are important to China. Regardless of the impact of missile defense on China’s deterrent, Beijing wished to avoid being characterized as a “rogue state” or being seen as the justification for missile defenses.

The EP-3 spy plane incident notwithstanding, the Bush administration has made important strides to place the U.S.-China relationship on a firmer footing: the administration quietly dropped its “strategic competitor” rhetoric, President George W. Bush made his long-planned trip to China (even though the United States was at war), and the two sides have consistently emphasized the positive in their bilateral ties. The president and Secretary of State Colin Powell have said they wish to “build constructive, forward-looking relations” with Beijing and to have relations that are “candid, constructive, and cooperative.” Importantly, Secretary Powell has repeatedly stated that U.S. missile defense plans are not aimed at China but rather are intended to protect against rogue missiles.

Second, in early 2001 China voiced considerable unease about the provision of missile defenses to Taiwan, both in terms of specific “theater” systems, such as the PAC-3 or the Aegis sea-based air defense system, and the larger concern of substantively “linking” Taiwan with U.S. missile defense components. In April, the Bush administration deferred a decision on providing more advanced missile defenses to Taiwan and modified the controversial yearly arms sales ritual into a more flexible, “as needed” process.

Third, China hoped that it would be treated with respect due a Great Power and a nuclear-weapon state and that its interests would be taken duly into account by U.S. decision-makers. Since last May, the Bush administration has frequently consulted with its Chinese counterparts at the presidential, secretary, undersecretary, and assistant secretary levels, including Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Avis Bohlen’s trip to Beijing in mid-December following the ABM Treaty withdrawal announcement.

Perhaps most importantly, President Bush called President Zemin on December 13, a few hours before the Rose Garden announcement on the ABM Treaty. Informing the Chinese before the announcement and suggesting the need for “strategic dialogue” on the issue not only helped to reassure Beijing, but also offered the Chinese “face” and the appearance of being a player at the Great Power table.

Notably, China’s hopes for reassuring signals from the United States focus primarily on political, as opposed to military-technical, issues. Consistent with past Chinese foreign policy, the most important thing was to “get the atmospherics right” and worry about technical details later. In any event, most Chinese strategists are not concerned about missile defense for what it might mean militarily—believing that the system, even if technologically feasible, is several years off and can be defeated through qualitative and quantitative improvements to China’s missile arsenal. Rather, missile defense for China has been about high politics: what it symbolizes in terms of U.S. strategic intentions toward China and what it means for U.S. commitments toward Taiwan. In the near term, at least, it appears Beijing has been reassured on these points.

Beyond the specifics of bilateral discussions on missile defense, the overall U.S.-Chinese relationship has also experienced an upturn, another contributing factor to Beijing’s restrained reaction to the ABM Treaty withdrawal announcement. While relations have not returned to the levels of 1997-98, when the two sides exchanged high-profile state summit visits, matters are much improved from 1999, when a host of problems plagued the bilateral relationship—from the Cox Committee report and its allegations of nuclear espionage to the inadvertent bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Even the issuance in early September 2001 of U.S. sanctions against a Chinese company for its proliferation activities made hardly a ripple in relations between Washington and Beijing. Firmer footing for the bilateral relationship was only strengthened in the wake of the September 11 attacks: Washington focused its strategic attention on the war on terrorism, and China took a number of constructive steps in support of U.S. efforts.

Russia’s relatively subdued reaction was another factor weighing in Chinese minds. In the past, senior Chinese strategists publicly expressed their confidence that Russia would persevere to preserve the ABM Treaty, and Moscow and Beijing were repeatedly on record at the highest levels in their joint opposition to American missile defense plans. But by late summer, if not earlier, the Cyrillic writing was on the wall, and Chinese policy-makers had little choice but to follow Moscow’s lead. In addition, Putin and Jiang directly conversed prior to President Bush’s December 13 call to the Chinese leader, which probably also helped keep the Russian and Chinese reactions similar in tone.

And lest we forget, China has a number of other pressing issues on its domestic agenda that are more immediate and, for the survival of the Chinese Communist Party, more “strategic” in nature than the more distant and uncertain prospects for ballistic missile defense. With China’s entry into the World Trade Organization on December 11, the Beijing leadership formally added a set of new challenges to an already lengthy list of domestic socioeconomic difficulties. Moreover, China is already well into the intrigues and factional politics leading up to the next major change in Chinese leadership, slated to take place at the quintennial 16th Party Congress in early fall 2002.

In a word or two, Chinese leaders have a lot on their minds, and it is not time to rock the boat. Little was to be gained, and much could be lost, by aggressive confrontation with Washington on this issue. When all is said and done, the United States remains China’s most critical bilateral relationship—economically, diplomatically, militarily—making it very much in Beijing’s interest to downplay differences and seek stable and constructive interactions with Washington.

Thorny Issues Remain

So far, so good, right? Perhaps. While the “atmospherics” are about as good as can be expected, there are many potential difficulties in maintaining strategic nuclear stability between the United States and China.

First, in spite of all the reassurances, China still does not know precisely what Washington’s missile defense architecture is going to look like and what its impact will be on China’s missile forces, conventional and nuclear. The ABM Treaty withdrawal decision does clarify some matters. At least Beijing’s strategists can begin planning for a more robust strategic response than might have otherwise been the case had the ABM Treaty been preserved or modified. But that response will have to be largely reactive as the Bush administration’s framework for missile defense comes into view, piece by piece. Importantly, some of these steps may negatively effect overall U.S. security interests.

The most problematic “architecture” question for China concerns how Taiwan will figure into American missile defense plans. Beijing already presumes that Taiwan will likely enjoy some kind of more advanced missile defenses from the United States, though the specific circumstances under which they might be extended, and in what form, remain uncertain at this point. It appears China will be most vehemently opposed to the provision of systems, such as the PAC-3 or Aegis-equipped naval vessels, that might overtly link U.S. and Taiwanese defense capabilities in what China would view as a revival of the pre-1979 Washington-Taipei mutual defense treaty.

Second, it is unclear what precise steps China will take as part of its ongoing nuclear weapons modernization program. Here again, we can expect Chinese reactions to be partly gauged to U.S. missile defense plans. One thing seems certain: if Beijing is able to deploy even a modestly modernized second-generation arsenal, it will transform the U.S.-China strategic nuclear relationship in significant ways. The expected transition from a largely fixed-site, liquid-fuel arsenal to a land-mobile, solid-fuel force will provide Beijing with a far more reliable and formidable deterrent than it has known in the past. But China’s strategic modernization will probably not stop there. China may succeed over the next 10 to 15 years in deploying a viable “second leg” of its deterrent in the form of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and it may deploy multiple warheads on its ballistic missiles. At a minimum, we should expect an increase in the number of ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads that China fields.

The next decade is also likely to see further improvements in China’s command, control, reconnaissance, and early-warning capability, including the possible introduction of space-based assets to support these functions. It is also likely that China will devote more resources to developing countermeasures, such as decoys, shrouded warheads, and possibly anti-satellite weapons, to defeat missile defenses. Importantly, these development are likely to affect China’s nuclear doctrine, which will transition from a fundamentally “minimalist” posture to a more variegated deterrent: a posture of credible minimal deterrence toward the continental United States and Russia; a more offense-oriented and possibly war-fighting posture of limited deterrence with regard to China’s theater nuclear forces, especially in response to a Taiwan contingency; and an offensively configured, pre-emptive, counterforce war-fighting posture of “active defense” or “offensive defense” for the conventional missile forces.1

These ongoing and likely modernization steps will result in a second generation of far more robust, ready, and survivable nuclear weapons for China. At this point, it is unclear how far and how fast that process will unfold and how it will be interpreted in Washington (let alone other capitals, such as New Delhi, Moscow, Tokyo, and Taipei).

The uncertainties of China’s future proliferation practices will also affect the bilateral strategic nuclear dynamic. Although Beijing seems to have curbed much of the country’s sensitive nuclear- and missile-related exports, significant concerns persist. In some cases, Chinese assistance goes to those countries whose missile programs American defenses will be designed to thwart, such as Iran. It is also possible that Chinese exporters will transfer countermeasure technologies, further complicating the U.S. missile defense effort. China may find itself having to choose between actions that are profitable and actions that will further spur missile defenses.

Finally, the future U.S.-China strategic relationship will remain captive to the significant distrust found just beneath its surface, with plenty to go around on both sides. In the United States, questions about China’s rising power; its political system; its posture toward Taiwan; its proliferation record; and, significantly, whether to accept a situation in which China can hold American cities as nuclear hostages continue to divide the nation and its political leadership, including the current administration. In China, it is not at all clear that the next generation of one-party technocrats is more open, more “globalized,” or less nationalistic than their predecessors, and concerns about American “hegemonism” and global influence have hardly diminished in the wake of September 11.

In short, in spite of the current mood, the United States and China enter a post-ABM Treaty world in which their strategic nuclear relationship will be fundamentally different than what they have known in the past, and many sensitive and complicated uncertainties will persist through this transition period.

Still, the current situation in U.S.-China relations offers some room for confidence. Gauging China’s reaction over the past year, there is a narrow window of opportunity for the two sides to establish a more serious strategic dialogue, come to terms on comfortable offense-defense levels, and inject greater reassurance and confidence into their strategic relationship. A formal, ABM Treaty-like set of agreements or understandings will not be possible in the near term because neither party is prepared to go in this direction as yet. But the newly established “strategic dialogue” process between Beijing and Washington will offer a regular opportunity for the two sides to state clearly that they do not view one another as enemies (which will require the deflection of more hawkish views in both capitals) and to work toward the common cause of strategic stability.


1. This argument is fully elaborated in Bates Gill, James Mulvenon, and Mark Stokes, “China’s Strategic Rocket Forces: Transition to Credible Deterrence,” in Richard Yang and James Mulvenon, eds., The People’s Liberation Army as Organization (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, forthcoming).

Bates Gill is a senior fellow in foreign policy studies and director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution. His next book, Contrasting Visions: United States, China, and World Order, is forthcoming from the Brookings Institution Press.


Many observers seemed surprised by China’s muted reaction to the Bush administration’s announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. But analysts should not have been surprised.

New Strategic Experiment

Daryl G. Kimball

After a year of preparation, President George W. Bush announced his intention to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, and the Pentagon delivered to Congress its revised nuclear posture review. With these actions, the Bush administration has set into motion a radical new effort to deploy unproven strategic missile defenses and to “reduce” strategic nuclear arsenals without arms control agreements.

The administration’s ostensible goal is to provide a wider range of conventional and nuclear capabilities to respond to an increasingly unpredictable threat environment no longer dominated by Russia. But, in seeking greater flexibility, the administration’s approach creates new uncertainties and obstacles to efforts to reduce the dangers posed by residual U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles.
Some of the proposals are clearly positive. The administration’s plan could lead to a common-sense reduction in the number of U.S. deployed strategic nuclear weapons, which now number 6,000. The posture review also calls for a greater emphasis on advanced conventional weapons rather than on nuclear weapons to deter threats.

However, in the absence of agreed constraints on nuclear arsenals, U.S. and Russian planned nuclear force reductions, even if fully implemented, could be easily reversed. By requiring a Cold War-sized force of 1,700-2,200 strategic deployed nuclear weapons, the posture review also falls short of the president’s worthy goal of moving beyond mutual assured destruction. If, as the Pentagon says, U.S. nuclear force planning is not driven by the “immediate” threat of attack from Russia, no more than a few hundred survivable nuclear weapons are needed to deal with plausible threat scenarios involving Russia or any other state. In addition, the Pentagon’s plan suggests that nuclear weapons can play a role in our response to non-nuclear threats—a notion that is unnecessary given U.S. conventional military superiority and dangerous because it may encourage other states to follow suit.

The administration also claims that introduction of strategic missile defenses will deter other countries from seeking long-range missiles and, if that fails, will defend against a limited future attack. The posture review makes the bold assertion that potential rogue-state missile attacks cannot be as easily deterred by the United States’ overwhelming offensive strike capabilities. These conclusions come despite the fact that the intelligence community considers U.S. territory to be far more vulnerable to attack involving weapons of mass destruction delivered by nonmissile means.

Advocates of missile defense claim that the absence of severe criticism from Russia, China, and Europe proves that the ABM Treaty withdrawal decision will not damage relations among the major powers. But, just as it is too soon to tell whether the United States will deploy strategic missile defenses, it is too soon to rule out a future Chinese or Russian military response. Russia’s relatively subdued reaction was based, in part, on the possibility that promised nuclear force reductions might be codified in a written agreement rather than through unilateral declarations.

Reaching such an agreement will be complicated by Bush’s plan to maintain a sizeable “responsive” force as a hedge against Russian rearmament or other new and unforeseen threats. The Pentagon-generated study calls for the storage—not the dismantlement—of many of the approximately 4,000 warheads that would be removed from operational status by 2012, which would allow for their redeployment within “weeks, months, or years.”

By creating a larger stockpile of unaccountable, nondeployed nuclear weapons, the Bush administration will achieve flexibility, but it will also compound Russia’s concerns about U.S. capabilities and intentions. As a result, Russia may act on worst-case assumptions and retain a sizeable multiple-warhead-armed missile force and store, rather than dismantle, its nondeployed warheads. This could increase the difficulties of securing and safeguarding Russian nuclear stockpiles, which already include thousands of unaccountable tactical nuclear warheads and more than 1,000 metric tons of fissile material.

Despite a number of missed opportunities over the last three decades, the ABM Treaty helped facilitate agreements to limit and eliminate strategic nuclear weapons. Now, it is incumbent upon President Bush to demonstrate that lasting nuclear arms reductions can be accomplished in the absence of the ABM Treaty.

Over the next few months, the president will have a historic opportunity to secure a lasting agreement to verifiably remove from deployment and dismantle excess warheads, exchange detailed information on weapons holdings, and augment cooperative threat reduction programs. Without such an agreement, the security benefits of Bush’s planned reductions will remain limited and reversible. As a result, the administration’s experiment with nuclear weapons policy could perpetuate—not reduce—Cold War nuclear dangers.

U.S. Withdrawal From the ABM Treaty: President Bush’s Remarks and U.S. Diplomatic Notes

On December 13, President George W. Bush announced that the United States would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in six months. Although the United States and the Soviet Union agreed in 1972 that the treaty should be of “unlimited duration,” the treaty included a provision for either party to withdraw if “extraordinary events” jeopardized their “supreme interests” and required six months’ notice of an intent to withdraw, including a statement of the “extraordinary events.” The day of Bush’s announcement, the United States sent the required notice to Russia, as well as to Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. The text of Bush’s statement and the notice are reprinted below.

President Bush’s Remarks, December 13, 2001

Good morning. I’ve just concluded a meeting of my National Security Council. We reviewed what I discussed with my friend, President Vladimir Putin, over the course of many meetings, many months. And that is the need for America to move beyond the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.

Today, I have given formal notice to Russia, in accordance with the treaty, that the United States of America is withdrawing from this almost 30-year-old treaty. I have concluded the ABM Treaty hinders our government’s ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorist or rogue-state missile attacks.

The 1972 ABM Treaty was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union at a much different time, in a vastly different world. One of the signatories, the Soviet Union, no longer exists. And neither does the hostility that once led both our countries to keep thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert, pointed at each other. The grim theory was that neither side would launch a nuclear attack because it knew the other would respond, thereby destroying both.

Today, as the events of September the 11th made all too clear, the greatest threats to both our countries come not from each other, or other big powers in the world, but from terrorists who strike without warning, or rogue states who seek weapons of mass destruction.

We know that the terrorists, and some of those who support them, seek the ability to deliver death and destruction to our doorstep via missile. And we must have the freedom and the flexibility to develop effective defenses against those attacks. Defending the American people is my highest priority as Commander in Chief, and I cannot and will not allow the United States to remain in a treaty that prevents us from developing effective defenses.

At the same time, the United States and Russia have developed a new, much more hopeful and constructive relationship. We are moving to replace mutually assured destruction with mutual cooperation. Beginning in Ljubljana, and continuing in meetings in Genoa, Shanghai, Washington and Crawford, President Putin and I developed common ground for a new strategic relationship. Russia is in the midst of a transition to free markets and democracy. We are committed to forging strong economic ties between Russia and the United States, and new bonds between Russia and our partners in NATO. NATO has made clear its desire to identify and pursue opportunities for joint action at 20.

I look forward to visiting Moscow, to continue our discussions, as we seek a formal way to express a new strategic relationship that will last long beyond our individual administrations, providing a foundation for peace for the years to come.

We’re already working closely together as the world rallies in the war against terrorism. I appreciate so much President Putin’s important advice and cooperation as we fight to dismantle the al Qaeda network in Afghanistan. I appreciate his commitment to reduce Russia’s offensive nuclear weapons. I reiterate our pledge to reduce our own nuclear arsenal [to] between 1,700 and 2,200 operationally deployed strategic nuclear weapons. President Putin and I have also agreed that my decision to withdraw from the treaty will not, in any way, undermine our new relationship or Russian security.

As President Putin said in Crawford, we are on the path to a fundamentally different relationship. The Cold War is long gone. Today we leave behind one of its last vestiges.

But this is not a day for looking back. This is a day for looking forward with hope, and anticipation of greater prosperity and peace for Russians, for Americans and for the entire world. Thank you.

Source: The White House

Text of Diplomatic Notes to Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, December 13, 2001

The Embassy of the United States of America has the honor to refer to the Treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems signed at Moscow May 26, 1972.

Article XV, paragraph 2, gives each Party the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of the treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests.
The United States recognizes that the Treaty was entered into with the USSR, which ceased to exist in 1991. Since then, we have entered into a new strategic relationship with Russia that is cooperative rather than adversarial, and are building strong relationships with most states of the former USSR.

Since the Treaty entered into force in 1972, a number of state and non-state entities have acquired or are actively seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction. It is clear, and has recently been demonstrated, that some of these entities are prepared to employ these weapons against the United States. Moreover, a number of states are developing ballistic missiles, including long-range ballistic missiles, as a means of delivering weapons of mass destruction. These events pose a direct threat to the territory and security of the United States and jeopardize its supreme interests. As a result, the United States has concluded that it must develop, test, and deploy anti-ballistic missile systems for the defense of its national territory, of its forces outside the United States, and of its friends and allies.

Pursuant to Article XV, paragraph 2, the United States has decided that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of the Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests. Therefore, in the exercise of the right to withdraw from the Treaty provided in Article XV, paragraph 2, the United States hereby gives notice of its withdrawal from the Treaty. In accordance with the terms of the Treaty, withdrawal will be effective six months from the date of this notice.

Source: Department of State


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