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National Missile Defense: The U.S. View


By Ambassador Richard N. Swett

In the interregnum between President Clinton's decision to postpone deployment o f a U.S. National Missile Defense (N M D ) program and the inauguration o f the next President in the United States, and in light o f Secretary Albright's historic visit to North Korea, it is opportune to explain the American view of the National Missile Defense Program - especially given the broad bipartisan support for this project as evidenced in the recent presidential campaign. The discussion o f N M D is especially apt in this first issue o f Militæ rt Tid s- skrift in the year 2001. In the last decades there have been abrupt changes in the international security environment. Some o f them, such as the collapse o f armed confrontation resulting from the Cold War, are most welcome. Others, such as the proliferation o f missiles and weapons o f mass destruction, are not. The deli- very o f weapons o f mass destruction to U.S. soil is unquestionably the chie f se- curity issue confronting American political leaders over the next quarter century. In this new century, we must all be able to anticipate other abrupt changes, no matter how imperfectly, and prepare ourselves to protect our populations from them. N M D is intended to begin to respond to changes we already clearly see with an anticipating approach to defense that builds on the arms control and non- proliferation efforts o f the last half-century, but aiso takes future challenges into consideration. Development and testing o f a new N M D system w ill go forward - and pol- icy makers on both sides o f the Atlantic w ill continue to wrestle with the accom- panying political, security, and diplomatic concerns. Denmark and the United Kingdom are key among the N A T O Allies, as they host radars at Thule, Greenland and Fylingdales, U .K , that are projected to be part o f the N M D sys- tem as currently envisioned. Also o f great importance in this discussion is the opinion o f the Greenland Home Rule Government, whose interests in this issue we fully appreciate. In an effort to further understand U.S. views as we move towards a new U.S. Administration and the year 2001, I am pleased to offer the following N M D perspective to you.

An NMD Program that Meets the Projected Threat

The Clinton Administration set forth the initial N M D architecture as follows: 100 ground-based interceptors deployed in Alaska, one A B M radar in Alaska, and five upgraded early warning radars, among them one at Thule A ir Force Base, Greenland. The United States has viewed this approach as the fastest, most affordable, and most technologically mature way to field an effective N M D against the pro- jected threats we discern. The National Missile Defense A ct o f 1999 states clearly that it is the policy o f the United States to deploy as soon as technologi- cally possible an effective N M D system. The legislation includes an amendment that states that it is also U.S. policy to seek continued negotiated reductions in Russian nuclear forces, putting the U.S. Congress on record as continuing to support negotiated reductions in strategic nuclear arms. This also reaffirms the U.S. Government’ s position that missile defense policy must take into account important arms control and nuclear non-proliferation objectives.

The Decision on Deployment

On September 1, 2000, President Clinton announced that, while the U.S. N M D program was sufficiently promising and affordable to justify continued develop- ment and testing, there was not sufficient information available about technical and operational effectiveness to move ahead at that point with deployment. Following this decision, the Pentagon has continued its activities that involve flight tests, ground tests, and simulations. In all, twenty-odd tests are planned, o f which only three have yet taken place. The President based his decision to continue with N M D development and testing on four criteria: 1) the threat to the United States; 2) cost; 3) technical feasibility; and 4) the overall impact on U.S. national security. It is useful to review thinking on each o f these criteria, with special at- tention to the threat and to the impact on U.S. national security, which encom- passes the important issue o f the effect on our N A T O Allie s and on arms control. The U.S. has spent about $5.7 billion on development o f N M D and has budgeted an additional $10.4 billion for 2001-2005 to support possible deploy- ment o f the system. The U.S. Department o f Defense estimates that develop- ment, procurement and deployment o f the system w ill cost around $25 billion. To put these substantial numbers in perspective, they represent less than one per- cent o f the U.S. defense budget over the coming six years. In assessing the technical feasibility o f the present system, we believe that the problems encountered in the two most recent tests, where we failed to achie- ve intercept, can be corrected. W e believe we have the science right, but we have to solve engineering problems - no small task, yet one we judge we can ac- complish. Testing in October 1999 proved the principle that you can indeed hit a bullet with a bullet when the prototype interceptor hit a dummy warhead over the Pacific Ocean. I should note here that the “ kill vehicle” is free o f any explosives and “kills” through the force o f the collision alone. However, it is clear that more work is needed before moving from the prin- ciples established to actual deployment o f a reliable system. There are critical elements of the system that have yet to be tested, such as the interceptor booster, and there are questions that must be resolved about the ability of the system to deal with decoys and countermeasures. W e need more tests against more challenging targets and more simulations. We cannot yet conclude that that the tech- nology o f the system is reliable enough to move forward with deployment. Hence, the President has left a deployment decision to the incoming Administration and has preserved its options by continuing the development and testing program.

The National Threat

The newly-elected U.S. Administration is even now studying its options and pul- ling together its plans regarding National Missile Defense, and we cannot yet de- finitively state what approach it w ill choose. However, the threat assessments that first led the U.S. to pursue an N M D are clearly trends o f long duration that are still at play and o f concern to the United States. W e recognize that opinion is still divided among our Allies over the threat that N M D is meant to counter and, therefore, over the means to counter it. H ow ­ ever, we believe that understanding o f the threat has indeed improved and that further discussion in N A T O w ill bring better comprehension o f the new era we have all entered. With Secretary o f Defense Cohen’ s caveat that no nation should have a veto over the security interests o f the United States - "not Russia, not China, not even our European friends,” nevertheless, the United States recognizes that our alli- ances and allies are pivotal to our defense needs, and we remain committed to a process o f ongoing consultations with them. We agree that present and future threat issues need to be further discussed to gain the firm support o f our allies. Secretary Cohen also recently summed up our superpower paradox: “There is not another country in the world that is prepared to take on the United States directly. No one has that capability. Rather, they w ill seek an A chilles heel. They w ill find asymmetrical ways o f attacking us, and that means chemical or biologi- cal weapons o f mass destruction. These can be delivered in a suitcase or, more devastatingly, on an intercontinental ballistic missile. W e must and are preparing for all contingencies to the best o f our ability” . W e and our allies agree that there are delivery methods for weapons o f mass destruction in addition to ballistic missiles. Our task here is to assess the aspect o f the threat that N M D is suited to counter. W e do also continue to address the “ suitcase” threat, which today affects all o f us, including Denmark, through a va- riety o f other avenues. In the last several years, the international community has put in place arms control, technology control, and missile control regimes. W hile their efforts have been successful, they have not been fully successful. Indisputable evidence indi- cates ongoing short and long range ballistic missile procurement and develop- ment in countries that threaten the United States and its allies. The unwillingness o f these countries to abide by international arms control regimes, their avowed hostility to the United States, and their aggressive actions, rhetoric and policies toward the United States and/or its defense partners is an unfortunate reality.

There is an emerging threat that certain countries in A sia and the Middle East w ill over the next decade develop ballistic missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction - chemical, biological or nuclear weapons - to the Unites States, despite our best collective non-proliferation efforts. We have tracked the development and testing o f these missiles. Often with the assistance o f other governments that cooperate in international arms control regimes such as the M issile Technology Control Regime (M T C R ) — in which Denmark is a valued partner - we continue in our efforts to control the international sale o f such articles among these target countries. The fact is, the emerging capabilities are real. The threat remains that such weapons could be exploited as coercive tools against the United States in a situation where a U.S. defensive partner in the Far East, M iddle East or Europe seeks U.S. protection from hostile acts or intimida- tion. Iraq's invasion o f Kuwait, which resulted in the G u lf War, is a case in point. Had Iraq been able to threaten us with a credible missile attack, the situa- tion may have been even graver than it was for both Europe and the United States - and with probable worse outcomes for Kuwait and other M iddle East countries as well. Iraq has already used chemical weapons against its own c iv il- ian populations in southern Iraq as well as launched missile attacks on its neighbors. W e cannot discount such acts and capabilities that defy our values and international norms. Concerns also arise for countries in the Far East with which the United States has defensive obligations and interests. Another scenario encompasses the possibility that a hostile state with nuclear weapons and long-range missiles may simply disintegrate, with command over missiles falling into unstable hands. Lastly, the envisioned N M D system could defend against an accidental launch. The chilling episode following the 1995 launch o f a Norwegian civilian experimental rocket, which the Russians mistook for an attacking U.S. Trident missile, is instructive. In that case, the order to retaliate went up the chain o f command as far as President Boris Yeltsin - who stopped it. Such an incident du- ring a time o f tension could be incalculably disastrous. W e have a political obligation to our citizens to take future threats seriously and to explore best possible responses. Though we believe in deterrence - the knowledge that an attack on the United States would be met with a devastating response - we believe that a defensive response to these new threats, in combina- tion with arms control and a broader non-proliferation strategy, is the most responsible approach.

NMD - One Part of a Larger Strategy

N M D is one part of an extensive effort to defend against the spread o f weapons o f mass destruction and the proliferation o f delivery systems for those weapons. An effective N M D could play an important role in an overall national security strategy, but we are convinced our strategy cannot rest with only N M D. Animportant element is the array o f existing arms control agreements with Russia and other members o f the world community. This includes the A B M treaty, to which both the United States and Russia have reaffirmed their commitments as a cor- nerstone o f strategic stability. The range o f international arms control agreements, non-proliferation re- gimes, supplier groups, and technology control regimes are central to our overall strategy. On the most direct level concerning N M D - without arms control, a missile defense system can be simply overwhelmed just by proliferation o f the numbers o f missiles. It is therefore U.S. policy tc seek arms control agreements as an integral part o f overall missile defense. The A B M treaty, the S A L T and S T A R T treaties, the IN F treaty, the Non Proliferation treaty - now extended indefinitely — the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the Clinton Administration has recommend Congress sign, the N P T and Fissile Material Cu to ff Treaty, Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions, and the Missile Technology Control Regime are some o f the build- ing blocks o f an extensive, yet still imperfect system. The United States is committed to the broad range o f agreements and regimes as a means to continue to lessen the offensive threat o f nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as their means o f delivery. Deputy Secretary o f State Talbott recently addressed the issue o f the logical connection between strategic offense and strategic defense, such as N M D , in re- lation to our discussions with the Russians. He indicated U.S. willingness to “proceed vigorously with S T A R T III, including deeper reductions in strategic weaponry, but ... in parallel with meaningful and productive discussions on stra- tegic defense” . Arms control accomplishments between the Llnited States and Russia should assure others o f the centrality and seriousness o f this effort in U.S. strategy. For instance, in the last decade, Russia and the United States have destroyed around 25,000 nuclear weapons. In 1994, the U.S. persuaded Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus to give up their nuclear weapons entirely. W e have worked with Russia and its neighbors to dispose o f hundreds o f tons o f dangerous nuclear material, to strengthen controls on a list o f exports and to keep weapons scientists from sell- ing their services to the highest bidder. Through the Cooperative Threat Reduc- tion Program with Russia and the Newly Independent States o f the former Soviet Union, we have achieved massive reductions in the number o f warheads, missile silos, missiles and heavy bombers in existence. Between 1992 and 2000 the U.S. Congress authorized almost $3.2 billion for this successful program. W ork in other arms control and non-proliferation fora is ongoing. For in- stance, with partners from other M issile Technology Control Regime countries, including Denmark, we continue to work toward denial o f missile technology to Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and India. W e have worked to counter Iran’ s efforts to de- velop nuclear and missile technology and convinced China to provide no new as- sistance to Iran’ s nuclear program and Russia to strengthen export controls on sensitive technologies. W e have worked with and continue to support the efforts o f the IA E A and international community to stop Iraq’ s development o f missile, nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. W e and others remain engaged in dip- lomatic discussions with North Korea. In 1994, six years after learning o f North Korea’ s nuclear weapons program, we negotiated an agreement to freeze North Korea's production o f plutonium for nuclear weapons. Recent diplomatic efforts with North Korea, including the summit between the leaders o f North and South, and the October meeting in Washington, D.C. which was followed by Secretary Albright's successful visit, have produced a cessation o f missile flight tests, in- creased contact and promises for increased future cooperation. Nevertheless, North Korea's capability remains a serious issue. W e have worked to counter Iran’ s efforts to develop nuclear weapons and missile technology, convincing China to provide no new assistance to Iran’ s nuclear program and pressing Rus- sia to strengthen its controls on the export o f nuclear technology. W e believe the catalogue o f arms control and non-proliferation accomplish- ments should give added confidence in the United States’ seriousness and self- interest in reducing the proliferation o f weapons and their delivery systems. W e therefore reduce the likelihood o f any chemical, biological or nuclear attack on ourselves, our allies, or other peoples. These efforts indicate that diplomacy is the first step in our strategy to limit emerging threats.

The ABM Treaty and Working with Russia

The United States recognizes the A B M treaty as a cornerstone o f international arms control. In his speech announcing his decision not to deploy a N M D at this time. President Clinton recognized the concerns o f our European allies that the United States pursue strategic defense in a way that preserves, not abrogates, the A B M treaty. It is the view o f the United States that the A B M , a key part o f the arms con- trol schema, yet already more than 28 years old and already amended, must be amended further to account for realities o f today that did not exist when it was written. A t their June 4 Moscow summit, Presidents Clinton and Putin confirmed in their Joint Statement our mutual commitments to continue to strengthen the A B M Treaty and to enhance its viability and effectiveness in the future, taking into account any changes in the international security environment. The Joint Statement o f Principles on Strategic Stability recognized that the world has changed in the years since the A B M was signed. The Russians recog- nized the growing threat o f proliferation o f weapons o f mass destruction and their delivery systems, including missiles and missile technology. They agreed that there is a need to address these threats, including through consideration o f changes to the A B M Treaty. Clearly, we have moved into an ‘enhanced-ABM’ era with the Russians, yet agreement on specific A B M modifications is still to be accomplished. W e have consulted closely with the Russians, in M oscow and elsewhere, to make it clear that N M D cannot threaten Russian nuclear deterrence. W ith a limit o f 100 interceptors, the several thousand strong Russian missile force would simply overwhelm the limited N M D . W e believe the Russians understand this, though perhaps they are not publicly w illing to admit it at this time. Neverthe- less, they continue to have concerns that this system or some future version o f it could threaten the reliability o f their deterrence and therefore threaten strategic stability. We w ill seek to work out such issues together. Under the Strategic Stability Cooperation Initiative signed by Presidents Clinton and Putin at their September meeting, we committed ourselves to joint threat assessments o f the existing missile threat to each o f our countries. Discus- sion on Russian agreement to specific A B M changes has continued and, with the inauguration o f the new U.S. Administration, we can hope for a clearer picture o f the path ahead. It is obvious that the solid support o f N A T O allies for treaty revi- sions to allow N M D w ill be important to Russian willingness to find a coopera- tive solution.

An Asian Arms Race? Strategic Stability in Asia

We must also consider the impact o f a decision to deploy N M D on strategic sta- bility in Asia. W e recognize the already dangerous regional nuclear and missile capability still growing in South A sia and the Far East and must guard against stimulating this. The integfation o f Asian nations having nuclear and missile ca- pabilities into the full spectrum o f arms control and non-proliferation regimes is clearly a prerequisite for strategic stability in A sia and we are committed to wor- king for this. However, several factors are at play in U.S. decisions on N M D . One is the already stated caveat that no nation can have a veto over American se- curity. The other is a hard-headed assessment that a non-deployment o f N M D would do nothing to lessen these trends. The experience o f the last decades has shown that nations pursue missile and nuclear programs for a complex set o f reasons. Despite strenuous multilateral and bilateral diplomatic attempts o f the United States to stop the spread o f nu- clear weapons capacity and missile capacity in South Asia, India and Pakistan conducted a series o f nuclear tests in 1998. Key stimulants to their programs come from areas over which the United States can have limited impact, those be- ing chiefly o f domestic political origin. W e recognize that developments in one regional nation can stimulate developments in a neighbor - for instance the in- terplay between China and India. Nevertheless, we judge that the prime motiva- tion for nuclear and missile proliferation in South Asia is not U.S. N M D plans. That leaves us to consider especially the situation with China. In China, most concern is focused regarding the effects o f N M D on an ex- pansion o f the Chinese missile program. In the U.S. estimation, although we re- cognize Chinese concerns for the viability o f their missile defense, our analysis shows that Chinese intentions to increase missile capacity were made and con- tinue to have support independent o f U.S. N M D plans. Some Chinese thinking opposing N M D also illustrates the point that missiie proliferation is a threat to the United States and its commitment to its defensive arrangements in the Far East. Clearly, N M D troubles China in part because it fears that Taiwan might benefit defensively. N M D remains a prudent defensive step and contributes to regional stability by discouraging missile attack, especially when it is viewed in the context o f overall arms control measures.

Concluding Thoughts

President Clin ton’ s decision to not go forward with deployment of NMD has given us and our allies some extra time to consult on the path ahead. W e are convinced that our overall security is closely linked to the support and security o f our allies and w ill keep them firmly in mind as we consider how to move for- ward. Questions regarding the effect of a missile defense system on strategic sta- bility, concerns as to whether it would stimulate an arms race in Asia and else- where, and the need to resolve questions regarding the A B M treaty are being newly considered by incoming Administration officials. However, we can safely assert that because the U.S. judges the emerging threat to be real, we have an obligation to pursue a solution that could enhance our security. W e have made progress in our diplomatic efforts to present our message, and we are committed to continuing our dialogue with Denmark and our other allies. Our goal is to en- hance the peace and security that we have jointly achieved.