ABM Treaty Modification: Should Russia Agree?Documents | Our comment | Opinions of Russian experts | Programs of NMD deployment | Other helpful resources
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Updated July 17, 2000
Over the last decade, the U.S. conducted several steps aimed at collapsing the ABM Treaty, which is considered as a cornerstone of strategic stability. As a result of U.S. initiatives the Joint U.S.- Russian Statement On A Global Protection System (1992) and the Joint Statement Concerning The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (1997) were signed.
However, the most wide scale attack on the ABM Treaty has been conducted since January 1999, when the officials of President Clinton's administration, previously opposing to "BMD hawks", unequivocally pledged for support of development and deployment of a national missile defense system prohibited by existing ABM treaty. In particular, Secretary of Defense William Cohen said the administration intends to open negotiations with Moscow on ways of amending the treaty to allow the United States to deploy missile defenses now in development. However, if the Russians refused to amend the treaty, he made clear: "...Then we have the option of our national interest indicating we would simply pull out of the treaty..." Also in January, 1999 President Bill Clinton wrote to Russian President Boris Yeltsin outlining his plans to develop and test a national missile defense system. Russian President's administration indicated, that the U.S. proposals were being studied. However, the reaction of Igor Ivanov, Foreign Minister and Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, Head of the Defense Ministry's Main Department for Military Cooperation, was sharp and very negative.
The decisive factor in change of the U.S. administration's position on development of ballistic missile defenses was played by the U.S. Congress. The Congress approved the Cochran-Inouye bill on May 20, 1999, which states: "It is the policy of the United States to deploy as soon as is technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack (whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate)." The bill entered into force in July 1999.
On June 20, 1999 Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin have agreed in Cologne to resume discussions on START III and on the ABM Treaty in the fall. Thus, for the first time the Russians have agreed to discuss changes in the ABM Treaty. The Clinton administration hopes to have an agreement with Russia by next June on modification.
In September 1999, plans of Clinton administration on treaty modification were clarified. President Clinton has decided to ask Russia to agree initially to relatively modest changes in the treaty. The first set of changes sought by the administration would permit the United States to place 100 interceptor missiles in Alaska, which is the Pentagon's latest plan for defending the country against, at a bare minimum, a few incoming warheads from a state such as North Korea, Iraq or Iran. As the missile threat is perceived to grow and as U.S. technologies improve, officials said, the United States would seek further treaty amendments to permit more than 200 interceptors, at least two launching sites, advances in radar and the use of space-based sensors. Official proposals of the Clinton administration to Russia became known to the wide audience in the end of April 2000.
Congressional Republicans attacked the strategy, accusing the administration of squandering an opportunity to alter the treaty substantially now and arguing that the phased approach would only prolong tensions with Russia. They said that Moscow, which has long opposed U.S. defenses against long-range missile attack, likely would reject even the limited proposal for modifications. They also predicted trouble in Congress. The most conservative wing in the U.S. Congress insists that ABM Treaty is dead, because it was concluded with the Soviet Union, which does not exist. The Senate refused to ratify ABM protocols, signed in Helsinki, thus blocking START II Treaty entry in force, which was ratified by Russia in April 2000.
Wide debates in the United States on national missile defense deployment are objectively driven by two factors: interests of the U.S. military-industrial complex and forthcoming presidential elections. According to recent Congressional Budget Office estimates NMD deployment would cost at least $ 60 billion. Thus far public supports the idea of creating defense against ballistic missiles. However, there are factors that may eventually change public attitudes. The most vulnerable part of the proposed NMD system is its inability to effectively counter with countermeasures, and this fact is constantly underscored by NMD opponents.
U.S. plans to deploy national missile defense system did not get support among U.S. allies. France, Germany, Canada and UK officials stated, that such a step would undermine strategic stability. China strongly opposes U.S. plans, since NMD will threaten to its small group of ICBMs, which are capable to reach the U.S. territory.
First rounds of U.S.-Russian talks in August and October 1999 did not produce any results, as well as the later numerous meetings and the summit meeting of the U.S. and Russian presidents in June 2000. Russian official attitude remains unchanged: U.S. proposals are unacceptable for Russia, and the ABM Treaty of 1972 must be kept intact.
In the beginning of June 2000, President Putin proposed creating a joint missile shield with Europe as an alternative to the U.S. NMD deployment. "Russia proposed working with Europe and NATO to create an anti-rocket defense system for Europe," Mr. Putin told reporters during his visit to Italy. Putin's proposal became a total surprise and created much speculations. Chinese foreign ministry made clear, that China would not support the proposal. European countries were also doubtful about the Russian seriousness. During visits of defense ministers Sergeyev and Cohen to Brussels and Moscow respectively, plans of Moscow became a bit clearer. According to Cohen, "...the Russians claim they have a new system under development that focuses on intercepting missiles in the boost phase..." However, the Pentagon says that the Russian plan is, at best a supplement for the American system, not a substitute
Russian experts do not share a common opinion on expediency of the ABM Treaty modification. Some of them support the official attitude. Other experts believe that the treaty needs to be modified. Even if Russia agrees to modify the Treaty, there is a wide spectrum of opinions on what amendments are permissible and what Russia should ask for in exchange. Frequently experts propose permission of ABM site in Alaska in exchange of a requirement to lower START III level to 1,500 deployed warheads.
Obviously, Russia is facing a dilemma. Russian refusal to amend the 1972 agreement will likely lead to U.S. unilateral withdrawal from the ABM treaty, so that further bilateral process of nuclear reductions become impossible. An alternative is modifying the treaty. However, viability of the compromise is also questionable, because an outcome of presidential elections and an attitude of the next U.S. administration are not clear.
The discussion continues. Thus, this page will likely be updated.
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- A Joint Statement of the leaders of C.I.S. countries on maintaining strategic stability, - in Russian, (Rossiiskaya Gazeta, June 22, 2000 г.)
- ABM Treaty "Talking Points" (U.S. official proposals to Russia) See also comments by Stephen Schwartz, Lisbeth Gronlund and David Wright, Jack Mendelsohn and Bruce Blair
- Joint Statement Between The United States And The Russian Federation Concerning Strategic Offensive And Defensive Arms And Further Strengthening Of Stability, June 20, 1999.
- Press Briefing By National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, June 20, 1999
- Report On Theater Missile Defense Architecture Options In The Asia-Pacific Region, DoD, May 4, 1999
- See also: Missile Defense DOD News Briefing with Lt. Gen. Lester Lyles (the Director, BMDO) (January 20, 1999), Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Henry H. Shelton, (January 20, 1999), Ken Bacon on U.S. National Missile Defense Policy and the ABM Treaty (January 22, 1999), briefing by Robert Bell, Special Assistant to the President for National Defense and Arms Control, on a National Missile Defense (January 21, 1999).
- START and the ABM Treaty: Is a Compromise Possible?, (by Paul Podvig, Program on New Approaches to Russian Security Policy Memo Series, Memo No. 132, April 2000) Does Radar in Norway Violate ABM Treaty Provisions?,- in Russian, (by Pavel Podvig, April 27, 2000)
- Antimissile Front In The Northern Norway, (by Theodore Postol and Anatoli Diakov, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, N 7, February 25 - March 2, 2000)
- A History of the ABM Treaty in Russia, (by Pavel Podvig, Program on New Approaches to Russian Security Policy Memo Series, Memo No. 109, February 2000)
- On Modification Of the ABM Treaty, - in Russian, (by Pavel Podvig, October 4, 1999)
- On U.S.-Russian Discussions On ABM Treaty Modification, - in Russian, press release of the Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies, October 3, 1999, was published in Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, N 39, October 8-14, 1999, p. 6
- Publications of the Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies
Opinions Of Russian Experts
- Leonid Ivashov: I Am Growing A Hawk As I see a threat to Russia, - in Russian, (by Vladimir Yermolin, Izvestiya, July 6, 2000)
- Army General Vladimir Yakovlev: Russian Security Is Firmly Assured, (by Il'shat Bychourin and Alexander Dolinin, Krasnaya Zvezda, July 5, 2000)
- Missile Defense: Strengthening Strategic Stability Or A New Turn In the Arms Race? (by Leonid Ivashov, Krasnaya Zvezda, June 29, 2000, pp. 1,2)
- A Ticket To Stars, - in Russian, (by Andrey Kozyrev, Moskovskiye Novosti, N 25 (1043), June 27 - July 3, 2000)
- "The World Is At The Doorstep to a Nuclear Anarchy," - Colonel-General Vladimir Yakovlev, Commander-in-Chief of the Strategic Rocket Forces Warns, - in Russian, (by Nikolai Poroskov, Vek, N 25, June 23-29, 2000)
- ABM and START II Treaties in U.S. - Russian Relations, - in Russian, (by O. Matveyev, Obozrevatel' - Observer, June 2000) U.S. NMD Deployment Will Destroy The Basis For Strategic Stability in the World, in Russian, (by Vitali Tret'yakov, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, June 22, 2000) - an interview with the Minister of Defense Igor Sergeyev
- What Answer To Washington, - in Russian, (Dip Courier, June 22, 2000)
- A Grand NMD Game: The Challenge Of New Russian Initiatives, (By Nikolai Sokov, Center for Nonproliferation Studies, June 15, 2000)
- Andrey Piontkovskii: Many Russian and American Politicians Need a Medical Treatment, - in Russian, (by Viktor Bezborodov, SMI.Ru, June 9, 2000)
- Summit Meeting Is Over. The Main Problem Has Not Been Solved, - in Russian, (by Dmitri Rogozin, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, June 9, 2000)
- New Reykjavik?, - in Russian, (by Pavel Felgenhauer, Moskovskiye Novosti, June 8, 2000)
- As Arms Cuts Stall, U.S., Russia Are At A Crossroads, by David Hoffman, The Washington Post, June 6, 2000, p. 1)
- Antimissile Threat Is Overestimated, - in Russian, (by Sergei Kreydin, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, N 18, May 26, 2000)
- An Evident Step Against Russia, - in Russian, (by Mikhail Gorbachyov, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 25, 2000)
- Pro Et Contra, - in Russian, (by Alexander Bovin, Moskovskiye Novosti, N 20 (1038), May 23 - 29, 2000 г.)
- "Hawks" And A "Lame Duck", - in Russian, (by Andrei Kozyrev, Moskovskiye Novosti, N 20 (1038), May 23 - 29, 2000)
- Why Clinton Is Flying to Moscow? - in Russian, (by Melor Sturua, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 23, 2000, p. 3)
- Till Pulling The Trigger, - in Russian, (by Anatoli Adamshin, Moskovskiye Novosti, N 19 (1037), May 16 - 22, 2000)
- Trying Not To Loose, - in Russian, (by Andrei Tsunskii, Russkii Zhurnal, May 19, 2000)
- A Performance Entitled "The Star Wars", - in Russian, (by Oleg Grinevski, Dip Courier, May 18, 2000)
- The Next Steps in Arms Control: A Russian Perspective, (by Alexei Arbatov, May 16, 2000 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
- Phantom of "Star Wars", - in Russian, (by Vissarion Sisnyov, Trud, May 3, 2000) - an interview with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov
- No Options? The Best Choice For Russia is A Confrontation in Solving NMD issue, - in Russian, (by Dmitri Gornostayev, Dipkorpus, N 8, May 4, 2000, p. 1)
- In a New Era, U.S. and Russia Bicker Over an Old Issue, (by Michael R.Gordon, The New York Times, April 25, 2000)
- ABM Treaty Revision: A Challenge to Russian Security, (by Alexander Pikayev, Disarmament Diplomacy, N 44, April 2000)
- Russia And the United States On The Doorstep Of the XXI-st Century, - in Russian, (by Sergei Rogov, Dip courier, April 6, 2000, p. 9,11)
- ...One Should Take Into Account Not Only Own Interests, (by Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, Krasnaya Zvezda, March 23, 2000, p.3)
- Saying "Yes" Is Advantageous for Russia, (by Lev Semeyko, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, N 10, March 24-30, 2000)
- Searching A Judgement Worthy Of Solomon, - in Russian (by Vadim Solovyov, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, N 8, March 3-9, 2000)
- "Satellite Destroyer" Against Star Wars, - in Russian, (by Aelita Baichurina, Vladimir Kucherenko and Boris Talov, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, March 3, 2000)
- The United States Do Not Want To Hear Russia, (by Ivan Safronov, Kommersant, February 29, 2000)
- "Star Wars" - Near The Russian Border, - in Russian, (by Alexei Smirnov, Novyye Izvestiya, February 22, 2000, pp. 1,2)
- The Prospects for ABM Treaty Modification, (by Alexander Pikayev, Program on New Approaches to Russian Security Policy Memo Series, Memo No. 108, February 2000)
- External Verges of Security, - in Russian, (by Vladimir Malyovanny, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, N 7, February 25 - March 2, 2000)
- Russian Aide Opens Door a Bit to U.S. Bid for Missile Defense, (by Jane Perlez, The New York Times, February 19, 2000)
- The Ministry Of Defense Is Not Interested In START II And START III, - in Russian (by Leonid Ivashov, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, N 6, February 18-24, 2000, p.3)
- Missile Umbrella For The Statue Of Freedom, (by Vladimir Dvorkin, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, February 15, 2000, p. 7)
- A Strange Time In U.S.-Russian Relations, - in Russian, (by Sergei Rogov, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, February 8, 2000)
- Russia Does Not Accept Forceful Dictate From the U.S., - in Russian, (by Leonid Ivashov, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, February 11, 2000, p. 1)
- Star Wars II. Does Russia have A Deserving Answer? (by Vladimir Basistov, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, February 5, 2000)
- It Is Time To Establish A Collective Responsibility For Strategic Security, - in Russian (by Nikolai Mikhailov, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, N 4, February 4-10, 2000, p.4).
- Vladimir Lukin: "Moscow Should Avoid Hostile Environment", - in Russian, (by Vladimir Malyovanny, Dipkorpus, February 2, 2000)
- U.S.-Russia Relations: A New Chill Russian Liberal Blames U.S. for Growing Rift, - an interview with Alexei Arbatov, (Global Beat Issue Brief No. 55 Report, Prepared by Paul Tooher, February 2, 1999)
- Here It Goes An Arms Race, (by Yuri Kolosov, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, February 1, 2000, p. 7).
- What Kind of Laws Do We Need?, by Vitali Denisov, Krasnaya Zvezda, January 28, 2000, p. 3)
Papers published in 1999
Programs of NMD Deployment
- National Missile Defense Independent Review Team Executive Summary, (Welch report), June 13, 2000 - in PDF format
- Missile Defense. Status of the National Missile Defense Program, GAO/NSIAD-00-131, June 2000 - in PDF format
- Budgetary and Technical Implications of the Administration's Plan for National Missile Defense, (CBO report, April 2000 - in PDF format)
- Missile Defense and Related Programs, (Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E) FY'99 Annual Report submitted to Congress February, 2000)
- The Welch Report of the National Missile Defense Review Committee, November, 1999 (in PDF format)
Other Helpful Resources
- Our special section: "Vardo Radar: Unfriendly Gesture Or A Violation Of the ABM Treaty?" - in Russian
- Pentagon Classifies a Letter Critical of Antimissile Plan: Letter of Prof. Theodore A. Postol to John D. Podesta, the White House Chief of Staff, Attachments A., B., and C. (all in PDF format), May 18, 2000 г.
- "Countermeasures: A Technical Evaluation of the Operational Effectiveness of the Planned US National Missile Defense System", - a report, written under the auspices of the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Security Studies Program, April 2000.
- Pushing The Limits, Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers Report, April 2000
- Assessing the Ballistic Missile Threat, (Testimony Joseph Cirincione, Director, Non-Proliferation Project Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation and Federal Services Committee on Governmental Affairs United States Senate February 9, 2000)
- Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States Through 2015, a report prepared by the intelligence community. See also previous intelligence assessments, media coverage of the report, other relevant reports
- Missile Defense Reliability: A Tally of Test Failures, (Coalition To Reduce Nuclear Dangers, Issue Brief, vol.3, No 6, July 1, 1999)
- The New York Times on Missile Defense
- BMD at the web site of the Carnegie Endowment
- Publications at the FAS Web site.
- BMD documents at the site of Council for a Livable World.
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