News

03 March 2000

The President's NMD Decision and U.S. Foreign Policy

President Clinton's senior adviser on arms control says that the key "to managing the diplomacy of NMD (National Missile Defense) deployment is Russia."

Not only is Russia the other signatory of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, but it still has many thousands of nuclear warheads, according to former Arms Control and Disarmament Agency Director John Holum.

Holum told an audience at Stanford University on March 3 that Russia's approach to U.S. efforts to adapt to the ABM Treaty "will have a significant impact on the reactions of other states." While the United States must recognize "that Moscow has legitimate fears about any NMD deployment," he also said the Russians must be ready to negotiate on adaptation "in good faith."

In a speech designed to explain President Clinton's NMD Decision this summer on whether or not to proceed with NMD, and to describe some of the international reaction to proposed U.S. national and theater missile defenses, the senior State Department official said the U.S. is laying "the groundwork for reaching agreement, if, and when, the Russians make a political decision to negotiate Treaty changes." U.S. officials are seeking to address Russian concerns on NMD and ABM Treaty adaptation "through invigorated U.S.-Russian cooperation on measures related to the ABM Treaty, as well as missile defense," Holum said.

Since both the United States and Russia face threats from ballistic missiles, he said, cooperative programs between the two "should reap tangible security benefits." Right now, he said, the U.S. is still assessing how recent Russian leadership changes, including the Duma elections, "might affect the ABM/NMD negotiations."

Holum also emphasized the importance of Europe to NMD diplomacy. Allied concerns must be addressed effectively, he said. U.S. officials, he said, believe that missile defense programs, including a limited NMD, can enhance the ability of the United States "to fulfill its NATO and global security commitments."

Finally, Holum said he has worked hard to establish a regular strategic dialogue with the Chinese on the subject of missile defense in an effort to allay their concerns. Part of the problem, he said, is trying to overcome the low information level the Chinese have about NMD.

Just as deterrence works in the context of the U.S.-Russian relationship, so too, does it with the U.S. and China, he said. The United States does not consider China "to be a rogue state," Holum said, nor does it envision any future that would involve American NMD protection being used against China.

"We need to manage our dialogue with China so they will not view a U.S. decision to deploy a limited NMD as evidence of hostility or an effort to undermine their security," he added. Additionally, he said, "We don't want NMD to give China incentives to go beyond the ongoing strategic modernization program they had planned before NMD became an issue."

In concluding his remarks, Holum said the United States believes that NMD "can be carried out in conformance with the core purpose of the ABM Treaty, with further strategic reductions, with a stable strategic environment, and with continued progress against proliferation."

Following is the text of Holum's remarks as delivered:

Presentation by the Honorable John D. Holum
Senior Adviser for Arms Control and International Security
U.S. Department of State
Conference on International Reactions to U.S. National and Theater Missile Defense Deployments
Stanford University
March 3, 2000

I'm delighted to have this opportunity to step outside the Washington beltway and talk about national missile defense (NMD) and its impact in a broader international context. On an issue of this significance, it's not only important, but imperative, for us in Washington to avoid "group-think" and to expose ourselves to the thinking in the outside world. You come at this issue from a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives, and I trust our exchange will be enlightening for us all.

I've also prepared for this conference by conducting another round of meetings on NMD, the ABM Treaty and START III with Yuri Kapralov and his Russian team earlier this week in Geneva. Those meetings always provide a healthy dose of reality. The best description I can offer is that on ABM amendments we persist in interpreting the Russian "nyet" as a contraction of "not yet," while they, with force and persistence, tell us we couldn't be more wrong.

The Fourth Criterion

The Administration takes the foreign policy implications of a possible NMD deployment decision very seriously. You are all familiar with the four criteria the President will consider, especially the first three - the threat, technology, and cost. Today I want to focus specifically on the fourth one, which has not been as fully examined.

Since the fourth criterion was first articulated we have become increasingly mindful not only of direct arms control considerations, but of the broad international dimension of an NMD deployment decision. The December 1999 White House document "A National Security Strategy for a New Century" articulates the fourth criterion as "the implications that going forward with NMD deployment would hold for the overall strategic environment and our arms control objectives."

In a meeting with members of the Senate a couple of weeks ago, Strobe Talbott and I were challenged on why the U.S. is even considering the views of Russia and other countries as part of our NMD deployment decision. I would not have thought to look to the Founding Fathers to help frame a response, but as they did on so many other issues, they captured the essence of the argument beautifully. Ironically, it is found in Federalist Paper #63, which justified the Senate's creation.

The author, probably Hamilton or Madison, argues that, without a more stable body of government, the esteem of foreign powers could be forfeited by unenlightened and variable policy, and that only the Senate would possess a sensibility to world opinion and merit international respect and confidence. Then the author explained why attention to the opinion of other nations is important, in these words:

"An attention to the judgment of other nations is important to every government for two reasons: the one is, that, independently of the merits of any particular plan or measure, it is desirable, on various accounts, that it should appear to other nations as the offspring of a wise and honorable policy; the second is, that in doubtful cases, particularly where the national councils may be warped by some strong passion or momentary interest, the presumed or known opinion of the impartial world may be the best guide that can be followed."

Secretary Albright will be very focused on the fourth criterion when she provides her input into the President's deployment decision this summer. Under this criterion she will consider at least six elements -- the impact of NMD deployment on our arms control objectives, our non-proliferation objectives, and our relations with European allies, with Pacific allies, with Russia, and with China. These are the elements I want to focus on tonight.

In particular, I want to talk about how we are taking the views of Russia, our friends and allies, and China, into account and, at the same time, seeking to shape their reactions to NMD. We aren't just being good listeners; we want a dialogue. We want to persuade others that a deployment decision would be the "offspring of a wise and honorable policy," and we need to have our views challenged to convince ourselves that the President's decision will not be based on "some strong passion or momentary interest."

Such a dialogue imposes a heavy burden on the United States to clearly articulate the purpose of proceeding with NMD, including our view of the threat; the details of our NMD program; and how we see it fitting into a larger worldview, including its impact on the current arms control and non-proliferation regimes, and strategic stability more broadly.

But a constructive dialogue also places burdens on other countries. They must move beyond their natural resistance to any disruption to the status quo and be prepared to face up to changes in the strategic environment. They must get past a tendency to "worst-case" the impact of any adaptation of the ABM Treaty, or assume that any change represents a "slippery-slope" leading inevitably to the Treaty's destruction.

In short, our friends and allies, Russia and China, must come to this dialogue with open minds and be prepared for a rational discussion. It's not enough to just say "No" in the face of a U.S. need to address what we believe is a real threat to our security. "No" is not a dialogue, and no country will ultimately have a veto over NMD deployment if the President concludes such a system is necessary to protect the American people.

The Key to Managing NMD Diplomacy is Russia

The key to managing the diplomacy of NMD deployment is Russia. It is the other Party to the ABM Treaty. It still has many thousands of nuclear warheads. And Russia's approach to adapting the Treaty will have a significant impact on the reactions of other states.

Our own approach is cooperative. We want to avoid forcing the President to a choice between the ABM Treaty and an NMD system that he decides is necessary to protect the American people. But to avoid this, the Russians must be prepared to negotiate in good faith. At the same time, we need to recognize that Moscow has legitimate fears about any NMD deployment.

As I mentioned, I flew to San Francisco just having completed the fourth in a series of meetings with my Russian counterparts on START III and the ABM Treaty. A parallel dialogue is under way between Deputy Secretary Talbott and DFM Mamedov. Secretary Albright is also fully engaged on these questions, and considerable time was devoted to these issues during her recent talks in Moscow. We are laying the groundwork for reaching agreement if and when the Russians make a political decision to negotiate Treaty changes.

We are addressing Russian concerns in three broad areas. First, we need to reassure Moscow that in deploying a limited NMD system we are not seeking to change the core foundation of our nuclear relationship, that is, that a limited NMD will not threaten Russia's strategic deterrent. Accordingly, we are seeking only those Treaty changes that we believe will be necessary to address threats as we project they will emerge. We believe this phased approach will maximize our chances of reaching agreement with Russia on ABMT adaptation, as well as on START III.

Based on objective analysis, neither our Phase I, nor even Phase II, architecture would pose a threat to Russia's strategic deterrent. Russian officials have, in fact, stated repeatedly that they have the capability to overwhelm any NMD. Late last year, General Yakovlev, the Commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces, said that the SS-27, which will form the backbone of Russia's ICBM force under START II and III, "is able to breach any anti-missile system that exists in the world and any which will be built in the near future."

I have been struck by the fact that in our discussions, the Russians' critique of NMD has not focused on the impact of Phase I or Phase II deployments on their deterrent but, rather, on their concern that such deployments would establish an infrastructure allowing future breakout. So one of our negotiating challenges will be to ensure continuing Russian confidence that a U.S. NMD system remains a limited one, fielded within the agreed terms of an amended ABM Treaty.

I believe we can accomplish this through confidence-building and transparency measures -- an approach we used in negotiating the ABM/TMD demarcation agreements -- and possibly through enhancements to the ABM Treaty's verification regime, which now relies solely on national technical means. We have been putting forward some ideas along these lines.

Russia views the capabilities of a limited NMD system in the context of a surprise, disarming U.S. first-strike. We tend not to understand that countries -- Russia and China, in particular -- tend to look at NMD in a larger context; they connect the dots. Thus, its not totally surprising that the Russians see a more threatening environment when they link, for example, NMD with NATO expansion; intervention in Kosovo without United Nations imprimatur; and a general decline in Russian military power. While the thought of a bolt-out-of-the-blue nuclear strike now seems anachronistic to us, it may not seem so to the Russian military which, after all, is paid to consider the implications of such dire scenarios.

We have been explaining to our Russian counterparts in considerable technical detail why, even under a worst-case scenario, NMD would not threaten Russia's deterrent. But the strategic arms reduction process can also help address this concern. One of the major accomplishments of START II -- its ban on MIRVed ICBMs and, in particular, vulnerable fixed silo MIRVed ICBMs -- is a large step toward eliminating any strategic advantage from a first strike. Negotiated in parallel with changes to the ABM Treaty to permit a limited NMD, a START III agreement would ensure that as Russian strategic force levels decline, as they will with or without arms control, U.S. forces will come down as well. In short, we are not seeking to combine NMD with numerically superior U.S. offensive forces.

We are also seeking to address Russian concerns through invigorated U.S.-Russian cooperation on measures related to the ABM Treaty, as well as missile defense. "Cooperation" describes not only our approach to negotiating ABM Treaty changes, but also our willingness to engage the Russians in a significant number of specific activities.

We have put on the table for discussion a wide range of ideas ranging from expanded discussion of missile threats, including the possibility of a "joint" intelligence assessment, to the expansion of current cooperative programs such as the ongoing TMD exercise program and RAMOS; to an even wider array of voluntary transparency measures, some of which could be carried out even before the conclusion of an ABM agreement; to assistance in restoring the Russian ballistic missile early warning network.

Both the U.S. and Russia face ballistic missile threats. Through cooperative programs, both should reap tangible security benefits. This will help both governments demonstrate that a cooperative approach on ABM is in our common interest, rather than a confrontation leading to the Treaty's possible demise.

We are still assessing how the change in the Russian leadership, as well as last December's Duma elections, might affect the ABM/NMD negotiations. Acting President Putin made some encouraging statements during Secretary Albright's recent visit to Moscow, but it is not possible to draw any conclusions at this point.

The Russians will ultimately have a calculation to make -- whether it is better to accept the potential deployment of a limited U.S. NMD system and continue on the path of strategic arms reductions or, alternatively, to jeopardize the strategic predictability provided by the ABM Treaty and the START process at a time when they can least afford a new arms buildup. They may not make that calculation until after the Presidential election in March. The good news is that the acceleration of the election from June to March provides a wider window for negotiations before President Clinton faces the NMD deployment decision this summer.

The Europeans

As with the Russians, the key to NMD diplomacy with Europe is dialogue. Last November when Strobe Talbott offered the first extended briefing of U.S. thinking to the North Atlantic Council, our Allies "unloaded" their pent-up feelings on the first available American target. But I believe we are now well past the emotional stage in this discussion.

But the Allies have concerns that we need effectively to address. We are institutionalizing in NATO a process for addressing these issues in the months leading up to the Spring Ministerials and the President's NMD decision, so he will have the full range of Allied thinking. Meanwhile we will provide the information they need, correct any misperceptions, and articulate our considerations with respect to NMD and, in doing so, hopefully adjust their thinking.

Let me briefly address the key concerns our European allies have raised about our NMD policy.

First, the Allies fear NMD will undermine the NATO alliance's principle of "shared risk" and could ultimately lead to the "decoupling" of the U.S. from Europe.

To the contrary, we believe missile defenses, including a limited NMD, can enhance U.S. ability to fulfill its NATO and global security commitments. Defenses render less credible any rogue state attempts to use WMD-armed ballistic missiles to deter us from responding to aggression or otherwise meeting our security commitments. We should keep in mind, for example, that U.S. intervention in the Gulf War and in Kosovo faced considerable opposition in both the public and the Congress. What would the public opinion balance sheet have looked like if Sadaam or Milosevic could have threatened to use WMD-armed missiles against the United States if we intervened? At the NAC, Deputy Secretary Talbott has posed the question "Why would the U.S. be a better ally if we were exposed to a missile threat?" We haven't heard a good answer.

A second concern we hear is that NMD means giving up on deterrence. In fact, the core of deterrence is the ability to convince a potential aggressor that the risks far outweigh any potential gains. There are two parts of this equation. The threat of retaliation drives home that the negative consequences of aggression would be huge. But deterrence is also bolstered if we can reduce the chance that an attack would succeed in the first place. Ballistic missile defense does not undermine, but complements and reinforces, deterrence.

Third, some of our NATO allies are concerned that we are overstating the threat. This concern, I think, flows from outdated Cold War perspectives and, perhaps understandably, fails to account for the revolution in thinking sparked in large part by the Rumsfeld Commission Report. We don't think states like North Korea or Iran are likely to use their missile and WMD programs as operational weapons of war, prompting devastating retaliation. Rather, we have come to the view that such states seek missile and WMD programs primarily as weapons of coercive diplomacy, to complicate U.S. decision making or limit our freedom to act in a crisis by, say, coming to the defense of our South Korean ally.

So we have to avoid mirror-imaging. For coercive purposes, WMD-armed ballistic missiles need not be deployed in large numbers or be highly accurate and reliable. There is no need for robust test programs, or for deployment of large numbers of missiles in dedicated long-term deployment sites. That, combined with our uncertainties in assessing the threat (e.g., the limits on our intelligence collection capabilities, use of denial and deception, and uncertainties regarding the amount of outside help), means our warning times have sharply diminished. Only a few years ago, the U.S. intelligence community had high confidence that it could provide five years warning of a proliferant state ICBM. It now considers a threat to have emerged upon the first successful flight test, which could occur with perhaps a few months warning, if that.

Finally, our European allies are concerned that NMD will lead to an unraveling of the arms control process, undermine strategic stability, and lead to a worsening of U.S./NATO relations with Russia and China. This concern has undoubtedly been reinforced by the Senate's vote on the CTBT and the Duma's refusal to date to ratify START II. Of course we recognize the historic relationship between offense and defense. The Clinton Administration, however, rejects the idea that limited modifications to the ABM Treaty are incompatible with further reductions under START and the maintenance of strategic stability. Objectively, a limited NMD will have no significant capability against Russia's strategic force, even at much lower levels. Our challenge, of course, is to demonstrate that convincingly to Russia.

NMD is also compatible with nonproliferation regimes. Our missile non-proliferation strategy has three elements: to prevent the threat from emerging in the first place, if it nonetheless does emerge to deter its use or, failing that, to defend against it. Each of these elements complements the others. Development of a limited NMD system should not be taken as a signal that we have abandoned our efforts to prevent proliferation or our ability to deter. But to the extent prevention does not entirely succeed, and to the extent we cannot be confident deterrence will work, defense also has a role.

Relations with Russia, and fears about NMD's impact on international arms control and non-proliferation regimes, probably head the list of Allied concerns. Those concerns should largely evaporate if we can reach agreement with Russia on ABM Treaty changes and START III.

In any event, we will be presenting these arguments to our European allies over the coming weeks and months in a regular series of briefings on our plans and our dialogue with Russia.

China

I've left the toughest case until last. While our dialogues with the Russians and our allies are well underway, the same cannot be said for China. I find this personally disappointing. I have worked for some time to establish a strategic dialogue with the Chinese. The accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade has been the most recent setback in our attempts at engagement, and it came just when the NMD issue was heating up. However, Deputy Secretary Talbott did lead an interagency team to Beijing on February 17-18 for wide ranging talks that provided our first real opportunity to engage the Chinese on ballistic missile defense issues.

We have a lot to overcome. The Chinese information level on NMD is very low (Strobe's trip offered the first opportunity to provide threat and architecture briefings to a wide audience); and the perceptual gaps are wide (the Chinese, like the Russians, connect dots and see NMD as part of a grand design aimed at China). That is not the case. We believe deterrence works in the context of the U.S.-China relationship, as with Russia; we do not consider China to be a rogue state; and we do not envision a future that would require NMD protection against China.

Nevertheless, the objective facts are that China today has a small strategic force, and the North Koreans live in the same neighborhood; thus even a limited NMD system aimed at the North Korean threat could also significantly erode China's deterrent capability against the U.S.

We need to manage our dialogue with China so they will not view a U.S. decision to deploy a limited NMD as evidence of hostility or an effort to undermine their security. We don't want NMD to give China incentives to go beyond the ongoing strategic modernization program they had planned before NMD became an issue. That could have repercussions for CTBT, the NPT Review Conference, and South Asia. We also need to make sure NMD does not give China a reason to curtail its adherence to existing arms control and nonproliferation norms and regimes, or a reason to limit its future cooperation with us.

In my personal view, China's response to NMD over time will likely depend on more than a simple calculus of the number of strategic warheads that can reach the U.S. Economics (and the importance of the U.S. to China's economic advancement); the status of cross-strait relations with Taiwan and U.S. Taiwan policy; China's bilateral relationship with Japan; and potential TMD deployments in the region are all likely to rank above NMD in China's near-term hierarchy of security considerations. In turn developments in these areas may well shape China's response to NMD. To the degree we can break China's perceptual linkages between NMD and both Taiwan and regional TMD issues, and convince them that these issues have different dynamics, that will help.

At this point, we are really at the informational level with China. We need a regular strategic dialogue to allay Chinese concerns. Where we go next, however, will likely depend on the overall tenor of our broader relationship.

Conclusion

What should you take away from my talk?

First, that the Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott and I all treat the fourth criterion very seriously, and that we view this criterion in a broad fashion to include the impact of NMD on all aspects of the "overall strategic environment."

Second, our intention is to ensure that the President has before him all of the relevant considerations when he makes a decision on NMD deployment this summer.

Third, no country will hold a veto over NMD deployment. In the end, with the fullest possible information on all the costs and benefits before him, the President will have to make a decision based on U.S. security and the best interests of the American people.

But fourth, with friends and allies, with Russia and China, we will listen, to be sure, but we also intend a vigorous dialogue. We believe our approach to national missile defense can be carried out in conformance with the core purpose of the ABM Treaty, with further strategic reductions, with a stable strategic environment, and with continued progress against proliferation. We intend to make the case, in the spirit of Federalist Paper 63, that it is, indeed, "the offspring of a wise and honorable policy," and deserves international understanding and support.

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