Index

London Times
March 1, 2000

'Rogue States Cannot Hope To Blackmail America Or Her Allies'

By William S Cohen

Militaries often face the complaint that they are preparing for the last battle rather than adapting to emerging threats. But today we face new dangers that require new approaches. That is why the United States is developing a limited national missile defence system designed to improve security and stability.

The proposed system is not aimed at Russia. The Cold War is over. Today American and Russian soldiers serve as peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo, and the two countries are working together to reduce further our arsenals. Now the United States worries about programmes in Iraq, Iran, North Korea and other rogue countries that seek to build or buy nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them.

North Korea is building and selling ballistic missiles, it has assembled an arsenal of chemical, biological weapons and it tried to develop nuclear capabilities. It has developed the Taepo Dong 2 missile, which could reach American territory, and it could test it at any time.

Iran is buying and developing ballistic missiles. It has flight- tested an intermediate range Shahab-3 missile and within the decade it could test a missile capable of reaching all of Europe's major cities. Iran has chemical weapons and is seeking nuclear and biological strength.

Before the Gulf War, Iraq had loaded chemical and biological weapons into missile warheads, according to United Nations arms inspectors, and it was close to achieving a nuclear capability. UN sanctions have slowed, but probably not stopped, Baghdad's determination to produce weapons of mass destruction.

Traditional deterrence rests on our ability to launch a devastating counter-strike against any country that uses weapons of mass destruction against America, its allies or deployed forces. Such measures worked against the Soviet Union, whose leaders were rational and risk-averse, but they may not deter rogue states whose leaders are indifferent to their people's welfare. Iraq, Iran and North Korea do not need long-range missiles to intimidate their neighbours; they want long-range missiles to coerce and threaten more distant countries in North America and Europe.

The United States has adopted a multi-faceted approach to counter this threat so that rogue state leaders cannot hope to blackmail America from protecting its interests, including commitments to its allies. Our first line of defence is to maintain a robust conventional and nuclear deterrent. The US is also pursuing an aggressive approach to non-proliferation and arms control. And we are developing a limited missile defence system that would provide protection for all 50 states against small attacks of perhaps two dozen warheads, once the full system became operational.

President Clinton faces a deployment decision later this year. Before making that decision, he will assess the threat, technological feasibility, affordability, and overall strategic environment, including arms control objectives. He will weigh the views of our allies, as well as Russia's willingness to modify the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. But it should be clear that the limited defence contemplated by the US is not directed at Russian forces and would not change the strategic balance between America and Russia. Three facets of our plan show this:

First, our proposed system would be too small to defeat Russia's nuclear force or undermine its strategic deterrent. Russia has about 6,000 strategic nuclear weapons today; even under Russia's proposal for future strategic reductions, they would have 1,500, more than enough to overwhelm the small system America is developing. Such a limited system would give Moscow no reason to increase its nuclear forces or to balk at additional cuts under Start.

Secondly, we have made clear to Russia that we want to work co-operatively on adapting the missile treaty. This should answer Russia's concern that we could expand missile defences sharply in the future. The treaty allows limited defences and amendments to fit new strategic realities, if both parties agree. We have proposed adapting the treaty to let us deploy our limited system within an arms control framework agreed by Moscow and Washington. Far from undermining the missile treaty, our proposal would preserve it as a cornerstone of strategic stability.

Thirdly, we have told Russia that we want to work with them on projects that will benefit both countries' security. We believe the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in North Korea, Iraq and Iran poses as much of a threat to Russia as it does to us. The US and Russia have agreed to share early warning data on missile launches. We have proposed joint research on next generation satellites to detect missile launches and to help Russia to pay for a large early warning radar in Siberia.

America is also working to maintain stability by trying to prevent the spread of missile technology and weapons of mass destruction. It is in the interest of Russia and China to co-operate with us in this effort, rather than to transfer dangerous missile technology and oppose a limited national missile defence system.

In the face of these new threats, our limited missile defence system would enhance deterrence and improve stability. An America that is confident of its own defence will be best positioned to defend its allies. A cooperative approach on national missile defence and the ABM Treaty will provide lasting benefits for global security.

The author is the US Secretary of Defence.