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DoD News Briefing


Thursday, November 4, 1999 - 2:00 p.m.
Presenter: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA

..........

Yes?

QKen, just a brief follow-up on what the secretary commented about -- (inaudible) -- when asked about the Russians saying that they had tested their ABM system; and he said again, the United States -- that the planned National Missile Defense was no direct threat against the Russians -- are not even aimed at that. But he said that he didn't know whether the Russians had tested this missile. Does the Pentagon know whether or not there was a test?

MR. BACON: We are currently looking at a variety of evidence. We have the public statements by the Russians, and we're seeing if we can back up those public statements.

QIf I could follow, Ken, as -- does the Pentagon have knowledge of the Russians modifying their -- what they call their A-135 ABM system, taking those rockets and taking the nuclear warheads from them, and are they converting to inertia-type kill vehicles, or -- or what's -- what can you tell us?

MR. BACON: Well, I can't tell you much about that except it would be a good thing if they were removing nuclear warheads and substituting other warheads on their -- it would be a step toward more stability and certainly more safety for the people of Russia.

QYou can't confirm that that's actually happened, that --

MR. BACON: No.

Q-- warheads have been taken off.

QSecretary Cohen said this morning that if they tested an interceptor, it would show that they have the system and the United States doesn't. Do we know, not necessarily from this test, which you said you're still looking at, but do we know as a general rule, does Russia have a working system that's capable of shooting a missile out of the sky, which the United States at the moment does not have?

MR. BACON: My understanding of what the Russians have is a 1970-vintage system designed to protect their national capital, Moscow. And it depends on using nuclear blasts in space to deflect, destroy, stop incoming missiles. That would be a, as I said, a very radiation-intense, dirty way of protecting the capital. That's my understanding of the system. It is not surprising that they would be looking at ways to modernize their system, given all of the technological developments that have occurred since the '70s. But I'll just stop and say it would not be surprising if they were thinking of doing that.

QWill you take this question about whether or not you could confirm that they, indeed, conducted a test on Tuesday and whether it was --

MR. BACON: I won't take the question, I'll answer it. We cannot confirm it at this stage.

QYou cannot confirm it. But at some point in the -- days, or -- you know, I -- you said you were going to be evaluating it. I assume that at some point you'll reach an opinion, and you might share that with us?

MR. BACON: If I can.

QAnd the only other part of it I would ask you is if that point comes where you can share with us, if you would tell us whether or not this was actually an interceptor test, like the ones the United States is conducting, or whether it was simply a test of the missile itself to see if was -- its capability.

MR. BACON: Yeah, I mean, the fact that the Russians have an ABM system is not new. They've had an ABM system. We used to have an ABM system, but we dismantled ours shortly after it was deployed, and they kept theirs.

The options under the treaty were to build a system that protected a national capital or protected a launch site. We chose to protect a launch site, to preserve a retaliatory capability under any circumstances. They chose to protect their national capital. We dismantled our system. They kept theirs up, and it is still there.

QThank you.

MR. BACON: You're welcome.

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