July 13, 1995

THE HONORABLE JOHN D. HOLUM, DIRECTOR
U.S. ARMS CONTROL AND DISARMAMENT AGENCY
REMARKS TO THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL

"Congressional Challenges To Arms Control"

I'm grateful for this opportunity to speak once again to the Atlantic Council -- and not only as a tangible manifestation of the fact that ACDA is still around.

When I was here on March 10, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was a dominant topic. The days were short and the odds of gaining indefinite extension of the Treaty were said to be impossibly long. Some of you may remember Jim Schlesinger generously observing that while ACDA was intently focused on NPT extension, the rest of the Administration had waited too long. Well, much was going on that did not meet the eye.

Of course the NPT decision is now ancient history -- precisely two months old -- so I'll only touch on it lightly here, and hope for questions later. But I would observe this: the outcome in New York was a fundamental foreign policy success for the United States.

This achievement reflected profoundly effective international leadership by President Clinton, Vice President Gore, National Security Advisor Lake, Secretaries Christopher, Perry and O'Leary, Ambassador Albright, and many others --especially Ambassador Tom Graham, Ralph Earle, my predecessor and now Deputy, our Assistant Director for nonproliferation, Larry Scheinman, Susan Burk, ACDA's NPT division chief, and our Conference on Disarmament Ambassador Steve Ledogar. Every one of them, and the President and Vice President in particular, were personally, deeply engaged in reaching and persuading foreign leaders and officials.

And this major success was won not by threats or pressure, but by conveying with great effect the central proposition that the NPT is intensely in the security interests of every one of its member countries.

In a complicated post-Cold War world, those international efforts of the Administration that have not yet succeeded draw ample review and comment. It's fair to suggest that at least some reasonable percentage of the same attention is due when things go exceedingly well, as they did on the NPT.

But I want to talk today mainly about another concern -- and that is the impact on my Agency's mission of the deeply partisan and disturbingly isolationist impulses that are beginning to capture majority support on Capitol Hill. And, because you already gave me the opportunity in March for a commercial on ACDA's future, I'll resist that powerful urge today and use other evidence to make my case. Many other capers on Capitol Hill also promise to undermine parts of the broadest arms control agenda since the dawn of the nuclear age.

Nunn-Lugar and the Dornan Amendment: Let me begin with perhaps the most obvious case -- attacks on assistance in the safe and secure dismantlement of former Soviet weapons of mass destruction. As you know, that program had bipartisan origins, with Senators Nunn and Lugar. Recently the House first slashed the Administration's Nunn-Lugar request for next year almost in half. Then Congressman Dornan championed -- and the House in a largely party-line vote accepted -- an amendment that would freeze Nunn-Lugar aid to Russia until the President certifies that the Russians have terminated any biological weapons programs.

Remember that the Nunn-Lugar program has helped to cut up missiles once aimed at the United States...to deactivate about 1,000 strategic bomber weapons and well over 2,500 nuclear weapons all told...and to propel START I reductions toward completion more than two years early. Nunn-Lugar was instrumental in the denuclearization decisions of Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan -- decisions which in turn allowed START I entry into force and strengthened the NPT regime in time for the review and extension conference in New York. Nunn-Lugar will also help stem nuclear smuggling, through improved fissile material controls and protection. It is helping to answer a distinct new proliferation risk, by employing in Russia nuclear weapons experts who doubtless could otherwise find lucrative opportunities in places like Iraq, Iran, Libya or North Korea.

Now, I have not the slightest friendly sentiment toward biological weapons in Russia -- nor are we at all satisfied with Russian efforts thus far to fulfill President Yeltsin's commitment to root out the program he, himself, courageously revealed in 1992.

But I find it hard to comprehend how anyone could think that a good answer to biological weapons concerns in Russia is more nuclear weapons in Russia, in the other independent states, or even potentially in the hands of rogue regimes or terrorists, if materials and experts run free. If this stratagem is the answer to Russian biological weapons, then pestilence is the answer to plague.

Manifestly, the Nunn-Lugar program is not a favor we are doing for the former Soviet Union, but a hard-headed policy in our own national interest. It is a part of our national defense, buying tangible reductions in the threat we would otherwise have to prepare against. And by taking that away, the Dornan Amendment and related language would not only be shooting ourselves in the foot, but shooting coupled with gross, deliberate, and aggravated foot mutilation.

ABM: Another highly charged challenge to arms control lies in Congressional efforts to force unilateral abandonment of the ABM Treaty -- and thereby put at risk a totally reliable anti-ballistic missile system, consisting of the START I and START II Treaties, which will verifiably eliminate three-fourths of the nuclear weapons ever aimed our way -- including all of the former Soviet Union's heavy SS-18s -- without firing a shot.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has voted to require deployment by the end of 2003 of a multiple-site national missile defense system for the United States -- in essence, turning over an hourglass for abrogation of the ABM Treaty. Meanwhile, the bill directs the President to cease all efforts to negotiate any clarification of the line between proscribed strategic defenses and permitted theater defenses, until the Senate completes a review of the Treaty.

No doubt many of you will detect constitutional defects in a mandate that the President not negotiate with foreign governments. But the broader message this legislation sends is considerably more dangerous than an intrusion by Congress into Executive powers. For it declares, at a time when START I implementation is just beginning and START II is not even ratified, that a foundation stone in our arms control architecture with Russia should be dislodged.

There is no mystery in the relationship between treaties covering offensive and defensive missiles. As the number of offensive missiles comes down, the importance of each defensive missile that could intercept them goes up. As a result, a national missile defense in the United States would make the START reductions considerably less attractive to the Russians.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili has made plain his view that such unilateral U.S. legislation could harm both the prospects for START II ratification by the Duma and our broader security relationship with Russia as well.

Meanwhile, the legislation proposes to shut off our efforts to make clear that the ABM treaty does not preclude highly capable theater defenses. On that point Chairman Shalikashvili has been equally clear. He has concluded that if such a dialogue is prohibited, we could eventually find ourselves forced to choose between giving up elements of our TMD development programs or proceeding unilaterally in a manner that could undermine the ABM Treaty and our broader security relationship with Russia. As the Chairman has noted, either alternative would impose security risks and costs that we are seeking to avoid.

Today's main rationale for a national missile defense is that we must prepare for the possibility that a rogue state someday will be able to reach the United States with a ballistic missile. Intelligence and defense experts say that is many years away, though still something warranting active defensive R&D, which is well underway.

But the weapons that START I and START II would take out --the deadliest ever pointed toward us -- exist right now. Our forces and friends could face advanced theater weapons in the near term. Confusing and undercutting our responses to those dangers for the sake of a multi-site global defense is like stepping into a busy intersection transfixed by a speck on the horizon that just might be a car headed your way.

I suspect this legislation has more to do with theology and settling old scores than with sound national security strategy. The consequences for arms control -- mainly for achievements of Republican Presidents, I would remind you, that a Democratic Administration is working to ratify and implement -- could be catastrophic. I hope cooler heads in the Congress will insist that this legislation be reconsidered.

Bosnia: As an arms controller, I am also unnerved by legislation affecting Bosnia. I hasten to stress that, to my relief -- and doubtless to the advantage of policymaking -- my responsibilities do not include either designing or describing our approach to Bosnia. But I am concerned by the premise advanced in the Bosnia debate in Congress that the United States should unilaterally lift the embargo on arms to that region.

That is because arms control agreements generally are not self-executing, and so depend upon case-by-case remedies, including sanctions. As we know from the cases of North Korea and Iraq, violations of the NPT generate no automatic response. Instead, we turn to the United Nations Security Council to design and adopt appropriate remedies. In the Chemical Weapons Convention, the implementing body will be able to impose modest penalties, but again, major sanctions will require Security Council action. These, together with all of the supplier controls -- the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Australia Group on chemical and biological weapons -- depend on multilateral action.

So however strong the impulse, if we decide unilaterally to end the arms embargo on Bosnia, it will inevitably be taken as a precedent by others who think some of our nonproliferation standards are too high or our enforcement too strict -- today in Iraq, tomorrow, perhaps elsewhere in the Middle East, or in Asia.

Especially by a great power, such decisions cannot be made in a vacuum -- and I fear unilateral action on Bosnia would inevitably have acutely unwelcome echoes in high-stakes nonproliferation efforts down the road. If we pick and choose which sanctions regimes to comply with, others will feel free to do the same.

Agreed Framework with North Korea: Some in Congress also want to impose unworkable restrictions on our ability to implement the Agreed Framework that freezes and rolls back North Korea's nuclear program.

This issue, as you all know, involves colossal stakes -- the possibility that an unpredictable, isolated regime in an impoverished country could develop numerous nuclear weapons; potential UN sanctions; and calculations of the risks of a war that inevitably would involve U.S. forces. No one can believe these are trifling matters.

Understandably, the effort to avert those dangers, too, has had bipartisan elements. The Bush Administration, like ours, had already engaged North Korea at senior levels, in forerunner discussions to those that produced the Agreed Framework.

As we've seen, implementing that Framework presents an intricate challenge. The President, the Secretary of State, Ambassador Gallucci and others have labored tirelessly to preserve the Framework while managing relations with both the DPRK and our staunch ally, the Republic of Korea.

But now in the midst of these palpable challenges, some in the Congress have begun trying their own hand at renegotiating the agreement -- adding numerous conditions that have to be satisfied before the United States can fulfill its part of the bargain. At the same time Congress has also sought to place unworkable limits on any U.S. funding, and is not fully funding even the President's modest request.

But this could prevent attraction of the vastly greater sums other countries are to contribute -- in the process jeopardizing long-standing commitments to South Korea, our fundamental security relationship with Japan, and quite possibly the agreement itself.

One is left to wonder what is going on here. Of course, to repudiate the Agreed Framework straight up or down would be visibly to accept responsibility for the consequences. But this vulnerable agreement can be killed just as dead by numerous small cuts as by one large, overt one. So I hope any member of Congress who is tempted, for political or whatever reason, to make a Herculean task still harder, will look in the mirror and consider whether the satisfaction from that is worth the grave risks not only to nonproliferation, but potentially to peace and American lives.

China: Finally, I want to mention the arms control implications of the many attempts by Congress to micromanage U.S. relations with China.

It is deeply in our own interests to build an arms control relationship with China -- because as a militarily and technically advanced country it can either foster or help restrain proliferation; because it profoundly affects the behavior of other countries in a large part of the world, including Northeast and South Asia; because U.S. and Russian strategic forces are contracting while China's are expanding and modernizing; because, in sum, China is an indispensable player if arms control is truly and comprehensively to work.

Obviously there is much to regret and resist in China's present arms control behavior -- including continued nuclear testing, possible missile transfers, and nuclear supply to questionable destinations. But over time China has also begun gradually to accept some of the arms control responsibilities of a major power -- such as joining the NPT, committing to a comprehensive test ban, and accepting, at least in principle, limits on missile sales.

These are not the only -- or perhaps even the main --reasons for engagement with China, but they are important ones. And they, with other elements of our policy, are set back by lead-footed attempts to make political points at China's expense -- launching untenable policy prescriptions on Tibet, the Dalai Lama, Taiwanese military relations, and so forth. Most recently, with U.S.-China relations already troubled, Speaker Gingrich's casual dismissal of the central "One China" concept -- upon which our policy has been built since President Nixon -- could be devastating.

It may be politically tempting. But it is not sound policy, for arms control or for the country.

Conclusion

President Clinton some weeks ago described some of these proposals, together with the plan to disrupt the foreign affairs agencies and slash their operations and budgets, as "the most isolationist proposals to come before the United States Congress in the last 50 years."

Those are strong words, and they've provoked an argument. Senior Republicans bristle at the term, presumably recalling the fruits of the isolationism of the 1920's, and still aspiring to Arthur Vandenberg's legacy of responsible inter-nationalism. Columnist Charles Krauthammer has even tried to turn the tables-- citing the China initiatives, among others, as being "in fact, more interventionist than the Administration's, which is why they oppose them."

But the President is exactly right. The steps that drew his objections are isolationist, and short-sighted, and extreme --moving toward a foreign policy stripped of all but the swagger. And with all respect to Mr. Krauthammer, steps that intervene mischievously are also isolationist, for they spring from the premise that foreign affairs doesn't really matter -- so it's an acceptable realm for chest thumping and political frolics, the international consequences be damned.

But with a world transformed -- with the future of a heavily armed Russia uncertain -- with rogue regimes hungering for arms and eager for ways and excuses to attain them -- our challenges in arms control and nonproliferation demand our very best and fullest bipartisan efforts. We cannot let either isolationist meanderings or political exuberance artificially magnify these huge tasks. To borrow a line from the familiar Chinese curse, the times we live in are already interesting enough.

I subscribe to the premise that American foreign policy generally, and arms control specifically, are strongest when sustained by the support of both parties and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. The fringes of both major parties have flirted with isolationism at various times, but it has never captured the mainstream of either party -- including, I think, now.

For I believe that responsible, mainstream Republicans haven't lost their bearings, only their voices. I believe they are privately horrified that the strong and sound internationalist traditions of their party -- the party of Senator Vandenberg, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George Bush -- could be repudiated on the basis of political expedience or through the deeply damaging isolationism of a few extremists.

Montaigne counselled, "Do not be ashamed to say what you are not ashamed to think." We must hope that internationalist leaders of both parties will adhere to this principle -- as we resume the task, in a divided government, of building a unified foreign policy that befits a great power in a perilous world.