May 1, 1997


Since February 1996, the Administration has been committed to developing a system that could defend the United States against a potential limited strategic ballistic missile threat from rogue states and that would have some capability to defend against a small accidental or unauthorized launch from more nuclear-capable states. In response to the Chairman's invitation, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to present the Administration's views on the prospects for negotiating amendments to the ABM Treaty should that become necessary as a result of a future decision to deploy a National Missile Defense system. I want to make it clear that I am not speaking on the programmatic aspects of NMD, NMD deployment decision criteria, or on OSD's procedures for determining the ABM Treaty compliance of any NMD system or its components. My colleagues in the Defense Department have the lead responsibility for those issues.

I want to stress at the outset that the Administration is fully committed to the ABM Treaty as a cornerstone of strategic stability. President Clinton reaffirmed that commitment following the Administration's review in 1993 of ballistic missile defense policy and the ABM Treaty. Moreover, in February of 1996, following a thorough review of the U.S. ballistic missile defense program, when Secretary Perry announced the decision to establish a National Missile Defense deployment readiness (or "3 plus 3") program, the Administration stated that our commitment to the ABM Treaty remained unchanged. Finally, President Clinton repeated our commitment to the Treaty in the context of the Helsinki summit.

I believe it is premature to speculate on whether, or when, we may need to seek to negotiate changes to the ABM Treaty in the event of a future U.S. decision to deploy a national missile defense. It is even more premature to speculate hypothetically about specific changes to the Treaty that might be required to permit an NMD deployment that we might select. Nevertheless, it is my understanding that the evaluation of Treaty issues within the Defense Department will be accomplished in a timeframe that is supportive of the DoD NMD program schedule. This should allow compliance analysis to be based on concrete system designs without delaying the program's schedule.

Our NMD policy is that our NMD development program will be compliant with the ABM Treaty. If there is a decision to deploy NMD, we would determine whether the system we intend to deploy would comply with the ABM Treaty. If we determine that deployment of an NMD system required modifications to the ABM Treaty, we would seek agreement with our ABM Treaty partners. Indeed, the Treaty contains a mechanism for its amendment.

Recognizing that the ABM Treaty is a "living" Treaty, we have stressed to the Russians and others that for it to remain viable, it must be adaptable to changing political or technological circumstances. For example, we have taken a cooperative approach to implementation of the Treaty in negotiations with Russia and other potential successors on demarcation between theater ballistic missile defense and ABM systems. We would view any future NMD negotiation in the same light.

However, proposing changes to the Treaty and conducting such negotiations now would be premature -- we are now only in the early developmental phase of the program. At present, none of the so-called rogue states have the capability to attack the territory of the United States with ballistic missiles. The Department of Defense has not selected a specific architecture for a system. Thus, no USG decisions have been made about whether it will be compliant with the Treaty and whether any, and what kind of, Treaty amendments it would necessitate.

We must expect, however, that any future negotiations with other treaty parties to amend the ABM Treaty would also be difficult. It is not possible at this point to predict what the reaction of Russia and the other states would be to proposals to amend the Treaty. During the TMD demarcation negotiations, both sides have been tough defenders of what they regard as their security interests. Russia has made clear the importance it attaches to the viability of the ABM Treaty and to continued U.S. compliance with the Treaty as a prerequisite for further negotiated reductions in Russian strategic forces. At the same time, the Russians have also recognized the need to respond to the threat of ballistic missile proliferation, and agree with us on the need to develop and field effective systems to counter shorter-range ballistic missile threats.

Russia's willingness to accept any future proposed changes to the ABM Treaty to permit a National Missile Defense system against limited ballistic missile threats will in the first instance depend on their assessment of the compatibility of deployment of limited missile defense systems with their security and deterrence requirements. In our dialogue with Russia, we continue to stress that our NMD programs are not directed against Russia's nuclear deterrent nor will our NMD programs provide the capability to threaten that deterrent. But Russian willingness to amend the Treaty would also depend on the commonality of interests, including cooperation and their assessment of the threat. The Russians might also want to reassess their own requirements in light of ballistic missile proliferation developments in their region.

In conclusion, the Administration is committed to both the ABM Treaty and the development of an NMD capability. If a rogue state missile threat emerges that requires deployment of an NMD system, such a system could require modifications to the ABM Treaty; however, it would not be incompatible with the central purpose of the ABM Treaty -- that is, the preservation of strategic stability, and the achievement of further strategic offensive force reductions as part of the START process.