I'm pleased to return to the Hill to take part in this National Security Breakfast Seminar Series.
I had a very interesting experience last week. I came up here to the Hill to testify on the Administration's ABM Treaty policy before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And I went back to my office realizing that what Senators Biden" Kerry, Simon, Lugar, and Chairman Pell had told us was basically right -- that given the decades of commitment and controversy built up around the ABM Treaty, and of course the pitched battles over SDI in the 1980s, we in the executive branch hadn't yet made the full case to the Senate for clarification of the Treaty along the lines we envision.
I'd like to take this chance to begin laying out that case and responding to the Senators' concerns. I embrace this opportunity because I am convinced, as a staunch advocate of arms control, that the case for ABM demarcation and deployment of improved theater missile defenses is a winner on the merits -- if only we in the executive branch will give it the time and effort it requires.
I heard four main concerns expressed on the Hill. Let me list them for you and return to them throughout my remarks.
First, the character of the threat: The Senators sought assurance that the threat to be countered by our theater ballistic missile defenses is real, not hypothetical.
Second, consistency with traditional ABM goals and with future strategic weapons reductions: The Senators were concerned that clarification of the ABM Treaty not sacrifice the strategic benefits we have already reaped from the Treaty, or the additional benefit it may offer for further strategic reductions.
Third, avoidance of new arms races: The Senators wanted reassurance that the clarification we seek will not propel new arms races by North Korea, Iraq, and the other states that concern us.
Fourth, legal status of the clarification: The Senators were concerned for obvious reasons that the legislative branch's rightful role in this process be respected. My presence on the Hill last week and here today demonstrates how seriously I take this concern, and I will return to it briefly near the end of my remarks.
Additional concerns were expressed as well, but they overlapped, combined with, or subsumed the main four I've mentioned. For example, the fear that THAAD -- our core theater missile defense system -- is a kind of "mini-ABM" is related both to the concern that the clarification we seek will undercut the Treaty's strategic purposes and to the worry that THAAD will spur new arms races.
Before I begin to answer these concerns, let me provide some brief background that may inform our discussion.
The ABM Treaty, in my view, is not just another salutary international agreement. My distinguished Republican predecessor, Gerard Smith, described it in 1990 as "the most fundamental arms agreement yet reached between the U.S. and the Soviet Union -- a critical component of U.S. security policy," and declared it "truly 'the foundation for the future."
Such praise has been widely justified and vindicated by the Treaty's success. By strictly limiting nationwide defenses against strategic ballistic missiles, it has prevented the kind of escalating race between offense and defense that has long characterized military technology in other fields.
In short, the ABM Treaty is the bedrock of strategic arms control. It is crucial to stability today and arms control opportunities tomorrow.
That is why the Administration shares the legislative branch's concern for ensuring that the Treaty's viability as an instrument of arms control and U.S. security continues well into the future.
Given the substantive and institutional battles of the 1980s surrounding SDI and the ABM Treaty, I can understand why the underlying attitude I sensed last week in the Senate was, "If it ain't broke, why fix it?"
While I understand this attitude, I don't share it, because I disagree with its underlying premises. Let me focus first on the need for clarifying the Treaty.
In today's changed security environment following the end of the Cold War, the threat of even a limited strategic ballistic missile attack has receded. But at the same time, the danger posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles among third countries outside the U.S. and the former Soviet Union has surged.
In testimony on July 28 of last year before the International Security Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, CIA Director James Woolsey pointed out that "the threat from theater ballistic missiles is current, real, and growing." He testified that more than a dozen countries have operational ballistic missiles, and more have programs in place to develop them. He noted that North Korea has sold extended range Scud Cs to Syria and Iran and has apparently agreed to sell missiles to Libya, and that several Persian Gulf states have purchased whole systems as well as production technology from China and North Korea.
Director Woolsey amplified on the nature of the threat on January 25 of this year in testimony before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. He stressed that ballistic missiles are becoming the weapon of choice for nations otherwise unable to strike their enemies at long ranges. He said that today there are 25 countries -- many hostile to our interests -- that are developing nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. And he emphasized that some of those countries may place little stock in the classic theory of deterrence which kept the cold war from becoming a hot one.
Let's boil all this down. More than two dozen countries in the world are developing weapons of mass destruction, and ballistic weapons are becoming the weapon of choice for delivering them. What's more, some of the countries we're concerned about don't seem to be deterred by nuclear weapons. They continue to strong-arm and threaten their neighbors, believing that the superpowers' most powerful weapons will not be used against them.
These backlash states have demonstrated their willingness to target not just U.S. expeditionary forces, but to hold civilian populations hostage by targeting cities.
This threat I've described demands a response. What should it be? First and foremost, arms control. We are pushing as hard as we can in a variety of areas -- the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and of course, indefinite and unconditional extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to name just three. And let me suggest an additional thought that would focus on the demand side of our efforts to stem missile proliferation.
My personal belief is that we should consider opening up the basic obligations of the INF Treaty to every country in the world. This would invite, encourage, and press all countries to forego the threat of intermediate range missiles, under a global nonproliferation norm, just as they forego the weapons of mass destruction such missiles may carry.
TMD is the Most Benign Supplement to Arms Control Notwithstanding arms control efforts and initiatives, as realists, we also have to consider what to do when arms control efforts fail, or come on the scene too late. It seems to me our next step after arms control should be to consider achievable military solutions, in this instance, a variety of theater missile defense (TMD) systems -- of which theater high altitude air defense, or THAAD, is our core program. THAAD specifically, and the TMD systems we are considering generally, are defenses carefully tailored to the nature of the threat we face, as laid out in the Administration's "Bottom-Up Review."
In the present context, theater missile defenses are by far the most benign military option currently available. Consider the alternatives. We could preemptively strike at proliferators before they can develop their missiles. Or we could employ "counterforce" measures after the fact. We could accept the development by the neighboring states threatened by theater ballistic missiles of their own retaliatory offensive systems -- a solution that would obviously stimulate a local arms race and further erode our non-proliferation efforts. Or we could simply not respond to these missile threats by rogue states, leaving them free to use their ballistic missiles to gain regional influence and threaten our forces abroad.
When arms control is not enough, each of the above supplements to it is, to my mind, considerably worse than theater missile defenses. TMD systems don't represent a preference for hardware solutions. Above all, they do not mean we push any less for arms control solutions. They simply mean that where the success of arms control is incomplete, we should not grant proliferators the advantage they seek by leaving ourselves defenseless militarily.
The Preservation of the Treaty's Strategic Purposes
Now if we need to move forward with TMD systems -- as I'm convinced we must -- then we also need to clarify the Treaty. And we should do so without delay, as our TMD programs will not be ready for deployment for years.
This Administration has rejected from the start the idea of ignoring what Congress and our Treaty partners have to say about the matter and proceeding unilaterally with TMD systems. We are proceeding from the intellectually honest starting point that the TMDs we need would create a question of compliance with the Treaty.
I want to take up the concern that clarification of the Treaty will throw out the baby with the bathwater by sacrificing the Treaty's unquestioned security benefits. The attitude I sensed on the Hill last week was that if there is a potential inconsistency between the Treaty and a new defense system, it's not the Treaty, but the defense system, that should go.
I don't find this an easy premise to reject. Indeed, as a broad proposition, I think that in today's security context, arms control generally has more to offer our national security than do weapons systems.
But whatever the merits of that debate, this is one case where we don't have to choose between the two. The clarification we are seeking in the Standing Consultative Commission in Geneva will not undermine the Treaty. It will be based on mutual consent, not unilateral decision. It will not put at risk the Treaty's strategic achievements or goals. It will add to our security by permitting needed theater defenses while fully maintaining the Treaty's protections in the strategic realm where it has always operated. In short, the Administration's ABM Treaty policy does not divorce arms control from defensive systems -- it marries the two.
What is the specific continuing purpose of the ABM Treaty? When it was drawn in 1972, the ABM Treaty prohibited the United States and the Soviet Union from developing nationwide defenses to strategic missile attack. The Treaty spared us an automatic and futile escalation between strategic offense and defense by forcing each nuclear power to leave essentially unchallenged the penetration capability of the other's retaliatory missile forces. It did not purport to do this in the theater context, however.
The genius of the ABM Treaty has always rested on the grim certainties of mutual assured destruction. If I have a gun pointed at you and you have one pointed at me, and suddenly I'm able to put on bulletproof armor, you're going to get very nervous. If I shoot first, you lose. So long as my gun remains aimed at you, you're almost certain to seek a gun that can pierce my armor. The way to avoid an endless action-reaction arms race of this sort is an agreement that both sides in this situation will remain vulnerable to the other's ability to retaliate. In this context of mutual assured destruction -- the context for which it was negotiated and has always operated -- the ABM Treaty remains critical to our security.
And the Treaty remains fundamental to present and future efforts to control offensive arms. It protects START and START II and permits us to think about even lower limits on offensive strategic weapons. Indeed, as the two sides scale back their offenses, the importance of the Treaty actually grows, because it rules out defenses whose effectiveness would otherwise be magnified as the number of offensive weapons shrinks.
It is profoundly in the interests of both the United States and Russia to preserve the central and enduring achievements of the ABM Treaty. So a ruling principle of our principle efforts -- mandated by the President's personal commitment to the ABM Treaty -- is that we will not undercut the arms control contributions of the Treaty.
That task is made easier by the improved character of our relations with the states of the former Soviet Union. This gives us greater flexibility in finding ways to satisfy one another how theater defenses under discussion can comply with Treaty requirements and avoid an operational ABM capability.
That task is also eased by the success of the INF Treaty in removing theater-range missiles from the arsenals of the U.S. and Russia and by the removal through modernization of the shorter-range SLBMs in place when the ABM Treaty was signed. Together, these factors mean the missile forces of the parties to the ABM Treaty are of long range and high velocity -- increasing the buffer between theater defenses and true ABMs.
These positive factors notwithstanding, we need to guard against both direct and indirect weakening of the Treaty's strategic effectiveness. A very real concern about "breakout" could be presented, for example, if the demarcation we agreed on in Geneva permitted a party to test one element of ABM capability in isolation, and another element separately, and there was a real possibility that those two elements could be combined relatively quickly into a system with operational ABM capability. We are shaping our proposals in Geneva as much as practicable to avoid these kinds of risks.
We also have to remember that the protections provided us by the ABM Treaty should remain available and unimpaired regardless of political circumstances. Simply as a matter of prudence, we should not make the ABM Treaty's essential effectiveness dependent on the relatively good political relationship among the Treaty parties that now, happily, exists.
TMD Systems Are Not Mini-ABMs
I sensed in the Senate a concern that TMD systems are ABM systems in miniature. I want to focus on that idea for a moment. Everything I have said about the critical differences between TMD and national strategic defenses remains true even if one grants, for the sake of argument, that there may not appear to be a great difference between the most capable theater missiles against which the TMD would defend and the least capable strategic missiles in existence when the ABM Treaty was first negotiated.
For this proposition I cite one key piece of support -- and it isn't a physics dissertation on incoming missile speed or interceptor missile velocity or anything else. It is the simple and powerful fact that the Russians, the Ukrainians, and the Belarussians with whom we have been negotiating in the SCC in Geneva are in broad agreement with us not just as to the reality and nature of the theater threats to be defended against and the need to clarify the Treaty to permit us to meet them, but also as to the parameters of the target missiles to be defended against.
The states of the former Soviet Union remain firmly committed to their self-preservation and to the saying, "trust but verify." I do not believe for a moment that our Treaty partners would be helping the negotiations in Geneva move toward successful resolution if they thought this would allow us to sneak a real operational strategic missile defense capability in through the back door.
Nor would we do the same with them. In other words, the only countries in the world that will be bound by the ABM Treaty are in agreement that the logic of the Treaty should not apply to the theater defenses we are talking about. That to my mind is a pretty persuasive piece of evidence.
The Treaty's Logical Limits
Having stressed the Treaty's continuing importance, let me say what the Treaty does not do. Its logic cannot be applied indiscriminately outside the strategic context of mutual assured destruction. This is an important point and I want to focus on it.
As I've said, the ABM Treaty was intended to deal with the hair-trigger situation where hostile and nervous superpowers face one another across an ocean, with both sides capable of destroying each other many times over. Once you move off that strategic precipice, the logic of the ABM Treaty is far less relevant.
The rogue regimes of the world do not have strategic deterrent arsenals -- they don't have strategic arsenals, period. So to assume that the development of defenses against their theater missiles will push their backs to the wall is a nonsequitur -- a vestige of strategic thinking misapplied to the theater sphere. By this logic, the beleaguered knight who borrows a coat of armor pushes his attacker's back against the wall.
In theory, we have had a strategic deterrent against the rogue states for years -- but to little evident avail, because we have been restrained in even threatening to use, let alone using, such weapons. So the rogue states' purpose in acquiring ballistic missiles is not to defend themselves from or deter us, but to threaten their neighbors and exert regional influence.
And that is precisely the power we seek to deny them -- through both arms control and TMD systems. Neither prong of our strategy denies such states the ability to defend themselves. Both prongs seek to deny them the ability to bully their neighbors.
And both approaches are superior to our present strategic deterrent against the backlash states. Both are credible. Neither relies upon the threat of immense loss of human life.
In short, theater defenses really are different from strategic defenses. No country that doesn't intend to use ballistic missiles to attack or bully its neighbors has anything to fear from a theater missile defense. The only thing such defenses are designed to hit is an offensive missile that has been fired at a rival, or at American forces or friends.
TMD Systems Will Not Lead to New Arms Races
I heard concern in the Senate that theater defenses will lead to new arms races. Let's examine this by turning it around. Absent defenses, rogues states will be assured of the "benefits" they seek from their missiles.
Does the absence of theater missile defenses make continued proliferation of theater ballistic missiles any less likely? I would submit that, if anything, it only serves to make such missiles more attractive. In turn, the neighboring states threatened by rogue regimes are more likely to develop offensive missiles of their own. This only stimulates further regional arms races.
In short, we are not talking about getting into or spurring regional arms races. What we are talking about is denying to countries like North Korea, Iraq, Syria, Libya or other backlash states the sole benefit they seek from theater ballistic missiles: the offensive capability to strike or threaten their neighbors.
Some Concluding Thoughts
My job, as you know, is to build barriers against arms proliferation by political and negotiated means. Arms control is my mission and my preference.
The kind of conceptual analysis I've gone through with you this morning obviously can't determine in any specific case the proper balance to strike between positive arms control efforts and military technology. Nor can it substitute, obviously, for a careful analysis of specific regional situations and rivalries.
But I can tell you one thing. In this Administration, arms control is no afterthought. Arms control and defense are seen as the twin pillars holding up the structure of our national security. We know that if either pillar is neglected, the building will crumble. The legal availability of a military defense to proliferated weapons will never be a .justification for failing to press as hard and as long as humanly possible to control the proliferation of arms through negotiated means.
The issue before our country at this moment is, to the extent negotiation fails, and proliferation has occurred, what is the best response? Is it to ignore the ABM Treaty and build whatever systems our military planners would like? Is it to preemptively attack the backlash states that flout nonproliferation norms, and take the theater missiles out of their hands by force? Is it to move preemptively as to our Treaty partners and the legislative branch, and try to pretend that the Treaty permits whatever defenses we say?
The Clinton Administration has unequivocally rejected each of these options. Our policy protects us first through arms control -- by carrying into the 21st century a Treaty that has served us well -- and second, by legally pursuing development of theater defenses that century demands.
The Clinton Administration's policy both preserves arms control and gives us a military backstop. The two approaches don't conflict with one another; they reinforce and strengthen one another.
To sum up, let me just emphasize seven central points about the Administration's ABM policy.
Second, the Clinton Administration has repudiated unilateral reinterpretations of the ABM Treaty that would have done it grave harm.
Third, we have withdrawn the broad revisions to the Treaty previously proposed by the United States in the Standing Consultative Commission.
Fourth, we have recognized the need to specify the dividing line between ABM systems limited by the Treaty and non-ABM systems which are not limited. Both parties understood when the Treaty was negotiated that this demarcation was left unresolved. The time has come to resolve it.
Fifth, this clarification will be accomplished by agreement in the SCC -- as was envisioned in the Treaty -- not unilaterally.
Sixth, what the final agreed clarification is called, as a legal matter, must properly await the outcome of the negotiations. We can't discern the form until we know the substance.
And seventh, the Administration will not bypass or end-run the Congress in this matter. The President has directed the Administration to consult closely with the Congress before any decision is taken as to whether any SCC agreement on the boundary between ABM and TMD systems requires approval by the Senate.
In closing, I would emphasize that we are determined not to harm the Treaty by acting unilaterally as to the legislative branch -- just as we have not acted unilaterally as to our Treaty partners. But let me also voice the hope that all of us involved in this debate (including many outside government as well as inside it), not force a choice between fealty to the Treaty as drawn in 1972 and our legitimate defense needs today.
As a staunch supporter of the ABM Treaty, I am convinced that it must not come to be viewed as an obstacle to the development of U.S. theater defenses which are indeed necessary. Forcing a choice between our legitimate defense needs and the Treaty risks undermining the Treaty. In the present context, that choice simply is not necessary. Rather, the policy and strong preference of the Clinton Administration is that we choose the course that protects both the Treaty and America's security.