June 6, 1995


"Continuity and Change in ABM Treaty Policy"

I would like to thank our British and American hosts, and the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) for inviting me (for the second time) to participate in this international conference.

Since assuming my responsibilities as U.S. Commissioner, I've had the opportunity to work closely with BMDO and Gen. O'Neill. I have a lot of respect for what you, General, and your staff are doing. In carrying out his duty, Gen. O'Neill has been the object of much unjustified criticism. I can sympathize with that. I feel a degree of kinship --sort of like occupying the same foxhole.

Perennial Questions

Since last year, the issues have not changed and have not gotten any easier. Why is the Administration pursuing a negotiated demarcation agreement? What significance does the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty still have, now that the Cold War is over? Why is interceptor performance, as such, a subject of discussion in the negotiations? What is the current legal status of U.S. Theater Missile Defense (TMD) programs? What progress has been made and what are the prospects for agreement?

The first principles of this Administration' s policy toward TMD and the ABM Treaty have not altered. Last year, I concluded my remarks in the following way:

Preserving the intentions of the ABM Treaty and fielding TMD are critical goals which need not be in conflict. Our task is to achieve both. . . . We are vigorously pursuing an approach that carefully balances on the one hand the need to preserve the ABM Treaty as strong and viable in its fundamental role in arms control and arms reduction, and on the other hand the need to negotiate a demarcation between ABM and TMD systems which will allow us to pursue important defense requirements.

The idea that the ABM Treaty and effective TMD are indeed compatible -- that these objectives do not represent a zero sum game -- has been the lodestone of the Clinton Administration' s policy since 1993. We do not have to sacrifice TMD to protect the benefits of the ABM Treaty.

The Joint Statement issued at the end of the recent Clinton-Yeltsin Summit in Moscow confirmed this duality as the shared goals of the U.S. and Russian governments. The Joint Statement committed both governments to pursue negotiations with a view toward the deployment of effective Theater Missile Defenses within the framework of a viable ABM Treaty.

Why the ABM Treaty (Still) ?

The potential threat posed by the growing proliferation of the ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction leaves no doubt about the need for theater missiles defenses. Development of effective TMD is essential for the security of our forces and of our allies and friends. The Clinton Administration is determined to move ahead. I know this audience fully shares this view.

But the benefits of the ABM Treaty, especially among those who are most concerned about the ballistic missile threat, are still controversial. Some regard it as a relic of the Cold War that no longer serves a useful purpose. Let me therefore focus on this question.

The case for the Treaty is not the same one it was ten years ago. Its primary contribution used to be maintaining strategic stability by assuring that retaliatory capabilities could not be undermined by the strategic defenses. Limits on defenses guaranteed that neither side could realistically achieve a counter-force advantage.

The Treaty also created a safeguard against circumvention. Soviet territory was protected by a comprehensive air defense network. So, this safeguard was essential to the United States. The obligation not to give non-ABM systems ABM capabilities and not to test them in an ABM mode provided a constraint against a ready-made Soviet breakout potential.

Unconstrained defenses would also spur the offensive arms race. Without limits on ABM systems, a side would have little incentive to restrain the number of its offensive weapons, much less reduce them. ABM limits relieve the pressure to build up offensive arsenals, and the prospects for eventual reductions improve.

But this logic has changed. "Mutual Assured Destruction" is no longer sufficient justification for the Treaty. Indeed, neither the United States nor Russia wishes to continue to base its security on MAD. We, along with all the other former Cold War protagonists want to find a new basis for security. MAD was the situation -- nuclear standoff -- in which we sought stability, i.e., to avoid falling into nuclear war. Today strategic reductions can enable us to alter that underlying situation.

But while the Cold War is over, the legacy of thousands of deployed offensive warheads remains. As long as this is the case, and as long as relations with Russia are not on roughly the same basis as those with Britain and France, the ABM Treaty plays a stabilizing role. It does so not by perpetuating MAD, but by easing the transition from a world based on nuclear retaliation to new arrangements based on cooperation. We are still emerging from the shell of the old world. Nuclear weapons remain a preoccupation among Russian elites concerned about how to maintain parity and Russia's status in the world. U.S. adherence to the ABM Treaty helps reassure Russia that the United States is not seeking strategic advantage in this period of Russian internal economic and political transformation. Furthermore, getting START II into force is crucial to advancing the basis for more cooperative relations. The Treaty will soon come before the U.S. Senate for its advice and consent. We believe that, reassured over the ABM Treaty, the Russian government is committed to bring START II before the Duma for action this year. The United States should not allow the debate about the future of the ABM Treaty to become a cause of, or excuse for, unwarranted opposition to START II in the Duma.

The United States has always maintained a high standard of compliance with its treaty obligations. The ABM Treaty is of course no exception. We reacted unequivocally in the past when the Soviet Union ignored or shaved the provisions of the Treaty. The clarity and mutuality of obligations are the main reasons why we insist on a negotiated demarcation agreement. There should be no question about what is permitted under the Treaty. Unilateralism in defining obligations could weaken our ability to enforce those obligations and could create an adverse precedent. In short, all players should have the rule book, and the playing field should be level.

Demarcation Negotiations

As you know, the negotiations have been taking place since late November of 1993. From November 1993 to November 1994, the SCC met in Geneva a total of four months over four sessions (more than the SCC had met in the previous several years). In mid-1994, the ACDA Director led a high-level team to Moscow, Kiev and Minsk. Other diplomatic exchanges also took place. As negotiations progressed, U.S.-Russian differences have been most prominent. The other states, Ukraine, Belarus, and (recently) Kazakhstan have participated in the search for common ground. But they recognize that the United States and Russia must lead the way toward agreement on demarcation, and they have encouraged bilateral discussions.

From the outset, there was little disagreement among the participants about the underlying premises for the negotiations. A common concern about the threat and a common interest in defenses were apparent. Most notably, there was an early meeting of minds on the characterization of the theater ballistic missile threat that TMD systems needed to be capable of intercepting. This led to an early understanding that a final demarcation agreement would permit a TMD interceptor to be tested against a target missile having velocity up to 5 km/sec and a range of up to 3500 km. Testing against such targets would still leave a significant "buffer" between the velocity of non-strategic targets and those of strategic missiles, which typically have velocities of 7 km/sec or greater.

An interest in transparency was also evident in the various approaches in the negotiations. From the outset, the United States was prepared to be candid in describing its intentions with respect to TMD and to be forthcoming in sharing information with the other sides about its programs. It soon became clear that binding confidence building measures would contribute to the achievement of an agreement. Such CBM's could include descriptions of selected TMD programs of the sides and notifications of tests.

These two features of a demarcation agreement--first, a limit on target missile velocity and range and, second, an agreed set of confidence building measures--are important building blocks in constructing an agreement. It is natural to focus on disagreement--the hurdles that remain to be surmounted. However, there is a foundation of shared goals and agreed approaches for the sides to build on.

A major area of disagreement involved the capabilities of the TMD interceptor. The Russians sought interceptor performance limits by restricting maximum velocity. The United States took the position that such limitations were unnecessary and unrealistic. Our systems, particularly taking into account TMD numbers and deployment configuration, would not have a realistic operational capability against strategic ballistic missiles. Furthermore, a system that had not been tested against a strategic ballistic missile could not be counted on to carry out an ABM mission and therefore would not be procured for that mission. We also argued that parameters such as interceptor velocity alone could not determine whether or not a system had ABM capability. Many factors contribute to the capability to intercept a strategic ballistic missile. To seek to take account of all of those factors would have threatened to create a new treaty regime. This the United States was not prepared to accept.

In mid-1994, the United States responded to Russian proposals with a counterproposal of its own. While not accepting the validity of performance constraints, the United States stated it would be prepared to accept certain limits on interceptor capability, as long as those limitations would not inhibit the performance of the systems the United States was planning to develop. In fact, this counterproposal went a long way to resolving the differences between us and the other sides.

However, the negotiations did reach an impasse late last year because of disagreement on the question of the future deployment of highly capable TMD systems. The sides could not agree whether systems with higher velocity interceptors could be deployed without a subsequent agreement. We believed that there should be a right to deploy at least certain systems, if a side so chose. Other participants argued that deployment should be deferred until completion of a second stage of negotiations. The United States was not opposed to resuming negotiations, but it was not prepared to defer all such deployments. It was on this point, chiefly, that disagreement could not be overcome.

Changes in the Negotiating Context

Our inability to break the negotiating logjam in Geneva was not the only factor that has led the Administration to reexamine its approach to demarcation. Two other factors have intervened to impel us in this direction: the changes in Congress and the recent compliance judgments on THAAD testing and Navy upper tier programs.

The Republican Congress elected in November displays a markedly different attitude toward ballistic missile defense than its Democratic predecessor. The previous majority, especially in the Senate, was concerned about an overly broad approach to modifying the ABM Treaty. The new Congress has taken the opposite tack. Since the elections, there has been a resurgent interest in moving ahead on all fronts with robust programs, in the NMD as well as TMD areas. Ballistic missile defense was one of a few defense-related issues singled out in the Republican Contract with America before November. Since then, Congress has sought to force the pace of development of missile defenses. The Administration differs with the Congress on many of the details of pending legislation. However, Congress and the Administration share a view that our ability to move ahead with TMD should not be undermined by artificial, political constraints on essential programs.

The compliance judgments rendered earlier this year by the Administration on THAAD testing and Navy upper tier programs have also influenced our views. I am unable to go into the classified analysis. Briefly, the Administration judged the current program of THAAD testing through the Demonstration/Validation phase to be Treaty-compliant. The Administration also reviewed the Navy Upper Tier programs based on the configuration approved by the Department of Defense. The program options for this mission were also judged to be Treaty-compliant. Congress has been so informed, and we are moving ahead.

These compliance judgments have served to highlight the conclusion that it is system capabilities as a whole that determine ABM capability. A single interceptor performance parameter alone is insufficient to assess whether a system has or does not have the capability to counter a strategic ballistic missile, let alone impact on the strategic offensive capability of the other side.

Summit Joint Statement

Against the backdrop of these significant changes, it was imperative to take a new look at how to achieve progress on demarcation in a way that took account of the widest range of national security interests. Therefore, the Administration decided early this year to concentrate its efforts on bilateral discussions with the Russian government in high level political channels.

(As a negotiator, this decision did not surprise me, and I supported it wholeheartedly. My observation is that in major arms control negotiations critical decisions are rarely made without the direct involvement of political decision makers.)

The product of those discussions, the Summit Joint Statement, is a set of principles that provides the basis for further discussions to reach a demarcation agreement. It establishes--for the first time publicly--that the sides can deploy effective TMD within the framework of the ABM Treaty. In addition, the principles make clear that we are not trying to apply the Treaty to TMD systems that may simply have a theoretical capability against some strategic missiles but which would not be militarily significant in the context of operational considerations such as numbers and locations of deployments, system characteristics and realistic engagement scenarios. Specifically, TMD systems may be deployed which will not pose a realistic threat to the strategic nuclear force of the other side and will not be tested to give such systems that capability.

As noted, these principles are not legally binding provisions but the basis for further discussions to reach agreement.

We expect the next step to be further bilateral discussions on the specific elements of an understanding building on these principles.


The Administration's objective remains the same --to move ahead with vigorous TMD programs to address emerging threats, while doing so in a way that protects the benefits of the ABM Treaty. The drafters of the Treaty promised that it would open the way to strategic reductions. For nearly 20 years, that promise could not be kept. Now that promise is coming due. The Treaty serves U.S. and allied interests by promoting stability, the implementation of START I, and the ratification of START II. A safer world through elimination of large numbers of nuclear weapons is the fulfillment of the promise made by the ABM Treaty.