June 1, 1998


"The September 26, 1997 ABM/TMD Agreements"


Thank you Dr. Martin, General Lyles, distinguished guests.

It is a privilege for me once again to address this annual multilateral conference on Theater Missile Defense. This marks the fourth opportunity that I have had to speak at this conference since 1994, but the first since the signing, on September 26, 1997, of the New York agreements relating to the ABM Treaty. Along with Secretary Albright, I had the honor of signing the agreements which culminated almost four years of very intensive negotiation on serious national security issues.

When addressing this distinguished group on previous occasions, I have discussed the goals that we were attempting to achieve through the negotiations in the Standing Consultative Commission. Those goals are to maintain the viability of the ABM Treaty, while creating a framework for developing and deploying highly effective theater missile defenses. I believe we have achieved our basic aims.

Because the agreements preserve the viability of the ABM Treaty and are central to the prospects of further reductions in strategic offensive arms, they will have a profound impact on the strategic relationship between the United States and Russia, and, indeed, would not have been possible if "mutual assured destruction," (MAD) had been, as it was during the Cold War, the exclusive basis for our strategic relationship with Russia. The agreements provide the basis for strategic cooperation going beyond deterrence. In order to keep moving in the direction of greater cooperation and beyond "MAD" it is crucial that the Senate should provide its advice and consent to ratification of the succession and demarcation agreements.

My remarks this afternoon will explain those ABM Treaty agreements. The ABM Treaty, of course, imposed no obligations on other States than the U.S. and USSR. But because this strategic relationship continues to cast a long international shadow, we get asked how the Treaty is affected by our TMD programs. I will take the opportunity to explain where the agreements come from and what they mean.

History of the Succession and
Demarcation Negotiation

Two key developments represented a watershed for the ABM Treaty: the break-up of the USSR and the review by the Clinton Administration of U.S. missile defense policy.

Dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 created the question -- which states of the former Soviet Union would succeed to its rights and obligations under the important arms control treaties then in force? In particular, the treaties involving nuclear weapons and the strategic relationship with the U.S. were of immediate concern.

Succession to the INF and START I Treaties was resolved, the latter via the 1992 Lisbon Protocol. However, even though the ABM Treaty continued in force, the question of which states of the Former Soviet Union would succeed to the ABM Treaty remained.

In 1993 the President directed a review of U.S. policy regarding missile defense and the ABM Treaty. Among the results of that review were the decisions (1) to affirm the so-called traditional or "narrow interpretation" of the Treaty and to withdraw proposals to amend the ABM Treaty to permit deployment of Global Protection Against Limited Strikes (GPALS); (2) to begin negotiations on multilateral succession to the ABM Treaty; and (3) to clarify the distinction (or "demarcation") in Article VI of the Treaty between ABM systems that are limited by the Treaty and Theater Missile Defense (TMD) systems that are not limited per se. This last decision was critically important. The growing threat from theater ballistic missiles and the requirement to field highly effective defenses to protect our allies, friends, and troops overseas, heightened the need to clarify the Treaty, particularly as such TMD systems become more capable and approach the ABM threshold. At the time, the U.S. had already begun development of several TMD systems, in particular, THAAD and Navy Theater-Wide (NTW).

Consequently, the U.S. called for negotiations in late 1993 to begin discussion of the succession and demarcation issues. Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan have participated in the negotiations.

The growing threat from theater ballistic missiles was recognized by our negotiating partners as well. Accordingly, clarifying the Treaty to enable development and deployment of effective TMD became a common goal of the negotiations.

Lest there be any question that demarcation was also viewed by Russia as in its interest, let me quote my Russian SCC counterpart, General Koltunov, who said earlier this year:

    "The TMD negotiations began in October 1993, in connection with the fact that in previous years the proliferation of missiles and missile technology had become quite evident. Obviously, this dangerous development could jeopardize international security and break up the existing strategic stability. Ways had to be found to counteract the process. One of them was to develop defense systems against non-strategic ballistic missiles, i.e. develop theater missile defense systems .... It seemed quite clear that neither a deterrence or intimidation strategy nor economic sanctions would always work with respect to such regimes."

We sought to resolve these issues in a cooperative fashion with Russia and the other interested states of the former Soviet Union for several reasons: (1) to minimize the potential for compliance controversies; (2) for the benefits such an approach would have for our overall relationship; and (3) because of the relationship between strategic offensive arms reductions and the ABM Treaty limitations on strategic defenses.

It took nearly four years to conclude these negotiations primarily because of the difficulty with reaching agreement on higher-velocity TMD systems.

The ABM/TMD Succession and
Demarcation Agreements

The issue of which states succeed to the ABM Treaty obligations is resolved through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This MOU recognizes only Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, collectively, as successor States Parties to the rights and obligations of the USSR under the ABM Treaty. As many of you know, this decision has raised the question of why multilateralize the ABM Treaty.

These four states have a legitimate claim to ABM Treaty succession and have demonstrated their desire to become Parties to the ABM Treaty through maintaining active participation in the implementation of the Treaty through the SCC. Furthermore, each of these states possesses ABM Treaty-related assets on its territory. There are other FSU states with ABM Treaty-related facilities on their territories, but each specifically renounced an interest in becoming a Party to the ABM Treaty. The MOU restricts the Parties to the Treaty to only the four, and the United States. Other CIS states have indicated no interest in becoming Party to the ABM Treaty.

Some in the U.S. have expressed concerns that a multilateral Treaty will be more difficult to amend should future circumstances require it, such as deployment of National Missile Defense (NMD) system. I personally do not believe that, should we need to change the Treaty, a multilateral treaty will be substantially more difficult to amend than a bilateral treaty. During the negotiations, all sides demonstrated that they could cooperate to solve problems. I expect this to continue in the future.

Turning now to the demarcation issue, we resolved this with two Agreed Statements.

The First Agreed Statement applies to TMD systems whose interceptor missiles have maximum velocities not exceeding 3 km/sec. It provides that such lower-velocity systems are deemed not to have been given the capability to counter strategic ballistic missiles or their elements in flight trajectory and not to have been tested in an ABM mode (i.e., considered compliant with Article VI(a) of the Treaty) as long as they are not tested against ballistic target-missiles having a velocity greater than 5 km/sec or range greater than 3,500 km, and as long as they are otherwise consistent with the other ABM Treaty provisions. The First Agreed Statement is permissive in nature. It in no way alters Administration determinations of the ABM Treaty compliance of THAAD and other lower-velocity U.S. TMD systems, and does not limit lower-velocity systems.

The Second Agreed Statement deals with TMD systems whose interceptor missiles have maximum velocities exceeding 3 km/sec. It prohibits testing higher-velocity systems against ballistic target-missiles having a velocity greater than 5 km/sec or range greater than 3,500 km. The Second Agreed Statement does not deem systems to be compliant or non-compliant with Article VI(a) of the Treaty based solely on the parameters of the ballistic target missiles used in testing. Thus, it is different in nature from the First Agreed Statement. Consequently, the determination of ABM Treaty compliance in the case of higher-velocity TMD systems remains the national responsibility of each party. Contrary to what you may have read or heard, there are no interceptor missile velocity limits in the agreement.

The Second Agreed Statement also bans space-based TMD interceptor missiles and substitutes for them which are based on other physical principles, such as lasers. For practical purposes, space-based TMD interceptors would be indistinguishable from space-based ABM interceptors, which are already banned by the Treaty. Prohibiting space-based TMD interceptors thus avoids what could be a major inconsistency with the ABM Treaty. However, research on such systems is permitted under the ABM Treaty, and there are no constraints on TMD systems based on other physical principles that are not space-based.

Associated with these agreements on higher and lower velocity TMD systems is a separate but legally binding Agreement on Confidence Building Measures (CBMA). By agreement among the sides, the U.S. THAAD and NTW systems, and the SA-12 systems possessed by Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, are subject to its provisions. The most important provisions are notifications of test launches of covered systems involving ballistic target missiles and initial and annual exchanges of technical information on the named systems. Future higher velocity TMD systems will become subject to the CBMA automatically. Lower-velocity systems become subject by agreement.

In conjunction with the signing of the agreements, each state issued a statement that it had no plans:

  • before April 1999 to test a higher-velocity interceptor missile against a ballistic target-missile;

  • to develop TMD systems with interceptor missiles whose velocity exceeds 5.5 km/sec for land-based and air-based systems or 4.5 km/sec for sea-based systems; or

  • to test TMD systems against ballistic target-missiles with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles or against re-entry vehicles deployed or planned to be deployed on strategic ballistic missiles.

In parallel with these unilateral statements, the sides undertook in a Joint Statement to provide annually an update on the status of those plans. I want to emphasize here that the obligation is solely to provide information regarding the status of those plans. The Joint Statement does not pose any restrictions or limits on plans nor does it provide any veto over any side's plans, and each side is free to change its plans at any time.

Prospects for Ratification: Why the
Senate should Ratify

The Administration has made clear that the ABM/TMD agreements and the START II Protocol will be submitted to the Senate for advice and consent as a package only after the Duma approves START II.

Ensuring a two-thirds vote on the ABM/TMD agreements will not be easy. But assuming the Duma approves both the START II and ABM agreements, the U.S. Senate will have to address the relationship between strategic offensive reductions and strategic defenses.

I strongly believe these agreements serve our security interests and should be ratified. Let me explain the reasons why:

  • First, approval of the agreements will permit us to pursue the most effective TMD systems without impairing strategic stability or the strategic arms reduction process.

  • Second, the ABM Treaty maintains the foundation for mutual deterrence and stability. As long as the U.S. continues to rely on nuclear weapons for security -- and that is indeed our policy -- the ABM Treaty will provide the guarantee under which security can be maintained at decreasing levels of strategic weapons. At the same time, maintaining the viability of the ABM Treaty enables us to move ahead in the development of a new strategic relationship with Russia. This is in the longer term U.S. interest.

  • Third, strategic offensive weapons reductions are inseparable from limitations on strategic defenses. The incentive to reduce disappears without the certainty provided by limitations on strategic defenses. This is a hard reality. START II implementation and subsequent reductions will not happen without Senate approval of the ABM agreements, because there is no reason to believe that Russian political and military leaders will agree to continue to reduce their strategic offensive arms under legally-binding treaties without this demonstrated U.S. commitment to the ABM Treaty. Continued Russian delay in ratifying START II, moreover, has been disappointing. A marking time in the strategic arms reduction process makes it more difficult for the Clinton Administration to defend the continued relevance of the ABM Treaty to those who argue for its demise.

  • Fourth, at the same time, these agreements show that cooperation in updating the Treaty to address new realities is achievable. We are confident that we will be able to continue to work with these states in the future to further update the Treaty, if we believe it to be necessary to permit deployment of NMD.

  • Finally, we have many interests in fostering cooperative political relationships with Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan (and even Belarus in the future) on a broad front. This includes a host of proliferation and other security problems where we need to work with them. Ukraine has stated on many occasions that we cannot count on them to undertake MTCR or INF obligations if we seek to deny ABM Treaty membership.

The Administration believes it has a strong case and can make it with the Senate and looks forward to the debate.

National Missile Defense

What about the future of the ABM Treaty, and what does the Administration's "3+3" Program portend for that future?

As you are aware, the "3+3" program was designed to provide the kind of deployment flexibility demanded by the changing world situation. To keep pace with evolving threats and missions, the "3+3" program will develop, integrate and demonstrate defenses that can be ready for deployment three years after a deployment decision is made. If an immediate deployment decision is not warranted at the end of the three-year development program, the program will focus on continually improving technologies and systems until defenses are actually needed, while maintaining the readiness to deploy within three years.

The decision whether or not to deploy will depend on the nature of the threat to the U.S. As of right now, no threat has emerged that would warrant deployment. Furthermore, our existing conventional and nuclear forces would make it foolhardy for any potential hostile power to threaten the U.S. with intercontinental ballistic missiles. Nevertheless, such a threat could emerge in the future, and the Administration wants to have the most effective technology available if and when a threat to the U.S. does emerge. To this end, we are conducting the NMD development program in a Treaty-compliant manner. If it turns out that we do need NMD, and if the selected architecture goes beyond ABM Treaty bounds, we will go to our partners and propose changes to the Treaty. If our vital interests are at stake, we also have the option to exercise our withdrawal rights.


Adherence to the ABM Treaty and maintaining its fundamental integrity are key to achieving further reductions in strategic offensive weapons because the Treaty provides one of the keys to avoiding a reversal in the reductions process.

We can begin to get beyond MAD by making cautious but steady progress toward further reductions through START II and START III, even as we maintain a strong strategic deterrent. But, it will not happen without the ABM Treaty.

Signing of the agreements proved that the viability of the ABM Treaty could be maintained and that the Treaty could be adapted to a changing strategic relationship in the context of development and deployment of highly effective TMD.