October 13, 2000

October 13, 2000 | Commentary on Missile Defense

Missile Defense & The Arms Race

Critics of a U.S. missile shield often claim that such defenses will provoke a worldwide arms race. But recent developments indicate just the opposite. 

The global pace of missile construction and testing has quickened significantly since President Clinton's Sept. 2 announcement that he would leave the next step in missile-defense development to his successor. Rather than give our adversaries a reason to disarm, the administration's decision to defer building a missile defense has apparently encouraged them to accelerate their missile programs. 

Consider that, since Sept. 2: 

Iran tested a new version of its Shahab missile. On Sept. 21, Iran tested a ballistic missile with an 800-mile range called the Shahab-3D. It claims the new missile is solid-fueled, which shows that Iran has reached the more advanced stages of missile development. Iran is also dangerously close to developing nuclear warheads for its ballistic missiles. 

Syria tested the Scud-D. Already equipped with Scud missiles capable of hitting Israel, Syria acquired a new model from North Korea on Sept. 23 that will allow it to attack all of Israel from bases deep within its own territory. The Scud-D has a range of around 450 miles. The Syrians are trying to outfit the missile with multiple warheads in hopes of foiling Israel's Arrow 2 theater missile-defense system, now in joint development with the United States. Syria also has one of the region's most extensive chemical and biological weapons production programs. 

Libya began receiving North Korean Nodong missiles. On Sept. 24, London's Daily Telegraph reported that Libya had acquired its first shipment of what will eventually be 50 North Korean Nodong medium-range ballistic missiles and seven launchers. The deal includes North Korean technicians, who will help build maintenance and storage facilities for Libya. Nodong missiles have an 800-mile range, which will give Libya the ability to attack Israel and southern Europe - and to target U.S. allies and troops. 

Russia tested two versions of its advanced Topol-M. Russia continues to develop more advanced ICBMs and tested both the mobile and silo-based versions of the 6,200-mile-range Topol-M on Sept. 26 and 27. Russia plans to make the Topol-M the core of its Strategic Rocket Forces. Being mobile, these weapons are nearly impossible to track and target. 

India and Pakistan planned new missile tests. Both India and Pakistan announced their intentions to test new intermediate-range ballistic missiles in the near future, The Guardian of London reported on Sept. 27. India is ready to test the 1,860-mile-range Agni III, able to strike targets as far away as central China. Pakistan's military is waiting for final orders to test the 1,550-mile-range Shaheen-II. Its latest missiles have been produced with significant assistance from China and North Korea.

As these developments show, the ballistic-missile threat to the United States - and to our troops and friends abroad - is growing rapidly. The intensified proliferation since the president's decision underscores the folly of relying solely on agreements such as the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. As long as the United States refuses to deploy an effective missile-defense system, ballistic missiles will put Americans at ever-increasing risk. 

Our adversaries would not be investing their scarce resources to build and test ballistic missiles if the United States were committed to deploying territorial and theater missile-defense systems. It would hardly be worth the effort. But President Clinton's refusal to support deployment of a robust missile-defense program invites such nations to continue to pursue and perfect longer-range ballistic missiles. 

The next president must commit to protecting America's families, soldiers and allies from the threats posed by the escalating proliferation of missile technology. As the record shows, diplomacy and arms-control schemes alone remain inadequate. 

Jack Spencer is a policy analyst at the Davis Institute for International Studies at the Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org)

About the Author

Jack Spencer Vice President, the Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity

Michael Scardaville Policy Analyst
The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy

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