December 13, 2001

December 13, 2001 | News Releases on Missile Defense

Need to Test Missile Defenses Made ABM Withdrawal Inevitable, Analyst Says

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2001-Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, calls it "a serious mistake," but President Bush "took the most sensible course" in announcing that the United States will withdraw soon from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, says a Heritage Foundation missile-defense expert.

"We had reached the point where the missile-defense program simply couldn't move forward, there were so many potential violations of the treaty," says Baker Spring, Heritage's Kirby research fellow in national security policy. "With missile technology proliferating among rogue regimes at an alarming rate, President Bush couldn't keep delaying construction. But he also couldn't ignore the treaty. So he really had no other choice."

The 1972 ABM Treaty, signed by the Soviet Union and the United States, permits each party only the most limited ground-based missile defense. Sea-, space- and mobile land-based systems can't even be tested, let alone deployed. As a result, Spring notes, the United States was forced to "dumb down" many of its missile-defense tests over the last decade.

"Missile-defense opponents will protest the president's decision, but we have to remember they were asking the impossible," Spring says. "They kept insisting that more testing was necessary to prove the technology works, yet they wanted the president to abide by an antiquated agreement that forbids the very testing they were calling for."

The U.S. withdrawal came as no surprise to Russia or any other nation, he added. President Bush announced in May his desire to "move beyond" the treaty, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz warned in July that the administration's actions on missile defense would "bump up against" the treaty in "months rather than years."

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