The ABM Treaty and Missile Defense: Hearings Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Report Defense

The ABM Treaty and Missile Defense: Hearings Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

June 29, 1999 35 min read
Jack Spencer
Senior Research Fellow for Energy and Environmental Policy
Jack Spencer is a Senior Research Fellow for Energy and Environmental Policy at The Heritage Foundation.

In May 1999, Congress passed legislation making it the policy of the United States to deploy a limited national missile defense (NMD) system as soon as technologically possible. Congress's action was driven by the realization that the ballistic missile threat to the United States, which the Clinton Administration previously had described as distant, is in fact present and growing.

Evidence for this threat was presented by the bipartisan Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States (the Rumsfeld Commission). In its report, released in July 1998, the congressionally established commission detailed how the United States could find itself facing the threat of missile attack from rogue states with little or no warning. Iran and North Korea conducted missile tests soon after the report was released.

That a national missile defense is needed now more than ever was confirmed again on May 25, 1999, when the report of the bipartisan Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China (the so-called Cox Committee) was made public. This report details how China stole classified U.S. data that enabled it to modernize its nuclear weapons years earlier than otherwise would have been possible, making these weapons even more of a threat to the United States and its allies in Asia. The disturbing evidence in the Cox Committee report, combined with that released last year by the Rumsfeld Commission, makes it impossible for any reasonable person to deny any longer that there is an urgent need for a national missile defense.

Yet as Congress considers proposals to defend America, it must confront a formidable obstacle at home: the Clinton Administration's policy of observing unilaterally the restrictions on such systems in the now-defunct 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with the Soviet Union. This Administration policy effectively blocks the deployment of even a limited NMD system for the defense of U.S. territory.

To explore the urgent need for a national missile defense and the issue of how adherence to the ABM Treaty prevents the defense of America, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a series of hearings during April and May 1999.1 Extracts from the testimony of the many expert witnesses are presented below.2


Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State

History teaches that weakness is provocative and, in a real sense, the absence of missile defense provokes others into seeking such weapons. The threat to the U.S. from missile proliferation is real and growing. This was underscored last year by the Rumsfeld Commission, which stated that the threat posed by a number of hostile Third World states "is broader, more mature and evolving more rapidly than has been reported in estimates and reports by the Intelligence Community." Further, the Commission stated that "the U.S. might well have little or no warning before operational deployment" of missiles capable of reaching U.S. territory by these same states.

Secretary of Defense Cohen confirmed the findings of the Rumsfeld Commission on January 20, 1999, when he stated, "...we are affirming that there is a threat, and the threat is growing and that we expect it will soon pose a danger not only to our troops overseas but also to Americans here at home." All of us need to recognize that at some point...the ABM treaty constrains the nation's missile defense programs to an intolerable degree.

I believe that it is strategically and morally necessary to build a missile defense. Strategically, because of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the missile technology to deliver them. Morally, because the doctrine of mutual assured bankrupt. It may have had a limited theoretical sense in a two-power nuclear world, but in a multinuclear world, it is reckless.3

James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence

[T]here is common ground possible between those of us who have been on different sides of the ABM Treaty debate in the past. We may have both been somewhat right and somewhat wrong. It doesn't matter. Together we won the Cold War. It's time, indeed it's past time, to go on to the next set of problems.

Ronald Lehman, former Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency

Even in the areas of military doctrine, deterrence theory and arms control policy, areas in which the residual heat of past debates most often distorts a clearer vision of the future, greater convergence can be detected. Indeed, support for ballistic missile defenses has always existed in some measure across party lines and left and right across the ideological spectrum. The passage of the National Missile Defense Act of 1999 gives hope but not certainty that a new consensus may be possible.


Caspar Weinberger, former Secretary of Defense

It is...folly not to take every step we possibly can to defend ourselves against a possible attack from there [Russia], from China, from North Korea, from Iran and Iraq. As we have seen...India and Pakistan are deploying them [ballistic missiles] and North Korea has unleashed this three-stage missile over Japan. While the first one only two stages worked, the three stage one is a very sophisticated weapon and indicates a capability that when they work on it, it will enable them to hit the Western United States and ultimately other parts of the country. It seems to me that we have the capability of developing a system that can be effective. It is the height of folly, criminal folly I would say, not to work on it and not to deploy it.

General John Piotrowski, former Commander in Chief, U.S. Space Command

[W]hether it is national, theater or global [ballistic missile defense]...devalues ballistic missiles. Today they are immutable. They are very attractive because they can't be stopped. But if we could stop them it would...devalue ballistic missiles at all levels....

Ronald Lehman, former Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency

Ballistic missile defenses, both strategic and theater, can significantly enhance deterrence and crisis stability, increase our military capabilities, protect allies, friends and coalitions, strengthen nonproliferation, support our diplomacy, improve the conditions for peace in troubled regions and expand the prospects for effective arms control and reductions.

[They] do not eliminate the need for a continuum of military forces...but they can enhance global and regional deterrence and support our military forces in combat. Deployment of significant ballistic missile defenses is inevitable, but it is not at all inevitable that they will be deployed in time to meet the needs of the United States and its allies and friends.


David Rivkin, Jr., Partner, Hunton and Williams

Our argument is very simply as follows. We believe that the ABM Treaty became extinct when the Soviet Union dissolved in '91. The reasons for it, we believe that the treaties are a species of contract that may be rendered impossible to perform and discharges the matter of law by the disappearance of one or both of the treaty partners.

Under the applicable rules of international and constitutional law, the ABM Treaty could have survived the Soviet Union's dissolution only if one or more of a surviving post-Soviet states both continued the Soviet Union's sovereignty, which is to say its international legal personality. And very importantly, the second condition, were capable of fulfilling the totality of the terms and conditions of the original treaty unimpaired. No such states survived the Soviet Union's dissolution....

[T]he ABM Treaty can be revived only with the full participation that the United States Senate was provided by the Constitution. Moreover, to ensure that the United States obtain the benefits of its original 1972 bargain, the ABM Treaty would have to be very significantly and substantially drafted.

In any case, the substitution of one or more former Soviet republics from the Soviet Union would fundamentally change the original bargain of 1972 to which the Senate consented. In sum, the President cannot, on his own authority, change the ABM Treaty in so fundamental a manner without obtaining the Senate's advice and consent again.

Douglas Feith, former Deputy Assistant Secretary, Negotiation Policy, Department of Defense

[O]ur legal analysis of the status of the ABM Treaty of 1972 concludes that following the Soviet Union's extinction, the ABM Treaty did not become a treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation....

[T]he fundamental question is, if a treaty has lapsed...then it is not in purgatory or limbo or in some state from which it can be revived. If it lapsed, it is dead. Scholars have pointed out, there is no resurrection in international law....

The President cannot, without Senate approval, bring a lapsed treaty back to life by declaring that a given foreign state is the successor or continuation of an extinct state.... [Boris Yeltsin] expressed the willingness of Russia to step into the shoes of the Soviet Union under the ABM Treaty. And I don't disagree that the United States could...have entered into an agreement with Russia that had the same essential terms as the ABM Treaty...taking Yeltsin up on his statement, "I am happy to assume, you know, the rights and duties of the Soviet Union under the ABM Treaty."... But under the U.S. constitutional has to be submitted to the Senate for advice and consent.


William Lee, former Senior Executive Service Analyst, Defense Intelligence Agency

Amended by the 1997 protocols, the treaty would be a monument to strategic instability by legalizing major improvements in Russia's ABM defenses while the U.S. and our allies remain totally vulnerable. There is simply no excuse for failing to protect the United States population, our military forces and our allies in the name of a treaty that never was a valid contract with a state that no longer exists.

Douglas Feith, former Deputy Assistant Secretary, Negotiation Policy, Department of Defense

The practical conclusion relating to this committee's work of this description of the law is that the multilateralization memorandum of not simply an amendment of an existing treaty. It would be a new treaty. If would create the ABM Treaty of 1999. And if not approved, the status quo would continue. That is, there would be no legally binding international obligation prohibiting the United States from deploying ballistic missile defenses....

James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence

I do not support...the delineation agreement that the administration has reached with the Russians which limits unnecessarily the effectiveness of our theater defenses nor the accompanying expansion of the treaty to encompass Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. That expansion to include those countries is a step for which...there is not even the tiniest shred of a strategic rationale. We do not fear an attack from Belarus, Ukraine or Kazakhstan with intercontinental ballistic missiles, because they don't have any. We don't need to limit their defenses in order to deter them from attacking us.... [T]here is absolutely no reason for our giving someone such as Mr. Lukashenko, who speaks for the most unreconstructed parts of the reds and browns in the former Soviet Union, some sort of veto over our ability to defend ourselves.


Caspar Weinberger, former Secretary of Defense

We recognize that Article 15 of the Treaty provides for any country that feels that its national interest requires it, can step out of the treaty by simply giving 6 months notice. I think it is long overdue that we give that notice and step out of the treaty.... [T]he treaty bans anything that is effective.... It is essential that we realize that the treaty itself is deliberately designed to make it impossible to deploy an effective [missile] defense.

James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence

[I]n the circumstances of today, strong support for ballistic missile defense and a willingness to amend substantially, even to withdraw from, the ABM Treaty is a reasonable position.... The circumstances have changed, and to my mind, that calls for a substantial change in our assumptions and policies.... [T]here are ample legal and strategic grounds in my view for withdrawing from the treaty. We cannot perpetually let our security versus the likes of North Korea, Iran and Iraq be held hostage to Russia's not wanting us to have defenses....

In my judgment...only a very major modification of or withdrawal from the treaty would meet our strategic need. As interpreted by the administration, the treaty is even undermining the effectiveness of our theater ballistic missile defenses at the present time, systems that are not supposed to be covered by the treaty.

William Schneider, former Undersecretary of State and Chairman of the General Arms Control General Advisory Committee

[I]t may be possible to renegotiate the [ABM] treaty, but...I think we need to be focusing on making sure that our response is threat-compliant as distinct from treaty-compliant.... [T]he idea of getting only a single small change to accommodate the proposed NMD is probably not going to be adequate for our needs....

The [Iranian] Shahab 3 poses a threat to U.S. forces and allies deployed in the Middle East region and to Europe as well if a biological weapons payload is employed. If the Shahab 3 is covertly deployed on a merchant ship, it can then be employed against U.S. territory. Provisions of the ABM Treaty prevent the United States from deploying missile defenses against this threat.

The proposed national missile defense is designed to have no capability to intercept ballistic missiles with a range of less than 2,000 miles. This is so to comply with provisions of the treaty. The treaty prevents the use of theater missile defenses in a national missile defense mode. Hence it precludes deploying our own theater missile defense against a sea-based threatæsuch defenses as the Patriot system would not be permitted under the existing terms of the ABM Treaty....

James Schlesinger, former Secretary of Defense

An adequate [ballistic missile] defense cannot be obtained within the present framework of those constraints [imposed by the ABM Treaty of 1972 as modified]. Consequently, to deploy a suitable defense would require either the modification or the abrogation of the existing treaty.

Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE): Mr. Secretary, what if the Russians prefer not to renegotiate the ABM Treaty?

Mr. Schlesinger: [W]e must be very clear that we are firm on deployment as we develop the technology.... [I]t is very much in the Russian interest to permit an adjustment of the treaty, as we had in 1974, to adjust to new circumstances. But if the Russians are unwilling to do that, then I think that we have no alternative but to move towards abrogation.

James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence

[I]f we focus on the strategic realities of today, there strategic rationale for the ABM Treaty. The old rationale of our wanting to limit Soviet defenses...does not apply to today's Russia, or to the Russia of the foreseeable future. Even if that country turns more hostile to the U.S. than it is today, Russia is no longer capable of threatening Europe with many divisions of conventional forces, so it would have no advantage in a crisis on that continent.

Moreover, Russian strategic nuclear forces do not threaten a substantial share of our nuclear deterrent. The deterrent that we do maintain is no longer heavily reliant on fixed land-based ICBMs that might be vulnerable to Russian attack. Hence, we have no particular reason to want to limit Russian defenses to ensure that our retaliatory forces would be able to penetrate Russian defenses.

William Graham, former Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, The White House

The ABM system that we're seeing being developed today is a very stylized system designed to conform to the very limiting constraints of the ABM Treaty. And, among other things, that treaty prohibits sea-based defenses. It prohibits air-based, space-based defenses. It prohibits multiple defensive sites on the land. And therefore, we are treaty-constrained not to protect ourselves to the shorter-range threats.... And it also could arguably be said to protect us--or to prohibit us from deploying launch-phase, boost-phase defenses, which are very effective against virtually all countermeasures, and in particular the early-release submunitions....

There would be very strong arguments against, for example, defense against the shorter range missiles. And you can see it in Article 1 Section 2...which says, "Each party undertakes not to deploy ABM systems for a defense of the territory of its own country... And not to deploy ABM systems for defense of an individual region, except as provided for in Article 3 of this treaty." So, that...essentially imposes a constraint against any kind of a territorial defense. And that's what we're living with today.... I would say get out of that [ABM] treaty.


James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence

I think that it would be a very sound approach for us to begin now with respect to funding and the research and development steps that would be necessary for us to have a thoroughly effective theater defense. And I said earlier, I do not agree with the limitations on theater defense that are implicit in the delineation agreement the administration negotiated in 1997.

And I think it would be quite reasonable for us to begin to pick up whatever vigorous work in R&D we are not now doing, that is constrained by the ABM Treaty and certain systems such as the...SBIRS Low...that would be necessary for a very effective theater defense, ought to move out smartly instead of being...stalled in budgetary scrapes in the Pentagon....

A very limited one or two site defense of the U.S. of the sort that might be compatible with the treaty that's only been modestly amended would be essentially worthless against some perfectly plausible threat, such as ship-launched ballistic missiles. That is one of the threats that we identified during the deliberations of the Rumsfeld Commission on which I served. Indeed, against some very plausible threats such as ballistic missiles carrying clusters of biological weapons that might be released early in an ICBM's trajectory only boost phase intercept from space is going to offer a possible solution....

James Schlesinger, former Secretary of Defense

While we seek a thin area defense, we must avoid just any defense, especially one designed against a narrowly defined threat. Any such defense could turn out to be simply a token. The worst possible outcome would be a limited defense focused too narrowly on a single threat and one that could readily be circumvented....

The choice of systems architecture is crucial. One could all too easily wind up with an unduly constrained system lacking capability against the range of emerging threats. In this connection, I suggest that we should be wary of the very limited system proposed for deployment in Alaska or by some in North Dakota which might deal with a rudimentary threat....

The architecture of any system chosen for deployment should be subject in advance to rigorous technical analysis. Above all, it should not be so constrained as to lack the capacity for growth to cope with the growing variety of threats. In choosing among alternative architectures, systems adaptability and flexibility should be prerequisites. In choosing a system architecture, we must be assured in advance that the system can be adapted to the broad range of threats which may emerge.

William Graham, former Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, The White House

I think there's no question we have the technical and industrial capability to develop a much more substantial ballistic missile defense.... Yes, you would include a greater emphasis on countermeasure defense.... It would include defense against shorter-range missiles, targeted at US territories. For example, Aegis ship-based defenses against shorter and mid-range ballistic missiles.

And without the ABM treaty we would certainly deploy more than one site against long-range ballistic missile threats. And we...should make a substantial attempt to add to the Aegis, and possibly other locations, such as the part of Russia very close to North Korea if the Russians will cooperate--the boost-phase defense, which is an extremely effective technique against countermeasures.... I believe we should [be going to sea-based and space-based missile defense] and I don't believe it's an either or question. I think there is merit to building a land-based component to the national missile defense, although I would not constrain it to one site.

General John Piotrowski, former Commander in Chief, U.S. Space Command

I think we could do useful things...if we wanted to start deployment. For example, we know how to build an X-band radar, that can track and discriminate. That radar, if fielded today at a site that we believed that we were going to deploy, could do useful work, both in space, both in monitoring our own test RVs and on and on and on. I would field the command control element, in Cheyenne Mountain, so that the operators can gain confidence, as they use the radar. And then use simulators, or emulators to fly out what we thought a ballistic missile interceptor would look like, to gain confidence in the system. And to evolve that system to meet the threats that were extant when we were ready to deploy interceptors.

And I believe that eventually we would evolve to a space-based system, probably using lasers, where we had speed-of-light and we could defeat systems early in the boost phase, so they would not go far beyond their launch sites, and could defeat all of the counter measures and all of the heinous weapons that one could think of, because they would be encapsulated in the ballistic missile when it was destroyed in boost.


General John Piotrowski, former Commander in Chief, U.S. Space Command

I believe that there is a threat today. I believe that whether there is intent or not...can change in an instant. It can change with a leader. It can change with an event. We've always dealt, in military capability, against other military system capability, not so much with their intent but their capability....

I believe that as long as we have no defense against ballistic missiles, it makes them very attractive to people either who want to blackmail us or wish us ill. Certainly they're immutable today, and they will remain immutable until we field a system that changes that chemistry.

William Graham, former Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, The White House

[T]he North Koreans realize that the greatest threat[s] to their regional aspirations are the presence of the United States in South Korea, in Japan and elsewhere in Asia, and our ability to move into those areas rapidly. They also realize that we put great weight on our ability to build alliances and work cooperatively with other countries in a given region such as Asia. And a rational use for...long-range ballistic missile sources that can strike Japan, South Korea and the United States, is to dissuade the U.S. from taking an active role militarily in conflicts in the region, and particularly in thwarting our ability to build alliances in the region....

I think the threat in the nearest-term form and the easiest one to deploy is the one that the Rumsfeld Commission... describe[s], which is ship-based ballistic missiles that could be shot from off our shores into our population, in industrial centers. Scud missiles work just fine for that. And we have no defense against those today and no defense against them planned under the ABM system.

William Schneider, former Undersecretary of State and Chairman of the General Arms Control General Advisory Committee

Among the major conclusions of this congressionally mandated study [by the Rumsfeld Commission] are these. First the threat to the United States posed by these emerging capabilities of ballistic missile[s] and weapons of mass destruction [WMD] is more mature and evolving more rapidly than has been reported in estimates and reports by the intelligence community. Moreover the warning time[s] the U.S. can expect of new threatening ballistic missile defenses are being reduced....

[T]he existing non-proliferation regime has proven to be ill-suited to the manner in which post-Cold War proliferation has taken place. Proliferators have not focused on obtaining the most advanced technology. Instead, they have focused on obtaining obsolescent but functional WMD and ballistic missile technology....

North Korea's successful development of long-range missiles and WMD has made its program one of the engines of proliferation. Its dispersion of manufacturing technology to other countries has contributed to making proliferation largely self-sustaining....

Senator Bill Frist (R-TN): Mr. Secretary, the Rumsfeld Commission of which you were a member determined that North Korea, Iran, and Iraq would and I quote be able to inflict major destruction on the U.S. within five years of a decision to acquire such a capability, 10 years in the case of Iran. What are your views on whether that decision ha[s] been taken or not by North Korea and Iran?

Mr. Schneider: That's one of the areas that it's virtually impossible to tell. We will not know when a decision like this has been made. We do know that in states that have clandestine WMD and ballistic missile programs [they] take extraordinary [steps] to protect the secrecy of their decision processes....

James Lilley, former U.S. Ambassador to China

I think a much more serious problem in terms of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is the former Soviet Union and the degree to which it is involved in China. We get indications of it--it's enormous. And it's not just the weapons systems I talk about here, but it's the Russian nuclear engineers, it's Russian propulsion engineers, it's Russian jet engineers building up a Chinese military capability. Outflow of experts that--as far as I know, we've been able to monitor some of it, but not enough of it....

Senator Frist: Ambassador Lilley, given your assessment of China's motivations, which you outlined very well, for acquiring missiles, do you favor our deploying a national missile defense?

Mr. Lilley: No question, sir. We should.

Senator Frist: With deploying a national missile defense...would a failure to deploy a national missile defense just reinforce Chinese views that missiles are a critical military equalizer vis-a-vis the United States?

Mr. Lilley: That's certainly been the evidence so far.... [O]ne of their leading defense generals made this statement flat out, this is what we're after.

James Schlesinger, formern Secretary of Defense

[T]he prominent political role of the United States in the world makes it a prime target for resentful nations. Its military preponderance will spur other nations to seek asymmetrical ways of threatening to inflict pain on this country, thereby hoping to limit our response to actions on their part. There is a variety of ways to inflict such pain and thus a variety of potential threats. Ballistic missile attack is one prominent possibility....

[T]he recent test of the Taepo Dong missile by North Korea is but a harbinger of what will inevitably come. In both South Asia and Southwest Asia, ballistic missile capabilities have already been demonstrated and are undergoing rapid development....

[W]e must remain alert to the possibility mentioned in the Rumsfeld Commission report, that before nations can develop ICBMs capable of reaching the United States, they could deploy shorter-range ballistic missiles on ships.... A ballistic missile defense with circumscribed sensors and confined let us say to Alaska could not cope with such a threat.


William Graham, former Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, The White House

[B]eginning in the late '80s, the U.S. has downsized the defense industrial over half.... In the process of downsizing, the U.S. lost many of the most knowledgeable and experienced technologists that we had in the fields of rocketry, sensing and other related fields that are key to building viable defense systems. Many of the problems that we experienced in the THAAD flight-test program to date in fact are typical of the development of a new technology, only in this case we have many new technologists who are learning to do advanced designs, who are making the entry-level mistakes and learning from them. We are paying the price of that downsizing and the loss of many of the lead engineers and senior technicians that we had been able to draw on in the past....

[T]he advantage in the perpetual contest between offense and defense has over the last two decades...been shifting toward the defense.... [T]he capabilities of our radar systems ha[ve] improved substantially, both in the transmit-receive function and also in the data processing.... Miniaturized spacecraft and spacecraft optical systems have made great have spacecraft infrared visible and ultraviolet sensors. Lasers based on aircraft and satellite platforms have made enormous progress, and that progress is being used both in the airborne laser program being pursued by the Air Force today, and in the space-based laser that's being pursued by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. Small rocket propulsion, which is used...for maneuvering and divert for kinetic interceptors, or rocket-based interceptors, has improved greatly.... But most important, our capability in computing has increased, both by the decrease in the size of computers, but also simultaneously in the increase in their capability....

[W]hile it will be an eternal challenge, and one can always invent an offense that will overcome a given defense...the technology balance is moving towards defense, and the U.S. should be taking full advantage of that. Today we're taking advantage of it under the serious constraints of the ABM Treaty....


General John Piotrowski, former Commander in Chief, U.S. Space Command

[T]here is no argument that countermeasures can be developed. I again like to use historical examples. When the AWACS was fielded, I played a large role in fielding at the E3A back in 1976. Many scientists of notable reputation at that time argued that it was foolish to deploy this system because radars are easily jammed and it would be jammed and useless.

Well, we've been through a number of wars since then. The AWACS are still flying. It's 23 years later, and it's never been effectively jammed.... The question is, should we field a defense against what exists today and be able to evolve it over what will exist tomorrow? My background tells me yes.

William Graham, former Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, The White House

Countermeasures are a serious issue that should be considered in the design of any ballistic missile defense system.... Most, if not all of the countermeasures that are discussed today in fact, have been on the books for decades, and are reasonably well understood.

In fact the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization supports a small group called the Countermeasures Hands-On Project which is a third world like operation, populated by intelligent but relatively inexperienced young officers, and enlisted men, in which they try to develop these countermeasures and test them to see how hard it is to make them, and see what can be said about them....

Our uniform experience in this is that countermeasures have proven harder to make work well in our own efforts to build them both in the countermeasures Hands-on Project, but more generally with our ballistic missile force, than we anticipated. And discrimination has proved to be less difficult than we had anticipated.


Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State

[H]owever assured destruction may have been [in the 1970s], I do not believe [it] can possibly work in a world of many nuclear powers. And frankly, I don't think it could work over an indefinite period of time in a world of two powers....

I...have always been concerned about the position of a government that leaves its population defenseless by a deliberate policy choice, when demonstrably other choices were available.... [I]t isn't natural for us to say we protect our allies more than ourselves. I favor protecting our allies equally with ourselves. But we are now excluding systems for ourselves that we are willing to give the theater defense. And that is not a natural state of affairs....

William Graham, former Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, The White House

I hope that some day, we'll get to the point where we decide that...Russia really doesn't have some kind of an innate privilege to kill as many Americans as it wishes, whenever they wish to. And that we don't have a built in privilege of killing as many Russians as we want to, whenever the occasion might arise.

General John Piotrowski, former Commander in Chief, U.S. Space Command

With regard to retaliation...I believe strongly that if a nuclear weapon was detonated in Los Angeles, that we would retaliate. And if it came from Pyongyang, we would retaliate against Pyongyang. But I'm not sure we would use a nuclear weapon and kill eight or nine million people who are believed innocent.

Because it is the dictator, Kim Il Sung who had pushed the button, not eight million people that live in Pyongyang. And I don't believe that the retaliation would take that form. We would retaliate, we would go in, and I think we would root out the evil. But, I'm not convinced in my mind, and my lifetime, that we would retaliate with nuclear weapons.

Keith Payne, President, National Institute for Public Policy National Security Research, Inc.

I've spent several years closely examining the Senate record to identify the rationale for the ABM treaty as it was presented to the Senate in 1972. And it's on the basis of that study that one can conclude that the treaty was built on particular arms control and deterrence theories circa 1972. Now, 27 years later, it is clear that those theories were thoroughly mistaken.

The ABM treaty...was ratified on the premise that strictly limiting national missile defense would be to stabilizing offensive force reductions. Arms control theory at the time posited that if national missile defense was limited, reductions in Soviet ICBMs would be forthcoming.... Unfortunately, the expected benefit never was realized. In fact, history unfolded in the opposite direction.... To be specific, the number of such deployed Soviet ICBMs increased from 308 in 1972 to over 650 sixteen years later.... This Soviet build-up was precisely what arms control theory predicted the ABM treaty would preclude.

[Furthermore] during the Senate hearings in 1972 senior officials claimed that the [ABM] treaty reflected Soviet acceptance of the U.S. concept of mutual deterrence through mutual vulnerability....[H]ow-ever, former senior Soviet officials have explained...that the ABM treaty did not reflect Soviet acceptance of our notions of deterrence...For the Soviet Union, the ABM treaty represented a tactical move to derail U.S. superiority in missile defense technology and to permit the Soviet Union to concentrate its resources on its strategic offensive build-up. That's not my interpretation, that's the testimony of senior Soviet officials.


James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence

[The Russian] economy now is smaller than the Netherlands'.... But they are still finding enough resources to work on a new ICBM and to put the proportionately larger share of their military resources into their strategic nuclear programs. This has been combined with a shift in doctrine, somewhat similar to that which we undertook in the Eisenhower administration of more bang for the buck, a shift toward heavier reliance on the nuclear forces....

I think that they see the United States flirtation with ballistic missile defenses in a very straight forward way. I don't think there's a lot of offense/defense theory here. I don't think there's a lot other than if the United States gets these they're going to be technologically substantially ahead of us and ahead of us in deployed defensive forces and that's bad, because it's a zero-sum game. I think Mr. Primakov very much believes...that what's good for us is bad for Russia and vice versa.

Keith Payne, President, National Institute for Public Policy National Security Research, Inc.

With regard to cooperatively negotiating this [the deployment of an ABM system with the Russians], sounds like everyone at the table concurs with that. And I certainly do. Let me add only two caveats. And the two caveats come from statements that have been made in the work that I've done with a number of Russians....

The first, we will accommodate only when we know you are serious about NMD deployment.... Because until we know you're serious, we don't need to engage in accommodation. Once we know you're serious about deployment, then you will see us being willing to accommodate.... The second point that they made, interestingly enough, in very direct talks, was that once negotiations have begun, and here I have, this is a quote, "we will dissipate much of your energy to deploy NMD through the negotiations."

So, as long as we guard against not appearing serious, and as long as we guard against having our energy for deployment dissipated by the establishment of negotiations, it seems to me that going ahead in a cooperative route is clearly the way to go.

William Graham, former Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, The White House

I would share it [the missile defense system] with them in this way. Early on, while they still have a lot of nuclear weapons, I would be glad to share the functionality of the system, its capability to intercept missiles. Later when they didn't have any nuclear weapons, or any significant number, and we didn't have any significant number, then [I] would be willing to shar[e] the details of the system as well. But the more they know about the details, the more they would know about how to overcome the system. And I'd reserve that to a later era.

Robert Joseph, Director, Center for Counter Proliferation Research, National Defense University

Although Moscow will certainly seek to delay and minimize changes to the treaty and will seek a high price for accommodation, it will understand the U.S. need to defend against this new threat will accommodate. And I believe accommodation is possible because Russian interests and U.S. interests are not mutually exclusive.

Even at the lowest levels of offensive forces speculated for Russia in the future, a U.S. missile defense deployed to protect against a limited attack would not undermine its offensive capability.... [I]f Russia knows that U.S. defenses will not call into question the credibility of their nuclear offensive force, they will have what they believe they need. And in this context given a choice between a modified ABM treaty and no treaty, Moscow will almost certainly follow past practice and chose to renegotiate the treaty because that is in its own best interest.


James Schlesinger, former Secretary of Defense

I think we must recognize that in our deployments in the western Pacific that we have much of our forces tied up in...small bases that are highly vulnerable to attack, and that therefore we need to protect those limited bits of real estate against a missile attack. We should inform the Chinese...that we believe that it is necessary...when we have the technology, to deploy defenses....

The delicate problem is the subject of Taiwan. I think that that is a subject on which the least said, the better; that we ought to continue to reiterate that...the United States' a one-China policy.... Now, in the circumstances, the Chinese will understand that we, particularly if we deploy the Aegis system, have the capability of providing a missile defense for Taiwan, but I do not think we should ever say that.

James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence

They [the Chinese] are interested in putting us enough at risk...that they can try to have a free hand with Taiwan in any future crisis. And I think it's very much not only in the Taiwanese's interest, but in our interest, to keep them from having that free hand. [W]e are more likely to be able to insist on a peaceful resolution of the issue between them and Taiwan if we are not vulnerable to them.... So, I think...the situation with China offers an added rationale for our being able to tell General Shan Guan Kai (ph) the next time he threatens Los Angeles, that he will not be able to do so successfully.

James Lilley, former U.S. Ambassador to China

[T]he Chinese have taken direct aim at national missile defense and theater missile defense by insisting that the anti-ballistic missile treaty, which they have not signed, be maintained and strengthened. This is a means to curtail our ability to deploy weapons against them.... [T]he argument is used,..."You have 7,000 nuclear weapons. We have 24. What's the problem? ...There is no threat." And so we dismiss the threat as minimal.

What it doesn't take into consideration is the way they look at weapons. They...aren't trying to match us missile for missile. They have asymmetrical warfare. They hit your vulnerabilities. They know that your cities are vulnerable. They've used this against the Russians.... And this is a psychological ploy that puts you on the defensive, quite effectively.

Jack Spencer is a Research Assistant in The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis International Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.

1. The topics of the seven hearings and the witnesses testifying include: "U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Technology," William Graham, John Piotrowski, Richard Garwin, and David Wright, April 4, 1999; "Ballistic Missile Threat to the U.S.," Caspar Weinberger, April 15, 1999; "Missile Threat to the U.S.," James Schlesinger, William Schneider, and James Lilley, April 20, 1999; "Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty," James Woolsey, Keith Payne, Ronald Lehman, and Eugene Habiger, May 5, 1999; "Missile Defense and the ABM Treaty," Stephen Hadley, David Smith, Robert Joseph, and William Lee, May 13, 1999; "Legal Status of the ABM Treaty," Douglas Feith, George Miron, David Rivkin, Lee Casey, and Michael Glennon, May 25, 1999; and "Ratification of the ABM Treaty," Henry Kissinger, May 26, 1999.

2. With the exception of Henry Kissinger's testimony, the following extracts are as reported by the Federal Document Clearing House, Inc., and Federal News Service. Official committee transcripts are not yet available.

3. This passage is from Henry Kissinger's prepared statement as submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the record on May 25, 1999.


Jack Spencer
Jack Spencer

Senior Research Fellow for Energy and Environmental Policy