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Bush's Missile Defense Stance Prompts Allies to Mull Options.

In a highly anticipated speech, President George W. Bush reaffirmed his administrations commitment to deploying a missile-defense shield.

Delivered in early May at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., the president's speech generated headlines but, according to observers and military analysts, left many unanswered questions about how missile-defense issues would be approached during the next four years. These questions dealt with what would happen if the ABM treaty were abrogated, whether U.S. action on missile defense would start another arms race, and what the role of diplomacy with the European allies would be in the process.

Indicating plans to "move beyond the constraints" of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, Bush announced his intentions to build "a new framework" for the development and deployment of a missile-defense shield that would protect the United States and NATO allies.

Bush dispatched delegations of U.S. representatives to meet with allied governments around the globe. He sought to involve the allies in discussions on how to alter or revoke the ABM treaty. The ABM treaty, designed to prevent an all-out nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States, was signed during the height of the Cold War. Those who favor its alteration or annulment invariably believe that the treaty is not valid, because the Soviet Union no longer exists.

The missile shield that he wants, Bush said, is not to protect U.S. interests from an attack by Russia, which is "no longer our enemy," but from ballistic-missile attacks by Third World nations, so-called rogue states which are engaged in programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. Rogue states identified by the Pentagon are Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, North Korea and Cuba.

There are only eight countries in the world armed with the most dangerous nuclear missiles: The United States, India, Pakistan, Israel, Great Britain, France, China and Russia.

ABM Treaty

Defense experts and politicians around the world are buzzing with theories about how a U.S.-led missile-defense effort could play our. A senior congressional official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the ABM treaty was outdated, because the threat has changed from all-our nuclear war to so-called asymmetric threats, such as terrorism and computer warfare. "The U.S. no longer has a problem with Russia, and we axe listening and working with our allies to discuss the problems associated with terrorism," he said. "These are small steps. The president is making a very determined effort."

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he believes that the ABM treaty has kept the United States secure for the past 30 years. He said that Bush should not "undermine the hard-won strategic stability...with unnecessary actions that would violate existing international agreements. Levin called attention to the findings of a bipartisan task force on non-proliferation headed by former Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tenn.

The task force concluded that the most urgent threat to the United States is not Russia or China, but the likelihood that Russian weapons of mass destruction could be used by rogue states or terrorists, against the U.S. homeland or U.S. interests abroad.

"If Russia were to cease dismantling its nuclear arsenal," as it has been doing since the end of the Cold War, "there would be danger of more weapons and nuclear materials being diverted and possibly used against us," Levin said.

Levin also said that a missile-defense system could nor defend America from the most likely asymmetric threat, the use of "nuclear, biological and chemical weapons--delivered by ships, planes, trucks and suitcases."

Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Bob Stump, R-Az., does not agree with Levin's view that deploying a missile-defense shield would violate existing arms-control treaties. "This agreement (ABM) was signed with the Soviet Union--a nation that no longer exists--and was designed for a vastly different strategic environment.

"Americans remain vulnerable to the whims of any nation with a ballistic missile, and they will use it or threaten its use," he warned. "This is an immoral, indefensible policy that must be ended. Let us get on with the task of defending America by funding and building a national missile-defense system," Stump said.

Though NATO Secretary-General George Robertson publicly has been supportive of working with the United States on missile defense, the NATO alliance is not likely to issue a blanker statement favoring missile defense. A draft statement from NATO said the allies "welcome the consultations initiated by President Bush on the U.S. strategic review, including missile defense.

"We intend to pursue these consultations vigorously and welcome the United States' assurance that the views of allies will be taken into account as it considers its plans further," the NATO statement said.

William Harrung, missile-defense expert and senior research fellow at the World Policy Institute, believes that the United States is "bullying the allies," who may be pressured to support a program they neither want nor can afford. "The U.S. is like a bull in a china shop," he explained. "Do you try to calm it down or do you just let it do its damage?

"The European mood is trying to figure our the best way to keep the U.S. from abdicating the ABM treaty," Harrung said.

Lawrence Korb, director of national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that, given how much money is spent on defense in this country, "we are basically in an arms race with ourselves." Korb thinks that the United States spends so much more on defense than any other country, that threats from rogue or enemy nations are overplayed by the administration.

According to Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, the United States spends $291 billion on national defense, while China spends $38 billion, Russia spends $55 billion, and the rogue states, altogether, spend $14 billion.

Ivan Eland, defense analyst for the Caro Institute, a libertarian think rank, favors a limited missile-defense system. He supports an incremental renegotiation of the ABM treaty. A missile-defense shield should "cover the United States to get maximum protection against rogue states.

Eland warns that, "if we build up big, there will be a worldwide domino effect" in regions that have their own arms races, such as in India and Pakistan and in the Middie East. Diplomacy also would go a long way. "We should slow the process down and allow the rogue states to become less rogue. North Korea has already made overtures [to have arms reduction talks]," Eland said.

Joseph Cirincione, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's non-proliferation project, said that the debate about missile defense is essentially being argued between two camps. One camp is composed of those who believe that Americans "face a world of missiles, terror and madmen," who want to be "freed from the constraints imposed by a range of multi-lateral agreements which, in their mind, limit U.S. power without limiting the power of rogue nations,"

The other camp "wants to continue the system of building interlocking treaties that Democrats and Republicans have constructed together over the past 40 years, such as ABM and Kyoto." Cirincione referred to the views of the two camps as "paper vs. steel."

European Allies

European nations have joined the debate on U.S. missile defense, their opinions largely shaped by their own relationships with the United States.

Silvio Berlusconi, the new prime minister of Italy, openly endorsed Bush's intentions to move forward on missile defense. Berlusconi's defense advisor, Antonio Martino, said a European homeland missile-defense system is necessary for Italy's security. "We believe it is more important to us than it is to the United States," he said "[because] we are potentially more exposed to rogue states.

It was widely reported that Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain was supportive of the U.S.-led talks and of President Bush's plans in particular. In February, Blair gave his definitive statement on missile defense, which was made in a joint press conference with Bush at the White House. According to the British Embassy Blair's comments still stood at press time: "I understand and share the concerns of the president and the American administration about weapons of mass destruction and nuclear proliferation," he said. "And I think it's very important that we discuss all the ways that we can deal with this threat, which is a real threat and a present threat, both in relation to offensive and defensive systems.

However, not all in Britain are thoroughly supportive of U.S. missile-defense plans. The foreign affairs committee within the British House of Commons stated that the United States "cannot necessarily assume unqualified U.K. cooperation with U.S. plans to deploy a National Missile Defense (NMD) in the event of unilateral U.S. abrogation of the ABM Treaty."

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fisher said "plans for missile defense must be coupled as much as possible with a drastic reduction in offensive systems." Fisher pointed out that Bush has declared his intention to work closely with Russia and include China in the planning, while including intensive consultation with the European allies. "As I see it, the German government's position on missile defense has been validated by President Bush's speech," he said.

Leo Welt, executive director of the German-American Business Council, said that the Germans are "not too overjoyed" with the prospect of being asked to contribute to an U.S.-European missile shield. "In Germany, defense expenditures, as a result of reunification, have been drastically reduced," he said. However, Welt indicated Germany's willingness to work with the United States. "Consultation between the two ministries of defense has started," he said. "It has come down to the technical and financial feasibility" of deploying a shield. But, Welt warned, "It is not in Germany's interest to get involved in an arms race. After so many years of the Cold War, it is not a good thing to start another arms race," he said.

A representative for a defense-consulting firm based in Paris said that the French defense industry's opinion on the matter can be characterized as "pragmatic." However, he said that France wants to be involved in U.S. missile-defense initiatives, because an NMD program would give a big strategic advantage to the United States. "European industry will pressure its politicians to move forward because of the obvious advantage of being involved with such a program." However, regional threats are not the same for every nation, he said. "We see that the new [Bush] administration strategy is more Pacific-oriented. North Korea is the biggest threat to America. But the Middle East is the biggest threat for Europe," he said.

Israel Urging U.S. to Export Anti-Missile System

The Arrow anti-ballistic missile program is needed and should be exported to U.S. allies, according to Gen. Ephraim Sneh, the Israeli minister of transportation.

"The new [Prime Minister Ariel Sharon] administration is supportive of working with the U.S. on anti-ballistic missile systems. The U.S. and Israel should work on Arrow together and export it together," he said.

Arrow is a U.S.-Israeli cooperative effort, which began in 1988, to deploy a tactical missile-defense system. The U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, which manages the program, said the goal is to "make Arrow and analogous U.S. theater-missile defense systems interoperable."

The Arrow system includes a hypersonic ballistic-missile interceptor and launcher, a launcher control system, a long-range electronic search and fire-control radar and a mobile fire-control center. A successful intercept of a Scud-type missile target was achieved last September, over the Mediterranean Sea.

A combined U.S.-Israel military air-defense exercise-using the Arrow system-took place in Israel in early 2001, officials said. The goal was to improve the interoperability between the two nations' forces.

Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd. is the prime contractor for Arrow. Marvin Klemow, the company's vice president for government and public affairs, said that Israel feels that it is in great danger of a ballistic missile attack and Israel "wants more Arrow missiles now." Klemow explained that Israel is seeking to export the Arrow system, and that Israel needs U.S.-support of the export process.

Employing the "cheaper-by-the-dozen" standard, "The more missiles you build, the cheaper they are," Klemow said,

Ivan Eland, defense analyst for the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C., suggested that Israel looks out for itself, because it is "the first line of defense in the Middle East." However, things in the Middle East have "never looked better," despite ongoing struggles with the Palestinians. The reason, said Eland, is that "Egypt is no longer the enemy, and Israel has made peace with Jordan," Elizabeth G. Book
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Author:Book, Elizabeth G.
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2001
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