- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 25, 2000

The coming days are likely to produce paroxysms in diplomatic circles, the media and advocacy groups over the need to preserve and enhance various international arms control agreements. Specifically, with the opening yesterday of the quadrennial Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference in New York, the United States faces a multiweek thrash over its failure to do more to disarm.

Unfortunately, the Clinton-Gore administration's response to such criticism has generally been to grovel, apologize and pander. It refuses to make the case (and presumably does not believe) that the world is a safer place thanks to America's pre-eminent military strength. It recoils from acknowledging that arms control is utterly failing to keep dangerous nations from acquiring deadly weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them against the United States and/or its friends and forces overseas.

Instead, the administration proposes to redouble its efforts to secure still further, ineffectual agreements. For example, it makes no effort to conceal its contempt for the majority of the U.S. Senate that voted last fall to reject the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). It ignores the Senate's conclusion that that accord was unverifiable, unenforceable and would have precluded the United States from maintaining the sort of safe, reliable and effective nuclear deterrent the nation will need for the foreseeable future.

(If any further confirmation of these deficiencies were needed, it can be found in the Russian Duma's ratification of the CTBT last week.) To the contrary, President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright assert that the Senate vote has no impact on the status of that accord, that the United States will continue to be bound by it, and that the CTBT should be brought into force at the earliest possible time.

The Clinton-Gore administration's failure to recognize and speak the truth about the futility of arms control under present and future circumstances seems likely to bear its bitterest fruit, however, in the area of missile defense.

In an oped article in yesterday's New York Times, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov telegraphed the punch he intends to deliver during remarks at what arms controllers call the NPT RevCon and in bilateral negotiations with the Clinton administration. "There is [an] important issue: the close connection between the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II) and the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which bans the signatories from deploying national anti-ballistic missile systems. The United States is considering the creation of such a system, which would be an open violation of the treaty."

Here again, the Clinton-Gore administration's lack of integrity about arms control has subjected the United States unnecessarily, if not dangerously, to Russian blackmail. Like the family that studiously ignores the presence of a crazy aunt in the parlor, the administration has simply refused to acknowledge reality: There is no ABM Treaty in legal force today.

As former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Douglas Feith and former Justice Department official George Miron put it in the most comprehensive and rigorous analysis to date concerning the legal status of the ABM Treaty (a study sponsored by and available from the Center for Security Policy): "The ABM Treaty lapsed by operation of law that is, automatically when the U.S.S.R. dissolved in 1991. It did not become a treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation."

As a result, the "protocols" Foreign Minister Ivanov wants the United States to ratify so START II can go into effect cannot be amendments to an existing treaty. They must, instead, be seen as free-standing undertakings, designed to bind the United States to a new anti-anti-missile defense accords whose scope and terms will make it even more difficult to deploy effective American missile defenses.

For this reason, the Senate should demand that President Clinton promptly submit for its "advice and consent" the protocols recently ratified by the Russian Duma something he promised to do more than two years ago. If, as seems likely, the Senate were to reject these defective agreements, the United States could avoid the trap now being laid for it: a "Grand Compromise" that would trade radical and ill-advised reductions in U.S. nuclear forces (calculated to appeal not only to arms control ideologues but to a Russian military whose budget shortfalls are obliging it, with or without corresponding American reductions, to cut back on deployed nuclear arms) for yet another "amendment" to the ABM Treaty.

The latter would, at best, lock the United States into the deployment of only a very limited "national" missile defense (NMD) system in Alaska. Importantly, 25 influential senators, including the Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and the Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (who happens to represent Alaska in the Senate), wrote President Clinton last week to warn against such an arms control deal:

"The 'initial NMD architecture' chosen by your administration a single-site, 100-interceptor system deployed in Alaska beginning not sooner than 2005 cannot effectively protect the United States. More than a single site is necessary to defend against anticipated threats… .

"Given the desirability of discussing these issues with Russia in a way that accurately reflects the views of both the Senate and your administration, our advice is that you reconsider your administration's current approach to NMD policy and arms control and consult further with us. Without significant changes to your approach, we do not believe an agreement submitted to the Senate for consideration should be ratified."

This is the stuff of which momentous national elections are made. President Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and their allies are clearly hoping that their security policy approach will not be properly seen by the American people for what it is: a scam, combining ersatz arms control and real, largely unilateral disarmament. The Senate leadership has taken an important step toward framing the issue and offering the voters an alternative approach that relies in the words of Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, on "peace through strength, not pieces of paper."

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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