- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2000

Sen. Jesse Helms vowed yesterday to block any new Clinton administration arms-control pacts, including an effort to alter existing treaties to make way for a limited defense against missiles from outlaw nations such as Iraq.
Such an initiative, he said, would be "DOA dead on arrival" at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senate confirmation would be required.
Mr. Helms' declaration came as visiting Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters that Russia may be willing to accept a limited U.S. missile defense.
The challenge outlined by Mr. Ivanov, analysts said, would be to design a missile system that would knock down a few incoming missiles from North Korea, Iraq or other "rogue" states but not threaten Russia and keep the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty intact.
But Mr. Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned that "any decision on missile defenses would be for the next president to make, not this one.
"Mr. Clinton's proposal [for a limited national missile defense (NMD)] is not a plan to defend the United States. It is a plan to leave the United States defenseless.
"The Russian government should not be under any illusion whatsoever that any commitments made by this lame-duck administration will be binding on the next administration," the North Carolina Republican told the Senate.
Mr. Helms also said the United States was no longer legally bound to the treaty intended to prevent an arms race because it was signed with the now-defunct Soviet Union.
Separately, Mr. Ivanov warned that if the United States builds hundreds of anti-missile missiles, it will destroy the ABM treaty and abort treaties that have reduced stockpiles from up to 40,000 nuclear bombs each in 1988 to about 7,000 each today.
"There is still some time left to avoid this fatal mistake," the Russian foreign minister said.
Mr. Ivanov also met with Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush.
"During the meeting with Mr. Bush, I dwelt in detail on the processes going on in my country and also informed him of the major directions of the foreign policy of the Russian leadership, including the relations with the U.S.," Mr. Ivanov said.
Asked whether he was aware that Mr. Bush and other Republicans such as Mr. Helms support deployment of a much larger NMD, the dour-faced Russian diplomat said he wanted an accord acceptable to both major American parties.
"We want our relations with the United States not … depending on the domestic policy situation. We want it to be stable for a long term," he told reporters at the National Press Club.
Mr. Ivanov offered to revive a 1997 agreement, never submitted for Senate approval, that would allow the United States to build a limited defense system against short- and medium-range missiles the Theater or Tactical Missile Defense (TMD).
"On our part, we propose a constructive alternative for the ABM Treaty collapse," said Mr. Ivanov.
"In particular, we are talking about deliberation of the START III Treaty, with the prospect for reduction of strategic arms down to the level [of] 1,500 warheads.
"We also mean cooperation on nonstrategic ABM on the basis of the New York agreements of 1997… ."
The "nonstrategic ABM" Mr. Ivanov cited involves slower-speed interceptors such as the Patriot missile. It would not defend American cities against a possible long-range attack by so-called "rogue" nations.
Analysts say Russia may agree to a marginally more powerful U.S. missile defenses than those discussed in 1997.
"Russia could accept a strategic defense system a small one based at one site in Alaska with about 100 interceptors if the United States agrees to lower numbers of [offensive nuclear] warheads," said John Wolfsthal, a former national security and nonproliferation official at the Department of Energy.
"A number of analysts in Russia and the United States call this the 'grand bargain,' " he said.
The administration is likely to try to reach an agreement with Russia that does not require Senate approval, which is unlikely given Mr. Helms' objections.
"They could follow the SALT II model and ignore the Senate," said Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution.
President Carter withdrew the SALT II nuclear arms limitation agreement from Senate consideration in 1979 after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan but the United States, even during the Reagan administration, continued to observe missile limits in the unratified agreement.
National Security Council spokesman P.J. Crowley insisted President Clinton will not abandon NMD in his quest for a retooled ABM treaty with Moscow.
"We believe that we can develop NMD while preserving the ABM Treaty," Col. Crowley said. "We have an aggressive NMD development program in progress."
Defense Secretary William S. Cohen is expected to make a recommendation to the president in July on whether to deploy a missile defense system.
Critical to whether the Pentagon will recommend that the United States deploy a national missile defense system will be a June test to see whether a missile can hit a mock warhead.
U.S. officials said yesterday this may delay a Clinton decision until November, with just two months left in his term as president.
Richard Haass, director of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, said yesterday that any missile defense "would be enough to deal with an attack but not so much that it would constitute a challenge to Russia's strategic inventory.
"The idea is to try to find a middle ground. That's part of the bargain."
While Mr. Ivanov's meetings this week with Mr. Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, other administration officials and Republican leaders in Congress are aimed officially at preparing for a summit between Mr. Clinton and President-elect Vladimir Putin in early May, the arms control issues dominated talks.
"Today, we held the first round of negotiations fully dedicated to the issue of strategic stability," Mr. Ivanov said.
"And along with diplomats, representatives of our military agencies and other relevant services were participating in those negotiations. We will continue consultations today, including our meeting in the Pentagon on that issue."
Mr. Ivanov, speaking in Russian although easily understanding questions in English, said it was "too premature to speak of the concrete outcome of those negotiations yet, but I would like to tell you that we are holding sincere, constructive dialogue on the whole variety of issues."
Bill Sammon contributed to this report.

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