- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2000

President Clinton's self-indulgent, "Me Generation" excesses in recent days before a convention of ministers, his admirers in Hollywood and the run-up to the Democratic National Convention has a companion, darker side that is threatening to do serious harm to U.S. national security interests.

A memorandum circulated by the State Department to other agencies last week makes clear that Mr. Clinton intends to try to commit the United States to more than a dozen dubious U.S.-Russian and/or multilateral arms-control-related initiatives. They are clearly meant to burnish his tattered public image and round out his "legacy" as a statesman.

These measures appear most likely, however, to lock in his successor to policies, accords, arrangements and institutions that will prove highly problematic for, if not downright inimical to, the nation's ability to deter aggression, safeguard its intelligence secrets and minimize the transfer of strategic dual-use technologies to potential adversaries.

What is more, the timing of this frenzy of diplomatic doings at least some of which might lend themselves to highly publicized unveilings in October may even be calculated by Mr. Clinton to influence the election of the man who will succeed him.

The first of these initiatives out of the box will be the subject of bilateral negotiations this week in Geneva. Leading the U.S. delegation will be newly installed Under Secretary of State John Holum. That should be cause enough for concern. Mr. Holum is a former George McGovern staffer and unalloyed arms-control ideologue whose nomination was so controversial that it failed to receive Senate approval for more than a year a situation that surely would have persisted until Mr. Clinton left office, had it not been ended by a recess appointment after the Senate left town earlier this month.

No less troubling is Mr. Holum's assignment. He aims to reach agreement with the Russians on a "combined U.S.-Russian proposal" to be presented in September to a group that the diplomats have, in their inimitable fashion, dubbed the "Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) Reinforced Point of Contact Meeting."

The starting point for this drill is a Kremlin proposal for a "Global Monitoring System" or GMS. Its ostensible purpose is to enhance efforts to curb the proliferation of ballistic missiles. In fact, it is a transparent Soviet-style ploy aimed at creating further impediments to U.S. ballistic missile programs (including cooperation with allies like Britain and Israel) and undercutting the rationale behind efforts to deploy national missile defenses for the American people.

Worse yet, Moscow proposes "incentive measures for states that have renounced the possession of missile systems for the delivery of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and assistance to national space programs." Put in layman's terms, the Russians want the West to provide technical and financial support for the Kremlin's clients, like North Korea, that fraudulently promise to give up their own missile programs.

The State Department sees the Russian proposal as an opportunity to up the ante. It has proposed a draft code of conduct whose stated purpose is to "delegitimize missile proliferation while providing a framework for carefully crafted incentives for countries to give up their missile programs."

These are vintage, if thoroughly discredited, arms-control nostrums: If only international norms can be created by banning things like chemical or biological weapons or land mines, they will lose their legitimacy and then no one will want to have or use them anymore. And, just to sweeten the deal, give them "incentives" like the Atoms for Peace provisions of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty or the corresponding sections of the Chemical Weapons Convention pursuant to which those who promised to forgo prohibited activities would be given advanced Western technology with which to pursue them covertly.

As with these previous, failed experiments in international law, the likely effect of the proposed "incentives" meant to wean would-be ballistic missile states from their missiles will be actually to proliferate at least some of the capabilities the code of conduct agreement is intended to curb. To add insult to injury, the State Department wants such "benefits" to be promised on a "concessionary/subsidized basis."

Meanwhile, vital U.S. missile developments, our ability to use and control space for commercial and military purposes and technology-sharing activities with our allies are likely to be subjected to criticism if not actually sanctioned to the extent they are contrary to a commitment to "reduce … holdings [of] ballistic missiles and space-launch vehicles to the maximum extent possible." To their credit, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are expressing serious concerns about what is now being billed as a "Global Action Plan Against Missile Proliferation" (GAP), a multilateral effort to codify, among other things, the worst of the Russian and U.S. proposals.

Similar reservations should attend other 11th-hour Clinton diplomatic initiatives. These include: a START III treaty unacceptable to the Joint Chiefs; the sharing with Moscow of the latest U.S. intelligence about missile proliferation a step sure to further compromise fragile sources and methods of collecting such intelligence; a multilateral monitoring center that will, in due course, require pre-notification of missile and space launches, with obvious adverse implications for operational security; bankrolling a dubious Russian satellite scheme with at least $344 million in U.S. taxpayer funds; and cooperation on theater missile defenses that may assist in the development and proliferation of countermeasures against U.S. anti-missile systems.

If the Clinton-Gore administration is willing to defer to the next president the decision to deploy effective missile defenses something that the nation urgently needs the least it can do is defer actions on initiatives like Mr. Holum's code of conduct that will be harmful to vital U.S. interests and that need not be taken now (or for that matter, ever).

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

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