- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2000

It seems that everyone wants the U.S. to remain undefended against ballistic missiles. The United Nations secretary general, a former NATO secretary generals, the British prime minister, French, German, and Canadian officials, and just about everyone else in Europe is supporting Moscow and Beijing in opposing a U.S. missile defense. To be sure, our allies are polite, but it is disturbing to hear Europeans, with whom Americans fought in two world wars, saying we should not defend ourselves.

After all, the current plan is modest to deploy just 20 interceptors by 2005 and 100 by 2007. This, we are told, will destroy the ABM treaty, threaten strategic stability, cause Moscow to withdraw from START and other arms control treaties, and lead to a new arms race. The widespread opposition is a reflection of America's predominant position in the world today others join in trying to hold down the most powerful.

Besides, missile defenses devalue not only Russian and Chinese missiles, but those of our allies as well. And the allies fear that if we become secure in our defenses we will abandon them. So they join our adversaries in opposing a U.S. defense.

But why do they never mention Moscow's missile defense? It has been there for over three decades, silently defending the Russian leadership, with no adverse affects on arms reductions or global stability. It began in 1968 when 64 Galosh ABM interceptors, each armed with a nuclear weapon comparable to a million tons of TNT, were deployed at four sites some 50 miles north and west of Moscow.

The Galosh did not have to be accurate the enormous fireball created by such a huge nuclear weapon would incinerate incoming warheads. Next came 36 Gazelle short-range interceptors, also nuclear-armed, at sites just outside Moscow, giving the city a layered defense of 100 interceptors, the same number the U.S. plans to deploy in Alaska.

In 1976, the U.S. deployed 100 Spartan and Sprint interceptors in an ABM defense at Grand Forks, N.D., but shortly thereafter deactivated the site and put the interceptors in storage. Not the Soviets. They maintained their defense of Moscow and improved it a decade ago, replacing the Galoshes with new long-range interceptors known as Gorgons. That upgraded Moscow defense, with 100 Gorgons and Gazelles armed with nuclear warheads, remains on alert today. Last November, a Gazelle was taken from its silo and flight-tested to show the system still works.

This ABM defense protects hundreds if not thousands of miles around Moscow that includes the heartland of the country the national capital, the government and leadership, population centers and major industries and it is supplemented by deep underground shelters for the leadership. But Russia also has thousands of SA-5, SA-10, and SA-12 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) defending against short-and medium-range missiles such as those in the arsenals of China, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, and other countries. And if these SAMs are connected to ABM radars, as some analysts contend, it would constitute a nationwide ABM network.

On Feb. 10, the Moscow press reported that a new SAM, the S-400 Triumph, was about to undergo a series of flight tests. The report said the S-400 was tested six times last year with results that showed it to be more capable than the newest version of the U.S. Patriot. By the end of this year, the report added, at least 10 flight tests will be completed against supersonic, maneuverable targets, and the S-400 will be ready to join the thousands of SAMs already protecting high priority locations in Russia.

The technically superior S-400, with a reach of 250 miles, can engage ballistic missiles with ranges up to 2,200 miles, and perhaps with longer ranges if it is connected to ABM radars. Today, Russia has the world's only ABM defense around its national capital, plus thousands of SAMs defending the country, up to 3,000 around Moscow alone, and a new model soon to go into production. Yet, the world is silent about Russia's missile defenses.

The U.S. wants similar protection against an accidental, unauthorized or rogue state launch, and against missile blackmail. But Moscow and Beijing want the U.S. to remain defenseless against their missiles, so they protest vociferously. It is ridiculous to say it is OK for Russia to defend itself, but not for the United States to do so.

Every country has the right of self-defense, especially against nuclear missiles. The U.S. should reject the foreign criticism and defend itself. Then it can expand the shield to protect the allies and lead the way to a new era in which defenses promote global stability.

James T. Hackett is a contributing writer to The Washington Times.

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