- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 3, 2000

Congressional Republicans told Russian leaders yesterday the United States will build a national missile defense system, despite a Communist's warning that deploying the missile shield could provoke "a new kind of Cold War."

But U.S. and Russian lawmakers did agree on at least one facet of arms control yesterday: No new deals should be struck under lame-duck President Clinton.

"I completely agree with my American colleagues that we should never hurry in this matter," said Konstantin Kosachev, deputy chairman of the Russian parliament's foreign relations committee.

In a rare meeting with members of the Duma on Capitol Hill, Sen. Jon Kyl disabused the Russian legislators of their notion that they could disrupt deployment of America's missile defense as a condition of the 1993 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II).

"We view that as a mistake on the part of the Duma," said Mr. Kyl, Arizona Republican and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "Those conditions will not be ratified by the Senate. There will be a deployment of national missile defense by the United States."

The Army's top general for missile defense says the United States has the technology to provide nearly total protection against a limited number of long-range nuclear missiles.

"I am confident that the system will work," Lt. Gen. John Costello, commander of the Army's Space and Missile Defense Commander, said in Huntsville, Ala., during a briefing on U.S. missile defense programs. "I am also confident we have the technology to make the system adaptable to countermeasures" extra warheads or special techniques aimed at defeating defenses.

The system would include between 20 and 100 anti-missile interceptors based in either Alaska or North Dakota and sensors and radar systems located around the world. Gen. Costello said that basing the interceptors in Alaska would provide protection for the entire 50 states.

The Duma last month ratified START II, which calls for reducing the number of strategic nuclear warheads that the United States and Russia may deploy to no more than 3,500 by 2007. But Russia says it will withdraw from START II if the United States deploys a missile shield, a defense system prohibited by the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

Communist Party member Alexander Shabanov, deputy chairman of the Duma's foreign relations committee, told congressional leaders that America's unilateral deployment of a missile shield could prompt Russia to pursue development of what he called "heavy hydrogen" nuclear weapons and scrap 30 years of arms-control treaties.

"Think about starting a new kind of Cold War," Mr. Shabanov said through an interpreter. "It would leave all other countries defenseless. Leaving Russia on its own and forcing it to take its own way, I think, is very dangerous."

Mr. Shabanov even said Russia could be forced to create alliances with "other countries" that have not signed arms-control agreements.

"You know what those countries would be," he said without elaborating.

Mr. Kyl, speaking to reporters after the meeting, said he was curious about which countries Mr. Shabanov had meant.

"If he means countries like Iran, Iraq and North Korea … I'd be very disturbed at that kind of threat," Mr. Kyl said.

But he dismissed talk of a new Cold War as empty rhetoric, saying Russia lacks the wealth to launch a new arms race.

"Reality will set in over rhetoric," Mr. Kyl said. "We bear no ill will toward Russia. We're not going to threaten Russia, and I don't think Russia is going to spend a lot of money to threaten us."

The meeting was sponsored by the Washington-based Free Congress Foundation and the American University in Moscow to explore ideas for arms control. New Russian President Vladimir Putin has led the push for the Duma's ratification of START II and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the Senate rejected in October.

Members of Congress and the Duma did agree that arms-control pacts are not likely to be approved in the last nine months of Mr. Clinton's administration. Mr. Clinton is eager to burnish his legacy by reaching an arms-control deal with Mr. Putin in a Moscow summit June 4 and 5.

"Let's leave further arms control to the next administration," said Rep. Doug Bereuter, Nebraska Republican and a member of the House International Relations Committee.

Said Rep. Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania Republican, "To think that this administration could get any arms-control agreement through this Congress is an absolute embarrassment and an insult to the Russians."

And noting that the United States is in the midst of a presidential campaign, Duma member Vladimir Ryzhkov commented, "Maybe right now we shouldn't jump to conclusions."

In a foreign policy address he presented Sunday in Boston, Vice President Al Gore criticized his likely Republican opponent, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, for "pursuing a global 'Star Wars' missile defense system that could provoke a new arms race with Russia and cost the American taxpayer untold billions."

The Republican-led Congress last year approved a law signed by Mr. Clinton making a national missile defense system the official policy of the United States. But supporters of the system have accused Mr. Clinton of dragging his feet on actually deploying it.

James Woolsey, former director of the CIA and a moderator of yesterday's session, said some factions of the Russian military believe Russia's best option would be to ally itself with China. Yet many Russian politicians are urging the United States, as the Duma members did yesterday, to help Russia develop its own missile shield.

"We must tell Russia strongly they will not be able to have this both ways," Mr. Woolsey said.

The Duma members also said that the United States is exaggerating the threat of North Korea launching nuclear weapons against America.

The Russian legislators will meet today with House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's advisory group on Russia.

"Concerns have been raised that the Clinton-Gore administration will compromise effective U.S. missile defense for a hasty Rose Garden ceremony as part of a cynical effort to claim a foreign policy 'legacy' and distract attention from Al Gore's failed leadership of U.S. policy toward Russia," said Rep. Christopher Cox, California Republican and advisory group chairman.

"As a young democracy, Russia can and should relate to the United States in more meaningful ways than arms-control summitry … the primary focus of our relationship must be on how we can help each other socially and economically."

• Andrew Cain in Washington and Bill Gertz in Huntsville, Ala., contributed to this report.

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