- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 8, 2001

Current proposals for Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty "modification talks" promoted by Russia, China, and Treaty diehards in the Congress, are a fools quest with deadly consequences.

They flow from the Clinton administration myth that the 1972 Treaty, which is based on the Cold War Concept of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) and bans national ballistic missile defenses, is somehow the "cornerstone of strategic stability" and a "viable" foundation of arms control. This myth and pressure for such talks are now the chief obstacles to effective U.S. missile defenses.

The ABM Treaty myth is belied by historical facts and the requirements of U.S. and global security. The Treaty is as dangerous to our homeland as an anti-fire-hose law would be for our homes. Millions of lives are at stake.

During the Cold War, the signing of the Nixon-Brezhnev ABM Treaty in 1972 was hailed as assuring missile peace in our time but was quickly followed by an unprecedented Soviet arms buildup (28 strategic programs), treaty violations (SALT, ABM, "Detente" Principles), and aggressive actions in Central America, Africa, Afghanistan and Eastern Europe.

Only after Ronald Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) in 1983 did the Soviet Union begin major reforms and accept his "zero option" proposal for Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) and his 50 percent cut proposal for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Russian and U.S. experts alike agree that SDI was decisive in stimulating reforms and arms reductions, ending the Cold War peacefully, and bringing Americans the trillion-dollar peace dividend which became the basis of our post-Cold War economic boom.

In the post-Cold War period, threats to the American homeland accelerated dramatically after President Clinton gutted U.S. national missile defense programs and canceled both President Bush´s Global Protection System scheduled for deployment by 1996 and the U.S.-Russia talks begun in 1992 on moving from the MAD-based ABM Treaty to defense-based deterrence. Since then, U.S. vulnerability has proved an incentive for proliferation and arms buildups by hostile rogue nations and those who support them, notably Russia and China.

Today, ABM Treaty modification talks would only add new instabilities, disputes and program delays at a time when U.S. and Allied defense requires wholesale elimination of the Treaty´s provisions and the Treaty itself.

Deadly Treaty Provisions: Modification efforts to allow effective anti-missile defenses within the ABM Treaty framework are doomed to failure. Modification proponents ought to read the treaty´s "sacred text," as some Clinton officials described it. They would discover that the treaty´s preamble and at least 10 of its 15 articles block defenses, and all these would have to be eliminated to permit effective program options. But that would defeat the fundamental "object and purpose" of the treaty and no experts group or diplomatic alchemy can resolve this contradiction.

The ABM Treaty´s Preamble contains the Soviet Union´s Cold War propaganda call for "general and complete disarmament" and asserts the Treaty´s MAD foundational concept that the parties are "proceeding from the premise that the limitation of anti-ballistic missile systems would be a substantial factor in curbing the race in strategic offensive arms and negotiations on limiting strategic arms." (The Treaty and MAD have proved an incentive for arms buildups and a disincentive for arms control.)

Article 1 locks in MAD through the pledge "not to deploy ABM systems for a defense of the territory of its country and not to provide a base for such a defense … and not to deploy ABM systems for defense of an individual region except as provided for in Article III." (Our government has the constitutional obligation to defend the entire U.S. territory and population.)

Article 3, as modified by a 1974 protocol, limits anti-missile deployments to 100 non-mobile land-based interceptors and six associated radars within 150 kilometers in defense of one small regional site, designated as either the National Capital Area or a single strategic missile base. (Deterrence and defense require more, more widely dispersed and mobile, launchers, interceptors and radars to protect our national territory and our allies.)

Article 5 requires the parties "not to develop, test or deploy ABM systems or components, which are sea-, space-, air-, or mobile land-based ABM systems." (These are by far the most promising systems in terms of survivability, capability, and cost-effectiveness.)

Article 6 bans giving non-strategic "missiles, launchers, or radars … capabilities to counter strategic ballistic missiles … ." (This article severely limits velocity, range, data sharing and other capabilities. Together with a proposed, but unratified, Albright-Primakov "demarcation" protocol signed in 1997, it sets up an artificial strategic/non-strategic or national/theater distinction which is unverifiable and makes no sense. Today, non-strategic range SCUD or No-Dong missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction could destroy Israel or Japan while even "theater" defenses could provide substantial "strategic" or "national" defense against such threats. Or sea-launched "theater" missiles could potentially destroy New York, London or Tokyo, while sea-based defensive "theater" missiles systems could potentially protect such cities.)

Article 8 bans "systems or their components in excess of the numbers or outside the areas specified in the treaty." (Like Article 3, this article bans even a minimal system to protect the United States, which would require substantially more interceptors and radars and the mobility to cover more areas and angles of attack.)

Article 9 requires that "to assure the viability and effectiveness of this treaty each party undertakes not to transfer to other states, and not to deploy outside its national territory, ABM systems or their components limited by this treaty." (This falsely assumes ABM Treaty "viability" and would ban foreign basing of interceptors or radars or joint defense for our allies, as in a U.S.-Canadian command at Cheyenne Mountain.)

Article 10 requires that "each party undertakes not to assume any international obligations which would conflict with this treaty." (Like Article 9, this article bans any possibility of joint U.S.-allied defenses and U.S. missile defense deployments or transfers abroad.)

Article 12 requires that "for the purposes of providing assurance or compliance with the provisions of the treaty, each party shall use national technical means of verification." (Modern technology relies on software and miniature components which cannot be effectively verified through NTM.)

Article 13 provides for "possible proposals for further increasing the viability of the treaty." (The treaty is not viable, either legally or strategically.)

Article 15, Section 1 provides that "this treaty shall be of unlimited duration." (This obsolete treaty ended with the Soviet Union in 1991, and all its key assumptions and purported benefits have proven false.

As part of a new missile defense strategy (to be outlined in Part II of this series), the United States should assert Section 2 of Article 15, which provides that each party has the right to withdraw from the treaty on six months´ notice if it decides that extraordinary events (e.g. proliferation trends) have jeopardized its supreme national interests (e.g. the survival of its society and citizens.)

NEXT: A new U.S. missile defense strategy.


Sven F. Kraemer served on the National Security Council staff under four presidents. He was director of arms control on President Ronald Reagan´s NSC from 1981 to 1987.

Sven F. Kraemer served on the National Security Council staff under four presidents. He was director of arms control on President Ronald Reagan's NSC from 1981 to 1987.

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