- The Washington Times - Friday, August 17, 2001

In pursuing President Bush's commitment to develop and deploy a national missile defense (NMD) system at the earliest moment, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has encountered the usual problems one would expect in dealing with former KGB Col. Vladimir Putin, who is now Russia's president, and former KGB Gen. Sergei Ivanov, whom Mr. Putin appointed defense minister in March. Complicating the obvious delaying tactics of the Russians, which were clearly on display during Mr. Rumsfeld's Moscow visit this week, is the fact that the efforts of the U.S. defense secretary to disengage the United States from the anachronistic Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty are quickly approaching a critical deadline. As Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz recently testified before Congress, the administration's anti-missile testing activities will "inevitably bump up against treaty restrictions and limitations," an event, he said, that is "likely to occur in months, rather than years."
As if all of this weren't enough, Mr. Rumsfeld must also deal with the consequences of a monumental disinformation and misinformation campaign conducted no doubt independently by the news staffs of three of the nation's most powerful newspapers: the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and The Washington Post.
At the heart of this campaign are declarations, assertions and obvious assumptions that simply have no basis in fact. Consider the statements of presumed fact that appeared on Monday, the day Mr. Rumsfeld engaged the KGB veterans in Moscow. Citing "the curious logic of the Cold War," the front page of the Wall Street Journal declared that "building defenses would only provoke the other side into building more weapons." The unstated but implicit assumption, of course, is that prohibiting the deployment of ABM systems would have the opposite effect, i.e., it should reduce the incentives to build more weapons. Indeed, that was a central goal of the ABM Treaty, which the United States and the Soviet Union signed in 1972. Also on Monday, the New York Times matter-of-factly reported that the 1974 Vladivostok summit between then-President Ford and then-Soviet Communist Party General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev "proved to be a breakthrough in limiting the numbers of strategic nuclear weapons." Completing the trifecta of disinformation, on Tuesday The Post flatly asserted, "During the Cold War, missile defenses were seen as destabilizing in that they encouraged the United States and the Soviet Union to build more and more missiles to overwhelm those defenses." Again, the unstated corollary must be that the treaty's prohibition of such defenses should have the opposite effect.
As the 20 years that followed the ABM Treaty clearly demonstrated, none of this proved to be true at all. In 1972, the United States deployed 1,054 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) carrying fewer than 1,500 independently targetable warheads. The Soviet Union deployed 1,547 ICBMs with a like number of independently targetable warheads. In 1972, the United States had 41 submarines carrying 656 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) with 2,384 independently targetable warheads. The Soviets had 53 submarines carrying 497 SLBMs and warheads. The U.S. heavy bomber fleet consisted of fewer than 400 B-52s, none of which carried air-launched cruise missiles. The Soviets had 140 heavy bombers. Atop their ballistic missiles in 1972, the United States had 3,858 warheads and the Soviets had 2,024. Including nuclear bombs aboard strategic aircraft, the United States had 5,700 nuclear weapons and the Soviets had 2,164 in 1972. Fast forward to 1991, when the START I treaty was signed and the Soviet Union was effectively bankrupt as a result of its nuclear-weapons binging. The American strategic nuclear weapons inventory exceeded 12,000 in 1991, reflecting a post-ABM Treaty increase of 112 percent. The Soviets' inventory was nearly 11,000, having increased by more than 400 percent since 1972. Needless to say, these 1991 inventories reflected vast improvements in technology and accuracy.
Thus, the 1972 ABM Treaty and the 1974 Vladivostok summit utterly failed to restrict the nuclear arsenals of the two superpowers. All of the assertions blithely reported as fact in recent days by the Journal, the New York Times and The Post have been proven to be false. Indeed, in the face of a once-robust Strategic Defense Initiative begun in 1983 by Ronald Reagan, first the Soviets and then the Russians signed treaties reducing nuclear weapons, including the START II treaty signed in 1993. Yet, the indisputable misconceptions recently reported as fact are routinely used to implicitly attack the rationale of the Bush administration underlying its determination to deploy NMD as quickly as possible. In fact, once these often repeated, seemingly immutable laws of deterrence theory are easily refuted, the logic for a robust missile defense system is stronger than ever.
The path that Messrs. Bush and Rumsfeld must take is clearer today than it has ever been. Obviously, the obstructionist and delaying tactics used by the former KGB veterans in Moscow this week must not stand. With U.S. anti-missile testing expected to "bump up against" the ABM Treaty within "months" and given the treaty's requirement that a party must give six-months' notice before it withdraws, the time has arrived for Mr. Bush to give the Putin-Ivanov regime a simple ultimatum: Either agree to the changes the United States seeks in the ABM Treaty by the time Mr. Putin visits Mr. Bush at his Crawford, Texas, ranch in November, or expect to receive the requisite six-months notice of withdrawal at that summit. The ultimatum doesn't have to be public, but it must come at the earliest moment.

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