- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 12, 2002

On Dec. 13, President Bush complied with Article XV of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty and provided the requisite six-months notice of the intention of the United States to "withdraw from this treaty if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests." This week that six-month time limit expires. At last, the United States is free to accelerate its pursuit of a robust national missile defense system. It must pursue this task in the face of rapidly proliferating threats from rogue states whose dictators are capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction via ballistic missiles aimed at the United States, its overseas military bases and its allies.

In fact, the death of the treaty has been delayed unnecessarily for years. Although its advocates, who considered the treaty to be "the cornerstone of strategic stability," have relentlessly defended it as the most important means of preventing a nuclear-arms race, the ABM treaty's historical record in this regard is one of indisputable failure. Moreover, despite the fact that the Soviet Union, the other signatory, expired more than a decade ago, the ABM treaty has continued, until now, to dictate the extent to which the United States could respond to a rapidly evolving international environment. It has done so to the detriment of the security of the United States, even as members of what Mr. Bush has accurately described as an "axis of evil" steadfastly pursue the development of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them.

Given that Osama bin Laden has already organized successful airborne attacks on the symbols of American commerce and military prowess and given the recent capture of an al Qaeda soldier who was pursuing a plan to develop and explode a so-called dirty bomb, who can now doubt that he and other haters of Western civilization would not use weapons of mass destruction against the American homeland or its allies?

The responses of Russian President Vladimir Putin during the six months since Mr. Bush announced America's intention to withdraw from the ABM treaty are telling in the extreme. Knowing the ABM treaty would soon become an historical relic, Mr. Putin nonetheless signed an agreement to slash Russian and U.S. nuclear warheads by two-thirds. In addition, Mr. Putin embraced the Soviet Union's erstwhile enemy, the NATO alliance, by becoming a junior member. As Edwin J. Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, which has played an important role in providing the intellectual arguments in favor of jettisoning the ABM treaty, recently observed, "Even with Putin a former KGB officer at the helm, [Russians] view us as strategic partners in the real war of the 21st century: the war on terrorism. The ABM treaty has no place in such a world."

Indeed, the ABM treaty, whose 30th birthday occurred barely two weeks ago, is now dead and not a minute too soon.


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