- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 19, 2002

On June 14, the U.S. broke ground on a realistic missile defense testbed that will include five defensive interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska. In 2004, this missile defense testbed could, in an emergency, provide some defense of the United States against a limited missile attack.

And for the first time in decades, the U.S. can begin to test missile defense components and cooperatively work with allies and friends on defenses in ways previously prohibited by the outdated Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Now that our engineers and scientists are free to conceive of and produce the best defense our technology and resources can provide, additional missile defense initiatives will unfold in the very near future.

Since the ABM Treaty's signing in 1972, countries such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq, have acquired weapons of mass destruction and a limited number of missiles to deliver them. The proliferation of this lethal combination of capabilities continues. The emerging long-range missile threats involve far smaller numbers of missiles and warheads than we faced during the Cold War. Defending against this more limited missile threat is both feasible and affordable, but the ABM Treaty made it very difficult to develop effective capabilities to do so. Perpetuating our nationwide vulnerability, as was required under the treaty, is no longer necessary.

Last year the president called for a new concept of deterrence to include both offensive and defensive capabilities. As the president stated, "Cold War deterrence is no longer enough. To maintain peace, to protect our own citizens and our allies and friends, we must seek security based on more than the grim promise that we can destroy those who seek to destroy us." Moving beyond the ABM Treaty and forward on missile defense is an essential part of a strategy to provide the range of capabilities necessary against the broad spectrum of new threats and challenges we will confront in the 21st century.

By reducing an opponent's incentives to seek or use missiles, defenses can contribute to our goals of deterring missile attack, dissuading opponents from acquiring missiles, assuring our allies and friends against missile threats, and defeating limited attacks in the event of conflict.

Moving beyond the ABM Treaty may well prove to be the necessary step to establishing a truly new, post-Cold War relationship with Russia. Had we perpetuated the treaty, the intention of which was to codify a balance of terror in U.S.-Russian relations, we would have signaled the expectation that our strategic relationship, at heart, would remain one of mutual threats and animosity, not our desire for a more amicable relationship. Withdrawing from the ABM Treaty and moving simultaneously toward important offensive reductions demonstrated in real terms that we are on the road toward a fundamentally more cooperative relationship with Russia.

When President Bush emphasized moving forward on missile defense and a new strategic framework with Russia in May 2001, some predicted dire results. But the U.S. has now departed from these Cold War artifacts, the ABM Treaty and the balance of terror, and successfully begun to establish a new approach to deterrence and defense, and a more sane, cooperative strategic framework with Russia. This is good for the U.S. and good for the world.

J.D. Crouch is U.S. assistant secretary of defense for international security policy.

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