TCS Daily


Cooperation On Building Global Defenses

By Henry Cooper - May 13, 2001 12:00 AM

Last week, President George W. Bush dispatched a high-level delegation to visit capitals around the world to explain his commitment to build effective missile defenses at the earliest possible date. Such defenses are intended to protect not only Americans, but also our friends and allies around the world.

This delegation is emphasizing the opportunity for our friends and allies to cooperate on building a global defense to increase the collective security of free nations in a world threatened by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. Effective defenses will help deter the proliferation and use of such weapons -- and provide protection should deterrence fail.

The history of the Reagan-Bush years between 1985 and 1992 suggests this diplomatic approach will succeed -- although it is in stark contrast to the past eight years. And it is contrary to the shrill cries from Democrat leaders and the arms control elite, who claim President Bush's missile defense agenda threatens international stability and will create an arms race.

These arguments have been invariant since the ABM debate of the 1960s -- regardless of the strategic situation. Critics said the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) would create an arms race and make nuclear reductions impossible. They were wrong then -- SDI was instrumental in our successful efforts to reduce the Soviet threat and contributed significantly to the demise of the Soviet Union, as many former Soviet leaders have acknowledged. And they are wrong now in trotting out Cold War arguments against defending America in the new world disorder.

During the Reagan-Bush years, American negotiators sought a transition from the Cold War's world model based on the threat of mutual suicide, as embodied in the ABM Treaty, to one where security would be based on fewer nuclear weapons and effective defenses. Our negotiators consulted regularly with all our allies. Our objective was cooperation, not confrontation -- and reductions in nuclear weapons as defenses are built.

Apparently the critics have forgotten that Russia finally agreed -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin said yes. In a January 31, 1992, U.N. speech, he proposed that SDI be redirected to take advantage of Russian technology and that we together build a global defense for the world community. In the same speech, he also proposed deeper reductions in offensive nuclear weapons. So much for defenses making nuclear reductions impossible.

High-level talks undertaken in 1992 -- concurrent with the negotiations that led to the START II Treaty -- sought agreement on how to implement Yeltsin's proposal for a global defense. Below the Presidents, these talks were led by Ambassador Dennis Ross, best known as our Middle East envoy, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgiy Mamedov. Our entire proposed defense architecture -- space-, sea-, air-, and ground-based defenses -- was briefed in Moscow, and considerable progress toward agreement was achieved in several high-level meetings, involving Russia and other independent states of the former Soviet Union.

Joint working groups, co-chaired by U.S. and Russian officials, discussed the growing threat, the appropriate defensive architecture for responding to that threat, and how Russia and the U.S. might cooperate on building a joint defense. My SDI deputy for technology co-chaired the technology working group -- and the SDI began funding several Russian efforts. A working group dealt with legal issues -- and Russian officials publicly stated that the ABM Treaty would be irrelevant to cooperative missile defense efforts.

These talks were conducted in consultation with our allies around the world -- and they were supportive. In particular, the British and French -- who have concerns because of their nuclear deterrent forces -- supported us.

I believe we were within six months of agreement at the end of the Bush administration. At the final Ross-Mamedov meeting, the Russians told us they wanted to continue the talks on changing the strategic relationship from one based on confrontation to one based on cooperation for our common defense -- regardless of who won the Presidential election.

At the April 1993 Vancouver summit, Mr. Yeltsin proposed to continue discussions on building a global defense, but the Clinton administration had already torpedoed talks on cooperatively building global defenses. Worse, the Clinton administration alleged the ABM Treaty was the "cornerstone of strategic stability" -- code words to reinforce the idea that security is underwritten by the U.S. and Russia maintaining threats of mutual annihilation -- while incongruously seeking to aid Russia's fledgling efforts at democracy.

This Mutual Assured Destruction, or MAD, doctrine is a recipe for confrontation not cooperation. In effect, the Clinton administration reverted to a Cold War approach to the U.S.Russia strategic relationship, adopted the former Soviet position, ignored the Russian position after Mr. Yeltsin's January 31, 1992, speech -- and dismantled the SDI program which was poised to begin building a global defense, supported by a mandate to build a homeland defense from a Democrat-controlled congress (the Missile Defense Acts of 1991 and 1992).

In effect, President Bush's emissaries to capitals around the world last week reintroduced the idea of reinforcing cooperation rather than continuing confrontation as a U.S. foreign policy objective in our dealings with Russia, especially on building defenses for the world community. At least one member of that delegation-President Bush's Deputy National Security Advisor, Steve Hadley -- was Defense Secretary Dick Cheney's representative to the 1992 Ross-Mamedov Talks and well understands the global defenses we then wanted to build-and now can revive.

There are reasons to hope for significant agreement on President Bush's proposal. President Putin has proposed that Russia work with our European allies to build missile defense for Europeans -- implicitly recognizing the common threat of ballistic missile proliferation and the need to defend against it. NATO's Secretary General, Lord Robertson, rejected Putin's offer as an unwelcome attempt to divide Europeans from the North American members of NATO and was just the right response. But Putin's suggestion could evolve into an overall joint effort to build a global defense for the world community-as Yeltsin proposed in 1992.

And while many nations are understandably hesitant given the shift from Clinton's to Bush's strategic objectives, some have already been positive about the prospects for cooperation -- including Russia, Ukraine, India, Great Britain and several European states.

Furthermore, we are already helping several nations build their homeland defenses. The American taxpayer paid two-thirds of the bill for Israel to join Russia last fall as the only nations defending their homeland from missile attack. And cooperative defenses are under study with Japan, the Netherlands and other nations.

To understand how various nations might cooperate on a global defense, consider how a "layered" defense would counter long-range ballistic missiles in each of their three phases of flight:
  1. "boost phase" while their rockets burn as they rise from their launchers;
  2. "midcourse phase" when it is difficult for the defense to actually discriminate between warheads and a variety of decoys, and-false targeted; and
  3. "terminal-phase" when atmospheric reentry forces slow light-weight decoys and aid the discrimination process on the one hand while, on the other hand, permitting reentry vehicles to maneuver making their warheads difficult to hit.
A global defense would consist of many ground-, air, sea-, and space-based interceptors and sensors netted together to intercept ballistic missiles launched from any nation that would threaten the defensive alliance of free states. Cooperative nations could provide bases to site radar, interceptors or command centers and other elements of the defense. They could provide ship and air platforms for sensors and interceptors.

A glance at the globe shows that properly designed ships in the Sea of Japan could shoot down North Korean missiles aimed at Japan, Hawaii, Alaska, the U.S. West Coast, or other nations that might be a part of the defensive alliance. Similarly, ships in the Mediterranean Sea could protect the capitols of Europe, states of the former Soviet Union and North America against missile launches out of North Africa and some parts of the Middle East. Two-thirds of the Earth's surface is water and many ships operate where they could support a global defense.

In principle, others could join in building and operating global space elements, but America is without peer in building needed space platforms for sensors and interceptors. Launch could be provided by others -- for example, the Russians. (Can anyone think of a better use for old SS-18s used to threaten America during the Cold War?) The overall command and control system could be designed to assure protection of all members of the alliance.

A top priority should be placed on attacking missiles early in their flight, far away from their intended targets and preferably in their boost phase, when they are most vulnerable to attack -- and when they can be destroyed before they sub-divide their lethal cargo into multiple, hard-to-hit weapons and decoys. If a missile is destroyed while it is going up, its target doesn't matter -- so a boost phase defense could protect the entire world. And if the attacking missile is destroyed early enough, its nasty weapon would fall on the heads of the party launching the attack -- which would constitute a deterrent to launching that missile in the first place.

Ground-based interceptors -- on friendly territory close enough to the threatening party could intercept attacking missiles in their boost phase. For example, a defense site in East Russia could intercept North Korean missiles in their boost phase. Similarly, a defense site in Turkey could intercept missiles from Iran and Iraq in their boost phase. However, ground-based sites could be too intrusive; so space-, sea-, and air-based boost phase defenses may be preferable.

In short, there are many opportunities for international cooperation on building effective global defenses. Russia can return to the agenda agreed to during the first Bush administration and finesse the issue of the ABM Treaty. But if they do not, and soon, President Bush should use his authority to declare its terms no longer binding on U.S. engineers so they can build truly effective defenses for ourselves and our oversea troops, friends, and allies. Such defenses cannot even be developed and tested under the terms of that Cold War relic.
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