TCS Daily

Post-Cold War Era Demands Missile Defense

By William Schneider - May 1, 2001 12:00 AM

Defense Central E-Ring Contributor William Schneider says in an interview that it's time to get the U.S. and its allies past Cold War thinking. "Nations are no longer able to develop military forces that are optimized against a specific threat," the former under secretary of state for Security Assistance, Science and Technology tells Defense Central. "This situation requires highly adaptive and flexible forces, which are certainly not the kind we have in place today."

Schneider sees missile defense as one key tool for defending against a world filled with more unpredictable threats, including those posed by chemical and biological weapons.

Defense Central: What must the U.S. do to move beyond the ABM Treaty?

William Schneider: There are several things that need to be done. First is a recognition of the manner in which circumstances have changed in the 30 years since the ABM Treaty went into effect.

The adversarial situation that drove the creation of the treaty no longer exists. Russia is not the Soviet Union. Russia is a democratic state with an elected president, as President Bush noted, and in many ways, represents a completely different set of circumstances.

The arms control infrastructure of the Cold War is no long helpful in dealing with the post-Cold War threats, which have responded to a whole host of regional incentives to acquire nuclear weapons and their means of delivery.

Once we recognize that circumstances have changed, we have to take appropriate steps to dissuade countries from investing in these kinds of capabilities in the first place. We want to devalue the investment in long-range missiles and weapons of mass destruction by interposing an effective defense that would make investment in this area unwise and futile.

Defense Central: If you could propose a blueprint for a post-ABM framework for security, what would it entail?

Schneider: The U.S. and, ultimately, its allies will need to transform their forces to reflect the changed circumstances of the post-Cold War period. Nations are no longer able to develop military forces that are optimized against a specific threat.

The threats are now much harder to predict, and they can come up with relatively little warning. This situation requires highly adaptive and flexible forces, which are certainly not the kind we have in place today.

The missile threat is a good example. A few weeks ago, the London Daily Telegraph reported that Libya was in the process of buying No Dong missiles from North Korea. This kind of thing transforms a state that could be rolled up by Hollywood extras into one that is now able to threaten the lives of more than 300 million people in Europe, simply because it spent a relatively small amount of money to buy long-range missiles from North Korea.

These kinds of realities suggest that our allies and we will have to move to a different a path.

Defense Central: Should Americans be concerned that the deployment of missile defenses could provoke other countries to boost up their offensive forces?

Schneider: No, I don't believe so because the countries that are most likely to boost their forces will be doing it anyway. They have other reasons to do it.

China has basically 1970s-era technology in its small number of deployed systems now. Those are not very useful for a variety of technical reasons. As a consequence, they have, for the past 15 years, been moving to develop land-mobile ICBMs to replace their fixed-point, silo-based missiles. They will continue to do that regardless of the status of the ABM Treaty.

In the case of Russia, it has a large inventory of liquid-fueled, land-based ICBMs and a smaller inventory of sea-based ballistic missiles. In both cases, they are deteriorating with age and need to be replaced. Russia is in the process of replacing those systems with new types of submarines and missiles. They will do that quite apart from what we do in the ABM Treaty.

In either case, neither China nor Russia is an adversary. At the end of the day, if they conclude they need more offensive missiles for their security, that is, of course, their choice. For us, we need fewer offensive systems, but we need more effective defenses.

Defense Central: How can the U.S. defend itself against chemical and biological weapons?

Schneider: In both cases, missile defense has relevance.

Biological weapons can be, and most reliably are, delivered by ballistic missiles. It's just that engaging biological weapons is best done in the so-called boost or ascent phase. If you engage and shoot down the missile as it's ascending, you get it before the weapon payload has been dispensed, and that enables you to deal with it.

Similarly, in chemical weapons, when you can get them in the early or mid-course part of the trajectory, the payload will tend to land on the country releasing it rather than its intended target.

Defense Central: Did the President go far enough in his speech today?

Schneider: The speech had the right tone because it reflected the fact that the President has now developed a working hypothesis about a way to approach this issue. It's time to consult with our allies about American thinking on this issue to get the benefits of their views before he proceeds further.

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