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Helsinki Summit Enhances Security, Cohen Says

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 1, 1997 – The U.S.-Russian summit in Helsinki was a major success for the United States, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said.

During a speech before the Navy League Exposition here, March 27, Cohen outlined steps taken at the summit that enhance U.S. security.

START II was a major topic with President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin during their mid-March meeting. They agreed it was important for Russia's parliament to ratify the arms control treaty, Cohen said. The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty in 1996.

In response to Russian concerns over the cost of dismantling bombers, missile silos and submarines, both presidents agreed to extend START II's deadline for eliminating those weapons to the end of 2007, he said. All systems scheduled to be eliminated under the treaty, however, will have to be deactivated with warheads removed by the end of 2003.

Extending the elimination period should encourage Russia's ratification, while the requirement to deactivate the weapon systems preserves the treaty's security benefit, Cohen said. Clinton and Yeltsin also agreed to pursue START III, which would further limit each side's nuclear weapons to between 2,000 and 2,500 by 2007, Cohen said.

The U.S. and Russian leaders also agreed "that gives the green light to the deployment of theater missile defenses that we need to protect our troops in the field from ballistic missile attacks," Cohen said.

"For years, both sides have been grappling with the very difficult technical issue of how we distinguish theater missile defenses from national missile defenses, which are limited by the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty," he said. "In Helsinki, we appear to finally have cut this Gordian knot."

U.S. and Russian officials said neither side will develop, test or deploy space-based theater missile interceptors.

"This is not a concession," Cohen said. "It's simply a recognition there's no such thing as a space-based theater missile defense interceptor. Any space-based interceptor capable of knocking down a theater missile defense, by its very nature, is also capable of taking out ICBMs, which is precluded by the ABM treaty. So this provision has given up nothing. It simply confirms the fact of where we are today."

The two presidents further agreed to exchange detailed information about theater missile defense plans and programs, Cohen said.

He noted the Helsinki agreements do not impinge on the development, testing or deployment of any of U.S. theater missile defense systems such as the Hawk, Patriot, Theater High-Altitude Air Defense, Navy Area, Navy Theater-Wide or Upper-Tier systems. These systems can go forward as planned, he said. Summit agreements also have no impact on research and development of a national defense system by the year 2000, he said.

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