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U.S., Russia Will Share Early Warning Missile Launch Data

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

MOSCOW, Sept. 17, 1999 – American service members have stood vigilant for years against a possible Russian missile attack, and this year, Russians will stand watch with them -- on U.S. soil.

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Russian Defense Minister Marshal Igor Sergeyev signed an agreement Sept. 13 to establish the Center for Year 2000 Strategic Stability at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. U.S. military officials will provide missile warning information to Russian observers, Cohen said at the defense ministry here.

"We will also give them other real-time, operational information about potentially destabilizing events, such as airspace violations that could result from the Y2K computer challenge," he said. "This sharing will reduce the chance that a turn-of- the-millennium computer error will create an end-of-the-year security incident."

The strategic stability center will be a forerunner to the Joint Shared Early Warning Center in Moscow that President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin called for last year. It will provide continuous monitoring of early warning data from both sides.

"This is another effort to use cooperation to reduce the risk of confrontation," Cohen said.

Cohen traveled to Russia Sept. 12 for meetings with his Russian counterpart, members of the Russian parliament and other officials. It was his first visit to Moscow since relations between the United States and Russia became strained over the Kosovo conflict. En route to Moscow, Cohen told reporters that ties with Russia have improved since NATO Operation Allied Force ended.

Sergeyev referred to the two nations' opposing views on the Balkan crisis during his opening remarks. "Russian and American relations, including the military domain, over the last six months have gone through serious trials," he said through an interpreter.

"I would put it straight: Differences of principle pertaining to the Kosovo crisis have thrown them [relations] way back," the Russian defense leader continued. "Still, common sense displayed by the Russian Federation and other countries, in the long run, allowed us to reach a compromise and to start the process of political settlement."

Sergeyev said the United States and Russia have a mutual desire to continue dialogue in the military sphere. This is due, he said, to the importance both nations place on their political and military relationship. "This relationship is important not only for our two countries, but for the whole world," he said.

Cohen responded to Sergeyev's remarks, acknowledging that there was "strong disagreement" about how to resolve the issue in Kosovo. He noted that the situation in Kosovo would not have been resolved successfully without Russian diplomacy. "For that we are grateful," he said.

Both nations' troops are now in Kosovo, working together in a "sound, constructive and positive way," he said. "That's an important statement to the world -- American and Russian soldiers side by side."

Following his meeting with Sergeyev, Cohen told reporters the two defense leaders had discussed a range of issues, including cooperation in Kosovo, the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program and the need to ratify START II and move on to negotiate START III.

START II limits each nation to between 3,000 and 3,500 strategic nuclear warheads. START III goes further, setting a proposed 2,000 to 2,500 limit and possibly may go even lower. Congress has ratified START II, but the Russian parliament has not yet done so. While U.S. and Russian officials have begun preliminary talks on START III, negotiations will not begin until START II is ratified.

Cohen said he and Sergeyev also talked about ways to amend the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty to account for the U.S. need to defend its citizens to against a limited missile attack by rogue nations. The national defense system the United States contemplates would not jeopardize or interfere with Russia's strategic system, he stressed.

The secretary noted he invited the head of Russia's strategic rocket forces to visit the U.S. Strategic Command and that the Russian accepted. Later that evening, during a live broadcast on Moscow's Echo Radio, he labeled the day's meetings as productive, saying, "We were able to discuss ways in which we can cooperate on very important matters between the United States and Russia."

He pointed out that this was the first day U.S. and Russian officials had an opportunity to discuss the ABM treaty and more talks will be needed. "But I believe if we approach this in a constructive fashion, that we can, in fact, provide for some modification that would take into account Russian concerns and U.S. concerns.

"The United States Congress has voted to deploy a limited national defense capability as soon as it's technically possible to do so," he explained to the Russian radio audience. "The president has not made a decision to deploy such a system and will not make a decision until next June or July."

U.S. officials believe the ABM treaty is an important stabilizing factor in the U.S.-Russian relationship and want to discuss ways it could be modified to accommodate a limited defense capability against rogue nations like Iraq, Iran or North Korea, Cohen concluded.

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