Missile Defense Would Counter Nuclear Blackmail
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
MUNICH, Germany, Feb. 7, 2000 The National Missile Defense program would allow the United States to defend against rogue states threatening international blackmail, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said here Feb. 5.
Cohen, speaking at an international defense conference, said the United States doesn't want to be in a position where a rogue nation or group might threaten Western cities.
Cohen postulated what would have happened to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia had Saddam Hussein had a limited number of ICBMs. He could have threatened to launch those missiles if the allied coalition tried to move against him.
"[If Hussein had said] 'If you try to expel me from Kuwait, I'll put one in Berlin, one in Munich, one in New York, Washington, Rome, Los Angeles, etc.,'" Cohen said. "How many [countries] would have been quite so eager to support deployment of some 500,000 troops to expel him from Kuwait?" A limited national missile defense would allow the United States to resist that type of blackmail, he said.
Cohen said the threats of limited attacks by rogue nations or terrorist groups are growing. He listed North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Libya as countries actively seeking missile technology. "We know that Iraq, in fact, came very close to having an intercontinental missile capability, and we know for a fact that they have developed chemical and biological agents to be deployed in their warheads," he said.
North Korea has tested a multistage rocket and Iran, with the help of other countries, is developing longer-range missiles with "chemical, biological and, if possible, nuclear [capability]."
A limited missile defense would not be effective against a massive assault, Cohen said. Rather, it would defend against a small number of missiles directed at North America. President Clinton has not decided to deploy such a system. Factors affecting his decision include the question, is there a threat? Cohen said yes.
Another factor is whether the United States can build such a system. "We are rapidly developing the technology, and we believe that we will satisfy that requirement," he said. A test of the system is planned for April, and the president will use those results in any decision he makes.
Cost is another factor. The DoD budget request has $10.4 billion included through fiscal 2005 for the program. If approved, the budget would allow DoD to upgrade early warning facilities, build a radar complex in Alaska, ad provide 100 ground-based interceptors and fund additional testing.
Finally, the president will consider the concerns of Russia, China and the European allies, Cohen said. A Russian representative at the conference said the target of the U.S. missile defense system was Russia and China.
"Nothing could be farther from the truth," Cohen said in response. "Our goal is not in anyway to diminish your strategic capability, which is vast, but rather to protect us against those whom we have less confidence in."
Wang Guangya, vice foreign minister of the Peoples' Republic of China, said during a presentation to the conference that the U.S. would threaten stability if it built the system. The Chinese see any National Missile Defense system as breaking the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty the United States and Russia signed in the 1970s.
"The objective of disarmament is to enhance security, but true security has to be based on common security of all countries," Wang said. He said building the missile defense system would upset the strategic balance and "may even trigger a new round of arms race. For this, the international community cannot but express deep apprehension."
Cohen said national missile defense has strong bipartisan support in Congress. He asked conferees to examine the threat and to keep an open mind about the system.