Assistant SecDef Clarke Interview with WAAM-AM Ann Arbor, Mich.
Friday, August 17, 2001
(Live radio interview with Dave Pekrul, WAAM-AM, Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Q: Hi, is this Torie?
Clarke: Yes, it is.
Q: Hi, Torie. How are you doing today?
Clarke: Good, how are you?
Q: I was just telling our listeners who you were and why you're stopping by, and we certainly do appreciate that.
Clarke: Well, I appreciate you talking to us this morning.
Q: Torie, I was just talking about some of the concerns that our allies have over the missile defense program, and many of them have been less than excited about it, not to mention some of our former enemies, if you will, like Russia or even China. Both of those countries in particular are not too excited about the prospect of us being able to knock down incoming ICBMs.
Clarke: Well, let's start with what people are really saying. We've had several trips over to Europe this year. The secretary of Defense, the president, other officials from this administration. And you have the leadership from the U.K, from Japan, from Australia, Italy, Spain, Poland, the list goes on that have acknowledged -- They know, they understand the need for new kinds of defenses to face 21st century threats. And that's really what it's all about.
The world is a very different place than it was 10, 15, 20 years ago. Fortunately, instead of facing the Soviet Union in the Cold War, we face increasingly diverse and different kinds of threats. We have several rogue states that are developing weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivery such as ballistic missiles. It's a real threat, it's a growing threat, and it's a real obligation for us to try to develop a system to protect us from those threats. Just as we are working on programs to protect us from terrorism and other more conventional threats, if you will.
Q: With that in mind, the changing face of defense, who are we most likely to see incoming missiles from? We know North Korea, Saddam Hussein is trying to put something together. There are other rogue regimes as you would like to call them, rogue states, that are trying to come up with long range ICBMs. Who are we most likely to see a threat from? It's not going to be probably a Russia or a China necessarily, but it could be a terrorist.
Clarke: Well, you're absolutely right about that. The secretary is fond of saying it's harder these days to tell from whom the threat might come. It's increasingly easy to see the kinds of threats.
It could be an incoming ballistic missile from a rogue state like Iraq or Libya or North Korea. They could be threatening our troops as they're based abroad or our friends and allies. We are not developing the system just for ourselves. We're developing it for Americans, for our troops, for our friends and allies.
Russia is not a concern. The Soviet Union is over. We had a 50-year hostile relationship with them. We are now ten years into working on a very good relationship with them.
Q: The Soviet Union -- sorry. I still say that.
Clarke: It's hard to change after 50 years, isn't it?
Q: It really is.
Russia now, though, I think the only concern really is not from their military but from the people in the military that, due to the fact that they're not getting their rubles like they should be getting, they may be, as we've heard reports of, selling plutonium and uranium for rogue states like Libya or Iraq. So I think the problem would be in trying to lessen that. I don't know how we could do that, but that's probably where part of the problem is with Russia.
Clarke: Well, it's a good point. Proliferation is a real concern. Proliferation of the equipment and the means to develop weapons of mass destruction, and the means of delivery is a concern. It is one we have raised with the Russians.
We just got back the other day, the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was in Moscow meeting with his counterpart in Russia, and we were talking to some reporters. And he says well I don't know this for certain, but I think in eight, nine, ten years, people in Russia may think missile defense is a very good idea. As a matter of fact, Moscow does have a missile defense system. They've had it for some years.
So it's a little bit ironic that people raise concerns and raise concerns on behalf of the Russians when they have a system themselves. And they know, as most people know, Dave, that this is a defensive system. Purely a defensive system. The only ones that have concerns about this are those who don't have the best of thoughts and intentions toward us.
Q: The Russians were said to have a proton beam years ago, too. I don't think that was true. But is their big missile dense system, if it is such a -- is it like the one we're looking at? It's not this high tech, is it?
Clarke: Couldn't tell you that. There's not a whole lot of information on it.
Q: They're not really up front with all that information to us anyway.
We're talking with Torie Clarke, she's assistant deputy secretary of Defense [sic], and we're talking about the missile defense research and development program.
Now this is designed for a limited attack. This isn't for what something we would have feared during the Cold War would have been literally hundreds or thousands of ICBMs coming in. This is for a limited type of attack, right?
Clarke: Absolutely right. It's a very robust R&D program, it's a research and development program right now, working toward a limited system that would protect us from a handful of missiles from rogue states that might launch them at us or our forces or our friends abroad. Or an accidental launch as well.
Q: The last test I believe was a success, is that right?
Clarke: It was. These tests, as I've come to learn, are extraordinarily complex and it takes a couple of months to get all the data in, but the preliminary analysis of all the things we were testing that night, it wasn't just the intercept itself, has been good.
Q: One of the things that Vladimir Putin has had concern with is the ABM Treaty. What is it -- what's going to happen with that treaty, first of all, and how is that going to affect how we go about things in the future?
Clarke: Well, first of all let's talk about what the treaty is. It was a treaty we entered into with the Soviet Union about 30 years ago, almost exactly 30 years ago. The Soviet Union no longer exists. It was a treaty we entered into because we had a hostile relationship with that country. We do not have a hostile relationship with Russia. We don't go to bed at night worried about a nuclear attack from Russia. So it's somewhat of a relic of the Cold War.
What President Bush has made very, very clear and Secretary Rumsfeld has been working on, is we want to move beyond that. We want to move to a new framework of cooperation with Russia, a new relationship, if you will, that covers a broad range of issues -- political, economic, security issues as well. So that's what our real focus is on, is moving forward, not looking back.
Now when it comes to the ABM we have no intention to violate the ABM, we have no intention to breach it. We want to focus our efforts now on moving beyond it. And if at some point we can't do that then the ABM itself does allow for either party to withdraw with six months notice.
Q: Again, Torie Clarke, assistant deputy secretary of Defense [sic] with us this morning talking about the missile defense program.
The cost of this is, as you might well imagine, pretty high. And since this is supposedly to help our allies as well, has there been any talk of anybody chipping in? Or is the U.S. going to go about this alone?
Clarke: Well first of all, let's talk about the amount. We have budgeted a little over $8 billion for missile defense. That is a fraction, about two percent of the entire budget for the Department of Defense. We have about $11 billion dedicated to counter-terrorism efforts. We have about $9 billion dedicated to shipbuilding. We have a responsibility to look at all the threats and challenges that we might face as a nation and to budget appropriately. So if you look at missile defense, which is designed to protect us from a real and growing threat, it's a relatively small part of the entire budget. And we are talking to friends and allies about the kinds of areas in which we might cooperate, on different aspects of the program, some of which actually started before this particular R&D program got in to full flourish, if you will.
We've worked with the Israelis. We are talking to some of the others, but that's in the early stages.
Q: And of course this is a program that was, they put the kibosh on it for some time there. You don't necessarily have to comment on this, Torie, but I've always thought that the research that would have led to this went on anyway, probably in private, I'm not sure. But that's my feeling.
So the missile defense research and development program is ongoing. $8 billion, which is really a fraction of the defense budget, but of course to you and I, Torie, that's a sizeable amount of money.
Clarke: Absolutely. It is very real money. It's money that we are trying to -- we are working with with the greatest respect that it is the taxpayers' dollars. That's something we're very aware of and want to make sure we make the best use of it.
But I'll tell you, when you talk about the taxpayers, about ten years ago in the Persian Gulf War an incoming missile struck some of our troops in Dhahran and killed 28 of them. Thirteen of them were from one town in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. And a lot of people think that we should have made more progress than we have over the last ten years to protect us from that kind of threat. That is a responsibility we have for the taxpayers.
Question: It's all about saving American lives, and that's what the program is supposed to do.
Q: -- it works, and it's something that can benefit mankind and the United States, I'm all for it.
Torie, thank you for your time today.
Clarke: Thank you, Dave.
Q: I appreciate it.
Clarke: Bye bye.
Q: Take care. Torie Clarke with us today, assistant deputy secretary of Defense.