U.S. To Develop, Deploy Ballistic Missile Defense System
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 7, 2001 The United States will build and deploy a ballistic missile defense system, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said June 7 to defense ministers gathered NATO headquarters here.
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld answers a reporter’s question about ballistic missile defense issues at a press conference at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. The secretary was at NATO for a ministerial meeting June 7, 2001. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
At a morning North Atlantic Council meeting, Rumsfeld told the ministers that the "development and deployment of ballistic missile defenses will be an element" of a revamped U.S. defense framework.
"We intend to build and deploy [missile] defenses to protect the U.S., our forward-deployed forces, and in cooperation with friends and allies," he added. Rumsfeld told NATO ministers that the goal "is to deploy defenses against handfuls of missiles." He added that creating such a system wouldn't occur overnight.
The United States would not make decisions on the configuration of the missile defense system "until our technologies have been tested, and it is likely they will evolve over time," he said.
"As this program progresses, we will likely deploy test assets to provide rudimentary defenses to deal with emerging threats," he added.
At an afternoon NATO press briefing, Rumsfeld told reporters that the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction -- and of the ballistic missile systems to deliver them -- are real threats to world peace and stability.
He told reporters nondemocratic countries like North Korea, Iraq and others that are unfriendly to the United States and its allies either have or are seeking WMD and ballistic missile technology to increase their political profile and "clout" in the world.
These countries are often poor, Rumsfeld told reporters. "(They) are determined, they are taking their funds from all the creature comforts for their people ... and investing them in ballistic missile technology and weapons of mass destruction technology," he said.
Rumsfeld showed videotape of previous, successful U.S. missile defense system tests at the North Atlantic Council meeting and told the NATO ministers he welcomed their input.
"We look forward to exploring opportunities for enhanced cooperation with friends, allies and others," he said.
His proposal for NATO consultation on U.S. missile defense plans "marks an important opportunity for allies to consult about the direction of U.S. thinking," NATO Secretary- General Lord George Robertson remarked in a press release distributed after the council meeting.
The United States and NATO must adjust to global geopolitical changes and evolve their deterrence strategy, Rumsfeld said to NATO ministers. A fly in the ointment, he believes, is the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The ABM treaty "stands in the way of a 21st century approach to deterrence," Rumsfeld told the ministers. "It prevents deployment of defenses that can deny others the power to hold our populations hostage to nuclear blackmail. Deploying missile defenses capable of protecting the U.S., friends and allies will eventually require moving beyond the ABM treaty."
Rumsfeld told the ministers the United States would consult with NATO and Russia "to find a new framework that will enable us to test and deploy defenses against new threats."
No country, Rumsfeld said to the ministers, should be worried about the envisioned ballistic missile defense system.
"Such defenses are no threat whatsoever to anyone. They are defenses, not offenses," he said. "And by no stretch of anyone's imagination could they even begin to deal with the thousands of weapons deployed by Russia.
"Russia knows that very well, let there be no doubt."