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    Missile Defense

Russian military leaders have expressed concern about US plans for a national missile defense system. Will defense technology be limited by possibilities for a strategic imbalance? Is this just SDI all over again?

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rshowalter - 05:04pm Jul 23, 2001 EST (#7339 of 7342) Delete Message
Robert Showalter


Here are excerpts from an article written six weeks ago, that raises issues that remain important. Some of the context has changed, and seems to have changed for the better .

Mr. Putin, Meet Mr. Bush: Who Needs Treaties? by THOM SHANKER

" President Bush is imagining, and some of his senior officials are advocating, a new kind of security relationship with Russia, and other countries like China. Built not on a foundation of concrete arms control treaties, it would radically restructure how Washington and Moscow traditionally guaranteed stability and predictability and peace itself.

" Arms control pacts, the administration argues, have inherent flaws: they freeze time from the day they are signed or from the moment negotiations begin. Many of President Bush's senior appointees have negotiated treaties for previous presidents, and believe the process is bulky, slow, prone to problems in the Senate and not responsive to America's current security needs.

" These days, the officials say, arms treaties with Russia bring insecurity instead of certainty, because they seem to confirm a reality the balance of terror that no longer exists; because they don't let either side take advantage of new technologies to defend against missiles; and because they don't take account of emerging new threats to both signatories.

" That's the intellectual's argument, anyway. A brawnier complaint against allowing virtually any treaties, not just the old cold war ones, to frame America's security architecture is also heard in administration corridors and in Senate confirmation hearings. It says that in a world of proliferating weapons of mass destruction, and of the means to deliver them great distances, treaties only bind those who intend to keep them and offer legal cover to cheaters.

" But critics of the administration's long- term strategy say those comments are disingenuous, that they shift attention from a campaign to create a world in which America is unbound from its line-by-line obligations, free to pursue its self-interests unfettered by treaty law."

I think it is fair to say that all the other major countries in the world are uncomfortable with this Bush administration position -- and might even be said to be rebelling against it.

But a key question relates to a fair criticism of the negotiation situations of the past -- that they are so slow that, as a practical matter, they never offer satisfactory closure. We have to do better than that.

I think, with the format of the internet, illustrated here and elsewhere, we can do better -- and that this is possible at different degrees of "negotiation openness."

rshowalter - 05:10pm Jul 23, 2001 EST (#7340 of 7342) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

At this time, there are things where we may want accomodations in a relative hurry -- and other things that may take more time.

Legalisms aside, are there any actions involving testing that can really reduce the security of Russia - at the physical level, if the framework of agreements remains intact?

I think the answer is no -- and think that that answer can be established, in public, by checking, if need be.

That being so, accomodations that deal with checking in the next year or two ought to be possible fairly quickly -- if the administration can show the Russians, or anybody else, realistic reasons why these accomodations are needed to make the maximal technically possible progress on missile defense.

There would seem to be time to deal with many of the larger issues -- and discipline, as well, since both the Russians and the Americans are having, in the nature of things, to act "in public" -- with other nations, with real negotiating power, involved.

rshowalter - 05:12pm Jul 23, 2001 EST (#7341 of 7342) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

What would be pressing would be a commitment to deal with these larger issues - - because it is in the interest of the citizens of both countries, and the whole world, to reduce nuclear risks, from all sources, and to reduce the risks and carnage of war.

rshowalter - 05:34pm Jul 23, 2001 EST (#7342 of 7342) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

Negotiations on the interet don't have to be public -- there are good ways to arrange restricted access if it is thought desirable.

(For some complicated or high stakes negotiations, parallel channels, at least one public, at least one private, might facilitate convergence to a workable deal.)

Even if everything is "closed" -- with the internet - and the extended memory and enlarged ability to handle complexity that it provides -- it ought to be possible to get to a deal, on the issues needed for US missile defense testing for the next year or so, fairly quickly.

An advantage, even with "closed" negotiations -- is that "closed" is a relative term. For example, senior officers in NATO, and representatives of nation states with a reason to take an interest, could be provided with the internet record.

Questions of fact should be subject to clarification and examination by interested parties in this context. Questions of "good faith" should be, too.

If the Bush administration and the Putin administration wish to cut a deal that could "stand the light of day" in terms of their national and international responsibilities -- regarding the limited issues related to MD testing immediately involved -- it would seem to me that they could do so.

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