At the crossroads of Global Security

Lt Col Charles Shotwell, USAF
Maj Joginder Dhillon, USAF
Capt Deborah C. Pollard, USAF

THERE HAVE been many incarnations of ballistic missile defense over the years: the Johnson administration's Sentinel program, the Nixon administration's Safeguard program, the Reagan administration's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), the Bush administration's Global Protection against Limited Strikes (GPALS), and the current Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) program. Every one of these programs has involved significant controversy, not just between international players but between the executive and the legislative branches of the US government. They all have had a major impact on wide-ranging areas of technology, arms competition, military strategy, and arms control.1 Furthermore, in the intra- and intergovernmental deliberations on ballistic missile defense policy, political imperatives have mattered as much as (if not more than) security imperatives.

With the end of the cold war, we face a dramatically changed security environment, Proliferation of missiles and related technology poses threats to the continental US in the not-so-distant future. There is considerable lead time required to develop appropriate defensive systems. The window of opportunity with a cooperative Russian regime may not last forever. Thus, it appears that we are at a crossroads in terms of the security imperative where decisions must be made soon, where today's policy choices are critical, and where today's commitment of resources will have lasting consequences.

A successful post-cold-war "grand strategy" requires the unification of efforts under a common objective: coordinating the political, military, diplomatic, and technological instruments of national influence to meet the growing threat of weapons proliferation. This will necessitate a reconciliation of the national security imperative with the political imperative.

The Domestic
Political Imperative

The domestic political imperative to preserve the Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty regime was visibly evident in the early 1980s when the Reagan administration started research and development for the SDI program. A governmental debate ensued over the meaning of two provisions in the ABM Treaty. The first provision in question was Article V, which states:

Each Party undertakes not to develop, test, or deploy ABM systems or components which are sea-based, air-based, space-based, or mobile land-based,

Article VI was the other provision:

[E]ach party undertakes not to give missiles, launchers or radars other than ABM interceptor missiles, ABM launchers, or ABM radars, capabilities to counter strategic ballistic missiles or their elements in flight trajectory, and not to test them in an ABM mode. (Emphasis added)

At no place does the treaty or its agreed statements define what constitutes "test them in an ABM mode."2 In a unilateral interpretation, the US Compliance Review Group (CRG) directed that any systems tested must not exhibit deployment patterns that resemble an ABM role.

As former arms control negotiator Paul Nitze has pointed out, the US attempted, unsuccessfully, during a critical six-month negotiating period in. 1971-72 to get the Soviets to agree to a more precise prohibition of future ABM system development.3 After treaty ratification, the joint ABM Standing Consultative Commission (SCC) negotiated for two years to clarify the term tested in an ABM mode.4 The result was the agreed Statement D of 1978. It refers to target missiles that "have the characteristics of the flight trajectory of a strategic ballistic missile or its elements." "Statement D" goes on to say:

In order to insure fulfillment of the obligation not to deploy ABM systems and their components except as provided in Article III of the Treaty, the Parties agree that in the event ABM systems based on other physical principles [emphasis added] and including components capable of substituting for ABM interceptor missiles, ABM launchers, or ABM radars are created in the future, specific limitations on such systems and their components would be subject to discussion in accordance with Article XIII and agreement in accordance with Article XIV of the Treaty.5

This left some room for unilateral interpretation of those characteristics.6 By implication (according to one interpretation), the treaty allowed the testing and development but not deployment (prior to consultations) of systems and their components based on "other physical principles."7 According to this broad interpretation, systems based on other physical principles are those systems other than those discussed in Article II (which defined the ABM system as consisting of ABM interceptor missiles, ABM launchers, and ABM radars).

Senators argued that this interpretation was inconsistent with interpretations offered by executive branch officials during the treaty ratification process.8 Many maintained that the president should be bound by the earlier "narrow interpretation" of the treaty, which would ban testing of any ABM components regardless of physical properties. Ultimately, Congress applied its budgetary authority to force the Reagan and Bush administrations to limit tests to those consistent with the narrow interpretations.9

On 13 May 1993, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin announced the "end of the Star Wars era."10 He changed the name of the Strategic Defense Initiative Office (SDIO) to the Ballistic Missile Defense Office (BMDO).11 The administration went on record supporting the narrow interpretation to the ABM Treaty.12

Yet there are signs from both Congress and the current administration that research on space-based systems is far from ruled out altogether. While directing compliance with the treaty, the 1991 Missile Defense Act (MDA) also directed the SDI program to defeat limited, unauthorized, or accidental attacks on the US and to defend US troops, friends, and allies.

The MDA included other language that allowed, if not encouraged, research in specific areas:

The system components to be developed shall include ... optimum utilization of space-based sensors, including sensors capable [emphasis added] of cueing ground based anti-ballistic missile interceptors and providing targeting vectors, and other sensor systems that are not prohibited by the ABM Treaty, including specifically the Ground Surveillance and Tracking System.

This implied a far-reaching congressional interpretation that a mere ABM-capable system does not actually violate the ABM Treaty, so long as it is not deployed. Further, DOD guidance would recommend that the sensors be Incapable themselves of providing targeting Information without additional processing on the ground. Theoretically, this would make these units something other than ABM components. Is this a legitimate construction, or are labels being used to work around Article V of the treaty?

In 1992, a divided House Armed Services Committee voted to amend the 1991 Missile Defense Act to say:

To maintain compliance with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, including protocols or amendments thereto, and not to develop, test, or deploy any ballistic missile defense system, or component thereof, that is in violation of the treaty as modified by any protocol or amendment thereto.

But the amendment permitted the deployment of

an anti-ballistic missile system that is capable of providing a highly effective defense of the United States against limited attack of ballistic missiles, which may include space based sensors and additional deployment of sites if authorized by Congress and permitted by the ABM Treaty.13

Thus, Congress acknowledged the possible necessity of space-based systems. Yet, implicit in this brilliant piece of "doublespeak" is an assumption that space-based sensors and additional "sites" may be deployed without violating the treaty.

Overall, congressional opposition to spending for ballistic missile defense is still strong, as evidenced by fiscal year (FY) 1994 budget cuts by the Senate and the House. Congress cut the president's budget request for ballistic missile defense from $3.8 billion to $2.6 billion.14 The president's program had already scaled down the requests of former president Bush from a total of $39 billion over five years to $18 billion over five years.

The Clinton administration has made clear its shift of priorities to theater defense in the form of land-based ABM systems and in its intent to adhere to the ABM Treaty. The Clinton administration has made drastic cuts for research for the space-based Brilliant Pebbles interceptor system. Nevertheless, the administration has expressed interest in continuing research for other space-based systems. In particular, "enhanced" launch detection is viewed as crucial to effective land-based interceptors. The Clinton administration requested $250 million for Brilliant Eyes in the FY 1994 budget, $10 million more than budgeted in 1993.15

The International
Political Imperative

The use of space-based sensors, as previously mentioned, substantially enhances the capability of ground-based interceptors. Yet, Congress does not appear to share these priorities, as they made significant cuts in these programs. Nevertheless, the political imperative is driven by not only domestic factors, but by international factors as well.

Dealing with the Former Soviet States

The predominantly accepted principles of international law support the recognition of Russia as the successor state to the Soviet Union for purposes of the ABM Treaty. In brief, this view Is based upon Russia's affirmative, comprehensive, and consistent acceptance of the obligations of treaties of the former Soviet Union.16 Explicit agreements with the other former Soviet states is the device of choice to ensure the adherence to previous obligations. Russia has negotiated agreements with Belarus and Kazakhstan to return nuclear weapons to Russian soil by 1997, although Ukraine may withdraw from this agreement. The agreement would retain and legitimize early warning system sites in non-Russian republics.17

This situation reveals the fundamental problem of whom we should deal with in matters of ballistic missile defense. Do we deal with Russia alone? Do we deal with the ex-Soviet states separately? The negotiating pattern thus far has recognized Russia's lead in dealing (bilaterally) with the ex-Soviet states. It is unlikely that US officials would favor a cumbersome, complicated, multilateral negotiation process. Furthermore, only the US and Russia are recognized under law as the true parties to the ABM Treaty. Therein rests a legal basis for a bilateral framework for negotiations.

Bilateral dialogue began on 17 June 1992 when presidents George Bush and Boris Yeltsin agreed to initiate talks on a cooperative missile defense system. During their summit in Moscow, they issued a joint statement of cooperation for a global protection system (GPS) in which they agreed to

work together with allies and other interested states to develop a concept for a global defense system as part of a general strategy to address the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.18

The summit was followed on 14-15 July 1992 by the first meeting of the US-Russian "High-Level Group" in Moscow. These discussions recognized a "radically changed security environment." Follow up meetings were hold at which, according to the joint statement issued on 22 September 1992, there was a broad exchange of views on the concept of a global protection system (including a jointly operated system). The GPS was viewed as a possible vehicle for improved dialogue among the participants an security matters. Other issues discussed included.

  • Sharing Information on proliferated technologies;
  • cooperating on possible technical projects, including those to improve defensive capabilities;
  • finding ways in which participants could make the benefits of GPS available to themselves and to others;
  • seeking American and Russian ideas for a future legal basis for a GPS; and
  • exchanging early warning information, including demonstration projects.

Most of the discussion focused on interceptions during the terminal phase of flight by land-based systems.

Although the US broached the subject of amending the ABM Treaty, Russia was adamant in opposing amendments to the treaty. This position was emphatically reiterated at the next meeting of the High Level Group in October 1992, although with indications that there was some room for "clarification." Many officials are receptive to the idea of a joint US Russian early warning center, but they adamantly oppose weapon systems in space.19

Other officials have implied more room for maneuver. Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Berdenikov went further on 2 July 1992 by stating that the ABM Treaty should be preserved but that no amendment to the treaty is necessary in order to develop a bilateral or global defense system since the treaty only applied to "national" defense systems.20

This implied that something in the nature of a "clarification" of the treaty would suffice.

On 11 May 1993, Secretary of State Warren Christopher announced that the Clinton administration would continue efforts begun under President Bush to develop missile defenses jointly with Russia.21 On 1 October 1992, the US, Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine jointly reaffirmed their commitment to the ABM Treaty. The Clinton administration is moving cautiously because of political sensitivities, particularly when it comes to space-based systems.

International Support for Ballistic Missile Defense

The basis for creating the 1972 ABM Treaty was that mutual vulnerability was the key to mutual survival in the nuclear age. There was an explicit recognition by the US and the Soviet Union that nationwide defenses against ballistic missiles would likely cause a destabilizing arms race involving both offensive and defensive missiles. Although the treaty was bilateral, many nations in the international community shared this view and have expressed strong support for continued adherence to the tenets of the treaty.

In 1991, dramatic changes in the national and international environments resulted in dramatic changes in the American approach to strategic defense. This new approach gave rise to a transformed SDI, coined Global Protection against Limited Strikes, with a streamlined focus an providing protection from limited ballistic missile strikes whatever their source. Despite the dramatic changes set forth under GPALS, the concerns of friends and allies about strategic defense remained surprisingly consistent. As a result, President Bush appeared to go out of his way to make a clear reference to open cooperation as he described GPALS in his State of the Union Address: "Let us pursue an SDI program that can deal with any future threat to the United States, to our forces overseas, and to our friends and allies."22

By 1992, the changing international environment once again resulted in a new and expanded focus for SDI in calling for the establishment of a global protection system. No longer was the national security threat expected to come from a short warning conventional attack against Western Europe. Now the focus of planning efforts was to react to a regional threat to US interests as had been encountered in the Persian Gulf War. The proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction increased the perceived danger of these potential conflicts.

The 1992 focus on GPS further integrated the GPALS program Into a cooperative venture led by the US and Russia. Presidents Bush and Yeltsin agreed at a June 1992 summit in Washington, D.C., that their two nations

should work together with allies and other interested states [emphasis added] in developing a concept for such a system as part of an overall strategy regarding the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. Such cooperation would be a tangible expression of the new relationship that exists between Russia and the US and would involve them in an important undertaking with other nations of the world community.23

In the context of the global ballistic missile defense regime proposed by President Yeltsin, opportunities for cooperation with our allies will increase. The US again made it clear that it considers its allies as one of the cornerstones of any cooperative effort on global missile defenses, and it has underscored the central role of its allies in this concept to Russia.

In 1992, the belief was that the US would pursue attempts to coordinate with the Russians on an agreement to modify the ABM regime as set forth in the ABM Treaty. The specific issues to be addressed and hopefully relaxed included the restriction on the location and number of ABM sites, the number of interceptors, and the prohibition on the deployment of space-based ABM sensors and interceptors. Official US statements referred to Yeltsin's purported acknowledgment of mutual interests in protection against ballistic missile attack as a significant break from past Soviet policy an ballistic missile defenses. This was seen as a historic opportunity for cooperation in this area. Not surprisingly, the US equated this to a Russian willingness to ease requirements under the ABM Treaty. However the Russians have been very adamant about both sides adhering to the treaty even while pursuing cooperation in the area of global protection.

Currently, GPS is still in its conceptual stages with respect to membership technology, command and control, and many other issues that are yet to be addressed. The concept overview appears to be an attempt by the US to make such a system more palatable to its international partners by emphasizing the truly equal stature of all participants and the collective aspect of such a system. The concept of operations for a global protection system underscores the importance of establishing a "voluntary association of sovereign states committed to assisting one another in meeting the challenge to their national security and international stability that is posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction."24 By refocusing the SDI program toward the contributions of GPALS to GPS, the US has significantly increased the priority assigned to theater missile defenses. In fact, improved theater missile defenses would be the first elements of GPALS to be deployed. Moreover, it is interesting to note that even in these times of tight budgets, the US Congress has appropriated funds to accelerate theater missile defense (TMD) development.

Theoretically, participation in this system would be open to all interested countries that are members in good standing of the community of nations and that have embraced the objectives embodied in international agreements aimed at stemming the proliferation of advanced technology. As a tangible expression of their commitment, the participants would establish and operate a global protection center. Within this center, the participants would be involved in a number of ventures, including sharing information on the sources of proliferation, registering prelaunch notifications for upcoming test launches, providing information on any launch of ballistic missiles or space launch vehicles, and assisting one another to develop the technical means of warning and defense against ballistic missile attack.25

Response of the International Community to the GPS Initiative

The response of the international community to the GPS concept has been guarded. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has expressed concern about the speed with which the US was seen to be pursuing its new relationship with Russia. Most European nations are advocating caution in our dealings with the former Soviet Union, especially when it comes to institutionalizing new security arrangements with them--as would be called for under GPS. The international perception is that much effort in America has been dedicated to nurturing the relationship with Russia, sometimes at the expense of our established relationship with NATO. Representatives in NATO express dismay that they are being left out of the notification and coordination process. This perception exists oven though US officials have publicly stated that allies are a critical part of the coordination process.

America's European allies want to, and will, use NATO as a decision-making forum for issues of national security and foreign policy. These allies are particularly concerned about being left behind as the US pursues its relationship with Russia, and they want to become more involved and more influential in the policy-making process. The general European view supports continued adherence to the ABM Treaty, although most NATO nations would probably support an amendment process if they were consulted on the specific provisions prior to implementation.26

These allied concerns about the speed with which the US was seen to be pursuing its relationship with Russia manifested themselves in NATO's effort to establish an ad hoc group on GPS. This group was supposed to provide a forum for consultation an the organizational aspects of such a system. The stated goal of member nations was to establish NATO as a crucial part of the policy process in determining the risks posed by ballistic missiles, defining the requirements for the system architecture, and determining the impact on international arms control efforts. In addition, NATO sought to influence and directly participate in discussions about strategic and political implications of GPS, economic and technological considerations, and potential areas of allied cooperation and oversight.

However, this particular effort was stonewalled by the French because they were adamantly opposed to the US chairing the group and controlling the agenda. France made its support conditional upon having an international chair, but US opposition meant the issue became a point of contention with no apparent middle ground. Before the matter could be further debated and discussed, the US election put President Bill Clinton in office and the issue became moot until that new administration's position on ballistic missile defense was formulated and policy objectives were set. So far, the issue of establishing an ad hoc group has yet to be revisited in NATO.

Since the US has already made it clear that it wants its "friends and allies" on board for GPS, it must now decide how to approach these nations. An obvious option would be to deal with NATO as a single entity, seeking alliance cooperation and support for initiatives under the GPS umbrella. This option may appear to be the most expedient since it provides the opportunity to address these issues in a single forum and to build consensus by making strategic defense an alliance goal. However, the cohesiveness of NATO's response to GPS will center around the answers to some key questions: (1) What is the threat? (2) What is the alliance responding to? (3) How is it to respond? and (4) Why should it respond? Presently, NATO is unwilling to agree to the assumptions underlying GPS before reaching an agreement on the basic principles defining the problem. In dealing with nations on an individual basis, it will be important for the US to take each country's specific concerns into account. These concerns can be consolidated into broad areas of general concern:

1. GPS must be AHM-compliant, but there is a willingness to accept amendments, modifications, or clarifications if agreement amongst the international community can be reached.

2. The viability of British and French independent nuclear deterrence must be maintained or an acceptable security substitute must be established.

3. Militarization of space must be avoided at all costs.

4. The first step towards a global protection system should be an emphasis an theater missile defense.

5. Ballistic missile defense will only be supported by individual nations if it can be defined to be in that country's national interest or viewed as contributing to the stability and security of the region.

6. Plans for development and deployment of GPS must be accompanied by assurances that West European and other security arrangements are not decoupled from US security interests.

7. The issue of cost must be addressed early on in the policy process. America's allies will neither support nor fund a program that cannot stand up to a cost-benefit analysis.

8. It is imperative that friends and allies are kept informed of ongoing discussions with Russia, as well as being included in the consultations and negotiations. They have made it explicitly clear that they will not support a program that they are not involved in developing.

9. There are pressing political and technical questions such as command and control and releasability of information to third parties that must be addressed and answered. Allies are concerned that the US is pursuing this global panacea without any forethought to the political, technical, and strategic ramifications.

America's friends and allies are looking for US leadership. They need and seek strong language and initiatives. Presently, GPS is only an idea with a very vague concept of operations that presents more questions than answers about the program. In fact, in a 29 September 1993 interview, Henry Cooper, former director of the Pentagon's Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (now Ballistic Missile Defense Organizational), said:

There's a lot of gobbledygook coming [from Clinton's policy officials] that is hobbling and constraining the entire missile defense program. Theater missile defense is supposed to be one of our highest priorities, but development of these systems is impeded by a real lack of leadership. . . Our allies are looking with great confusion to what we're doing . . . and yes, it does appear that the current leadership is speaking from both sides of its mouth on this vitally important issue.27

Many nations have refrained from passing judgment or asking questions until the issue of GPS is formally addressed on the alliance's agenda. The recommended approach to dealing with friends and allies is to ensure that the US is not moving faster than consensus can be achieved, and is approaching this in a manner that integrates the bilateral discussions under alliance umbrella, to the extent possible, once some of the basic decisions on how to proceed have been made. This would allow the US to consider the specific threats to each nation and their perspectives on the GPS framework that would hopefully minimize any political alienation that could occur.

The US needs to respond quickly and decisively to the international community's expectation of US leadership on this issue. The approach to GPS should encompass long-term perspectives and consultations with allies and friends to further develop the concept. The US must be cognizant of the views of friends and allies as well as other countries we have treaty obligations with, such as China as a cosignatory of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. There exist many possible repercussions whereby use of overseas facilities or ports is threatened or other actions are taken that would affect our ongoing relationship with a particular nation. The interdependency of the global community makes this issue one requiring collaboration and cooperation.

The Antiballistic Missile Treaty: Is the Debate Over?

The changed international security environment and the responses by all recent administrations raises the question of whether the "broad-narrow" treaty interpretation debate is really over. The security imperative has been driving creativity in treaty interpretation in order to accommodate the political imperative. The security implications are quite significant when it comes to possible future conflicts. There is a growing realization that the use of space will figure prominently in future conflicts, despite the existence of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and the so-called "Sanctuary Doctrine."28 As Gen Thomas A. White observed:

Whoever has the capacity to control the air is in a position to exert control over the land and seas beneath. I feel ... whoever has the capacity to control space will likewise possess the capacity to exert control over the surface of the earth.29

Emerging world ballistic missile threats continue to prompt us to do exactly what the treaty is designed to prevent us from doing--develop a ballistic missile defense system.

Although it is possible to amend existing provisions to allow for expanded national coverage as part of a global system--for instance, amending the limit of one site in Article III to allow for five or six sites--it is our view that making such piecemeal changes would lead to many significant problems in the long run. These problems would arise from a lack of internal consistency. Given the difficulty we have had in interpreting the treaty as it currently exists, it is extremely disconcerting to imagine the kinds of problems that could arise in the future when half of the treaty reflects one premise and the other half reflects a completely opposite premise.

Any amendment contemplated must recognize the vast differences between the strategic situation that currently exists and that which existed in 1972. Specifically, these changes relate to the changed nature of the threat and would acknowledge that one of the motivating factors behind the ABM Treaty (securing limits on offensive weapons) has been achieved. This protocol would authorize the development, testing, and deployment of ballistic missile defenses that the parties now view to be in their mutual interest. The current provisions of the ABM Treaty could remain in place as a sort of backstop. This scheme would make mutual cooperation a prerequisite to the development or deployment of any defensive systems not permitted under the current ABM provisions. In any event, the long-term utility of bilateral amendments to the treaty must be compared to the utility of unilateral approaches.

Unilateral Approaches

First of all, it is not an option to ignore or violate the treaty. Not only is this action not advisable because of the long-term damage it would have on our relations with friends and allies, but more importantly it violates the most fundamental law of our land, the Constitution. Article VI of the Constitution makes treaties, along with the Constitution and federal laws, "the supreme Law of the Land." Furthermore, the Supreme Court has declared that "international law is part of our law."30 In any event, it cannot and will not be the policy of the government to breach treaty commitments. We are bound by the treaty unless and until we (or the other party) take affirmative action to terminate it.

The most dangerous course of action is to publicly proclaim adherence to the treaty while applying creative interpretations that do violence to its meaning. Reasonable, good faith interpretations that do not violate the plain meaning of the text or otherwise do violence to the spirit of the treaty do not pose a problem. On the other hand, if we can't live with the treaty in its current form, there are two policy options that allow us to legitimately move beyond treaty limitations. One option is to unilaterally terminate the treaty. Article XV permits each party to the treaty to withdraw after six months of notification if the party decides that "extraordinary events related to the subject matter of the treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests." This does not mean that a change of circumstances automatically terminates the treaty. It requires the affirmative action of a party to the agreement to exercise this provision.

As mentioned previously, international reaction to termination of the treaty is expected to be nearly universal in opposition. Many observers argue that a unilateral termination of the treaty would have "grave consequences" for the political cohesion of NATO.31 Even if we could withstand the political ostracism, there could be immediate, substantial consequences for many of our defensive systems that depend to a large extent upon the goodwill and cooperation of foreign states where components are based. A retreat to a strictly CONUS ground-based system leaves open the question of the trade-off in effectiveness.

Bilateral Approaches

The US and Russia, as a principle signatory and "successor state" to a signatory of the ABM Treaty, are necessary players in any option. The obvious bilateral option is to amend (or rewrite) the ABM Treaty in accordance with Article XIV of the treaty. One avenue would be to negotiate a carefully crafted exception to the ABM Treaty to allow for the limited deployment of a cooperative defense system. Article XIV specifies that

each Party may propose amendments to this Treaty. Agreed amendments shall enter into force in accordance with the procedures governing the entry into force of this Treaty. (Emphasis added)

The Russians have already indicated no desire to formally amend the ABM Treaty, but they are flexible regarding the establishment of a bilateral (or global) defense system.32 In order to satisfy the Russian political imperative against a "formal" amendment to the treaty, the parties to the treaty may use other instruments, such as a statement of clarification, an "exchange of letters," agreed statements, or other devices. Such instruments must clearly indicate the intent of the parties to be bound by the proffered interpretation of the treaty.33 In such a case, both parties would be bound to the agreement, regardless of the "label" attached thereto.

Multilateral implications complicate bilateral negotiations. Although the ex-Soviet states are not considered parties to the ABM Treaty, their cooperation may be essential, as indicated by the negotiation of the Bishkek and Minsk agreements. There are also key players on the US side--the United Kingdom, Denmark, Australia, and others--that must be dealt with. Similarly, these states are not parties to the treaty. Nevertheless, on both the Russian and American sides, prior consultations with our respective "defense partners" is a political necessity in the course of amending the treaty. These unique circumstances provide for bilateral negotiations with a multilateral (or multi-bilateral) flavor. Such circumstances provide for a complex mixture of power relationships. For example, the US and Russia hold the key cards in bargaining with their "partners" because only parties can formally amend the treaty. On the other hand, these partners may be key to gaining or keeping access to foreign operating locations which may be crucial to future defensive systems.

The key advantage that the bilateral approach offers over the unilateral approach is that it strengthens US-Russian cooperation and stabilizes the new, postcold war relationship. It would be a vehicle for more transparency in military operations. Over time, such confidence and security-building measures may build mutual trust between the US and Russia. In terms of disadvantages, the bilateral approach may alienate some NATO allies, even with consultations. The defensive systems posed would likely be able to defeat, and thereby trivialize, the medium-sized nuclear forces of Britain and France.

Multilateral Approaches

Once the bilateral hurdle has been met, multilateral options range from a "minimalist approach" at one end of the spectrum to a "maximalist approach" at the other, but there are also alternative options.

Minimalist Multilateral Approach.

This approach contemplates minimal cooperation with foreign states. This would likely include a cooperative early warning program that provides for exchange of information and possibly limited coordinated response to threats, but little cooperation beyond that.

There are two variations of a minimalist approach. One option would be a "global" system that provides for a sharing of early warning data through a jointly manned center (or series of centers). An advantage offered by this approach is that the exchange of early warning information adds transparency to the actions of other nations and is conceivably stabilizing. Furthermore, states would have to agree on basic conditions in order to participate in this global warning system. These conditions should include accession and compliance with specific nonproliferation rules. The disadvantage is that this scheme may not go far enough in terms of addressing the causes of the threats: unrestrained sales of arms and related technologies.

Another option would be a decentralized, regional approach. This would involve negotiating a series of regional arrangements for regionally oriented early warning centers. This approach offers the advantage of flexibility in arrangements to address regional concerns. A disadvantage of this approach is that it could serve as a force for divisiveness and fragmentation of the world into regions rather than foster global integration. This is particularly true where threats to one region may come from another region.

Maximalist Multilateral Approach.

This approach contemplates maximum cooperation with foreign states through a central organization with global responsibility. It is the ultimate application of interdependence to the security sphere. This not only includes exchange of early warning information but a fully integrated data base. This would include multinationally manned early warning centers at locations around the world. It could include integrated multinational workforces similar in design to NATO, but with a global charter.

A maximalist multilateral plan may also contemplate the possible integration of global nonproliferation (political) efforts.34 Previous antiproliferation efforts have suffered because of the lack of coordination of effort between disparate arms control regimes and lack of enforcement capacity. The Missile Technology Control Regime the Coordinating Committee on Multilateral Export Controls, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and other groups could be integrated under one umbrella organization with enhanced enforcement authority. This political body could have oversight responsibilities for defensive measures.

Membership could be made conditional upon accession to and compliance with key nonproliferation regimes. Participation in the global regime will be reciprocated through protection offered via a collective security regime. This entails more than just the provision of early warning information, but assistance in active defense measures. Only significant security guarantees could induce states possessing or developing weapons of mass destruction to join the nonproliferation club.

Although few states want to see the end of the ABM Treaty, this multilateral arrangement would likely be a more favorable option in the eyes of the international community than a purely unilateral or bilateral option, although it will take much discussion with friends and allies to convince them of the benefits of such an arrangement.

Alternative Options.

There are options available other than the maximalist or minimalist approaches. The alternative presented here represents a recognition that something more than minimal cooperation is needed between states to combat the dangers of weapon proliferation, but that full integration of global defense systems may be undesirable or unworkable, It is a recognition that national sovereignty and independence of action need not be sacrificed in order to bring about some level of global cooperation for purposes of ensuring international peace and security.

The reality is a complex network of bilateral, multilateral, and multi-bilateral relationships. The treaty must be amended by bilateral US-Russian effort, but with bilateral consultations with each signatory's defense partners. The amendment could provide the basic structure for a follow-on multilateral arrangement. Structuring the discussions this way provides for maximum US and Russian leverage over defense partners, while still including them sufficiently for meaningful cooperation in the later multilateral forum.

The basic objectives of the regimes would be to provide defense against ballistic missiles and to address the causes of proliferation. A viable variation would be a combination of regional and global arrangements for the exchange of early warning information. This parallels the early debates prior to the end of World War II about whether power should be given to a global body, such as the United Nations, or to regional organizations. The answer was a compromise, as now appears in the UN Charter. Although the Security Council has the preponderance of authority, regional organizations are given considerable power in the settlement of regional disputes.

Under this scheme, arrangements would be negotiated for regional early warning and defense centers and would be adapted to regional needs and conditions. These arrangements would allow for flexibility in local arrangements and make the job for negotiators easier by reducing the number of nations required to agree to the arrangement. NATO's structure is well suited for integration into such a framework.


We are at a Crossroads, where decisions must be made for the future course of policy. Policymakers must recognize the dramatic changes in the security environment undermining the validity of previous planning assumptions and the extraordinary challenges that lie ahead.35 New threats and new technologies require adjustments of strategy and policy.36 The failure to adapt to changed conditions is a key peril for decision makers.37 The costs in doing so are quite substantial.

It is clear that many states are preparing to use space to gain military advantage. The facade of compliance with the sanctuary doctrine has fostered a growing cynicism among several states. The changes in the reality of the use of space dictate that the diplomatic reality catch up with the security reality. Even the Senate Armed Services Committee noticed a "gap" between defense planning and the diplomatic reality:

The committee is concerned by the apparent gap between SDIO planning assumptions with regard to programs that raise ABM Treaty compliance problems and the progress to date in US and Russian efforts to negotiate amendments of the ABM Treaty. The committee urges the President to pursue vigorous changes to and clarifications of the ABM Treaty.38

The treaty will not go away of its own accord. It requires affirmative bilateral action to amend it to meet our new security needs. This provides some unique opportunities, particularly while we enjoy unprecedented favorable relations with Russia. It is an opportunity to mold the future and, perhaps, counter the emerging threat of proliferation. Such opportunities usually do not last for long and the opportunity costs for failing to act could be significant.

Placing the issue of the use of space for defensive purposes on the world agenda in the context of the global protection system could serve to force all players to "lay their cards on the table." The issue recognizes the reality of state actions in the use of space but channels those activities into an open, constructive, and cooperative mode. Rather than allowing space to be subverted to aggressive purposes, we may bring the militarization of space under control by addressing the issue publicly.

It is clear that some actions must be taken unilaterally by the US for defense. There is no global system that can be solely relied upon for our security. It is also true that the causes of the major threats to national security (i.e., the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery means) can be dealt with most effectively in a regime of greatly increased global cooperation.

Once again, states around the world are looking to the US for leadership. Therefore, a primary concern should be that of developing all aspects of US security policy in a coordinated effort. The technology involves long lead times and is dependent upon political direction. The threat posed by ballistic missiles requires a methodical, long-term strategy. The prerequisite for a coherent strategy is reconciliation of the national security imperative with the political imperative.


1. See Robert E. Osgood's introduction in Robert W. Tucker et al., SDI and U.S. Foreign Policy (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1987), xii.

2. Sidney Graybeal and Patricia McFate, "More Light on the ABM Treaty: Newly Declassified Key Documents," Arms Control Today, March 1983, 16.

3. Paul Nitze, From Hiroshima to Glastnost: At the Center of Decision--a Memoir (New York: Grove Weidenfield, 1989), 414.

4. Graybeal and McFate, 16.

5. Carl Q. Christol, Space Law: Past, Present, and Future (Boston: Kluwer Law and Taxation Publishers, 1991), 7. For a further discussion of "Statement D," see Nitze, 468.

6. Nitze, 415. There were indications that the Soviets wanted the treaty left vague on the subject of future technologies. In 1972, Soviet defense minister Andrei Grechko stated to the Soviet Presidium that the ABM Treaty "places no limitations on the performance of research and experimental work aimed at resolving the problem of defending the country from nuclear missile strike."

7. Ibid., 414.

8. See Joseph R. Biden et al., "The Treaty Power: Upholding a Constitutional Partnership," University of Pennsylvania Law Review 1529 (1989).

9. See the Missile Defense Act of 1991.

10. Robert Burns, "Pentagon Embraces Laser Weapons While Kissing SDI Goodbye," Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph, 23 June 1993, A4.

11. "SDIO Changes Its Letterhead to BMDO," Arms Control Today, June 1993: "The fate of Star Wars was sealed by the collapse of the Soviet Union. . .we find that we have a different need for a ballistic missile defense, not the massive program of space-based weapons that Ronald Reagan envisioned," 31.

12. Thomas Graham, Jr., acting director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, to Sen Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.), letter, 13 July 1993.

13. "HASC Rewrites Missile Defense Act," Defense Daily, 14 May 1992, 249. The amendment was offered by Rep Charles Bennett (D-Fla.) and Rep John Spratt (D-S. C.).

14. "Congress Approves Defense Bill, Cuts ack BMD Spending," Arms Control Today, December 1993, 24; also see Vago Muradian, "The Japanese May Deploy a Version of THAAD," Defense News, 20-26 September 1993, 1.

15. Vincent Kiernan, "Clinton to Lower Pebble's Profile," Space News, 5-11 April 1993.

16. Louis Kenkin, International Law: Cases and Materials (St. Paul, Minn.: West Publishing, 1987), 507-8. See also Article 7 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. In addition, Section 210 of the Restatement (Revised) of the Law on Human Relations states, "When part of another state becomes a state, the new state does not succeed to the international agreements to which the predecessor state was party unless, expressly or by implication, it accepts such agreements and the other party or parties thereto agree or acquiesce."

17. The Russians continue efforts to secure Latvia and Azerbaijan, as both of these states have facilities that could be used to support ABM systems.

18. Joint (US-Russian) Statement on Global Protection System Consultations, issued 22 September 1992.

19. Matthew Bunn, "The ABM Talks: The More Things Change. . .," Arms Control Today, September 1992, 15-20. Boris Yeltsin on 31 January 1992 made known his desire to adhere to the ABM Treaty.

20. Ibid., 21.

21. "Clinton Continues Quest for Joint Defense Effort," Space News, 17-23 May 1993, 2.

22. Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, 1991 Report to the Congress on the Strategic Defense Initiative (Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense, 1991), 1-1.

23. Ibid., 1-11.

24. Ibid.

25. Ibid., 1-11, 1-12.

26. Pat Moon, interview with author, US Mission to NATO Political Section, July 1993.

27. Barbara Opall, "ABM Policy Shifts Imperil Clinton's Military Strategy," Defense News, 4-10 Octover 1993, 14.

28. The ability of the US to use any of its four force packages depends heavily on its ability to operate in the high ground of space. See Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Military Strategy of the United States (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, January 1992), 24.

29. David E. Lupton, On Space Warfare: A Space Power Doctrine (Maxwell AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 1988), 37.

30. This was US Supreme Court Justice Harold Gray's statement in the famous case of The Paquette Habana (175 U.S. 677[1900]). compliance with international law is referred to in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which specifically directs Congress to define and punish "offenses against the Law of Nations."

31. See Sanford Lakoff and Randy Willoughby, eds., Strategic Defense and the Western Alliance (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1987), 32.

32. Bunn, 15-20.

33. Article 11 of the Viena Convention on the Law of Treaties states that "the consent of a state to be bound by a treaty may be expressed by signature, exchange of instruments constituting a treaty ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, or by any other means if so agreed." Although the US and the former USSR were not signatories, much of the Viena Convention is still considered by both parties to reflect customary international law. A copy of the convention can be found in T.O. Elias, The Modern Law of Treaties (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Oceana Publications, Inc., 1974), 227-54.

34. Rolf Ekeus, "The Iraqi Experience and the Future of Nuclear Proliferation," Washington Quarterly, Autumn 1992, 72-72. The Author points out the need for coordination between diverse nonproliferation organizations like the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEE), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, among others. The lack of coordination has hampered effective controls on proliferation.

35. Sue McMillin, "Star Wars: A Tale of Technology, Politics, and Money," Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph, 21 March 1993, A7.

36. This is a paraphrase of Alvin Toffler's statement that "technology must be assimilated by the user." Quoted in Lupton, 11.

37. Examples include the advent of the armor-piercing crossbow during the Hundred Years' War, heavy artillery in the First World War, and air power in the Second World War.

38. Report of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 1993, S. Doc. 102-362, 102d cong., 2d sess., 1992, 138.


Lt Col Charles Shotwell (USAFA; LLD, American University; JD, University of Puget Sound School of Law) is an assistant professor of political science at the US Air Force Academy and formerly a USAF National Defense Fellow with the International Security Studies Program at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. He also served as chief of the Legislative Affairs Section for the Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs. Colonel Shotwell is both a lawyer and an international politico-military affairs officer.

Maj Joginder Dhillon (USAFA; JD, Harvard Law School) is assistant professor of law at the US Air Force Academy. During extended TDY to SDIO general counsel's office, Major Dhillon briefed members of the DOD Compliance Review Group on the limits imposed by the ABM Treaty on GPALS test and acquisition schedules. He also worked with SDIO's international law advisor on developing amendments to the ABM Treaty that would allow deployment of a system consistent with the mandate of the Missile Defense Act of 1991.

Capt Deborah C. Pollard (USAFA; MPP, JFK School of Government, Harvard University) is an assistant professor of political science at the US Air Force Academy, where she is the director of a course in US national space policy. She was previously assigned to the Space Programs Directorate at Headquarters Electronic Security Command and completed a project on the joint planning process while on extended TDY at USSPACECOM/JSX (Plans and Policy).


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.