Official: Russia Opposes Any ABM Treaty Change

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Official: Russia Opposes
Any ABM Treaty Change

05/04/00 11:10:01 AM U.S. EDT

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia opposes U.S. proposals for amending an anti-missile treaty because the defense system Washington wants to build could be the basis for a shield covering all of the United States, a Defense Ministry official said today.

Col. Gen Leonid Ivashov, head of the ministry's international cooperation department, said Russia doesn't see any reason to revise the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which blocks Russia and the United States from building national missile defense systems.

The United States wants to amend the treaty to build a limited defense system against possible attacks by “rogue states” such as North Korea. The U.S. government says the system wouldn't be able to protect against the widespread attack Russia is capable of launching. A first stage of the proposed U.S. system would install rockets and a radar to knock down missile attacks from Asia. The second phase, focused on defending against threats from the Middle East, wouldn't be built before 2010.

But Ivashov said the defenses could easily be expanded. “One may get the impression at first glance that the U.S. plans to deploy 'a limited missile defense system' in one region,” he said. “What is actually meant here is a system with such control and target-acquisition means ... which can be easily expanded to national dimensions.”

Russia fears the U.S. system could provide a defense against any nuclear attack, making Moscow's nuclear weapons useless and leaving it defenseless. Russia, with its economy in shambles, cannot afford a missile defense system.

The United States insists its plan is not a threat to Russia and would not lead to a new arms race. The ABM treaty rests on the concept that banning anti-nuclear defenses would make both sides vulnerable to nuclear destruction and thereby ensure that they never use atomic weapons.

Moscow calls the ABM treaty a cornerstone of strategic stability. President Vladimir Putin has threatened to pull out of other arms control agreements if the Americans break the treaty.

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