The Bush Administration’s announcement on 13 December to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in order to proceed with plans to develop and deploy ballistic missile defenses threatens both US and international security. The announcement that the US will withdraw from the accord negotiated with the former USSR is a signal that the US is willing to act unilaterally and outside the jurisdiction of international law. US withdrawal from the ABM treaty may provoke arms races, including in Outer Space, and undermine international disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.
The deployment of ballistic missile defenses is not an effective means to countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. The deployment of ballistic missile defenses will only produce instability and insecurity in critical regions of the world, including in North East Asia, the Middle East, and South Asia.
Although the proposed US missile defense systems would have been utterly useless in the 11 September terrorist attacks, the Pentagon and other proponents of the systems have continued to call for increased funding for missile defense in the US 2002 fiscal year (FY 2002). The FY 2002 Defense Authorization Bill includes $7 to $8.3 billion for missile defense spending (the President is provided authority to spend $1.3 billion either for missile defense or to combat terrorism, a $3 billion or 57% increase over the authorized FY 2001 budget.
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, an international non-profit, non-partisan education and advocacy organization, believes that a much better option to increase global cooperation and security is to preserve the ABM Treaty until something more comprehensive can replace it. While the stated purpose of ballistic missile defense systems is to defend against missile attacks, it is unlikely that they could do so effectively.
Additionally, the inherent link between the deployment of ballistic missile defense and the weaponization of outer space means that withdrawal from the ABM Treaty will allow the US to continue conduct tests of space weapons. A far better option for the US would be to take the lead on long-promised negotiations for the abolition of nuclear weapons, as well as other weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation urges Congress oppose the President’s announced withdrawal from the ABM Treaty. The Foundation also urges the US, Russia, China, and other countries to renew and fulfill their commitments to multilateral agreements, in particular all nuclear weapons states should fulfill their nuclear disarmament obligations in accordance to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
For more information on global initiatives to prevent the proliferation of ballistic missiles and abolish weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, please visit the website of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation at https://www.wagingpeace.org.