ABM Treaty Modification Recent Developments

During the last decade, the U.S. conducted several steps aimed at collapsing the ABM Treaty, which is considered as a cornerstone of strategic stability. As a result of U.S. initiatives the Joint U.S.- Russian Statement On A Global Protection System (1992) and the Joint Statement Concerning The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (1997) were signed.

However, the most wide scale attack on the ABM Treaty has been conducted since January 1999, when the officials of President Clinton’s administration, previously opposing to "BMD hawks", unequivocally pledged for support of development and deployment of a national missile defense system prohibited by existing ABM treaty. In particular, Secretary of Defense William Cohen said the administration intends to open negotiations with Moscow on ways of amending the treaty to allow the United States to deploy missile defenses now in development. However, if the Russians refused to amend the treaty, he made clear: "...Then we have the option of our national interest indicating we would simply pull out of the treaty..." Also in January, 1999 President Bill Clinton wrote to Russian President Boris Yeltsin outlining his plans to develop and test a national missile defense system. Russian President’s administration indicated, that the U.S. proposals were being studied. However, the reaction of Igor Ivanov, Foreign Minister and Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, Head of the Defense Ministry’s Main Department for Military Co-operation, was sharp and very negative.

The decisive factor in change of the U.S. administration’s position on development of ballistic missile defenses was played by the U.S. Congress. The Congress approved the Cochran-Inouye bill on May 20, 1999, which states: "It is the policy of the United States to deploy as soon as is technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack (whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate)." The bill enters into force after President Clinton signs it.

On June 20, 1999 Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin have agreed in Cologne to resume discussions on START III and on the ABM Treaty in the fall. Thus, for the first time the Russians have agreed to discuss changes in the ABM Treaty. The Clinton administration hopes to have an agreement with Russia by next June on modification.

Source: ABM Treaty Modification: Should Russia Agree?
Updated July 16, 1999,

Back to index / Global Network Home Page