wide spectrum of threats, including missile attack.
I, you, the US Congress, NATO and Russia all support missile defences. But there are wide chasms within that apparent consensus. It all depends on your definition of “mis- sile defence”. Most support research, short-range defences and exploration of national-defence options. There is broad opposition, however, to abro- gating the ABM Treaty and pursuing a crash programme to deploy ineffec- tive interceptors.
The budget for missile defence has indeed ballooned this year, but this may be its high-water mark. Political and editorial opinion across the United States and Europe is over- whelmingly in favour of preserving the treaty regime that has helped keep our nations secure for over 50 years and for responsible budgets. For example, the most widely distrib- uted paper in the country, USA Today, argued in an editorial on 22 October that: “The missile-defence programme stands as an embarrass- ing admission that the United States during the past decade has spent con- siderable time and money attempting to counter the least likely of threats: a rogue nation willing to commit national suicide by launching a nuclear-tipped missile. Neglected was the more urgent threat of low- budget terrorists with rich imagina- tions.”
For fiscal year 2002, the federal government has budgeted $1.7 bil- lion to combat WMD terrorism, as part of a $9.7 billion budget for anti- terrorism efforts overall. Yet we will spend, as you note, $7.9 billion on missile defence. We must restore some balance.
KEITH B. PAYNE versusJOSEPH CIRINCIONE
If Osama bin Laden had a nuclear weapon, few doubt he would use it. But where would he get one? Most likely from the vast, poorly secured stockpiles of materials, weapons and expertise remaining in Russia and other former Soviet states — some within 800 km of Afghanistan. This is why it is so important to secure and eliminate the 20,000 Russian nuclear weapons and 1,100 tons of fissile material, and find jobs for the thou- sands of unemployed nuclear scien- tists and biowarfare specialists. We should triple the $700 million per year the US government spends on cooperative threat-reduction pro- grammes with Russia (and help con- vince the European Union to start spending some serious money as well). If we did, we could secure and eliminate most of the threat within eight years.
This is the tragedy of the Bush- Putin meeting in Crawford. All the good humour and good food still left the new strategic framework an empty shell. The chance to lock-in binding weapons reductions and to secure Russian arsenals against ter- rorist thefts was missed because of the positions you and others have championed. Disagreements over a missile-defence system that exists only on paper prevented progress in reducing genuine nuclear threats.
Even after the international coali- tion smashes al-Qaida and uproots its American and European cells, other terrorist threats will remain. There will always be a terrorist demand for weapons of mass destruction. Our best defence is to shrink the supply. This, in the end, is where you and I differ. Missile defence has a role to play in a com- prehensive defence. For you, it is the leading role. For me it is a bit player in a larger and more urgent drama.
I appreciate your endorsement of missile defence and your agreement with my initial point that there is an American political consensus for pri- ority spending on missile defence. No evidence suggests that this politi- cal consensus is fracturing. Recent polling data from the Pew Research Center, for example, reveals that since 11 September the already strong public support for defence spending and missile defence has increased.
I agree with you that missile defence is only one of a variety of US and allied security requirements. But, missile defence is essential and there is no necessary choice between it and other security needs, financial- ly or operationally. Congress rightly and obviously will fund missile defence and other requirements. The recent $40 billion emergency anti- terrorism appropriation, for example, will build on existing civilian and military counter-measures.
We also concur on the need for balance. The existing “imbalance”, however, is in the complete absence of missile defence, the complete vul- nerability of the United States and allies to missile attack. No other vul- nerability has been accepted with such equanimity. We will seek to rec- tify this imbalance, so that a future biological or nuclear-armed missile does not find America as unprepared as it was for 11 September. To eschew missile defence now, in the
Missile defence will now have to compete with new defence demands, most of which the American people see as addressing more urgent threats
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