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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

25 July 2002

Rumsfeld: U.S. Will Continue to Provide Allies with Nuclear Umbrella

(Says nuclear level should keep nations from "sprint to parity")
By Jacquelyn S. Porth
Washington File Security Affairs Correspondent
Washington -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the reduced
number of operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads that the
United States will retain in 2012 is still sufficient to provide "a
nuclear umbrella" for friends and allies while discouraging other
countries from trying to develop a nuclear capability.
Testifying July 25 before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the
national security implications of the new U.S.-Russian Moscow Treaty,
Rumsfeld said the planned strategic reduction to a range of 1,700 to
2,200 warheads for each side still leaves "a substantial number of
nuclear weapons" that are sufficient to reassure U.S. "friends and
allies that we have and will have the kind of capability necessary to
provide a nuclear umbrella over them," thereby, "dissuading them from
thinking they need nuclear weapons."
The new levels are also designed "to leave no doubt in other
countries' minds," he said, "that it would not be in their interest to
think they could sprint to parity or superiority," because U.S. levels
will still be sufficiently high that countering them "would require a
substantial investment" over a long period of time.
Rumsfeld said the U.S. decision to seek deep reductions is predicated
on the notion that Russia is a country "embarked on turning West."
U.S. officials are working toward a future, he said, when "no arms
control treaties" will be needed between the two nations.
The secretary said the U.S. decision also "is premised on decisions to
invest in a number of other critical areas" outlined in the
administration's 2003 budget request. These investments and others, he
said, "should allow the U.S., over time, to reduce our reliance on
nuclear weapons and enact the deep nuclear reductions contained in the
Moscow Treaty."
Some of the investments Rumsfeld described included improvements in
U.S. intelligence collection, analysis, processing and dissemination;
revitalized missile defense research and testing; improved capability
to detect and respond to biological attack; conversion of four Trident
submarines into stealthy cruise missile-equipped platforms, populated
with Special Operations forces, if needed for deployment into
restricted areas; better protected information networks; and increased
survivability for U.S. space systems.
During the question-and-answer session, Rumsfeld was asked if the
Russians define "operationally-deployed" strategic nuclear warheads in
the same way in the Treaty as does the United States. He said they use
"something roughly approximating" the U.S. method. Joint Chiefs of
Staff Chairman Richard Myers, who testified alongside Rumsfeld, said
that, for treaty purposes, the U.S. military "will derive the total
number of warheads from the number of warheads on Intercontinental
Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) deployed in their launchers, the number on
Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles in their launch tubes onboard
submarines, and nuclear weapons loaded on heavy bombers or stored in
weapons storage areas at heavy bomber bases."
Both officials were asked about their level of concern about Russian
ICBMs that can be placed on multiple independently-targeted reentry
vehicles (MIRVs), since the U.S. had been very concerned about the
Russian SS-18 missile in the past. Rumsfeld said the subject today is
"much less important" than it was when the two superpowers were
adversaries. Even if Russia were to MIRV a portion of its missile
force in the future, he said, that action would not destabilize the
existing U.S.-Russian relationship. Myers concurred saying this topic
is "a lot less interesting" to the Joint Chiefs of Staff than it was
during the height of the Cold War "when we were enemies."
Asked about the status of U.S. MX Peacekeeper ICBM missiles and silos,
Myers said the Peacekeepers will be eliminated and the warheads will
be put on Minuteman missiles. His testimony indicated that warheads
nominally associated with the deactivated Peacekeepers are not being
counted in the Moscow Treaty as operational deployed. He said no
decision has been made as yet on the silos.
Rumsfeld was also asked if the absence of specific timetables for
reductions under the Moscow Treaty might cause an advantage or
disadvantage for one side or the other. He pointed out that each
government made its decision to reduce weapons unilaterally, and then
those decisions were brought together and codified in a
legally-binding document. Each side is now free to do whatever is in
its interest during the draw down period, the secretary said, adding
that he expects the withdrawal to be "uneven."
Rumsfeld was also asked repeatedly about the issue of tactical or
theater nuclear weapons. He said the security of Russian theater
nuclear weapons "is a very serious issue," adding that he has raised
the subject in every meeting he has been in with the Russians.
U.S. analysts do not have a solid estimate on the numbers of tactical
nuclear weapons that the Russians possess, Rumsfeld said, but they
have "many multiples more than we do." He said he expects substantive
discussions to occur on this topic, as well as on the subjects of
transparency, predictability, and verification, during a meeting now
scheduled for the U.S.-Russian foreign and defense ministers in
September. "We think that some degree of transparency would be helpful
as to what they are doing by way of production,...destruction,...[and]
storage," the secretary added.
The secretary was also asked about reports that India wants to create
its own missile defense system using technology derived from the joint
U.S.-Israeli Arrow ballistic missile program. Rumsfeld said the
administration has not yet developed a position regarding the Arrow
for India.
Rumsfeld was also non-committal about a suggestion made by Senator
John Warner (Republican, Virginia) that NATO play a role in stemming
the deteriorating situation in the Middle East. Making a pitch to
Rumsfeld, who was President Reagan's special envoy to the region from
1983 to 1984, the ranking Republican committee member said NATO
nations could help bring stability to the region by carrying out a
peacekeeping role similar to what was done in the Balkans. NATO is the
only organization with sufficient credibility in the world, Warner
said, and "is ready to roll."
The Europeans have tended to sympathize with the Palestinians and the
Americans with the Israelis, Warner said, but "NATO bounds us as one
unit." NATO intervention could not occur, he said, without consensus
in the alliance, an invitation from both sides of the conflict, and an
expression by both the Palestinians and the Israelis that they are
ready to cooperate.
Asked about U.S. support for the Cooperative Threat Reduction program
in Russia, Rumsfeld said some $4,000 million to $5,000 million has
already been spent by American taxpayers on the destruction,
management, and security of Russian nuclear weapons and material. It
is important for all the countries of the world to realize, he said,
"that it is not just the United States that has the obligation to
destroy Russian nuclear weapons. Russia has an obligation, and they
have to make priorities and choices." The Russians "have people who
are potentially every bit as vulnerable as anyone in the United States
to the mismanagement or mishandling or lack of security of their
weapons," he said, but the Western European countries also "have an
obligation and an interest" in contributing to threat reduction.
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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