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Ambassador Robert Grey Discusses Missile Defense, ABM Treaty

Ambassador Robert Grey Discusses Missile Defense, ABM Treaty

U.S. seeks limited response to limited missile threat: Statement by Ambassador Robert T. Grey, Jr., U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament, during a seminar sponsored by The Netherlands Atlantic Association, The Hague, June 29, 2001. Source: Washington File, EUR405, U.S. Department of State, Washington D.C., July 7, 2001.

A key U.S. arms control official, in a recent speech to the Netherlands Atlantic Association, said the United States and its allies "have an inherent right to adopt appropriate methods of missile defense."

But Ambassador Robert Grey, the U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament, pointed out that missile defense is only "a general category, a range of possibilities, a collection of different methods and approaches that could be applied under a variety of different circumstances" and should not be viewed as an impenetrable anti-missile shield.

"We have no illusion that our plans for missile defense would shield the United States, or our allies and friends, from all possible attacks involving ballistic missiles," he said in remarks June 29 at The Hague. Instead, missile defenses would not be effective if an attack involved large numbers of technically advanced missiles.

The United States is pursuing a limited missile defense response against a limited ballistic missile threat, Grey said. He also noted that missile defenses have existed "for many years," citing as an example the use of Patriot missiles against Iraqi Scud missiles fired at Israel and Saudi Arabia during the Gulf war. "The military forces of many countries, including those of the United States, have long had the capacity to intercept and destroy short- and medium-range missiles in a battlefield environment," he added.

Grey also talked about the need to move beyond a total and exclusive reliance on a nuclear deterrence posture of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) and to make additional, substantial reductions in nuclear offensive weapons. "Yesterday's doctrines will not bring us the tomorrow to which we and the other four nuclear-weapons states (Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France) committed ourselves in Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty -- a world free from nuclear weapons," he said.

The United States is very serious about its obligation to work toward this goal, the ambassador said. "We believe limited missile defense can help to move us in that direction, so that the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction can finally be relegated to the dustbin of history."

Grey also said that all current research and development work on missile defenses is compliant with the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. But he said the U.S. is in the process of examining a very broad range of technologies and at some point ABM Treaty prohibitions may interfere with options the U.S. might wish to pursue.

"There will undoubtedly be strong differences of opinion as to when we will actually reach that point," he said, but when it is reached "we will debate, argue, and negotiate at home and with our allies." Grey went on to say that if and when the U.S. decides that it needs relief from ABM Treaty constraints, "we would prefer to achieve this by agreement with the Russian Federation."

Grey said the U.S. understands that pursuing missile defense "has significant implications for all members of the Atlantic Alliance -- and for a wide range of other allies and friends throughout the world," which is why a broad series of consultations have been underway.

In the longer-run, he said, there are many technical challenges to be overcome in the missile defense arena. But he also emphasized that the U.S. "will not deploy missile defense systems that simply do not work."

Following is the text of Grey's statement: (begin text)

Missile Defense

Statement by Ambassador Robert T. Grey, Jr.,, U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament, during a seminar sponsored by The Netherlands Atlantic Association, The Hague, June 29, 2001.

As I begin, please allow me go back in time a bit. We Americans owe the Netherlands a great deal, and I want you to know that we have not forgotten.

During the American revolution, you were the first nation to salute our new flag. The Netherlands also loaned us money in the uncertain days when our independence was at stake, and in contrast to France's experience I believe we actually paid you back. Above all you gave us the Roosevelts -- Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Ann. They were towering figures in the growth and development of the United States.

Why do I mention the Roosevelts today? Because these three helped set the metes and bounds of the modern American Republic, both domestically and internationally, in ways that will not change. They created a national republic with a social conscience, a national republic that abandoned isolationism and went on to pull its weight in the international sphere.

The moment when Theodore Roosevelt succeeded William McKinley represents a seismic shift in America. And despite ail the rhetoric we hear from critics, pundits, and self-proclaimed experts, the United States is not about to return to the days of McKinley. President McKinley was an interesting man, but his era faded into the mists of time like an old Stephen Foster song.

In contrast, the America that the Roosevelts helped to create still remains vital and vibrant. It has lived on long after their era and will endure long after ours.

"The anti-missile shield"

When our hosts planned this seminar, they decided that the formal written topic for session III should start with the phrase: "The anti-missile shield." This phrase makes me very uncomfortable, and before we can go forward I need to go back again. This time I shall go quite a long way back, for I shall take you to legendary times in ancient China.

During that distant era, a particularly enterprising salesman showed up one morning in a village marketplace. This salesman was hawking "irresistible spears," an offensive weapon for which there was no effective defense. The villagers were impressed. After handing out the spears and raking in the money, the salesman went off to lunch.

When he returned to the marketplace that afternoon, his stockpile was quite different: The salesman was now hawking "impenetrable shields," a strategy for defense that would make any attack useless and ineffective.

Truth in advertising had not yet been imagined, but something else was invented that day -- the Chinese term for contradiction. This term, still in active use now, combines the Chinese word for spear with the Chinese word for shield. In Mandarin, that is roughly MAU-'DUYHN, but if you want to hear the term pronounced properly you will have to find someone who speaks Chinese. I obviously do not.

So now we can start rummaging through the contradictions. As the first of many, please allow me to point out that here in this session and throughout this seminar, we are not talking about the shield. To say it that way implies that "the shield" is some kind of unified reality, a specific thing that actually exists.

No, missile defense is a general category, a range of possibilities, a collection of different methods and approaches that could be applied under a variety of different circumstances. And this general category is by no means an "impenetrable shield."

We have no illusion that our plans for missile defense would shield the United States, or our allies and friends, from ail possible attacks involving ballistic missiles. To the contrary, we fully understand that these plans would be ineffective in the event of an attack involving large numbers of missiles that are technically advanced.

Nevertheless, the United States government believes the various plans we are considering would be constructive and helpful under certain circumstances that we are especially concerned about. We are seeking a limited response to a limited threat.

During this seminar's first session, various speakers identified perceived threats associated with several states of concern. They spent over an hour talking about this, pointing out that we have no effective defense at present. I therefore believe it would be inappropriate for me to repeat the details. Instead, I should move on to the next contradiction.

This one is much more general, perhaps even existential in the manner of the French philosopher Sartre who flourished in the 1950s and fell from fashion soon thereafter. The emotional and political overtones of this seminar -- and indeed the emotional and political overtones of the entire debate that has gripped so many of our colleagues and counterparts throughout the world -- imply that missile defense is something profoundly new, something rather strange, as if it had suddenly sprung fully formed from the brow of Jove and were walking about in a dreamy daze, wondering which foot to put forward next.

Not so. Missile defense exists and has existed for many years. Those of us who watched hour upon hour of CNN broadcasts during the Gulf War remember that Patriot missiles were shooting down Scud missiles over Israel and Saudi Arabia. Not all the Patriots worked properly, which is to say that some of the Scuds got through and caused significant damage -- yet another reason for further research.

The military forces of many countries, including those of the United States, have long had the capacity to intercept and destroy short- and medium-range missiles in a battlefield environment. Many other speakers are in a position to confirm this, and I am sure they would do so if they were asked.

Broader capabilities do not exist now, but we believe it will be possible to develop missile defense systems that would provide substantial protection to an entire region or theater. Members of NATO are talking about that, on the understanding that no single method could be expected to be "leak-proof" or perfect. We have likewise taken note of the general concepts that Russia put forward concerning a missile defense system for the European region.

So far, it would seem, there is relatively little controversy. That may not be a contradiction, but it is at least an irony.

When we cross the threshold and speak of missile defense for the overall protection of national territory, the discussion becomes more heated. Some observers might remark that at this point, certain critics "go ballistic" -- a mixed metaphor that undoubtedly involves irony and paradox.

In the end, the phrase "go ballistic" ends up meaning anger that exceeds all bounds of reason and proportion. There need to be calmer and more balanced ways for us to discuss these issues.

The ABM Treaty

Many critics and commentators have proclaimed a need to preserve, protect, and defend the Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems that representatives of the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics signed in Moscow on May 26, 1972 -- as if that treaty were holy writ or perhaps a holy relic.

The United States agrees that the ABM Treaty; as it stands, is becoming a relic. We need to update it to reflect today's realities.

In the final analysis, the ABM Treaty bespeaks a balance of terror, a Cold War calculation that the physical security and ultimate fate of hundreds of millions of human beings had to be held hostage to the prospect of instant annihilation. That intense irony, that palpable contradiction, may have been necessary at the time. It is not necessary now, for it has been 10 years since the Cold War ended. As Secretary of State Powell has stressed, we must move beyond the doctrines of the Cold War and find a new basis for our mutual security.

Some people find it comfortable to live in the past. We Americans choose to embrace the future.

U.S. plans for missile defense are not aimed at Russia, and we would like to work out a new security framework for our bilateral relations. There appeared to be a very positive atmosphere when President Bush and President Putin met on June 16, and we hope that Russia and the United States have begun the long process of considering what the new security framework could be. For our part, we do not accept the legacy of an old adversarial relationship based on mutual hostility and counting weapons. Instead, the United States will seek to build more normal and more positive ties with Russia that are based on common objectives and mutual interests.

In this context, I want to emphasize that the research and development work that the United States is carrying out now does not conflict with any provisions of the ABM Treaty. For accuracy and balance, I must also make it clear that the U.S. is examining a very broad range of technologies, and that we expect to reach a point down the road when prohibitions contained in the ABM Treaty actually could interfere with options that we want to pursue actively and intensively.

There will undoubtedly be strong differences of opinion as to when we will actually reach that point in the road. When the situation arises, we will debate, argue, and negotiate at home and with our allies.

This is one issue on which it behooves all of us to play long. Everyone who participates in this debate should seek common ground rather than rushing into premature actions that may have serious adverse consequences. I know that semantic overkill is part of the democratic tradition of give and take, but these issues call for statesmanship, not dogmatism.

If and when the United States concludes that it needs relief from constraints contained in the ABM Treaty; we would prefer to achieve this by agreement with the Russian Federation. Overall, it seems reasonable to hope that the United States and Russia have enough time to work out a new security framework. We certainly want to do that.

Collective security

Although our allies in Europe and elsewhere have never been parties to the ABM Treaty, many of them have been very generous with their advice on how the United States and Russia should carry out its provisions. This is natural, for the underlying issues are fundamental for everyone. Give and take is an approach that democratic alliances take for granted.

Still, I cannot help reflecting that some of those who call my country a "hyper-power" may be doing this out of a logical calculation that their own country will therefore rank as a "superpower." These semantic distinctions may be comforting to some who believe that their traditional intellectual prowess and formation makes them superior to lesser breeds, but none of that makes sense in today's world.

When you look at the political, economic, security, and environmental problems we confront on this small planet, the notions of power politics and unilateralism seem increasingly inadequate. We need to work together collectively if we are to overcome these difficulties. Going it alone on matters this complex is not a valid option for anyone. Either we collectively light a candle, or we shall individually curse the darkness.

So at this stage we have encountered several pleasant paradoxes, although they are not exactly contradictions. But perhaps I should return to the sober tone of diplomatic understatement.

The United States fully understands that missile defense has significant implications for all members of the Atlantic Alliance and for a wide range of other allies and friends throughout the world. We have therefore been actively consulting our allies and friends on the most suitable approaches, and we will continue to do so.

On June 13, President Bush participated in an historic meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels. At that time, Czech President Vaclav Havel commented that NATO is a defensive alliance and should consider defensive systems. We wholeheartedly agree, and we find it difficult to understand how defensive measures can be considered threatening.

That is upside down and amounts to yet another contradiction. After all, defensive measures defend. It is offensive arms that threaten.

Let us not forget: We are seeking to reduce the number of offensive nuclear weapons, not maintain them at present levels. After all, our goal is to eliminate them.

Technical challenges still need to be overcome, and I can assure you that the United States will not deploy missile defense systems that simply do not work. We are a practical people, firmly anchored in reality. We have no plans to head off half cocked, and we value the constructive contributions of others.

While attending the meeting of the North Atlantic Council, President Bush said he hoped that the unilateral theory is now dead. After all, he said, "Unilateralists do not come to the table to share opinions. Unilateralists do not come here to ask questions."

Key principles and rights

As Atlanticists who happen to be Europeans, you undoubtedly recognize that the political context in East Asia is very different. Many Asian and Pacific allies of the United States have a strong interest in possible methods of missile defense, along with an awareness that certain political adjustments may likewise be needed.

In contrast, China has emphasized its deep concerns.

The United States would like to build affirmative and forward-looking relations with China on political, economic, and cultural levels. We have repeatedly stated that U.S. plans for missile defense are not aimed at China; and we hope that China will come to understand and accept this.

There are certain paradoxes that will also have to be understood and put in proper context.

Article 51 of the United Nations Charter speaks of the inherent right of self-defense. Let us be quite clear: The UN Charter does not accord the right of self-defense. To the contrary, the Charter recognizes the right of self-defense, saying that this right is inherent and that nothing in the Charter shall impair it.

The conclusion ought to be obvious, but I shall state it anyway: The United States and its allies have an inherent right to adopt appropriate methods of missile defense.

Both in logic and in practice, this is closely associated with two fundamental principles that are enshrined in Articles 1 and 2 of the UN Charter. In brief, these two principles are the peaceful settlement of disputes and the non-use of force.

If a nation is unwilling to set aside the possible use of force, if that same nation wants to exert pressure by holding open the possibility that it may seek to resolve a dispute by force of arms, then it may indeed have concerns about possible measures of self-defense that others may be able to employ. But the solution to all this is not to try to curtail the right of others to defend themselves if need be. No, the solution is to agree once and for all that the dispute in question will be resolved by peaceful means, and that other methods will not even be considered.

At the start of my statement, I cited the Chinese term for contradiction and pointed out that there is no such thing as an "impenetrable shield." As I near the end of my remarks, I must likewise stress that there is no such thing as an "irresistible spear."

For almost 30 years, offensive missiles were thought to be effectively irresistible. The total and exclusive reliance on "Mutual Assured Destruction" was indeed MAD, as implied by the abbreviation we concocted then and still use now.

I realize that the principle of nuclear deterrence will remain important for strategic stability for many years to come. There can be no doubt about that.

But we need to move beyond MAD now and continue to make substantial reductions in the number of offensive weapons. Yesterday's doctrines will not bring us the tomorrow to which we and the other four nuclear-weapons states committed ourselves in Article VI of the Non-proliferation Treaty -- a world free from nuclear weapons.

The United States is very serious about our obligation to work toward this goal. We believe limited missile defenses can help to move us in that direction, so that the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction can finally be relegated to the dustbin of history.

At the end of the day, we cannot have it both ways. If we want to move toward nuclear disarmament, we need to move away from MAD -- first to a more limited form of nuclear deterrence, and then gradually toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

(end text)

 

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).

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