THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release May 5, 1998 As Prepared for Delivery
REMARKS BY SAMUEL R. BERGER
ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS
TO THE ANNUAL WASHINGTON FORUM OF
BUSINESS EXECUTIVES FOR NATIONAL SECURITY
May 5, 1998
I am delighted to address Business Executives for National Security, which has contributed so much over 16 years to strengthen the security of the United States.
I will never forget your unofficial slogan -- coined by your founder, Stanley Weiss -- "Being dead is bad for business" -- although I've always felt there were exceptions to the rule. For example, Elvis Presley.
When you formed BENS in the early 1980's, nuclear weapons and arms control were hotly debated topics. Citizens were marching across the country for a nuclear freeze, and arms control disputes made the headlines nearly every day. Many high school students could tell you the difference between the Minuteman and Midgetman, the ALCM and the SLCM, the SS-18 and the D-5. A Pentagon official was telling reporters how to build a bomb shelter by digging a hole and covering it with doors and dirt. Star Wars was not just a Hollywood fantasy but a Beltway fixation.
The New Yorker magazine -- when it used to run long pieces -- ran even longer ones about the devastation that nuclear war would bring. A TV movie warned of the agonies of the day after. Crowds thronged to "A Walk in the Woods," a stage play about the Geneva arms negotiations.
In that period of intense public concern about nuclear war, BENS played a crucial role -- bringing the prestige and knowledge of business leaders to bear on the debate and helping move the superpowers away from confrontational arms racing to lasting, verifiable arms control.
Unfortunately, some arms control groups faded away once the intense nuclear debate of the 80's had passed. But BENS has stayed in business -- pressing our Government to make the smartest possible choices with defense resources and remaining vigilant and aggressive on arms control matters.
President Clinton and his national security team share your goals -- a stronger, well-managed defense and enduring efforts to reduce arsenals and prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
While the intensity of the 80's seems far away in this more hopeful period -- with the Cold War over and nuclear reductions well underway -- the risks are no less real. Regional rivalries now drive dangerous arms races. Terrorists seek weapons of mass destruction. And although we have made considerable progress with a democratic Russia in reducing nuclear arsenals, we need to go further.
I want to talk this morning about what this President has accomplished on arms control and -- more importantly -- our plans to do even more as we seek to build a more secure future.
After years of confrontation, the Reagan-Bush Administrations made dramatic progress in arms reduction agreements with the Soviet Union. As you know, START I limited each side to 6000 strategic nuclear warheads, and START II would lower the ceiling to between 3000 and 3500. Perhaps most importantly, these agreements banish forever multiple-warhead land-based missiles -- the most powerful, the most vulnerable, the most worrisome weapons on both sides.
We have built on these accomplishments with a comprehensive agenda. Since 1993, the President has aggressively pursued efforts to halt the spread and testing of nuclear explosives. In 1995, working with other countries, we succeeded in achieving an extension of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty -- indefinitely and without condition. The next year, the nations of the world -- including the five declared nuclear weapons states -- signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. And last year, the President submitted the Treaty to the Senate, with safeguard provisions to protect our national interests.
On strategic nuclear weapons, the President made entry into force of START I and II, and the denuclearization of Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, a top priority. START I went into force in December 1994, and with the continuing engagement of the United States, the last nuclear weapons were removed from the three former Soviet republics by May 1995. We made plans to structure our strategic forces to facilitate even deeper cuts while maintaining an effective deterrent.
And we reoriented missile defense from expensive, technologically improbable programs that would have undermined the 1972 ABM Treaty to genuinely achievable efforts to protect against shorter-range missile attacks -- along with sensible research and development on larger-scale defenses.
In March 1997 at Helsinki, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agreed on a framework for deeper cuts under START III. And in New York last September, our two nations signed four very important agreements concerning START II and the ABM Treaty -- about which I will have more to say in a moment.
Where do we go from here? By the end of the President's second term, our goal is to have in place a sound START III agreement that reduces strategic nuclear arsenals by 80 percent from Cold War heights -- down to 2000 to 2500 warheads per side. Reductions will continue to focus on ensuring a survivable nuclear force capable of deterring a hostile opponent.
Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin are paving the way to a safer future. But matters now lie very much in the hands of our two legislatures.
The future of arms control, as American administrations -- Republican and Democratic -- have pursued it over 40 years, could be decided in the next several months as the Russian Duma addresses START II and the United States Senate debates and votes on, conceivably, five key agreements: the Comprehensive Test Ban and the four agreements reached last year on START and ABMs. In the words of the late coach of the Washington Redskins, George Allen, the future is now. What happens will have a profound effect on U.S.-Russian nuclear relations -- and on our efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons around the world.
Let me discuss the Test Ban Treaty first. President Clinton has called it the "longest-sought, hardest-fought prize in the history of arms control." It bans all nuclear explosive tests. We should pause and contemplate this development: 149 nations have signed an accord to never, or never again, test a nuclear device. We must not let this extraordinary opportunity slip away.
Four former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- Shalikashvili, Powell, Crowe, and Jones -- plus all six current members of the JCS -- agree that the Treaty is in our national interest.
The directors of our three national nuclear weapons labs and numerous outside experts have said we can maintain a reliable deterrent without explosive testing. The public strongly supports the Treaty, as it has for 40 years, since President Eisenhower first proposed it.
The Treaty will constrain the development of more advanced and dangerous nuclear weapons by the nuclear powers -- and limit the possibilities for other states to acquire such weapons. It will also enhance our ability to detect suspicious activities by other nations.
With or without a CTB, we must monitor such activities. The Treaty gives us new tools to pursue this vital mission: a global network of sensors to supplement our national intelligence capabilities and the right to request short-notice, on-site inspections in other countries.
If the Senate rejected or failed to act on the Test Ban Treaty, the agreement could not, by its terms, enter into force for any nation. We would open the door further to regional nuclear arms races and a much more dangerous world.
In sum, the Senate needs to do what the President asked in his State of the Union address: provide its advice and consent to the Test Ban Treaty this year.
Our legislatures must also go forward on strategic arms control. President Yeltsin's government has placed new emphasis on START II ratification. That is a hopeful sign. We also see more support in the Duma, reflecting a growing recognition that START is in Russia's interest as well as ours.
Once the Duma ratifies START II, we can present the Senate with the accords reached last year in New York. These agreements seem highly technical, and their signing received little attention. But they are essential.
Some Russian lawmakers have worried that we are on a fast path to breaking out of the ABM Treaty. Some are also concerned about the expense for them of destroying so many weapons so fast. The New York agreement on START II addresses these concerns by extending to the year 2007 the deadline for destruction of weapons.
How do we benefit from this extension? It greatly weakens the arguments raised by opponents of START II in the Duma. So we are more likely to get START II, and at little strategic cost, because the new agreement still requires that the subject Russian weapons systems be disabled by the year
The second New York agreement serves our interest by clarifying post-Soviet Union responsibilities under the ABM Treaty.
By including Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine as parties to the ABM Treaty, this new agreement aids us in working with those nations to keep existing agreements on strategic and intermediate-range nuclear weapons in place.
The final two agreements at last provide clarity as to what theater missile defense systems are permitted under the ABM Treaty -- so we can keep working seriously to protect our troops and allies from rockets launched by regional powers without upsetting the U.S.-Russian strategic equation.
The agreements achieve this balance by defining the speed and range of the target missiles that theater defense systems are permitted to shoot down in tests.
These accords will not hamper any of the theater missile defense programs active at the Pentagon. They will, however, ban both sides from deploying theater defense interceptors based in outer space. This provision was essential, because there is no way to distinguish space-based interceptors aimed at theater missiles from space-based interceptors aimed at long-range missiles, already banned by the ABM Treaty.
Further progress on START -- meaning full implementation of START I and START II and the conclusion of START III -- won't happen unless we adhere to the ABM Treaty. There is no reason to believe that Russian political and military leaders will agree to sharply reduce strategic nuclear missiles in the absence of the ABM Treaty's constraints on defenses against those missiles.
So the agreements reached in New York are necessary. But just as important as the composition of the arsenals is their safety.
We will continue to work with the Russians to find the appropriate balance between survivability and protection against accidents. We believe Russian nuclear forces remain under firm command and control. But to protect our citizens we must work to see that these weapons are secure.
As our commitment to the CTB demonstrates, U.S.-Russian nuclear arsenals are far from our only concern. We also must guard against the spread of mass destruction weapons to others.
Two weeks ago, with the United Kingdom and the Republic of Georgia, we helped secure a small amount of highly-enriched uranium in Georgia that could have posed a proliferation risk if it fell into the wrong hands. This kind of success is the result of strong multinational cooperation -- and bipartisan support from Congress for the nonproliferation program created by Senator Lugar and then-Senator Nunn -- one of the wisest investments ever made in our national security.
We also need to slow the spread of chemical and biological weapons to protect our populations and our troops. At the President's urging, last year the Senate ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention. BENS played a crucial role in the ratification effort -- and we are very grateful. In this year's State of the Union address, the President announced a new initiative to bolster the Biological Weapons Convention by establishing a strong system of inspections to deter and detect cheating. We are actively working with other nations and with U.S. industry to create a framework, by the end of this year, for such a system.
All of these efforts are essential if our children are to grow up in a safer world. President Clinton has extended the challenge. He has said, "Let us work harder than ever to lift the nuclear backdrop that has darkened the world's stage for too long now. Let us make these solemn tasks our common obligation, our common commitment." Now, with the support of the American people, and with leadership of the Senate, we can fulfill our responsibilities and build a better future.