President of the United States Remarks on National Missile Defense (9/1/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary

Immediate Release                         September 1, 2000

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                        ON NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE

                                Gaston Hall
                           Georgetown University
                             Washington, D.C.

11:23 A.M. EDT

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  When you gave us such a warm
welcome, and then you applauded some of Dean Gallucci's early lines, I
thought to myself, I'm glad he can get this sort of reception, because I
gave him a lot of thankless jobs to do in our administration where no one
ever applauded -- and he did them brilliantly.  I'm delighted to see him
here succeeding so well as the Dean.  And Provost Brown, thank you for
welcoming me here.

     I told them when I came in I was sort of glad Father O'Donovan wasn't
here today, because I come so often -- I know that at some point if I keep
doing this he will tell me that he's going to send a bill to the U.S.
Treasury for the Georgetown endowment.  (Laughter.)

     I was thinking when we came out here and Bob talked about the
beginning of the school year that it was 35 years ago when, as a sophomore,
I was in charge of the freshman orientation.  So I thought I should come
and help this year's orientation of freshmen get off to a good start.

     I also was thinking, I confess, after your rousing welcome, that if I
were still a candidate for public office I might get up and say hello and
sit down, and quit while I'm ahead.  (Laughter.)

     I came today to talk about a subject that is not fraught with applause
lines, but one that is very, very important to your future:  the defense of
our nation.  At this moment of unprecedented peace and prosperity, with no
immediate threat to our security or our existence, with our democratic
values ascendant and our alliances strong, with the great forces of our
time, globalization and the revolution in information technology so clearly
beneficial to a society like ours, with our diversity and our openness, and
our entrepreneurial spirit.

     At a time like this it is tempting, but wrong, to believe there are no
serious long-term challenges to our security.  The rapid spread of
technology across increasingly porous borders, raises the specter that more
and more states, terrorists and criminal syndicates could gain access to
chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons, and to the means of
delivering them -- whether in small units deployed by terrorists within our
midst, or ballistic missiles capable of hurtling those weapons halfway
around the world.

     Today I want to discuss these threats with you, because you will live
with them a lot longer than I will.  Especially, I want to talk about the
ballistic missile threat.  It is real and growing, and has given new
urgency to the debate about national missile defenses, known in the popular
jargon as NMD.

     When I became President, I put our effort to stop the proliferation of
weapons of mass destruction at the very top of our national security
agenda.  Since then, we have carried out a comprehensive strategy to reduce
and secure nuclear arsenals, to strengthen the international regime against
biological and chemical weapons and nuclear testing, and to stop the flow
of dangerous technology to nations that might wish us harm.

     At the same time, we have pursued new technologies that could
strengthen our defenses against a possible attack, including a terrorist
attack here at home.

     None of these elements of our national security strategy can be
pursued in isolation.  Each is important, and we have made progress in each
area.  For example, Russia and the United States already have destroyed
about 25,000 nuclear weapons in the last decade.  And we have agreed that
in a START III treaty, we will go 80 percent below the level of a decade
     In 1994, we persuaded Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus, three of the
former Soviet Republics, to give up their nuclear weapons entirely.  We
have worked with Russia and its neighbors to dispose of hundreds of tons of
dangerous nuclear materials, to strengthen controls on a list of exports,
and to keep weapon scientists from selling their services to the highest

     We extended the nuclear non-proliferation treaty indefinitely.  We
were the very first nation to sign the comprehensive test ban treaty, an
idea first embraced by Presidents Kennedy and Eisenhower.  Sixty nations
now have ratified the test ban treaty.  I believe the United States Senate
made a serious error in failing to ratify it last year, and I hope it will
do so next year.  (Applause.)

     We also negotiated and ratified the international convention to ban
chemical weapons, and strengthened the convention against biological
weapons.  We've used our export controls to deny terrorists and potential
adversaries access to materials and equipment needed to build these kinds
of weapons.

     We've imposed sanctions on those who contribute to foreign chemical
and biological weapons programs, we've invested in new equipment and
medical countermeasures to protect people from exposure.  And we're working
with state and local medical units all over our country to strengthen our
preparedness in case of a chemical or biological terrorist attack, which
many people believe is the most likely new security threat of the 21st

     We have also acted to reduce the threat posed by states that have
sought weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, while pursuing
activities that are clearly hostile to our long-term interests.  For over a
decade -- for almost a decade, excuse me -- we have diverted about 90
percent of Iraq's oil revenues from the production of weapons to the
purchase of food and medicine.

     This is an important statistic for those who believe that our
sanctions are only a negative for the people, and particularly the
children, of Iraq.  In 1989, Iraq earned $15 billion from oil exports, and
spent $13 billion of that money on its military.  This year, Iraq is
projected to earn $19 billion from its legal oil-for-food exports that can
spend none of those revenues on the military.

     We worked to counter Iran's efforts to develop nuclear weapons and
missile technology, convincing China to provide no new assistance to Iran's
nuclear program, and pressing Russia to strengthen its controls on the
export of sensitive technologies.

     In 1994, six years after the United States first learned that North
Korea had a nuclear weapons program, we negotiated the agreement that
verifiably has frozen its production of plutonium for nuclear weapons.
Now, in the context of the United States negotiations with the North, the
diplomatic efforts by former Defense Secretary Bill Perry and, most lately,
the summit between the leaders of North and South Korea, North Korea has
refrained from flight testing a new missile that could pose a threat to

     We should be clear:  North Korea's capability remains a serious issue
and its intentions remain unclear.  But its missile testing moratorium is a
good development worth pursuing.

     These diplomatic efforts to meet the threat of proliferation are
backed by the strong and global reach of our armed forces.  Today, the
United States enjoys overwhelming military superiority over any potential
adversary.  For example, in 1985, we spent about as much on defense as
Russia, China and North Korea combined.  Today, we spend nearly three times
as much, nearly $300 billion a year.  And our military technology clearly
is well ahead of the rest of the world.

     The principle of deterrence served us very well in the Cold War, and
deterrence remains imperative.  The threat of overwhelming retaliation
deterred Saddam Hussein from using weapons of mass destruction during the
Gulf War.  Our forces in South Korea have deterred North Korea in
aggression for 47 years.

     The question is, can deterrence protect us against all those who might
wish us harm in the future?  Can we make America even more secure?  The
effort to answer these questions is the impetus behind the search for NMD.
The issue is whether we can do more, not to meet today's threat, but to
meet tomorrow's threat to our security.

     For example, there is the possibility that a hostile state with
nuclear weapons and long range missiles may simply disintegrate, with
command over missiles falling into unstable hands; or that in a moment of
desperation, such a country might miscalculate, believing it could use
nuclear weapons to intimidate us from defending our vital interests, or
from coming to the aid of our allies, or others who are defenseless and
clearly in need.

     In the future, we cannot rule out that terrorist groups could gain the
capability to strike us with nuclear weapons if they seized even temporary
control of a state with an existing nuclear weapons establishment.

     Now, no one suggests that NMD would ever substitute for diplomacy or
for deterrence.  But such a system, if it worked properly, could give us an
extra dimension of insurance in a world where proliferation has complicated
the task of preserving the peace.  Therefore, I believe we have an
obligation to determine the feasibility, the effectiveness, and the impact
of a national missile defense on the overall security of the United States.

     The system now under development is designed to work as follows.  In
the event of an attack, American satellites would protect the launch of
missiles.  Our radar would track the enemy warhead and highly accurate,
high-speed, ground-based interceptors would destroy them before they could
reach their target in the United States.

     We have made substantial progress on a system that would be based in
Alaska and that, when operational, could protect all 50 states from the
near-term missile threats we face, those emanating from North Korea and the
Middle East.  The system could be deployed sooner than any of the proposed
     Since last fall, we've been conducting flight tests to see if this NMD
system actually can reliably intercept a ballistic missile.  We've begun to
show that the different parts of this system can work together.

     Our Defense Department has overcome daunting technical obstacles in a
remarkably short period of time, and I'm proud of the work that Secretary
Cohen, General Shelton and their teams have done.

     One test proved that it is, in fact, possible to hit a bullet with a
bullet.  Still, though the technology for NMD is promising, the system as a
whole is not yet proven.  After the initial test succeeded, our two most
recent tests failed, for different reasons, to achieve an intercept.
Several more tests are planned.  They will tell us whether NMD can work
reliably under realistic conditions.  Critical elements of the program,
such as the booster rocket for the missile interceptor, have yet to be

     There are also questions to be resolved about the ability of the
system to deal with countermeasures.  In other words, measures by those
firing the missiles to confuse the missile defense into thinking it is
hitting a target when it is not.

     There is a reasonable chance that all these challenges can be met in
time.  But I simply cannot conclude with the information I have today that
we have enough confidence in the technology, and the operational
effectiveness of the entire NMD system, to move forward to deployment.

     Therefore, I have decided not to authorize deployment of a national
missile defense at this time.  Instead, I have asked Secretary Cohen to
continue a robust program of development and testing.  That effort still is
at an early stage.  Only three of the 19 planned intercept tests have been
held so far.  We need more tests against more challenging targets, and more
simulations before we can responsibly commit our nation's resources to

     We should use this time to ensure that NMD, if deployed, would
actually enhance our overall national security.  And I want to talk about
that in a few moments.

     I want you to know that I have reached this decision about not
deploying the NMD after careful deliberation.  My decision will not have a
significant impact on the date the overall system could be deployed in the
next administration, if the next President decides to go forward.

     The best judgment of the experts who have examined this question is
that if we were to commit today to construct the system, it most likely
would be operational about 2006 or 2007.  If the next President decides to
move forward next year, the system still could be ready in the same time

     In the meantime, we will continue to work with our allies and with
Russia to strengthen their understanding and support for our efforts to
meet the emerging ballistic missile threat, and to explore creative ways
that we can cooperate to enhance their security against this threat, as

     An effective NMD could play an important part of our national security
strategy, but it could not be the sum total of that strategy.  It can never
be the sum total of that strategy for dealing with nuclear and missile

     Moreover, ballistic missiles, armed with nuclear weapons, as I said
earlier, do not represent the sum total of the threats we face.  Those
include chemical and biological weapons, and a range of deadly technologies
for deploying them.  So it would be folly to base the defense of our nation
solely on a strategy of waiting until missiles are in the air, and then
trying to shoot them down.

     We must work with our allies, and with Russia, to prevent potential
adversaries from ever threatening us with nuclear, chemical and biological
weapons of mass destruction in the first place, and to make sure they know
the devastating consequences of doing so.

     The elements of our strategy cannot be allowed to undermine one
another.  They must reinforce one another, and contribute to our national
defense in all its dimensions.  That includes the profoundly important
dimension of arms control.

     Over the past 30 years, Republican and Democratic presidents alike
have negotiated an array of arms control treaties with Russia.  We and our
allies have relied on these treaties to ensure strategic stability and
predictability with Russia, to get on with the job of dismantling the
legacy of the Cold War, and to further the transition from confrontation to
cooperation with our former adversary in the most important arena, nuclear

     A key part of the international security structure we have built with
Russia and, therefore, a key part of our national security, is the
anti-ballistic missile treaty signed by President Nixon in 1972.  The ABM
treaty limits anti-missile defenses according to a simple principle:
neither side should deploy defenses that would undermine the other side's
nuclear deterrent, and thus tempt the other side to strike first in a
crisis or to take countermeasures that would make both our countries less

     Strategic stability, based on mutual deterrence, is still important,
despite the end of the Cold War.  Why?  Because the United States and
Russia still have nuclear arsenals that can devastate each other.  And this
is still a period of transition in our relationship.

     We have worked together in many ways.  Signed an agreement of
cooperation between Russia and NATO.  Served with Russian troops in Bosnia
and Kosovo.  But while we are no longer adversaries, we are not yet real
allies.  Therefore, for them as well as for us, maintaining strategic
stability increases trust and confidence on both sides.  It reduces the
risk of confrontation.  It makes it possible to build an even better
partnership and an even safer world.

     Now, here's the issue:  NMD, if deployed, would require us either to
adjust the treaty or to withdraw from it -- not because NMD poses a
challenge to the strategic stability I just discussed, but because by its
very words, NMD prohibits any national missile defense.

     What we should want is to both explore the most effective defenses
possible, not only for ourselves, but for all other law-abiding states, and
to maintain our strategic stability with Russia.  Thus far, Russia has been
reluctant to agree, fearing I think, frankly, that in some sense, this
system or some future incarnation of it could threaten the reliability of
its deterrence and, therefore, strategic stability.

     Nevertheless, at our summit in Moscow in June, President Putin and I
did agree that the world has changed since the ABM treaty was signed 28
years ago, and that the proliferation of missile technology has resulted in
new threats that may require amending that treaty.  And again, I say, these
threats are not threats to the United States alone.

     Russia agrees that there is an emerging missile threat.  In fact,
given its place on the map, it is particularly vulnerable to this emerging
threat.  In time, I hope the United States can narrow our differences with
Russia on this issue.  The course I have chosen today gives the United
States more time to pursue that, and we will use it.

     President Putin and I have agreed to intensify our work on strategic
defense, while pursuing, in parallel, deeper arms reductions in START III.
He and I have instructed our experts to develop further cooperative
initiatives in areas such as theater missile defense, early warning and
missile threat discussions for our meeting just next week in New York.

     Apart from the Russians, another critical diplomatic consideration in
the NMD decision is the view of our NATO allies. They have all made clear
that they hope the United States will pursue strategic defense in a way
that preserves, not abrogates, the ABM treaty.  If we decide to proceed
with NMD deployment we must have their support, because key components of
NMD would be based on their territories.

     The decision I have made also gives the United States time to answer
our allies' questions and consult further on the path ahead.

     Finally, we must consider the impact of a decision to deploy on
security in Asia.  As the next President makes a deployment decision, he
will need to avoid stimulating an already dangerous regional nuclear
capability from China to South Asia.  Now, let me be clear:  no nation can
ever have a veto over American security, even if the United States and
Russia cannot reach agreement; even if we cannot secure the support of our
allies at first; even if we conclude that the Chinese will respond to NMD
by increasing their arsenal of nuclear weapons substantially with a
corollary, inevitable impact in India and then in Pakistan.

     The next President may nevertheless decide that our interest in
security in 21st century dictates that we go forward with deployment of
NMD.  But we can never afford to overlook the fact that the actions and
reactions of others in this increasingly interdependent world do bear on
our security.
     Clearly ,therefore, it would be far better to move forward in the
context of the ABM treaty and allied support.  Our efforts to make that
possible have not been completed.  For me, the bottom line on this decision
is this:  because the emerging missile threat is real, we have an
obligation to pursue a missile defense system that could enhance our

     We have made progress, but we should not move forward until we have
absolute confidence that the system will work, and until we have made every
reasonable diplomatic effort to minimize the cost of deployment, and
maximize the benefit, as I said, not only to America's security, but to the
security of law abiding nations everywhere subject to the same threat.

     I am convinced that America and the world will be better off if we
explore the frontiers of strategic defenses, while continuing to pursue
arms control, to stand with our allies and to work with Russia and others
to stop the spread of deadly weapons.

     I strongly believe this is the best course for the United States, and
therefore the decision I have reached today, is in the best security
interest of the United States.  In short, we need to move forward with
realism, with steadiness, and with prudence, not dismissing the threat we
face, or assuming we can meet it, while ignoring our overall strategic
environment, including the interests and concerns of our allies, friends
and other nations.  A national missile defense, if deployed, should be part
of a larger strategy to preserve and enhance the peace, strength and
security we now enjoy, and to build an even safer world.

     I have tried to maximize the ability of the next President to pursue
that strategy.  In so doing, I have tried to maximize the chance that all
you young students will live in a safer, more humane, more positively
interdependent world.  I hope I have done so.  I believe I have.

     Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

                          END               11:50 A.M. EDT (L)

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