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President Bush Abandons One of the Most Important Arms-Control Agreements of the Last Threedecades, Pulling Out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia

December 14, 2001

President Bush yesterday abandoned one of the most important arms-control agreements of the last three decades byannouncing that the United States is pulling out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia so he can pursuehis plans for a so-called missile defense.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said "We consider it a mistake," but admitted that there was little Russia could doto prevent the US from leaving the treaty.

Bush formally notified Russia and three former Soviet republics that the U.S. will withdraw from the pact in sixmonths, after Russia insisted the US could not continue with tests for so-called missile defense without violatingthe treaty. It is first time in more than 50 years that the United States has renounced a major arms controlagreement.

The ABM treaty, which the United States and the former Soviet Union negotiated in 1972, prohibits development,testing and deployment of strategic missile defense systems–including components based in the air, at sea or inspace.

It is based on the proposition that, without missile shields, the threat of mutual annihilation prevented eithercountry from launching an attack.

Bush has said the U.S. needed to leave the treaty, which he says is outdated, to build a missile shield that couldprotect the country from ballistic missile threats from so-called rogue states. But Chinese officials say thatmissile defense is aimed at them and their modest nuclear force, and that abandoning the treaty could spark a newglobal arms race. The questions raised by US abandonment of the ABM treaty are far from academic.

All this is taking place as the U.S. continues to bomb Afghanistan, as tensions continue to rise betweennuclear-armed India, Pakistan, and China. And Critics wonder how the U.S. is going to make the world a safer placeby junking landmark arms control deals for a missile defense scheme they say is too expensive, too dangerous, andunlikely to ever even work.


  • Bill Hartung, Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute and author of ??And Weapons for All.

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