Share this article

print logo


Have the dramatic changes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union undermined the need for continued research on ballistic missile defenses? Absolutely not. If anything, the case for some type of missile defenses is more compelling today than at any time since the advent of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

We must remain prepared to deal with political and military instability. The Soviet Union is increasingly fraught with nationalist and ethnic unrest, and its economy cannot fulfill the basic needs of the people. Mikhail Gorbachev's viability is questioned because of the seemingly indomitable problems facing his nation.

The Soviet Union still possesses a formidable military capability. Most notable is its strategic offensive and defensive nuclear force modernization program. Soviet ballistic missile defenses around Moscow -- the world's only such system -- are being upgraded.

Consequently, our nuclear deterrent must remain, in both perception and reality, uncontestable to any foreign power. And we must consider the enormous benefits of a strategic missile defense.

Even as arms-control negotiations move toward reducing the overall levels of strategic delivery systems, our existing strategic defenses -- such as air defenses, early-warning and surveillance and intelligence -- are clearly seen by other countries as stabilizing and unthreatening. Missile defenses will enhance this stability by assuring that our perhaps more vulnerable retaliatory forces are protected and by denying an attacker any certainty of achieving his objectives.

They also provide a hedge against cheating on arms-control treaties. Indeed, effective missile defenses actually promote strategic arms-control objectives by reducing the military value of multiple-warhead missiles. They also provide incentives for the Soviet Union to move to a less threatening force of single-warhead, land-based missiles.

In addition, there are many countries that now possess missiles that threaten the interests of the U.S. and its friends. Many of these missiles are capable of reaching allies like Israel and can be equipped with chemical or biological warheads, and soon even nuclear weapons.

Today, the number of developing countries possessing ballistic missiles with a range of less than 1,000 miles -- such as Iraq and Syria -- has increased substantially. William Webster, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, recently informed Congress that, by the year 2000, at least six Third World countries will have ballistic missiles with ranges of up to 1,800 miles, and three of them may develop ballistic missiles with a range of 3,400 miles.

Missile defenses in the U.S. and within the borders of our allies would greatly deter long-range ballistic missile use. Tactical ballistic missile defenses deployed by our allies would enhance deterrence and stability.

On a recent trip to California, I had a firsthand look at the Strategic Defense Initiative. The question is no longer whether the country has the technical ability to build cost-effective missile defenses; it is clear we do. Rather, we must now ask what role missile defenses will have in our national strategy.

As in the air-defense debate in England during the 1930s, we must now ask: Does America want to be defended, and if so, with what systems? For England, the outcome of that debate was pivotal. It was England's advanced air defense systems that saved it in the summer of 1940.

It is worth remembering the words of Winston Churchill at the peak of the air-defense debate: "I think it would be a great mistake to neglect the scientific side of purely defensive action against aircraft attack. Certainly, nothing is more necessary, not only to this country, but to all peace-loving. . .powers in the world. . .than that the good old earth should acquire some means of destroying the sky marauder."

Today, the marauder is ballistic missiles. I am convinced that we must now, more than ever before, plan for the inclusion of missile defenses in our national security strategy.

JOHN WARNER, R-Va., is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

There are no comments - be the first to comment