U.S. unilateral actions will alienate the world
July 18, 2001
The Bush administration's unilateral nuclear policy threatens U.S. relations with the rest of the world. And last weekend's missile test risks further damaging an already fraying trust between the United States and other nations.
The administration is moving full speed ahead to test and deploy a missile-defense system. For nearly 30 years, the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty has been the foundation of arms-control agreements limiting the size and structure of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces.
White House officials noted in a widely released statement last week that "while we do not know precisely when our programs will come into conflict with the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty in the future, the timing is likely to be measured in months, not years.''
Russia, China and U.S. allies in Europe are all deeply concerned about the Bush administration's intention to abrogate the treaty. They say a dangerous nuclear arms race could ensue.
Which places President Bush in an interesting conundrum.
He wants to move forward on the deployment of a missile-defense program, but he cannot make much progress without incensing U.S. allies and other members of the international community.
Over the past six months, U.S. envoys have been dispatched all over the world. Bush himself has met with leaders of the European Union, NATO and Russia to smooth feathers that he ruffled by proceeding with missile defense.
Administration officials also distributed talking points and glossy graphics to U.S. embassies and senior officials to argue that the United States "needs release from the constraints of the ABM treaty to pursue the most promising technologies and basing modes to field limited, but effective missile defenses."
So far, few nations are buying the argument. And many are dismayed by Bush's willingness to go it alone on missile defense, as well as other issues.
Even our closest allies are wary of U.S. intentions because they know that deeds, not words, count when it comes to honoring international commitments, which include treaties prohibiting biological weapons, nuclear testing and advanced anti-ballistic missiles.
Bush's unilateralism is part of the Republican tradition.
For decades Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and other influential members of the Republican Party presented a my-way-or-the-highway attitude toward the rest of world. Most recently, in 1999, the Republican-controlled Senate narrowly rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. This treaty is vital for preventing a nuclear arms race and for diminishing the odds of a war between members of the nuclear club. If you can't test your missiles, you can't be sure they will work, so you would be unlikely to use them.
Now Bush has informed Congress that the administration is interested in "improving test site readiness." Bush's team now seems poised to overturn a once self-imposed moratorium on nuclear testing, respected by all 161 treaty signatories.
This flouting of the treaty and the accelerated drive for missile defense combine to send an unmistakable -- and scary -- signal to the rest of the world. It is an unnecessary symbol of recklessness.
Alistair Millar heads the Washington office of the Fourth Freedom Forum (www.fourthfreedom.org), a peace and disarmament group, which is based in Goshen, Ind. He can be reached at email@example.com.