Threat of Nuclear – Missile Shields


Bush Administration has decided to build a nuclear missile shield titled NMD ie National Missile Defence  around continental America  to shoot down ICBM or other nuclear or non-nuclear missles targeted on America. This unilateral decision is in violation of the ABM the Anti-Ballistic-Missile Treaty signed between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1972. Once in place the NMD will adversely effect  Russian strategic  deterrence and will surely degrade if not  neutralize Chinese ICBM capability. The unilateral abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty by President George Bush Junior is a setback  to the tenuous balance of terror, which nevertheless did maintain  world peace during the last fifty five years. Russia and China are rightly perturbed, because the NMD will drastically change the balance of power in favour of the United States. US allies like the United Kingdom are equally concerned. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has regretted Washington’s unilateral decision to abandon the 1972 ABM Treaty, which since thirty years had brought a halt to nuclear weapons race. Kofi Annan fears that US decision will spark nuclear weapons arms race, especially in the missile area, and will further undermine disarmament and non-proliferation regimes. Disheartened Annan has called on all countries to explore “new binding and irreversible initiatives to avert the effects  of US unilateral decisions”, which are brazenly against international laws and  accepted conventions. He has rightly stated that the “ABM Treaty has served for many    years as cornerstone  for maintaining global peace, security and stability. Rejecting protests by Russia, China and  its NATO allies, President Bush gave formal notice on Thursday December 12, that the United States was abandoning the ABM Treaty, in order to press ahead with a foolproof National Missile Defence System (NMD). The ABM Treaty expressly forbids deployment of missile defences ie anti-missile-missile systems.  Experts all over the world have warned of a turbulent  world after the US scrapping of the ABM Treaty. US decision could unravel more than thirty (30) other international crisis preventing accords, which will seriously undermine global security. US has pulled out of the ABM Treaty to enable it to proceed with tests with an ultra advanced missile defence system. 

The plan for a missile shield for  USA called the  STRATEGIC DEFENCE INITIATIVE (SDI) was conceived during the Regan era . The STAR WAR  concept was to be a missile shield for the US but a ploy for the economic collapse of USSR – the “evil Empire”. President Ronald Reagan in an article published after his leaving office had disclosed that the real motive of his SDI plan was economic collapse of the Soviet Union. Moscow walked into the unafffordable SDI trap. But the US due to alleged technical and monetary reasons did not proceed with the exorbitantly expensive missile shield plan. Now the US has the same game plan against Peoples Republic of China, though US officials are travelling to China to explain that the US NMD is not against China’s strategic deterrence.

President Bill  Clinton helped develop a bipartisan consensus against “rogue states” to check ballistic and nuclear proliferation. North Korea had tested an ICBM, which fell into the Sea of Japan, raising alarm bells in Japan and Taiwan. North Korea under intense US pressure scrapped its ICBM programme and stopped export of missiles. It was compensated by two power stations. Iraq, Iran and Libya were categorized as rogue states with nuclear ambitions. Clinton Administration conceived a limited ICBM missile shield against North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Peoples Republic of China. Mention of China was avoided for diplomatic reasons. Costing 60 billion dollars, it required installation of a high powered radar facility in Alaska, and development and testing of high speed anti-missile missiles. The first test in 1998 was successful, but the second test in May 2000 was an utter failure. President Bill Clinton decided that the highly advanced anti-ballistic missile technology was not ready. Further tests were stopped.

Soon after becoming President George Bush endorsed the NMD anti-ballistic missile plan. Defence Secretary  Donald Rumsfled, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Mr Wolfowitz the Deputy Defence Secretary and a powerful  lobby in the US Congress and the Senate supported withdrawal from the ABM Treaty and backed    the new NMD-Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) plan. The ambitious BMD plan would provide a missile shield to continental America, and would include  TMD’s ie theatre missile  defences ie theatre missile shields for Japan and Taiwan and for the US Navy. Withdrawing from the ABM treaty and embarking on the ambitious trillions dollars worth NMD programmes is the biggest victory yet for the “unilateralist wing” of the Bush Administration, and the biggest defeat for the multilateralists clustered behind Secretary of State Colin Powell.

China and Russia    

Russia and China expressed deep concern, because the NMD, BMD and TMD’s will upset the strategic balance, which had prevailed since the ABM or Anti- Ballistic Missile Treaty was signed in 1972 between the US and the USSR. The ABM Treaty had stipulated that no anti-ballistic missiles would be developed by either side. Under MAD ie mutual assured destruction clauses it had assured and guaranteed Russian security. It had banned BMD development and deployment, because with Ballistic Missile Defences in place, US would gain first strike capability, and that would upset the strategic balance between the US and Russia, and will seriously degrade China’s strategic (ICBM) nuclear weapon capability.  China Daily has termed the US decision as a threat to world peace which could spark a new nuclear arms race.  Bush argues that the ABM Treaty is outdated and BMD and TMD is essential for Continental and theatre security. The NMD project will cost hundreds of billions of dollars and  is supported by the powerful  aerospace constructors and contractors lobby in the House. It will entail the use of outer space, sea, land and air space.  This militarization of outerspace will be a new threat to the security of the world. It will make all countries vulnerable to attacks from the space.

Unilateral Scrapping of ABM Treaty   

President Bush has served notice that US will withdraw from the ABM Treaty in January 2002. Though the Russian military elite is angry, President Putin has taken it cooly. “This step was not a surprise for us, but we consider it is a mistake”, Putin said. Russia has thousands of ICBM’s and thousands of nuclear and thermo-nuclear warheads. No US Missile shield BMD or TMD could block all the Russian ICBM, especially the ones fitted with MIRV’s. Russia could put multiple warheads on RITS ICBM’s to counter the perceived threat of US National Missile Defence-NMD. But Russia appears to have cooled off. And both US and Russia may agree to reduce their nuclear arsenals by 75% during next summer. Putin spoke of cutting the US-Russian ICBM arsenals to 1,500 to 2,200 nuclear warheads. Inspite of scrapping the ABM Treaty by the US credibility of Russian ICBM’s-MIRV’s stays. Putin is likely to come to some compromise agreement with the US.     

But China has only 22 ICBS and the US NMD will neutralize Chinese nuclear deterrence, while Russian nuclear weapons  capability will remain intact. China is  upset because Chinese strategic nuclear ICBM capability will be further jeopardized, because TMD systems given to Japan and Taiwan will  neutralize Chinese nuclear weapon credibility. China appears to have  no choice but to multiply its ICBM capability manifold.  But that means billions of dollars that China can ill-afford presently. With the US NMD in place China is likely to be isolated.

Missile Shield for India

The American and Russian offers of missile shields and National Missile Defence is  A MATTER OF GRAVE CONCERN FOR PAKISTAN. President Putin’s November 2001 visit to New Delhi was significant because of nuclear cooperation offers at various levels. India-Russia enhanced nuclear cooperation includes the Russian offer of SR 300 series anti-ballistic defence system which will provide  a “limited missile shield” to India.  Besides the 2000 MW nuclear power plant at Kundankulam in Tamilnadu, Moscow has offered four nuclear capable Tu-22 Backfire bombers, Gorchkov aircraft carrier with 40 Mig -29K multirole deck fighters, cruise missiles and shortrange SAM’s. Mr Armitage the US Under Secretary of Defence during his last visit to India also offered a tailor made National Missile Defence- NMD system to India. Indian NMD will be further strengthened by acquisition of Arrow missile intercept systems from Israel. India getting missile defence shields from three sources will jeopardize Pakistan’s deterrence capability. Problems will arise for Pakistan when India gets nuclear shields from US, Russia and Israel. Pakistan then will become highly vulnerable to Indian nuclear blackmail and aggression.

Danger of Nuclear Arms Race    

Russia and India are already strategic partners. With US becoming India’s strategic partner, the power balance in Asia, especially South Asia will tilt dangerously in India’s favour. Both China and Pakistan must develop a strategic concensus and decide how to deal with this emerging dangerous situation. It is in order to suggest that the matter be taken up by President General Pervez Musharraf with Chinese leadership during his forthcoming visit to China.