The Federalist Society

Anti-Ballistic Missle Treaty: A Letter from the White House

International & National Security Law Practice Group Newsletter - Volume 2, Issue 2, Summer 1998

August 1, 1998

The following letter was written to The Honorable Benjamin Gilman, Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee on International Relations.

Dear Mr. Chairman:

Thank you for your letter concerning the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty succession arrangements. As I said in my letter of November 21, 1997, the Administration will provide to the Senate for its advice and consent the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on ABM Treaty succession, which was signed on September 26, 1997. Moreover, the MOU will settle ABM Treaty succession. Upon its entry into force, the MOU will confirm Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine as the successor states to the Soviet Union for purposes of the Treaty and make clear that only these four states, along with the United States, are the ABM Treaty Parties.

In your letter of March 3, you state that if the Administration is unable to identify any country in addition to the United States that is clearly bound by the Treaty, then you would have no choice but to conclude that the Treaty has lapsed until such tune as the Senate approves a succession agreement reviving the Treaty.

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, ten of the twelve states of the former Soviet Union initially asserted a right in a Commonwealth of Independent States resolution, signed on October 9, 1992, in Bishkek, to assume obligations as successor states to the Soviet Union for purposes of the Treaty. Only four of these states have subsequently participated in the work of the Standing Consultative Commission (SCC), and none of the other six has reacted negatively when we informed each of them that, pursuant to the MOU, it will not be recognized as an ABM successor state. A principal advantage of the Senate's approving the MOU is that the MOU's entry into force will effectively dispose of any such claim by any of the other six states.

In contrast, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine each has ABM Treaty-related assets on its territory: each has participated in the work of the SCC; and each has affirmed its desire to succeed to the obligations of the former Soviet Union under the Treaty.

Thus, a strong case can be made that, even without the MOU, these three states are Parties to the Treaty.

Finally, the United States and Russia clearly are Parties to the Treaty. Each has reaffirmed its intention to be bound by the Treaty; each has actively participated in every phase of the implementation of the Treaty, including the work of the SCC; and each has on its territory extensive ABM Treaty-related facilities.

Thus, there is no question that the ABM Treaty has continued in force and will continue in force even if the MOU is not ratified. However, the entry into force of the MOU remains essential. As I pointed out in my letter of November 21, the United States has a clear interest both in confirming that these states (and only these states) are bound by the obligations of the Treaty, and in resolving definitively the issues about ABM Treaty succession that are dealt with in the MOU. Without the MOU, ambiguity will remain about the extent to which states other than Russia are Parties, and about the way in which ABM Treaty obligations apply to the successors to the Soviet Union. Equally important, maintaining the viability of the ABM Treaty is key to further reductions m strategic offensive forces under START II and START III.

I appreciate this further opportunity to clarify the record in this area.

Sincerely,

Bill Clinton


The Federalist Society