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No. 16
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• date: 11 Oct 2001.

DOCUMENT [2001.10.25]

Donald Rumsfeld, Press Conference,
25 October 2001 [Excerpts]

[Following is Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's prepared statement on the ABM Treaty, and one question and answer on that subject.]

Donald Rumsfeld, Press Conference,
25 October 2001

§§ on ABM Treaty Withdrawal

DoD News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers

(Also participating: Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Slides and videos shown in this briefing are on the Web at )

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. The -- on September 11th, the terrorists struck this building and the World Trade Centers, murdering thousands of innocent men, women and children. We all know that terrorist networks are operating in dozens of countries around the world, with the tacit or direct support, in some cases, of the governments. We know that a number of countries supporting terrorists and terrorist networks are the same countries that have weaponized chemical and biological weapons -- agents, some of which are working to acquire nuclear weapons and to develop ballistic missiles capable of striking the United States, its friends and allies.

Last month, terrorists took civilian airliners and turned them into missiles, killing thousands. If they had ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction capable of killing hundreds of thousands, I don't think anyone can doubt but that they would have willingly used them.

We've been awakened in recent weeks to new and previously unimaginable dangers. That is why as we prosecute today's war on terrorism, the president has made clear that we also need to be prepared to defend against other emerging asymmetric threats, including the threat of ballistic missile attack against our cities and people.

As you know, we've redesigned the U.S. ballistic missile defense research, development and testing program so that -- to be unconstrained by the ABM Treaty, a treaty that, of course, was left over from the Cold War, and after September 11th, is even less relevant today.

We have said we will not violate the treaty while it remains in force. In recent days, to keep from having it suggested that we might not be keeping that commitment, we have voluntarily restrained our ballistic missile defense test program.

Specifically, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization has refrained from conducting several test activities, each of which some lawyers could debate might have been a violation of the treaty, were we to have proceeded.

As we all know, treaties and most legal documents have vagueness to them. We've said we won't violate it; therefore, we do not want to be in a position of having a small minority of people suggesting that we in fact are violating it. So we have, on the following instances, decided not to go forward:

On October 24th, an Aegis radar on a surface ship was scheduled to track a strategic ballistic missile test target, which it did not do. In a separate operation, the Aegis radar was to have tracked a Titan II space-launch vehicle scheduled for launch November 14th. During the October 24th test, the Aegis radar was scheduled to have tracked the defensive interceptor; and during the same test, the multiple object tracking radar at Vandenberg was to have tracked the strategic ballistic missile target.

On test activities such as these, as I indicated, it is possible that someone could raise an issue because of ambiguities in the treaty, and we do not want to get into that debate. For some time now, we've advised the Congress and the government of the Russian Federation that the planned missile defense testing program that we have was going to bump up against the ABM Treaty. That has now happened. This fact, this reality, it seems to me, provides an impetus for the discussions that President Bush has been having with President Putin, and which will continue here in Washington early next month.

[In the question and answer period, there was one question on the ABM Treaty:]

Q: Going back to the ABM Treaty for just a brief moment, what would you say to those people who say that what's -- restraining on the ABM Treaty now may seem to be a quid pro quo to reward the Russians for allowing --

Rumsfeld: That's not true, is what I would say. We are not rewarding or penalizing anybody. We are voluntarily taking some steps to avoid having people who might do so contend that something we might do could be characterized as not consistent with the treaty. We don't want to put our country in that position. And it is not a bone to anybody. It is simply the fact that the president and the administration are engaged in discussions with the Russians. We believe they are proceeding in a satisfactory way. And we believe that, in fact, at some point going forward we'll have a way to permit our country to go forward with the kinds of testing and development of ballistic missile defenses that we believe is in the best interests of our nation.