Press release,
9 November 2001                                                         For more information contact:
                                                                        William Burr (202) 994-7032
Declassified Documents Show How the U.S. and USSR Reached Agreement on the Controversial Treaty that Is At the Center of Next Week's Bush-Putin Summit 
Washington, D.C., 8 November 2001 – The most difficult topic to be discussed by Presidents Bush and Putin at the Crawford, Texas, summit next week, now that Russia is an ally in anti-terrorism operations, will be the Bush administration’s intention to withdraw from, abrogate or rewrite (depending on what is negotiable) the ABM Treaty of 1972.  Newly declassified documents posted on the Web today by George Washington University’s National Security Archive reveal the previously secret inside story of the ABM negotiations, explaining why the U.S. and the USSR agreed that the Treaty was in their best interest, and how it specifically restricts what the Bush administration can do on missile defense (posted at <>).

Other U.S. administrations have chafed at the ABM Treaty but the Bush White House is the first to consider withdrawal.  As national security adviser Condoleeza Rice has explained, the “treaty is so restrictive that anything you do that isn’t ground-based that you use in an ABM mode, so to speak, is a violation of the treaty” (Los Angeles Times, 7/27/2001).   New documents from the Nixon administration, including a never-before published record of one of national security adviser Henry Kissinger's back-channel telephone conversations with Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, show how the ABM Treaty took the form and content it has, and why its architects found it useful to negotiate such a restrictive agreement.  The documents reveal that:

*Nixon and Kissinger initially opposed strict limits on ABMs in order to strengthen U.S. retaliatory capability against a Soviet nuclear attack;
* The Soviets shocked Nixon and Kissinger by accepting a U.S. proposal to limit ABMs to defense of national capitals [national command authority/NCA], thereby undermining U.S. ABM plans presented to Congress;
* Kissinger would later profess to be puzzled by the initial U.S. offer: "I can't understand how it happened that we accepted NCA ... I often make mistakes but usually I know why afterward";
*One of thorniest negotiating issues was a U.S. initiative for a ban on space-based and advanced laser-type ABM systems, which the Soviet military was reluctant to accept; later the Reagan administration tried to reinterpret treaty language on "future" weapons systems in order to allow SDI development
* Nixon’s negotiators accepted limitations on future U.S. freedom of action as a necessary trade-off to prevent Soviet development of Ms and reduce incentives for both sides to ratchet up nuclear arsenals

According to Ambassador Raymond L. Garthoff, a member of the original SALT negotiating team and an historian of detente associated with the Brookings Institution, "these well-chosen documents give valuable insight into the SALT negotiating process, not only the Kissinger back channel to the Soviet leadership but also the front channel that produced the ABM treaty."

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