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From the February 2002 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 49, No. 2)

Viewpoints

Bush Withdraws from the ABM Treaty

Views from nine newspapers in nine countries

Reykjavik Morgunbladid (conservative), Dec. 4: The first few months after the Bush administration came to power, it took unilateral decisions regarding international issues without consulting its allies. After the attacks on Sept. 11, the situation changed. President Bush suddenly started to seek political support from abroad and he became the mouthpiece of unity. The president’s decision to withdraw from the ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) Treaty [with Russia] now clearly indicates a departure from that diplomatic stance. This surely is a disappointment.

Madrid El País (liberal), Dec. 14: As with Russia, China has opposed U.S. abandonment of the bilateral treaty that Leonid Brezhnev and Richard Nixon signed in May 1972 and that has been the cornerstone of the disarmament architecture built over three decades. Unlike Russia, however, China lacks the nuclear potential capable of guaranteeing the penetration of the nuclear shield planned by the United States. As a result, some Russian commentators have expressed their fears of a new arms race.

Karachi The News (left-wing), Dec. 14: The United States should not kill the ABM Treaty...for two main reasons. There is no clear danger to the United States or its allies of a ballistic missile attack and it will be a colossal waste of scarce resources. Secondly, Russia and China have already rung the alarm bells that this will force them, against their better judgment and pacific intent, to beef up their nuclear missile force. Why should they have to do it? Because once the United States breaches the ABM limits, who can be sure about how many more missiles and of what kind it will build? Moreover, who can guarantee that these extra-deadly missiles will not be used offensively?

Budapest Nepszabadsag (liberal), Dec. 14: It has not been officially disclosed as to whether there will be any reprisal on Moscow’s part, but foreign policy sources report that such measures are expected. There are a number of options Moscow can take that do not involve extra defense spending. The Russian legislature and generals think that Moscow cannot accept the American action without some response. According to the opinion of some, abrogating the treaty will leave the United States as the real loser, and not Russia, as Washington is going to waste an enormous amount of money on the national missile defense system, the efficacy of which is questionable.

Sofia Trud (largest circulation, most influential), Dec. 15: The only surprise comes from the unprecedented calm reaction of Russian President Vladimir Putin. There are three possible explanations: Russia is aware that it cannot halt the U.S. anti-missile programs, takes a deep breath, and contemplates an insidious countermove; Russia already has the means to crack the American defense; Moscow and Washington have come to terms on fundamental bilateral problems. The Bush announcement is officially a part of these multilayered agreements. The superpowers take a comfortable refuge under a future common anti-nuclear shield and even afford themselves the luxury of making further cuts to their strategic arsenals.
—Boyko Pangelov

Singapore The Straits Times (independent), Dec. 15: History will one day judge the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in the same way it views the U.S. failure in 1919 to join the League of Nations—as an abdication of responsibility, a betrayal of humankind’s best hopes, an act of folly. By announcing the decision now, in the midst of a war on terrorism that commands worldwide support, the Bush administration has also displayed a cynicism that will adversely affect the mood of cooperation that has characterized international relations since...Sept. 11.

Tokyo Mainichi Shimbun (centrist), Dec. 15: The ABM treaty’s fate should not be determined without full debate and agreement between the parties. That Bush’s decision was made unilaterally, therefore, was a big disappointment....In addition, China is against the missile shield, as it would completely negate the deterrent power of its nuclear arsenal. Stable relations among the big powers cannot be attained with technology or huge investments alone; they require clear explanations and a sincere diplomatic policy.

Vilnius Lietuvos Rytas (independent), Dec. 17: Moscow, clearly knowing the United States was planning to withdraw from the agreement, was informed of a substantial increase in its defense budget next year. So, it looks like Moscow was waiting impatiently for a public statement from the U.S. administration....It is very clear that a new military race is under way.
—Ceslovas Iskauskas

Manila Manila Bulletin (conservative), Dec. 16:
Bush reserves his most obvious insolence as the leader of the world’s proven superpower for his announcement to walk out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in six months, whether his partner, Russia, likes it or not. Even now, he is violating the treaty by developing anti-missile missiles. Russia, needing U.S. aid, is weakly protesting. China, although not a signatory to the treaty, is strongly protesting. European leaders can see political problems, but are silent....Lacking the political instinct of his predecessors, Bush is the bull who cannot find his way out of the China shop.

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