chapter  5
24 Pages

George W. Bush, ABM Treaty abrogation and deployment (2001–2005)

George W. Bush took office with very different ideas about ballistic missile defence than Bill Clinton. In fact, Bush was probably the first post-Cold War president to truly embrace the idea of BMD. Bush fervently believed that the US could no longer rely on Cold War security frameworks, and specifically that the 30-year-old Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty should either be adapted or abrogated in order to allow the US to deploy the defensive weaponry necessary to ensure its security. In Bush’s mind, the US needed the freedom to deploy a range of ballistic missile defences in order to meet the new missile threats of what he and many in his administration believed to be a dangerous and unstable international environment. Nevertheless, as Bush took office, the US remained bound by the ABM Treaty and limited by the technological immaturity of the majority of BMD systems under development at the time. Moreover, Bush entered office faced with a Democratic leadership in Congress determined to limit Bush’s BMD plans and retain the ABM Treaty as the centrepiece of US security. As a result, in early 2001, it was unclear whether Bush would be able to push ahead with the type of BMD programme that he wanted. Had terrorists not attacked the US on 11 September 2001, it is arguable that Bush’s missile defence plans may have remained hampered, and it is equally likely that his administration would have found it far harder to abrogate the ABM Treaty. However, the events of that day – while not necessarily changing the views of those within the administration about BMD1 – did provide the political opportunity for Bush to push ahead. As a result, within two years of the ABM Treaty ending, the Bush Administration had begun fielding longrange missile interceptors at two bases on US homeland, begun informal discussions about further deployments in Europe and elsewhere around the world and were actively pursuing a wide range of different BMD programmes. The pace of these developments had much to do with a new type of deployment plan adopted by the administration – one whereby assets would be deployed before fully tested – under a model known as spiral development. When this was coupled with Democratic acquiescence after 9/11, and a Republicancontrolled Congress after 2002, the Bush Administration was able to push ahead precipitously with its BMD plans. The result was a seismic shift in the BMD debate.