Anti-Missile Defense Systems

February 15, 1967

Report Outline
Current Debate on Anti-Missile Systems
Development of the Missile Competition
American Missiles and National Security

Current Debate on Anti-Missile Systems

Administration Errort to Avert New Arms Race

Reconvening of the Geneva Disarmament Conference on February 21 may afford opportunities to broaden and reinforce efforts already under way to ward off a new and extremely costly arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara told newsmen at the LBJ Ranch on Nov. 10, 1966, that this country had “considerable evidence” that the Soviets had begun to deploy an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system. The predictable effect of the announcement was to generate increased pressure in Congress and elsewhere to accelerate the development of, and to deploy, a similar American system. The Defense Department has estimated that full deployment of such a system would cost the United States up to $40 billion. Whether such an outlay would yield a corresponding degree of protection is a matter of intense controversy.

When U. S. Ambassador Llewellyn E. Thompson took up his post in Moscow recently, it is believed that one of his most urgent assignments was to attempt to convince the Kremlin of the mutual advantages of concluding an agreement to stop competition in anti-missile defense systems. In his State of the Union address to Congress, Jan. 10, President Johnson noted that the Russians had “begun to place near Moscow a limited anti-missile defense.” But instead of proposing that the United States proceed to match any Soviet ABM system, the President declared that “We have the solemn duty to slow down the arms race between us, if that is at all possible, in both conventional and nuclear weapons and defenses.”

Deputy Secretary of Defense Cyrus R. Vance told the Disarmament Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Feb. 7, that exchanges at a high level indicated Soviet interest in talking about limiting deployment of ABM missiles. Only two days later, at a news conference in London, Soviet Premier Alexei N. Kosygin seemed to throw cold water on hopes for an ABM moratorium. He acknowledged that “an important problem of military policy” was involved, but instead of making a direct reply to questions on the subject, he asked: “What heightens military tension in the world more: an offensive or a defensive system?” Kosygin's only suggestion as to how to solve the problem was to repeat the familiar Soviet call for a ban on all nuclear arms and the destruction of existing stockpiles. Secretary of State Rusk cautioned a few hours later against taking Kosygin's remarks “as the last word on this subject.” Pointing out that the Soviet Premier had referred to both offensive and defensive weapons, Rusk added that the United States was prepared to discuss both types with the Soviet Union.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Missile Defense
Sep. 08, 2000  Missile Defense
Sep. 19, 1986  Science Wars Over Star Wars
Feb. 15, 1967  Anti-Missile Defense Systems
Defense Technology and Force Planning
U.S. at War: Cold War