Vortrag von Gernot Erler gehalten auf dem deutsch-französischen Cercle Strategique am 11./12. Mai 2001 in Enghien les Bains/Paris

A contribution to the discussion from a German point of view

As the deputy chair of the SPD's parliamentary faction, I am responsible for co-ordinating the work of the committees on foreign affairs, on defence, the committee for economic co-operation and development as well as the committee for human rights. My position does not allow me to speak for others - I here speak in a personal capacity although my contribution does reflect the German political discussion to some extent.

I would like to divide my contribution into three sections. Based primarily on President Bush's speech to the National Defence University on 1st May this year, I would at first like to answer the question "what political aims and strategies America is pursuing with regards to missile defence". In the second section, I ask the question "What does Europe want?" I would then like to end with some remarks on the connections between global politics and missile defence.

I. Missile Defence - What does America want?

It was not by accident that George W. Bush's speech on missile defence was given at the end of the first 100 days of his administration. With this speech, his government began a big clarification and advertisement campaign which covers several continents and promotes the new American defence policy. It is obvious that the missile defence programme will be at the centre of Bush Junior's administration.

The 1st May speech contains little new information and no surprises. It did not stipulate a certain technical design of missile defence. Instead, we learn all the more about the philosophy - or, to put it in a less friendly way: the ideology - of missile defence. In the process, George W. Bush skilfully takes on previously-made critical objections and responds to them. This speech is really addressed to America's European allies and Russia.

The ABM-Treaty of 1972 is at the centre of this speech - just as it is at the centre of European and Russian criticism of America's missile defence plans. For the American President the ABM-Treaty has lost its right to exist, as it is a product of the cold war, which no longer corresponds to today's political circumstances. The message is clear: the ABM-Treaty must go! For this, America is attempting to gain agreement from the Europeans as well as from the Russians. If this agreement cannot be reached, Bush has by no means ruled out a unilateral termination of the Treaty.

What are the arguments and tactics with which American politics is attempting to gain a consensus against the ABM-Treaty? Three issues are at the forefront:

1. The ABM-Treaty is declared to be the symbol of the cold war phase when America and the Soviet Union opposed each other in hostility and mistrust. In reading President Bush's speech the impression arises that it is solely the ABM-Treaty that is in the way of a new, co-operative and trustworthy relationship between Washington and Moscow. This skilfully positions critics of missile defence - who want to maintain the ABM-Treaty - as dogmatic regarding both nuclear deterrence and the cold war. Obviously it does not occur to the new American President to perhaps name the 7295 American and 6094 Russian nuclear war heads for what they are: relics of the cold war that are superfluously and dangerously maintained even ten years after overcoming the confrontation between the two blocks. No, it is not these weapon systems that are in the way of a new era of Russian-American co-operation but, of all things, the most important arms control treaty from the times of the cold war.

2. The second "merry message" is: if the ABM-Treaty does fall and opens up the way for missile defence, this could result in a considerable reduction of nuclear weapons. Bush has not stipulated the "lowest possible amount" compatible with national American security interests and obligations towards the Allies. He announced, however, that America could lead as a "good example" and could possibly unilaterally reduce the nuclear potential. Whereas critics evoke the dangers of a new arms race, the American President is attempting to build a logical chain with the links "abandonment of the ABM-Treaty - missile defence - reduction of nuclear potential".

This skilful linkage obviously does not address the real worries of the critics. It might be solely due to cost, but the irrationally high amount of warheads of the two big nuclear powers would have to be reduced even without missile defence. The fact is that Washington and Moscow no longer fulfil their own obligations of nuclear disarmament even though they are required to do so according to the NPT (non-proliferation treaty) process. Both nuclear powers have thus contributed to the failure of politics based on non-proliferation, which has always been linked to self-imposed disarmament of the two nuclear superpowers. President Bush is now attempting to sell the long overdue reduction of warheads as a positive effect of his missile defence programme. This is a transparent argument, especially as overdue steps of disarmament are here coupled with gigantic armament programmes on the ground, in the water, in the air and in space, the dimension of which experts estimate to be 60 to 200 billion dollars for America alone.

And finally: the critics of missile defence fear regional armament races as a result of NMD, arguments that Bush avoided to respond to. The question is, after all, what for example China would do with its currently 20 delivery systems when faced with a missile defence programme which completely devalues potentials of this order of magnitude and which would, if stationed for example in Taiwan, drastically limit the latitude of Chinese politics. It is no longer a fantasy but a concrete announcement of the leadership in Peking that they would respond to this scenario by multiplying Chinese potential. The very likely consequence would be that states such as Japan and India would react with their own armament measures. George W. Bush's speech provides no answers to these political mechanisms. These likely long term consequences in East Asia would also spoil the charm of coupling missile defence with unilateral American disarmament, which - in the case of nuclear armament in China - would quickly lose suppo rt in American domestic politics.

3. The third argument countering the ABM-Treaty is especially questionable. It claims that 30 years of technical developments have made the 1972 armaments control treaty obsolete. There is an inclination towards President Bush attempting to make the impression that the ABM-Treaty in 1972 only made illegal what had technically not been possible at the time. Now that there are new technical possibilities the treaty would have to be adjusted.

This is a dangerous argument, as such objections can be raised against all disarmament and armament control treaties. The agreement on chemical weapons has thus ostracised an entire weapons technology for all times, the START-Treaties not only reduce the amount of warheads but also ban certain technical applications (e.g. the multiple-warhead missile technique), and the treaty banning nuclear tests - although this has so far not been ratified by Washington - expressly wants to end further developments in nuclear weapons. Interested parties could therefore use the arguments against the ABM-Treaty against every disarmament and armament control agreement. Using the argument of changed technical feasibility, the American President confirms the concerns of NMD-critics who fear that discharging the ABM-Treaty will result in a tendency to dissolve all disarmament politics on the basis of treaties. These worries are reinforced when Bush in his speech merely refers to a "new framework" to replace the existing tr eaty. The formulation could hardly be more non-committal.

Part of the new administration's advertisement concept are kind words regarding Russia, which - according to George W. Bush - has the chance to develop into a big, democratic and peace-loving nation. The old image of the enemy no longer exists, but it has not been erased without substitute. Missile defence is necessary because there are now other states that (quoting directly) "hate America, hate America's friends and hate America's values". They already possess, or will do so in the near future, dangerous and far-reaching weapons. Missile defence is supposed to ensure that these "least responsible states" can be sanctioned despite their possession of weapons of mass destruction. Bush directly establishes this connection when he questions whether the Gulf war of 1991 could have taken place if Saddam had possessed useable nuclear weapons at the time.

We have made acquaintance with this post-cold war scenario with its new enemy via previous vocabulary of "rogue states" and "states of concern". It can hardly claim to be "new thinking". America has given up any expectations of a politics of non-proliferation and has decided to develop a military answer for all unreliable and America-hating owners of weapons of mass destruction. The images of the enemy have been exchanged, the thoughts about the enemy have not. The variant of countering the hate felt by the few "least responsible states" towards America via political strategies is non-existent for George W. Bush.

Let us summarise how the American philosophy of missile defence currently presents itself:

· Missile defence has been decided upon, but Washington will seriously attempt to gain the co-operation of its allies, integrate Russia and at least talk with Peking.

· The ABM-Treaty has to go, as it is a relic of the cold war, because it restricts the possibilities of implementing technical progress of the last three decades, and because it is in the way of missile defence.

· With missile defence the intention is not only to protect American territory. It is primarily designed to decrease risk during worldwide military intervention. Consequently, there will be a connection between national protection (NMD) and regional protection of Allies and US armed forces operating abroad (TMD).

· European and Russian agreement is to be achieved not only through consultation and integration but also by linking this extremely expensive armament programme to steps of nuclear disarmament, which could occur unilaterally.

II. What does Europe want?

Where now are the differences between Europe and America regarding missile defence? This analysis has to begin with a sad realisation: the EU does not have a mutual position on this matter. Although the common foreign and security policy as well as the European security and defence identity have achieved rapid success over the last one and a half years, there is today not even an organised process of discussion within the EU that could lead to a mutual position regarding missile defence. This fact cannot be denied despite a delegation of the Swedish EU-presidency recently going to Washington to ask the Americans to give up their missile defence programme. In my opinion, this lack of a mutually developed position is a serious deficit en route to a common European foreign and security policy.

German politics is critical of the US plans for missile defence and has articulated a series of concerns as questions. These are concerns that are also voiced in other European capitals. I here attempt to list some of them:

· How can it be avoided that a lifting of the ABM-Treaty becomes an exemplary blow to treaty-based, worldwide armament control and de-armament politics? I would like to emphasise that this concern would also stand if Russia agrees to changes to - or the lifting of - the ABM-Treaty.

· How can it be avoided that missile defence will lead to dangerous regional armament processes, starting for example with a Chinese reaction along these lines?
· If NMD/ TMD is realised, can the aim not to militarise space be maintained?

· To what extent does this gigantic armament programme, which will possibly also include European and Russian means, interfere with the extension of instruments for better crisis prevention and farsighted peace politics. In our view, both of these should be prioritised, especially considering the global conditions of limited resources for security politics.

· Does the definition of "least responsible states" - in the sense of states that hate America, its allies and western values - used as a legitimisation of missile defence, not prevent attempts to get such problem-states out of their global isolation via strategies of political integration? Such attempts have produced promises of success over the last few months in the cases of North Korea and Iran. In Europe but also in parts of the American political world there is agreement that the western policies towards Iraq have so far failed and will have to be changed. Without the continued existence of nameable anti-American enemy states, missile defence loses its security-political justification.

German politics is not in favour of a categorical 'No' but wants to see a transatlantic consultation process regarding missile defence so that it can clarify these important questions and, as far as is possible, take influence on future developments. This approach has shown initial success. The Bush administration has hesitated to unilaterally implement missile defence without thorough consultation with its allies and without at least attempting consensus with Moscow. This is in contrast to the new conditions of American participation in population programmes and to the sudden US withdrawal from the Kyoto process. There are still possibilities to influence developments since the technical programmes have obviously not been definitely decided on. These options of influencing will remain very limited without the development of a common EU position. None of us are interested in a renewed Russian-American confrontation due to missile defence. However, the same critical questions that we address to Washington will also be put to our Russian colleagues if they decide in favour of co-operation with Washington.

III. Missile Defence and global politics

I would like to end with a few remarks on the interconnection between global politics and missile defence. The connection between missile defence and securing America's worldwide ability to intervene has been documented thanks to the openness of Bush's 1st May speech. I n 1991 during the triumph of victory in the second Gulf war, the father of today's president spoke of a "new global order". Bush Junior has now set out to secure this new world order via an enormous armament programme. It is a substantial element of this new world order to punish countries that misbehave with military interventions - depending on the respective situation, with or without legitimisation from the United Nations. Weapons of mass destruction coupled with far-reaching delivery systems in the hands of regimes hostile to America burden such penal action with too high a risk.

The decisive question is whether we will live more securely in such a world order, whether it would function and whether there are any realistic alternatives. We have learned from experience: countries that have undertaken great strain in developing such arsenal systems will not shy from any investments necessary to counter a devaluation of their technology due to western missile defence. The most primitive answer is to build enough delivery systems to overload the capacity of missile defence. There are also smart variants but the result is always: rearmament and arms race.

A world order based on enabling selected states to intervene without risk will always be provocative and bring about precisely those villains that are referred to by the military wanting to secure possibilities of intervention.

Such a world order cannot do without exclusion, or without occasionally proving that mechanisms of punishment will be implemented should the need arise. This world order does not function without a bloody use of force.

The question of missile defence thus goes far beyond the issue of a new armament programme. Here, the global future is being programmed in a direction away from perspectives on worldwide de-armament and non-proliferation and away from political integration strategies vis-à-vis problem states. It also moves away from a world order based on the principles of general renunciation of force, which, in connection with a strong world organisation, could function as an organised instance of regulation. These are, perhaps, illusionary alternatives. But at the very least, we should know at which political junction we currently stand.