[EDITORIALS]ABM notice is a bad stepIn a blatant show of unilateralism by the United States, the world's only superpower in the post-Cold War era, U.S. President George W. Bush sent formal notice to Russia on Thursday that Washington is withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Democrats and liberal intellectuals in the United States and the international community expressed concern and anxiety over the go-it-alone attitude of the Bush administration, which also unilaterally rejected the Kyoto Protocol to fight global warming.
Since his inauguration, Mr. Bush had been seeking to junk the ABM Treaty, which bars the deployment of a national missile defense system. Signed by Washington and Moscow, the ABM Treaty limits the number of interceptor missiles and their launch pads in the two countries, making the signatories less likely to launch a first strike because that could lead to massive nuclear retaliation. The accord also bans the development and testing of intercept missiles and the deployment of land, sea, air and space delivery systems, striking a strategic balance between the two countries.
As the ABM Treaty runs directly counter to the United States' missile defense project, the Bush administration negotiated the sensitive issue with Russia and other countries interested throughout this year. It faced strong opposition from other countries because of concerns that jettisoning the treaty would undermine the global strategic balance and trigger a dangerous arms race. Because President Vladmir Putin of Russia, who had been expected to staunchly oppose any change to the treaty, gave a fairly muted response, Mr. Bush seems to have passed a crucial obstacle.
The United States must respond to Mr. Putin's demand that Washington and Moscow document a new strategic relationship as soon as possible and reduce their nuclear arsenal to 1,500 to 2,200 warheads. The United States must also form a new security framework to ease Chinese anxiety and anger about the missile shield plan. Otherwise, there will be a new round of an arms race around the world, and relations between Beijing and Washington will deteriorate.