Is America still committed to nuclear arms reduction?

The Clinton administration has been attempting unsuccessfully to alter the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty the United States signed with the Soviet Union in 1972. Principally, the White House would like to build a limited missile defense system to defend itself against long-range missiles launched simultaneously by rogue states like North Korea or Iraq. The treaty’s current form does not allow the development of such a system. Although President Clinton is seeking Russian approval to reopen negotiations, he might request the defense system’s implementation anyway. However, any such alteration of the treaty — especially without Russian consent — would drastically slow international arms reduction, which the treaty was designed to accomplish.
Once a leader in discouraging nuclear proliferation, the United States is no longer assuming this responsibility, deferring it instead to the Russian government. Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin recently convinced the Duma to ratify the START-2 arms-reduction treaty, which calls for a 3,500 limit on nuclear arms for both the United States and Russia, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the U.S. Senate rejected in October.
Putin rightfully claims that the proposed defense system would be detrimental to arms-reduction efforts, and a threat to Russian security. American negotiators immediately responded to Putin by emphasizing that the defense system would be limited, beginning with only 100 ABM launchers stationed in Alaska. A document sent to Russia by the negotiators states that Russia could easily overwhelm the United States’ limited system.
However, Sen. Jesse Helms and fellow Republicans have refused to ratify the proposal, which they say is too limited and undermines the United States’ ability to protect itself. Many senators demand either a less limited anti-ballistic missile system or fewer restrictions on later defense system growth. Putin’s concern is that allowing a limited missile defense system will lead to a more powerful shield are valid when the current congressional composition is considered.
Some senators, including Helms, do not even consider Russia the heir to the Soviet Union’s position in the ABM treaty, which would nullify the treaty. In all other roles, though, the United States has considered Russia to be the Soviet Union’s successor. Russia assumed the Soviet seat on the U.N. Security Council and Soviet responsibilities in other treaties.
Besides threatening arms reduction between the United States and Russia, modifying the treaty would encourage rogue nations to enlarge their current nuclear stocks. Many foreign states consider the United States to be a threat, and notice that the Security Council is composed predominantly of the largest nuclear powers. To some nations, it might seem, the only way to be heard is by mass producing nukes. This possible scenario strikingly contradicts the intents of U.S. arms-reductions policies.
Thus far, tests of the United States’ ability to intercept incoming missiles has been poor. Last year, a test nearly failed and a second in January was entirely unsuccessful. Furthermore, the benefits of having a missile defense system are outweighed by its incredible cost. While deciding a policy that would affect global arms-reduction efforts, the United States must consider more global interests of humanity, rather than merely its own.