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Global Viewpoint

Henry Kissinger: US and Russia should share anti-Iran missile defense

A Q&A with Henry Kissinger

April 20, 2010

Henry Kissinger is a former US secretary of State. He spoke with Global Viewpoint Network editor Nathan Gardels about President Obama’s nuclear policies, how to deal with China, and the new alliance of BRIC countries.

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Nathan Gardels: You have said that you see President Obama as a chess player setting up his moves on the world stage in the first year and a half in office. How do you assess his moves of late on the new START treaty, the Nuclear Posture Statement and the just-completed nuclear security summit with world leaders?

Henry Kissinger: The START treaty is a significant step in achieving a reset in the Russian-American relationship. It replaces the first START treaty, which had lapsed in December. The announced reductions are marginal in substance and achieved in part by changing the counting rules. It is a useful step that deserves ratification.

I agree with the attempt of the Nuclear Posture Statement to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons where we can safely do so. Some of the assurances that were given to nonnuclear countries, however, seem to me too explicit. Especially the statement that the US would not respond to biological and chemical attacks with nuclear weapons. That issue should be left ambiguous.

As for the recent summit of world leaders, controlling fissionable material all over the world is crucial, especially as the civilian use of nuclear energy spreads. Of these three initiatives on the nuclear weapons front taken by Obama, this is the most important subject. It will need continued attention to be effective.

Gardels: One of the stumbling blocks the last time the US and the then-Soviet Union discussed radical arms reductions at Reykjavik during the Reagan administration was the issue of missile defense. That is an issue this time as well, since the Russians oppose basing a missile defense system in Europe aimed against Iran that could be directed against them. And, apparently, they reserve the right to withdraw from the START treaty if the missile-defense issue is not solved.

George Shultz, Reagan’s secretary of State, suggests that the US propose sharing the missile-defense system with Russia, even basing radar sites on their soil. Is this realistic? Is it a good idea?

Kissinger: I favor developing a joint missile defense with Russia against Iran. But the US also needs missile defenses controlled by the United States against strategic attack from other directions. So, let’s cooperate with Russia on Iran, but we cannot relinquish missile defenses aimed at other threats – especially unauthorized launches and accidental launches.