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Bill Clinton thinks he has found a loophole in the missile defense
bills passed by the House and the Senate. The State Department is
putting the word out to selected overseas embassies that, no matter what
they may have heard about the U.S. putting up a missile defense system,
it isn’t going to happen.

The Washington Times obtained a copy of a cable sent on March
19 to Moscow, Beijing and other capitals in Europe and Asia, telling our
diplomats how to soft-pedal the issue.

According to the Times report, the cable states that, even
though Mr. Clinton plans to sign the missile defense bill that comes out
of conference, the administration has set up “four roadblocks to
deploying a national missile defense that remain unaffected.”

The roadblocks to which the State Department referred are contained
in two amendments Democrats added in the Senate before the final vote.
One amendment makes it clear that the development and deployment of the
missile defense system is subject to the regular congressional
authorizations and appropriations process. The other amendment states
that the U.S. will continue to negotiate on nuclear arms reductions with
Russia.

The authorization bill is tantamount to opening the checking account
for this project. The appropriations bill is the equivalent of writing
the check to pay for it. It is clear from the State Department cable
that Mr. Clinton is prepared to find some reason for vetoing one or both
of these implementing bills in order to postpone the project
indefinitely if he feels he has the political capital.

The other roadblock is the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty we signed
with the old Soviet Union. The Soviet Union no longer exists; however,
Russia has made the Start II and Start III arms control agreements
contingent on the survival of this treaty. Arms control agreements with
Russia traditionally mean good press for U.S. presidents and Bill
Clinton wants these agreements in the worst way.

The amendment says that we should continue to pursue arms reductions
with Russia. However, as Senator Thad Cochran, one of the bill’s
sponsors, has pointed out, “it doesn’t say anything about whether they
have to be successful.”

Nevertheless, it is clear that Bill Clinton is prepared to reinvent
or redefine the language in this bill in order to defy Congress, if
necessary. In other words, you can lead this horse to the missile
defense trough, but Mr. Clinton will not defend this country against
incoming ballistic missiles. It simply isn’t going to happen on his
watch.

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