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The defection of Vermont Sen. James Jeffords from the Republican Party “must come as a warning to George Bush” that the president has “just one political path to follow,” and must “reconsider decisions that are hasty, ill thought-out and unpopular,” according to the Voice of Russia World Service, the official broadcasting service of the Russian government.
“What seems especially important,” said the official Moscow broadcast, is Jeffords’ “skepticism about Washington’s plans to deploy a national missile defense system.” Moscow quotes Jeffords as stating that, if the administration pursues an anti-missile defense program, Bush “will stand no chance of re-election.” In addition, the Bush administration now has “no more congressional support for its … foreign policy,” according to Moscow.
Jeffords’ public statement, available on his website, refers to “education” as the “largest” reason for his departure from the Republican Party. According to published reports, Jeffords referred to Bush as a possible “one-term” president because of Bush’s stand on education, rather than his position on a ballistic missile defense system.
While Jeffords has strong reservations regarding an anti-ballistic missile system, he has expressed support for a “very modest research program,” according to a statement released by his office.
Although the Jeffords’ defection shifts control of the Senate, the House remains in Republican hands.
Moscow has expressed its continued and adamant hostility to any U.S. National Missile Defense, or NMD, frequently citing foreign and U.S. domestic opposition to the plan, since the issue arose in the former Clinton administration.
Moscow refers to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., as a “severe critic of President Bush’s defense policy,” and Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., as “the well-known opponent of the administration’s National Missile Defense plan,” according to the broadcast, which earlier took note of the opposition of Sen. Thomas Daschle, D-S.D., to a National Missile Defense system.
Levin is expected to become chairman of the Armed Forces Committee, the official Russian government broadcast observed, and Biden may replace Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., “the Republican hawk,” as chairman of the “extremely important” Foreign Relations Committee (identified in the report as the “International Affairs Committee”).
Daschle is regarded as the next Senate majority leader.
Although Bush’s proposed NMD program is confined to defending against a limited number of missiles, Moscow states that its implementation “threatens to blow up the very foundation of the existing system of international security … created over the decades.”
The 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) concluded between the U.S. and the defunct U.S.S.R. forbids the construction of a NMD system. Those advocating NMD refer to a changed international environment following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the advent in the “post-Cold War” era of a nuclear threat from “states of concern,” formerly known as “rogue states.”
Moscow has denounced U.S. assertions of a nuclear threat from such nations as China, North Korea, Libya, Iraq and Iran as a “far-fetched pretext” to secure for the U.S. “its strategic predominance in the world.”
While a variety of diplomatic attempts at reconciliation continue, observers note that the various “states of concern” still engage in activities that are disquieting to the U.S.
North Korea continues to possess the third largest army in the world, while the great majority of its people are destitute – or actually starving. North Korea is still selling its missiles abroad, and the nation’s president, the current “Great Leader,” Kim Jong-il, remains a feared tyrant.
Iraq, according to recent reports, is still actively seeking to develop a reliable nuclear weapon.
Iran’s “reformist” president, Mohammad Khatami, expressed his complete sympathy with the Cuban Marxist revolution while welcoming to Iran in early May Cuban President Fidel Castro. Khatami stated, according to a BBC report, that “Iran has been waiting” for Castro’s visit “since the [Iranian] revolution.” Iran, with Russian assistance, is expanding its nuclear capabilities, which the Iranian government claims are earmarked for peaceful use only.
Muammar Gaddafi, Libyan ruler since 1969, admitted his nation’s involvement in terrorist activities – including the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am Flight #103 – according to leaked German minutes of a discussion between Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and U.S. President George W. Bush. Questions remain concerning Libya’s terrorist capabilities.
Although China at present possesses few nuclear weapons, Beijing’s intensive development of sophisticated weaponry – again with Russian assistance – is presenting an aggressive challenge to U.S. interests and allies in the Asia Pacific region.
While Russia and its closest partners remain unalterably opposed to any present NMD proposal, and U.S. allies debate their precise stand, the predominant position of Americans regarding the issue, according to some reports, is one of confusion.