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By Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union, is
president of Green Cross International and an advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In June, U.S. President George W. Bush will meet Putin for the first time to discuss missile defense.

MOSCOW -- It is said that the risks of attacks by weapons of mass
destruction are greater today than during the Cold War, and that is why the United States must build a national missile defense (NMD) and abrogate the ABM treaty.

I believe the opposite: A national missile defense could spark a new round of the arms race that will make the world even less secure than at the height of the Cold War.

Since I don't assume that the Americans are indeed contemplating
launching a war from behind their shield, I have to wonder: Perhaps the whole idea of NMD is to start a new arms race as a way to spur economic and technological development when the global economy is weakening?

This suspicion is not just a wild guess. I remember talking last year
with a prominent member of the Russian military-industrial complex who had just returned from meeting high-level officials in the United States. He sought a meeting with me in order to share his joy.

"What are you so happy about?'' I asked. He said, "My American
counterparts and I concluded that tensions are rising in the world, and that means we will all have new defense contracts. We'll have a lot of work.''

This may be in the interests of arms dealers, but is it in the interests of the global community? Do we want a situation where defense contractors dictate our security policies? I don't think so.

Security lies in the radical reduction of nuclear weapons, not in a new arms race.

After India exploded its nuclear bomb three years ago, I had a meeting with the Indian ambassador to Moscow. He told me: "Look what is happening in the nuclear club. Years are going by, but the major nuclear powers are keeping their weapons despite the absence of strategic conflict. This means
they want to keep the ultimate weapon so they can dictate their rules to us. This is a signal to more than 30 countries who have the capacity that they, too, should acquire nuclear weapons.''

That kind of proliferation will be the result of the United States
seeking to put a defensive umbrella over its own head, thus giving it an offensive military edge, while ignoring the need for global security.

(c) 2001, Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, a division of Tribune Media Services.
For immediate release (Distributed 5/29/01)