"In the late 1990s, the United States began to focus on the possible deployment of defenses against long-range ballistic missiles. The planned National Missile Defense (NMD) system would have exceeded the terms of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Recognizing this, the Clinton Administration sought to convince Russia to modify the terms of the Treaty. But Russia was unwilling to accept any changes to the Treaty. It also decried the U.S plan to deploy NMD, insisting that it would upset strategic stability and start a new arms race. Russia claimed that the ABM Treaty is the 'cornerstone of strategic stability' and that, without its limits on missile defense, the entire framework of offensive arms control agreements could collapse. Furthermore, Russia argued that a U.S. NMD system would undermine Russia's nuclear deterrent and upset stability by allowing the United States to initiate an attack and protect itself from retaliatory strike. The Clinton Administration claimed that the U.S. NMD system would be directed against rogue nations and would be too limited to intercept a Russian attack. But Russian officials questioned this argument. They doubted that rogue nations would have the capability to attack U.S. territory for some time, and they believed that the United States could expand its NMD system easily. Furthermore, they argued that, when combined with the entirety of U.S. conventional and nuclear weapons, an NMD system would place the United States in a position of strategic superiority. During the Clinton Administration and first year of the Bush Administration, Russian officials stated that, if the United States withdrew from the ABM Treaty and deployed an NMD, Russia would withdraw from a range of offensive arms control agreements. Furthermore, Russia could deploy multiple warheads on its ICBMs to overcome a U.S. NMD, or deploy new intermediate-range missiles or shorter-range nuclear systems to enhance its military capabilities. Russia has also outlined diplomatic and cooperative military initiatives as alternatives to the deployment of a U.S. NMD. Russia has proposed that the international community negotiate a Global Missile and Missile Technology Non-Proliferation regime as a means to discourage nations from acquiring ballistic missiles. It has also suggested that it would cooperate with nations in Europe to develop and deploy defenses against theater-range ballistic missiles. Many analysts believe this proposal was designed to win support among U.S. allies for Russia's opposition to the U.S. NMD program. U.S. officials expressed an interest in the idea but said it could not substitute for defenses against longer-range missiles."
CRS Report for Congress, RL30967