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Withdrawal from the ABM Treaty: Legal Considerations

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Publication Date: December 2002

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RS21088

Topic: Military and defense (Military policy)

Abstract:

On December 13, 2001, President Bush gave formal notice to Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and the Ukraine that the United States was withdrawing from the AntiBallistic Missile Treaty because of the constraints it imposes on the testing of missile defense systems; and six months later, on June 13, 2002, the treaty effectively terminated. The ABM Treaty has been in force since 1972. Pertinent legal questions that have been raised about U.S. withdrawal concern whether the treaty allows it; if so, the procedure to be followed; and, finally, the constitutionality of the President doing so unilaterally without the involvement of the Senate or Congress. This report briefly discusses these issues, as well as the recent federal district court decision in Kucinich v. Bush dismissing a suit by 32 members of the House challenging the constitutionality of the President's action. This report will be updated as events warrant.