A National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the possible implications of the United States deploying National Missile Defenses (NMD) was delivered by the Intelligence Community to President Clinton the week of August 7th, after several months of preparation.
Unlike the September 1999 NIE, "Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States", which laid out a dramatically increased threat to the United States from ballistic missiles, the new report has not yet been summarized in unclassified form. According to published reports, however, the new NIE outlines the worst case scenarios that could result from the deployment of a national missile defense by the United States, taking a similar approach to that used in the September 1999 estimate.
The report acknowledges that the administration's NMD plans could lead to a new arms race with Russia and, to a lesser extent, with Asian countries. Russia could potentially withdraw from an array of arms control treaties, especially if the United States deployed a national missile defense in the absence of an agreement with Russia to modify the ABM Treaty. The report found that Russia could deploy shorter-range missiles along its borders and add multiple warheads to its ballistic missiles, a practice Russia had agreed to stop as part of the START II Treaty.
The estimate also warns that China could expand its arsenal of 20 long-range nuclear missiles ten-fold, to a quantity capable of overwhelming Clinton's proposed missile defense system. The NIE reportedly claims that China could develop both mobile and multiple warhead missiles and deploy up to 200 warheads by 2015, which would likely prompt Indian and Pakistani buildups.
On the nature of the missile threat to the United States, the study repeats past assessments that North Korea, Iran and Iraq could develop ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States by 2015. In fact, the North Korean threat was judged to be even more imminent, despite recent political progress on the Korean peninsula.
President Clinton is expected to decide in late November whether to take initial steps toward building the missile defense system. The President has said that he will consider four factors in making his decision, including the technical readiness of missile defense technology, and the likely implications of NMD deployment for arms control and strategic stability.