Sen. Dan Quayle (R-Ind.) has given us a fanciful account of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty negotiations in his article (Editorial Pages, June 15), which supports the Reagan Administration's new interpretation of that treaty.
An analysis by Chairman Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) of the Senate Armed Services Committee points out that this rendition of the negotiating history, originally presented by State Department legal adviser Judge Abraham Sofaer, reaches a faulty conclusion by ignoring the distinctions between two separate subjects that were under negotiation.
The ABM treaty restricts the deployment of weapons designed to intercept long-range nuclear missiles, with specific numerical limits on the kinds of systems then under consideration. Those systems consisted of radars and interceptor rockets based at fixed sites on the ground. The current debate over the interpretation of the ABM treaty concerns restrictions on future ABM systems in other, mobile basing modes, in particular whether the United States can legally test "Star Wars" systems for deployment in space. Article V (1) definitively rules this out: "Each party undertakes not to develop, test, or deploy ABM systems or components which are sea-based, air-based, space-based, or mobile land-based." According to Nunn's analysis, the Soviets agreed to these restrictions as early as September, 1971.