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NATO, Russia, and START

Obama and Medvedev

Not only has NATO agreed to expand missile defense in Europe, the former Soviet Union has agreed to cooperate. Last Friday at the NATO summit, members approved the proposal to expand and link missile defense shield systems in the U.S. and Europe to protect against long-range missile attacks from rogue states like Iran.

NATO’s secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen sought to expand missile defense in Europe and made it clear that he wanted Russia’s cooperation in the effort. He got it, but at what cost? Although Russia’s president Dmitry Medvedev agreed to cooperate, he said his country’s cooperation must be a “a full-fledged strategic partnership between Russia and NATO…Otherwise, it’s a no-go. Everybody’s clear that the missile defense system will be useful only when it is universal. I’ll be blunt with you, we need to sort it out.” (Source)

In other words, Russia’s cooperation is contingent on concessions NATO’s willing to make.

NATO also sought Turkey’s cooperation, but the country said it would not agree to the expansion if reference to Iran was explicit. To accommodate Turkey, Iran will not be named in the agreement.

During the summit, President Barack Obama took the opportunity to stress the importance of ratifying START, which calls for warhead and launcher reductions. No doubt ratification would please Russia, but Republican senators have   questions about START. In his weekly address, the president made reference to these senators.

“Over the last several months, several questions have been asked about New START, and we have answered every single one. Some have asked whether it will limit our missile defense – it will not. Some, including Senator Jon Kyl, have asked that we modernize our nuclear infrastructure for the 21st century – we are doing so, and plan to invest at least $85 billion in that effort over the next ten years – a significant increase from the Bush Administration.

“Finally, some make no argument against the Treaty – they just ask for more time. But remember this: it has already been 11 months since we’ve had inspectors in Russia, and every day that goes by without ratification is a day that we lose confidence in our understanding of Russia’s nuclear weapons. If the Senate doesn’t act this year – after six months, 18 hearings, and nearly a thousand questions answered – it would have to start over from scratch in January.”

The president adds that it would be a “dangerous gamble” to delay ratifying the treaty, but senators would be well advised to wait until the administration addresses their concerns.

The Heritage Foundation’s Michaela Bendikova and Conn Carroll also blogged about START this week.

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