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State Department Denies Secret Missile Defense Deal

December 1st, 2010

In October, six Republican senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, requesting that she turn over documents and transcripts related to a rumored secret missile defense agreement between the U.S. and Russia. Specifically, these senators wanted to know whether such an agreement limited development or deployment of U.S. or allied missile defense. The State Department denied that the U.S. and Russia engaged in such an agreement.

Today, the department published a fact sheet that purportedly addresses senators’ concerns. The department reiterates there are no secret deals with Russia on missile defense, and emphasized that the U.S. seeks missile defense cooperation with the former Soviet Union. Invoking a Bush-era missile defense agreement, the administration asserted it seeks to enter into a more limited agreement, the Ballistic Missile Defense Cooperation Agreement (BMDCA), which reads in part:

“This agreement shall not constrain or limit the Parties’ respective BMD plans and capabilities numerically, qualitatively, operationally, geographically, or in any other way.”

Although the State Department contends that the missile defense negotiations with Russia aren’t secret, this is the administration’s first public description of the negotiations. The State Department also asserts that the U.S. won’t accept missile defense constraints and limitations, but the assertion is inconsistent with a formal statement issued by the Obama administration upon the signing of new START.

Perhaps the administration believes cooperating with Russia means cooperating with Russia to limit U.S. missile defense capabilities. A missile defense system capable of defending against missile threats will necessarily affect the strategic balance with Russia. There’s no way around it. The Obama administration seeks START ratification, no questions asked, and the BMDCA negotiations seem to be a ploy to link the BMDCA with START.

Senators must keep asking questions and demanding answers about START. More important, the Senate must not vote on START during the lame-duck or any other congressional session until these matters are settled and our national security and that of our allies are assured.

Russia Denies Missiles Near NATO Allies

November 30th, 2010

This morning we blogged about suspicions that Russia broke a 1991 pledge and moved short-range tactical nuclear warheads to areas near NATO allies (see the Wall Street Journal). As expected, the former Soviet Union has denied the charges.

Mikhail Margelov (pictured), head of the upper house of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, told Bloomberg that his country has “relations of trust now with our American partners and don’t take any steps without informing our partners and consulting with them.” Russia’s Defense Ministry neither confirmed nor denied the report.

A defense analyst in Russia implied that the report was just a scheme to stop START ratification in the Senate (as if START’s many problems played no role!).

The Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano weighed in on the tactical nuclear warheads report:

“More and more it looks like the Russians have played Obama like the Soviets played Jimmy Carter. Yet, it seems the President still does not get it. His top priority is still—ratification of New START. Meanwhile, the White House continues to live in La-La Land. Ben Rhodes, a White House deputy national security adviser, said Obama remains strong internationally.”

U.S. Suspects Russian Missiles Near NATO Allies

November 30th, 2010

Obama and Medvedev

President Barack Obama wants the U.S. Senate to ratify a treaty that reduces our arsenal and weakens our missile defense, no questions asked. While he’s busy avoiding answering Republican senators’ questions about START, Russia is doing what it does best: breaking promises.

Twenty years ago, Russia pledged to pull tactical nuclear warheads back from areas bordering NATO allies and to reduce these weapons. Although Russia threatened to deploy missiles to Kaliningrad (its territory near the Polish border) if the U.S. deployed missile shields to Poland and the Czech Republic, U.S. officials thought they’d talked Russia down from the threat.

Now the U.S. has reason to believe the former Soviet Union has moved short-range tactical nuclear warheads to areas near NATO allies, breaking its 1991 pledge to refrain from such activity. An excerpt from the Wall Street Journal:

“Russia’s movement of the ground-based tactical weapons appeared to coincide with the deployment of U.S. and NATO missile-defense installations in countries bordering Russia. Moscow has long considered the U.S. missile defense buildup in Europe a challenge to Russian power, underlining deep-seated mistrust between U.S. and Russian armed forces despite improved relations between political leaders.

“The Kremlin had no immediate comment.

“Republican critics in the Senate say it was a mistake for President Barack Obama to agree to the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia, or New Start, without dealing with outstanding questions about Moscow’s tactical nuclear weapons. New Start would cap the Russian and U.S. deployed strategic nuclear arsenals at 1,550 per side. It doesn’t address tactical weapons, which are smaller and for use on a battlefield.”

It’s safe to say senators already concerned that START weakens our missile defense will put up even more resistant to ratification, in light of these developments. Surely, Obama understands that the U.S. has agreed to protect allies, and Russia is a direct threat to those allies. Why would he want to push through a treaty that puts these allies in Russia’s crosshairs? More from the article:

“U.S. officials believe the most recent movements of Russian tactical nuclear weapons took place in late spring. In late May, a U.S. Patriot missile battery was deployed in northern Poland, close to Kaliningrad, sparking public protests from Moscow.

“Some officials said the movements are a concern but sought to play down the threat. Russian nuclear warheads are stored separately from their launching systems, U.S. officials say.

“In the fall of 1991, the U.S. had about 5,000 tactical nuclear weapons deployed overseas, most assigned to NATO, according to the Arms Control Association. The U.S. destroyed about 3,000 as a result of the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives. Today, the U.S. is believed to have some 1,100 tactical nuclear warheads, of which about 480 are nuclear gravity bombs stored in six European countries.”

If U.S. suspicions about Russia deploying tactical nuclear weapons to NATO borders are true, our allies face a serious threat. For years the U.S. has addressed such threats in part by maintaining strategic nuclear forces. While START reduces strategic nuclear forces, it doesn’t even address tactical nuclear forces, thanks to Obama. The imbalance and lack of flexibility are obvious.

Our president trusts a country that can’t be trusted, and he asks our elected officials to trust him. Meanwhile, Russia gets the last smirk.

Keith Payne on START Mischaracterization and Misdirection

November 29th, 2010

Keith B. Payne, a former deputy assistant secretary for defense, suggests that Republican opposition to new START may have as much to do with how the Obama administration is trying to sell the treaty as the treaty’s many problems, including limits on our missile defense strategy. An excerpt of his article at National Review Online:

“Senior members of the administration have contributed to the skepticism by engaging in a pattern of mischaracterization and misdirection while simultaneously being disdainful and dismissive of reasonable treaty concerns identified by knowledgeable commentators.

“For example, even before Presidents Obama and Medvedev signed the treaty in April 2010, some U.S. commentators expressed concern that the administration would agree in New START to limits on U.S. missile defense. Russian commentators fanned this flame by claiming frequently that the treaty would indeed limit U.S. defenses. In response, the administration reassured all that there would be no such limits whatsoever; New START was to be a treaty on strategic offensive forces, not on defensive forces. During an April 29 press conference to explain New START, Ellen Tauscher, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security, stated that ‘the treaty does nothing to constrain missile defenses . . . this treaty is about offensive strategic weapons.’ And: ‘There is no limit or constraint on what the United States can do with its missile defense system.’ Further: ‘There are no constraints to missile defense.’

“Yet the actual text of the treaty shows Russian commentators and U.S. skeptics to be correct: New START’s Article V, paragraph 3, explicitly limits some U.S. missile-defense options, and the treaty establishes a Bilateral Consultative Commission wherein missile defense can be the subject of further ongoing discussions and possible limitation. The administration, however, has repeated the false claim of no limits on missile defense so often and so definitively that it continues to be presented as fact by some journalists and commentators sympathetic to New START.”

Although START limits missile defense and non-nuclear strategic forces, it doesn’t specifically mention limiting rail-mobile ICBMs, “an old Russian favorite.” When concerned senators sought clarification, Russia’s Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the parliament committee responsible for treaties, seemed to be offended, issuing a veiled threat to “stop action” on START.

“The pattern of mischaracterization and misdirection also extends to the repeated administration claims that New START will reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads by ‘about 30 percent below the 2200 maximum that was in the 2002 Moscow treaty.’ However, the specific terms of the treaty actually permit the number of nuclear weapons to move higher than the 2,200 maximum under the previous Moscow Treaty because under New START all of the weapons on a bomber would count as only one warhead, even though some bombers are capable of carrying many more. A Russian strategic expert, Mikhail Barabanov, described this sleight of hand regarding New START’s supposed reductions as ‘nothing short of fraudulent, and clearly designed to mislead the public.’”

Payne noted, as we did during START negotiations, that Russia had less to lose than the U.S. Russia was already below START’s launcher limits, for example. The U.S. felt the greater impact of the treaty’s imposed limits. Payne also points out the Obama administration’s new selling point: the Senate must ratify START during the lame-duck session, or our national security will be weakened.

“Yet Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has stated repeatedly that Russia poses no military threat to us or our allies. This bit of illogic remains unexplained, and even the Washington Post labels such administration claims of urgency as ‘more than a little overstated’ and ‘hyperbole.’”

It’s time for the Obama administration to stop obfuscating and begin addressing critics’ concerns about START.

Doyle McManus on START Ratification

November 29th, 2010

Los Angeles Times columnist Doyle McManus notes the Obama administration’s implication that the U.S. Senate must ratify new START, despite serious concerns, because we owe Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.

“‘President Medvedev has made every effort to move Russia in the right direction,’ President Obama said last weekend at the NATO summit in Lisbon.  ‘It’s also important that we don’t leave a partner hanging after having negotiated an agreement like this.’

‘Vice President Joe Biden, in Washington, made the point a little more bluntly, as Biden often does. Medvedev, he said, has been the key Russian leader pushing for a “reset” of better relations with the United States — not Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has been more skeptical — and it’s in our interest to give Medvedev a boost.

“But there are problems with this argument.

“Although Medvedev technically has the top job (and titular responsibility for foreign policy), every Russia watcher knows that Putin is the real boss, and that he could reassume the post of president as soon as Russia’s constitution allows him to, in 2012.”

Experts say the Obama administration’s perceived special relationship with Medvedev may be an illusion, and McManus reminds readers about the relationships Obama’s predecessors had with Russian leaders. The positive effects of a “reset” with Russia will be ephemeral, if the Senate doesn’t ratify START. The Republican takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives, coupled with Obama’s declining popularity, don’t portend well for “reset” relations.

“If New START isn’t ratified, Biden warned, other governments, not only Russia’s, will ask: ‘You guys can’t even deliver on something you helped tie down?’”

McNamara and Spring on Post-Summit Missile Defense

November 24th, 2010

The Heritage Foundation’s Sally McNamara and Baker Spring wrote about NATO’s summit, held last weekend in Lisbon, and what must happen with missile defense in light of the newly adopted Strategic Concept and Russia’s agreement to cooperate on missile defense. An excerpt from their web memo:

“The new Strategic Concept adopted by NATO at the Lisbon summit this weekend stated: ‘The greatest responsibility of the Alliance is to protect and defend our territory and our populations against attack, as set out in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.’[1] Accordingly, NATO has declared missile defense a core competency of the alliance. The 2010 Strategic Concept states that the Alliance will ‘develop the capability to defend our populations and territories against ballistic missile attack as a core element of our collective defence, which contributes to the indivisible security of the Alliance.’[2]

“The development of a transatlantic-wide missile defense architecture will produce an effective defensive strategic posture for the alliance and marks a welcome step forward in terms of addressing the security challenges presented by the post–Cold War world. History will view it as a major milestone in moving the West away from the Cold War policy of maintaining deterrence primarily by the threat of nuclear retaliation for any strategic attack on members of the alliance and toward a policy putting in place defenses to protect its population and territory against such attack.”

With the post-Cold War threat of rogue states like Iran and North Korea, protecting allies is more important than ever. Expanding missile defense in Europe is vital, and McNamara and Baker contend that NATO should honor its June 2011 deadline to implement the plan.

The authors also contend that the former Soviet Union’s contradicts itself by agreeing to cooperate with NATO in expanding missile defense in Europe, while at the same time asserting that START limits U.S. missile defense and “by extension, NATO missile defense options. Russia has threatened to withdraw from START if the U.S. strengthens missile defense in Europe. Since the U.S. is part of NATO, and NATO approved a plan to expand missile defense, will Russia withdraw from START?

“If the Russian pledge to cooperate with the West in the area of missile defense is to have real meaning, the Russians will have to issue three policy statements in addition to accepting the programmatic guidelines listed above:

“1. That Russia no longer sees the development and deployment of robust missile defense capabilities as undermining the strategic balance and believes that moving toward defensive strategic postures will enhance stability in the post–Cold War world;

“2. That Russia accepts the fact that fielding missile defenses capable of countering missiles that are in the hands of third states both now and in the future will necessarily have some capability to counter Russian missiles; and

“3. That Russia understands that the new NATO missile defense policy is a legitimate part of the alliance’s inherent right to collective self-defense and not a threat to Russia.”

James Carafano in NRO on North Korea

November 24th, 2010

The Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano is on a roll. An excerpt of his post at National Review’s The Corner blog:

“No place is less aptly named than the Land of the Morning Calm. Artillery duels are not tranquil. Neither is news that North Korea has a new covert nuclear facility.

“Blame the president for all the tumult, at least partly. The Obama doctrine — a.k.a. the ‘anything but Bush’ approach — relied on international institutions and ‘soft power’ diplomacy to solve our most fundamental foreign-policy challenges.

“It was a lovely doctrine. But then Obama discovered a harsh truth: Reality bites. Faced with real-world foreign-policy messes — from GITMO to deadlines in Afghanistan — the president found himself backtracking into a ‘Bush-lite’ foreign policy.

“Now Pyongyang emerges as the final nail in the coffin of the Obama doctrine.

“When North Korea stepped on the outstretched hands of friendship and negotiation, the White House found it had to reverse course and get tough. It had no choice. The North Koreans regard accommodation as weakness, not negotiation.

“Admittedly, in practice Obama’s policy toward North Korea has been better than Bush’s, maybe a lot better. So Pyongyang is pushing back: raising a ruckus in hopes that Washington will back down and buy them off — again.

“What makes them think they can still push America around? The message the White House is still sending to the rest of the world. While the Obama doctrine has fallen by the wayside in practice, its rhetoric remains alive and well.

“That equivocal face offers Pyongyang and other restive regimes hope that America will be the pushover the Obama doctrine suggests. It’s hard for North Korea to take the commander-in-chief seriously when he chooses to slash 44 percent of the missile-defense interceptors meant to protect the U.S. homeland from Pyongyang’s missiles. A policy of minimalist missile defense looks pretty ridiculous to a hostile nation that announces, out of the blue, that it has built another massive nuclear facility while we were beating our shields into plowshares. Who know what else Pyongyang is hiding — or when it will tell us?”

North Korea Fires On South Korea

November 23rd, 2010

Today, North Korea fired artillery shells on the disputed South Korean border island Yeonpyeong, killing an indeterminate number of people. What motivated the attack? North Korea implied that South Korea fired first. The latter was conducting military exercises around the island. (Source)

The president called it an “outrageous act.”

The rogue state recently revealed that it was operating a uranium enrichment program. Last month, the Institute for Science and International Security released a report that concluded North Korea is enriching uranium for nuclear weapons. Among other things, North Korea has a centrifuge program, which enables the rogue state to develop nuclear weapons and to assist other countries attempting to build centrifuge programs. The Washington Post reported that the rogue state might own 500 to 1,000 centrifuges, and experts say the country would need 3,000 such systems to make a nuclear weapon.

The Heritage Foundation recently published a fact sheet list the top ten reasons not to trust Russia. Listed among the reasons is Russia violating nonproliferation agreements by providing ballistic missile technology to Iran and North Korea, which have continually threatened America and its allies. Several months ago, the Defense Intelligence Agency reported that in as little as five years, Iran may be capable of hitting the U.S. with an intercontinental ballistic missile, with North Korea’s help.

Today’s attack is part of a continuum of North Korea’s determination to develop nuclear weapons and antagonize U.S. allies. Heritage’s Conn Carroll urges the Obama administration not to give in to North Korea’s inevitable demands.

(Photo credit: Reuters)

James Carafano in Family Security Matters

November 23rd, 2010

An excerpt of James Carafano’s column about START ratification at Family Security Matters:

“When the President declared that he was going to go after his ‘enemies’—meaning members of Congress who did not agree with him—he must have really meant it. The hottest news item of the week, last week, was the Administration’s all out assault on Senators who have dared to question the President’s negotiating skills.
“Sen. Jon Kyl (R–AZ) released a press statement finding that there was more work to be done on the New START nuclear deal with Russia and that rushing consideration in lame duck was ill-advised. That triggered a tsunami-assault of arm-twisting, grand-standing, threatening, and bullying we have not seen from the White House since Obamacare.

“On the one hand, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John F. Kerry (D–MA) claimed there was something akin to universal bipartisan support for the treaty even as the White House attacked Republicans for trying to deny the President a foreign policy ‘victory’ for partisan purposes.

“One hysterical claim argued that if New START is not approved terrorists will be able to get Russian nuclear weapons. Of course, such an assertion neglects to note that the 10,000 tactical nuclear weapons terrorists might want are not covered by New START.

“Another White House claim declared this is what Ronald Reagan would want, even though Reagan would never sign a treaty that compromised missile defense. And still another argument put forth was that the interests of Israel would suffer—a surprise comment from an Administration that gives short shrift to that embattled nation.

“One assistant secretary exclaimed no one of ‘pedigree’ opposes the treaty—apparently missing the op-ed last week by a former CIA director who was also an arms control negotiator. He raised concerns and I am sure will be disappointed to discover that he has no pedigree. Sen. Kyl will be disappointed to find he has no pedigree either.”

NATO, Russia, and START

November 23rd, 2010

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.