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.