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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.

START Around the Web

November 18th, 2010

Heritage Action’s Tim Chapman pens an op-ed for Politico on why John Kerry is clueless about START. Kerry, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, claimed there was “no substantive disagreement” between Republicans and Democrats on START. Even the most uninformed person knows that’s not true. Republican senators have publicly expressed their substantive disagreements with START. Chapman reports that newly elected senator Roy Blunt will reveal a letter from his fellow newly elected senators demanding to study and consider the treaty before a vote.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama is hoping for another “victory” for his administration, pushing the Senate to ratify START now or next Congress. According to the LA Times, Obama called this treaty, with its numerous problems, a “national security imperative.”

Senator Richard Lugar, a Republican, sides with Democrats on START. According to Politico, he wants the Senate to vote on START now. Senator Jon Kyl, lead Republican negotiator on START ratification, holds a different view. He opposes lame-duck voting and prefers to wait until the new Congress.

The Heritage Foundation’s Owen Graham blogs about issues that must be addressed before senators vote on START at The Foundry. For example, although the Obama administration denies the treaty restricts our missile defense, Republican senators believe otherwise.

“Moreover, the lack of verification measures, supporters of the treaty argue, is increasing instability and uncertainty between the two major nuclear powers. Yet this is the result of the Administration’s own actions. The White House did not move to take advantage of a five-year extension clause under START I and instead insisted on negotiating a separate agreement. At the time, the Administration justified its approach by saying that it was more important to get the treaty right rather than get the treaty soon.”

NATO Missile Defense

November 16th, 2010

Sources report that NATO allies may be close to agreeing to expand missile shields in Europe. On Friday, members will meet at a two-day summit to vote on the issue and to discuss related matters.

Among other things, NATO seeks Russia’s cooperation in expanding missile defense in Europe. Russia strongly disapproved of Bush-era plans to deploy missiles shields to Poland and the Czech Republic. President Barack Obama scrapped those plans and said the new plan would entail shorter-range missiles.

An excerpt of the article:

“The Obama administration canceled the original plan in September 2009, proposing instead a reconfigured missile shield that would begin with ship-based interceptors and radars, followed by more advanced land-based interceptors to be deployed in Romania by 2015 and Poland by 2018. This is to be the core U.S. contribution to NATO’s European missile defense system.

“The U.S. has asked Turkey, also a member of NATO, to host some of the radar defenses and to approve the proposal for a Europe-wide defense network. Turkey has hesitated, saying it does not want the system explicitly to target its neighbor, Iran.

“U.S. officials close to pre-summit talks were optimistic that the proposed European missile shield’s remaining obstacles could be overcome. They said Russia seems to be seriously considering NATO’s plan, while Turkey’s concerns could be finessed.”

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is optimistic about Russia’s cooperation. “I think we are witnessing a fresh start in the relationship between NATO and Russia, and maybe I could go further and say a fresh start in the relationship between Russia and the West. I think this is of huge strategic importance.” (Source)

Russia claimed Bush-era missile shield plans were a threat to its national security. It’s difficult to believe Russia would now approve the more widespread missile shield plan NATO proposes. Locations include countries like Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey. The purpose of these shields is to defend against Iran, but Turkey said it won’t agree if NATO names Iran as a threat.

Memo to Senate Republicans: Delay START Vote

November 11th, 2010

Politico reports that the Senate Republican Policy Committee sent a memo to Republican Senate staffers urging them to delay voting on the new START. An excerpt from the memo:

“The fact sheet then asserts that the treaty provides ‘effective verification and inspection systems leaving Russia unable to achieve militarily significant cheating or breakout.’ Member offices should review the assessment of the treaty’s verification regime by Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Bond, available in Senate Security. That assessment is consistent with the testimony of Former Secretary of State James Baker that the New START verification program ‘does not appear as rigorous or extensive as the one that verified the numerous and diverse treaty obligations and prohibitions under START I.’

“The fact sheet then asserts that the treaty provides no constraints on deploying conventional prompt global strike capabilities. This does not answer the question of whether the Administration is committed to developing those capabilities. If the Administration were to pursue those capabilities by loading a conventional payload onto either an ICBM or SLBM, then the treaty very much limits the deployment of conventional prompt global strike capabilities. This is because every one of these weapons deployed in such a configuration counts towards the treaty’s central limits on delivery vehicles and warheads, and thus one ICBM, SLBM, or bomber may potentially have to be removed from deployed service in order to remain within the treaty’s central limits. To be fair, the Administration claims it is developing conventional prompt global strike capabilities that do not count towards the treaty’s central limits, but information on the state of those programs is very much lacking, and deployment of a converted ICBM or SLBM would be much quicker in comparison.”

Naturally, the president wants the Senate to ratify the treaty during the lame-duck session, despite Republican senators’ legitimate questions about whether the treaty undermines America’s security.

New START and Missile Defense

November 11th, 2010

The Heritage Foundation has published a fact sheet about why the new START is bad for missile defense. An excerpt:

New START Leaves America Vulnerable

New START Treaty Weakens America’s Defense: It is evident that Russia seeks to curtail U.S. missile defense programs. New START is one of the tools to achieve this.

New START Restrictions: New START imposes restrictions on U.S. missile defense options through Article V of the treaty and additional provisions in the Protocol and Annexes. The Preamble also applies the logic that U.S. missile defenses must be reduced in accordance with the reduction of the strategic offensive arms of Russia because otherwise the defenses will “undermine the viability and effectiveness” of Russia’s offensive force.

Limiting U.S. Options and Sovereignty: The treaty restricts certain types of missiles and missile launchers that are used as targets in missile defense tests. The treaty also gives the Bilateral Consultative Commission, the treaty’s implementing body, a broad mandate that could permit it to impose additional restrictions on missile defenses.

Lame Duck Not the Time to Ratify Treaties: If the Administration and current Senate majority leadership push for a vote on New START during the “lame duck” session, the Senate will not have time to adequately evaluate it, especially newly seated Senators who need time to become educated on the treaty, exacerbating an already biased process in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

White House Should Release Treaty Negotiating Record The Administration has refused to give the Senate access to the record that includes all draft versions of the treaty, memoranda, notes, and communications between U.S. and Russian negotiators. The record is critical to clear up questions on key provisions in the treaty and how the Russians interpret them.

Other Bad Deals in the Works? Recent comments by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov indicate that Russia and the U.S. are negotiating a separate side agreement that will limit U.S. missile defense and space options even further.

***

Heritage reiterates that rogue state Iran could have a nuclear weapon in two years and an intercontinental ballistic missile by 2015, and North Korea has conducted nuclear tests. Both countries have continued these developments, despite global condemnation.

National Review Editors on START

November 5th, 2010

In a National Review editorial published on NPR, the editors argue why it’s important for the Senate not to ratify the new START.

“The president’s priorities on nuclear arms should be the pursuit of comprehensive missile defense, the modernization of America’s nuclear arsenal, and the prevention of rogue states from acquiring WMD. New START does nothing on the last two goals and is actively hostile to the first.

“Instead, what the treaty does is limit the number of deployed ‘delivery vehicles’ — missile silos, aircraft, submarines — to 700 per side, approximately the level the aging Russian nuclear infrastructure is already struggling to maintain. But it does nothing to limit the Russians’ massive stockpile of undeployed warheads — by one estimate, some 8,000 of them — or to cut into their advantage in tactical nuclear weapons designed for use on the field of battle. Meanwhile, it encourages the Russians to ‘MIRV’ their platforms, packing multiple warheads onto a single vehicle, at the same time the Obama administration has unilaterally discontinued that practice in an effort to ‘to increase stability.’”

Can’t be any more succinct than that. START’s problems are numerous; these include lack of verification, a linkage between missile defense and offense, and the Obama administration’s refusal to allow senators to see the negotiating record. As we mentioned earlier this week, Republican senators seek confirmation about a secret missile defense agreement between Russia and the U.S. So far, the State Department has denied the existence of such an agreement.

Senators would do well to refuse START ratification until they can be assured, without equivocation, that it won’t constrain our missile defense or weaken our national security.

Russian Committee May Withdraw START Support

November 4th, 2010

What do America’s mid-term elections have to do with Russia’s cooperation on START? From Defense News:

“A Russian parliamentary committee may withdraw its recommendation to ratify a new nuclear disarmament treaty with the U.S. after the results of the mid-term polls, an official said Nov. 3. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev signed the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in April, but the accord has yet to be ratified by the Russian lower house, the State Duma, or the U.S. Senate.

“‘I think that today we are going to cancel our recommendation to ratify the agreement,’ said the chairman of the Russian Duma’s foreign affairs committee Konstantin Kosachev. ‘If the ‘lame duck’ senators from the old make-up cannot do this in the next weeks then the chances of ratification in the new Senate will be radically lower than they were until now,’ he told the Interfax news agency.”

Kosachev is probably correct. Among other things, Republican senators are concerned about the linkage in the treaty between offensive and defensive missile strategy. They’re also concerned about a rumored secret missile defense agreement between the U.S. and Russia. Republican senators have requested START negotiating records, and the Obama administration rebuffed them. They sent a letter to Secretary Hillary Clinton requesting documents related to the secret agreement, and the State Department has denied such an agreement took place.

The Senate Foreign Relations approved the treaty last month, and the full Senate will deliberate. Republicans have regained control of the House and increased their representation in the Senate. Senator Richard Lugar, a Republican who supports the new START, said he doubts the treaty will be ratified this year.

Russia Willing to Listen to NATO

November 1st, 2010

Last month we blogged about the upcoming NATO summit and secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s goal to expand NATO’s threater missile system in Europe. Among other things, NATO seeks Russia’s cooperation in the expansion.

In the New York Times, Rasmussen wrote: “Missiles pose an increasing threat to our populations, territory and deployed forces. Over 30 countries have or are acquiring missiles that could be used to carry not just conventional warheads, but also weapons of mass destruction. Some of those missiles can already reach European cities, and the problem will only get worse.”

According to RIA Novosti, Russia seems amenable to at least considering NATO’s proposal. During talks with NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Admiral James G. Stavridis, Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, Gen. Nikolai Makarov said, “On the majority of problematic issues we found a common approach – there are certain disagreements, but I think these…will be very attentively studied and we will certainly come to a general understanding and a common opinion.”

Rasmussen also seeks Turkey’s support in missile defense expansion. (Sources also reported that the U.S. would expand missile defense in Turkey.) According to the Wall Street Journal, Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu (pictured) implied that his country wouldn’t oppose NATO’s plans.

“NATO can develop defense systems by taking into consideration security risks,” and his country’s opposition “is out of the question.” Rasmussen will meet with Russian officials ahead of the NATO member nations summit on November 19 and 20 is Portugal.

Ariel Cohen on Obama’s Russian ‘Reset’

October 26th, 2010

Ariel Cohen

In an attempt to “reset” relations with the former Soviet Union, President Barack Obama scrapped Bush-era plans to deploy missile defense shields to Poland and the Czech Republic that would have protected the region from Iranian attacks. The Heritage Foundation’s Ariel Cohen makes the case that despite our concessions to Russia, the country has pursued policies harmful to our interests. Let’s start with START:

“According to the Administration, New START is a direct result of its ‘resetting’ of U.S.–Russian relations. The Administration views New START as a part of its ‘getting to zero’ nuclear disarmament agenda while relying on unverifiable treaties to ensure compliance with a comprehensive nuclear weapons ban.

“Additionally, the New START limits the U.S. ability to develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect the homeland as well as America’s allies. There are concerns about the inadequacy of the New START verification regime: The degree of verifiability is low and the treaty fails to account for Russia’s 3,800-strong tactical nuclear arsenal. Additionally, the treaty appears to exclude rail-based ICBMs and their launchers from coverage and could permit Russia to circumvent the limits the treaty imposes on such.[1]

‘The Near Abroad’

“Russia also increased its presence and pressure in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. As a result of the 2008 Russia–Georgia war, Russia recognized the independence of secessionist Abkhazia and South Ossetia, established five military bases there, and deployed long-range S-300 missile batteries, which allow aerial control over most of Georgia.

“In Armenia, Moscow recently extended the lease of the Gyumri military base until 2044 and made commitments to protect Armenia’s borders against Azerbaijan and Turkey. A recent Russian book on the Georgia war describes Gyumri as a staging area for an attack on Tbilisi, Georgia. The Russian–Armenian protocol makes Russia the dominant power in South Caucasus, as the U.S. and NATO are unwilling to commit to a long-term military presence there. This arrangement is similar to the renegotiated lease for the massive Sevastopol naval base in Ukraine as it, too, prevents the country’s future membership in NATO. Russia continues to keep a contingent in Transnistria on Moldovan soil.

“Russia is also expanding attacks on the authoritarian Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko in order to replace him with a more pliant, pro-Moscow (but not necessarily more democratic) president.

“To further strengthen its dominance in Central Asia, Moscow used its media muscle in Kyrgyzstan to facilitate the overthrow of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. The move was payback for his refusal to evict the U.S. airbase at Manas airport. Russia now demands to be allowed to deploy an ‘anti-narcotics’ military base in Osh in Fergana Valley, the scene of brutal violence in the summer of 2010.

“Winning in Afghanistan is a vital U.S. national interest; the Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan, a major NATO refueling and transportation hub, has been critical to this effort. Nevertheless, the U.S. and Kyrgyzstan may negotiate a deal that would make Russia’s Gazprom a key supplier of jet fuel for Manas.

“The U.S. and governments of Central Asia recognize that Russia and China will have clout in the heart of Eurasia. Nevertheless, they have a critical common interest in checking these nations’ influence in the region as well as denying terrorists and drug lords sanctuaries in Central Asia, especially after 2011. This has to be a part of a comprehensive, long-term strategy. The Obama Administration, however, is doing little to secure long-term U.S. presence in the region.”

Read the full web memo.

Baker Spring on U.S/Russia Missile Defense Talks

October 20th, 2010

Baker Spring

As mentioned in the previous post, six Republican senators have asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to turn over documents and transcripts related to secret missile defense talks between the U.S. and Russia. A State Department official denied that the two countries are pursuing such an agreement.

The Heritage Foundation’s Baker Spring writes about these talks in his latest web memo:

“It appears that the Obama Administration is challenging the U.S. Senate regarding the ratification of the new strategic arms control treaty with Russia called New START and its potential negative consequences for U.S. missile defense options—so much so that a group of Senators have felt compelled to send an October 18 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking for further details. From the outset, the Administration has asserted that New START will not limit the missile defense options of the U.S., including the option to deploy components of a missile defense system in space. The Senate has made it clear that it does not want the agreement with Russia to limit U.S. missile defense options.

“According to a recent report in Bloomberg, however, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is claiming that the U.S. and Russia are on the verge of concluding a side agreement[1] that an earlier report in The Washington Times indicates will limit U.S. missile defense options.[2] If so, the Obama Administration’s insistence that the side bargain constitutes a ‘missile defense cooperation agreement’ is cynical at best. Further, it is possible that this side agreement could limit U.S. space capabilities, which has additional negative implications for missile defense.

“That the Obama Administration would be engaged in negotiations with Russia on genuine cooperation in the area missile defense should be expected and encouraged.

“It is objectionable, however, to use these negotiations as a cover for doing the opposite of what the Administration advertised—i.e., curtailing missile defenses. As such, there is clear justification for the Senators’ demand that they and their colleagues receive the record of these negotiations.

“For their part, Russian leaders have, on a number of occasions, voiced their view that the U.S. missile defense program is aimed against their country and stated their desire to curtail it. The Obama Administration, for its part, has been less than forthright in its assertions that New START itself does not impose restrictions on U.S. missile defense options. New START contains implied and direct restrictions or impediments to various sections of the U.S. missile defense program…”