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30th September 2010 - Big Peace

Two weeks ago U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his Russian counterpart, Anatoly Serdyukov, cruised down the Potomac River on a U.S. Navy barge. Gates’ goal: find common ground on issues critically important to free nations such as preventing Iran from “nuking up” and cooperating on building a defensive system to protect innocent people from terrorists’ missiles. They failed to find common ground and two days later it was reported that Russia, defying the U.S. and Israel, is selling sophisticated anti-ship missiles to Syria, the country famous for arming the terrorist group Hezbollah.These missiles will give Syria the ability to threaten ships in the Mediterranean Sea. Currently there are Israeli Navy ships in the Med and within the next several years the Obama administration plans to deploy U.S. Navy ships with ballistic missile defense capabilities to the Med to defend against longer range missiles.

Russian officials opposed Bush Administration plans to deploy missile defense in Europe and now oppose Obama’s more modest, phased approach to deploy short and medium defenses in Europe over the next several years and eventually defenses for the U.S. by 2020.

Gates’ goals of finding common ground with Serdyukov on squeezing Iran and defending against missiles are inseparable. Iran already has missiles capable of reaching Europe and the intelligence community says they’ll be able to hit the U.S. in five years. This means U.S. troops and allies in Europe are already at risk. If the mullahs in Iran successfully marry a nuclear weapon to those missiles, not only would Iran dramatically increase their ability to coerce the U.S. and our allies, they could also sell the technology to other dangerous countries or non-state actors. Missile defense cooperation between the U.S. and our allies is essential to global security.

Just this month NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO needs to improve their very limited missile defense system. “If Iran eventually acquires a nuclear capability that will be very dangerous, and a direct threat to the allies. That is the reason why I am now proposing a new and effective NATO missile defense system.”

Despite this shared threat, in February Russia’s ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin lambasted U.S. plans to deploy missile defense systems in Europe.

He told reporters, “You shouldn’t put the cart ahead of the horse. We should first carry out a missiles threat review to understand who, how and when can get hold of missile technologies capable of posing a threat to both Russia and NATO member-states.”

He went on, “Then we should apply the whole arsenal of political, diplomatic and economic means to put pressure on the country-violator. And only then should we think about creating a joint anti-missile response.”

These are audacious remarks considering when this statement was made the Russian-Syrian missile sale was underway and U.S. and our allies are simultaneously applying the “whole arsenal of political, diplomatic and economic means” to pressure Iran while Russia undermines the efforts and are now supplying Syria with weapons that can significantly harm U.S. interests. As sanctions experts Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz recently penned in the Wall Street Journal “…the major European states have tired of Tehran’s mendacity and begun to cut business ties with Iran. Even the Japanese…recently announced the suspension of new oil and gas investments. But China and Russia have filled the void—and will continue to undermine any sanctions effort unless the U.S. decides to punish their subversiveness.”

Rogozin’s position is not unique inside the Kremlin. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said last month that the U.S. failed to live up to its “reset” of relations between the two countries in part by planning a European missile defense system.

This is most troubling because the U.S. Senate is currently considering the New START Treaty between the U.S. and Russia. This nuclear arms reduction treaty has raised alarming questions regarding its impact on U.S. missile defense, and with this news about the missile sale to Syria, Senators should slow down the treaty’s ratification and continue to ask questions.

The preamble of the Treaty recognizes “the existence of the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms” causing confusion as to what the means for U.S. missile defense. In addition, after the treaty was signed Russia issued a unilateral statement that said the treaty “may be effective and viable only in conditions where there is no qualitative and quantitative build-up in the missile defense system capabilities of the United States.” Although this statement is not legally binding it has consequences. It means if the U.S. moves forward with missile defense plans the Russians don’t approve of, they will withdraw from the treaty. As Russian administration officials continue to make strikingly clear, the current Obama plans are a no-go. This can mean only one of two things.

Either the Obama administration is planning to move forward with U.S. missile defense plans to defend Europe and eventually the U.S. knowing Russia will most likely withdraw from the START Treaty or the Obama administration has no intention of moving forward with this missile defense plan and has confessed this to the Russians. If the administration continues to push the treaty through the Senate in light of this new information about Russia selling Syria anti-ship missiles that can hold U.S. BM ships at risk, it is more likely the latter. If this is true the Administration has abandoned our allies and our homeland in order to ingratiate itself with the Kremlin. Adding to the growing evidence that this may be the case, a senior Russian official told Nixon Center president Dimitri Simes, “I can’t quote you unequivocal language from President Obama or Secretary Clinton in conversations with us that there would be no strategic missile defenses in Europe, but everything that was said to us amounts to this.”

The only way to know which one the Administration has chosen is to see the detailed treaty negotiating records. If the Obama administration diplomats made an informal deal with the Russians regarding missile defense, the negotiating records may include it. There is precedent for requesting and receiving such records. In 1988 Democratic Senator Sam Nunn sought the negotiating history for the INF Treaty. The Executive produced the records to the Senate at this time and the Treaty report teed up the argument for doing it again for future treaties. It said that requesting such records was warranted “where such reference can be useful in explaining the effect of treaty provisions which may appear ambiguous” or to explain the effect of treaty provisions “about which questions may arise.” There is enough ambiguity surrounding the START Treaty’s impact on missile defense that the negotiating records are warranted.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week approved the START Treaty and it now heads to the full Senate for final consideration. Until the Senate has received the entire, unabridged negotiating record, the treaty must not be condoned by the U.S. Senate. If it is, we could be granting the Russians, who are proving to be a dangerous foe, not a friend, a veto power over U.S. missile defense and risking the peace and stability of the world for generations to come.


missile-defense, russia, start