- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Missile defense deal?

The Obama administration is secretly working with Russia to conclude an agreement that many officials fear will limit U.S. missile defenses, a key objective of Moscow since it opposed plans for a U.S. missile defense interceptor base in Eastern Europe, according to American officials involved in arms control issues.

According to the officials, the administration last month presented a draft agreement on missile defenses to the Russians as part of talks between Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state for international security and arms control, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov.

The secret talks and possible agreement have triggered alarm among pro-missile defense advocates who are concerned that the administration, in its effort to “reset” ties with Moscow, will make further concessions constraining current and future missile defenses.

Pro-arms-control officials within the administration dislike missile defenses, viewing them as an impediment to offensive arms agreements.

The administration’s position on missile defenses contrasts sharply with that of the George W. Bush administration, which separated the issue of missile defense entirely from strategic arms talks. To make its point, the Bush administration abandoned the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty because of its limits on strategic defenses.

By contrast, the Clinton administration sought to extend the ABM Treaty’s limits on strategic defense to short-range missile defenses, something that was opposed by the U.S. military because of the growing threat of short-range missiles.

Officials said the first linkage between missile defenses and strategic offensive arms is contained in the preamble to the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). The preamble refers to “the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms.”

Despite administration claims that the treaty contains no limits on missile defenses within the treaty text, the third paragraph of Article 5 contains an explicit limitation on the use of ICBM launchers for “missile defense interceptors.”

The administration has characterized the language as a meaningless concession to the Russians that the United States has no intention of ever carrying out.

However, the fact that the limit is contained in the treaty will provide the Russians with political leverage against the United States.

On Tuesday, Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretary of state for verification and the chief START negotiator, was questioned about the administration’s missile defense negotiations in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“Let me state unequivocally today on the record before this committee that there were no, I repeat no, backroom deals made in connection with the new START treaty; not on missile defense nor on any other issue,” she said.

However, officials said later that Ms. Gottemoeller’s comments sidestepped the question of missile defense talks outside the START negotiation process.

Frank A. Rose, one of Ms. Gottemoeller’s deputies, suggested in a speech May 27 at a conference in London that the administration is working to reach an accord with Russia on missile defense “cooperation” as part of the U.S.-Russia Arms Control and International Security Working Group, headed by Mrs. Tauscher and Mr. Rybakov.

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