Putin’s power play: Russia builds up missile systems, seeks to limit U.S. defenses

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Additionally, a Russian press report published Wednesday said President Barack Obama proposed in a recent letter to Putin that the United States and Russia conclude a legally binding agreement on exchanging information about missile defenses with the goal of “guaranteeing the absence of a mutual threat.” The report was carried in the Kommersant Daily.

White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden had no comment on the Russian report.

“We generally don’t comment on the content of the president’s correspondence and we won’t this time,” she told the Washington Free Beacon.

Disclosure of the letter followed Republican congressional opposition last week to revelations that the Pentagon has held internal discussions on declassifying missile defense technical data that could be shared with the Russians.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R., Ala.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) said last week they opposed any sharing of missile defense data, warning such exchanges would undermine U.S. national security and compromise missile defenses developed at the cost of hundreds of billions of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars.

Thomas Moore, a former strategic affairs specialist with the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, said Russia plans to create a vast air and missile defense architecture in and among states of the former Soviet Union under the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

“Its recent announcement of the S-300 [air-missile defense] deployments to Belarus are an indicator of things to come,” Moore said, noting that open source reports indicated Moscow has developed a nuclear warhead for the S-300.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov linked the Belarus deployments to what he said was a violation of an agreement limiting NATO expansion in the 1990s.

“We can wonder aloud why Russia feels the need to make these threatening gestures, but with no real NATO missile defense architecture in Europe, I think the Russians are going to continue to use NATO air and missile defense improvements, or even the hint of future improvements, as an animating factor for most of their arms sales and defense cooperation,” Moore said.

“The final phases of this cooperation will result in a new Warsaw Pact, of sorts,” he said. “It doesn’t take much imagination to see that if one phase of this is some new Warsaw Pact, the next phase will be some new ABM Treaty.”

Jack Caravelli, a former CIA analyst now with the LIGNET strategic intelligence group, said Russian interest in expanding air defense and missile defenses is part of a larger, across-the-board effort by Putin to enhance strategic military capabilities that was announced during last year’s presidential campaign.

Russia has the technical capabilities and decades of experience to develop robust defensive capabilities at the same time the Obama administration is pondering even deeper cuts in its strategic forces, on top of the New START Treaty signed with Russia several years ago,” Caravelli said.

Russia is also developing and deploying a new generation of long-range missiles, upgrades that will result in a more modernized force than any systems the United States will be able to match for at least two decades, he said.

Russia’s planning for enhanced defensive and offensive forces almost certainly also is a reflection of a desire to keep apace of China’s growing investments in strategic offensive capabilities,” Caravelli said.

John Bolton, former undersecretary of state for Arms Control and International Security, said reports of Russian missile defense modernization are troubling.

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