- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 7, 2001

The Pentagon is conducting joint missile defense exercises with the Russian military in Colorado, raising concerns among defense analysts that Moscow will gain valuable information on U.S. war-fighting tactics.

A Pentagon official said the computer simulation exercises at the National Training Facility in Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, grew out of a summit meeting between President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1999. The military cooperation was reaffirmed at a summit in September with current Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The first phase of the current exercise scenario involves American and Russian forces working together against an unidentified third country that attacks with ballistic missiles, said the official who spoke only on the condition of anonymity.

The two sides will then coordinate communications, warning and control information for shooting down incoming short-range missiles.

A later phase will take place at Fort Bliss, Texas, in January 2002 using hardware in what the defense official said were "limited field-training exercises."

The 30 Russian officers now working in Colorado will pretend to be operating Russia's S-300 anti-missile systems and some 70 U.S. military officers will practice using Patriot anti-missile systems.

The exercise is being paid for by the Pentagon, and the first phase will cost $735,000 when it is completed Sunday. It is the third joint U.S.-Russia exercise.

"It's all designed for us to work together in a theater so that we can protect our forces and objects," said the defense official.

The American and Russian soldiers will practice "how to coordinate and communicate in engaging targets in a theater of operations."

The exercises have prompted fears that Moscow will obtain war-fighting data that could be passed on to Russian clients like Iran.

"This seems to me to be typical of the type of thing arranged by the last administration that should be suspended until the new administration has a chance to review it," said William Van Cleave, director of the Center for Defense and Strategic Studies at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo.

The idea of cooperating with the Russians may have some merits, he said in an interview. "But there are lot of problems sharing information and technology with the Russians," Mr. Van Cleave said. "With our long experience with the Russians, there is usually an intelligence-gathering objective of meetings of this type."

Defense officials said the Russians used their access to U.S. military missile warning technology in Colorado during a joint year 2000 rollover exchange in December 1999.

At that time, Russian military forces fired Scud missiles against Chechen rebels in southern Russia at the same time its officers were posted at a missile warning center in Colorado.

U.S. intelligence officials believe the Russians fired the Scud so the Russians in Colorado could gauge how well U.S. space sensors track missile firings. By learning the sensitivity of the sensors, the Russian military can then develop the means to hide the missiles or deceive U.S. spy satellites.

A congressional defense aide said the joint exercise is "one more bad idea from the Clinton administration that will haunt the Bush administration."

"It is a good example of the kinds of problems [Defense Secretary Donald H.] Rumsfeld is going to have to root out," the aide said. "The idea of joint action with the Russians against Russian clients is not even a bad joke."

Russia has stepped up military cooperation with Iran following disclosure in December of a secret agreement between Vice President Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.

The agreement called on the United States to avoid sanctioning Russia for arms sales to Iran in exchange for an end to the sales in December 1999. Russia continued dealing arms and has stepped up transfers in recent months, U.S. intelligence officials have said.

U.S.-Russia relations have soured in recent months over plans for a U.S. national missile defense system, which Moscow opposes. Moscow also has raised U.S. and NATO concerns by moving tactical nuclear weapons to the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, U.S. officials said. Moscow denied the claim.

Rep. Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania Republican and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the missile defense exchanges seem "very ill-conceived."

"I support engagement, but not engagement that is not totally thought through," Mr. Weldon said. "I would hope Secretary Rumsfeld is fully briefed on these programs."

The defense official dismissed suggestions that the exercises will benefit Russian's intelligence services and said security arrangements call for using "generic" battlefield information to avoid compromises.

"They are not going to see how we tactically deploy," he said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide