By Daryl G. Kimball
The Washington Times is running a misleading story this morning that mischaracterizes the discussions between the United States and Russia on potential cooperation on missile defense, implying that these "secret" talks could "limit" missile defense, and suggesting that Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates denied that the United States and Russia were discussing the issue of missile defense cooperation.
1. The Obama administration has been open about its efforts to discuss cooperative efforts with Russia on missile defense, just as the George W. Bush administration was when it was in office.
Recall that on April 5-6, 2008 in Sochi, Russia, Presidents Bush and Vladimir Putin agreed to a strategic framework document, which endorsed exploring a broader anti-missile architecture that would involve Europe, Russia, and the United States as "equal partners."
2. It is ironic and Orwellian that some opponents of New START suggest that U.S.-Russian missile defense cooperation discussions might compromise U.S. missile defense options when in fact New START preserves all U.S. options and the Obama administration has succeeded in transforming missile defense from an area of confrontation to a potential area of cooperation with Russia.
The fact is that New START is a missile defense "friendly" treaty. It doesn't limit U.S. missile defense plans, but rather protects U.S. missile defense options even as it mandates reductions in Russia's offensive strategic nuclear forces and reestablishes on-the-ground monitoring in Russia.
For a more detailed analysis from ACA's Senior Fellow Greg Thielmann, see "New START: A Missile Defense 'Friendly' Treaty" online here http://www.armscontrol.org/issuebriefs/NewSTARTMissileDefense
3. Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates told the Senate multiple times that the United States was engaged in discussions with Russia on MD cooperation and that neither these talks nor New START itself in any way limit the pursuit of the most effective U.S. missile defense deployment options. For example:
At a May 18 Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Hearing, Secretary Clinton said:
"... And furthermore, we continue to offer to work with the Russians on missile defense. We have a standing offer, and we hope that eventually they will because we think we now have common enemies."
At a June 17 SASC Hearing, Secretary Gates said:
"Separately from the treaty, we are discussing missile defense cooperation with Russia, which we believe is in the interests of both nations. But such talks have nothing to do with imposing any limitations on our programs or deployment plans."
At a June 15 SFRC Hearing, Assistant Sec. Rose Gottemoeller said:
"Senator Lugar, I would just like to underscore one point that we have not yet addressed this afternoon, and that is that the United States have been talking very extensively to Russia about missile defense cooperation. And indeed, although we emphasized throughout these negotiations in Geneva on the New START treaty that this treaty was not about -- was only about strategic offensive armaments, not about strategic defenses"
"Nevertheless, my under secretary, Ellen Tauscher, has been working very extensively with the Russians to develop missile defense cooperation and that was a theme that in another venue we would be very keen to work with them on developing missile defense cooperation. Because we do take note in the preamble to the treaty that as the numbers of strategic offensive forces are reduced, the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms will become more important and that therefore we will have to take account of these trend lines and so will the Russian Federation"
"But the view is that a considerable cooperative program could be developed in the course of the coming years that would lead both sides to be able to work together to tackle missile problems both on a regional basis and perhaps on a national basis as well."
The bottom line is that failure to approve New START this year will jeopardize the chances that the United States and Russia can work together effectively on missile defense and increase the chances that the United States and Russia will be at odds over strategic nuclear offensive systems and defensive systems.