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"In my home there are few publications that we actually get hard copies of, but [Arms Control Today] is one and it's the only one my husband and I fight over who gets to read it first."

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
Tom Z. Collina

Former STRATCOM Head Calls for Cuts

Tom Z. Collina

As the Obama administration puts the finishing touches on its new nuclear strategy, Gen. James Cartwright, commander of U.S. nuclear forces under President George W. Bush, last month called for making deep reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, doing away with one leg of the U.S. nuclear triad, and removing the threat of a pre-emptive “decapitating” strike against Russia.

Cartwright, who was head of U.S. Strategic Command from 2004 to 2007 and then was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until last August, recommended reducing U.S. forces to 900 total nuclear warheads, an 80 percent drop from current levels; eliminating U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs); and taking weapons off alert. “The threat has changed,” he said at a May 16 press conference. “Nation-states engaging in [large-scale] nuclear exchanges [is] highly unlikely.”

Cartwright, who now is the Harold Brown Chair in Defense Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was presenting a report prepared by a commission he chaired for Global Zero, a nongovernmental organization seeking the elimination of nuclear weapons. The other authors of the report are former U.S. arms control negotiator Richard Burt, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), former U.S ambassador to Russia and the United Nations Thomas Pickering, and retired Gen. Jack Sheehan.

The report, “Modernizing U.S. Nuclear Strategy, Force Structure and Posture,” concludes that the current U.S. and Russian arsenals “vastly exceed what is needed to satisfy reasonable requirements of deterrence.” It finds that there is “no conceivable situation” in which nuclear weapons would be used by either side and that “the actual existing threats to our two countries (and the globe) cannot be resolved by using our nuclear arsenals.”

Echoing the findings of previous reports on the subject, including one in 1997 by the National Academy of Sciences, the Cartwright report suggests an “illustrative” nuclear force of 900 total strategic weapons by 2022. Only half of this force would be deployed, with the remainder in reserve. The 450 deployed warheads would be off alert, requiring 24 to 72 hours to become launch ready. The reserve warheads could be returned to service “within weeks or months.” Currently, U.S. missiles on alert are ready to launch within minutes.

The deployed force advocated by the report would consist of 10 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines armed with a total of 360 warheads, and 18 B-2 bombers with 90 gravity bombs. With two subs in overhaul and two in port, six subs would be on patrol at all times, with four in the Pacific and two in the Atlantic. These subs would no longer be ready to launch their missiles within 15 minutes of receiving an order.

First Strike Not Credible

The report finds that six subs armed with 270 warheads would not pose a credible first-strike threat to Russia. (The other 90 sub-based warheads and 90 bomber weapons would be visibly off alert and thus not be suitable for surprise attack.) The report cited Russian sources as saying that it would take 300 U.S. warheads on alert to mount a decapitating first strike. “The numbers are not there for the pre-emptive, decapitating strike,” Cartwright said at the press conference.

According to the study, this should alleviate Moscow’s concerns about U.S. missile defenses, which Russian leaders say could be used to blunt a relatively small Russian retaliation after a U.S. first strike. Such fears are preventing Moscow from agreeing to further arms reductions and cooperating with NATO on missile interceptor deployments in Europe, the report says.

Under the report’s proposal, the nuclear-armed Minuteman ICBM force would be retired because it is not needed to deter Russia and has no other plausible uses. The report points out that U.S. ICBMs would have to fly over Russia to reach any other potential targets, which “risks confusing Russia with ambiguous attack indications and triggering nuclear retaliation.” U.S. submarines and bombers are more flexible in their routes.

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said at a May 16 Brookings Institution event that he did not agree with Cartwright’s recommendation to retire ICBMs, which are under his command. “Why do we have a land-based deterrent force? It’s so that an adversary has to strike the homeland,” he said. In a May 22 e-mail to Arms Control Today elaborating on Schwartz’s remarks, Air Force Lt. Col. Samuel Highley said the ICBM force denies “an adversary any possibility of defeating the U.S. short of large-scale nuclear attack on the ICBM force...a difficult-to-imagine solution because it would entail a nuclear strike on the American homeland and its people.”

The Cartwright report also recommends that all U.S. tactical nuclear weapons be eliminated over the next 10 years, as “their military utility is practically nil.” Tactical weapons remain deployed “only for political reasons” within NATO, the report says. According to the report, the United States can instead reassure its allies with its strategic nuclear and conventional forces.

To mitigate any additional risks incurred by deep reductions and lower alert levels, the United States would keep missile interceptors and conventional forces on constant alert, the report suggests. It also concludes that, for many scenarios, U.S. conventional forces could defeat regional adversaries “without needing to generate any U.S. nuclear forces at all.” The study recommends that a non-nuclear ICBM be developed to provide the ability to strike any target on the globe, such as missile sites in Iran or North Korea, within one hour and that it be able to avoid flying over Russia or China.

An 80 percent reduction in the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal would have significant implications for budgets and plans to modernize the nuclear triad of ICBMs, bombers, and submarines, the report finds. Under the report’s scenario, plans for a new ICBM could be canceled, plans for 100 to 150 new long-range bombers could be scaled back to 30 to 50 for nuclear missions, and the submarine replacement program could be delayed.

The study finds that Russia and the United States could implement the reductions and de-alerting proposals through reciprocal presidential directives, bilateral negotiations, or unilateral steps. Follow-on talks could lead to nuclear arsenals totaling 500 warheads on each side, at which point China and other nuclear-weapon states could be brought into the negotiations.

Administration Review Continuing

The Cartwright report comes at a key time in the ongoing debate between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans about the future of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Obama has promised to follow up with Russia on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which limits each side to 1,550 deployed strategic warheads by 2018, with another round of talks to further reduce the stockpiles of those weapons, as well as tactical warheads and weapons in storage.

According to the Department of Defense, the United States currently has about 5,000 strategic and tactical nuclear warheads deployed and in storage. This does not include thousands of warheads waiting to be dismantled.

The Obama administration is in the final stages of reviewing future requirements for U.S. nuclear forces, a process known as the Nuclear Posture Review Implementation Study, to determine how much lower the force levels can go. The administration reportedly is considering a range of options for lower total numbers of deployed strategic warheads. (See ACT, March 2012.)

Meanwhile, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives are trying to prevent the implementation of New START as well as additional reductions. The fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House on May 18, includes language that could block arsenal reductions under New START if the administration does not increase spending on nuclear weapons-related projects that the Pentagon did not request. The administration issued a warning May 15 that it may veto the defense bill over these provisions, which the White House says would “impinge on the President’s ability to implement the New START Treaty and to set U.S. nuclear weapons policy.” The Senate, controlled by Democrats, is not expected to include a similar provision in its version of the bill.

As the Obama administration puts the finishing touches on its new nuclear strategy, Gen. James Cartwright, commander of U.S. nuclear forces under President George W. Bush, last month called for making deep reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, doing away with one leg of the U.S. nuclear triad, and removing the threat of a pre-emptive “decapitating” strike against Russia.

NATO Fields Interceptors Without Russia

Tom Z. Collina

NATO now has an “interim capability” for its U.S.-built missile interceptor system, the alliance announced at its May 20-21 summit in Chicago, but the future of NATO-Russian cooperation on missile defense remains uncertain.

The announcement of NATO’s capability, which is part of the so-called European Phased Adaptive Approach, was expected, as was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision not to attend the summit in protest. (See ACT, April 2012.) Russia had wanted the cooperation agreement to be worked out before NATO went ahead with the interceptor system.

When NATO leaders first endorsed U.S. missile interceptor plans for Europe in late 2010, NATO and Russia agreed to explore ways to cooperate on missile defenses. Since then, however, the two sides have been unable to agree on the specifics of that cooperation, with Moscow seeking binding assurances that the system would not undermine its security, which Washington refused to provide. Although there has been no agreement in this area, both sides say that the door to cooperation remains open.

According to a May 20 White House summary, “interim capability” means that, in a crisis, NATO could assume operational command of the U.S. missile interceptor system in Europe, currently composed of an Aegis-equipped ship with Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) IA interceptors in the Mediterranean Sea, an AN/TPY-2 radar in Turkey, and a command and control center in Germany.

The U.S. Department of Defense has been directed to transfer operational control of the radar to NATO, but SM-3-armed ships in the area would operate under NATO control only “when necessary,” the summary said. NATO designated its most senior military commander, U.S. Adm. James Stavridis, to oversee the missile defense mission, the White House said.

Future phases of the European system include increasingly capable SM-3 interceptor deployments at sea and on land in Romania (2015) and Poland (2018). The current interim capability would be followed by “initial operational capability” in 2015 and “full operational capability” in 2018, the White House said. Phase four of the system, including SM-3 IIB interceptors with some capability against long-range missiles, would be deployed in 2020.

“NATO will now have an operationally meaningful ballistic missile defense mission. It will be limited in the initial phase, but it will expand over time,” U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder said at a May 20 press briefing at the summit. “It will, as of today, provide real protection for parts of NATO Europe against ballistic missile attack,” he said. Daalder declined to specify which nations in southern Europe would be protected, explaining that “a wide variety of places” could be protected because “the ship can be moved.”

The next SM-3 interceptor to be deployed, the IB, hit its target in a May 10 test, according to the Missile Defense Agency (MDA). Last September, the system failed in its first intercept test. This interceptor would be deployed on land in Romania by 2015 and on ships at sea.

Richard Lehner, an MDA spokesman, declined to say whether the test included countermeasures such as decoys that an enemy likely would use to try to overwhelm the defense. “We don’t divulge presence of countermeasures for any missile defense tests,” he told Reuters May 10.

Moscow’s Concerns

Russia has repeatedly expressed concern that the SM-3 IIB, which is supposed to be deployed in 2020 and is still on the drawing board, could fly fast enough to threaten its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) based in western Russia. At a May 3-4 missile defense conference in Moscow, Nikolai Makarov, chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, raised the possibility of delivering pre-emptive strikes against NATO missile defense systems if the alliance goes ahead with current plans. In addition, Russia tested a new ICBM on May 23 that the military said was designed to evade U.S. defenses.

In its declaration at the Chicago summit, NATO sought to reassure Russia by stating that “NATO missile defense is not directed against Russia and will not undermine Russia’s strategic deterrence capabilities.” The declaration said the allies regretted “recurrent Russian statements on possible measures directed against NATO’s missile defense system” and welcomed Russia’s willingness to continue dialogue “on the future framework for missile defense cooperation.”

In addition to the legally binding commitment that NATO missile interceptors would not be targeted at Russia, Moscow has been seeking limits on numbers, velocities, and deployment locations of SM-3 interceptors. In one of the Russian presentations at the Moscow conference, Col. Evgeny Ilyin said ship-based interceptors in the Baltic Sea or Norwegian Sea traveling at speeds greater than five kilometers per second would be “a real threat to the Russian deterrence capability.” Slower interceptors do not pose the same level of concern, Ilyin said.

House Pushes East Coast Site

Meanwhile, on May 18, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which would increase spending on the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system by $460 million above the $903 million requested by the Department of Defense. Of that additional amount, the bill would authorize $100 million to study the deployment of missile interceptors on the U.S. East Coast by late 2015. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this new project would cost $3.6 billion over five years.

Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), the chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee and the leading proponent of an East Coast site, based his position on a forthcoming report by the National Research Council, an independent advisory group to the U.S. government. However, a summary of the report states that the current West Coast interceptor system “has serious shortcomings” and would have to be completely redesigned, retested, and rebuilt before it could be installed on the East Coast, making the 2015 time frame appear unrealistic.

The main conclusions of the council’s report, called “Making Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense: An Assessment of Concepts and Systems for U.S. Boost-Phase Missile Defense in Comparison to Other Alternatives,” were made public in an April 30 letter from report co-chairs L. David Montague and Walter Slocombe to the chairman and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

The United States already has one site in Alaska and one in California, with a total of 30 deployed interceptors, to handle potential future attacks from Iran and North Korea. The GMD system has not had a successful intercept test since 2008, with two failures in 2010. Neither Iran nor North Korea has yet deployed long-range missiles that could reach the United States.

The Pentagon did not request funding for an East Coast site, and on May 10, the nation’s top military officer said there was no need for a third site. The current program “is adequate and sufficient to the task,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon news briefing. “So I don’t see a need beyond what we’ve submitted in the last budget.”

The Senate Armed Services Committee, in preparing its version of the fiscal 2013 defense bill, did not authorize an East Coast site.

NATO now has an “interim capability” for its U.S.-built missile interceptor system, the alliance announced at its May 20-21 summit in Chicago, but the future of NATO-Russian cooperation on missile defense remains uncertain.

Russia Back Below Treaty’s Warhead Limits

Tom Z. Collina

Russia is back under the nuclear warhead limit of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), according to the third data exchange with the United States under the treaty.

According to the Russian-supplied figures, released April 6 by the U.S. Department of State, Russia had 1,492 deployed strategic warheads, 494 deployed delivery vehicles, and 881 total deployed and nondeployed launchers as of March 1. In the previous data exchange, from September 2011, these numbers were 1,566 strategic warheads, 516 deployed delivery vehicles, and 871 launchers.

For its part, the United States deploys 1,737 warheads, 812 delivery systems, and 1,040 launchers, according to the most recent data.

New START’s agreed limits are 1,550 deployed strategic warheads, 700 delivery vehicles, and 800 launchers. Under the treaty, neither side is required to meet these limits until 2018. The data are to be updated every six months.

The September 2011 Russian numbers raised eyebrows among some Republicans on Capitol Hill, as they indicated that Russia had increased the number of its deployed warheads above treaty limits and above the level reported in the first data exchange. That exchange, in June 2010, pegged Moscow at 1,537 warheads, or just below the limit. (See ACT, July/August 2011.)

Although Russia’s deployed warheads are once again below the treaty limit, it is unclear if this will remain the case. According to experts, the number of deployed warheads can fluctuate depending on which delivery systems (missiles, submarines, and bombers) are undergoing maintenance at the time. Once a delivery system is removed from active service, it and its associated warheads are no longer counted as “deployed” under the treaty.

For example, experts speculate that the recent drop in Russian deployed warheads was due in part to the December 2011 fire onboard the nuclear-armed submarine Yekaterinburg while in port. The Russian military first claimed the submarine was unarmed, but later confirmed that nuclear weapons were still on the vessel. The submarine would typically have 16 strategic missiles and 64 warheads onboard.

Some members of Congress have suggested that the United States should not reduce its nuclear forces any further until the Obama administration provides additional funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) nuclear weapons production infrastructure. (See ACT, April 2012.)

Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), two of the 13 Republicans who voted for the treaty in December 2010, wrote an April 17 letter to Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) asking for oversight hearings. Corker and Isakson, who are members of the committee, said they were concerned that “the administration has not requested the funding required to meet our nuclear modernization needs.”

Similarly, Senate Armed Services Committee member Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who also voted for the treaty, sent an April 17 letter to his colleagues on the panel stating that “if modernization efforts to ensure the safety, security and reliability of a smaller stockpile are not sustained, then further reductions to the stockpile should not be considered” until New START expires in 2021.

The administration’s fiscal year 2013 request for NNSA weapons activities is $7.6 billion, 4 percent lower than projected in 2010, during the New START debate in the Senate. However, the 2013 request is 5 percent higher than the 2012 enacted budget.

Condition 9 of the New START resolution of ratification states that if Congress does not provide funding for the nuclear arsenal at the levels projected in 2010, the president is required to submit a report detailing how the administration would address the resource shortfall and whether “it remains in the national interest of the United States to remain a Party to the New START Treaty.”

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs Madelyn Creedon testified before the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee April 17 that the administration would provide the report “soon.” At the same hearing, Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, said, “I wouldn’t want to suggest that the [nuclear] force that’s deployed today is not safe, secure, and effective. It is. I believe it can achieve its deterrence responsibilities as we sit here today. In fact, I’m extremely confident in that.”

Russia is back under the nuclear warhead limit of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), according to the third data exchange with the United States under the treaty.

Reports Raise Missile Defense Concerns

Tom Z. Collina

As the Obama administration moves ahead with its missile defense plans in Europe, the Middle East, and the Asia-Pacific region, questions are being raised about the military effectiveness of planned missile interceptors and sensors, such as the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) system deployed on Navy ships.

In particular, three recent reports point to concerns about the Department of Defense’s high-risk acquisition strategy, shortcomings of the system’s radar, and the system’s inability to discriminate real warheads from fakes.

In September 2009, the Obama administration announced its plan for missile defense in Europe, called the Phased Adaptive Approach, and NATO is expected to announce at its May 20-21 summit in Chicago that the first phase of the system has established an “interim capability” involving SM-3 IA interceptors deployed on an Aegis-equipped cruiser in the Mediterranean Sea and a radar in Turkey. (See ACT, April 2012)

One of the most significant challenges to a successful intercept of a target warhead in outer space, known as midcourse intercept, is that the attacker can add numerous decoys or other countermeasures to confuse and overwhelm the defense. If the defense cannot distinguish a real warhead from a fake, then it must shoot interceptors at all of them. Interceptor missiles would be in limited supply and are much more expensive to produce than decoys.

The Defense Science Board, an advisory group to the Pentagon, addressed this issue in a little-noticed September 2011 report, saying that “the importance of achieving reliable midcourse discrimination cannot be overemphasized.” Missile defense is “predicated on the ability to discriminate” real warheads from other targets, “such as rocket bodies, miscellaneous hardware, and intentional countermeasures,” the report said.

One way to pre-empt this challenge is for the defense to try to intercept a target missile before it has released its warhead and decoys. Intercepting missiles in their boost phase, while the rocket booster is still firing, is “currently not feasible,” according to the report. Instead, the report considers “early intercept,” defined as the interval between boost and warhead release. That phase, according to the report, lasts about 100 seconds.

The report concludes that early intercept “requires Herculean effort and is not realistically achievable, even under the most optimistic set of deployment, sensor capability, and missile technology assumptions.” The main problem is that defensive missiles would not be able to reach the target quickly enough. “[I]n most cases 100 seconds is too late” to prevent the release of decoys, the report found, and “intercepts would have to be achieved well inside this timeline.”

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) responded to the report in November, saying that the early-intercept phase actually would last about 500 seconds and that the report ignored the benefits of forcing an adversary to deploy countermeasures earlier than “their optimum deployment timeline.”

‘Shooting at Missile Junk’

The Defense Science Board report goes on to say, “If the defense should find itself in a situation where it is shooting at missile junk or decoys, the impact on the regional interceptor inventory would be dramatic and devastating!” If the defense cannot prevent the release of decoys, it must be able to distinguish real targets from fakes. However, according to the report, “discrimination in the exo-atmosphere [i.e., space] is still not a completely solved problem.”

J. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of operational testing, seemed to confirm that point when he testified before the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee on March 6 that “complete quantitative assessments” of the SM-3 system, the centerpiece of U.S. plans for Europe and other regions, “are still a number of years away.” The last test of the SM-3 IB missile, in September 2011, failed against a simple target with no decoys.

Gilmore testified before the same subcommittee last year that the closest the MDA has come to conducting a test against decoys was the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system test in December 2008, which was labeled FTG-05. “Although simple countermeasures were planned for FTG-05,” he said, “a malfunction prevented deployment.” The next two tests, FTG-06 and FTG-06a, successfully deployed simple countermeasures; but the “kill vehicles malfunctioned before they could complete their intercepts in the countermeasures environments,” he said. Both the GMD and the SM-3 systems are designed to intercept targets in space.

MDA spokesman Rick Lehner told the Associated Press on April 21 that identifying warheads is a difficult task but the current technology is adequate to address the threat from “rogue nations” and will improve over time.

Buying Before Flying

In an April report focusing on a different aspect of the missile defense effort, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which produces nonpartisan reports for Congress, found that the MDA undertakes “highly concurrent acquisitions,” meaning the agency often has started to produce key hardware before “critical technologies were fully understood” and before it completed flight tests to verify performance.

For example, the GAO found that, in order to meet “challenging deadlines” such as the 2015 target date for SM-3 IB missile interceptor deployment in Europe, the MDA is planning to buy additional SM-3 IBs in 2012 before the cause of the September 2011 flight-test failure has been confirmed. This practice can result in “performance shortfalls, unexpected cost increases, schedule delays, and test problems,” the GAO found.

Another GAO report, released in January, found that a planned sea-based radar upgrade that is central to the regional missile defense approach is not powerful enough to meet program needs, but the planned next generation of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers cannot accommodate a larger radar without substantial redesign. The GAO found that depending on the extent of the redesign, “the Navy may need at least $4.2 billion to $11.4 billion more” than the current estimate of $60 billion to procure the new ships with the new radar, called the Air and Missile Defense Radar. The Navy plans to start buying the new radars and ships in fiscal year 2016.

As the Obama administration moves ahead with its missile defense plans in Europe, the Middle East, and the Asia-Pacific region, questions are being raised about the military effectiveness of planned missile interceptors and sensors, such as the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) system deployed on Navy ships.

U.S. Pushes Missile Defense in Mideast

Tom Z. Collina

As part of a broader U.S. effort to focus on Middle Eastern security, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said March 31 that “it is a U.S. priority” to help Persian Gulf states build regional missile interceptor systems to counter missiles from Iran.

Speaking in Saudi Arabia at a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) forum, Clinton said the United States believes “strongly” that “we can do even more to defend the Gulf through cooperation on ballistic missile defenses.” The Department of Defense had announced the broader Middle Eastern security effort in January as part of a new guidance document, “U.S. Priorities for 21st Century Defense.”

According to the 2010 “Ballistic Missile Defense Review Report,” the Obama administration is pursuing missile defense plans in particular regions, such as Europe, called the Phased Adaptive Approach. In that case, the United States is spending billions of dollars to deploy an array of missile interceptor systems, such as the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor based on Aegis-equipped ships at sea and at two land-based sites in Romania and Poland, in four phases through 2020. NATO is expected to announce at its May 20-21 summit in Chicago that the first phase of the system has established an “interim capability.” (See ACT, April 2012)

The Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East will be among the regions of focus for U.S. missile defense efforts, according to the January Defense Department document. In contrast to U.S. missile defense cooperation with NATO, it does not appear that the United States is offering to pay for land-based missile interceptor deployments or, so far, long-term sea-based deployments in these regions.

In the Middle East, the United States is focused on selling its missile interceptor systems to Gulf states. A number of states in the region already deploy U.S.-supplied Patriot short-range missile interceptors and are considering buying longer-range systems under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program, administration officials have said.

On Dec. 25, 2011, for example, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) became the first country to buy the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense intermediate-range interceptor system, for $3.5 billion. Buying from the United States ensures “interoperability” with U.S. forces and highlights the “strong ties” between the United States and the UAE, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Frank A. Rose said April 12 at a missile defense symposium in Abu Dhabi.

As more Gulf states buy U.S. missile interceptor systems, Rose said, the United States will “work to promote interoperability and information sharing” among those states. This aspect of the plan is similar to the one for Europe, where NATO is integrating the new, U.S.-supplied interceptor systems with existing NATO short-range interceptors and sensors.

In the future, as the United States deploys additional Navy ships with SM-3 interceptors, it could assign some of those ships to the Gulf. According to Rose, U.S. mobile systems “can be relocated to adapt to a changing threat, or provide surge defense capabilities where they are needed most.”

In Asia, Japan has purchased U.S. Aegis-equipped ships with SM-3 interceptors, Patriot interceptors, early-warning radars, and command and control systems. The United States and Japan are co-developing the SM-3 IIA missile, which would be deployed in phase 3 of the NATO system. Rose said the United States “stands ready” to work with South Korea on missile defense, “recognizing the North Korean missile threat.”

As part of a broader U.S. effort to focus on Middle Eastern security, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said March 31 that “it is a U.S. priority” to help Persian Gulf states build regional missile interceptor systems to counter missiles from Iran.

NATO to Declare Missile System Ready

Tom Z. Collina

NATO allies plan to announce at their May 20-21 summit in Chicago that the European missile interceptor system has reached an “interim capability,” a senior U.S. official said on March 26.

Meanwhile, Russian officials said in March that President-elect Vladimir Putin is not expected to attend the summit because a year-long effort to reach agreement on NATO-Russian missile defense cooperation has not succeeded.

Speaking at a Washington, D.C., missile defense conference, the U.S. official, Department of State Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense Ellen Tauscher, said that the Aegis-equipped ship USS Vella Gulf “is providing our at-sea Phase 1 missile defense presence” along with the AN/TPY-2 radar in Turkey. “We expect NATO to announce that it has achieved an ‘interim capability,’” she said, according to a text of her remarks released by the State Department. “That basically means that Allies will start operating under the same playbook.” Although a Navy ship and the radar have been deployed for months, this would mark their integration with NATO’s existing systems. (See ACT, November 2010.)

The European missile interceptor program is being deployed in phases. The first phase is now operating, with ship-based Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptors in the Mediterranean Sea and a tracking radar in Turkey. Subsequent phases include the stationing of land-based SM-3s of increasing capability and number in Romania (2015) and Poland (2018) and the 2020 deployment of the SM-3 IIB, which is advertised to have some capability against long-range ballistic missiles.

NATO and Russia agreed at the alliance’s Lisbon summit in November 2010 to seek ways to cooperate on a Europe-wide missile interceptor system, such as by sharing information on missile threats. Russian leaders, however, are concerned that the latter phases of the system would have the ability to intercept Moscow’s long-range missiles, possibly undermining its nuclear deterrent. Russia has asked for a legally binding agreement that would prevent the United States from aiming its interceptors at Moscow’s offensive missiles. The United States has refused, and no cooperation agreement has been reached.

Last November, Moscow openly threatened to boycott the NATO summit and take other retaliatory measures, such as deploying short-range missiles in its Kaliningrad enclave to destroy NATO interceptors and withdrawing from the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). U.S. and NATO officials said their plans to deploy a missile interceptor system in Europe under the Phased Adaptive Approach would proceed regardless of Moscow’s concerns. (See ACT, January/February 2012.)

U.S. Rejects Limits

In her remarks at the missile defense conference, Tauscher said that Russia has “raised the issue of a legal guarantee with a set of ‘military-technical criteria’ that could, in effect, create limitations on our ability to develop and deploy future missile defense systems.” She said that Moscow wants “a piece of paper they can point to when a U.S. ship enters certain waters or when an interceptor has a certain speed.”

Tauscher said the United States could not “accept limitations on where we deploy our Aegis ships,” as they are used for a variety of missions around the world in addition to missile defense. “We also will not accept limitations on the capabilities and numbers of our missile defense systems,” she said.

Tauscher said the United States would agree to a political statement that “our missile defenses are not directed at Russia.” She also said that building cooperation with Russia may require the United States to be more transparent about its missile interceptor systems. Responding to congressional criticisms that the administration might provide classified information to Moscow, Tauscher said that the United States “would not give away ‘hit to kill technology,’ telemetry, or any other types of information that would compromise our national security.”

The United States has offered Russia the opportunity to view ship-based SM-3 flight tests in international waters, giving Moscow the time of launch of the target, which is typically provided to the public. Such transparency would be a good first step with Russia, “allowing them to see for themselves, what we are saying about our system is accurate,” said Tauscher, who led a U.S. delegation to Moscow on March 13.

Putin, who currently is prime minister, is to be sworn in as president on May 7. He will travel to the United States 11 days later to attend the Group of Eight summit at Camp David, but does not plan to go to the NATO summit that takes place immediately afterward in Chicago, the Interfax news agency reported March 23.

Open Mic Slip

There had been speculation that Putin’s March victory in Russia’s presidential election might increase the odds that Moscow would agree to cooperate with the United States on the European missile interceptor system. Similarly, there is speculation that Obama might be more open to compromise after the U.S. elections in November. Obama turned speculation into controversy March 26 at the nuclear security summit in Seoul when a private conversation with outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was caught on a live microphone.

Obama said that the missile defense situation “can be solved” but that it would be important for Putin, once in office, to give him “space.” “This is my last election,” Obama said, adding, “After my election, I have more flexibility.”

After Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said the incident was “an alarming and troubling development,” Obama told reporters March 27 that he meant that the current political environment is not conducive to bipartisan compromise. “The only way I get this stuff done is if I’m consulting with the Pentagon, with Congress, if I’ve got bipartisan support, and frankly, the current environment is not conducive to those kinds of thoughtful consultations,” Obama said.

NATO allies plan to announce at their May 20-21 summit in Chicago that the European missile interceptor system has reached an “interim capability,” a senior U.S. official said on March 26.

GOP Raps Obama on Nuclear Budget

Tom Z. Collina

Leading congressional Republicans are threatening to block implementation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in response to what they say is a failure by the Obama administration to request adequate funding for the modernization of U.S. nuclear forces.

Modernization funding was a key element of the Senate’s consideration of New START in late 2010.

President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2013 request for modernization monies was below the levels his administration had pledged during that debate. The Republican critics say the lower request breaks the 2010 commitment, but administration officials and allies have countered that Obama is meeting his commitments to the Senate and that budget cuts are reasonable given the bipartisan deficit reduction deal that Congress approved last year.

The Senate Republican Policy Committee wrote in a March 12 position paper that Obama “broke his promise by significantly underfunding nuclear modernization.”

In the House, eight Republicans, including Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, introduced legislation on March 8 that could block the implementation of New START. The bill, H.R. 4178, would deny funding for the reduction of deployed nuclear weapons until Obama certifies that U.S. nuclear modernization is being funded as outlined in a document known as the “1251 report.”

That report, required by section 1251 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2010, was completed in May 2010 and updated in November 2010. The second version updated the administration’s plans for modernizing the U.S. triad of nuclear-armed missiles, bombers, and submarines, as well as for upgrading the nuclear weapons production infrastructure. According to the March 12 Republican critique, the 1251 report was “essential” to convincing wavering senators to vote for New START. The Senate voted 71-26 to approve the New START Resolution of Advice and Consent on Dec. 22, 2010, after months of hearings and debate. (See ACT, January/February 2011.)

The administration’s defenders have responded by noting that any promises made in 2010 came before Congress agreed to the 2011 Budget Control Act, which is forcing both sides to re-examine funding priorities and commitments. For example, the Pentagon is now planning to reduce budget growth by $487 billion over the next decade, and this cut may double if the current law requiring sequestration is not changed before next January.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said at a March 14 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee that falling short of a budget target derived in 2010 “is reasonable given the fiscal reality facing us today.”

Presidential Promises

The 1251 report describes general plans for “sustaining and modernizing” strategic delivery systems, including construction of a new fleet of submarines to replace the current Ohio-class fleet; an initial analysis of when to build a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and of what type; construction of a new heavy bomber; and an initial analysis of when to build a new air-launched cruise missile (ALCM). The report does not specify how many of each system the Pentagon would build, but it does state that more than $100 billion would be spent on nuclear delivery systems over the next decade.

The 1251 report’s section on the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous unit of the Department of Energy responsible for maintaining nuclear warheads and production facilities, is more detailed. It specifies planned projects and budgets through 2020, including the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Facility Replacement (CMRR) building at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee. The report lays out plans to request more than $85 billion for NNSA weapons activities over the next decade and, specifically, $7.9 billion for fiscal 2013.

The New START resolution contains a nonbinding “sense of the Senate” section that says that the United States is committed to providing the resources needed to maintain the NNSA weapons production complex at the levels set forth in the 1251 report. Under the terms of the resolution, if Congress does not provide this level of resources, the president must submit a report on how to address the resource shortfall, among other things, and whether “it remains in the national interest of the United States to remain a Party to the New START Treaty.”

According to congressional staff, the administration was required to submit this report at the end of February, but as of March 28, had not done so.

Finally, as required by the Senate resolution, Obama certified to the Senate on Feb. 2, 2011, that he would “modernize or replace the triad of strategic nuclear delivery systems,” including a heavy bomber and ALCM, an ICBM, and a submarine and submarine-launched ballistic missile, without specifying funding levels, numbers of systems, or production schedules.

Obama also certified that he would “accelerate, to the extent possible, the design and engineering phase” of the CMRR and UPF and request full funding for these facilities on completion of that phase, which has yet to occur.

NNSA the Focus

The charges that Obama broke his promises tend to focus on the NNSA budget, where his commitments were more specific.

The NNSA’s fiscal year 2013 request for weapons activities is $7.6 billion, an increase of $363 million, or 5 percent, above fiscal 2012 but $300 million less than projected in the 1251 report. Although the administration committed in 2011 to fund the CMRR and UPF “to the extent possible,” the fiscal year 2013 budget request contains no construction funding for the CMRR and defers work for at least five years. The House Appropriations energy and water subcommittee cut the CMRR by $100 million, or 33 percent, as part of the fiscal year 2012 appropriations process, indicating bipartisan concern about the need for that facility. Meanwhile, the UPF in Tennessee would be funded at $340 million in fiscal year 2013, a $180 million increase over 2012.

At the March 14 hearing, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who did not vote for New START, said that the CMRR delay means that the NNSA would not be able to meet a Department of Defense requirement to “manufacture between 50 and 80 pits per year” and “recklessly presumes” that future programs to extend the operational life of existing warheads “will be allowed to cannibalize the pits of weapons currently held in strategic reserve.” One alternative to manufacturing new plutonium cores, or pits, is to reuse pits from warheads in storage.

NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino replied that his agency has other facilities it can use to manufacture pits and conduct plutonium research, including PF-4 at Los Alamos, the Device Assembly Facility at the Nevada Test Site, and the Superblock facilities at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The NNSA plans to “mak[e] full use of these capabilities,” while saving $1.3 billion over five years, he said. The NNSA’s current production capacity of about 10 to 20 pits per year “is enough to take care of the stockpile needs over the next decade,” D’Agostino testified March 21 before the Senate Appropriations energy and water subcommittee.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the energy and water panel, supported D’Agostino’s position during the March 21 hearing. She said in her opening statement that the fiscal year 2013 NNSA nuclear weapons budget request “provides more than sufficient funding to modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile.”

However, at a March 20 breakfast with reporters, Turner questioned the adequacy of the funding request and the strength of the administration’s commitment. “The whole concept of the investment in modernization of our nuclear weapons infrastructure is to ensure the capability of production” and the existence of a “sustainable scientific community to address our needs in maintaining our nuclear deterrent,” he said.

Delays have been justified with “the excuse of the day,” he said. He said he was concerned the administration would “nickel-and-dime us” rather than asking, “‘What is our policy need and our goals and objectives? Why do we need these facilities?’ and then proceeding.”

A new report by a National Academy of Sciences panel on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, released March 30, notes that the PF-4 facility at Los Alamos could be modified at a “relatively modest” cost to manufacture at least 40 pits per year.

At the March 14 hearing, Sessions held his fire on the Defense Department budget, saying that the department “was able to maintain its commitment to modernizing the triad of delivery vehicles with minimal change.”

The fiscal year 2013 defense budget request includes $292 million for a new long-range bomber, with plans to produce 80 to 100 planes at $550 million apiece starting in the mid-2020s; $2.0 million to study a new ALCM; $11.6 million to study a new ICBM; and $565 million for a new strategic submarine, the SSBN-X, to replace the current 14 Ohio-class subs starting in 2031. The fiscal year 2013 budget would defer the first procurement of the SSBN-X by two years, a step that the administration says would save $4.3 billion over five years. (See ACT, March 2012.)

Leading congressional Republicans are threatening to block implementation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in response to what they say is a failure by the Obama administration to request adequate funding for the modernization of U.S. nuclear forces.

Missile Defense Report Aims for Trust

Tom Z. Collina

Seeking to break the logjam in U.S.-Russian efforts to cooperate on missile defense deployments in Europe, a group of retired senior national security officials released a report in February offering an approach to building greater confidence between Moscow and NATO.

The study calls for cooperation on intercepting medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles to “build an important foundation for future cooperation against longer-range threats,” such as strategic missiles, which the report does not specifically address.

The report was produced by the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative, created in 2009 by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and co-chaired by former German Ambassador to the United States and United Kingdom Wolfgang Ischinger, former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.).

The missile defense section of the study, led by former U.S. national security adviser Stephen Hadley, former German Defense Minister Volker Rühe, and former Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov, lays out a plan for coordinating proposed U.S. and Russian interceptors and missile tracking systems. The report recommends that information from radars and satellites be shared at one or more jointly staffed centers with U.S.-NATO and Russian officers working together “to provide an enhanced threat picture and notification of missile attack.” This is similar to the U.S. proposal for “joint data fusion centers” made by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in March 2011. (See ACT, April 2011.)

The report notes that Moscow “continues to worry about the impact of strategic ballistic missile defense on its strategic nuclear deterrent.” Russian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin said on Russian television Feb. 3 that NATO’s planned missile interceptor system “is certainly aimed at neutralizing Russia’s nuclear missile potential,” according to RIA Novosti. The report sidesteps Moscow’s concerns, however, and recommends starting with cooperation on shorter-range missiles (up to 4,500 kilometers) to build a foundation for future efforts on strategic missiles.

Russia has rejected this approach in the past and is asking instead for legally binding assurances that U.S. interceptors would not be used against Moscow’s strategic forces. The Obama administration has refused to provide such assurances.

The United States is planning to deploy missile interceptors in Europe in four phases over the next decade. The last phase, expected to start in 2020, is planned to have some capability against long-range missiles.

Ischinger, Ivanov, and Nunn presented the report at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 4. Current Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking at the same conference later that day, did not responded specifically to the report, but said, “We are not overdramatizing the situation, but if everything goes ahead with missile defense as is planned in Washington and Brussels, then we would have to take measures.” The Kremlin recently threatened to deploy short-range Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad to target planned U.S. missile interceptors in neighboring Poland if Russia and the United States do not reach a compromise. (See ACT, January/February 2012.)

The United States and NATO are expected to announce at the May NATO summit in Chicago that the first phase of the system, consisting of an Aegis-equipped destroyer in the Mediterranean armed with Standard Missile-3 IA interceptors and a tracking radar in Turkey, has become operational. There had been expectations a year ago that a U.S.-Russian deal on missile defense cooperation would be announced there as well, but that is looking increasingly unlikely.

Seeking to break the logjam in U.S.-Russian efforts to cooperate on missile defense deployments in Europe, a group of retired senior national security officials released a report in February offering an approach to building greater confidence between Moscow and NATO.

Pentagon Budget Delays New Nuclear Subs

Tom Z. Collina

Responding to budget pressures, the Department of Defense spending plan for fiscal year 2013 would delay the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine replacement program by two years.

Under the plan, the Pentagon would procure the first replacement submarine, called the SSBN(X), in 2021. The two-year shift would save $502 million in fiscal year 2013 and $4.3 billion in fiscal years 2013-2017, according to Obama administration budget documents. The total 2013 request for SSBN(X) research and development is $565 million, down 47 percent from fiscal year 2012.

This would be the only major program change in the department’s plans to maintain and replace the delivery systems for U.S. nuclear weapons, which could cost more than $100 billion over the next decade. The Obama administration submitted its fiscal year 2013 budget request to Congress on Feb. 13.

At a Jan. 26 budget preview briefing at the Pentagon, Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said, “There are no cuts made in the nuclear force in this budget.” But the budget also makes no new commitments to modernize the nuclear triad—intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), strategic submarines, and long-range bombers.

Asked by reporters to explain why, given President Barack Obama’s public commitment to reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal, the budget does not make major reductions in this area, Carter said that the White House is in the process of reviewing “the size and shape of the nuclear arsenal in the future” as part of the Nuclear Posture Review implementation study. (See ACT, December 2011.) “So when those decisions come, we’ll factor them into our budget,” Carter said. According to a Jan. 26 Pentagon strategy paper, the White House review “will address the potential for maintaining our deterrent with a different nuclear force.”

The administration requested $525 billion in core defense funding. The request, which does not include $88 billion for deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, is $5.2 billion (1 percent) less than the approved fiscal year 2012 budget, representing an initial down payment on reductions of $487 billion from planned growth over the next decade, a change mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act. Even so, actual reductions will be short-lived; the administration plans to increase the Pentagon budget by almost 8 percent from 2014 to 2017.

Sub Costs ‘Unacceptably High’

At the Jan. 26 briefing, Carter described the new submarine delay as “a managerial decision made partly for budgetary reasons” that will place the program “on a more predictable and stable schedule.” He said the previous schedule “was an aggressive one, maybe even verging on optimistic.” The new submarines had been projected to cost more than $6 billion each for production alone, and the Pentagon estimated a fleet of 12 would cost almost $350 billion to build and operate over its lifetime.

Carter said that the initial cost estimates for the new submarine “came in quite high, unacceptably high,” and threatened to “consume a disproportionate share of the Navy shipbuilding budget.” The Navy is trying to bring costs down to “the neighborhood” of $5 billion per boat, he said.

Although described as a “managerial” decision, the submarine delay would have strategic implications. The current fleet of 14 Ohio-class submarines is scheduled to be phased out of service starting in 2027, one per year, and would drop to 10 boats in 2030. If replacements start entering service in 2031, as expected, at one per year, the fleet would remain at 10 subs throughout the 2030s (see figure). In prepared testimony for a Feb. 16 House Armed Services Committee hearing, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert said the two-year submarine delay will result in a strategic submarine fleet of “10 ships in the 2030s.”

The Navy has said that it must have a fleet of 12 submarines to meet the military requirement of keeping five submarines deployed at sea at all times. (See ACT, January/February 2012.)

Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), whose district includes the General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, questioned the new approach. In comments to Inside the Navy Feb. 13, he said 12 boats is “the requirement that I think people felt was adequate to maintain sea-based deterrence.”

The Jan. 26 Pentagon strategy paper acknowledged this situation, stating that the two-year delay will “create challenges in maintaining current at-sea presence requirements in the 2030s,” but that “we believe this risk can be managed.” One possibility, congressional staffers say, is for the White House to change the five-subs-at-sea requirement as part of its strategic review, which could eliminate the need for a 12-sub fleet. Another option is to extend the service lives of the Ohio-class submarines by two years.

‘Optionally Manned’ Bomber

The defense budget also would continue to support research on a new long-range bomber. The new bomber would carry precision-guided conventional weapons and nuclear weapons and would be “optionally manned,” meaning it could be piloted remotely with no crew on board. The average procurement cost for each plane is expected to be about $550 million (in 2010 dollars), or $44-55 billion for a fleet of 80 to 100 aircraft. The bomber funding level is $292 million in fiscal year 2013, $3.2 million less than in 2012, and totals $6.3 billion from 2013 to 2017. The budget does not say when production would start, but officials have mentioned the 2020s as a target. The existing fleet of B-52 and B-2 bombers is expected to operate into the 2040s.

Funding for other nuclear weapons projects in the budget includes $11.6 million to study options for a new ICBM; maintenance of the Air Force’s 450 existing Minuteman III ICBMs through 2030; $2.0 million to study the Long Range Stand-Off  missile, which is a replacement for the aging Air Launched Cruise Missile; and the Trident II D-5 submarine-launched missile life extension program. Pentagon funding for these “strategic deterrence” programs would be $2.7 billion in 2013 and $25 billion from 2013 to 2017.

Proposals for eliminating one leg of the triad, such as the bomber force, have been raised repeatedly over the last year, but appear to be off the table for now. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told Pentagon reporters Jan. 27 that he “would certainly expect and will offer best military advice [on] recommending that we retain the triad even as we go to lower numbers.”

Responding to budget pressures, the Department of Defense spending plan for fiscal year 2013 would delay the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine replacement program by two years.

U.S.-Russia Missile Defense Talks Deadlock

Tom Z. Collina

A year-long U.S.-Russian effort to find ways to cooperate on European missile defense ground to a halt in November and December, just months before the NATO summit in Chicago this May and in the midst of presidential election seasons in both countries.

Moscow is now threatening to boycott the summit and take other retaliatory measures, such as deploying short-range missiles in Kaliningrad to destroy NATO interceptors and withdrawing from the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

In reply, U.S. and NATO officials said that their plans to deploy a missile interceptor system in Europe under the Phased Adaptive Approach will proceed regardless of Moscow’s concerns, raising the prospect of rough sailing for U.S.-Russian relations in the months ahead.

At NATO’s 2010 summit in Lisbon, Russia and NATO agreed in principle to cooperate on a European missile interceptor system. At that time, there were expectations that the two sides would agree on the details of the joint efforts by the Chicago summit.

Russia’s hardened position became clear when President Dmitry Medvedev gave a Nov. 23 national address in which he said that the United States and NATO “have not showed enough willingness” to address Moscow’s concerns. Russia has repeatedly asked for legally binding assurances that NATO missile interceptors would not be used against Moscow’s strategic missiles. “We will not agree to take part in a program that, in a short while, in some six to eight years’ time, could weaken our nuclear deterrent capability,” he said.

The European missile interceptor program is being deployed in phases. The first phase, with Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptors on Aegis ships and a tracking radar in Turkey, is expected to be declared operational at the Chicago summit. Subsequent phases include the stationing of land-based SM-3s of increasing capability and number in Romania (2015) and Poland (2018) and the 2020 deployment of the SM-3 IIB, which is advertised to have some capability against long-range ballistic missiles. (See ACT, July/August 2011.)

“We find ourselves facing a fait accompli,” Medvedev said in the speech.

Medvedev said he was still open to discussions but, given the circumstances, had been “forced” to take proactive steps, such as putting an early-warning radar in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave just north of Poland, on “combat alert” and equipping new strategic missiles with “advanced missile defense penetration systems and new highly effective warheads.”

In addition, Medvedev said that if these measures “prove insufficient,” Russia would deploy “modern offensive weapon systems in the west and south of the country, ensuring our ability to take out any part of the U.S. missile defense system in Europe.” He said one step in this process would be to deploy Iskander missiles, which are nuclear capable, in Kaliningrad. In 2007, Russia warned that if the Bush administration carried out its plans to deploy long-range missile interceptors in Poland, then Iskanders might be deployed in Kaliningrad. These plans were suspended after the Obama administration announced in late 2009 its policy to deploy the shorter-range SM-3 instead.

Medvedev said Russians “reserve the right” to “discontinue further disarmament and arms control measures” and that “conditions for our withdrawal from the New START treaty could also arise.”

To make his point, Medvedev traveled to Kaliningrad on Nov. 29 and activated the new radar, known as the Voronezh-DM station, according to press reports. “If this signal is not heard, we will deploy other methods of protection, including the taking of tough countermeasures and the deployment of strike forces,” he said.

Sergey Karakaev, the commander of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces, announced Dec. 19 that Moscow had decided to build a new heavy intercontinental ballistic missile with “increased possibilities in overcoming the prospective missile defense system of the United States,” according to Pravda, and the Russian Defense Ministry announced Dec. 20 it had carried out a test of a short-range interceptor missile and posted a video of the event on its Web site.

In response to Medvedev’s speech, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder told reporters Dec. 2 that “[w]e’re deploying all four phases [of the European interceptor system]…whether Russia likes it or not.”

At a Dec. 8 NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said NATO would not “give any other country outside the alliance a veto” over whether to build a missile interceptor system. The system is “not directed at Russia, it’s not about Russia, it’s frankly about Iran,” she said, adding that it was “certainly not a cause for military countermeasures” by Russia.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen wrote Dec. 6 in The New York Times that NATO has tried to allay Russian concerns by offering transparency on missile defense programs through exchanges at the NATO-Russia Council and “a standing invitation to Russian experts to observe and analyze missile defense tests.” Rasmussen wrote that NATO also proposed holding joint NATO-Russia theater missile defense exercises next year and suggested establishing two joint missile defense centers, one for sharing data and the other for supporting planning. Russia rejected these proposals as insufficient.

Medvedev’s more aggressive stance did not go unnoticed in the U.S. Senate. After being assured that New START would contribute to better U.S.-Russian relations, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in December, “[W]e are now in a situation where the president of Russia is threatening to deploy ballistic missiles to destroy U.S. missile defense systems in Europe.”

There has been speculation that Medvedev’s speech was made primarily for domestic political reasons, coming just before December parliamentary elections in which Medvedev’s United Russia party suffered significant losses. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will face a presidential election in March and is not expected to make major policy announcements before then that could be perceived as concessions to the West. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told reporters Dec. 12 that the Chicago summit “would be easier to stage” if NATO and Russia had “agreed on missile defense by that point.” A decision on whether to attend the summit will be made after the presidential election, he said.

According to a diplomatic source close to NATO, Medvedev’s speech is being taken seriously given the specificity of his declarations and the fact that he serves as commander-in-chief of the Russian armed forces.

In the United States, congressional Republicans have strongly opposed any limitations on U.S. missile interceptor deployment plans. That issue figured prominently in the debate over ratification of New START. (See ACT, January/February 2011.)

Meanwhile, Moscow and Washington also sparred over the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. At a Nov. 22 press briefing, U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington no longer would “accept Russian inspections of our bases under the CFE [Treaty], and we will also not provide Russia with the annual notifications and military data called for in the treaty.” (See ACT, December 2011.)

Ryabkov told reporters Dec. 16 in Washington that the U.S. decision “has absolutely no meaning for us.” He spoke after a session of the bilateral working group he co-chairs with U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher.

“We receive the necessary data to analyze the military-political situation through other channels, including global exchange of military information and in the framework of the Vienna document on enhanced measures of trust,” he said, referring to the Vienna Document on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which requires participating states to share information on their military forces and equipment. “It is the sovereign decision of NATO members [to stop implementing the CFE Treaty,] and we accept it as it is,” he said. Russia will continue to observe its 2007 suspension of the treaty, Ryabkov said.

A year-long U.S.-Russian effort to find ways to cooperate on European missile defense ground to a halt in November and December, just months before the NATO summit in Chicago this May and in the midst of presidential election seasons in both countries.

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