On April 8th, at the historic Prague Castle, U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will sign an arms control treaty that reduces their strategic nuclear weapons and platforms to deliver those weapons. The treaty will then need to be ratified by both the U.S. Senate and the Russian Duma. The interpretation of the treaty’s language and intent in reference to linkage of U.S. missile defense will have considerable influence on the outcome of the Senate and Duma votes; of which 67 out of 100 U.S. Senators are required to ratify the treaty.
With this in mind, both Presidents will look to release unilateral statements outside of the treaty as well as language in the preamble to the treaty that will appease their legislators on the linkage or non-linkage of U.S. missile defense which may not be in the treaty, but will be regarded as binding by both sides. This diplomatic skill is a necessary action required to achieve a ratified treaty that would unequivocally link missile defense forever to this treaty in intent and interpretation.
The Russians have concerns that further expansion and development of U.S. missile defense, including President Obama’s Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) in Europe, is a threat to Russian missile forces both tactical and strategic and could potentially upset the future “nuclear balance of terror” between the two countries.
“We cannot forbid the USA to work on missile defense. But this treaty will have clearly worded linkage between this work and the number and quality of strategic offensive weapons. The treaty and all the obligations it contains are valid only within the context of the levels which are now present in the sphere of strategic defensive systems.”
– Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, March 28th, 2010
“For that reason, the negotiators’ task was to ensure that inseparable mutual connection between strategic offensive and strategic defensive arms (missile defense) was adequately reflected in the new treaty. That task has been successfully accomplished- the linkage between strategic offensive arms and missile defense, as well as ever greater importance of this linkage in the process of strategic offensive arms cuts are set down in the treaty and will be legally binding.”
– Russian Presidential Aide Sergei Prikhodko, April 2nd, 2010
For the Americans, any linkage of missile defense in an attempt to limit its capability, development and growth is unacceptable; this includes the PAA as well as existing systems. Any linkage to or limits of missile defense in the treaty are seen as contrary to U.S. national security and its ability to protect the homeland, troops, force structures overseas and allies from ballistic missiles; as was laid out and directed by President Obama’s Ballistic Missile Defense Review (BMDR) released February 1st. The BMDR further documented that the number of ballistic missiles currently in existence outside of the control of our allies, Russia and China is 5,900. Limiting our nation’s protection from current and future ballistic missile threats would put American lives and U.S. national security at unacceptable risk; especially with the increasing likelihood of a nuclear Iran and the continuing proliferation of missiles and nuclear technology around the world.
The American public views entities like Iran, North Korea, emerging terrorist groups and countries that sponsor those groups as the main threat to our national security, not Russia. The American public and war fighter would not dare give up or limit its current and future defensive capability against those existent and emerging threats for a strategic arms control agreement with the Russians; who are not viewed as a current or future threat to the United States.
As such, the U.S. interpretation of non-linkage to missile defense in the treaty is the direct opposite of the Russians perception.
“No Constraints on Missile Defense and Conventional Strike; The Treaty does not contain any constraints on testing, development or deployment of current or planned U.S. Missile Defense programs or current or planned United States long-range conventional strike capabilities.”
– Key Facts about the START Treaty, White House Press Release, March 26th, 2010
“Nor does this treaty limit plans to protect the United States and our allies by improving and deploying missile defense systems.”
– Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, March 26th, 2010
As the Senate works to understand, interpret and debate the intent of the new START treaty, it is beyond comprehension how it can have two diabolically opposing interpretations of missile defense. The reality of a successfully ratified new treaty outcome will most likely not happen unless we agree to disagree on the linkage of missile defense with Russia.
President Obama stated a year ago in Prague, “As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven.”
There can be no limits put on the development and deployment of the PAA and our nation’s missile defenses. We at MDAA stand vigilant and united against limits being placed on our nation’s missile defense.
Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher said it best, when asked about linkage in the treaty to limit U.S. missile defense, “Definitely, positively, and no way, no how- there are no limits to our ability to put the Phased Adaptive Approach forward and the other systems that we have worked on in the past.”