Russia’s recent tests of ballistic missiles are clear signs Moscow is making good on announced threats to prepare preemptive strikes on U.S. missile defenses, a senior House Republican disclosed this week.
Rep. Michael Turner (R., Ohio) stated in a June 12 letter to senior Obama administration officials that he is also concerned Russia appears to be taking steps to abandon a 1980s treaty banning intermediate-range missiles.
“I am deeply concerned about Russia’s recent provocative tests of new ballistic missiles, as well as the apparent complete absence of response and engagement by the Obama administration,” Turner stated in a letter sent Tuesday to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
The tests are indicators that Russia appears to be following through with threats to deploy weapons capable of conducting preemptive attacks on U.S. missile defenses in Europe, said Turner, chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee.
Additionally, Russian missile developments “are clear evidence by Russia of plans for its withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty,” he said.
The 1987 INF treaty between Moscow and Washington eliminated all nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between 300 and 3,400 miles.
Russia last week conducted a test launch of a new strategic missile that was intended to send a political message to NATO regarding Moscow’s opposition to U.S. missile defenses.
The test and an early flight-test in May “appear to be, without ambiguity, demonstrations of new nuclear delivery systems,” he said.
Gen. Nikolai Makarov, currently chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, said in May that Russia planned to deploy short-range missiles that could attack planned U.S. and NATO missile defenses in Poland and Romania.
“Taking into account a missile-defense system’s destabilizing nature, that is, the creation of an illusion that a disarming strike can be launched with impunity, a decision on pre-emptive use of the attack weapons available will be made when the situation worsens,” Makarov said.
The statements were part of an ongoing Russian propaganda campaign to coerce the United States into abandoning missile defenses in Europe that Washington says are needed to counter Iran’s missiles and that Moscow believes are planned for use against Russian ICBMs.
Mark Schneider, strategic affairs specialist with the National Institute for Public Policy who was an Obama administration New START treaty negotiator, said the new missile was tested by Russia with unusual secrecy.
The May missile test was “the third new ICBM announced since the ratification of the New START treaty,” he said.
Schneider said in a letter to the subcommittee that the unusual secrecy surrounding the missile tests “raises concerns that Russian silence relates to a treaty compliance issue.”
“When a compliance issue is in play, Russia generally does not provide technical details about a new missile,” Schneider said, and noted that high-level Russian government statements since 2007 indicate Russia is considering withdrawing from the INF Treaty.
Schneider conducted an analysis of reports on Russian activity that “either violate or circumvent the INF Treaty.”
“The pattern of activities that are now being reported would completely eviscerate the INF Treaty’s impact on Russia while the U.S. continues to comply with the Treaty’s ‘zero option,’” he said.
The Obama administration appears uninterested in questioning the Russians on the treaty violations, and Schneider called on the subcommittee to conduct an investigation.
Turner, in his letter, said it appears the administration has made no formal response to the Russian missile tests and their impact on the INF treaty.
While President Obama, based on his Prague speech, is pushing for “zero” nuclear arms, Turner said, “According to all the available evidence, however, the Prague agenda has only reduced U.S. nuclear forces. Russia, China, North Korea and Iran seem uninterested by President Obama’s disarmament agenda.”
Turner posed questions to the three administration security leaders, including whether Russian missile tests violate the INF treaty, whether Russia is building systems not limited by the START treaty that are capable of being deployed against the United States, and why the new systems are not limited by the 2010 treaty.
Also, Turner asked whether Russian missile developments will cause the administration to re-evaluate efforts to conclude a defense technology cooperation accord with Moscow.
Turner asked Clinton, Panetta, and Clapper about ongoing missile proliferation activities by Russia to Iran first reported by the Free Beacon.
He asked for details of the cooperation and whether it includes Russian support for Iranian space launcher development, which is useful for Tehran’s long-range strategic missile program.
“I’m sure you’ll agree that it is important for the United States to be clear-eyed about Russian intentions and plans related to its nuclear forces and cooperation with illicit, proliferating regimes such as Iran,” Turner said.