U.S. Rejects Latest Russian Proposal to Restrict U.S. Missile Defenses

Further talks on missile defenses cut off due to Ukraine intervention
Russian President Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin / AP

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The United States has rejected Moscow’s latest proposal for an agreement that would include legally binding curbs on U.S. missile defenses in Europe, the State Department said.

Russia in December offered the most recent plan aimed at resolving differences with the United States during talks in New York City.

A State Department official told the Washington Free Beacon the proposal was rejected based on opposition to Moscow’s demand that the United States agree to legal limits on missile defenses in Europe, including restrictions on the deployment of Aegis missile defense ships in European waters.

Russia for the past decade has insisted that U.S. missile defenses in Europe were covertly designed to counter Moscow’s strategic offensive missiles, a charge the United States has repeatedly denied.

“Russia continues to insist that the United States provide it with legally binding guarantees that would create limitations on our ability to develop and deploy future missile defense systems against regional ballistic missile threats such as those from Iran and North Korea,” the official said.

“We have repeatedly made clear that the United States cannot and will not accept any obligations that limit our ability to defend ourselves, our allies, and our partners, including where we deploy our [ballistic missile defense] capable Aegis ships,” the official said.

Additionally, further talks with the Russians were cut off as a result of Russian military intervention in Ukraine.

“Russia’s intervention into the crisis in Ukraine, in violation of international law, led to the suspension of our military to military dialogue and we are not currently engaging Russia on the topic of missile defense,” the official said.

The State Department since at least 2010 has held a series of secret talks with the Russians aimed at resolving differences on missile defenses.

The U.S. missile defense program in Europe is designed to counter long-range missile threats from Iran and North Korea. In the spring of 2010, the State Department drafted a “cooperation” framework agreement with Russia on missile defense that was rejected by Moscow.

The administration in 2009 launched its so-called phased, adaptive approach missile defense plan for Europe that called for deploying increasingly capable interceptors in four phases. The administration, in an effort to appease Moscow, last year dropped the fourth phase that would have involved the most effective defenses capable of defending the United States from intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said the Russians made a “good” proposal on cooperation on missile defenses.

“This is the most pressing issue in Russian-U.S. relations, not to mention Ukraine,” Antonov told Russian television. “We were expecting our colleagues in February and are waiting for the consultations to continue but they never arrived. One may say that their silence is the answer, and if it is we can accept it.”

Antonov did not provide details of the proposal but told Rossiya 24 television that it was an attempt to seek “a way out of the standoff, which takes into consideration concerns of the Russian side and the Americans.”

“We would have broken even and moved on,” he said.

The United States is bolstering missile defense capabilities by adding large, ground-based interceptors in Alaska, adding additional missile defense interceptor ships and deploying sensors and radar.

“We will make targeted investments in defensive interceptors, discrimination capabilities, and sensors; and we are studying the best location for an additional missile defense interceptor site in the United States if additional interceptors are needed,” states the Pentagon’s four-year strategy review made public in March.

Pentagon officials and congressional defense aides have said Moscow’s main motive for engaging in missile defense cooperation has been to gain access to U.S. technology.

The House Armed Services Committee in its draft of the fiscal year 2015 defense authorization bill, completed on Tuesday, limits the Pentagon from providing Russia with sensitive information on missile defense capabilities, including speed data that could allow Russia to build countermeasures to U.S. defenses.

The Obama administration earlier had considered providing classified data to Russia on the interceptor velocity burnout rate as part of efforts to assuage Moscow’s opposition to missile defenses.

Russia continues to regard the joint U.S. and NATO defense shield as a covert attempt to counter Russian strategic nuclear forces that are currently being modernized with new missiles, submarines, and bombers.

The modernization includes development of strategic missiles designed to counter U.S. missile defenses.

U.S. officials said Moscow’s April 14 flight test of a new ICBM that included multiple warheads—a potential violation of the 2010 New START Treaty—is part of counter-missile defense measures.

Russian defense officials were quoted in state press reports as saying the new ICBM, known as the RS-24M, is part of a strategic nuclear forces buildup with capabilities to defeat U.S. missile defenses.

Additionally, Russia is seeking to develop advanced technology warheads capable of penetrating through missile defenses, such as hypersonic vehicles capable of maneuvering.

The House committee legislation also contains limits for the Pentagon that bar integrating U.S. and NATO missile defenses with any Chinese missile defenses—a measure designed to express opposition to Turkey’s plan to purchase Chinese air defenses.

The legislation also calls for the Pentagon’s inspector general to investigate whether the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) may have improperly shared classified missile defense technology.

The provision was a response to concerns expressed by Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.) that NASA’s research centers may have compromised secrets in exchanges with Chinese visitors.

Wolf stated in an Oct. 8 letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden that “a series of questionable actions taken by the [NASA] Ames center leadership that have resulted in criminal investigations of export violations and inspector general reviews of illegitimate contracts issued by the center.”

“I believe the center has become a rat’s nest of inappropriate and possibly illegal activities that appear to have occurred with the concurrence of the center’s leadership,” Wolf said.

Wolf said a number of Ames staff members were investigated by the FBI and other agencies for “illegal transfer of ITAR-controlled technology by individuals at the NASA Ames Research Center.”

“It is my understanding that this illegal technology transfer may have involved [giving] classified Defense Department weapons system technology to foreign countries,” he said.