The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held its second hearing this week on the New START Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation. Led by the chair of the committee, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), and ranking minority member, Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN), a number of senators addressed several areas of concern with the witnesses, the Honorable James N. Miller, Jr., Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; General Kevin P. Chilton, Commander US Strategic Command; and Lieutenant General Patrick J. O’Reilly, Director of the Missile Defense Agency.
Gen. O’Reilly emphatically made the point that this treaty in no way hampers the United States’ ability to continue its current missile defense plans or build upon them in the future. While Article 5 of the treaty does prevent the United States from converting Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) launchers to missile defense launchers, Gen. O’Reilly claimed that this was never part of the Missile Defense Agency’s overall plan and therefore does not actually restrict the present or future behavior of the United States. In the question and answer session, Gen. O’Reilly testified that he has briefed key Russian officials numerous times, beginning in October 2009, and that the Russians understood the U.S. plans regarding the 3rd and 4th phases (to be completed in 2018 and 2020, respectively) of the U.S. phased adaptive approach to missile defense.
The bigger question still is why, if the Russians have been briefed and fully understand the implications of the U.S. missile defense plan, this administration still refuses to release the negotiating record. As argued by Senator Risch (R-ID), it is clear from the Russian unilateral statement, which claims that Russia will abide by the treaty so long as the United States does not develop its missile defense system qualitatively and quantitatively, there are two drastically opposing views between the US and the Russian Federation on what is “acceptable” action concerning the U.S. missile defense system. If this is the position of the Russian government, then the release of the negotiation record becomes even more imperative before the United States ratifies this treaty. Anything short of full disclosure to the Senate jeopardizes U.S. national security.
Ricky Trotman is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm