“The Obama administration continues to demonstrate its penchant for bargaining away missile defense,” write James Woolsey, chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, and Rebeccah Heinrichs, an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former manager of the Congressional Missile Defense Caucus, in their most recent op-ed. This is indeed the case, as shown by negotiations over New START and other Administration steps pertaining to missile defense.
New START’s preamble links strategic offensive and defensive weapons and serves as a basis for the Russian objections to the third and the fourth phase of the Phased Adaptive Approach, President Obama’s missile defense plan to counter the Iranian ballistic missile threat.
The Russian objections are to be expected. In February, right after New START entered into force, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stated, “If the U.S. increases the qualitative and quantitative potential of its missile defense…a question will arise whether Russia should further abide by the treaty or would have to take other measures to respond to the situation, including military-technical measures.”
The U.S. Senate tried to remedy the treaty preamble’s shortcoming in its resolution of ratification to the treaty, which states that “continued improvement and deployment of United States missile defense systems do not constitute a basis for questioning the effectiveness and viability of the Treaty, and therefore would not give rise to circumstances justifying the withdrawal of the Russian Federation from the Treaty.”
These two interpretations are at odds, and it is only prudent for Congress to reinforce its position and make sure no further missile defense concessions will be made.
The Administration threatens to veto the entire defense bill over the U.S. House of Representatives’ provision that would limit the President’s ability to share sensitive missile defense technology information with the Russian Federation. The provision seems only prudent as the Russians might easily use such information to improve their ballistic missiles to be able to overcome U.S. missile defenses—or they could transfer the information to third parties. The latter is particularly plausible given the Russian history of nuclear and ballistic missile proliferation.
Ever since the Obama Administration took office, it has made extensive cuts to the ballistic missile defense budget and cancelled promising missile defense programs, such as the Airborne Laser program, the Multiple Kill Vehicle program, and the Medium Extended Air Defense System, a joint missile defense program with Germany and Italy. It is essential that the U.S. government provide for the common defense and ensure that all the components of the U.S. missile defense program are augmented.