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House Passes Bill Blocking U.S.-Russian Arms Control Funds

By Rachel Oswald

Global Security Newswire

Then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shake hands in February 2011 following the entry into force of the bilateral New START pact. The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday voted to provisionally block funding for implementation of the accord. Then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shake hands in February 2011 following the entry into force of the bilateral New START pact. The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday voted to provisionally block funding for implementation of the accord. (U.S. State Department photo)

The U.S. House on Thursday approved a bill that seeks to keep the Obama administration from implementing a strategic arms control treaty with Russia.

In a vote of 233-191, Congress' lower chamber approved an amendment to its annual defense-authorization legislation that would provisionally block the Pentagon from using any fiscal 2015 funds to implement the New START accord. Expenditures would be prohibited until Moscow is deemed in compliance with several other arms control agreements, is "no longer illegally occupying" the Crimean Peninsula, and ceases destabilizing activities in other parts of Ukraine.

The House went on to approve the Fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act by a 325-98 vote. The White House earlier this week threatened to veto the bill over a number of its nuclear nonproliferation, missile defense and other military measures. The Senate is currently drafting its own version of the policy-setting legislation.

The New START pact entered into force in February 2011, after the Obama administration lobbied fiercely for its passage in the Senate. The treaty is considered one of President Obama's key foreign policy accomplishments. It requires the United States and Russia by 2018 to cap their respective fielded long-range nuclear arsenals at 1,550 warheads. The pact also requires each side to limit to 800 its deployed and nondeployed strategic delivery platforms, including bomber aircraft and ground- and submarine-based ballistic missiles.

The amendment on New START implementation was introduced by Representative Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), who sits on the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee.

"I am pleased that the House adopted my resolution by an overwhelming, bipartisan majority," Lamborn said in an emailed statement to Global Security Newswire. "I don’t think the United States should be spending money to disarm ourselves -- to dramatically cut our strategic nuclear deterrent -- if the other party to the treaty requiring these cuts is verifiably dishonest."

The Obama administration is on record as being concerned that Russia may not be in compliance with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which outlaws either side from testing or deploying any cruise or ballistic missile with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles. The focus of the concerns reportedly is the test-launching in recent years of different missiles to ranges forbidden by the accord.

"The Russian Federation is clearly not trustworthy," Lamborn said. "Their actions in Ukraine and violation of agreements such as the INF treaty and [Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty] should be cause for great concern." The latter arms control treaty is a multinational pact that restricts deployments of heavy conventional weaponry on the continent; Russia withdrew from the accord in 2007.

The House also approved an amendment -- sponsored by Representative Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) -- that would boost fiscal 2015 funding by $99 million for the purchase of Standard Missile 3 Block 1B interceptors.

"My amendment would restore nine of the vital SM3-1B interceptors this administration would have otherwise cut from our defense budget," said Franks, who co-chairs the Congressional Missile Defense Caucus, in a statement to GSN.

The Raytheon Co.-produced Block 1B missile is designed to destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. The weapon is slated for deployment on four U.S. Aegis-equipped warships homeported in Spain and at an as-yet unfinished installation in Romania, as part of the Obama administration's plan for supporting NATO missile defense.

The measure offsets the hike in spending by making a $75.3 million cut to the budget of a cross-service reconnaissance aircraft and a $23.7 million cut to an effort to implement benefit-reform proposals in the Defense Health Program.

"The rogue missile threat to the United States and our allies is inarguably and relentlessly expanding," Franks said. "The best way to negate these threats is a credible, comprehensive missile defense system."

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