U.S. Senator Jon Kyl on Tuesday reaffirmed his position against the White House offering any sort of restrictions on missile defenses in Europe, Reuters reported (see GSN, May 15).
Kyl (R-Ariz.) said he does not want the Obama administration to give Russia or China assurance that would limit the future evolution of U.S. antimissile systems planned for deployment in Europe as part of a broader NATO shield covering the continent.
The administration's "phased adaptive approach" calls for increasingly capable missile interceptors through 2020 to be fielded on bases in Poland and Romania and on warships home ported in Spain. The stated intent is to counter ballistic missile strikes on Europe from nations such as Iran. Moscow is concerned that later versions of the Standard Missile 3 interceptor would be able to destroy its long-range nuclear missiles and has demanded a legally enforceable pledge on their targeting.
While the White House has signaled it would not provide any form of binding guarantee on the interceptors, President Obama was overheard in late March telling then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev he would have more "flexibility" to negotiate a missile defense agreement after November elections.
A number of Republicans have accused the administration of wanting to strike a backdoor deal with Russia that would limit U.S. missile defenses in Europe.
"I don't think the president is going to get away with not talking about this until after the election," Kyl told Reuters.
"He's going to have to talk about it during the campaign or allow those of us who are skeptical to assume, correctly, that he has every intention of imposing those limits," continued the Senate minority whip, who is to retire at the beginning of 2013. Kyl also addressed the issue in a Monday piece for the Wall Street Journal.
The No. 2 Senate Republican also supports building and deploying missile interceptors in outer space.
Continuing to develop increasingly sophisticated antimissile technology "remains the best and most moral course for the United States to dissuade anyone from getting the idea that they could gain advantage over the United States," Kyl said.
Kyl's advocacy on missile defense is ultimately "unhelpful," said Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl Kimball. His position could cause Russia to "overreact even more" to the ballistic missile shield being deployed in Europe, according to Kimball.
Russia has threatened to use short-range missiles to destroy U.S. antimissile systems in Europe and has also warned it might unilaterally withdraw from the New START nuclear arms control accord if a compromise on missile defense is not reached (Jim Wolf, Reuters/Chicago Tribune, May 15).
U.S. Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense Ellen Tauscher and Assistant Defense Secretary for Global Strategic Affairs Madelyn Creedon in a joint Wednesday column in the Russian Kommersant newspaper renewed calls for Moscow to reach agreement with the United States on missile defense cooperation.
"There exists an opportunity for missile defense to help both countries counter today’s threats rather than repeat past patterns of confrontation and disagreement," the two senior officials said, according to a State Department copy of their column. "Cooperation can be difficult, but it will bring benefits to both sides" such as those seen by implementation of the New START accord.
"We are not asking Russia to blindly trust us. We are offering Russia the opportunity to see with its own eyes what NATO is doing and the capabilities of its missile defense system. What Russia would see is that NATO missile defense and our European Phased Adaptive Approach contribution, is directed at regional threats -- outside of Europe -- and not at Russia," the commentary states.
Tauscher and Creedon asserted that collaborative antimissile drills, data sharing, and collective analyses of missile threats would give Russia "a much better understanding of our capabilities, including the fact that these defenses will not undermine Russia’s large and sophisticated nuclear deterrent." They renewed an invitation for Moscow to dispatch scientists to observe a forthcoming SM-3 interceptor flight trial.
"Our goal is to reach a political agreement enabling practical cooperation, but we will not negotiate a legally binding agreement that would limit U.S. missile defense capabilities. And we will not cede the protection of our NATO allies to Russia," the U.S. diplomats said (U.S. State Department release, May 16).
Meanwhile, the U.S. House Armed Services Committee's backing for missile defense expenditures beyond those requested by the Defense Department for the next budget is not matched by their colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee defense subpanel, the Navy Times reported on Tuesday.
In their annual defense authorization legislation, HASC lawmakers approved adding $460 million to the original $903 million sought by the Pentagon for the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system -- the principal homeland defense against long-range missile attacks. The additional funding includes $100 million to research possible areas on the East Coast to locate a third missile interceptor site.
House budget writers, though, are only allocating an additional $75 million over the fiscal 2013 amount requested by the Pentagon for the GMD system and it is not apparent whether the House Appropriations subcommittee intends the suggested new funds for an East Coast antimissile site.
The Armed Services Committee also called for another $374 million to be spent on Advanced Submarine System Development, which encompasses research work for the submarine intended to supplant today's Ohio-class ballistic missile vessels. House appropriators, however, have chosen instead to grant the Defense Department's $555 million budget ask for the submarine development account (see GSN, Feb. 14).
The Armed Services Committee also advised supplementing by $99 million the $1.1 billion budget request sought by the Energy Department for naval atomic reactors.
"This increase will support continued development of an advanced 'life-of-the-boat' nuclear reactor for the Ohio-class replacement submarine program," the HASC bill report said.
House appropriators did not add any new monies in their defense budget for naval reactors above that requested by the Obama administration.
At the beginning of the year, the Defense Department said it had decided to postpone by two years acquisition of the Ohio-class replacement vessels. House Armed Services Committee members in their authorization bill sought to undo that by putting in monies that would allow the replacement submarines to be acquired under the original timetable.
The entire House is due to consider the HASC authorization bill this week and the full House Appropriations Committee is slated to debate the defense subpanel's bill on Thursday; the committee previously approved fiscal 2013 expenditures for the National Nuclear Security Administration (Kate Brannen, Navy Times, May 15).