Tauscher: European Missile Defense Will Get Russia's Support, Eventually

Dismissing Russia’s objections to proposed missile defenses in Europe as politically motivated, a top U.S. arms-control official is sure Washington and its allies will be able to secure Moscow's cooperation in an agreement on the shield meant to counter Iran's nuclear efforts. Eventually (see GSN, Jan. 12).

Russia has demanded written assurances that Washington's plans for the European-based missile defense system would not be used against its own intercontinental ballistic missiles. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who in November raised the issue with President Obama at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Hawaii, threatened to deploy missiles -- and even consider withdrawing from the high-profile New START nuclear-arms-reduction treaty -- if the U.S. presses ahead with its plans.

Yet Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher said she’s confident the alliance shield will go ahead as planned -- with Russia’s buy-in -- and that the internal politicking ahead of presidential elections there might be a factor in some of Moscow's public objections. “What this is really about: They need to have their elections,” Tauscher told defense reporters on Thursday.

“They need to come out the other side. They need to make some decisions in the new administration," she added. "And we will get a missile defense agreement for cooperation with Russia.”

But when? “Can’t tell ya,” Tauscher quipped.

The U.S. has maintained the shield -- which comprises agreements for interceptor missiles in Romania and a radar system in Turkey -- is designed to defend against a potential attack from Iran, and is not intended to undercut Russia’s own strategic deterrent. In fact, the U.S. has asked Russia to join the European radar network and literally turn its radar around, from the direction of Europe to that of Iran. So far, Russia has declined.

Tauscher acknowledged there are people within the Russian government who will “never trust us” -- and still have concerns about “offense and defense.”

She also suggested vestiges of a Cold War-era mentality could be a contributing factor, and ran through a potential scenario: “I’m sitting, you know, in one of their Seven Sister buildings ... trying to figure out how to get my [Ministry of Defense] money, and I’ve been doing it the same old way for 25 years. Now all of a sudden somebody says, 'We're going to be friends with those people. You don’t have to worry about it,' ” Tauscher said. “[I’m] sitting there thinking, what does that mean? … I need an enemy … I have to have somebody that I’m going to say: ‘This is their most recent picture on their Internet, I need to now counter this.' Because that’s what I’ve done for 25 years."

"I understand this," Tauscher continued. "And every once in a while, you can imagine that these people kind of gin up their administration.”

Tauscher said she sees the alliance shield as a way for the U.S. and Russia -- and NATO allies -- to work together in a new era. “The Russians are just like everybody else -- they don’t want to be invited to a dinner party and arrive during the dessert,” Tauscher said. “Almost everything else … on European security has been settled.... The only thing that’s new where you can actually bring the Russians in is missile defense."

Jan. 13, 2012
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Dismissing Russia’s objections to proposed missile defenses in Europe as politically motivated, a top U.S. arms-control official is sure Washington and its allies will be able to secure Moscow's cooperation in an agreement on the shield meant to counter Iran's nuclear efforts. Eventually.