U.S. May Offer Russia Some Data on SM-3 Interceptor

(Nov. 17) - A U.S. Standard Missile 3 interceptor takes off in a 2006 exercise. The Obama administration might supply Moscow with certain technical details on the interceptor in making the case that the weapon would not threaten Russia's nuclear deterrent, according to a news report (U.S. Missile Defense Agency photo).
(Nov. 17) - A U.S. Standard Missile 3 interceptor takes off in a 2006 exercise. The Obama administration might supply Moscow with certain technical details on the interceptor in making the case that the weapon would not threaten Russia's nuclear deterrent, according to a news report (U.S. Missile Defense Agency photo).

The United States is reportedly considering offering Russia some technical information on its Standard Missile 3 interceptor in a bid to address Moscow's concerns that the technology is a threat to its long-range nuclear forces, the Washington Times reported on Wednesday (see GSN, Nov. 14).

U.S. Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher is reported to have recently reviewed with Russian officials the details of the offer, which would supply Moscow with the technical specifics of the SM-3's missile burnout velocity, also known as the VBO.

Information on a missile's speed after it uses up all of its fuel can be used to determine how to target it. It is believed that U.S. officials think that by giving the interceptor's VBO to Moscow, the Kremlin would finally understand that the SM-3 is too slow to be a threat to Russia's strategic missiles.

Moscow objects to U.S. plans to deploy in phases increasingly advanced versions of the SM-3 around Europe as a proclaimed bulwark against a potential Iranian ballistic missile attack. Russia has warned it will pursue a military response that could include the enlargement of its nuclear arsenal if it does not reach an accord with Washington and NATO on missile defense.

Opponents to the reported U.S. VBO gambit argue that giving such technical data to Moscow would be an initial step down along a path to agreeing to caps on interceptor speeds.

Some U.S. defense officials alleged in comments to the Times that Moscow is attempting to use bilateral antimissile talks with Washington to extract information on U.S. defense plans and defense systems rather than focusing on reaching an agreement that benefits both sides.

House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Michael Turner (R-Ohio) in Wednesday remarks said he was extremely worried about valuable interceptor information being given to Russia.

GOP lawmakers will "oppose any effort by the administration to provide Russia information on the burnout velocity ... of SM-3 missile interceptors," he vowed.

Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has written to the White House nominee for U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, seeking information on whether the Obama administration intends to give Russia the VBO data prior to next spring's NATO gathering in Chicago and whether doing so would constitute a breach of the executive branch's National Disclosure Policy.

"How could a decision to release SM-3 VBO data, regardless of whether such decision is taken, be consistent with the administration's decision that 'the United States will not provide missile defense interceptor telemetry to Russia under the New START Treaty'?" Kirk said.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said he heard from several department officials on the matter and was informed "we've made no such offer" on VBO data (Bill Gertz, Washington Times, Nov. 16).

In another effort to assuage Moscow's concerns about SM-3 interceptors, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency offered to permit Russian specialists to view one or more missile interceptor trials to verify for themselves that the technology is not capable of targeting Russian long-range missiles.

However, Washington has rejected a Russian suggestion that it be allowed to use its own machinery to track and gather information on the interceptor test, Russia's permanent envoy to NATO told Interfax.

"To read data from such (an interceptor missile), which hits a ballistic target kinetically, some equipment -- sensors -- should be installed on the (missile) itself and some should be on the ground," Russian Ambassador Dmitry Rogozin said.

"Simply traveling somewhere into the ocean, standing on a barge and seeing through a pair of binoculars where some kind of shell is flying is not interesting at all," the Kremlin's point man for antimissile talks with NATO and the United States said.

As such, the invitation by the United States to view the interceptor trial amounts to nothing more than "a lot of hot air," Rogozin said (Interfax, Nov. 16).

Moscow is also demanding that Washington provide it with a legally enforceable pledge that its missile interceptors will not be aimed at Russia's nuclear forces.

U.S. Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Wednesday reiterated the Obama administration's position that it would not provide such a guarantee, RIA Novosti reported (RIA Novosti, Nov. 16).

 

November 17, 2011
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The United States is reportedly considering offering Russia some technical information on its Standard Missile 3 interceptor in a bid to address Moscow's concerns that the technology is a threat to its long-range nuclear forces, the Washington Times reported on Wednesday (see GSN, Nov. 14).