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U.S.-Russian Arms Control Talks Were Satisfactory, Envoy Says
The latest session of a U.S.-Russian arms control working group this week was conducted satisfactorily, though no breakthroughs were achieved, Interfax on Thursday quoted the lead Russian delegate as saying (see GSN, Dec. 15).
"I cannot say that some breakthrough has happened but we did not even set such goals," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said to Russian news organizations. "I can say that I am very much satisfied with the results."
The two former Cold War antagonists discussed U.S. plans to deploy antimissile systems in Europe that Russia sees as a threat to its long-range nuclear weapons. Washington's "phased adaptive approach" involves the fielding of increasingly advanced missile interceptors around the continent as a stated bulwark against an Iranian ballistic missile attack. The two sides also discussed their respective positions on the strategic nuclear balance.
"Breakthroughs are desirable in the missile defense area, but we know how deep the gap between Moscow and Washington is in this area, and we know how this issue has developed," the Russian deputy minister said.
The Obama administration and NATO have sought for more than a year to draw Russia into their plans for a European missile shield. The sides remain at odds over several issues, including Moscow's demand for a legally binding pledge that the system would not target Russian nuclear weapons.
Moscow has threatened to cancel its participation in the New START arms control accord with the United States and to field nonstrategic missiles in its Kaliningrad territory, which borders several NATO nations, if a compromise is not reached on missile defense.
"In a number of other areas we have enjoyed better understanding and have the chance to work together more efficiently," Ryabkov said.
"Meetings of the [U.S.-Russian Arms Control and International Security Working Group] within the presidential commission are an established practice, and there is nothing extraordinary about this," the diplomat said. "We meet in this format at least twice a year, and this has been supplemented by separate meetings between the co-chairs in the past year."
Issues discussed this week included "strategic stability, conventional weapons, space, and the [Biological Weapons Convention], whose review conference is taking place in Geneva now," he said (see GSN, Dec. 8; Interfax, Dec. 15).
Separately, a Senate freeze on the White House's pick for a new ambassador to Russia was removed on Thursday, opening the way for the upper chamber to hold a confirmation vote, Foreign Policy reported (see GSN, Dec. 8).
Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) had placed a hold on the nomination of Michael McFaul over concerns the White House was contemplating providing Moscow with classified technical data on the Standard Missile 3 interceptor's "velocity burnout" in a bid to put to rest Kremlin fears about the European missile defense system. Some senators object to providing Russia with data that could be used to develop countermeasures to the interceptors.
The current U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, is scheduled to depart from that post next week. With the hold on McFaul ended, a Senate confirmation vote could take place as soon as Friday.
Obama officials sought this week to address Republican worries about the issue. White House Legislative Affairs Office Director Robert Nabors on Tuesday wrote to Kirk, saying the administration would not "provide Russia with sensitive information about our missile defense systems that would in any way compromise our national security.
"For example, hit-to-kill technology and interceptor telemetry will under no circumstances be provided to Russia," the document, a copy of which was acquired by the magazine, states. "However, in the event that the exchange of classified information with Russia on missile defense will increase the president's ability to defend the American people, the president will retain the right to do that."
Kirk said his concerns were mollified by the letter from Nabors and the inclusion of wording in the fiscal 2012 defense spending bill Congress approved this week that would force the White House to notify the relevant congressional committees at least two months before it provides Russia with sensitive antimissile data. The stipulation also obligates the White House to issue a written guarantee that Moscow will not give the information to any other countries or groups (see GSN, Dec. 14).
As there is no plausible way for the Obama administration to provide such a guarantee, it would be impossible for the White House to comply with the legislation's mandate, Kirk said. Should Obama officials inform Congress of the intention to provide sensitive antimissile technology information to Moscow, the Illinois senator vowed that hearings would be held, bills drafted and a full-scale campaign launched to derail the exchange.
"They would have a two-month all out fight on their hands," Kirk said.
"There is no doubt that Iran will share with Russia the technologies found in our RQ-170 drone," the senator said of the unmanned aircraft that crashed this month in Iran. "It's extremely troubling that Russia's top official on missile defense is deepening his relationship with Iran" (see GSN, Dec. 9; Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy, Dec. 15).
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April 3, 2013
This report is the result of a Track II dialogue including distinguished former senior political leaders, senior military officers, defence officials, and security experts from Europe, Russia, and the United States.
April 2, 2013
An op-ed in The International Herald Tribune urging today's leaders to move decisively and permanently toward a new security strategy in the Euro-Atlantic region.
This article provides an overview of Russia’s historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.