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U.S. Considering Antimissile Data Transfer to Russia, Pentagon Says

The United States is seriously weighing the value of providing Russia with specific classified technical information on missile interceptors planned for deployment in Europe, the Defense Department confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday (see GSN, March 13).

The Obama administration is seeking an agreement that might involve the transfer of secret data with the aim of assuaging Moscow's concerns that U.S. Standard Missile 3 interceptors are a threat to Russian long-range nuclear forces, Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. April Cunningham stated by e-mail.  The White House believes it would benefit the United States to secure a deal in which Russian radar capabilities are folded into a NATO plan to establish a European ballistic missile shield, she said.

Standard Missile 3 interceptors form the core of the Obama administration's phased adaptive approach for European missile defense. Through 2020, the United States intends to field increasingly advanced versions of the system at bases in Poland and Romania and on warships home ported in Spain in accordance with a broader NATO effort to enhance and coordinate member nations' antimissile capabilities. NATO insists the purpose of the missile shield is to protect against a feared ballistic missile strike from the Middle East.

Efforts by Brussels and Washington to convince Moscow to join their antimissile plans have so far proven unsuccessful. The Kremlin has threatened to pursue an arms buildup in the Kaliningrad region, which borders NATO nations, if a missile defense accord is not struck with its former Cold War rival.

Cunningham said no determination has been reached on whether to furnish Russia with SM-3 interceptor "velocity at burnout" information, though such a move is not off the table. Velocity at burnout, as the term indicates, is the speed of an interceptor at the point at which a defueled rocket motor stops functioning.

The transfer of information on technology used to knock out enemy missiles or telemetry data from missile launches is not being considered, according to the Pentagon.

Velocity burnout data is the main price tag the Kremlin is demanding for its participation in European missile defense, Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance chief Riki Ellison said. Russia could use such data in establishing systems and policies capable of thwarting the planned European missile shield, he said. There is also the potential for Moscow to share classified U.S. data with third parties, according to Ellison.

Obama special envoy for strategic stability and missile defense Ellen Tauscher on Tuesday met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in Moscow to discuss antimissile matters and other issues, the U.S. State Department said.

Republican lawmakers have hotly protested any potential provision of antimissile data to Russia, including the sharing of VBO information.

House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Michael Turner (R-Ohio) accused the White House of "caving" to Moscow's demands. "That is why it is important Congress insist on protecting our classified missile defense information, and our right to deploy missile defenses without concern for Russian posturing," the chairman said in remarks provided to Reuters.

Any transfer of secret U.S. technical information would have to be considered by the governmental interagency National Disclosure Policy Committee, according to the Pentagon (Jim Wolf, Reuters, March 13).

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