Washington is halting talks with Moscow that were aimed at improving understanding and cooperation around missile defense in response to events in Ukraine.
The bilateral antimissile talks had not seen much traction in recent years, even before Russia's incursion in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea put them into a deep-freeze. The discussions were aimed at assuaging the Kremlin's concern that U.S. missile interceptors planned for fielding in the coming years in Romania and Poland were no threat to Russia's long-range nuclear arsenal.
Elaine Bunn, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for nuclear and missile defense policy at a Tuesday congressional hearing said, "With regard to talks with Russia on transparency and cooperation, Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in violation of international law led to the suspension of our military-to-military dialogues, including [Defense Department] civilians, and we have subsequently not continued to engage Russia on the topic of missile defense," the Washington Times reported.
President Obama reportedly sent Russian President Vladimir Putin a letter last May proposing that the two nations develop a binding accord that would permit the exchange of certain data, aimed at confirming that their respective antimissile systems did not threaten one another's nuclear deterrent forces.
The Pentagon In 2012 acknowledged it was considering supplying Russia with information on the "velocity at burnout" of the Standard Missile 3 interceptors planned for fielding in Europe, in order to prove they were not fast enough to target Russian strategic missiles.
At this week's hearing of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Bunn and the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency director, Vice Adm. James Syring, said they did not support providing Moscow with the SM-3 burnout rate information.
Citing the "uncertainty of where that information would go," Syring said it was his "firm recommendation not to release it."
Meanwhile, Obama used a high-profile speech in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday to call for a stronger NATO armed forces presence in Central and Eastern Europe to deter Russia from mounting further territorial incursions, the Los Angeles Times reported.