President Obama has reportedly proposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin that their two governments work toward a formal accord on sharing antimissile data, ITAR-Tass reported on Wednesday.
In a personal letter delivered to Putin in mid-April by U.S. national security adviser Tom Donilon, Obama suggested "developing a legally binding agreement on transparency, which would include exchange of information to confirm that our programs do not pose a threat to each other's deterrence forces," the Russian Kommersant newspaper reported.
An unidentified State Department source told the newspaper that Obama could conclude the agreement using his executive authority, which would not need approval from Congress. The accord, though, could be undone by a subsequent presidential administration.
Moscow "could well accept the U.S. proposal," a Russian envoy said, as "more transparency in the missile defense field is useful both in itself and as an instrument to improve mutual confidence."
Moscow has demanded a legally enforceable guarantee that sophisticated U.S. Standard Missile 3 interceptors planned for fielding in Europe would never be aimed at Russian strategic missiles. The Obama administration has spurned that request, saying it does not have the authority to make such a promise. The new deal would only cover information sharing, which could remain a sticking point for Russia.
The Defense Department last year said it was weighing providing Moscow with the "velocity at burnout" of SM-3 missiles to prove they were not fast enough to threaten Russian ICBMs. The resulting Republican uproar caused the Obama administration to apparently put the plan on the back-burner while it focused on winning re-election. The head of the department's Missile Defense agency last week testified to Congress that he had been asked by the Defense secretary's office whether certain missile defense data was classified or unclassified.
Putin has written a response to Obama's proposal that will be delivered early next week by Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, ITAR-Tass separately reported. The letter will reaffirm Russia's stance on antimissile matters and "will be constructive in nature," according to presidential aide Yuri Ushakov.