October 13, 2009 | WebMemo on Missile Defense
When President Obama announced on September 17 that he had decided to cancel a plan for putting missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland, he ignored repeated warnings from Members of Congress not to permit negotiations with Russia over strategic nuclear weapon reductions to also limit U.S. missile defense options. Now, he is sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Moscow to discuss arms control issues with the Russian government.
His earlier decision regarding missile defenses in Europe, however, makes it clear that there is not really anything constructive for the Secretary of State to discuss with the Russians, particularly in relation to a future treaty on reducing strategic nuclear arms. By ignoring the prudent advice from Congress and opting to subordinate the missile defense program to his arms control agenda and his desire to "reset" relations with Russia, President Obama has made it clear that the negotiations with Russia will result in a treaty that will not serve U.S. and allied security.
The negotiations with Russia are designed to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expires on December 5. Presidents Obama and Dmitri Medvedev pledged to reduce the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads on each side to between 1,500 and 1,675 and the number of strategic delivery systems to between 500 and 1,100.
While President Obama wants to ratify the treaty before the expiration of START, it is not yet signed. Thus, he has created a circumstance where the U.S. negotiators are trying to reach an agreement against an unrealistic deadline where they are certain to grant unwarranted concessions to the Russians. The announced cancellation of the missile defense systems for the Czech Republic and Poland is just such a concession.
Warnings from Congress
Obama and Medvedev adopted a joint statement on April 1 in London that committed both sides to negotiating on the issue of the "interrelationship of strategic offensive and strategic defensive arms." This can be interpreted as code for stating that reductions in offensive strategic weapons must be accompanied by severe restrictions on defensive forces, and most particularly missile defenses. Consequently, the statement prompted multiple warnings from Members of Congress. For example:
A Flawed Approach to Arms Control
The U.S. Senate should come to the following realizations before the START follow-on treaty is submitted for advice and consent:
The Obama Administration's unseemly haste in concluding the START follow-on treaty with Russia is resulting in a final product that fails the tests of national security and morality. Successful arms control is the result of a process that is pursued with care and patience.
During the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan took the time to persuade the Soviet Union of the wisdom of his "zero option" proposal regarding intermediate-range nuclear force (INF) missiles and that he would not accept a linkage between what would become the INF Treaty and limits on missile defense. Clearly, President Obama is pursuing a rushed approach on arms control with the Russians that President Reagan would recognize is fatally flawed.
Baker Spring is F. M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.
Press release, "Remarks by the President on
Strengthening Missile Defense in Europe," the White House,
September 17, 2009, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-on
-Strengthening-Missile-Defense-in-Europe/ (October 6, 2009).
Press release, "Secretary Clinton to Travel to
London, Dublin, Belfast and Moscow," U.S. Department of State,
October 2, 2009, at http://www.state.gov
/r/pa/prs/ps/2009/oct/130189.htm (October 6, 2009).
Press release, "Joint Understanding," the White
House, July 8, 2009, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/The-Joint-Understanding-for-The
-Start-Follow-On-Treaty/ (October 6, 2009).
Press release, "Joint Statement by President
Dmitri Medvedev of the Russian Federation and President Barack
Obama of the United States of America," the White House, April 1,
2009, at http://www.whitehouse.gov
America/ (October 6, 2009).
Senator James M. Inhofe (R-OK) et al., letter to President Barack Obama, July 2, 2009 (available from the author upon request).
OpenSecrets.org, "111th Congress Legislation: Senator Jon L. Kyl,"
type=I&bill_no=110362≅=111 (October 11, 2009).
See Martin Anderson and Annelise Anderson, Reagan's Secret War: The Untold Story of His Fight to Save the World from Nuclear Disaster (New York: Crown Publishers, 2009), p. 335.