The news that the Obama administration gave the Russians detailed classified information on Britain's national nuclear deterrent -- while neglecting to inform the US Congress that it did so -- shows not only that this US government is willing to ignore America's longtime allies as it pursues its Arms Control objectives, but also indicates that there may be a lot more to the negotiating record that neither the Public nor Congress, knows about.
Russia is keeping up the pressure on Washington. Russia wants the US to back down from its proposed Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA), a mostly sea-based system that will, if all goes well, do nothing to protect the American homeland until 2020. The PAA is supposed to substitute for the Polish and Czech based Missile Defense system that was canceled in 2009. Russia now demands status in this program as an "Equal Partner," which, in plain terms, means giving them a veto over who can get attacked and who can get defended. A senior Russian diplomat said, "If the US bolsters the qualitative and quantitative potential of its missile defense, a question will arise whether Russia should further stick to the treaty ..."
It is significant that Russia feels that it can threaten the US within days of the US having formally ratifying what was supposed to be a symbol of goodwill and a step towards a more peaceful world. Obviously Russia still sees Arms Control the same way it did during the Cold War: as a weapon.
The US Congress should therefore push hard to build up America's Missile Defense system. It should reject in particular the Administration's effort to degrade and limit the Ground Based Missile Defense (GMD) system now deployed in Alaska and California. Instead, Congress should insist on increasing the quality of the system as a whole, and also the number of Ground Based Interceptors (GBI), which are the weapons the GMD uses to intercept missiles aimed at the American homeland
During the 2010 election, the House GOP promised to fully fund missile defense, but exactly what was meant by this as a serious commitment is unclear. Now, however, Congress has a chance to show that it will not be bullied by Russia or by the White House.
If Congress chooses to fund the GMD and MEADS systems, and if they follow the advice of Senator Kyl and vote to build a space-based test bed, which is a prototype of a space-based defense system, this will open the way for the development and deployment of effective interceptors that will be able to hit long-range missiles in the initial phase of their flight, when they are easy to track, thanks to the heat given off by their rocket engines.
Destroying missiles in the early phase of their flight is important: not only does it help to reduce the numbers of missiles and warheads that have to be dealt with subsequently; it also hits them before they can deploy decoys intended to complicate the task of intercepting..
This program will upset the Arms Control advocates as well as the Russians. It will either force Moscow to try and match the US in Missile Defense, which does us little, if any, harm, as we have no intention of launching a nuclear missile attack on Russia. Or it will force them to fulfill their threat and abrogate the New Start treaty. For America this is a win win situation.
Of course if the Senate Democrats, as well as those Republicans who supported New START and President Obama refuse to support building up America's homeland defenses, this should become a serious issue during the 2012 election. Will Congress kowtow to the bullies or choose to protect the American people?
It took almost 30 years - - and repeated Soviet and Russian violations of the 1972 Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty -- finally to convince the US Government to withdraw from it. The ABM agreement that forbade the US military from defending the American homeland should never have been signed or ratified. Its existence was a sign of just how perverted US military strategic thinking had become during the first part of the Cold War. The idea that it was somehow a good thing to leave the population unprotected and vulnerable to Russia's nuclear missile force was widely shared by both strategic realists like Henry Kissinger and by Arms Control idealists like Jimmy Carter. The Soviets never accepted the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), and not only invested massively in bomb shelters for as much of their population as possible, and in missile defense systems most notably around Moscow, but also -- again in violation of the ABM Treaty -- in sensors and modified Surface-to-Air missiles deployed around the country.
Convincing President George W. Bush to withdraw from the ABM treaty was, by 2002, fairly easy. The evidence of Russian cheating was overwhelming; new threats to the American homeland from Iran,North Korea and elsewhere had become urgent; and the GOP, joined by a few Democrats, was committed to ending America's total vulnerability to incoming long-range nuclear missiles. Withdrawing from the treaty was not a major political issue.
With the arrival of the Obama administration in Washington, however, the Arms Controllers regained most of their old power -- and went back to their old habits. The New START Treaty, ratified by the US Senate in December 2010, is a perfect example of a Cold War type of agreement. It does nothing actually to reduce the threat of nuclear war, and it weakens America's military posture. The Treaty is therefore already losing its precarious legitimacy .
What we already know about the Treaty is bad enough. What we do not know, but may soon find out, may be enough to discredit not only the treaty, but the whole Arms Control process as we have known it. Often, with Arms Control Treaties, as in diplomacy, what is not said is often more important that what was said.
A good example of this was the way that the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty of 1988 failed to say anything about British French and Chinese nuclear weapons that were aimed at the USSR. Russia was so desperate to make a deal that it agreed the Zero-Zero formula, which would abolish all US and Soviet intermediate range nuclear missiles, a proposal it had violently rejected in 1983, when the Reagan administration had first suggested it. Although Gorbachev felt, it came to light, humiliated, Reagan and later George H. W. Bush had the good sense not to rub the humiliation in.
Advocates of the New Start Treaty claim that it does not mention defensive forces, except in the preamble, and thus nothing in the treaty prevents the US from building up its defensive forces. Yet no one knows what side deals were made. If we are to judge by the Obama administration's proposed cuts in US Missile Defense programs, there are grounds to take another, extremely careful look at the negotiating record. The Senate needs to ask exactly what the Administration told to Russians about US Missile Defense programs.The dramatic cut in the 2012 budget for the only national missile defense system the US currently has operational -- a system called the Ground Based Defense and based in Alaska and California -- provides only a limited defense of the homeland. What is proposed in the Administration's 2012 budget looks suspiciously like another step, fulfilling a promise to dismantle America's missile defense programs. In 2009, the White House killed the Bush administration's planned deployment of 10 Ground Based Interceptors (GBI) -- similar to the ones used by the Ground Missile Defense system in Poland, and supported by a radar in the Czech Republic -- can be seen in this light.
Another sign of the Obama administration's antagonism to these programs is the decision to allow the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) program, which had begun under the Clinton Administration as an international project with Germany and Italy, to die. MEADS was supposed to be a new and improved version of the famous Patriot missile system; it used the US made PAC-3 missile combined wi th a new radar and control system MEADS would have given the US and its allies an up-to-date way to intercept short and medium range ballistic missiles and their warheads. Killing this program will put US troops and their allies at risk in future operations; in spite of the Administration's repeated claims of being in favor of international cooperation, this is the only major co-development program the US has with Germany and Italy.
It is often claimed by administration advocates of a multilateral world order, that international co-development programs engender good feelings, build trust and reduce costs. It is ironic that after attacking the Bush administration for ignoring US allies, the Democrats in power find it so easy to give up on this "non-unilateral"program.