Tauscher promotes new missile defense plan before trip to Europe

Tauscher promotes new missile defense plan before trip to Europe

Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher is in India today, meeting with counterparts before heading to the Czech Republic and Turkey.

She will talk missile defense in the Czech Republic and non-proliferation in Turkey, her spokesman said. The Czechs could have a new role in the administration’s reformed scheme for missile defense, in light of the changes announced to the previous plan to deploy interceptors in Poland and advanced radar in the Czech Republic, what was termed the "third site." In India, Tauscher will lead a dialogue on non-proliferation.

Tauscher previewed her trip and talked about the status of missile defense plans and other strategic initiatives at the George Washington University on Tuesday. Primarily, she rejected the contention that the administration had abandoned Polish and Czech missile defense plans. Both countries have been offered alternative ways to participate in missile defense going forward, she said.

"We didn’t abandon the third site," Tauscher said. "We already have two sites that protect the United States from the emerging Iranian long-range threat," she added, referring to existing sites in California and Alaska.

Aegis ships with SM-3 missiles will be deployed in the Mediterranean Sea and will be able to protect southern Europe by 2011, with land based SM-3 missiles "in a NATO-ized system" by 2015.

"The idea of putting a third site with a redundant capability in Poland to protect us against a threat that wasn’t emerging as we expected, and have us naked now [to shorter range threats]… I thought it was crazy."

Back at home, Tauscher is preparing for two major efforts, to get the Senate to ratify follow on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) treaty and to seek ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Both pushes are slated for early next year.

She expressed confidence that the administration would be able to secure a START follow on by the time the current treaty expires on December 5. Negotiations with the Russians in Geneva are being led by Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller and are ongoing.

Senate Republicans have been somewhat open to supporting a START follow on, if certain concessions are met, but on CTBT leading GOP lawmakers such as Jon Kyl, R-AZ, are promising a fight.

"The CTBT will be very difficult to ratify. The opposition still remembers why they opposed it back in 1999, some of them are still in the Senate," she said, "And we still have a lot of people that don’t know why they would be for it because there are 40 senators that have never voted on a treaty."

She said there is a "grand bargain" to be struck with regard to CTBT, which will include reassuring people that the nuclear arsenal is safe and secure even without testing. The Nuclear Posture Review will come out in January or February, she said, and the fiscal 2011 budget will come out around the same time.

Tauscher reiterated that the Reliable Replacement Warhead, a Bush administration program to build a new class of nuclear weapons, would not be in the 2011 budget. She said the Bush administration did a poor job explaining the program, giving the wrong impression to other countries.

"We had to kill it to save it," she said, explaining that it will be replaced with a nuclear stockpile modernization program, which will increase reliability and confidence in the current stock of warheads.