Arms-control backers speak of ‘adjustment,’ not ‘scrapping’
There were several reports today characterizing the Obama administration’s overhaul of the plan to deploy missile defense in Eastern Europe as a complete "scrapping" of the system, but the administration and arms control advocates are pushing back, trying to reframe the move as an adjustment, not a complete withdrawal. "Those who say we are scrapping ...
There were several reports today characterizing the Obama administration's overhaul of the plan to deploy missile defense in Eastern Europe as a complete "scrapping" of the system, but the administration and arms control advocates are pushing back, trying to reframe the move as an adjustment, not a complete withdrawal.
There were several reports today characterizing the Obama administration’s overhaul of the plan to deploy missile defense in Eastern Europe as a complete "scrapping" of the system, but the administration and arms control advocates are pushing back, trying to reframe the move as an adjustment, not a complete withdrawal.
"Those who say we are scrapping missile defense in Europe are either misinformed or misrepresenting the reality of what we are doing," U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today.
True, the long-range interceptors planned for Poland are not going to happen, but they will be replaced with shorter-range Standard Missile-3s (SM-3s), both on land and at sea, the administration detailed in a document distributed ahead of Obama’s announcement.
"The plan provides for the defense of U.S. deployed forces, their families, and our Allies in Europe sooner and more comprehensively than the previous program, and involves more flexible and survivable systems," the document states.
Of course, that means the Eastern European system won’t be able to defend the United States from long-range missiles fired from Iran, which was the whole idea in the first place.
But a senior administration official, speaking to The Cable on background basis before the announcement occurred, said that the missile interceptors currently in the ground at Fort Greely, Alaska, provide enough protection from that threat.
Nevertheless, senior Republican senators like John McCain (Ariz.), Jon Kyl, (Ariz.), and Jeff Sessions (Ala.) are sure to raise hell in the Senate, possibly complicating the pending passage of the defense authorization and appropriations bills.
McCain said in a statement: "I am disappointed with the administration’s decision to cancel plans to develop missile defenses in Eastern Europe. This decision calls into question the security and diplomatic commitments the United States has made to Poland and the Czech Republic, and has the potential to undermine perceived American leadership in Eastern Europe."
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, is concerned that allies Poland and the Czech Republic are being hung out to dry, as reported in The Cable last night.
Senior administration officials are in Europe today, including defense undersecretary for policy Michèle Flournoy, state undersecretary for arms control Ellen Tauscher, and assistant defense secretary for international security affairs Alexander Vershbow.
Gates said that they are talking with the Poles and Czechs about hosting other missile-defense components, such as the SM-3 missiles. He argued that the shorter-range missile should mean the Russians can’t "rationally" argue that the system threatens them.
Sources close to the Russian government told The Cable that Russia was viewing the decision favorably but were concerned about the perception that the decision was all about Russia.
"Although we can expect certain conservatives in Washington to excoriate the administration for ‘caving’ to Russian demands on this, that was never really an issue," the source said, adding "but they tried to leverage that decision diplomatically in terms of Russian help on Iran" (which apparently they didn’t get).
One open question is, will the Russians be happy with the new location of the X-band radar site the Czechs thought they were getting?
"It’s probably more likely to be in the Caucasus," Gates said.
Olaf Osica, a fellow at Warsaw’s Natolin European Centre, a defense think tank, said that even this will be a political setback for Poland, which was trying to build its profile in Europe and also show strength vis-à-vis Russia.
"For Poland it’s not a problem when it comes to security and defense; missile defese has nothing to do with our national security," he said. "However we tried to build a link between missile defense and Russia."
A senior GOP Senate aide tells The Cable that despite the many bellicose statements by Republicans today about Obama’s new missile defense scheme, lawmakers have no concrete plans to take legislative steps to try to stall the initiative.
"In the end, there’s probably nothing we can do about it," the aide said.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin
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