News / USA

US, Russia Still at Odds on Missile Defense

The Patriot missile defense system
The Patriot missile defense system

Multimedia

Audio

The question of missile defense is not addressed in the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), recently signed by the United States and Russia.  But the issue remains contentious between Washington and Moscow.

The New START treaty deals essentially with limiting offensive nuclear forces.

Under the terms of the pact, each country will have no more than 1,550 deployed strategic, or long-range, nuclear warheads.  It also sets a limit of 700 operationally deployed strategic nuclear delivery systems such as intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and heavy bombers.  To ensure that neither side violates its treaty obligations, the New START accord has what U.S. officials call strong verification provisions.

What the treaty does not address directly is the issue of missile defense.  But Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association, a private research firm, says the accord mentions the relationship between offensive and defensive weapons.

"The United States and Russia have for decades understood that there is a relationship between the number of strategic interceptors you have and the number of strategic offensive missiles each side has," said Kimball.  "That has been written into the preamble of previous arms control agreements, including START I of 1991.  This treaty is no different.  In the preamble, the non-binding preamble, it says that there is an interrelationship between the two.  However, the legal limits of the treaty only affect offensive systems."

For years, Moscow has argued that the proposed U.S. missile defense system is aimed at Russia, a view rejected by American officials.

John Bolton is a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and an arms control expert:

"We have explained to them ever since 2001, when the [George W.] Bush administration withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, that the only plans the United States had were to have a national missile defense capability against limited nuclear strikes, against the strikes that rogue states like North Korea or Iran or back then Iraq, might have been capable of," said Bolton.

But Moscow continues to be concerned about future U.S. missile defense plans to such an extent that Russian officials issued a unilateral statement saying they reserve the right to withdraw from the New START treaty, if Washington's missile defense plans pose what they consider to be a threat to Russia's strategic nuclear deterrent force.

During testimony before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in May, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said such unilateral statements are not new.

"We have made these unilateral statements on other issues relating to virtually every other strategic arms agreement we've had with the Russians on one subject or another, neither has ever considered them binding," said Secretary Gates

Gates went on to say that the United States will forge ahead with its missile defense plans.  

"We are going forward with a second missile defense field at Fort Greeley [Alaska]," added Gates.  "We're putting more than a billion dollars into the two- and three-staged ground-based interceptor programs.  We're buying Thads [air defense missiles].  We're buying Patriot 3s [missile interceptors].  We're buying SM 3s [ballistic missile defense].  We're buying x-band radars [a type of sea-based radar].  We have a comprehensive missile defense program and we are going forward with all of it.  The Russians can say what they want.  These unilateral statements are totally outside the treaty.  They have no standing; they are not binding, never have been."

Critics of the New START Treaty, such as Ambassador Bolton, say Moscow's unilateral statement hinders U.S. missile defense plans.

"It is very important given that they have said that if they saw the United States developing a national missile defense capability that troubled them, that would be a right to withdraw from the treaty.  That's a very significant limitation, I think, on U.S. ability to go forward," noted Bolton.

But most experts say the New START treaty does not hamper U.S. missile defense plans.

Joseph Cirincione is President of the Ploughshares Fund, a foundation focusing on nuclear weapons policy.

"The treaty in no way limits U.S. plans for its missile defense, production plans, deployment plans - nothing like that.  And the military commanders in the United States have testified to that," explained Cirincione.  "The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has said it does not limit our U.S. missile defense plans.  The head of the Missile Defense Agency, [Army Lieutenant] General [Patrick] O'Reilly has said that this in no way limits U.S. missile defense plans.  And in fact, we're better off with the treaty than without it."

To come into effect, the New START treaty must be ratified by the Russian parliament (Duma) and the U.S. Senate.  A total of 67 out of 100 Senators must vote in favor of the pact.  Experts expect the New START treaty to be ratified, but they do not know when the Senate will vote on the accord.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost-Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More