White House Contradicts Russian Duma Official on Linkage Between Missile Defense and START

By Dschabner

Jan 3, 2011 8:51pm

An official of the lower house of the Duma says that as it ratifies the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, START, the Russian parliament will reaffirm that the treaty limits U.S. plans for missile defense, contrary to the stated position of U.S. officials.

Asked for comment, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor tells ABC News, "The President sent a letter to the Senate on December 18th that said: ‘The New Start Treaty places no limitations on the development or deployment of our missile defense programs.' That remains the case."

The preamble to the treaty recognizes "the existence of the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms, that this interrelationship will become more important as strategic nuclear arms are reduced, and that current strategic defensive arms do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the Parties…"

Throughout the START debate in the Senate, Republican lawmakers voiced concern that that recognizing the "interrelationship" between offensive and defensive weapons could be seen as a way to limit US plans for a missile defense system in Europe.

And apparently Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Duma Committee on International Affairs, agrees.

Earlier today, the Voice of Russia quoted Kosachev saying that, "during the ratification of START in the U.S. Congress the American lawmakers noted that the link between strategic offensive armed forces and antimissile defense systems is not juridically binding for the parties. They referred to the fact that this link was fixed only in the preamble of the document. Such an approach can be regarded as the U.S.' attempt to find an option to build up its strategic potential and the Russian lawmakers cannot agree with this."

Kosachev said that "we will deal with these interpretations. The first thing is that our American colleagues do not recognize the legal force of the treaty's preamble. The preamble sets a link between strategic offensive arms and defensive arms. The second thing is an attempt to interpret certain provisions of the treaty unilaterally."

And he was hardly the first Russian official to make such a statement

In April, Sergei Prikhodko –- Russia President Dmitri Medvedev’s senior foreign policy adviser stated that Russian "negotiators had to insert the inextricable connection between strategic offensive and strategic defensive armaments (i.e. missile defense) into the treaty. This was successfully fulfilled and the importance of this connection when reducing strategic offensive armaments will be included in the treaty and be legally binding…"  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had also stated that "linkage to missile defense is clearly spelled out in the accord and is legally binding."

Are they wrong? ABC News asked a senior Obama administration official at the time.

"Yes," was the reply.

In November, President Obama outlined new plans for missile defense in Europe.

As he wrote in his letter to GOP Senators, "(a)s long as I am President, and as long as the Congress provides the necessary funding, the United States will continue to develop and deploy effective
missile defenses to protect the United States, our deployed forces, and our allies and partners. My Administration plans to deploy all four phases of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA). While advances of technology or future changes in the threat could modify the details or timing of the latter phase of the EPAA- one reason this approach is called 'adaptive' –- I will take every action available to me to support the deployment of all four phases."

– Jake Tapper

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