Obama Is Not Working on a Secret Missile Defense Deal With Russia

Matt Drudge picks up Bill Gertz's Washington Times story about how President Obama is secretly working on a missile defense deal that " many officials fear will limit U.S. missile defenses, a key objective of Moscow since it opposed plans for a U.S. missile defense interceptor base in Eastern Europe, according to American officials involved in arms control issues."  

No doubt that some burrowers in the Pentagon and external experts mistrust the Obama Administration's negotiations with Russia and oppose the "reset" that led to the UN sanctions against Iran. But the story is just wrong. First, the negotiations aren't secret. It's also not a secret that Russia will do everything in its power to interpret the START treaty clauses about missile defense in the way that best fits with their defense needs and internal politics. Gertz plays right into that propaganda.

The talks between Undersecretary for State Ellen Tauscher and her Russian counterpart Sergei Ryabkov are about missile defense cooperation, not limiting missile defenses. Cooperation is very different than limitation. The discussions don't involve current U.S. systems; they're about how U.S. efforts can be augmented by cooperation and input from Russia. Even the Bush administration also said it would explore missile defense cooperation with Russia.   

Gertz asserts:

 "By contrast, the Clinton administration sought to extend the ABM Treaty's limits on strategic defense to short-range missile defenses, something that was opposed by the U.S. military because of the growing threat of short-range missiles."   

This is completely wrong. The Clinton administration sought to distinguish between defenses against strategic ballistic missiles and those against short-to-intermediate-range missiles so it was clear that the latter was not captured or limited by the ABM Treaty. No effort was made by the Clinton administration to extend the ABM Treaty prohibitions to theater defense; it sought to increase funding and focus on theater systems.