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"[Arms Control Today] has become indispensable! I think it is the combination of the critical period we are in and the quality of the product. I found myself reading the May issue from cover to cover."

– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
Strategic Missile Defense

News Briefs

Indonesia to Ratify Test Ban Treaty

Meri Lugo

Indonesia will begin proceedings to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Foreign Minister R. M. Marty M. Natalegawa announced May 3. “Indonesia is initiating the process of the ratification,” he said during Indonesia’s opening statement at the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference at the United Nations. “It is our fervent hope that this further demonstration of our commitment to the nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation agenda will encourage other countries that have not ratified the treaty to do the same,” he added.

Indonesia is one of nine remaining “Annex 2” states whose ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force; the other eight are China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States. Under Annex 2 of the CTBT, 44 specified countries must ratify the treaty to bring it into force.

Indonesia signed the CTBT in 1996, on the first day it was opened for signature.

During a speech in Washington last June, then-Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda announced that Indonesia would ratify the CTBT as soon as the United States did so. Explaining the policy change at a May 4 press conference, Natalegawa said Indonesia hoped that its decision would “be a positive incentive for other states to follow suit.”

In their opening statements at the review conference, several speakers applauded Indonesia’s new policy. Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization Executive Secretary Tibor Tóth said May 6 that “the announcement is of crucial importance in moving the treaty closer to entry into force, and underscores the leadership role of Indonesia in regional and global nonproliferation and disarmament efforts.”

In a May 4 statement, President Barack Obama thanked Indonesia “for its responsible leadership in the global effort to reinforce the nuclear nonproliferation regime.”

In April 2009, Obama pledged to pursue U.S. ratification of the CTBT and is expected to do so after Senate consideration of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Meanwhile, Trinidad and Tobago and the Central African Republic deposited their instruments of ratification for the CTBT on May 26, bringing the total number of ratifications to 153.


 

U.S. to Give Missile Launch Notifications

Volha Charnysh

The United States has agreed to provide prelaunch notification for the majority of its ballistic missile and satellite launches, officials said last month.

The United States sent a confidential note to the secretariat of the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC), Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, spokesman for the Austrian Foreign Ministry, which coordinates HCOC information exchanges, said in a May 25 interview.

The U.S. move, which was first reported by the Associated Press, was “a confidence-building measure,” he said.

Under the HCOC, which has 130 members and is the most wide-ranging international agreement on missile proliferation, countries make a nonbinding commitment to provide prelaunch notifications on ballistic missile and space-launch vehicle launches. Although the United States has regularly provided the HCOC with annual reports, it has never supplied prelaunch notifications through the code. Moscow stopped notifying HCOC members of its ballistic missile launches in 2008 on the grounds that some current members have not been issuing prelaunch notifications. (See ACT, March 2008.)

A U.S. Department of State official said in a May 28 interview that Washington had recently completed a review of its policy on prelaunch notifications and decided to issue such notifications of commercial and NASA space launches, as well as “the majority” of its intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missile launches using the HCOC process. The United States had been abiding by the December 2000 Memorandum of Understanding on Notifications of Missile Launches with Russia instead of the HCOC, he said. Consistent with its position at the time of the HCOC’s creation in November 2002, the United States will “on rare occasions” withhold launch information on certain ballistic missiles or space-launch vehicles, he said.

Launsky-Tieffenthal said the U.S. prenotification plans were to be further discussed at the next regular meeting of the HCOC, scheduled for May 31-June 1.


 

Landmine Review Garners Congressional Support

Jeff Abramson

Sixty-eight senators last month expressed support for the Obama administration’s review of U.S. landmine policy as well as a potential presidential decision that would lead to joining an international treaty banning their use.

In a May 18 letter, the senators said, “We are confident that through a thorough, deliberative review, the Administration can identify any obstacles to joining the Convention and develop a plan to overcome them as soon as possible.”

The senators were referring to the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, also known as the Mine Ban Treaty. Before the United States could join the treaty, at least two-thirds of the Senate—67, if all 100 senators are present—would have to support it. Treaty advocates said the 68 signatures on the letter make a decision to join the treaty easier for the administration.

Key members of Senate committees, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) and ranking member Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Senate Arms Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), signed the letter, which was circulated by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio). Obama received a similar letter from 57 House members.

In 2009 the administration announced it would conduct a comprehensive review of landmine policy and attended a meeting of treaty states-parties for the first time. (See ACT, December 2009.) That review is ongoing, and the administration has not indicated whether it plans to join the treaty.

Under a policy inherited by the Obama administration, the United States this year will forswear use of persistent mines, also known as “dumb mines,” but retain so-called smart mines, those equipped with self-destruct mechanisms. Both types of mines are prohibited by the treaty. So called “command-detonated” mines, which require an operator to detonate them intentionally, are permitted.


 

UK Ratifies Cluster Munitions Convention

Jeff Abramson

The United Kingdom, a key U.S. ally and past user and producer of cluster munitions, ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions May 4, becoming the 11th NATO member to do so. Since February, when the treaty met its minimum number of 30 ratifications needed to set an entry-into-force date, Ecuador, Samoa, and the Seychelles have also ratified the accord, bringing total ratifications to 34. In April, Mauritania signed it, raising the total number of signatories to 106.

 

MEDIA ADVISORY: ACA Welcomes Shift to a More Pragmatic U.S. Missile Defense Policy

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Experts from the independent Arms Control Association (ACA) welcomed reports that the Barack Obama administration has decided to shelve the controversial George W. Bush administration proposal to install an untested, ground-based missile interceptor system in Poland and the Czech Republic to counter an as-yet undeveloped Iranian long-range missile threat. The Obama administration has signaled it will instead pursue alternative basing modes and concentrate on better-proven missile interceptor technologies. (Continue)

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ACA Welcomes Shift to a More Pragmatic U.S. Missile Defense Policy

For Immediate Release: Sept. 17, 2009

Media Contacts: Tom Collina, Research Director, ACA (202-463-8270, ext. 104); Greg Thielmann, Former State Department Intelligence Analyst; Senior Fellow, ACA (202-463-8270, ext. 103); Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, (202-463-8270 ext. 107).

(Washington, D.C.) Experts from the independent Arms Control Association (ACA) welcomed reports that the Barack Obama administration has decided to shelve the controversial George W. Bush administration proposal to install an untested, ground-based missile interceptor system in Poland and the Czech Republic to counter an as-yet undeveloped Iranian long-range missile threat. The Obama administration has signaled it will instead pursue alternative basing modes and concentrate on better-proven missile interceptor technologies.

The administration's decision comes after an extensive missile defense policy review, which Defense Secretary Robert Gates is scheduled to outline in a press conference later today.

"The Obama administration made the right call," said Tom Z. Collina, ACA's Research Director. "It would have been extremely unwise to proceed with the Bush administration's plan to rush untested interceptors into Poland to deal with an Iranian long-range missile threat that does not yet exist."

"President Obama's more pragmatic approach steers the United States toward a European missile defense that addresses more realistic threats and also facilitates deeper reductions in bloated U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles," said Collina. "This is a win-win-win for the United States, Europe and global security," he added.

"The Obama administration has signaled that it will pursue more effective alternative missile defense approaches that have a greater potential for countering realistic ballistic missile threats to our NATO allies and U.S. forces in the region," ACA Senior Fellow Greg Thielmann said.

"The Bush-proposed system, which has not been tested, would not have protected south-eastern Europe from current Iranian missile threats since the defense was not designed to cover this area. Nor is the proposed system needed to defend the United States, since Iran has no intercontinental-range missiles, and the Pentagon says existing U.S. missile defense deployments can address this potential threat if and when it develops," noted Thielmann, a former State Department intelligence analyst.

"The decision to defer the untested and expensive Bush plan may ease Russia's concerns about unconstrained U.S. radars and missile interceptor deployments on its borders, but the administration has made it clear from the get-go that its decision has been made independently," said ACA's Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball

"Simply put, the decision to shelve the costly, controversial, untested ground-based interceptor system was a pragmatic decision regardless of Russia's concerns or other U.S. interests. The conclusion of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) agreement was not dependent on this U.S. missile defense decision," said Kimball.

Background:

In 2007, the Bush administration announced plans to install 10 ground-based anti-missile interceptors in Poland and battle-management radar in the Czech Republic to counter possible long-range Iranian ballistic missiles. Basing agreements were signed in 2008, but they have yet to be approved by Czech and Polish legislators.

Congress and its government investigative agencies have knocked the Missile Defense Agency's testing programs, including its ability to build credible targets. Rep. Terry Everett (R-Ala.), the ranking member House Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee said Sept. 23 that he had concerns about the MDA's "performance in its missile defense testing and targets program."

In response to these concerns, Congress approved legislation in 2008 that mandates that the Secretary of Defense review U.S. missile defense policy and strategy and submit a report by Jan. 31, 2010.

Congress also prohibited the acquisition or deployment of the 10 proposed interceptors to Poland until they are certified by the Secretary of Defense as passing "operationally realistic flight testing."

The interceptor, a two-stage variant of the approximately thirty three-stage U.S. interceptors deployed in Alaska and California, was supposed to be flight-tested for the first time this year and then tested twice in 2010 against targets.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced at an April 6 press conference that he intended to reorganize the U.S. missile defense program around short-range missile defense systems (including Aegis-destroyer-based interceptors and Theater High Altitude Area Defense) and efforts to counter "rogue" states, and would not increase the number of ground-based, mid-course strategic missile interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska and Vandenberg AFB in California.

The Obama administration completed its review of the European deployment option this month.

Key Points:

There is no rush to deploy untested strategic missile interceptors in Europe. A long-range missile threat to the U.S. from Iran does not exist. U.S. Intelligence estimates that Iran will not pose such a threat until 2015 at the earliest. Previous estimates have assumed such threats would emerge faster than they actually have.

A European strategic missile interceptor system would not be necessary even if the Iranian missile threat develops sooner than expected. The chief of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said that the ground-based system currently deployed in Alaska and California is capable of protecting U.S. territory from future Iranian missiles, without a redundant "third site" in Europe.

The Bush administration-proposed interceptors for Poland have not been tested. The modified two-stage interceptor for the Bush administration's proposed system in Europe has not been tested and Poland and the Czech Republic have not yet approved the necessary basing agreements. Planned testing for the system would take a few years to complete. In 2008, the Pentagon's Office of Operational Test and Evaluation said that previous testing of the U.S. interceptor on which the European missile is based "is not sufficient to provide a high level of statistical confidence in its limited capability."

Even if it worked the system proposed by Bush would not have protected south-eastern Europe. The Bush administration's proposed missile interceptor system would not have protected NATO members Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania from current Iranian missile threats since the defense was not designed to cover this area. The Obama administration has time to explore new approaches that do a better job of defending all of Europe against the short- and medium-range ballistic missiles that Iran actually has.

The Bush plan would have undermined U.S. efforts to reduce the nuclear threat from Russia. The Obama administration can now explore new approaches that enhance, rather than undermine, prospects for U.S-Russian cooperation on nuclear arsenal reductions and on containing the Iranian threat. The Bush administration asserted that the 10 proposed missile interceptors in Poland would not threaten Russia's expansive nuclear forces.

Russia, however, has been unconvinced by such assurances. As Russia's ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, told Arms Control Today magazine in November, "there are several strategic defensive bases of Russia in the European part of Russia that will be within range of this system, [and] most probably, it is not the last deployment in the region."

The Obama administration should continue to actively pursue options for U.S.-Russian missile defense cooperation, clarify how many strategic missile interceptors may or may not be deployed in south and eastern Europe and elsewhere, and complete a long-delayed joint early-warning center to build confidence and avoid miscalculation.

The Bush missile interceptor plan would cost tens of billions of dollars to deploy. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in February 2009 that the proposed plan would cost $9-13 billion over 20 years. This would be on top of the tens of billions that have already been spent on missile defense during the Bush administration. It would be foolhardy for the United States to commit to deploying such an expensive system before it has been proven workable in a real-world environment.

Strategic Missile Defense: A Reality Check

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Strategic Missile Defense offers no real disincentive for rogue regimes such as North Korea or Iran to develop or use ballistic missiles, nor does it offer any protection against the more acute threat of terrorist groups smuggling weapons of mass destruction into the United States. Instead the aggressive pursuit of strategic missile defense makes it more difficult to constrain the potential offensive nuclear threat from Russia and China.

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May 21, 2009
By Greg Thielmann

Download PDF

Strategic Missile Defense offers no real disincentive for rogue regimes such as North Korea or Iran to develop or use ballistic missiles, nor does it offer any protection against the more acute threat of terrorist groups smuggling weapons of mass destruction into the United States. Instead, the aggressive pursuit of strategic missile defense makes it more difficult to constrain the potential offensive nuclear threat from Russia and China.

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Test Hit, Diplomatic Flop for U.S. Missile Defense

The Bush administration scored a hit in a recent test of a U.S.-based strategic anti-missile system, but struck out in talks to ease Russian opposition to the planned stationing of a similar system in Europe...

Wade Boese

The Bush administration scored a hit in a recent test of a U.S.-based strategic anti-missile system, but struck out in talks to ease Russian opposition to the planned stationing of a similar system in Europe. The lead U.S. negotiator said the Kremlin had shifted its attention to preparing for the Obama administration.

John Rood, acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, led a U.S. team to Moscow Dec. 15 to discuss missile defense and other security issues with Russian officials led by Sergey Ryabkov, deputy minister of foreign affairs. Briefing reporters two days later in Washington, Rood described Russia as showing "less flexibility" toward U.S. proposals to reduce tensions surrounding the proposed basing of 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic.

Russia has reacted with incredulity and military threats to Bush administration claims that the deployments are to protect against growing Iranian missile capabilities. Moscow charges the real purpose behind the U.S. plan is to counter Russian nuclear forces.

Speaking Dec. 19 to reporters, Ryabkov disputed Rood's characterization of Russia's position as more rigid. Instead, Ryabkov accused the United States of reneging on earlier offers to alleviate Russian concerns about the proposed U.S. deployments.

During an October 2007 visit to Moscow, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who has agreed to stay in his current post for the Obama administration, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice broached a package of conciliatory steps with Russia. (See ACT, November 2007.) U.S. and Russian officials since then have quarreled over exactly what was proposed. For example, Russian officials charge the United States suggested a permanent Russian presence could be maintained at the proposed bases, but the United States denies such a promise was made. The Polish and Czech governments have spoken out against that possibility.

Russia prefers that the United States cancel the deployment and agree to conduct a joint assessment of the Iranian missile threat before proceeding with any specific defensive measures. Deploring "unilateral actions prejudicial to Russia's security," Ryabkov said Russia was ready for a "constructive dialogue and equal partnership" with the United States in countering missile threats.

Rood contended that Russia intends to "test the mettle of the new administration" and is "looking carefully at the position of the new team." President-elect Barack Obama has not endorsed or rejected the proposed European plan. His stated view is that anti-missile systems in general should be proven to work before they are fielded and should not sap resources from projects addressing more likely threats. (See ACT, December 2008.)

The interceptor model slated for installation in Poland is scheduled to be flight-tested for the first time late this summer. Current plans also call for testing it against a target twice in 2010. Congress has prohibited deployment of the interceptor model abroad until it is certified by the secretary of defense as passing operationally realistic testing.

The proposed interceptor is derived from the U.S. ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) interceptor. Instead of three rocket boosters like the GMD system, the interceptor posited for Poland is to be powered by just two rocket boosters due to the shorter time frames and distances for a possible missile intercept over Europe compared with defending the United States. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) officials express few doubts that the untested model will perform as intended given its similarity to the more mature GMD interceptor. Twenty-two of those interceptors have been stationed in Fort Greely, Alaska; another three are installed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

Test Intercept Achieved

The agency's confidence presumably grew Dec. 5 with the GMD system's interception of a mock warhead more than 200 kilometers above the Pacific Ocean. The target missile flew south out of Kodiak Island, Alaska, while the interceptor was fired from Vandenberg about 19 minutes after the target's launch. Ten minutes later, the interceptor's exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV), a roughly 60-kilogram device that uses radar data and its own onboard sensors to hone in on its quarry, collided with the mock warhead.

Lieutenant General Patrick O'Reilly, director of the MDA, described the experiment that day to reporters as "the largest, most complex test we have ever done." Similarly, an agency spokesperson, Rick Lehner, told Arms Control Today Jan. 5 that the trial was the "most operationally realistic test to date."

The test, however, was not as taxing as originally planned. Along with releasing a mock warhead, the target missile was supposed to activate unspecified countermeasures, but it failed to do so. Countermeasures, such as balloon decoys employed in earlier anti-missile tests between 1999 and 2002, are intended to make it more difficult for anti-missile systems to strike the correct target.

Some independent experts critical of U.S. missile defense efforts contend that any adversary capable of mating nuclear warheads to long-range ballistic missiles will be technically savvy enough to design countermeasures that can trump U.S. interceptors. The MDA disputes that assertion, and Lehner pointed to the recent test trouble as proof. He said, "[I]t isn't that easy to deploy [countermeasures] when you want them." Still, O'Reilly said the agency's intention is to "use more and more sophisticated countermeasures" for future tests.

Despite the countermeasures failure, the recent test, which cost up to an estimated $150 million, set some new milestones for the agency. The experiment marked the first time that a crew based at the Fort Greely site rather than a crew at the fire control center at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, triggered the interceptor launch. Lehner said the soldiers firing the interceptor did not know precisely when the target missile would fly into space, but were only notified of a "period of interest."

In another first for the agency, four separate radars participated in the intercept mission by feeding tracking data into the system's fire control center. "What we showed today is all those sensors working together," O'Reilly told reporters.

Two of the radars contributing information were the Sea-Based X-band Radar, an advanced discrimination radar outfitted on a mobile, oceangoing oil rig platform, and an Aegis SPY-1 ship-based radar. Those radars have been involved in previous GMD intercept tests, but in a shadow mode, meaning the data they gathered was not actually used to inform the intercept.

The target's trajectory, speed, and altitude were intended to resemble those of a postulated missile attack by North Korea, which has yet to successfully flight-test a missile capable of reaching the continental United States. Similar target trajectories were used in the last two successful GMD test intercepts in September 2006 and September 2007. All told, the long-range system has hit targets in eight of 13 test attempts since 1999.

The MDA is considering a change of trajectories in its next GMD system test, which is tentatively scheduled for late spring or early summer. The plan is to fire the target, including countermeasures, on a northeast heading from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands and the interceptor from Vandenberg. Those trajectories will require the interceptor to perform over a longer distance. Lehner said there is "no possibility" that the target missile's mock warhead could land on the United States or Canada if the interceptor missed.

 

What Should Obama Do about Missile Defense?

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President Obama will have to quickly make many tough foreign policy judgment calls. Among the most important is whether to proceed with the Bush administration's crash effort to install untested anti-missile interceptors in Poland by 2011 to deal with an as yet nonexistent Iranian long-range missile threat. (Continue)

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by Daryl G. Kimball

The Washington Times, Sunday, November 30, 2008

President Obama will have to quickly make many tough foreign policy judgment calls. Among the most important is whether to proceed with the Bush administration's crash effort to install untested anti-missile interceptors in Poland by 2011 to deal with an as yet nonexistent Iranian long-range missile threat.

The choice should be easy. A decision on new deployments of strategic missile interceptors can be deferred until the system is proven effective through realistic tests and has the full support of U.S. allies.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration should engage in serious talks with Russia's leaders to explore alternatives or, at a minimum, achieve a mutual understanding on the eventual size and capability of U.S. strategic missile defenses. The two sides also should launch a joint diplomatic strategy to curb global missile proliferation.

A more balanced, nonideological approach to U.S. missile defense policy is long overdue. For more than a decade, proponents of missile defense have hyped the threat of long-range missiles from the likes of Iran and North Korea and pushed for anti-missile systems that are not ready for prime time.

President Bush bought their arguments. Over Russian objections, he abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, arguing that it was constraining U.S. missile defense research. Since then, the Bush administration has poured nearly $60 billion into the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and freed MDA from normal procurement standards and congressional oversight.

The result: MDA rushed a handful of experimental missiles into the ground ahead of the 2004 election. Their numbers have grown to about two dozen today, but their capability has advanced little. The interceptors since 1999 have only scored seven hits against targets in 12 highly scripted tests; only two of those successes have occurred since the initial deployment.

In 2007, the Bush administration announced plans to install 10 modified versions of those interceptors in Poland and a battle-management radar in the Czech Republic to counter possible Iranian missiles. Basing agreements were signed in 2008, but they must still be approved by Czech and Polish legislators.

Mr. Bush and his team maintain the driving threat is Iran and that 10 missile interceptors are no threat to Russia's expansive nuclear forces. Russia, however, remains unconvinced.

Russia's ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, told Arms Control Today magazine earlier this month that "there are several strategic defensive bases of Russia in the European part of Russia that will be within range of this system, [and] most probably, it is not the last deployment in the region."

An open-ended deployment of U.S. missile interceptors would not only lead Russia to militarily target Poland and the Czech Republic. It also would seriously impede U.S. work with Russia on a range of vital issues, including negotiating new verifiable strategic nuclear reductions, securing nuclear materials and curbing Iran´s nuclear program. Without nuclear payloads, Iran's long-range missiles, which U.S. intelligence predicts will not be developed until at least 2015, would be essentially impotent.

Mr. Obama has pragmatically pledged that as president he "will make sure any missile defense, including the one proposed for Europe, has been proven to work and has our allies' support before we deploy it." It simply doesn't.

The modified interceptor for Poland is unbuilt and untested. Planned testing for the system likely will take a few years to complete. Regardless, the Pentagon's Office of Operational Test and Evaluation concluded in February that testing of the U.S. system that the European deployment is based on "is not sufficient to provide a high level of statistical confidence in its limited capability."

Even if the performance of U.S. defenses can be improved, a future adversary could use inexpensive countermeasures to confuse or overwhelm them. In other words, they can't be counted on in a shooting war. What can be counted on, however, is that U.S. conventional and nuclear arms will still provide a strong deterrent to any foolhardy nuclear-armed aggression.

Although the leaders of NATO's 26 members stated in May they recognize "the substantial contribution that the current U.S. proposal could make in protecting against long-range missiles," many are skeptical and have not embraced it.

Earlier this month, French President Nicholas Sarkozy was downright dismissive.

"Deployment of a missile defense system would bring nothing to security in Europe," Mr. Sarkozy said. "It would complicate things, and would make them [Russia] move backward."

The Obama administration should make clear that it will look anew with Russia at missile defense in Europe. The new defense secretary should also reconsider other options to counter Iran's missiles that the MDA has passed over. These include more flexible and increasingly capable ship-based missile defense systems that are less worrisome to Moscow.

The president should also work with Congress to rein in and redirect MDA spending. The focus should be on more mature anti-missile systems designed to deal with short- and medium-range missile threats, which are more numerous and present a more immediate threat. Even these systems must be pursued with caution to avoid destabilizing defensive-versus-offensive missile races.

After decades of spending, ambitious timetables and overstated threat warnings, it is past time to restore reason to missile defense policy beginning with a nondecision decision on a new anti-missile site on Russia's border that is unnecessary and imprudent.

Daryl G. Kimball is the executive director of the Arms Control Association, which publishes the monthly journal Arms Control Today.

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U.S. Signs European Anti-Missile Deals

The Bush administration has moved closer toward its goal of establishing long-range anti-missile outposts in Europe, completing basing agreements recently with the Czech Republic and Poland over Russian objections and threats. The earliest that site construction could start is late next year if lawmakers in the United States and the two host countries back the effort. (Continue)

Wade Boese

The Bush administration has moved closer toward its goal of establishing long-range anti-missile outposts in Europe, completing basing agreements recently with the Czech Republic and Poland over Russian objections and threats. The earliest that site construction could start is late next year if lawmakers in the United States and the two host countries back the effort.

U.S. talks with the Czech Republic and Poland to host a missile tracking radar and 10 long-range ballistic missile interceptors, respectively, stretch back to at least 2004, although official negotiations began early last year. Concerns about Iran's ballistic missile programs drive the effort, say U.S. officials. Russia, however, sees itself as the target and vigorously denounces the project, warning periodically that the sites, if built, will be in Russia's nuclear crosshairs.

Meeting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice the day the U.S.-Polish pact was signed, Polish President Lech Kaczynski Aug. 20 expressed optimism that his country's legislators would approve the project. A few weeks earlier, a similar statement likely would have been seen as wishful thinking given that a majority of Poles reportedly opposed the plan, but Polish public opinion shifted after Russian armor and aircraft pounded Georgia beginning Aug. 7.

Although Polish government officials have not drawn a connection, Russia's show of brute force might have been a factor behind Polish and U.S. negotiators reaching a deal on the anti-missile site Aug. 14 after more than 18 months of talks. In an Aug. 17 interview with Fox News, Rice said Russia's actions had stiffened the attitudes of some of its neighbors, citing as one example "Poland, the fact that we are moving forward on missile defense." She also denied any official linkage, stating Aug. 20 "the timing, of course, is simply the timing of when the agreement was completed."

Yet, Michael Wyganowski, a former Polish diplomat who is now executive director of the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis, told Arms Control Today Aug. 20 that he saw a "direct correlation" between the U.S.-Polish pact's conclusion and the Russian-Georgian conflict. He contended that the Polish government became more willing to make a deal in order to stay in step with its public's changing mood as Russia pressed its attack.

Prior to the Russian-Georgian fighting, Poland was seeking increased U.S. military assistance and weapons supplies, including shorter-range anti-missile systems, as part of a final agreement. The negotiated deal only commits the United States to establish a consultative mechanism with Poland to discuss its military modernization needs and to deploy to Poland a single Patriot battery, which typically consists of five missile launchers. Patriot interceptors are designed to counter aircraft and short- to medium-range ballistic missiles.

A principal negotiator of the pact, John Rood, the acting U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told reporters in Warsaw Aug. 20 that the deployment of the U.S. Patriot battery was "significant" because it meant that there would be two U.S. sites on Polish territory. Polish officials have been clear that their interest in hosting U.S. missile interceptors has much less to do with protecting against a possible Iranian missile threat than developing a closer relationship with the United States.

The Czech Republic did not make similar demands as Poland in its negotiations with the United States, enabling an accord to be reached much earlier, on April 3. It was formally signed July 8. Unlike the Polish deal, the text of the Czech agreement has been made public.

The Czech agreement grants the United States exclusive control of the base and operation of all missile defense activities, although the Czech Republic is to be informed "promptly" of any "engagements." Washington is to pay the full cost of building, operating, and maintaining the site. The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency (MDA) estimates that costs for initially getting both the Czech and Polish bases up and running will be as high as $4 billion.

U.S. personnel at the Czech base are not to exceed 250 in number, and the Czech government will maintain an office with a representative and staff there. The agreement requires Prague's approval of all site visits by non-U.S. foreign personnel. Russia had appealed for permanent liaisons at the proposed U.S. anti-missile sites, but the Czech and Polish governments adamantly objected, recalling their past Cold War histories of unwillingly hosting Soviet forces.

The agreement is scheduled to be submitted to the Czech parliament in September, and a Czech diplomatic source told Arms Control Today Aug.19 that a vote could take place the following month. When Polish lawmakers might vote on the U.S.-Polish accord has not been announced. The two basing pacts are legally-binding executive agreements, but both contain withdrawal clauses that can lead to their termination.

Congress has made Czech and Polish parliamentary approval of their respective agreements a condition for funding Pentagon requests to start building the anti-missile sites. Current law also forbids the Pentagon from spending money to acquire or deploy the 10 interceptors designated for Poland until the secretary of defense certifies that the interceptor model can work, following "successful, operationally realistic flight testing." Although some missile defense proponents in Congress are suggesting that the Russian-Georgian conflict justifies relaxing the conditions to accelerate congressional funding for the deployment, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), chair of the strategic forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, released an Aug. 20 statement that "Congress will continue to insist...that the secretary of defense certifies the system is operationally effective before any funds can be used for acquisition or deployment."

The MDA plans to conduct the first flight test of the interceptor in 2009 and then two target intercept attempts in 2010. The interceptor will be a modified version of the approximately two dozen U.S. strategic interceptors currently deployed in Alaska and California. Since 1999, versions of those interceptors have scored seven hits in 12 attempts, but the Pentagon's weapons testing office assessed earlier this year that those tests have not been "sufficient to provide a high level of statistical confidence in [the system's] limited capabilities."

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the Democratic nominee for president, has generally said he would support missile defense efforts if they are effective and not too costly. His Republican counterpart,Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), is a strong advocate of missile defense and called the recent U.S.-Polish agreement "an important step."

U.S. Presses Poland on Anti-Missile Site

Frustrated by Polish negotiating demands on a plan to install U.S. anti-missile interceptors in Poland, the United States recently said it had other basing options. Despite vigorous Russian opposition to the potential interceptor deployment in a former Soviet ally, the Bush administration is considering a former Soviet republic, Lithuania, as an alternative. (Continue)

Wade Boese

Frustrated by Polish negotiating demands on a plan to install U.S. anti-missile interceptors in Poland, the United States recently said it had other basing options. Despite vigorous Russian opposition to the potential interceptor deployment in a former Soviet ally, the Bush administration is considering a former Soviet republic, Lithuania, as an alternative.

U.S. government spokespersons June 17 denied that the United States had initiated any formal talks with states other than Poland to see if they would host the interceptors, which are supposedly to defend against Iran’s possible acquisition of intermediate-range or intercontinental ballistic missiles. But the spokespersons acknowledged that the United States had identified substitute basing locations to Poland and that there had been general conversations with Lithuania about U.S. missile defense efforts. Lithuanian officials have been quoted denying that there are any negotiations, while saying they would hear the United States out if it came to Lithuania with a specific request.

Tom Casey, a Department of State spokesperson, said that Lithuania had been a recent stop for Acting Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Rood, a top advocate of the proposed U.S. plan. He also is a key interlocutor trying to blunt Russia’s hostility to the system, which the Kremlin sees as a threat to its nuclear missiles and security.

Casey said Rood’s visit to Lithuania was not to establish a separate “negotiating track,” asserting that the United States thinks it is “very close to an agreement” with Poland. Many analysts see the recently leaked news about Lithuania as a U.S. gambit to gain greater leverage in the negotiations with Poland. A Polish diplomatic source June 19 declined to comment to Arms Control Today, claiming that the Polish-U.S. negotiations were at a crucial stage.

The U.S. negotiations with Poland started in early 2007 at approximately the same time the United States initiated talks with the Czech Republic on hosting a U.S. missile-tracking radar. The U.S. and Czech governments April 3 announced the conclusion of negotiations but have yet to sign an agreement despite reports that the step would occur in May and then June. It is now suggested that a signing ceremony might happen in July, after which the agreement would need to be approved by the Czech parliament to take effect.

Despite the recent delays in the U.S.-Czech process, it has been smoother than the U.S.-Polish talks, which were interrupted by the election of a new Polish government last October. Led by Prime Minister Donald Tusk, that government has indicated it is predisposed to hosting the interceptors to bolster relations with the United States. On the other hand, the Tusk government also has demanded that the United States help improve Polish air defense capabilities to offset what it projects will be a greater threat from an angry Russia. Some Polish analysts note that the more bellicose Russian threats grow, the more likely Russia is to drive Poland into an agreement with the United States.

So far, however, the United States has found the Polish price too high, reportedly amounting to billions in military assistance and weaponry, including shorter-range missile defense systems. Polish officials also reportedly are seeking some say in the system’s operation, such as when it will be fired.

Although stating that the United States was not setting a deadline for a deal with Poland, Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon spokesperson, warned that “time is of the essence.” He attributed the rush to growing Iranian missile capabilities, but most observers see the impetus as the Bush administration’s desire to get an agreement in place before it exits office.

The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency has indicated that the earliest construction could start would be next year. Actual work would depend on final agreements with the host countries, parliamentary approval of those agreements, and U.S. congressional funding.

Lawmakers in the Czech Republic, Poland, and the United States have expressed various reservations with the proposed plan. Czech and Polish legislators’ concerns reflect generally negative public opinion about the U.S.-proposed project, which has sparked some hunger strikes in the Czech Republic. U.S. lawmakers have cited concerns about whether the proposed ground-based interceptors are technically the best choice, whether the system can actually work, and its projected costs, which are estimated at approximately $3.5 billion.

Neither presumptive presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) or Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), has said he would, if elected, discontinue the proposed European deployment. Indeed, McCain has fully endorsed it, and his campaign has more generally stated that he sees “effective missile defenses” as critical not only to deal with states such as Iran but also to “hedge against potential threats from possible strategic competitors like Russia and China.”

News Analysis: Missile Defense Role Questioned

Is the deployed U.S. anti-missile system capable enough to have a president rely on it to protect American lives if a hostile regime threatened to use long-range ballistic missiles to attack the United States? Some current administration officials say that President George W. Bush already did so during a similar crisis with North Korea in the summer of 2006. Others say such assertions exaggerate the risks faced in that incident and are intended to add luster to the administration’s controversial missile defense system, which was originally deployed in 2004 but remains unproven in the eyes of many, including some government experts. (Continue)

Wade Boese

Is the deployed U.S. anti-missile system capable enough to have a president rely on it to protect American lives if a hostile regime threatened to use long-range ballistic missiles to attack the United States? Some current administration officials say that President George W. Bush already did so during a similar crisis with North Korea in the summer of 2006. Others say such assertions exaggerate the risks faced in that incident and are intended to add luster to the administration’s controversial missile defense system, which was originally deployed in 2004 but remains unproven in the eyes of many, including some government experts.

Revisiting the Summer of 2006

In June 2006, North Korea placed its newest ballistic missile, the Taepo Dong-2, on a launch pad. The missile, which some estimated as capable of reaching the continental United States, never had been flight-tested, and its predecessor had been launched only once in a failed August 1998 attempt to put a small satellite in orbit. (See ACT, August/September 1998 .) Despite its apparent missile launch preparations, North Korea was observing a voluntary moratorium on flight-testing longer-range ballistic missiles that it had instituted in September 1999 and then extended indefinitely in a September 2002 bilateral agreement with Japan.

But Pyongyang also was unhappy with the suspended status of talks with Washington and other capitals on implementing a September 2005 agreement, which offered the Kim Jong Il regime economic and energy assistance in exchange for eliminating its nuclear programs, including any weapons that it might have built. (See ACT, October 2005 .) Meanwhile, the United States and its European allies recently had offered Iran new incentives intended to get it to end some of its nuclear activities, leading some observers to joke that North Korea was developing “Iran envy,” according to a former U.S. government official interviewed June 19 by Arms Control Today.

After weeks of speculation about North Korea’s motivations and whether it would launch the missile, the secretive regime July 4-5 fired six shorter-range missiles and the Taepo Dong-2. All the missiles, including the Taepo Dong-2, which failed approximately 40 seconds into its inaugural flight, landed harmlessly in the Sea of Japan.

Leading up to the tests, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States urged North Korea not to break its moratorium and warned that it would face penalties for defying them. The United States also let it be known that it was activating its ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system from a testing mode to operational readiness. That move put crews at Fort Greely, Alaska, on alert to fire, if ordered, the nine long-range ballistic missile interceptors based there. The Bush administration now deploys more than two dozen total GMD interceptors in Alaska and California.

Assessing the Missile Defense Move

Some Bush administration officials contend the decision to ready the GMD system was significant in freeing the president from having to contemplate trying to destroy the Taepo Dong-2 before it could be launched and escalating the situation.

In a March 11, 2008, briefing to reporters on U.S. anti-missile system efforts, John Rood, the acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, revisited the June 2006 activation decision. He explained that because of the system, “we didn’t have to seriously consider options like pre-emption or overwhelming retaliation. We had a defense, and we were content to use that defense, and it was a way of not contributing to the crisis being larger.”

Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England struck a similar chord during a March 31 speech to attendees of a Washington conference sponsored by the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA). He argued that missile defenses “allow our national leadership a choice beyond offensive actions,” noting that the North Korea case “was a prime example.” He said, “[W]e had no idea when [the Taepo Dong-2] was going to be launched and where they intended to fly it. It was possible that it could have reached U.S. territory.”

A month later at an April 30 hearing of a subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Lieutenant General Henry Obering, the director of the MDA, used the same episode to describe the capability of the GMD system. He stated that the system “was good enough that when the North Koreans stacked their Taepo Dong-2 in the summer of 2006, the president was relying on [the system] as opposed to taking the advice of some…former senior officials to pre-emptively strike that site.”

The officials in question were former Secretary of Defense William Perry and Ashton Carter, former assistant secretary of defense. They had advocated in the June 22, 2006, Washington Post that the United States destroy the Taepo Dong-2 before it could be launched in order to prevent North Korean technicians from learning from the flight test and using that data to “perfect” an ICBM capability.

Unlike Perry and Carter, however, the more recent Bush administration statements obscure the broad perception at the time that North Korea, aside from seeking diplomatic leverage, might be preparing for a test, not an attack. Bush officials imply that the risk of an attack was sufficient enough that, without the GMD system, the president would have had to consider using military force to prevent the launch. The Department of State, including Rood’s office; the National Security Council; and the MDA did not respond to Arms Control Today questions seeking clarification of the recent statements.

Charles Pritchard, a former envoy to negotiations with North Korea who left the State Department in August 2003, thinks current Bush officials have been “hyping the situation greatly.” In a June 5 e-mail to Arms Control Today, he wrote there was “no credible evidence or the slightest suggestion that North Korea was about to attack” the United States.

Noting that, in the summer of 2006, North Korea had yet to demonstrate a nuclear weapons capability—something it would later do in October 2006 with a widely condemned nuclear blast—Pritchard contended that “it made no sense technically or politically for North Korea to do something that would have invited massive retaliation.” Adding that he did not recall any reports of North Korea massing its troops at that time, he asked, “What kind of country attacks a superpower with a single missile that contains no [weapons of mass destruction] and has no follow-on plan to deal with the consequences?”

Public statements by Bush administration officials at the time suggest that they too saw the North Korean activities as test preparations. For instance, Vice President Dick Cheney said in a June 22 interview with CNN that the possible launch would be “the first test of this particular [missile] type.” Although stating that the missile’s payload was uncertain, Cheney seemed to downplay the danger by observing that North Korea’s missile capabilities were “fairly rudimentary” and that past North Korean test flights “haven’t been notably successful.”

Congressional sources interviewed by Arms Control Today said they did not recall any sense that a missile attack was likely, but one noted that reading the reclusive Kim Jong Il’s intentions was problematic and might have led to some uncertainty about the situation. Nonetheless, that staffer shared the general perspective of another who June 5 said the Bush administration statements were “a lot of hooey meant to build confidence in the [GMD] interceptors.”

Is the Anti-Missile System Reliable?

Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), who chairs the subcommittee before which Obering testified on April 30, declined to comment to Arms Control Today on the nature of any information surrounding the June 2006 North Korean missile activities that “may have been the subject of classified intelligence briefings.” But in a June 11 statement, he observed that “components of the [GMD] system have yet to undergo successful realistic and operational testing such as would warrant full confidence against real-life threats should they be developed anytime soon.”

In the summer of 2006, the model of interceptors deployed in Alaska had not been successfully tested in intercept attempts, although prototypes had achieved five intercepts in eight experiments dating back to 1999. Since the summer of 2006, the interceptors have hit targets in two tests, while a third test was recently cancelled. (See ACT, June 2008 .) Still, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which conducts studies for Congress, reported in March that “the tests done to date have been developmental in nature, and do not provide sufficient realism for [the Pentagon’s] test and evaluation director to fully determine whether the [Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS)] is suitable and effective for battle.” The GMD system is the long-range element of the broader BMDS.

Despite the caveats and reservations of the GAO and the Pentagon’s own independent testing evaluator, Obering maintains confidence that the GMD system would protect against a long-range missile fired by Iran or North Korea if they were to acquire such a weapon. That optimism has spread to others. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said at an April 1 hearing of the strategic forces subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee that missile defense had evolved “through some highly challenging technological problems to a day when the North Koreans rattle their missiles, we feel confident we can knock it down.”

In an interview aired April 25, 2007, with the ABC News Nightline program, Colonel Ted Hildreth, the commander of the 49th Missile Defense Battalion operating the interceptors in Alaska, said, “I’d bet my family’s life” on the system’s capability to knock out a missile. It is unclear whether the Bush administration was entrusting many families’ lives to the system two years ago or just making a bet that it figured would not be called.

NATO Summit Results Fall Short of Bush Goals

President George W. Bush's top goals heading into his final NATO summit included winning support for U.S. policies to deploy strategic anti-missile systems in Europe and extend NATO membership to former Soviet allies and republics. The administration claimed success afterward even though the alliance agreed to less than Bush sought. (Continue)

Wade Boese

President George W. Bush's top goals heading into his final NATO summit included winning support for U.S. policies to deploy strategic anti-missile systems in Europe and extend NATO membership to former Soviet allies and republics. The administration claimed success afterward even though the alliance agreed to less than Bush sought.

A priority for the Bush administration since early last year has been getting backing for its initiative to base 10 long-range ballistic missile interceptors in Poland and a missile-tracking radar in the Czech Republic to counter what Washington says is a growing Iranian missile threat. On April 3, the administration took one step toward its goal by concluding negotiations with the Czech Republic to host the radar. In a joint statement, the two governments said the agreement would be signed "in the near future." The agreement would then need to be approved by the Czech parliament, and U.S. lawmakers would need to fund the project for the radar to be built. U.S. negotiations with Poland remain unfinished. (See ACT, April 2008 .)

The administration's anti-missile project also got a boost at the April 2-4 NATO summit in Bucharest. In a final summit declaration, the leaders of NATO's 26 members stated they "recognise the substantial contribution" that the current U.S. proposal could make in protecting against long-range missiles. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates April 4 called the statement "significant," and many media stories blared that NATO supported missile defenses.

Certainly, the fact that European countries subscribed to a positive statement about the U.S. project was a boon for the Bush administration. Some NATO countries, such as France and Norway, have voiced various reservations with missile defenses. Moreover, Russia has been extremely hostile to the U.S. deployment proposal, and there is strong domestic opposition in the two countries where the systems are to be based.

Still, some officials of NATO governments told Arms Control Today in April interviews that the statement was not quite the victory that was portrayed. The Bush administration reportedly sought stronger language, such as "welcomes" or "supports," but settled for "recognise."

In addition, the officials noted that the alliance did not commit itself to developing any missile defenses. Instead, NATO agreed to "develop options" for systems to protect areas, particularly southern Europe, outside the notional coverage of the proposed U.S. system. Those options, NATO stated, would be reviewed in 2009, but the alliance did not say a decision to pursue any option would be made.

NATO is currently developing the Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence (ALTBMD), which is a command and control system intended to allow NATO members in an emergency to link up their separate sensors and missile interceptors against short- to intermediate-range missiles. Currently, nine NATO countries have or are developing various systems that could be linked by the ALTBMD system, which is supposed to be made initially operational in 2010.

Apart from the ALTBMD system, NATO has not been eager to work on missile defenses. In 2006, NATO leaders decided against initiating work on defenses to protect alliance members' territories and population centers against the full range of missile threats despite a 10,000-page study that found such defenses feasible. Some NATO members have expressed concerns about the effectiveness of such systems, their cost, and their potential for damaging relations with Russia.

In the Bucharest declaration, NATO members indicated they wanted to avoid a rupture with Russia over the U.S. missile defense project. The alliance stated it was "committed to maximum transparency and reciprocal confidence building measures to allay any concerns." It further encouraged Russia to respond positively to a package of recent U.S. proposals to ease Russia's worries that it is the true target of the initiative. Still, Gates noted April 1, "the Russians are probably...never going to like missile defense."

Similarly, Russia has consistently and vehemently protested NATO's drive to add new members. That effort was contentious even among NATO members at the Bucharest summit. The United States pushed for inviting Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia to join the alliance and offering Membership Action Plans to Georgia and Ukraine. Those plans pave the way for a country to be formally asked to become a member. Greece, however, objected to extending membership to Macedonia because it claims that country's name reflects territorial ambitions for a Greek province of the same name. Furthermore, many countries, led by Germany, opposed giving Georgia and Ukraine membership plans in order to avoid antagonizing Russia.

In the end, the alliance compromised. It officially invited Albania and Croatia to become members, declared Macedonia would be invited to join as soon as it resolved the name dispute with Greece, and agreed that some day Georgia and Ukraine "will become members." The alliance said a decision to extend membership plans to the two former Soviet republics could be made as early as this December. Russian President Vladimir Putin reacted to the news April 4 by warning that Russia would view "the appearance of a powerful military bloc on our borders...as a direct threat to the security of our country."

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Bush, Putin Leave Arms Disputes Unsettled

Meeting for their final time as presidents, George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin extolled their efforts to move the United States and Russia beyond their Cold War confrontation. Yet, the two leaders left unresolved arms disputes rooted in that competition that have been a constant source of friction for their two administrations. (Continue)

Wade Boese

Meeting for their final time as presidents, George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin extolled their efforts to move the United States and Russia beyond their Cold War confrontation. Yet, the two leaders left unresolved arms disputes rooted in that competition that have been a constant source of friction for their two administrations.

Organized on short notice, the summit took place April 5-6 in Sochi, Russia, on Putin's initiative. He had called for the meeting following a March meeting in Moscow of the two countries' top defense and foreign policy officials. (See ACT, April 2008 .) Stephen Hadley, Bush's national security adviser, announced the trip March 26 and said its purpose was to "consolidate areas where we're cooperating together, maybe resolve some outstanding issues such as missile defense, and provide a platform for the relationship of the two countries going forward."

Agreements on the contentious issues of missile defenses, nuclear weapons, and conventional arms deployments in Europe, however, eluded the two presidents. Putin told reporters after the meeting that the "strategic framework" document the two leaders approved "does not provide any breakthrough solutions on a number of issues." In particular, he noted, "one of the most difficult issues was, and remains, the issue of missile defense in Europe."

Russia has blasted Bush administration plans to station 10 long-range ballistic missile interceptors in Poland and an advanced radar in the Czech Republic. Fearing that its nuclear forces are the true target, Moscow has dismissed U.S. assurances that the systems are to offset growing Iranian missile capabilities and warned that the proposed systems would be targeted by the Russian military. In Sochi, Putin reiterated that "our fundamental attitude to the American plans [has] not changed."

Still, Putin sounded a positive note about recent Bush administration proposals intended to ease Russian concerns about the anti-missile plan. He described the U.S. ideas as sincere and himself as having "certain cautious optimism," but he also trotted out the standard caveat that "the devil is in the details."

The specific U.S. proposals are secret, but their general nature is known. Among other measures, the United States has pledged to limit the systems it deploys to Europe and not activate them unless Iran demonstrates the capability to send a missile deep into Europe or against the United States. There also have been discussions of enabling Russia to keep tabs on the systems through sensors and Russian personnel at the U.S. deployment sites.

The latter proposal is an example of details potentially bedeviling a deal. Putin expressed interest in having Russian personnel at the proposed sites on a "permanent basis." But the Czech and Polish governments have indicated such an arrangement would be intolerable to the former Soviet satellites. The United States, meanwhile, has reportedly suggested that the Russian personnel could be liaison officers at the Russian embassies in the two countries and given access to the sites. How much access would be provided and under what conditions is unclear.

Bush and his advisers portrayed the meeting as a triumph on the missile defense issue, pointing to Russia's agreement to include a statement in the strategic framework document that if the U.S. proposals were "agreed and implemented," they would be "important and useful in assuaging Russian concerns." Bush described the outcome as a "significant breakthrough."

Pressed by reporters aboard the president's plane during the return trip to the United States, Hadley acknowledged that many details still must be worked out to soothe Russian concerns. He conceded, "[T]here's huge ifs here." Russian government experts have reportedly prepared dozens of questions for the Bush administration about its proposals.

In the strategic framework document, Bush and Putin also endorsed exploring a broader anti-missile architecture that would involve Europe, Russia, and the United States as "equal partners." Putin, who said that effort should be given priority over other anti-missile projects, stressed that "equal democratic access to managing the system" would be essential.

How that would be made to work and how seriously both governments intend to pursue that option is uncertain. Proposals for Moscow and Washington to work together on missile defenses have been floated intermittently over the past decades but have yielded few results. The two countries, however, are planning to conduct a "high-level dialogue" to assess ballistic and cruise missile threats that fall below the long-range threshold and "inventory options for dealing with them."

The strategic framework also reiterates the two governments' standard pledge to enact nuclear weapons reductions "to the lowest possible level consistent with our national security requirements and alliance commitments." Yet, the two presidents failed to agree on a way ahead. Putin observed that "we do have certain differences still in our basic approaches."

Russia wants a new treaty that limits both strategic warheads and delivery vehicles, while the Bush administration prefers an agreement focused on codifying some verification measures to last beyond the scheduled 2009 expiration of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which has an extensive verification regime. Moscow also favors a future treaty that would rely on the START warhead accounting rules rather than the method introduced by the Bush administration in the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, which limits "operationally deployed strategic" warheads. Washington and Moscow have not reached a common understanding on what warheads are counted under that phrase.

Putin further noted that Russia and the United States remain at odds over the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, which Russia suspended implementation of last December. Putin, however, expressed some satisfaction that the United States was "listening" to Russian concerns and trying to respond to them with a package of proposals.

The presidents did not fulfill some expectations that they might finally sign an agreement for nuclear trade and cooperation between their countries that was first initialed in June 2007. Instead, the strategic framework vaguely states the two sides will sign the agreement in the "near future."

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