Thursday, June 17, 2010

New START and "understandings"

I attended an interesting discussion today at the Nixon Center on whether the "reset" in U.S.-Russia relations is real or a "Potemkin village". It featured commentary from David Kramer, Andranik Migranyan, Dov Zakheim and Dimitri Simes, and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Internatioanl Security Sandy Vershbow was also presented and offered his thoughts.

The part of the discussion I found very interesting was on the question of whether the New START treaty makes a binding linkage between arms control and missile defense. The Russian side, of course, has put forward a unilateral declaration which takes language that appears in the preamble and tries to make that a binding commitment--which could make ratification of the Treaty in the Senate problematic.

The question is whether the U.S. has signaled that any further pursuit of missile defense on the American side will not be directed at eroding the Russian strategic deterrent--and whether any commitments have been made on this point--and how they might be defined. Is any U.S. deployment of a system (or even research) ipso facto an erosion of Russia's strategic capabilities? Missile defense as an issue in the START treaty may not have been completely solved.

UPDATE: Over at the Cable, Josh Rogin reports the official reaction: "Clinton: Reports of limits on U.S. missile defense deployments 'Dead Wrong'."

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