Last week, the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov caused a stir among the U.S. and European proponents of missile defenses.
Talking about the Obama Administration’s recent proposal for the Russian participation in the Phased Adaptive Approach, a missile defense plan for Europe and the United States, Ivanov bluntly stated that the Russian Federation “insist[s] on only one thing: that we’re an equal part of [U.S. missile defense system in Europe].”
To make absolutely clear what Ivanov means, he elaborated: “In practical terms, that means our office will sit, for example, in Brussels and agrees on a red-button push to start an anti-missile, regardless of whether it starts from Poland, Russia or the U.K.” On April 14, 39 U.S. Senators took the first step to make sure that the Obama Administration will not concede to these Russian demands, which would inevitably undermine the security of the United States and U.S. allies.
The Senators signed a letter expressing that “any agreement that would allow Russia to influence the defense of the United States or our allies, to say nothing of a ‘red button’ or veto, would constitute a failure of leadership.” The concerns about parameters of cooperation with Moscow do not stop here, though.
The Senators who signed the letter are rightfully concerned that the Administration might provide the Russians with access to sensitive satellite data and hit-to-kill missile defense technology. To prevent this from happening, the Senators asked the President for a written assurance that this data and technology not be provided.
The letter also urges the Administration to proceed with the Phased Adaptive Approach. The Russians continue to protest planned missile defense system deployments in Europe, and the Senators fear that the Administration will give the Russians a say regarding the location of interceptors or forward-based radars.
Missile defense cooperation with Russia does have a place in the U.S. defensive posture. It would be a welcome development if both countries took steps to increase the role and importance of defenses in their mutual relationship. The mutual cooperation between the U.S. and its allies on the one side and the Russians on the other can take form of coordinated deployments to address shared threats. In this case, Russia and the United States would deploy ballistic missile defense system and retain its respective operational control. This would create opportunities for data sharing and other steps constituting genuine cooperation.
Should the United States accept Russian demands for a “red button” rights, the opportunity for cooperation would be lost. Worse, it would allow the Russians to restrict U.S. and allied ballistic missile defense systems and keep them vulnerable to ballistic missile attacks.