The United States is “not making much progress” in arms-control and missile-defense talks with Russia, a senior Obama administration official admitted on Tuesday.
“It’s important to have Russia’s support on both” topics, Madelyn Creedon, assistant secretary of Defense for global strategic affairs, told a conference organized by the Atlantic Council in Washington.
“To be frank we’re not making much progress on that front but we’ll continue to try,” she said.
This past summer, President Obama called for negotiating a treaty with Russia that would limit both sides’ deployed long-range nuclear arsenals to roughly 1,000 warheads each. Each country currently has until 2018 to cap their fielded strategic nuclear weapons at 1,550 apiece under the New START pact. However, a planned August meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin — during which Obama’s proposal could have been addressed — was canceled due to disagreements on antimissile matters. It has not been rescheduled.
Russia also has indicated it will not presently engage in new nuclear-weapon reductions with the United States because of unresolved concerns about U.S. missile-defense activities in Europe. The Kremlin fears U.S. interceptors planned for fielding in the coming years secretly could be aimed as its strategic nuclear arms and refuses to accept U.S. promises that the antimissile systems are intended to protect against Middle Eastern threats.
Creedon, though, stood by the Obama administration’s planned European Phased Adaptive Approach for missile defense. Under the multi-year effort the U.S. military is slated to field advanced missile interceptors on warships based in Spain and at facilities in Romania and Poland.
“We’ve made a substantial commitment to EPAA,” said Creedon, who was recently nominated by the White House to the position of principal deputy administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration.
She indicated that regardless of whether an international agreement is reached with Iran that would curb the Persian Gulf state’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon, the United States is “ironclad” in its resolve to deploy next-generation interceptors in Europe under Phases 2 and 3 of the EPAA plan.
“We are definitely committed to that,” said Creedon at the Atlantic Council event on NATO deterrence and collective defense.
There has been concern in Poland that Washington might cancel its plans to around 2018 field interceptors in the country that would be capable of defeating intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The United States twice previously axed plans to field different types of interceptors in the Eastern European country in response to changing understandings of the ballistic missile threats posed by Iran and North Korea.
U.S. policy on European missile defense is not based solely on the current Iranian missile threat, Creedon said.
“It’s not where is Iran going. It is where is anyone [in the world] going that has offensive missile capabilities and how do we think about defending” against them, she said.
Not everyone though, is so certain Congress — confronted as it is with enormous budget challenges — would continue to support paying for missile defenses in Europe if the threat calculus were to be drastically altered.
Former Defense Undersecretary Walter Slocombe told the forum he found it “hard to believe that if there really were a fundamental change” in Iranian nuclear policy that Congress would continue to be “so keen” on financing antimissile assets primarily aimed at safeguarding Europe.