Newscast Media WASHINGTON—Russian officials conducted a secret inspection this week of a US missile defense base in California under the auspices of the New START arms treaty, a conservative US website reported.
The officials on Friday were set to wrap up a week-long visit to the Vandenberg Air Force Base in southern California for the inspection of five missile defense interceptors as part of the treaty signed between the two countries in 2010, the Washington Free Beacon reported on Thursday citing officials in US President Barack Obama’s administration.
The US State Department and the White House National Security Council did not immediately provide comment when contacted Friday morning by Russian news agency RIA Novosti, and a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Washington said he was traveling in Moscow and unable to comment on the report.
But the Free Beacon cited officials from the State Department and the US Defense Department as confirming the visit.
The defense official said the inspection was part of a treaty verification visit hosted by the US Defense Threat Reduction agency, while the State Department official said it was related to New START but declined to give further details, the Free Beacon reported.
“Implementation activities under New START are confidential,” the website cited the official as saying.
The reported inspection is a one-time visit allowed under the New START deal, the Free Beacon reported, a treaty signed by the US and Russian presidents in Prague in April 2010. It entered into force in February 2011. The deal requires both nations to cut their arsenals to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads by 2018.
In the negotiations leading to New START, Russia demanded that the five ground-based interceptor (GBI) silos at the California base be included in the deal to allow Russian officials to monitor the United States’ conversion of long-range launch tubes into missile defense shooters, the Free Beacon reported.
Washington initially resisted the provision but ultimately allowed the one-time visit because the silos had been converted from offensive intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos, the website cited former US Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer Thomas Moore as saying.
“The United States is required to conduct a one-time exhibition not later than three years after the treaty entered into force at Vandenberg to show Moscow how it distinguishes GBI silos from ICBM silos,” Moore said, the Free Beacon reported. Under the New START treaty, both sides are prohibited from converting ICBM launchers to missile defense interceptors, though this provision does not extend to ICBM launchers converted prior to the signing of the deal.
The missile defense issue has been a sticking point in US-Russia ties in recent years. Moscow remains staunchly opposed to US plans to deploy elements of a missile defense system in Europe, saying it undermines Russia’s security. Washington, meanwhile, insists that its missile defense systems are aimed at protecting the United States and its allies from potential attacks from Iran and North Korea.
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced in March that the United States would add additional ballistic-missile interceptors on the West Coast in response to “irresponsible and reckless provocations” from North Korea.
“We will strengthen homeland missile defense by deploying 14 additional Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) at Fort Greely, Alaska,” Hagel said. “That will increase the number of deployed Ground Based Interceptors from 30 to 44, including the four GBIs at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.”
Source: Ria Novosti
Newscast Media WASHINGTON—Drawing a road map for NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan and agreement on steps to increase the alliance’s defense capabilities are the notable achievements of the NATO summit, President Obama said May 21 as he delivered a final assessment of the meeting held over the weekend in Chicago. Citing an “unwavering commitment to collective defense,” Obama said NATO nations agreed to invest in defense capabilities and new technologies that meet the alliance’s security needs.
The 63-year-old alliance is also making progress on its missile-defense system, and Obama recognized other NATO nations for increasing their leadership in this area.
“Our defense radar in Turkey will be placed under NATO control,” Obama said. “Spain, Romania and Poland have agreed to host key U.S. assets. The Netherlands will be upgrading radars.”
Obama also emphasized that a NATO missile-defense system is not intended to compromise Russia’s strategic deterrent. “I continue to believe that missile defense can be an area of cooperation with Russia,” he said.
Another important achievement of the summit was agreement to wind down the 10-year operation in Afghanistan with “a plan that trains Afghan security forces, transitions to the Afghans and builds a partnership that can endure after our combat mission in Afghanistan ends,” Obama said.
The troops from NATO nations will steadily draw down as Afghan National Security Forces take the leadership role by the middle of next year, with NATO troops remaining in a support mode. By the end of 2014, Obama said, the plan calls for Afghan forces to take full responsibility for the security of their country.
But NATO involvement in Afghanistan’s future will not end there, Obama said, and the partnership with Kabul to defeat al-Qaida and bring progress to the long-beleaguered nation will continue.
Non-NATO nations have been longtime participants in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, and they too met with NATO leaders to craft this road map to war’s end. Obama called the meeting of such a wide range of nations “unprecedented”; it included 28 NATO members and 13 leaders from European, Middle Eastern, North African and Asian nations.
“Each of these countries has contributed to NATO operations in different ways — military, political, financial — and each wants to see us do more together,” Obama said. “To see the breadth of those countries represented in that room is to see how NATO has truly become a hub of global security.”
A key goal of the Afghanistan operation has been to expel al-Qaida from the nation and close down its safe haven there, a goal that Obama said has been met. But as the NATO summit ended, a terrorist attack in Yemen, blamed on al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), killed more than 100 people and injured close to 200, according to news reports.
A journalist questioned the U.S. president about that attack, and whether it could be a sign that Yemen is sinking into anarchy. Obama noted the strong counterterrorism partnership that the United States has formed with the Yemeni government.
The NATO summit was met with significant protests on the Chicago streets, with denunciations of the alliance’s defense strategy and calls to end the Afghan war. But protesters did not derail the meeting; instead, Obama said, the protesters have NATO to thank for their freedoms.
“Part of what NATO defends is free speech and the freedom of assembly,” Obama said.