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No Red Button for the Russkies

4:01 PM, Apr 15, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Thirty-nine Republican senators sent a letter yesterday to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying that "the Administration should make clear in every engagement with Russia that it will have no say in the location, capability or timing of U.S. missile defense deployments with a NATO military alliance." Additionally, the senators asked Clinton "to share with Congress the materials on U.S. missile defense cooperation that have been provided to Russia, which heretofore the Departments of State and Defense have refused to provide."

We are concerned that Russia, sensing your Administration’s interest in missile defense “cooperation,” will seek to obtain whatever missile defense concessions it can and that such concessions could undermine the security of the United States and our allies.  

The letter on missile defense comes in response to Russian deputy prime minister Sergei Ivanov, who last week said, “We insist on only one thing: that we’re an equal part of it.  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.”

"No American President should ever allow a foreign nation to dictate when or how the United States defends our country and our allies," the senators write in response the Ivanov's alarming comments. "In our view, 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."

And today Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov responded to the senators. In an article in Russian on BBC's website (which does not appear to have been translated into English), the Russian foreign minister apparently says:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the concerns of senators unfounded, and the letter itself - political self-promotion of its authors.

The head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov believes that the letter of 39 senators, motivated by a desire of politicians to attract attention. "Russia does not need his veto power in the global system of missile defense, it is impossible to imagine" - Lavrov said Friday after meeting Russia-NATO Council in Berlin.

The administration has not yet responded. And when they do, will they side with the Republican senators or the Russians?

The letter was organized by Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, and was cosigned by the following Republican senators: McConnell, Kyl, Ensign, Cornyn, McCain, Grassley, Hutchison, Enzi, Johnson, Coats, Wicker,  Blunt, Toomey, Chambliss, Crapo, Risch, Ayotte, Hoeven, Cochran, Thune, Graham, Burr, Johanns, Vitter, Boozman, Lee, DeMint, Barrasso, Hatch, Sessions, Moran, Coburn, Roberts, Inhofe, Shelby, Rubio, Corker, and Alexander.

Here's the full text of the letter:

April 14, 2011

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President:

We write about recent reports that the Russian Federation is seeking “red button” rights over U.S. missile defense and that the Administration is considering providing Russia with access to America’s most sensitive missile defense data and technology.  We are concerned that Russia, sensing your Administration’s interest in missile defense “cooperation,” will seek to obtain whatever missile defense concessions it can and that such concessions could undermine the security of the United States and our allies.  

Last week, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Sergei Ivanov, reportedly said, “We insist on only one thing: that we’re an equal part of it.  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.”

No American President should ever allow a foreign nation to dictate when or how the United States defends our country and our allies.  In our view, 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.

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