A Secret Fight over Russia in the Obama Administration
9:49 PM, Apr 13, 2014 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
The Obama administration has scheduled a deputies committee meeting this week—tentatively set for Tuesday—to resolve a bitter inter-agency dispute over a request from Russia with respect to the Open Skies program. Informed sources believe the White House is likely to side with the State Department, which wants to accommodate Russia, over the objections of the Obama administration's Defense Department and intelligence agencies.
The Open Skies treaty allows the United States and Russia to fly over each other's territory with planes loaded with certain agreed-upon sensor packages, in order to ensure compliance with arms control agreements and to provide assurance against preparations for various military surprises. Russia has asked the U.S. to agree to an upgrade in the sensor package their planes can carry. (Obviously, the exact nature of these sensor packages and the proposed upgrades is highly classified.) The request would apparently result in a significant increase in Russian spying capabilities; the first response from Pentagon was, according to one government official close to the situation, "You've got to be kidding." But the State Department has been making the case for acceding to the Russians' demands, and the White House seems to be on State's side. The White House has also stonewalled requests for information from the congressional intelligence committees.
House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers is apparently so concerned that he sent the president an unusual public letter Friday. Here's the press release:
One source close to Rogers confirms that Rogers wouldn't have written such a letter unless the intelligence community was "very alarmed" by what seemed to be the likely White House decision.
Meanwhile, THE WEEKLY STANDARD has obtained the text of a letter from a bipartisan group of senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee—addressed, interestingly, to Secretary of State Kerry, whose department has been pushing the agreement.
Will President Obama overrule his own defense and intelligence officials in order to placate Vladimir Putin's Russia?
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