The Obama administration, despite public denials, held secret talks with Russia aimed at reaching a ballistic missile defense agreement that Moscow ultimately rejected in May, according to an internal State Department report.
The four-page document circulated on Capitol Hill stated that administration officials held four meetings with the Russians and last spring presented a draft Ballistic Missile Defense Cooperation Agreement (BMDCA) to Russian negotiators.
This revelation comes at an inopportune moment for the administration, which is still reeling from the embarrassment of countless wikileaks disclosures. It could also imperil ratification of the new START treaty, which the president wants to push through during the lame duck session of Congress:
Debate over missile defense talks with Russia could affect the administration's push to win Senate ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty [START] before the end of the year. New START opponents in the Senate have said the treaty, which limits offensive nuclear arms, could be used by the Russians to constrain U.S. missile defenses. Moscow has threatened to withdraw from the treaty if the United States expands its missile defenses, currently on ships and at bases in Alaska and California.
If the administration's dishonesty on missile defense isn't enough to scuttle, or at least delay, Senate approval of START, this should:
The U.S. believes Russia has moved short-range tactical nuclear warheads to facilities near North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies as recently as this spring, U.S. officials say, adding to questions in Congress about Russian compliance with long-standing pledges ahead of a possible vote on a new arms-control treaty.
U.S. officials say the movement of warheads to facilities bordering NATO allies appeared to run counter to pledges made by Moscow starting in 1991 to pull tactical nuclear weapons back from frontier posts and to reduce their numbers. The U.S. has long voiced concerns about Russia's lack of transparency when it comes to its arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons, believed to be many times the number possessed by the U.S.