President Barack Obama's administration recently threatened to veto the defense budget, citing "serious concerns" over provisions that limit the U.S. missile defense know-how that the White House is permitted to share with Moscow. This is the sort of information that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, in his earlier days, would have assigned his spies to steal. Through its single-minded pursuit of "resetting" relations with Russia, the Obama administration may simply be willing to hand over this information and, in doing so, weaken U.S. national security.
Only two days after issuing the veto threat -- and as Obama tried to warm Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to U.S. missile defense plans at the G-8 Summit in Deauville, France -- the House of Representatives passed the defense bill. It included the provision that the president's team finds so offensive: Section 1228 requires that no funds can be used to provide the Russian Federation with sensitive U.S. missile defense technology.
This act of congressional prudence did not come out of nowhere. The Senate debate over New START raised questions about what the Obama administration may have promised Moscow regarding U.S. missile defense plans. The debate stemmed from the treaty's preamble, which linked offensive and defensive weapons, and a Russian unilateral statement that stated ratification of the treaty was conditional on whether the United States made improvements to its missile defense systems. In a treaty about reducing offensive weapons, it was clear the Russians required the Obama administration to include U.S. defenses in the bargain.
With that issue still unresolved, Congress discovered that the administration has been working on a missile defense agreement with the Russians and that Moscow had requested that the United States share with it loads of sensitive U.S. missile defense technology and operational authority as part of that deal. In the administration's eagerness to please the Kremlin, it may just oblige.
The House of Representatives has given a firm "no" to that prospect through its decision to ignore Obama's veto threat and approve the defense appropriations bill by a veto-proof vote of 322 to 96. The Senate may act similarly. On April 14, 39 Republican senators sent a letter to the president expressing their concern over the administration's consideration of granting to the Russians sensitive U.S. technology and "red button" authority to prevent the interception of incoming missiles headed for U.S. troops or allies. This would allow Russia to deny the United States the ability to intercept a missile Washington had determined to be a threat.
The letter, spearheaded by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), requested the administration provide the Senate with assurances that it will not share sensitive information with Moscow. The senators cited the problem that sharing this information with Russia poses in light of its history of espionage and technological cooperation with Iran and Syria.