In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, former George W. Bush administration official Doug Feith writes that whereas he stood firm in the face of Russian demands to limit U.S. missile defenses, the Obama administration caved to Russian demands. According to Feith, “In the SORT negotiations, they [the Russians] demanded that the treaty recognize an “interrelationship” between offensive arms reductions and missile defense,” which the Bush administration rejected. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a similar claim in her recent Journal op-ed endorsing the treaty.
Others remember this history a little differently. As the Senate Foreign Relations Committee report on New START notes,
This is by no means the first time the interrelationship between offensive and defensive systems has been recognized. For example, in their joint statement of July 21, 2001, President Bush and President Putin agreed that ‘‘major changes in the world require concrete discussions of both offensive and defensive systems. We already have some strong and tangible points of agreement. We will shortly begin intensive consultations on the interrelated subjects of offensive and defensive systems [emphasis added].’’ In the press conference that followed, President Bush emphasized that offensive and defensive systems were interrelated, stating, ‘‘And along these lines, as the President said, that we’re going to have open and honest dialogue about defensive systems, as well as reduction of offensive systems. The two go hand-in-hand in order to set up a new strategic framework for peace.’’ [emphasis mine.]
A link is of course not a limit. But it has been longstanding U.S. policy to note the link between offensive and defensive forces. And it’s still our policy. To quote from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee report once more:
The interrelationship between our strategic defensive arms and other countries’ strategic offensive arms is fundamental to our current missile defense policy: the United States desires that our capability to defend against limited attack will render useless the initial strategic offensive capability that certain countries are contemplating or developing. As the BMDR Report notes, in addition to defeating a limited ICBM attack should deterrence fail, our Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system is designed to ‘‘dissuade’’ other states from developing an ICBM capability and to ‘‘deter’’ those countries from using an ICBM if they develop or acquire such a capability. The United States is thus counting on the interrelationship between strategic defensive and offensive arms to which the New START preambular language alludes to undermine the threats posed by countries capable of deploying only limited numbers of strategic offensive arms against the United States, its forces, its allies, and its partners.
To reiterate, this interrelationship is an objective reality that undergirds U.S. policy toward rogue states (and still undergirds U.S. policy toward Russia, albeit in a different way). It’s Arms Control 101. I guess Doug Feith only remembers what he learned in that class when Republicans are President.
For more information on the New START treaty and missile defense, check out our handy fact sheet over at the mothership.