Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sending a Clear Message to Russia

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul conducted an interview on Monday with RIA Novosti. This is the right person adding clarity with what I believe is the right message.

The United States will accept no limits on its missile defense plans but will work with Russia in the coming years to assuage Moscow’s concerns over the project, the U.S. envoy to Russia said.

“We are going to accept no limitations on that whatsoever because the security of our people, of our allies, is the number-one top priority,” U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul told RIA Novosti in an interview Monday.

McFaul downplayed an assurance from U.S. President Barack Obama to his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, that Washington would be more “flexible” on the missile defense issue after U.S. presidential elections next November.

Asked about the meaning of that assurance, overheard by reporters in what Obama apparently thought were private remarks to Medvedev as the two leaders met last month in South Korea, McFaul said: “It means we are going to build whatever missile defense system we need.”
This is exactly the right message to Russia, but it does raise an important question that I do not think the Obama administration has answered since changing ballistic missile defense policy towards the "Phased, Adaptive Approach.

Can the Obama administration clearly articulate what exactly is the missile defense system we need? Can his Republican Presidential challenger define exactly what missile defense system we need? Where is the clarity that guides decisions for ballistic missile defense in the Navy - the clarity that shapes the future Navy and defines what will be done with the existing force through modernization? Where is the clarity on missile defense that defines what kind of AMDR is necessary specifically because the threat is clearly articulated? This is not a trivial discussion, ballistic missile defense is shaping the entire high end of current and future surface warfare, so defining the requirement would apparently be step number one.

Regardless, a hearty well done to the administration for adding clarity to this issue. This is exactly what needed to be done.

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