Foreign Policy says the State Department has announced that the US no longer feels bound to fulfill “its obligations under the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty with respect to Russia, in retaliation for Russia’s 2007 decision to stop honoring that treaty altogether.”
“This announcement in the CFE Treaty’s implementation group comes after the United States and NATO allies have tried over the past four years to find a diplomatic solution following Russia’s decision in 2007 to cease implementation with respect to all other 29 CFE States,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. “Since then, Russia has refused to accept inspections and ceased to provide information to other CFE Treaty parties on its military forces, as required by the treaty.”
Foggy Bottom left the door open to a Russian return to the treaty. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said “We will resume full treaty implementation regarding Russia, if Russia resumes implementation of its treaty obligations. The United States remains firmly committed to revitalizing conventional arms control in Europe.”
But in the meantime Washington will stop sharing military data with Russia to punish them. So there. The Washington Post says “The United States said Tuesday it will stop providing data to Russia on non-nuclear military forces in Europe, a sign the Obama administration is growing frustrated at the pace of arms control negotiations with Moscow.” Nuland expressed the hope this pressure would spur Russia to return to the pact. However, Foreign Policy quotes sources which believe it is too little, too late.
Critics on Capitol Hill said that the State Department’s move is not likely to convince Russia to come back to the negotiating table or resume fulfilling its treaty obligations.
“The Obama administration has adopted a limited countermeasure that is too late and too weak…. Since Russia refuses to end its occupation of Georgia, there is little point in attempting to bring it back into compliance with its obligations under the CFE Treaty,” a senior GOP Senate aide told The Cable.
“Moreover, the Obama decision to continue to provide U.S. data to all other CFE Parties does not mirror Russian data denial to all parties, nor will it be effective, since Moscow will likely obtain data from several CFE parties provided by the United States. Such a move undermines effective efforts to answer noncompliance of the CFE Treaty particularly, and shows the extent to which the Obama administration lacks a credible policy in Europe.”
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with a ‘reset button,’ however the Russian-language label had the wrong word, and read ‘overcharged’ instead of ‘reset.’
As if that were not enough President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday that Russia would deploy missiles and withdraw from the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty if the US continued with plans for a missile-defense system in Europe. “I have set the task to the armed forces to develop measures for disabling missile-defense data and control systems.”
He said new Russian strategic ballistic missiles “will be equipped with advanced missile defense penetration systems and new highly effective warheads,” and he reiterated Russia’s warning that it would deploy tactical missiles to the western enclave of Kaliningrad, which borders Poland.
But it was Medvedev’s comments about the New START treaty, put into effect this year, that suggested a darkening tone in what has been a drumbeat of warnings out of Moscow in recent days over the plans for a missile-defense system based in Europe.
“In the case of unfavorable development of the situation, Russia reserves the right to discontinue further steps in the field of disarmament and arms control,” Medvedev said in a televised address from his residence outside Moscow. “Given the intrinsic link between strategic offensive and defensive arms, conditions for our withdrawal from the New START treaty could also arise.”
As this was taking place the budget wrangles on Capitol Hill threaten to cut the Defense budget by hundreds of billions. Foreign Policy’s Dov Zakheim says the failure of the supercommittee to come to an agreement on deficit reduction means that US defense spending will be automatically cut. “Leon Panetta has warned that, as a result of impending across-the-board reductions mandated by sequestration, the Pentagon stands to absorb a $550 billion cut over the next 10 years.” To the White House, Zakheim writes, the Defense Budget is just a chip in a political game.
The sequester does not actually take effect until the beginning of Fiscal Year 2013, that is, Oct. 1, 2012. Congress could exempt defense from the sequester any time before that date; if it does so sometime next spring, the Defense Department would have ample time to revise its FY 2013 submission with an amendment that would restore any cuts inserted into that submission in anticipation of the sequester.
Why then, has Panetta warned of gloom and doom if the sequester were to pass? Precisely because the president wishes to keep his hands clean of all cuts, and yet wants to go ahead with them, come what may. Obama has already threatened to veto any legislation that would do exactly what Panetta and his colleagues had done two decades ago. In other words, were the Congress to exempt Defense from the sequester, the president would be prepared to veto that exemption, even though doing so would, in Panetta’s words to Sensators McCain and Graham, “after ten years of these cuts, we would have the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915, and the smallest Air Force in its history.”
Since the secretary is a team player, he must live within the constraints set by the White House. He cannot anticipate that any congressional attempt to exempt defense from the vice of sequestration might succeed. Instead, he has to take the president’s veto threat at face value. Accordingly, the Defense Department must therefore go through its laborious planning, programming and budgeting exercise on the assumption that the sequester will hold. But doing so does more than distort the allocation of budget resources by limiting procurement as well as military construction. It also sends an immediate and terrible message to friends and allies.
The threatened cuts also send a terrible message to Russia. ‘It says if you don’t destroy American missile defense then we will as part of our Class Warfare.’ Of course the President’s supporters will claim that he is not serious about his threats. Of course the Russians know he is a joke too and that’s the problem; but they’re not sophisticated in the way the Hope and Change people are. Or maybe the Russians know the real punchline and the Hope and Change people haven’t figured it out yet.
But whether he is bluffing or not, for the first time in two decades, President Obama is facing an open challenge from Russia in Europe at a time when China is expanding in the South China Sea, the Middle East is aflame and EU is threatening to collapse in a heap of matchsticks. President Obama’s bungled attempts at ‘engagement’ and ‘grand bargains’ and ‘resets’ while oozing weakness at every pore may have made the world a much more dangerous place. All over the world, history is on the march again. At least we know the President stands ready to lead from behind.
One of El Marco’s photos of Zucotti Park captures the spirit of putting politics first, last and every time. The peace which has lasted through 3 generations of men may have led some to believe that it is natural state of events. One day they’ll discover that it was an exceptional heritage which through the stupidity, greed, shortsightedness and vanity of present leaders has been cast away without a thought.