Belmont Club

VBO

Even as the Russia and the Western allies face off over Syria and its ally Iran, with all the appearance of being rivals, or even enemies,  the Administration is pursuing an agreement with Moscow to help defend Europe against missiles launched by its ally — Iran. In March of this year Reuters reported:

The Obama administration is leaving open the possibility of giving Moscow certain secret data on U.S. interceptor missiles due to help protect Europe from any Iranian missile strike.

Ruslan Pukhov of the Moscow Times explains why America needs something from Russia. “Unlike the United States, Russia continues to improve and develop its limited missile defense system, which is permitted under the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The country’s missile defense capability consists of the A-135 missile defense system based in the Moscow region. The system includes a powerful radar system and 68 deployed 53T6 short-range missile interceptors that are armed with nuclear warheads. ” More importantly, Russia continued to build up its radar systems.

As a result of these measures, Russia will have a powerful and advanced missile-attack early warning system in a few years — a system that is geographically close to the countries that Washington believes could launch an attack against the United States or its allies. This means that the United States could be interested in some form of cooperation with Russia — at the very least, on missile launch early warning systems.

So the Russians proposed a deal. Tell us how your interceptors work and we’ll let you know when the Iranians are coming. The administration was willing to consider it. But today the obstructive Republican controlled House voted to prevent the Administration from “sharing classified information about U.S. missile defense technology with Russia”.

According to the Reuters report, the Russians sought very specific data on the velocity of American interceptors, notably a parameter named VBO.

No decision has been made yet on whether the United States would offer data about the interceptors’ “velocity at burnout,” or VBO, said Air Force Lieutenant Colonel April Cunningham, the spokeswoman, but it is not being ruled out.

VBO is at the heart of what Russia wants as the price for its cooperation, said Riki Ellison, head of the private Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, who has close ties to missile defense and military officials.

VBO tells how fast an interceptor is going when its rocket-booster motor fuel is spent and the motor burns out.

With VBO and certain other technical data, Moscow could more readily develop countermeasures and strategies to defeat the system and transfer the information to others, Ellison said.

In putting forward the ban on information transfer, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) explained that “he proposed it as a reaction to the hot-mic conversation between President Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in which he said he would have more flexibility on the issue of U.S. involvement in European missile defense after the November election”.

Democrats let the amendment go without a fight, although Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) said he saw it as harmless given the unlikelihood that Obama would share classified information with Russia.

“We don’t have any problem with this amendment,” Dicks said. “I would be very surprised if the administration would give any classified information to the Russian government.”

Of course the President would never do that. Earlier this year, there was concern over a similar issue — “a series of intelligence leaks to the press in recent weeks, culminating with a New York Times story published last week that detailed a covert U.S. cyberattack against Iran, in which anonymous U.S. officials were cited as sources. Members of Congress have also condemned other recent stories about Obama’s ‘kill list,’ the expanded U.S. drone program and a double agent in Yemen.”

This culminated in the appointment by Eric Holder of two US attorneys to investigate the possible leakage of state secrets. But President Obama hotly contested allegations that his administration was releasing national security information for political advantage.

“The notion that the White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive, it’s wrong, and people, I think, need to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me approach this office,” he said.

“We are dealing with issues that can touch on the safety and security of the American people — our families or our military or our allies — and so we don’t play with that.”

And with that assurance the nation can rest easy.


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