Obama administration may send U.S.-Russia arms treaty to Congress by late April

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Obama administration plans to send the new arms-control treaty package with Russia to Congress by the end of April, hoping for ratification by year's end, officials said Monday as they laid out details of the proposed agreement.

Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said that work was still being done in Geneva on the treaty, including details on inspections and exchanges of data.

Despite the administration's hopes for Senate ratification this year, several Republican senators have expressed concern about moving too quickly on a vote.

Tauscher said the United States and Russia are working on "unilateral statements" that each side would attach to the treaty. The statements would become part of the package reviewed by the Senate and Russian Duma before ratification. Such statements, including some attached by both countries' legislative bodies, have no effect on the treaty itself but can be useful in solving issues outside of the treaty.

For example, in 1991 the Soviets attached a unilateral statement to the START I treaty that Moscow would be able to withdraw if it deemed that the U.S. missile defense program upset strategic stability. In response, the United States put together its own statement saying Moscow's position was without legal foundation.

Tauscher said that the new treaty would not affect the administration's plan to phase in a missile system to protect Europe and the United States against Iranian missiles. She said there "are no limits or constraint to our ability to put the phased approach forward." The plan would phase in over a 10-year period and, Tauscher said, could involve interceptor missiles deployed "over 2011 in the sea in the Mediterranean, 2015 in Romania, 2018 in Poland," and with land-based radars elsewhere.

The Russians have said they view the shields as a threat. But Tauscher called it a "limited system . . . not formed against Russia," adding that Russian missiles could "overwhelm a system like [this] in seconds."

Tauscher said the data on exchange of telemetry, the electronic signals, from testing of new missiles were less than the earlier treaty, but "over time it's been clear it's not necessary," given the new regime.

She also said that under the new treaty the United States would not have staff at the factory in Votkinsk, where Russian missiles are made. "We do not have the same kind of oversight at Votkinsk as we did," Tauscher said, but she added that inspections, data exchanges and "national technical means" -- meaning U.S. intelligence satellites -- would fill the gap.

She also said the treaty would have no effect on the United States if it decided to put a conventional warhead on either submarine-launched or ground-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles as part of the new global strike concept. That would give the United States the ability to hit a target anywhere in the world -- such as a terrorist camp -- within an hour without having to turn to the nuclear ICBM arsenal.

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