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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Courts Russia On Defense Shield

WASHINGTON — To win Russia's cooperation in scrapping the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty, the Bush administration is preparing a broad offer of arms purchases, military aid and joint antimissile exercises, according to senior administration strategists.

Officials said the proposals are likely to include an offer to buy Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missile systems that could be integrated into a defensive shield over Russia and Europe.

Some proposals have been sketched out to Russian officials, and the full plan is to be presented in conjunction with the first meeting between U.S. President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin, on June 16 in Slovenia.

Other proposals build on ideas considered during the first Bush administration and pushed, unsuccessfully, when Bill Clinton was president. Those include offers to hold joint exercises in future years to identify and shoot down attacking warheads, to provide money for Russia's decaying radar system and to share early-warning data.

The administration has not elaborated on its plans publicly.

But in an interview last week, Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser, explained the broader context of the administration's objective: "We want to convince the Russians that it is in their best interest to move beyond the ABM Treaty and to develop a new relationship with us."

Bush finds himself in the position of needing Putin's agreement to dispense with the ABM Treaty — both to defuse strong European objections to the military plans and to satisfy Congress, where Senate committees overseeing military and foreign affairs are about to come under Democratic control.

The evolving strategy is in strong contrast to that of the administration's early weeks, when Bush and his national security aides said they were preparing to speed ahead alone to undo the treaty.

But Bush's plan faces many obstacles — in Moscow, here in Washington and in foreign capitals, especially Beijing. The offers to Russia, for example, may be insufficient for Putin or the military bureaucracy he must control, a bureaucracy the administration is trying to steer around.

Most details of the administration's proposals have not been presented to Moscow, though hints were floated in meetings earlier this month. One administration official said that there was "zero indication" of a response, but added that "we hope to have cooperative proposals — on missile defense, on nuclear reductions and on a broader relationship — by the middle of the summer."

Bush's task has been greatly complicated by the defection of Senator James Jeffords of Vermont from the Republican Party, and the subsequent loss of Republican control of the Senate. The Democratic senators likely to take over as chairmen of the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees are wary of Bush's plans, and have expressed a determined opposition to a unilateral withdrawal from the missile treaty.

So, one senior White House official acknowledged, "if we are going to make this work, the Russians have to agree to the plan."

Even a limited alliance with Moscow on missile defense would almost certainly raise fears among Chinese leaders that they were being frozen out and that the system was being designed to contain their modest nuclear force. Putin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin have themselves begun talking about cooperation to counter growing U.S. military and economic power around the globe.

White House officials say that over time, they might also be willing to share some technology with Beijing.

The administration's ideas were first outlined to Russian officials earlier this month in Moscow by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Stephen Hadley, the deputy national security adviser.

Ultimately, the administration's inducements may include nonmilitary matters. For example, the White House is already discussing economic aid or help in developing legal and commercial systems that would make Russia more attractive to foreign investors.

Some elements of the military offers — including joint exercises and improvement of Russia's early warning radar — are not new, but the earlier reactions were mixed. For example, when Boris Yeltsin and the elder George Bush were presidents, in 1992, they considered joint antimissile exercises.

Clinton worked vigorously to strike a "grand bargain" with Russia in strategic nuclear affairs that envisioned a new security architecture that would have reduced nuclear warheads, possibly amended the ABM Treaty and deployed a limited missile defense.

Bush, administration officials said, will use the June 16 meeting with Putin to get acquainted, and serious discussions are not expected to begin until the two leaders meet again the following month in Italy at the annual economic gathering of industrialized nations. By then the administration hopes to have a list of initiatives in hand. But one senior official warned that "the hardest thing to put on any list" would be joint research and development, "given their own proliferation practices."

"We wouldn't be confident that the technology would stop with the Russians," he added.

Bush hopes to play to Putin's political needs by arguing that Russia and the United States are equally vulnerable to small rogue states and terrorists.

Among the threats that worry Russia are the proliferation of missiles and the threat of biological, chemical and eventually nuclear weapons along its southern border. But Russia itself has a vigorous conventional arms-export program to earn foreign currency.

And a senior administration official conceded that before deep cooperation is possible, "we would have to have serious discussions with the Russians" about their behavior when it comes to proliferation.

The proposal to upgrade Russia's radars plays to the fact that early warning systems are the vanguard and vanity of any military — and Russia's are in disrepair. Earlier this month, for example, a fire at one relay station temporarily blinded four Russian satellites.

To the American side, the most attractive Russian system is the S-300 surface-to-air missile, also called the SA-10. It is designed to intercept and destroy fast-moving bombers, cruise missiles and some less-advanced short- and medium-range missiles. Analysts liken the S-300 to the American Patriot missile, which was used during the Persian Gulf War.

But both the Patriot and the S-300 are of variable accuracy, and integrating the S-300 into a missile shield would do little to quiet critics who say the technology for a guaranteed shield is far away.

Russia has also been trying to upgrade the S-300 to the S-400, which would have a range of 125 to 400 kilometers and could be guided by a Russian-designed radar.

According to a report by the Federation of American Scientists, the ability of the S-400 is just within the limits defined by the ABM Treaty, which restricts the range of interceptor missiles fielded by both sides. If Bush can persuade Russia to scrap the treaty, those limits would be eliminated.

"The Russians have some very good technologies," said a senior administration official. "There is no reason why our missile defense effort should not benefit from those, especially if we are going to do it cooperatively."

The more difficult diplomatic challenge may be dealing with China.

Already Chinese officials have viewed Bush's proposal for a missile shield as an effort to neutralize Beijing's comparatively small nuclear arsenal. They have been alarmed at suggestions that a mobile regional missile system, based on American ships, would be used to protect Taiwan. The Chinese have tried to join forces with Russia in arguing that such an American system would lead to an arms race.

The White House is clearly trying to win Russia over to its side, and how that struggle turns out could affect the balance of global military power for decades. So Bush is likely to cast any missile exercises with Russia as an effort to protect it and all of Europe against "rogue states," particularly Iran and Iraq.