Cooperation Conundrum

By Sebastian Sprenger / June 21, 2013 at 5:24 PM

Cooperation with Russia on missile defense remains a “priority” for the Obama administration, according to Frank Rose, the deputy assistant secretary of state for space and defense policy. During a remarks at the Capitol Hill Club this morning, Rose said the U.S. government hopes to convince Russia through said cooperation that American plans for interceptor sites in Eastern Europe pose no threat to Moscow's nuclear deterrent.

Rose's speech offered few clues about what exactly cooperation would entail. In fact, in addressing U.S. opposition to previous Russian proposals that would effectively erode Washington's decision-making authority, Rose spent more time discussing roadblocks than common ground.

Russian officials have proposed dividing up the defense of NATO countries between the two former Cold War enemies, a prospect that Rose said is incompatible with NATO's bedrock policy of a common defense. Rose also rejected what he said are "legal guarantees" demanded by Russia about some of America's missile defense capabilities and how they would be used.

The emerging Senate Armed Services Committee's fiscal year 2014 defense authorization bill seems to dovetail nicely with the Obama administration's decision-making calculus on the issue. One the one hand, a committee statement on the bill said it would be "in the national security interest to pursue efforts at missile defense cooperation with Russia that would enhance our security, particularly against missile threats from Iran." On the other hand, the same section reads that the bill would “prohibit” the transfer of  "sensitive missile defense information" that could compromise U.S. national security to the Russians.