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McKeon Concerned About Missile Cutbacks

Congressman joins fellow Republicans in expressing concern about missile defense actions in Europe.

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Rep. Howard
P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) today joined U.S. Armed Services Committee
Ranking Member John M. McHugh (R-NY) and more than forty Republican
colleagues, including the top three Republicans in the House of
Representatives, to send a letter to the President of the United States
expressing concern over the Administration’s reported proposal to scrap
plans to expand the U.S. missile defense system to Europe if Russia helps
stop Iran’s development of nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles.
 

Image
Congressman Buck McKeon

 

The text of the letter follows:

 

Dear President Obama:

 

If reports are accurate, it is
our understanding that you sent a letter to Russian President Medvedev last
month suggesting your Administration would halt the development of a European
missile defense system in exchange for Russian assistance to stop Iran from
developing nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles.  We are concerned
that the Administration may be undertaking a surprisingly unilateral
action.  Though we share your strong devotion to our national security
and the security of our allies, we believe it is unwise and premature to
offer such a concession.  We urge you to clarify your
Administration’s position and respectfully caution against a policy
that relies too heavily on Russian cooperation.

 

Reports of the letter are
disconcerting for a number of reasons.  Foremost, the policy does not
adequately recognize the threat posed by Iran.  Moreover, it rests on a
questionable assumption that Russia can effectively curb Iran’s nuclear
ambitions and weakens our position in future bilateral negotiations. 
Lastly, it undermines NATO’s endorsement of the European missile
defense proposal.  In particular, it undercuts our allies—the
Czech Republic and Poland—who received bipartisan assurances that once
they approved the missile defense agreements, the U.S. would provide support
and funding.  

 

Russia’s actions,
particularly in Eastern Europe, give us little confidence that they can be
relied upon to follow through with such a commitment.  Over the last
year, as you know, Russia has pursued a divisive policy to re-exert its Soviet-era
sphere of influence.  During this time, Russia invaded Georgia,
intimidated other nations from joining NATO, and threatened to target Eastern
Europe with nuclear missiles should the proposed European missile defense
sites be built.  Further, amidst a global economic crisis, Russia has
disrupted shipments of natural gas to Europe for the second time in three
years.  Most recently, Russia used financial incentives to persuade
Kyrgyzstan to deny the U.S. access to its Manas military base in order to
support coalition operations in Afghanistan.  Given these events, we
seriously question reliance upon Russia’s support for a common approach
on Iran or missile defense. 

 

Iran has clearly indicated they
have no intention of halting their nuclear or ballistic missile programs, and
their recent actions substantiate this point.  Last month, they launched
a satellite into orbit using dual-use, long-range ballistic missile
technology.  Last weekend, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
announced that Iran has enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon. 
Two weeks ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency found that Iran
underestimated by a third how much uranium it has enriched and noted that
Iran has a total of 5,600 centrifuges—an increase from the 3,800 listed
in a November 2008 report—despite three rounds of United Nations
Security Council sanctions. 

 

Despite these developments,
Russian leaders have indicated a fundamental disagreement with the
West’s views on the threat posed by Iran.  Simply put, they
apparently do not see a threat.  Furthermore, Moscow continues to
benefit economically from its support of Iran’s nuclear program,
specifically through the Bushehr nuclear reactor it has helped Iran
build.  For all these reasons, we remain skeptical that Russia would be
in a position to halt Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions,
and cautious of a strategy that relies on that nation’s action
vis-à-vis Iran to protect us and our allies. 

 

Furthermore, we anticipate
bilateral arms control negations with Russia this year and are concerned that
any concessions promised in this regard may prejudice favorable
outcomes.  As Robert Kagan recently noted, “If Russian leaders
believe that the United States is looking for a way out... they will negotiate
accordingly.  They might ask why they should make a deal at
all.”  If Russia perceives it can gain U.S. concessions on missile
defense now, will it be more likely to demand greater concessions later in
negotiations on arms control, nonproliferation, and counter-terrorism? 

 

Lastly, as you know, the
European missile defense proposal is a NATO policy.  During last
year’s Bucharest Summit, its leaders endorsed the proposal to place 10
interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, citing its
“substantial contribution to the protection of Allies.” 
According to the studies we’ve seen, this proposal is cost-effective
and the technology, which is largely based on systems fielded today in Alaska
and California, works.  Should the United States jettison this proposal,
we risk losing our credibility both in the alliance and as a global leader in
building collective security.  In today’s complex geopolitical
environment, our relationship with our allies and friends is paramount to
addressing our mutual security concerns.  What message does it send to
our allies—specifically the Czech Republic and Poland—that the
United States may not carry out its security commitments?

 

We strongly support the goal of
preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and
believe it is in Russia’s interests to work with the international
community to achieve this goal.  However, we do not believe that
terminating the European missile defense proposal in exchange for Russian
assistance with Iran is the best course of action to meet our national
security objectives.   

 

Mr. President, in the future,
we hope you will choose consultation with the Congress and our allies instead
of unilateral action when crafting such important policy proposals. 
There is bipartisan support in Congress for European missile defense and we
look forward to the clarification of your position on this vital issue. 
As you discuss our collective security challenges with the international
community, we encourage you to send a clear, transparent, and consistent
message to our allies that we will honor our collective security
commitments. 

 

Sincerely,

 

John Boehner (OH)

Eric Cantor (VA)

Mike Pence (IN)

John M. McHugh (NY)

Michael Turner (OH)

Robert B. Aderholt (AL)

Todd Akin (MO)

Michele Bachmann (MN)

Spencer Bachus (AL)

Rob Bishop (UT)

Marsha Blackburn (TN)

Roy Blunt (MO)

Kevin Brady (TX)

Dan Burton (IN)

Mike Coffman (CO)

Mike Conaway (TX)

Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL)

Mario Diaz-Balart (FL)

Mary Fallin (OK)

John Fleming (LA)

Trent Franks (AZ)

Phil Gingrey (GA)

Louie Gohmert (TX)

Kay Granger (TX)

Jeb Hensarling (TX)

Duncan Hunter (CA)

Steve King (IA)

John Kline (MN)

Doug Lamborn (CO)

Don Manzullo (IL)

Howard P. “Buck”
McKeon (CA)

Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA)

Jeff Miller (FL)

Randy Neugebauer (TX)

Pete Olson (TX)

Joseph R. Pitts (PA)

Mike Rogers (AL)

Mike Rogers (MI)

Tom Rooney (FL)

Jim Sensenbrenner (WI)

Pete Sessions (TX)

John Shadegg (AZ)

Bill Shuster (PA)

Glenn “GT” Thompson
(PA)

Joe Wilson (SC)

Rob Wittman (VA)