Are the Russians at work on U.S. soil?
It’s not a conspiracy theory or a clip from “Red Dawn.” Inspectors from the Russian government secretly examined an American missile defense base in California this week as part of an arms treaty verification process, Obama administration officials told the Washington Free Beacon.
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency hosted the Russian officials at Vandenburg Air Force Base for a week-long tour of America’s ground-based interceptor missile capabilities, a defense official said.
Under the New START treaty’s conditions, the Russians are granted a single inspection of the former intercontinental ballistic missile silos to ensure that the locations are not still being used for offensive purposes.
The visit is only one component of the 2010 treaty, which also requires cuts of U.S. and Russian deployed strategic warheads to 1,550 each.
President Obama has previously spoken of his wish to achieve “global zero,” or a world without nuclear weapons. Some analysts believe he views the New START treaty as a stepping-stone to this goal.
“I don’t think there’s any belief that the Russians want ‘global zero,’” said Michael Auslin, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, during an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“What they want is, first of all, a modernized force,” he continued, “and secondly they want the United States to withdraw as many weapons as possible and to bring our operationally-deployed stockpile much lower than where it is.”
“Are we handcuffing ourselves unnecessarily because we want this ‘reset’ with Russia that has completely failed?” he asked.
While Auslin believes that the inspection was legal under America’s treaty obligations with Russia, he worried that the Russians may have gleaned valuable intelligence from the visit.
“I think it’s always an opportunity for intelligence gathering,” he said. “I think you always have to be on your guard, and you have to hope that the professionals know what they’re doing and that they take it seriously enough, which I assume they do, that they don’t want to give up any secrets.”
“I think it’s harder in a political environment where, clearly, the push is towards one-sided openness on our part,” Auslin added.
“Who knows if [American officials are] as vigilant as they would’ve been 20 years ago, because the political rush is to say ‘Hey look, we’re the good guys,’ and we’re showing our bona fides. That releases some information that we don’t want released,” he concluded.
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