Moscow and Washington have rarely agreed on the issue of missile defense. But it doesn’t have to be that way anymore.
Today, there exists an opportunity for missile defense to help both countries counter today’s threats rather than repeat past patterns of confrontation and disagreement.
Cooperation can be difficult, but it will bring benefits to both sides. We know because cooperation in other areas is producing positive results. We are successfully implementing the New START Treaty, moving materials to and from Afghanistan and stopping drug traffickers and terrorists.
Cooperation on missile defense would be a game changer and the next step in expanding U.S.-Russia cooperation. It would give us the chance to build a true strategic partnership and help us move away from Mutually Assured Destruction toward Mutually Assured Stability.
To do so, we are not asking Russia to blindly trust us. We are offering Russia the opportunity to see with its own eyes what NATO is doing and the capabilities of its missile defense system. What Russia would see is that NATO missile defense and our European Phased Adaptive Approach contribution, is directed at regional threats—outside of Europe—and not at Russia.
Moreover, sharing data, working together on missile defense exercises, and conducting joint analyses would give Russia the opportunity to contribute to what we’re actually doing. Russia would be inside the missile defense tent, rather than outside. And that would provide a much better understanding of our capabilities, including the fact that these defenses will not undermine Russia’s large and sophisticated nuclear deterrent.
Our goal is to reach a political agreement enabling practical cooperation, but we will not negotiate a legally binding agreement that would limit U.S. missile defense capabilities. And we will not cede the protection of our NATO allies to Russia, just as Russia would not rely on NATO to defend Saint Petersburg or any other Russian city. NATO must defend NATO and Russia must defend Russia, but by working together the defenses for both can be stronger.
In addition, the United States has been transparent about our missile defense programs. We have provided Russia with a number of ideas and approaches for providing additional transparency. On top of that, we are committed to discussing other approaches to building confidence about our intentions and capabilities. For example, we have invited Russia to observe one of our Aegis SM-3 missile defense flight tests.
We understand that it takes courage to move away from old habits of confrontation. But Russia will lose nothing by joining us now. Russia can terminate cooperation at any time it chooses, although we hope that the cooperation could provide mutual benefit so that such a step would not occur.
Of course, there is still time for Russia to decide. The next deployment milestones are in 2015, 2018 and 2020. That’s more than enough time for serious cooperation.
We hope that our Russian colleagues see missile defense cooperation as an opportunity that they should seize sooner rather than later. We hope that they recognize we have no intent, desire, or capability to undermine strategic stability; that our objective is not about winning public relations points; and that cooperation is a much better approach than sticking to the previous patterns of competition.
The United States’ objective is to create lasting cooperation and move beyond old and outdated thinking. This is too important an opportunity to let it pass by.
Ellen Tauscher is a U.S. Department of State Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense. Madelyn Creedon is the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs.