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November 24, 2011
Notes from the Pentagon

The Obama administration’s arms-control-centered security policies appear to be on the ropes.

The latest blow was the threat announced Wednesday by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to deploy new missiles targeting U.S. facilities and allies in Europe, including plans for placing advanced Iskander short-range missiles in the Russian Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.

The Russian president announced a series of military countermeasures to the ongoing deployment of the Obama administration’s European phased missile defense.

That threat came a day after the State Department announced that Russian violations of the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty had led the U.S. government to end data sharing - but not pull out of the failed treaty.

The Russian saber-rattling also followed the administration’s recent concession in missile defense talks that was aimed at concluding an agreement with Moscow by offering to share highly sensitive velocity data on the crown jewel of U.S. missile defense - the SM-3 high-speed anti-missile interceptor.

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Moscow also is in jeopardy because of Russian insistence, repeated in the Medvedev statement, that offensive arms cuts and missile defenses are “intrinsically linked,” something the U.S. government has rejected. U.S. officials have insisted instead that the treaty will not constrain U.S. anti-missile defenses.

U.S. officials closely involved in arms control policies said Mr. Medvedev’s statement signals that Moscow is preparing to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, that banned short-range ballistic and cruise missiles beginning in the late 1980s.

“Their countermeasures to [European Phased Adaptive Approach missile defense] clearly envision the need to do that, as they have publicly threatened to do in the past,” said one official.

Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said in response to the Russian statement that U.S. missile defenses pose no threat to Russia or its forces. The missile defense plan is aimed at “addressing the growing missile threat from Iran,” he said.

“We have been addressing Russia’s concerns through an intensive dialogue and detailed briefings at senior levels. The U.S. and NATO have welcomed Russia to participate in missile defense cooperation. This is the best way for Russia to receive transparency and assurances that missile defense is not a threat,” he said.

Apparently, the administration has failed to see that Russia is not interested in arms control, only constraining U.S. and allied defenses.

Said the U.S. official: “Just days after the administration’s effort to further answer Muscovite concerns through the provision of our crown jewels - the velocity of our interceptors - was made public, we see Russia threaten NATO allies. These are the same Kremlin autocrats to whom the data would be given.”

“This administration’s disarmament diplomacy has gotten us nothing in Syria or in Iran, where Russia is blocking crippling sanctions on behalf of proliferators and state sponsors of terrorism,” the official said. “If these people can find the reset button, maybe they can also find the pause button. Most of us would press eject.”

Former White House national security official Aaron Friedberg, now with Princeton University, took on America’s China policy elite this week during a conference at the American Enterprise Institute. The former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney spoke about his new book, “A Contest for Supremacy,” about the geopolitical struggle between the United States and China.

The book says China is too important to be left to the China hands, criticism that miffed many China affairs specialists in government and academia.

“I submit to you, that if you look at the work of the China hands, they don’t do what I actually do in the book, which is identify the [Chinese] authors of each of the various pieces I cite so that the reader can evaluate and weigh the significance of the statements that they make.”

“If you read the books of well-known [American] China specialists, they are slinging quotes around very freely and don’t usually tell you that the people they are quoting, for example, are liberal professors in international relations at Peking University who happen to agree with them.”

Mr. Friedberg said China’s strategy remains opaque. But Beijing appears set on three strategic goals: Avoid confrontation; build comprehensive national power; and advance incrementally.

One overriding objective of China’s rulers remains clear, however: Keep the Communist Party in power.

That has translated into Chinese policies that Mr. Friedberg describe in the book as “they want to make the world safe for authoritarianism.”

“What I meant was they want to make East Asia safe for a CCP-ruled China, which I think means they think they have to assert control over their environment,” he said. “They feel threatened by democracies encroaching on them. They don’t want democratic states that can infect their body politic.”

Mr. Friedberg said communist ideology still matters in China. Marxism appears to have been jettisoned for state capitalism, but China’s regime remains “Leninist to the core,” he said.

China's military, he said, also is playing a larger role in decision making that in the past, although it remains a “Party army” and is unlikely to seize power from civilian communist leaders.

Active duty military leaders in recent months have issued veiled threats against the United States over military activities near China.

Mr. Friedberg said a U.S. official downplayed the threats and told him the PLA reigns in military hawks. But Mr. Friedberg said that none of the hard-line military commentators are chastised, demoted or had their careers otherwise limited, a sign they have high-level backing.

Another troubling sign of growing Chinese military influence is the fact that all students in China beginning in 2001 and now reaching primary school levels receive militaristic training in school on the PLA as a way of “shaping the debate,” Mr. Friedberg said.

“So I actually think we may be in for a bumpy ride,” he said.

Rep. J. Randy Forbes is stepping up efforts to try to prevent sensitive U.S. avionics technology from being sent to China's military through a joint venture between General Electric and the Aviation Industry Corp. of China, known as AVIC.

Mr. Forbes disclosed n a second letter to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta sent Friday that the Defense Intellgience Agency (DIA) recently expressed concerns in a classified report about China aircraft makers giving civilian technology to the military.

The DIA article remains classified. But Mr. Forbes asked the defense secretary to read the Oct. 7 piece. He provided its title, which carries an unmistakable assertion: “Civilian Aircraft Industry Likely to Transfer Foreign Technology to Military.”

“Please state if the conclusions of this briefing have any impact on the Department of Defense’s intentions regarding a review of the GE-AVIC joint venture,” Mr. Forbes said.

“Additionally, please state upon review of the DIA article that you reaffirm that it ‘remains the policy of the U.S. government to deny exports to any Chinese military end-users or associated end-uses.’ “

Mr. Forbes wrote the second letter after Michele A. Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, wrote back to the congressman and sought to play down the potential national security drawbacks to the GE-AVIC aviation technology deal.

Ms. Flournoy stated that GE briefed the Defense Technology Security Administration three times on GE’s Integrated Modular Avionics (IMA) technology transfer to China.

“IMA is a serial high-speed databus solution, defined by a commercial standard,” she said. “Although the advantages associated with this technology (reduction in weight, size and power consumption) certainly have military use, they are also beneficial for civilian aircraft.”

Mr. Forbe responded: “My primary concerns are for the potential foreign use of technology initially developed under Department of Defense contracts with American taxpayer funding, the continued superiority of the U.S. military, and ultimately, the future national security of the United States.”

He again asked Mr. Panetta whether a formal national security review will be done into whether technology from the venture could bolster China's military.

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