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March 27, 2014
Notes from the Pentagon

U.S. fears Russia trying to federalize Ukraine
U.S. intelligence officials say Russia plans to force Ukraine to adopt a scheme to federalize and turn its southern neighbor into a quasi-province of the Russian Federation.

Additionally, recent assessments of Moscow’s motives indicate that a large-scale military intervention to take over Ukraine is a possible plan of action.

The push for a federalized Ukraine began shortly after the March 16 vote in Crimea declaring the peninsula part of Russia. The next day, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling for a new constitution in Ukraine to create a “democratic federal state” that would have a politically-neutral military. The Russians want regional entities with broad powers that would boost the power of ethnic Russians and Russian-language speaking Ukrainians.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 18 said he did not want Ukraine divided up, but questioned its current borders, which were established after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution that incorporated Russian areas in the south and east.

A leaked Russian document developed by Moscow’s National Security Council and posted on a Ukrainian website Monday revealed that Russia plans to “integrate” all Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine, including the capital, Kiev.

“Only the full entry of the territory of the Russian regions of Ukraine, namely, Crimea, Luhansk Region, Donetsk Region, Zaporizhzhya Region, Dnipropetrovsk Region, Chernihiv Region, Sumy Region, Kharkiv Region, Kyiv Region, Kherson Region, Mykolayiv Region and Odessa Region into the Russian Federation can guarantee peace, security and prosperity for their population as well as provide reliable protection for Russia’s interests,” the document states.

U.S. officials have not confirmed the authenticity of the report, but also have not dismissed it.

The Russian report accused the U.S. of fomenting the ouster of Russian President Victor Yanukovich as the result of “many years of purposeful activities by the USA and its allies aimed at undermining the historical unity of the Russian people.”

“Based on the results of the stabilization operation, favorable conditions must be created for expanding Ukraine’s further participation in integration processes within the territory of the [Commonwealth of Independent States],” the document says.

On Capitol Hill, Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, voiced alarm at recent classified information on the buildup of Russian military forces near Ukraine.

“We are gravely concerned about the aggressive posture of Russian forces along the eastern border of Ukraine, as well as reports that Moscow may be making threatening moves towards allies in the Baltics,” Mr. McKeon and seven other members of Congress stated in a letter to President Obama.

The lawmakers said tens of thousands of Russian troops are massing near Ukraine’s eastern borders, Russian Spetsnaz special operations commando are fomenting unrest within the country, and Russian naval forces and coastal troops near Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. The three Baltic States are all members of NATO that the U.S. and Western Europe are treaty-bound to join in the event of war.

“There is deep apprehension that Moscow may invade eastern and southern Ukraine, pressing west to Transdniestria, and also seek land grabs in the Baltics,” the congressmen said.

A senior Pentagon official told Congress this week that the Obama administration has halted years of unsuccessful missile defense talks with Russia that had included numerous concessions and an offer to provide classified missile interceptor information to Moscow.

“With regard to talks with Russia on transparency and cooperation, Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in violation of international law led to the suspension of our military-to-military dialogues, including [Defense Department] civilians, and we have subsequently not continued to engage Russia on the topic of missile defense,” said M. Elaine Bunn, deputy assistant defense secretary for nuclear and missile defense policy.

At a hearing of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces Tuesday, Ms. Bunn and other officials confirmed that the administration sought to provide Russia with U.S. missile defense secrets. But the proposal met strong opposition from the military and missile defense supporters on Capitol Hill.

Ms. Bunn said the idea of giving the Russians classified information on the burnout rate for missile defense interceptors was aimed at convincing Moscow that U.S. defenses in Europe were not fast enough to hit Russian nuclear missiles and, thus, did not threaten Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent.

But that information is highly classified because it reveals the key capability of U.S. missile defenses. Knowing an interceptor’s speed would allow Russia and other adversaries to develop countermeasures to the systems, such as speeding up offensive missile boosters — thus nullifying decades of development and tens of billions of dollars in development and deployment costs.

The offer was one aspect of the administration’s “reset” policy toward Russia, which has been abandoned following Moscow’s forced annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Under questioning from Rep. Mo Brooks, Alabama Republican, Ms. Bunn said she opposes any transfer of missile secrets to Russia, based on an internal potential damage study by the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

Mr. Brooks then asked MDA Director Vice Adm. James D. Syring if an enemy would find the burnout rate data useful and whether its loss would harm U.S. national security.

“In my view, yes, and the uncertainty of where that information would go, and [it is] my firm recommendation not to release it,” Adm. Syring said.

Army Lt. Gen. David Mann, director of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command who testified with Adm. Syring, agreed that the transfer of interceptor secrets to Russia would harm U.S. security.

The consideration of disclosing key secrets to the Russians highlights what critics have said is the Obama administration’s pursuit of arms control diplomacy, despite recent evidence indicating Russia is violating nuclear arms accords.

The director of the Missile Defense Agency this week told Congress that missile threats are increasing as adversaries seek ways to defeat U.S. anti-missile systems.

“The missile defense mission is becoming more challenging as potential adversaries incorporate [ballistic missile defense] countermeasures,” Navy Vice Adm. James D. Syring said in prepared testimony to the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces. “The threat continues to grow as our potential adversaries are acquiring a greater number of ballistic missiles, increasing their range and making them more complex, survivable, reliable, and accurate.”

His remarks follow China’s Jan. 9 test of a new ultra-high-speed strike vehicle called the Wu-14 that is designed to deliver a nuclear warhead through U.S. missile defenses.

The maneuvering hypersonic strike vehicle is cutting edge military technology, and U.S. intelligence believes it is part of China’s buildup of strategic nuclear forces and delivery systems.

Adm. Syring testified Tuesday in support of his agency’s $7.5 billion budget request for missile defense in fiscal 2015, which begins Oct. 1.

Recent space-launch developments by Iran and North Korea raised concerns about both states’ efforts to hide their intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) development, he said.

Iran is likely to develop and test by next year an ICBM capable of reaching the U.S., Adm. Syring said. North Korea’s Taepodong-2 ICBM is being complemented with a new KN-08 road-mobile ICBM. And a new intermediate-range missile “capable of reaching Guam and the Aleutian Islands.”

For Iran, its increasingly sophisticated short- and medium-range missiles are becoming more accurate and are being fitted with submunition payloads, he said.

Another new Iranian missile is the Fatah-110, which has a new guidance system and can hit targets in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

Rep. Mike Rogers, Alabama Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces, criticized the Obama administration for failing to develop and maintain U.S. missile defenses at a time when missile threats are increasing.

“I believe that, today, I have to state my concerns about the threats to the U.S. and its allies that our administration has seen fit to virtually ignore,” Mr. Rogers stated during a hearing Tuesday. “Missile defense has been at the center of this administration’s catastrophic failure known as the reset with Russia, the full effects of which will be with us for at least a generation.”

President Obama has slashed missile defenses, including canceling a long-range missile defense site in Europe and killing several missile defense programs. In addition, the Ground Based Interceptor, the bulwark of continental missile defense, was not tested for five years.

“The president will propose the policies he wants,” Mr. Rogers said. “But he can’t get them funded unless we let him. For my sake, as chairman of this subcommittee, I want to make this clear: Good luck. Weakness is a choice. I choose peace through strength.”

  • Contact Bill Gertz at @BillGertz.

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