Return to

June 12, 2014
Notes from the Pentagon

Russia accused of major treaty breach
Russia’s recent missile developments represent a “material breach” of its obligations under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a senior House Republican said Wednesday.

“There is no doubt — and I mean no doubt — that Russia’s actions transcend mere violations and constitute a material breach of this central arms control treaty,” Rep. Mike Rogers, Alabama Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces, said at a Capitol Hill defense breakfast.

The congressman did not elaborate on the “breach,” which is defined as an impermissible repudiation of a treaty or a violation of a provision essential to the treaty’s object or purpose.

U.S. officials said the main INF violation has been multiple tests since 2008 of a new cruise missile identified as the R-500, which has a range of about 1,243 miles. Another violation was the testing of the SS-27 Mod 2 intercontinental range ballistic missile to ranges banned by the INF treaty.

The Soviet-era nuclear treaty bans missiles with ranges between 500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers (between 310 miles and 3,417 miles).

Mr. Rogers said President Obama has been unwilling to report to Congress on the arms treaty violation. An annual report to Congress on treaty compliance was due March 15 and has not yet been sent from the State Department to Capitol Hill, he said.

“Depending on your calendar, we are two months or six years past when the president should have declared Russia to have broken the INF Treaty,” Mr. Rogers said. “Yet we’ve heard nothing from the president on this. We’ve heard nothing from the secretary of state [John F. Kerry], and he promised bold action in December 2012 before he was confirmed as secretary of state. We’ve heard nothing from him at all.”

Mr. Rogers said the political message sent by the administration to Moscow by failing to press for INF compliance is that the United States will not confront Russia on the violations and other belligerent behavior.

As a result, House Republicans and Democrats joined together in adding language to the current defense authorization bill declaring Russia in material breach of the treaty and that its actions must be confronted by the administration, he said.

Mr. Rogers suggested the United States should withdraw from the INF accord in order to build its own intermediate-range missiles that are needed by the military for its program known as Prompt Global Strike — a conventional attack capability that will allow hitting any location on earth within 30 minutes.

“How much longer can we accept this reality of unilateral arms control obligations and clear threats to our allies and deployed forces?” Mr. Rogers said.

A State Department official said: “We have concerns about Russian compliance with the treaty. We have raised them with Russia and are pressing for clear answers in an effort to resolve our concerns.”

The annual compliance report is expected to be “finalized” shortly, the official added.

Al Qaeda last week offered its corps of jihadists new encryption software for use on Android cellphones to avoid monitoring by intelligence agencies.

According to U.S. officials, the technical committee of the Dawn Media Center, also known as Al Fajr, the media outlet considered the highest authority for Islamists waging jihad, recently set up a website for users to obtain a mobile version of “Amn al-Mujahid,” or “Mujahid’s Security.”

The terrorist website is said to be hosted in a clandestine location in Germany and employs a 4,096-bit encryption key technology that its promoters say is the most secure encryption software available to the terrorist group.

A desktop version of Mujahid’s Security was launched last year as part of efforts to prevent the interception of al Qaeda emails — and now cellphone text messages — by intelligence services.

The increased data security followed public disclosures a year ago by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that revealed NSA’s electronic message interception capabilities.

Al Qaeda’s main website, Shumukh al Islam, announced the launch of the encryption software website on its front page, and links to the site were promoted widely on Twitter by jihadists.

Al Qaeda’s high-profile promotion of the encryption software is expected to boost its use. Since it was launched in December, Mujahid’s Security has not been widely employed, said U.S. officials familiar with online monitoring of terrorist groups.

The mobile version of the software allows users to sync encryption keys between desktop and cellphones. Al Qaeda praised the encryption software as easy to use and strong.

In its announcement, al Qaeda urged jihadists to download only trusted versions from the official website.

The website stated that the software is meant to thwart surveillance from intelligence services and showed a black-and-red graphic of President Obama along with the acronyms for major intelligence and security services from the U.S., Russia, France and Israel.

It stated “protect yourself and your brothers and encrypt your communications — the enemy is lying in wait.”

Mujahid’s Security is the second-generation al Qaeda encryption software. An earlier program, Mujahedeen Secrets, was used between 2007 and the end of last year.

The software assumes that the NSA, considered unmatched internationally for its code-breaking capabilities, will be unable to break the encryption.

The Navy’s second of four missile defense destroyers, the USS Ross, is on its way to Rota, Spain, as part of U.S. regional missile defenses in Europe.

“The U.S. European Phased Adaptive Approach is the U.S. contribution to NATO ballistic missile defense (BMD),” said Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Katie Cerezo. “Navy Aegis BMD provides a mobile missile defense option using international waters to provide defense of U.S. interests, partners and allies.”

The Ross is expected to arrive June 16 in Rota, where it will join the destroyer USS Donald Cook, the first of the missile defense warships deployed in February.

The USS Carney and USS Porter will be deployed with them over the next 18 months, Cmdr. Cerezo said.

The four destroyers are part of the Obama administration’s Phased Adaptive Approach for joint U.S.-NATO missile defenses. It replaced the George W. Bush administration’s plan to place 10 long-range anti-missile interceptors in Poland.

The plan initially called for four phases of deployment of increasingly capable defenses against missiles from Iran through 2020. However, the most capable element of the plan — Phase Four — was canceled last year. The fourth phase called for placing an improved version of the ground-based version of the SM-3 antimissile interceptor to counter longer-range missiles.

The plan was scrapped as part of the administration’s efforts to appease Moscow’s concerns that the missile defenses could be used against Russian strategic nuclear forces.

China’s military has bragged that the recent visit of a People’s Liberation Army general to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan provided important clues about the warship’s capabilities — the kind of information Congress in 2000 sought to prevent China from gaining through military exchanges with the Pentagon.

In mid-May, Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of the general staff, visited the Reagan in San Diego and the new littoral combat ship USS Coronado.

The Pentagon has said its lawyers reviewed the visit itinerary before the trip and did not regard the visit as a violation of Section 1201 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2000.

That law prohibits military exchanges with China in 12 operational areas, including “force projection operations,” an area that would appear to apply to aircraft carriers.

Several days after Gen. Fang’s carrier visit, retired Rear Adm. Zheng Ming, former head of the PLA Navy Equipment Department, told the state-run Morning News that Gen. Fang’s review of the Reagan flight deck, hangar and flight control room would provide valuable information about the carrier’s capabilities.

Congressional Republicans so far have been unwilling to hold the administration accountable for complying with the law on the military exchanges.

  • Contact Bill Gertz at @BillGertz.

  • Return to