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Herb London
Herb London
Herbert I. London worked as the president of Hudson Institute and professor emeritus of New York University. He is the author of Decade of Denial (Lexington Books, 2001) and America's Secular Challenge (Encounter Books, 2008).


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Giving Nuclear Secrets Away Preemptively

Jan. 25, 2012 2:08 pm
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While public opinion polls suggest a majority of Americans support President Obama’s foreign policy, it would seem most adherents are ignorant of the failures in almost every corner of the globe, from Iraq to Egypt, from the Hindu Kush to the Urals. One of the first blunders was to renounce the agreement with Poland and the Czech Republic on missile defense in order to satisfy Russian leaders. The president has asserted he has “reset” the relationship with Putin and friends.

Unfortunately, the reset button is stuck on U.S. accommodations without reciprocal Russian concessions. Most recently the president told Congress that he is prepared to share U.S. missile defense secrets with Russia. In the president’s signing statement for the 2012 defense authorization bill, it was noted that restrictions aimed at protecting top secret technical data on U.S. Standard Missile-3, which includes velocity burnout parameters, will be given to Russian authorities.

What this means, in effect, is that the effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear deterrent has been compromised since it is now easier for Russian technicians to counter U.S. missiles. Security officials are also concerned that Russia could share this secret data with China and rogue states such as Iran and North Korea in an effort to defeat U.S. missile defenses.

State Department officials contend that providing this SM-3 data as part of the inert missile defense talks with Moscow will yield concessions. This theory is often attributed to Ellen Tauscher, an outspoken critic of missile defense. Presumably, if the Russians have this data, it will allay fears that missile defenses in Europe would be employed to thwart Russian ICBMs.

It is noteworthy that Section 1227 of the defense law prohibits spending any funds for Russian access to sensitive missile technology without contacting Congress with a full report on the revelations. The president must also certify to Congress that Russia will not share secrets with other states and that it will not help Russia “develop counter measures to U.S. defenses.” Mr. Obama contends these restrictions are “non-binding.”

In fact, he relies on his position as commander in chief to maintain that there should not be any interference with the president’s constitutional authority to conduct foreign affairs.

Needless to say, there are Republicans in the House of Representatives who regard President Obama’s stance as dangerous. But it is consistent with the president’s ideological position that the sharing of nuclear secrets will ultimately make the globe a more stable place and may be the catalyst for the adoption of the “zero option.” Of course, what the president either overlooks or ignores is that a system of openness yields a disproportionate benefit for cheaters. Our vulnerability does not necessarily mean other states will cooperate. It is indeed far more likely that rogue states will use the data provided to counter the effectiveness of missile defenses and make the U.S. more vulnerable to attack than it is at the moment.

Alas, Ms. Tauscher wants a deal. State Department officials often believe a deal is a sign of success. However, this deal is fraught with danger. Giving secrets of this kind to an enemy, at least a potential enemy, challenges common sense and may even challenge the president’s constitutional authority. President Obama has chosen to override Congressional limitations based on his faith in Russian compliance. Yet it should have been clear from the manner in which the president was outfoxed on the cancellation of radar deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic that Russia knows how to play chess while the U.S. is committed to checkers.

The bear is more dangerous than the eagle, especially when the eagle preemptively refuses to employ its talons.

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