Rep. Markey Urges Bush to Focus on Cooperative Arms Limits

WASHINGTON, DC -- Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee and the founder and co-chair of the House Bipartisan Task Force on Non-Proliferation, today urged President Bush to abandon his destabilizing plans to station missile defense systems in Eastern Europe, arguing that the proposal threatens to undermine numerous important arms control treaties. Rep. Markey’s warning came as President Bush attempted to allay Russian President Putin’s concerns over the U.S. plans during the Group of Eight meeting in Heiligendamm, Germany. According to reports, President Putin indicated a new willingness to negotiate over the placement of missile-warning radar, but did not back down from his fierce opposition to placing interceptor missiles in Poland.

“A couple of faulty, untrustworthy interceptors intended to knock down missiles that don’t even exist are not worth a resurgent arms race with Russia. We won the Cold War already, why would we be rushing headlong back into another one?” said Rep. Markey. “The President needs to understand the reality on the ground: the Russians feel threatened by his proposal because they believe that missile defenses in Europe could fundamentally undercut their nuclear deterrent.”

Russia has threatened several actions in response to the missile defense plans, including withdrawing or halting compliance with vital arms control treaties. In a startling move last April, President Putin froze Russia’s commitments under the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which limits the numbers of main battle tanks, heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters which can be deployed in Europe. Russian military officials have also threatened to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which in 1987 eliminated all ground-launched nuclear ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges from 500-5,500 kilometers. Finally, Russian officials have warned that the long-planned Joint Data Exchange Center, which would allow the U.S. and Russia to share real-time missile tracking data to avoid missile launch false-alarms, could be permanently derailed if the anti-missile system goes forward.

Rep. Markey concluded, “We should be aggressively pursuing further arms reductions, as well as trust-building projects such as the Joint Data Exchange Center, which would dramatically improve U.S. strategic security. Instead, the Bush Administration is spending billions on a ground-based missile defense system that doesn’t work, and in the process is throwing incredibly valuable arms control agreements into the dustbin.”

The Bush administration has also announced its intention to allow the 1991 START treaty, under which the United States and Russia have the crucial ability to make on-site inspections to verify the agreement’s limitations on strategic warheads, to expire in 2009.

June 7, 2007

CONTACT: Jessica Schafer