Now that President Obama has won re-election, national security members and aides in Congress are bracing for the president’s pre-election promise to Russian leader Dmitri Medvedev to show “more flexibility” in talks with Moscow on missile defenses and other strategic issues.
Mr. Obama was overheard during a summit meeting in Seoul in March telling Mr. Medvedev that he needed Russia to back off from applying pressure on him and his administration to make concessions in missile-defense talks on U.S. and European defenses in Europe.
The president said he needed space “particularly on missile defense” because “this is my last election ... after my election, I have more flexibility.”
Mr. Medvedev responded by telling Mr. Obama he would “transmit this information to Vladimir” — current Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The comments sparked widespread concern among House Republicans, including Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon of California, who sought answers from the White House on the issue but to date have received none.
The issue of a president making a secret assurance to a foreign leader is unprecedented. Yet no news outlet or reporter who has interviewed the president since the March comments has asked him what he meant by the secret promise of flexibility.
As guaranteed by the president, missile-defense talks with Russia have been on hold and are expected to resume in the coming weeks.
Future flexibility with Russia was outlined recently by Frank A. Rose, deputy assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance. He said in a September speech in Berlin that despite differences with Russia, missile-defense cooperation remains a presidential priority.
Mr. Rose said the administration “cannot agree” with Russian proposals to create “sectoral” or “joint” missile defenses because they that would undermine NATO defenses.
“Furthermore, we cannot accept Russia’s demand for would create limitations on our ability to develop and deploy future missile-defense systems against the evolving ballistic-missile threats presented by Iran and North Korea.”
He insisted the United States would not place “artificial limits on our ability to defend ourselves, our allies, and our partners.”
However, the administration is set to agree to a “political framework for cooperation” that would include a statement that U.S. and NATO missile defenses are not “oriented toward Russia,” he stated.
Mr. Rose said one area of growing cooperation was allowing Russia to join a regional missile-defense exercise with NATO held earlier this year.
Other “ideas and approaches for transparency” were made to Moscow as part of confidence-building measures he did not specify.
Congress recently passed legislation blocking the administration from sharing classified missile-defense data with the Russians. military lineup at the top ranks of the People’s Liberation Army.
Two new Chinese military leaders were announced Nov. 4 for the most powerful military posts in the communist system: vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission, the organ that holds ultimate political power referred to by founder Mao Zedong as “the barrel of a gun.”
Commission vice chairmen in the past almost exclusively were chosen from the army’s infantry forces.
But the new commission vice chairmen, Gen. Fan Changlong, until recently commander of the Jinan military region, and Gen. Xu Qiliang, a former air force commander, represent a major shift for the party-run People’s Liberation Army.
Gen. Fan is an artillery advocate, and Gen. Xu is an air-power specialist. It also was the first time a regional commander, Gen. Fan, was moved directly to the vice chairmanship without first spending time as one of the 12 members of the military commission.
According to state media, the appointments reflect Chinese military reform efforts aimed at shifting from traditional ground-force-dominated troops to what Beijing calls “informationized” forces that employ high-technology weapons, intelligence and other military capabilities similar to those used by the U.S. military.
Gens. Fan and Xu will be in charge of all Chinese military operations once the two men they are replacing, Gen. Guo Boxiong and Gen. Xu Caihou, leave the commission following this week’s major 18th Communist Party Congress.
The new officers are a sign China’s military forces will continue to emphasize missiles and air power. Chinese missile forces are called the 2nd Artillery Corps.
The last remaining leadership question is who will become the commission chairman. In the past, outgoing Party leader Jiang Zemin held on to the chairmanship for two years, until it eventually was taken by current chairman and party leader Hu Jintao.
Speculation from China has hinted that Mr. Hu may step down from the military commission right away, enabling party successor, current Vice President Xi Jinping, to take it without delay.
Bill Gertz can be reached at insidethering@washingtontimes. com