DE­FENSE FLEX­I­BIL­ITY

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

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

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