Ash Carter Warns Russia On Nukes
“U.S. responses must make clear to Russia that if it does not return to compliance, our responses will make them less secure than they are today.”
By Philip Ewing
2/23/15 6:25 PM EST
Updated 2/23/15 9:43 PM EST
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN – FEBRUARY 22: U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter speaks during his question-and-answer session with U.S. military personnel at Kandahar Airfield on February 22, 2015 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Carter is making his first trip to visit troops and commanders in Afghanistan since he was sworn in. He will also meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images)
Ash Carter has quietly thrown down the gauntlet in a lingering dispute with Russia: If President Vladimir Putin continues to violate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the U.S. could respond in kind.
“The range of options we should look at from the Defense Department could include active defenses to counter intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missiles; counter-force capabilities to prevent intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missile attacks; and countervailing strike capabilities to enhance U.S. or allied forces,” Carter told senators in little-noticed written answers to follow-up questions from his confirmation hearing.
The defense secretary’s bottom line: “U.S. responses must make clear to Russia that if it does not return to compliance, our responses will make them less secure than they are today.”
Obama administration officials believe Russia began testing what they call its illegal cruise missile as long ago as 2008, predating the current crisis in Europe over Moscow’s military incursion into Ukraine. And they have accused Russia of violating the 1987 INF treaty under which the U.S. and then-Soviet Union agreed to pull back land-based missiles deployed around Europe that many feared could escalate a crisis too quickly for either side to control.
Now, with Putin still pressing into Ukraine, some members of Congress are even more eager to push back on what they see as Russia’s violations of the INF treaty. And Carter’s endorsement of new “counter-force capabilities,” following his cautious support for arming Ukraine’s government against the Russian invaders, puts him on the hawkish side of the spectrum as President Barack Obama and his advisers weigh how to resolve the standoff.