TheUnited States has announced that it would be prepared to share ‘secret data’ with Russia regarding Washington’s missile defence plans.
Although there has been no specific information as to what this ‘secret data’ could constitute, some reports in mid-March have hinted that it could relate to the speed of the Raytheon RIM-161 SM-3 Block-IIA surface-to-air missiles which are to form the strike element of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) joint-US/NATO missile defence initiative.
Negotiations between the United States and Russia over the implementation of the EPAA initiative are continuing. Moscow has made its concerns regarding the EPAA clear, alleging that it could blunt the power of the countries’ nuclear arsenal, and upset the strategic nuclear balance existing between theUnited States and Russia.
The US, on the other hand, has denied that the system is being implemented to defend against Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons, instead stressing that its purpose is to intercept ballistic missiles launched by Iran, Syria orNorth Korea.
Whether the provision of any classified data will allay Russian concerns remains to be seen. Moreover, President Barack Obama is in the middle of a re-election campaign. A decision to provide classified information to Russia could play into the hands of his Republican critics who may accuse him of being ‘too soft’ in his dealings with Moscow.
Should such an initiative move forward, Washington would be no doubt keen to ensure that robust safeguards are in place to ensure that any information relating to the SM-3’s performance does not end up in the wrong hands. This is a serious concern, given the defence relationships that Russia maintains with Syria, Iran and North Korea.