Lawmakers: When Did Defense Nominee Know of Alleged Moscow Treaty Breach?

Global Security Newswire Staff
Feb. 21, 2014, 5:22 a.m.

An Obama nom­in­ee to a seni­or Pentagon post will have to an­swer ques­tions next week on his know­ledge of al­leged Rus­si­an vi­ol­a­tions of an arms con­trol pact.

Bri­an McK­eon has been nom­in­ated to the po­s­i­tion of prin­cip­al deputy un­der­sec­ret­ary of De­fense for policy. In the buildup to next week’s Sen­ate con­firm­a­tion hear­ing, two Re­pub­lic­an law­makers have writ­ten to the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, de­mand­ing to know wheth­er the cur­rent Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Coun­cil chief of staff was aware back in 2010 that Rus­sia was sus­pec­ted of vi­ol­at­ing a nuc­le­ar-forces re­duc­tion pact, the Daily Beast re­por­ted.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion re­cently ac­know­ledged hav­ing con­cerns that Rus­sia is in breach of the 1987 In­ter­me­di­ate-Range Nuc­le­ar Forces Treaty, though it has yet to form­ally ac­cuse Mo­scow of any vi­ol­a­tion. The ap­par­ent source of con­cern is Rus­si­an test­ing of a new ground-launched cruise mis­sile, dat­ing back to 2008. The agree­ment pro­hib­its Rus­sia and the United States from pro­du­cing, stock­pil­ing or test­ing any cruise or bal­list­ic mis­siles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles.

In their let­ter, Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee mem­bers Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Ro­ger Wick­er (R-Miss.) de­man­ded to know wheth­er McK­eon was aware of the al­leged treaty breach at the time when he was act­ing as a key White House rep­res­ent­at­ive on Cap­it­ol Hill dur­ing the push to se­cure Sen­ate rat­i­fic­a­tion of the New START treaty, ac­cord­ing to the news pub­lic­a­tion.

“Based on your role as Vice Pres­id­ent [Joe] Biden’s lead ne­go­ti­at­or on the New START treaty and as one of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s primary li­ais­ons with the Sen­ate dur­ing the New START rat­i­fic­a­tion pro­cess, we are in­ter­ested in what you knew about po­ten­tial vi­ol­a­tions of the INF treaty and what in­form­a­tion was shared with the Sen­ate,” the two sen­at­ors said.

Wick­er and Ayotte also want an­swers on why it took the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion so many years to up­date Con­gress on its con­cerns about pos­sible treaty trans­gres­sions by Mo­scow.

“If the ad­min­is­tra­tion knew about po­ten­tial vi­ol­a­tions dur­ing con­sid­er­a­tion of the treaty and did not fully in­form the Sen­ate of these vi­ol­a­tions while it de­bated New START, this would rep­res­ent a ser­i­ous ab­rog­a­tion of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­spons­ib­il­it­ies,” states the let­ter, which was viewed by the Daily Beast.

A Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee aide told the news web­site that McK­eon’s pos­sible know­ledge of pur­por­ted Rus­si­an treaty vi­ol­a­tions could sty­mie his con­firm­a­tion.

“It is not yet clear wheth­er the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s fail­ure to in­form the Sen­ate dur­ing [New START] treaty con­sid­er­a­tion was be­cause of neg­li­gence or a de­lib­er­ate act of bad faith,” the com­mit­tee staffer said.

Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Coun­cil spokes­wo­man Caitlyn Hay­den op­ted not to re­spond to re­quests for com­ment on the GOP let­ter.

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