By Jim Wolf
WASHINGTON, March 6 (Reuters) - The Obama
administration disclosed on Tuesday that it is considering
sharing some classified U.S. data as part of an effort to allay
Russian concerns about a controversial antimissile shield.
The administration is continuing negotiations begun under
former President George W. Bush on a defense technical
cooperation agreement with Moscow that could include limited
classified data, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Brad
Roberts told a House of Representatives' Armed Services
He gave no details on the sort of data that might be shared
under such an agreement.
Russia strongly opposes the U.S.-engineered bulwark being
built in and around Europe against ballistic missiles that could
be fired by countries like Iran.
Moscow fears that such a shield could grow strong enough
over time to undermine Moscow's own nuclear deterrent force and
has threatened to deploy missiles of its own as a counter.
"We're not the first administration to seek coooperation on
missile defense," Roberts, who is responsible for nuclear and
missile defense policy, told the subcommittee on strategic
Nor is the administration the first "to believe that
cooperation could be well-served by some limited sharing of
classified information of a certain kind if the proper rules
were in place to do that," he said in reply to questions from Mo
Brooks, an Alabama Republican.
"The Bush administration headed down precisely the same
path," Roberts said.
"We're making no progress" in persuading Russia to drop its
opposition, despite the willingness to consider sharing certain
sensitive data, he added.
The Obama administration is pursuing this cooperation
because it would be in the security interests of the United
States, NATO and Russia by strengthening the defensive
capabilities of both NATO and Russia, Roberts said.
Under any such agreement, NATO would be responsible for the
defense of its member states and Russia would be responsible for
the defense of Russia, Roberts added in written testimony.
Army Lieutenant General Patrick O'Reilly, the head of the
Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, said he had no knowledge of
any move to share with Moscow any classified information on the
U.S. technology used to knock out target missiles.
"I never received a request to release classified
information to the Russians," he told the panel, testifying
Panel chairman Michael Turner said last November that he
would oppose any Obama administration effort to provide Russia
information on the so-called burnout velocity of Raytheon Co
Standard Missile-3 interceptors, a key part of the
"The House Armed Services Committee will vigorously resist
such compromise of U.S. missile defense capabilities," he said
in a speech last November.
Republicans who control the panel will back legislation that
would bar the administration from transferring classified
missile defense technology to Russia as part of any negotiations
or for any other purpose, a congressional staff member said.
(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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