Service Chiefs Fear for Missile Defenses: Deal with Russia Could Blunt U.S. Edge, General Says

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Gen. Ronald Fogleman, the Air Force chief of staff, says the military service chiefs are worried that an agreement being negotiated with Russia could impose harmful restrictions on future U.S. missile defenses as part of a side agreement to a U.S.-Russian defense treaty.

"All the chiefs have great concerns about this," Gen. Fogleman told The Washington Times. "I would hate to see us negotiate away any kind of advantage we might have in space-based sensors, or in the airborne laser or anything like that."

Two senior State Department officials held talks in Moscow last week about concessions the Russians are seeking on U.S. regional missile defenses that would pave the way for a side agreement expanding the terms of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty to cover short-range missile defenses, Clinton administration officials said.

The ABM treaty limits strategic defenses against long-range missiles. The Clinton administration has been trying to expand the pact in contentious talks with Russia for the past four years.

Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott arrived in Moscow Thusrday to join up with Undersecretary of State Lynn Davis. They held pre-summit talks with Russian officials focusing on expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, arms control issues related to the Russian ratification of the START II treaty, changes to the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty and the so-called ABM theater missile defense demarcation accord, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. delegation returned Friday, but a State Department official said everything discussed is being kept secret.

Gen. Fogelman said in an interview before the talks that the service chiefs have "parochial concerns" that the agreement will restrict individual systems. Navy officials worry it could end up restricting the ship-based "theaterwide" regional missile defense, and the Army is concerned about limits on the speed of anti-missile interceptors that could hamper Army defenses now under development, he said aboard his C-20 jet en route from Florida to Washington.

Asked why there is an apparent administration rush to expand the ABM treaty, even though several future regional defense systems have been declared in compliance with the pact, Gen. Fogelman said: "Quite frankly, in all the discussions that the chiefs have had, the greater concern is just that. …