April 23rd, 2014: I heard from Dave Parker, the spokesman to Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT). Parker informed me that the Governor’s office and state officials were not informed ahead of time.
April 9th, 2014- A Nevada ranchers kids are injured during confrontation with federal officials. (Three days after federal agents arrested the rancher’s son for protesting outside of the “First Amendment Area)
April 9th, 2014- Russians inspect Montana nuclear launch facilities. (Not reported until April 21st, 2014)
So, you mean to tell me that on the same day Clive Bundy’s kids were injured during a confrontation with federal officials in Nevada, the Russians were marching on Malmstrom? And this, in the wake of Russian actions in Crimea, Ukraine, and the continued shelter of NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
Even if the Obama Administration doesn’t think recent actions by President Putin should have brought a halt to new START (the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), it seems these inspections specifically could be brought to an immediate halt. Montana’s Congressional Delegation and state leaders should demand a halt to further visits by Russian inspectors. Were they even informed ahead of time? (Inquiries have been sent to various state officials)
Here’s an excerpt from the AP story:
The April 9 inspection — the first of its kind at Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base, according to treaty compliance chief Richard Bialczak — went ahead despite the strain between the two nuclear powers over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.
The Russian inspection teams spent 12 hours traveling to sites across central Montana to confirm that each silo’s launch doors had been removed and their launcher tubes filled with earth and gravel, Malmstrom Air Force base officials said in a statement.
The Russian inspectors could return to view 16 additional launch facilities at Malmstrom that were demolished after the inspectors departed, Air Force officials said. Eventually, all 50 of the 546th squadron’s former launch facilities will be demolished.
To add to the intrigue, the local media wasn’t informed for two weeks, apparently. In fact, the press release was first shared by The Western Word blog based in Great Falls, Montana via Twitter:
— J.M. Brown (@TheWesternWord) April 21, 2014
From the press release:
Inspectors from the Russian Federation visited Malmstrom Air Force Base on April 9 to verify that 18 demolished Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile launch facilities assigned to the 341st Missile Wing have been eliminated in accordance with the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
This confirmation will immediately reduce the number of ICBM launchers that the United States is accountable for, and bring the inventory of deployed and non-deployed launchers closer to the Treaty’s limit that must be met by February 2018.
The launch facilities inspected were formerly operated by the 564th Missile Squadron and are located within a broad complex between Choteau and Shelby, Mont.
The 341st MW was notified April 8 that Malmstrom was selected for the inspection, Bialczak said. The inspection teams and their escorts from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency arrived on base the following day at 9 a.m., and began the site inspections at approximately noon.
At each LF, the Russians used a GPS to confirm they were standing on a launcher and then walked around the site to verify the demolition had been completed. Each site only required a few minutes to check off.
Russia may choose to send another inspection team to Malmstrom within the first 30 days of this window to look at these 16 sites, thereby expediting the removal of these launchers. Otherwise, these additional sites won’t be cleared from accountability until June.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post accuses the Obama Administration of “dithering” on Ukraine while the Russians continue to escalate. Could the Obama Administration send a strong signal by cancelling any further inspections in Montana and elsewhere. Or, is it time to bring new START to a halt altogether? Michaela Dodge has this for The Heritage Foundation:
Even before the ink on the treaty was dry, experts warned that, under New START, the U.S. would have to bear the majority of nuclear reductions while Russia will be permitted to actually increase its nuclear stockpile. Time has justified these concerns, as Russia has launched the most extensive nuclear weapons modernization program since the end of the Cold War.
Over the course of the last four years, the U.S. has engaged in a unilateral reduction of its nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, Russia has violated its arms control obligations, including the Intermediate-Range Forces (INF) treaty. The loopholes within New START have provided Putin with the opportunity to build up his nuclear arsenal and, therefore, undermine one of the very purposes of New START: to provide predictability in the U.S.-Russia strategic relationship. New START’s degraded verification regime further limits insight into Moscow’s nuclear weapons build-up.