U.S. Sen. Mark S. Kirk (R-Ill.) is blocking the president’s nominee to become ambassador to Russia over suspicions the U.S. will provide Russia with sensitive missile defense information. The administration says it has no plans to provide such data, but it says the assurances Kirk is seeking are so broad they would prevent any substantial cooperation on missile defense.
Kirk is holding up the nomination of Michael McFaul, a senior adviser to Obama on Russia. Kirk wants written assurances that the United States will not provide Russia with any currently classified information on the missile defense system.
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Kirk said he is particularly concerned that the administration could offer Russia data on the speed of interceptors planned for Europe in order to ease Russian fears that the system could knock out Russian ballistic missiles.
He said he also is concerned about Russia’s “record of espionage and cooperation and dialogue with Iran.” He said precise data on the interceptor speeds could help Iran evade the U.S. defenses. The U.S. insists its missile interceptors are aimed at countering a threat from Iran.
The administration says that while it is not considering such an offer, it does not want to limit its options by ruling out any exchange of sensitive information they say would be essential for any substantial missile defense cooperation.