Russia may be left without a US ambassador in the New Year, as the Senate has once again failed to approve Michael McFaul's appointment.
This time round, McFaul, known as the architect of the US – Russia reset, worried senators with his promise to share information about Washington's European missile defense shield, the Kommersant newspaper reports.
Senator Mark Kirk claimed that McFaul was planning to reveal important data on SM-3 intercept missiles, namely the speed they develop in the final stage of flight. The decision, he added, was supported by Ellen Tauscher, under-secretary for Arms Control and International Security, and Patrick O'Reilly, director of the Missile Defense Agency.
Responding to Kirk’s letter, McFaul admitted that that the White House was indeed considering the option of revealing some information on the missiles, but regarding their telemetry. This information, McFaul stressed, was intended to persuade Russian authorities that the European missiles are not aimed at Moscow, thus dissolving the atmosphere of mistrust between the two countries.
Taking McFaul’s response as a confirmation of secret negotiations, Senator Kirk, alongside with eight colleagues, called on the US president to delay McFaul’s appointment and reconsider the initiative of disclosing the classified data to the Russian authorities.
This is not the first time that the US Senate has refused to approve an ambassador to Russia. McFaul’s appointment has already been delayed twice, as the Republicans demanded a tougher stand on human rights abuse in Russia and its support of Iran, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
President Obama has the right to bypass the Senate’s veto if he appoints McFaul in December, when the Senators are on vacation.
America’s unwillingness to reveal information on its European missile defense has recently complicated the country’s relations with Russia. Despite claims that its missiles are not directed against Moscow, US authorities are refusing to sign any documents confirming its “peaceful intentions.”
“McFaul’s case could be the usual bargaining between Republicans and Democrats,” Kirill Koktysh from the Moscow State University of International Relations told RT. “Another reason is the American system would like to wait for the recent developments in Moscow, just to make sure what it is going for, because the ambassador should reflect the American position.”
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