Comment by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova on new US National Defence Authorisation Act
We have noted that the National Defence Authorisation Act for Fiscal Year 2017, which President Barack Obama signed on December 23, just as similar documents adopted in the past years, includes numerous instructions to the Pentagon on a policy regarding Russia. For example, it reaffirms the ban on military cooperation with Russia until it is certified that “the Russian Federation has ceased its occupation of Ukrainian territory and its aggressive activities that threaten the sovereignty and territorial integrity of members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation” and “is abiding by the terms of and taking steps in support of the Minsk Protocols regarding a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.”
The persistent efforts to condition bilateral military ties on the settlement of the crisis in Ukraine are surprising. Our US partners should have long ago accepted obvious facts: the Crimeans’ decision to reunite with Russia and the deplorable situation in Ukraine are not the result of the mysterious “Russian aggression” but direct consequences of the state coup in Kiev nearly three years ago, the coup that received ideological support and was supervised by the current US administration. Instead of accusing Russia of failure to comply with the Minsk Agreements, to which Russia is not a party, Washington should rein in its Ukrainian clients, who are obviously not interested in a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Donbass.
Furthermore, it is unclear how Russia can threaten the sovereignty and territorial integrity of NATO member states, when it is our American partners and their allies who have enhanced their military activities, expanding the territory of the alliance and moving their military capabilities closer to Russian borders. It is not surprising that we have to take this into account when planning our military development.
A large section of the Act is devoted to ballistic missile defence (BMD). In the past, the US BMD system was designed to respond to limited strikes at the United States, whereas now its task is to provide “an effective, robust layered defence” against a ballistic missile threat. In other words, Washington has abandoned the tall story about a nuclear threat allegedly coming from Iran and North Korea, which it used to justify the need to deploy anti-missiles, and has clearly indicated that its plans are much broader and are designed to disrupt its nuclear parity with Russia and to achieve unilateral advantages in this strategic sphere.
However, the ban on cooperation with Russia can be waived if “the waiver is in the national security interest of the United States.” The issue concerns cooperation under arms control agreements and military operations in Afghanistan. This selective approach cannot be effective, as we have seen in Syria, where our American partners refused to maintain full-fledged counterterrorism cooperation with Russia.
Instead of joining forces to cut short the sway of all forms of extremism there, as we suggested long ago, Washington has decided to deliver military assistance to anti-government groups, which are not much different from the terrorist cutthroats. Now the new Act openly stipulates the possibility of supplying them with weapons, including portable air defence missile systems.
The Obama administration is bound to see that these weapons will soon find their way to the jihadists with whom the alleged “moderate opposition” has been acting hand in glove. Maybe that is what the United States hopes will happen, because it has been sponsoring Jabhat al-Nusra, a terrorist group and a branch of al-Qaeda. This can only be described as sponsoring terrorism.
This US decision directly threatens the aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces, other Russian military personnel and the Russian Embassy in Syria, which has been shelled more than once. This is why we view this as a hostile decision.
The Act also includes other provisions that affect Russian interests, including the groundless claims of alleged Russian violations of the INF Treaty and concerns about our compliance with the New START Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty. Most importantly, the above allegations are used as justification for the accelerated development of conventional prompt global strike weapons. In other words, Washington is publicly engaging in sabre rattling.
It is surprising that the National Defence Authorisation Act authorises the US President to impose “sanctions with respect to any foreign person the President determines” to be responsible for human rights violations. President Obama has globalised the infamous Magnitsky Act (2012), thereby dooming the United States to problems in relations not just with Russia but also with the rest of the world. It is an old foreign policy tradition of Washington to use human rights to put pressure on undesirable governments. But the new Authorisation Act has openly given the Pentagon the power to spread US-style democracy across the planet.
Overall, it appears that the Authorisation Act has been adopted by the outgoing Obama administration, which is hastily introducing new sanctions against Russia, to create problems for the incoming Trump administration and complicate its relations on the international stage, as well as to force it to adopt an anti-Russia policy. This policy has brought the current US administration, which believed that Russia would bow to pressure, into a dead end. We hope the new administration will be more sagacious.