Washington, DC — With representatives of the Bush Administration preparing to finalize the agenda for the upcoming G-8 Summit in St. Petersburg, Senate Democrats today sent the following letter to President Bush, urging him to ensure that pending Russian military sales to Iran and the Iranian nuclear weapons program be added to the G-8 agenda.
The text of the letter, signed by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, Senator Joe Biden, Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Carl Levin, Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee, is below.
May 8, 2006
The White House
Dear Mr. President:
As you know, representatives from our government will meet with officials from the G-8 member states on Tuesday to discuss the agenda for the upcoming G-8 Summit to be held in St. Petersburg in July. With global energy security as the theme for this year’s summit, we trust you will ensure that Russia’s planned military sales to Iran will be on the agenda. These weapons sales will almost certainly contribute to further unrest in the Middle East, which could lead to even greater pressure on global energy markets. Both developments would be at odds with U.S. national security interests.
We understand that the Russian Government intends to proceed with the sale of 29 Tor M1 mobile air defense missile systems, which reportedly will give the Iranians the capability to destroy incoming aircraft and cruise missiles. This sale is apparently part of a broader defense agreement between Russia and Iran to provide Tehran with MIG fighters, long range defense systems, patrol boats and tanks. Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of international terrorism and appears to be actively pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Iran’s President has threatened the United States and has said that Israel should be “wiped off the map.” Iran neither needs nor deserves state-of-the-art weapons that could one day be used against our allies.
Furthermore, the situation in the Middle East is already fragile. Other members of the G-8 should not be taking moves to increase tensions in the region. Beyond the obvious national security consequences, the sale will undoubtedly lead to higher energy prices. As recent events in the Middle East have demonstrated, oil markets are dangerously susceptible to price spikes on signs of instability. We have written to you on numerous occasions regarding the steps your Administration could take to improve America’s energy posture and, thereby, provide relief from high energy prices to American consumers. Speaking with the Russians at the G-8 directly and openly about their military relationship with Iran is yet another tangible step that could yield some positive results for America’s energy security, national security, and ultimately, to American consumers. In short, we find it difficult to conceive of a summit addressing energy security that does not directly take into account the pending Russian military sales to Iran.
Previous expressions of concern by Administration officials regarding the Russian-Iranian military relationship have done little to slow the pending arms transfers. In fact, a senior Russian official recently said: “There are no circumstances that would obstruct the fulfillment of our obligations in military-technical cooperation with Iran.” Mr. President, the Kremlin’s backsliding on democracy and interference with the energy supplies of its neighbors has raised serious concerns about Russia’s direction ahead of this year’s G-8 Summit. But your attendance at the Summit could still be beneficial if you use the power of your office to persuade the Russians to cancel these arms transfers. All G-8 member states, not only the United States, have an interest in seeing that this sale be stopped and they should welcome this subject being added to the agenda. We also hope you will use the meeting to urge Russia to join us and the other members of the G-8 in pressing Iran to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons and in taking effective steps toward that goal.
We look forward to hearing from you and receiving an update from Administration officials on the progress they have made in bringing these issues into the framework of the G-8 agenda.
Harry Reid – Democratic Leader
Joe Biden – Ranking Member – Foreign Relations Committee
Carl Levin – Ranking Member – Armed Services Committee