State Department: Obama's live-mic incident with Medvedev was just 'stating the obvious'

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The administration, Gottemoeller said, has worked all along with the Russians to alleviate their fears that the planned missile defense shield is not aimed at undermining their nuclear deterrent. Obama brought it up again this week when he met President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Mexico, she said, while making it “clear and unequivocal” that “in pursuing this cooperation [on missile defense] we will not in any way allow Russia to have a veto on U.S. or NATO missile defense plans.”

Administration officials also got a tongue-lashing from Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who voted for the treaty — it passed 71-26 in December 2010. Corker told the witnesses, including officials from the Defense and Energy departments, that the administration has not lived up to its commitment to spend $72.4 billion to modernize the nation's nuclear arsenal, a condition of his support for voting for the treaty, which limits strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 per side.

“I'm very disappointed in the follow-through,” he said. “I'm losing faith in your ability to carry out what was agreed to.”

Corker suggested that the administration is slow-walking the modernization efforts in order to ensure that they don't have to take place. The allegations come as the Pentagon prepares to release a report that will weigh the option of further reductions, to 1,000 strategic nuclear warheads, as Japan's Kyodo news agency first reported last week.

“I can assure there's no slow-walking going on,” answered Thomas D'Agostino, the administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. “The key, in my view, is the right investments to maintain capabilities, and that is exactly what the president has asked for.”

Democrats shot back against Republican accusations of “unilateral disarmament” by asking leading questions suggesting the nation is safer thanks to passage of the treaty. Gottemoeller, for example, said the United States has conducted 25 short-notice inspections of the Russian nuclear arsenal since the treaty was enacted and confirmed Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's (D-N.H.) statement that the United States would not have been allowed to inspect Russia's new Russian mobile missile with multiple warheads.

“It is really the best way that we can get eyes on,” Gottemoeller said, “and really that kind of confidence of what is going on.”