WASHINGTON – Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, has been tapped to join a bipartisan congressional delegation headed to Moscow this weekend to discuss the “dangers of nuclear weapons proliferation” with its Russian counterparts.
Bartlett said the group will lay out the need for a U.S. ballistic-missile defense system to the Russian parliament, the Duma.
“Russian sensitivities to the (anti-ballistic missile) treaty require the United States to demonstrate its firm commitment to protect American citizens from ballistic missile attack,” Bartlett said in a prepared statement. “That’s why I’m going there this weekend.”
The delegation is scheduled to link up with former Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld and former Central Intelligence Agency Director James Woolsey in Moscow. They will meet with the Russian parliament to share warnings about the rapid proliferation of ballistic missile threats, identified last summer by a congressionally appointed commission led by Rumsfeld.
Bartlett was notified Wednesday that he had been selected for the trip, which is being led by Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa. Weldon, the chairman of a House Armed Services subcommittee, is the lead sponsor of a House resolution backing the deployment of a national missile defense system for the United States.
The trip has “been in the works for some time,” according to Weldon’s staff, and Bartlett was added recently when the size of the delegation was expanded to about 10 congressmen.
Bartlett’s spokeswoman, Lisa Wright, said the Western Maryland congressman was asked to join the delegation based on his experience as a high-ranking member of a military research and development subcommittee.
Political assassinations in Russia, International Monetary Fund aid to the country and questions about missing soldiers and prisoners of war from the Korean War will also be discussed, according to a Weldon aide.
Wright said the trip will be a rarity for Bartlett, who has not been overseas since she joined his staff in 1995. She was not able to say if he had been overseas on congressional business before that.
But the reluctant traveler “feels this is a very important mission and that both Russia and the U.S. face very real and near-term threats from rogue hostile nations who are determined to develop weapons of mass destruction,” she said.