Sunday, October 16, 2011


Russia's response to US missile defense plans

Oct 15, 2011 17:21 Moscow Time
© Collage: "The Voice of Russia"
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US Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul said during his address to Congress this week that Washington will not sign any agreements to the effect that the American missile defense project is not directed against Russia. Russia got the message and is preparing an appropriate response.

Mr.McFaul's statements reduced to zero the dwindling hopes for a diplomatic move at talks between the US and Russia. The US ambassador de facto accused Russia of political blackmail and made it clear that talks on missile defense had reached a deadlock over the position of Moscow. Russia's position is simple and clear. Moscow wants legal guarantees that the US missile defense shield is not directed against it. The tone of the US ambassador was fairly tough. Experts explain this by a strong political pressure on the Obama administration when it comes to Russia-related issues.

Russia did set the US an ultimatum but only after years of unsuccessful talks on missile defense cooperation. Moscow warned Washington that it would not cut down its tactical nuclear arsenals before the two sides reached consensus on the missile umbrella. The Obama administration insists that the issue concerning tactical nuclear reductions should be included in the next round of disarmament talks. In its turn, Moscow requires Washington to provide legal guarantees that the US missile defense elements pose no threat to Russia.

In September 2009, the US administration chose to give up its original plan of deploying a missile defense bases in the Czech Republic and Poland. Until 2015, Washington expects to make do with anti-missiles on ships. Nevertheless, the US does plan missile defense bases in Eastern Europe after 2015. During the Lisbon summit last year, President Dmitry Medvedev suggested a common missile defense system with two areas of responsibility. NATO ignored the proposal saying that talks on the issue would continue and that the planned missile defense shield would guarantee protection against missile threats from Iran and North Korea. While missile defense talks are in progress, Washington signs agreements on the deployment of missile defense elements with Romania and Turkey. A tracking system may soon appear in Georgia and US ships with anti-missiles may soon be deployed in Spain. The new US ambassador to Russia made it crystal clear that Washington would continue to build its missile defense system, with or without Russia.

Russia is currently working to produce an adequate response. The Kremlin has said that it has a plan of action and is hoping to resolve the conflict "in a simple but efficient manner".  A Voice of Russia correspondent met with Viktor Litovkin, editor of Independent Military Review journal.

"Contemporary nuclear missile deterrent consists of strategic ballistic missiles and these missiles which Russia possess have capacity to penetrate foreign missile defenses, so Russia has long had a response to US missile defense plans. And Russia is going farther than that. Russia's missile manufacturers are working to modernize the country's ballistic missiles, so by the time the US missile defense system grows to pose a threat to Russia's strategic nuclear forces, Moscow will have enough potential to neutralize it."

Director of Russia's International Security Center Alexei Arbatov believes that Moscow has nothing to worry about as Russia's missile defense technology is years ahead as compared to US analogues.

"Russia's missile defense systems launched over the past decade were designed to outstrip any systems which the US would plan to create in Europe in 10 years time. Russia's current response to the US missile defense plans is a political tactic in light of stalemated talks. In fact, it prepared this response years ago."

One of the options in response to US missile defense plans which Moscow announced several years was the deployment of Iskander missiles in Russia's Kaliningrad Region. Vladimir Yevseev of the Public and Political Research Center says there are other options as well.

"Russia could ramp up its striking potential through boosting the production of strategic missiles, first and foremost, the RS-24 Yars intercontinental missiles.       RS-24 is an upgraded version of the Topol-M, which can carry up to 10 independently targetable warheads. Also, Russia will step up efforts to bring the Bulava-30 sea-based missile into service at an early date. At present, Russia has at least two submarines capable of carrying missiles. And apart from that, the government has resolved to build an air and space defense system."

President Medvedev repeatedly warned the US that it would have to reach a compromise on missile defense or face a new arms race. Washington's unwillingness to respond in the positive is easy to understand if we recall the Cold War period in relations with the Soviet Union which guaranteed huge financial injections into the American military-industrial complex. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the recently proclaimed reset stripped the US of the "life-giving" influx of military orders. As a result, Washington faced mortgage bubbles, a financial meltdown and an Arab Spring on the streets of New York. Many politicians, particularly among the Republicans, are looking for an external enemy to rescue the US economy from lack of military orders and reinstalling both ordinary Americans and those in power in their comfortable, trouble-free existence. But these games are bound to fall through.

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