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Common European Missile Defense: Cooperation or Confrontation? (Part I)

22-11-2011, 14:00

 

 

The positions which Washington and the NATO headquarters in Brussels adopted at the consultations on a joint Russia-USA/NATO European ballistic missile defense (BMD) system have recently drawn a new round of criticisms from the Russian military-political leadership. Such stances on the current state of the consultations was expressed by Russia's President and Armed Forces Supreme Commander-in-Chief Dmitry Medvedev, Premier Vladimir Putin, diplomacy chief Sergei Lavrov, and defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov.

Speaking to the media at the APEC summit in Honolulu on November 14, President Medvedev described positively the record of his negotiations with US President Barack Obama over the past three years, cited as serious progress the New START and the deal which removed obstacles to Russia's WTO membership, but stressed that the US plan for the European missile defense remains an unresolved issue. «I am happy with my talks with Barack Obama, the talks this year, and last year, and over the whole three years of our relations. We both mentioned this yesterday. We have some results we can be proud of, I think. They include the New START Treaty, our agreements on the WTO, and agreements on many other issues too. Overall, we have developed decent relations that have produced some useful results for us and for the whole world.  As for missile defence, this is indeed a much more complicated issue....

Unfortunately, we have not reached any agreements in this area yet, and we are not very clear about our partners’ proposals here. I think we will soon finalise a clear line of reaction our country will take with respect to the various issues related to European missile defence. I already set out my views on this issue ... but I think I will soon take the time to give a more detailed outline of what response Russia will take to developments on European missile defence, both now and after 2015», said President Medvedev.

It was not a sirendipity that Medvedev's made reference to 2015.  It reflected the fact that by 2015 the Pentagon plans to produce 905 ballistic missile interceptors, as it was stated in a report delivered by the US Missile Defense Agency director LTG Patrick J. O'Reilly's to the US Congress. After this timeframe the process of the US and NATO European BMD deployment in direct proximity of the Russian borders is expected to get a powerfull boost thereafter.

Bilateral consultations on missile defense between Moscow and Washington and multilateral debates in the NATO-Russia Council held so far, along with the explanations given on various occasions by US President Barack Obama and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, left no doubt that the US and other NATO countries with missile defense capabilities have no desire to see Russia as an equal partner in what could otherwise become the most ambitious joint project over the entire history of the Russia-US and Russia-NATO relations. Russia has been invited to share its information and assistance in implementing a US missile defense striking capabilities' pattern where Moscow will be fully denied to take part in a decision making process to launch interceptors against countries whose name is unknown (Iran and North Korea are the only two explicitly named potential ¨adversaries¨ mentioned in the list of 30 countries).

The key motive behind the leading Western nations' refusal to involve Russia into the ballistic missile defense shield project is that the multi-layered and widely fielded US and NATO BMD system in Europe, with its first phase having been practically completed by now, is aimed at the Russian national interests and intended to erode the effectiveness of   Russia's nuclear deterrent.

A number of Western analysts appear to be sharing of the same views. According to a report released in September, 2011 by the Federation of American Scientists, the US/NATO BMD system in Europe will seriously effect the bulk of the Russian nuclear arsenal in case of 20 per cent effectiveness and its largest portion in case of 100 per cent effectiveness. At the same time, even if  the US global BMD system is used partially,  the Chinese and Indian strategic nuclear arsenals will be fully devaluated. It may also make a negative impact on a global strategic equation.

Such a scenario has a substantial significance in the light when neither Washington, nor NATO Headquarters in Brussels have not given to Russia any written and legally binding guarantees on non-use of their unfolded BMD system in Europe, and when they openly state that they would never give them.

Moreover, with the aim to discredit Russia's capabilities in its BMD sphere and to use propaganda red hearing to cover up their BMD schemes, Washington and Brussels have popped up a thesis that Russian BMD means, allegedly, are not able to take part in creating a joint BMD shield at all, because Moscow has not reached the respective technological level with the Western nations' capabilities to intercept incoming ballistic missiles.  But if Russia is not able to allocate any BMD means into a joint European BMD project, then, why the leading NATO member-states need to invite Moscow to join in?

Meanwhile, by ignoring Russia's concerns over enhancing the US BMD assets in Europe,  Washington continues to reach agreements on deployment of a joint BMD components or elaboration of separate elements of cooperation with other states, draw new partners into the orbit of the missile defense initiative on a bilateral basis.

As of today, 28 countries in and outside of NATO have been involved in varying proportions in implementing such a programme. Five top NATO countries – Great Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy – are engaged in the process of refining the mechanisms of practical interoperability in missile defense with the US. The increasingly global program relies on the heavily upgraded early-warning radars sited in Great Britain, Denmark, and Norway, which used to maintain a watch over the USSR and later switched to Russia surveillance. The US penned agreements with Spain, Poland, and Romania to deploy striking ground-based interceptors and with Turkey – to site the missile defense radars. Washington is currently courting Ukraine with an eye to attracting it to the European BMD program, while Georgia is bidding for a construction of a US missile-tracking radar on its soil.

In contrast, Russia does not deploy its missile defense forces to areas adjacent to the US, and Moscow made it clear a number of times at the highest level that such steps would not be taken in the future.

On the other hand, the US, however, will roll out the second phase of its ¨European Phased Adaptive Approach¨ missile defense plan in 2012. Notably, already this year the program has acquired a naval dimension as Aegis-class ships docked near Europe's shores and equipped with advanced-version interceptors able to hunt down 3,000-5,000 kilometers range ballistic missiles.  It is indicative of the drift in Washington's priorities that, as announced in the US Congress by the Missile Defense Agency director, 436 of the 905 SM-3 Block 1A and 1 B interceptors  (48% of the total) will be sea-based by 2015. The number will further rise by a factor of several within the next four years and, as our projections show, their share in the overall balance will therefore jump to 65-70%. The US fleet of Aegis-class ships which currently comprises 22 cruisers and destroyers carrying SM-3 interceptors (6 cruisers plus 16 destroyers) will count 43 ships by 2018 and over 80 – in the more distant future. The dynamics will substantially reinforce the global character of the US military might.

 

(To be continued)

 

www.strategic-culture.org

The opinion of the author may not coincide with the position of editorial

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