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A Ballistic Missile Defense Arms Race

There are several methods of dealing with interceptor missiles -- from generating radio noise and coating missile surfaces with reflecting materials to deploying interceptor killers near Russian borders and undertaking preventive destruction of anti-missile defenses.
By Andrei Kislyakov
UPI Outside View Commentator
Moscow (UPI) Oct 03, 2006
If December full-scale tests of interceptor missiles by the United States are successful, they will mark a watershed in today's contradictory history of strategic missile defense. Is there a danger in this? There is. Lieutenant-General Henry Obering, director of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, said the December tests would attempt an actual capture of a target rocket in outer space. He described the coming firing as a final stage in the testing.

So should the December test be a success, the program will have no other option but to deploy ground- and space-based elements in full. It is also clear that this will put an end to haranguing about the future of missile defense, and set the ball rolling for opposition to the American initiative.

At the end of last year Yury Solomonov, director-general of one of Russia's key defense plants -- the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology -- said that new Russian missile and nuclear systems would provide an adequate response to the American anti-missile program and the resultant deployment of ground-based anti-missile weapons in Eastern Europe and of strike systems in outer space.

"I can say with full responsibility that everything being done in the world in this area was taken care of in advance when we developed our Topol-M (SS-27) and Bulava missile systems. The Topol-M design incorporates some entirely novel ideas. They have increased its survivability tenfold. For the next 10 years it will have no rivals. The missile has a uniquely short boost phase, which rules out its interception when the engine is firing," he said.

At the end of September, Vladimir Belous, leading researcher with the Center for International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said Russia intended to thoroughly modernize its strategic missiles. "Russia's first step in producing an asymmetric response to the deployment of an American anti-missile system near its borders will be to shorten the boost phase of the missile when its engines are firing full blast and giving off a lot of heat," he told journalists.

At present, he said, the boost phase lasts about five minutes. "It is enough to spot a missile launch from space, which takes 45 to 50 seconds. Experts estimate that if the burning time is cut to 130 seconds, the possibility of kinetic interceptors hitting the missile will be reduced to a minimum," he said.

Belous added there are several methods of dealing with interceptor missiles -- from generating radio noise and coating missile surfaces with reflecting materials to deploying interceptor killers near Russian borders and undertaking preventive destruction of anti-missile defenses.

All that fills one with pride for the Russian armed forces, but doesn't it amount to a fresh spiral in a missile-nuclear buildup with all ensuing military, political and economic consequences, plus preventive techniques? Besides, many other countries in addition to Russia are not elated about the American missile system.

China, for example. The American program simply wipes out the Chinese potential. Looming behind China is the nuclear India. It is not inconceivable that the Chinese leadership, like the U.S.S.R. in its day, and to a certain extent Russia now, may take the road of building up its nuclear forces by massively deploying multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles. If this is not a potential full-scale nuclear arms race, what else is it? And who is interested in it?

Andrei Kislyakov is a military commentator for the RIA Novosti news agency. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti.

United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interest of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.

Source: United Press International

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