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BMD Rumblings from Russia

Gen. Buzhinsky's blunt warnings in his article should be seen as an initial Russian response to the NATO announcement.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Oct 19, 2006
As America's European allies become more enthusiastic about ballistic missile defense, a Russian general has issued an ominous warning. In a May 25 column in BMD Focus, we warned that the Russian reaction to the embrace of ballistic missile defense by NATO member nations in Europe, especially former Soviet satellites during the Cold War, "could raise tensions in Europe to a level they have not reached since the last great showdown in the Cold War a quarter of a century ago."

An article published in the Moscow newspaper Izvestiya on Tuesday, and written by a senior Russian general, adds weight to this concern.

According to a report of the article carried by Mosnews Wednesday, Yevgeny Buzhinsky, the head of the Russian Defense Ministry's international military cooperation department, wrote that Russia would interpret the deployment of U.S. anti-ballistic missile units "near the Russian borders" as "a real threat to our deterrent forces," the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces.

Russian leaders would "view the planned deployment of U.S. missile defense components in Eastern and Central Europe as a security threat and take retaliatory measures," Buzhinsky wrote.

"We would view that as an unfriendly gesture on behalf of the United States, some eastern European nations and NATO as a whole," he wrote. "Such actions would require taking adequate retaliatory measures of military and political character."

Ironically, Buzhinsky's article appeared only three days after the Russian Defense Ministry announced Saturday that Russia would participate in a joint missile defense exercise in the second half of October with NATO.

According to a report carried Saturday by China's official Xinhua news agency, the exercise was scheduled to start on Monday, Oct. 16 and continue for nine days until Oct. 25.

The exercise was intended to boost "joint planning and coordination procedures for Russia and NATO air defense and anti-missile command structures," the ministry was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying. It was scheduled to take place at the Fourth Central Research Institute.

The current exercise is the third of its kind. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, they "have made it possible to practice planning, organizing and conducting concerted and coordinated combat actions to respond to non-strategic ballistic missile attacks in designated areas of responsibility," according to the Xinhua report.

The exercises are clearly intended to boost transparency and maintain trust between NATO and Russia. But Gen. Buzhinsky's article sends another, more alarming message: Russian policymakers are becoming increasingly distrustful of the United States, and they appear increasingly willing to contemplate a major offensive nuclear arms build up of their own to counter the growing deployment of U.S.-built and operated BMD forces in Central Europe.

Thanks to continued very high global oil and gas prices, the Russian government has enjoyed soaring revenues and, as we have noted in BMD Focus and our sister BMD Watch columns, it has been using some of this wealth to upgrade its Strategic Rocket Forces on a scale not seen in more than 20 years.

Also, Gen. Buzhinsky's article appeared almost a month after Marshall S. Billingslea, NATO's assistant secretary-general for defense investment, announced on Sept. 18 that the 26-nation alliance had approved the construction of a $90 million BMD command and control system over the next six years, as well as an integrated test bed for the security of all its member countries.

As we noted in these columns on Sept. 21, "The sum of $90 million, or 75 million euros, is peanuts in the multi-billion dollar world of BMD acquisition and development. But the event was nonetheless a highly significant one. It followed a series of NATO feasibility studies that reported to alliance headquarters in Brussels that a BMD system to defend the alliance's European members was both desirable and feasible."

"The Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense program will put in place an inter-operable and integrated command/control center that provides individual member country's missile defense assets to be used for the common protection of NATO and her territory," the Italian AKI news agency reported at the time.

Gen. Buzhinsky's blunt warnings in his article should be seen as an initial Russian response to the NATO announcement.

As we noted in our May 25 BMD Focus column, "The development of Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs has prompted at least two major European nations to sign on more enthusiastically than ever before to the U.S. BMD program."

The Bush administration hopes to deploy at least 10 ground-based anti-ballistic missile interceptors at a base in Eastern Europe by 2010 to defend European nations from an attack by a so-called "rogue nation."

The enthusiasm of European nations, especially Poland and the Czech Republic, for BMD has soared over the past six weeks, since the successful test of a Ground-Based Midcourse Interceptor launched from Alaska in destroying a target rocket fired from California on Sept. 1.

Gen. Buzhinksy's article should be seen as an initial Russian response to that development too. But it was far from the first warning of its kind. Back in May, four star Army Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, the Russian chief of staff, warned that Russia could react in far-reaching and damaging ways against Poland if it agreed to deploy U.S. BMD systems on its territory.

"Go ahead and build that shield. You have to think, though, what will fall on your heads afterwards," Baluyevsky said. And he pointedly added, "It is understandable that countries that are part of such a shield increase their risk."

Sir Isaac Newton's Second Law of Motion teaches that every action causes an equal and opposite reaction. The zeal and success with which the Bush administration is pushing BMD deployment in Europe is setting off a Russian reaction to it that may prove to be a lot more than "equal."

earlier related report
Walker's World: Putin v. Europe
by Martin Walker
UPI Editor Emeritus Washington (UPI) Oct 18 - This weekend's Finland summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and European Union leaders was intended to be a friendly and informal affair. Instead, the Europeans are arriving with clenched teeth and narrowed eyes, increasingly suspicious of Russian behavior but fearing that their energy dependency on Russia leaves them few cards to play.

Energy is the EU's strategic concern, but human rights groups and members of the European Union and the various national parliaments have mobilized considerable pressure for the EU leaders to make clear their growing alarm at Russia's trend toward authoritarian rule.

The assassination in Moscow last week of the well-known human rights journalist Anna Politkovskaya, just before she published a new salvo on Russia's brutal war against Chechen separatists, will be high on the agenda, because so many of the journalists covering the summit in Finland's southern city of Lahti are determined to keep it there. EU Commission President Jose Barroso and Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, both vowed this week to demand answers from Putin directly over her murder.

"Putin has suggested her killers might have been out to stain his government and insists they will be punished," Solana said Tuesday in Luxembourg. However, the International Federation of Journalists says the death of Politkovskaya -- the 13th journalist slain since Putin came to power in 1999 -- illustrates a "crisis of impunity" confronting the media in Russia.

The Europeans are also deeply concerned with Russia's continued blockade of Georgia, the former Soviet Republic that makes no secret of its dream to join the EU and NATO. The European media has portrayed Russia's actions as barely-disguised bullying in defense of its own sphere of influence in the Caucasus and its determination to keep the Europeans out.

The EU's council of foreign ministers declared Tuesday: "The council expresses its grave concern at the measures adopted by the Russian Federation against Georgia and at their economic, political and humanitarian consequences."

They were also troubled by the roundups of Georgian "illegal immigrants" inside Russia for deportation, which saw one deportee die at Moscow's Domodedovo airport this week, and urged Russia "not to pursue measures targeting Georgians in the Russian Federation."

Russian Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov raised European hackles when he dismissed EU concerns, warning that President Putin would not be happy to get human rights lectures from EU leaders in Finland "when our ethnic Russian people are being treated as non-citizens in Estonia and Latvia."

The Baltic states are currently being visited for the first time by Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, who is attracting huge crowds as a symbol of their new identity as members of both the EU and NATO, after decades of Soviet rule. Chizhov, who seemed irritated by the royal visit, also suggested that Russians needed no lessons in democracy from an EU which had its own failings, including Britain's second parliamentary chamber, the unelected House of Lords.

Behind these headline issues of human rights and Russia's apparent turn away from democracy, the EU's deepest worry is that Russia intends to use its new oil wealth and its near-dominance over Europe's gas taps to drive a very hard bargain for its oil and exports. Russia has refused to ratify the international energy charter and its transit protocol it signed in 1991, which would require Russia to open its pipelines for the transit of natural gas from Central Asia to Europe.

The Putin administration made state control over its energy assets and the pipelines into a top priority, clamping down on Western and private oil companies to ensure that state-owned energy giants like Gazprom dominate the industry in Russia. Deals that were reached in the 1990s, when Russia was poorer and had more need of Western expertise, are being forced into renegotiation on Russian terms.

The clampdown on Georgia is also related to oil, since the new Western-financed pipeline through Georgia that carries Azerbaijan's oil from the Caspian basin is one of the few leaks in Russia's control of the pipelines.

Putin has bluntly refused to ratify the charter, saying it "does not accord with our national interest," even though EU leaders at the G8 summit in St Petersburg this summer warned that fulfillment of the charter would be "a test of Russia's integrity."

Putin has also sought to use the oil weapon in ways that would divide the EU, reaching a deal with former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to build a pipeline under the Baltic that would feed Russian gas to Germany directly, without going through Poland and Ukraine and thus not allowing them any transit control. Schroeder later took a highly-paying job with the Russian-led consortium, outraging Poland.

Earlier this month, Putin tried to use this divide-and-rule tactic again, offering Germany unique access to the new Shtokman gas field, having already ruled out the expected participation of Russian and French energy groups. This time, under Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany spurned the Russian offer, instead signing an energy pact with France that commits both countries to seek a single market of EU-wide contracts in a balanced energy relationship with Russia.

At some point a deal is likely, under which the Europeans will get pipeline and exploitation rights in Russian energy, in return for which Russia gets the rights to buy into European energy companies, including the retail gas and oil suppliers. In effect, this means allowing EU companies to go upstream in Russia, while Russia goes downstream into the EU.

But it will take a great deal of hard negotiation, and probably a lot of rhetoric -- but little action -- over human rights and Russia's authoritarian drift, to get there. In the long run, however, the cynical Russians who advise Putin are probably right to say that when the winters get cold, the EU will put their energy supplies above their concern for human rights.

Source: United Press International

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