Moscow (AFP) April 27, 2007
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday warned that US plans to deploy an anti-missile system in eastern Europe sharply increase the danger of mutual destruction.
In comments laden with Cold War imagery, the Kremlin leader accused the United States of misrepresenting the true aim of the limited missile shield, which is to be based in NATO members Czech Republic and Poland.
"The threat of causing mutual damage and even destruction increases many times," Putin said after a meeting with Czech President Vaclav Klaus in Moscow, Interfax and ITAR-TASS news agencies reported.
He scorned Washington's claim that the role of the US interceptor missiles would be to shoot down missiles from countries such as Iran or North Korea, rather than from Russia.
"Neither terrorists, whom they are preparing to defend against, nor Iran, nor North Korea have such a system," Putin said. "To talk of terrorists is simply hilarious. They use other methods."
Moscow's opposition to the US deployment is steadily hardening, fuelling East-West tensions already heightened over differences on independence for Kosovo, Putin's record on democracy, and Russian energy export policies.
On Thursday, Putin stunned Western capitals when he announced suspension of Moscow's participation in the Soviet-era Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which imposes strict limits on troop deployments across the continent.
Putin said this was in response to the planned US missile shield.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) called for clarification on Friday. The alliance's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, expressed "grave concern," saying the CFE treaty was "one of the cornerstones of European security."
The Pentagon insists the anti-missile system would defend against one-off threats and could have no effect against Russia's enormous nuclear missile arsenal.
But Putin also dismissed this Friday, saying the range of the system would extend to the Ural mountains, covering the entire European section of Russia.
"These systems will control Russian territory up to the Urals if we do not take counter measures -- and we will."
In another Cold War echo, Putin compared the US anti-missile deployment to the stationing of Pershing II ballistic nuclear missiles in West Germany in the 1980s, a step that caused heated debate within NATO.
"The threat is absolutely the same," Putin said. "This new element fundamentally changes the European security system."
Washington accuses Moscow of artificially ratching up tension, saying that the proposed system could make no impact on Russia's military potential. Western analysts say that the Kremlin hopes to use the issue to divide the NATO alliance.
On Thursday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice complained that Russia was applying Cold War logic to the missile defence issue and described accusations that the system was directed at Moscow as "ludicrous."
U.S. missile shield expansion may trigger new arms race - expert
In January, the U.S. announced plans to deploy a radar facility in the Czech Republic and a missile base in Poland to counter possible attacks from Iran or North Korea, whose nuclear programs have provoked serious international concerns. Moscow has strongly opposed the U.S. plans, saying they would threaten Russia's security and destroy the strategic balance of forces in Europe.
Sergei Rogov, head of the Institute of the U.S. and Canadian Studies, said that today strategic stability in the world is maintained by treaties limiting strategic offensive weapons and banning strategic missile defenses, which are due to expire in the near future.
"START I strategic arms reduction treaty will expire in two years. START II treaty will die without even coming into force and the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty will expire in six years," Rogov said. "Eventually, for the first time in 40 years Russia and the United States will have no treaties limiting offensive and defensive weapons. This would mean a game without rules."
START II that followed START I, although ratified, has never been activated. In June 2002 Russia withdrew from START II shortly after the United States withdrew from the ABM Treaty. According to the START II treaty signed in 1993, the sides should have reduced their strategic arms arsenals by two thirds by 2003 against January 1993 levels.
Russia and the U.S. signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) in May 2002, envisioning a reduction in the nuclear arsenals of each side to 1,700-2,200 by the end of 2012.
Rogov said that under such conditions the U.S. deployment of its missile shield in the world basically means that the country has begun a process, which has no restrictions and which "Americans will use to achieve absolute military superiority or, in other words, it would lead to a new arms race."
The expert said that against all this background U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates' visit to Moscow this week was extremely important, as "Americans understood that it is necessary to negotiate instead of presenting Russia with a fait accompli."
Gates, on his first visit to Russia in his new capacity, said Monday Washington was not ready to sign a long-term strategic or offensive arms limitation deal with Moscow. He also said the West should not be expected to ratify the adapted Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, a critical arms control deal in Europe, until Russia pulls its troops out from ex-Soviet republics, namely Georgia and Moldova.
Rogov also said that since the end of the Cold War no principle changes have taken place in Russian and U.S. relations in the nuclear sector.
"We are still hostages of mutual nuclear intimidation," he said adding that both countries still have a huge nuclear potential, which is unnecessary when the countries are really partners on the international arena.
The expert said that both countries have come close to a threshold, when relations between Russia and the United States could become confrontational.
"We are on the brink of a new 'Cold War' if one looks closely at our [Russian-U.S.] present day relations," he said adding that if the situation did not change, negative tendencies in relations between both countries will continue to develop.
"I do not rule out that at the 2008 presidential elections in the United States both Republicans and Democrats may bring forward a thesis on the need for a Russia containment policy," Rogov said.
Anti-ballistic missiles: menace and myth
To start with, Moscow's reaction does not seem quite appropriate. It is obvious enough that the deployment of U.S. ABM components in Poland and the Czech Republic does not present any threat to the Russian strategic nuclear forces so far.
It is common knowledge that ballistic missile trajectories are not straight lines on a map. They fly over the globe in a big arc. Thus, an ICBM launched from northwestern Iran towards New York or Washington will fly over Azerbaijan and Georgia, the Russian Black Sea coast of the Caucasus, the Sea of Azov, eastern and central Ukraine, Belarus, northeastern Poland, the southern Baltics, southern Sweden, Denmark, the North Sea, the Orkneys, the Atlantic Ocean, and between Newfoundland and mainland Canada. The American ground-based interceptors (GBIs) are designed to hit their targets head-on, and for this reason it makes sense to deploy them in Poland. This will make it easier for the GBIs to destroy enemy ICBMs because the angle between interceptor and target will be slight or even zero, lowering requirements for the former's speed and range (the targets themselves would approach the GBIs).
At the same time, the trajectories of any missiles flying from Russia to the United States (and vice versa) pass over the Arctic. Let's assume the impossible - a Russian first strike on the United States. In that case, north-bound Russian ICBMs would of course be launched earlier than GBIs. The ABM facility in Poland would then have to detect them, calculate their trajectories and launch interceptors to the northeast to catch them from behind. But GBIs have neither the speed nor range to do this. The further to the east the ICBMs start, the more useless GBIs based in Poland would be. The interceptors are supposed to have characteristics similar to the missiles they are meant to destroy. Their speed is about the same. This does not matter when the two missiles are meant to collide head-on, but to overtake a speeding missile, an interceptor must travel several times faster than it. For this reason, the current version of the GBI does not pose a threat even to Russian ICBMs based in the European part of the country, to say nothing of the Urals and Siberia. And of course, the European ABM system is powerless against Russian ballistic-missile submarines. Moreover, Poland is going to accept only 10 GBIs, a figure which pales into insignificance when compared to the Russian strategic nuclear forces. In any case, the American strategic ABM system can hardly be said to exist because many of the GBI tests have failed. On top of all that, bulky radars and GBI launch pads are highly vulnerable to conventional tactical weapons, cruise missiles and front-line aviation.
Some experts believe that the radar that the Americans are planning to deploy in the Czech Republic is much more dangerous for Russia than the GBIs in Poland. It will cover the country's territory up to the Urals. Its mission is to detect missile launches and feed this information to the anti-missile systems. However, as I have explained above, such systems do not actually exist.
To sum up, the threat posed by the American ABM system to be deployed in eastern Europe is imaginary. The only bizarre point is that the threat of Iranian ICBMs to the United States is even more far-fetched. Up to this day, the U.S., Russia, and China have been the only countries capable of building their own ICBMs. Iran cannot even cope with producing medium-range missiles. Its technological level will not allow it to build nuclear-tipped ICBMs even in the distant future. Even if we assume that Iran obtains such missiles somehow, why would it wish to attack the United States? For all the peculiarities of the Iranian regime, there are no grounds to think that it consists of suicidal fanatics. It is perfectly obvious that a single strike against the United States would cause, quite legally, a massive retaliation that would completely destroy Iran. There are no goals for which the Iranian leaders would pay such a price. It is hard to believe that Washington does not understand this, and in this context its desire to seek protection against Iran seems very strange.
There are five explanations of why the United States wants to have an ABM system in eastern Europe, and none are mutually exclusive:
1. After 9/11, American leaders and society as a whole became so paranoid that they want to counter even mythical threats to national security.
2. The Pentagon's budget has become so big that to keep it at this level or make it even bigger, the Defense Department and the military-industrial complex are presenting mythical threats as real, demonstrating at the same time their concern for the security of the U.S. taxpayer.
3. U.S. military and political leaders believe that in the (albeit remote) future, they will develop their ABM system to the level where it would pose a threat to the Russian strategic nuclear forces; now it is important to gain a foothold by deploying useless GBIs.
4. Washington wants to repeat its successful strategy of the 1980s, when it compelled Moscow to spend huge sums of money to counter a mythical threat. Almost a quarter-century has passed since the United States first announced Star Wars, but for all of its gigantic economic, technological and scientific potential, America has managed to produce almost nothing of what it announced then. It was very easy to understand then that the supposed ABM program was a pipe dream, but the intellectual level of the Soviet elite had dropped so much by that point that it was simply unable to adequately assess the situation. Nobody in America was ever going to make any combat lasers, but Moscow feverishly rushed to parry the threat just to realize shortly afterward that it could not cope with it either economically or technologically.
Under Mikhail Gorbachev, Russia began "perestroika and acceleration," and only after we dropped out of the race from exhaustion did we go for "the new thinking," with the end that we all know. Today, Washington may well try to at least exhaust Russia with another arms race, if not cause its complete disintegration in the wake of the Soviet collapse. At the same time, the U.S. will unite the rapidly decaying NATO alliance and save its combat potential in the face of "the new threat from the East."
5. The final possibility is that America does not care much about either Russia or Iran. Rather, it knows that NATO has no future and wants to create a new security system that would be smaller but more coherent. The system should involve those countries that are truly loyal to Washington. The deployment of ABM components is a loyalty test.
As I have already said, one explanation does not rule out another. I am almost sure that the truth is a combination of several, if not all versions. This is why Moscow is on the horns of a dilemma: should it rush to beef up its armed forces, thinking about the third explanation, or should it pretend that nothing is happening for fear of being trapped by the fourth?
But these two courses are not mutually exclusive. Russia must not only build up its armed forces; it must largely start building them from scratch. If it adopts a serious strategy for military development that reflects real threats and challenges and ways of responding to them, Russia will even be able to deal with the third option - if it becomes a reality.
The author is the head of the analytical department at the Institute of Political and Military Analysis.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
Source: Agence France-Presse
Source: RIA Novosti
Email This ArticleSouth Korea To Explore Peace Summit To End Korean War
Seoul (AFP) April 29, 2007
A South Korean presidential aide will visit the United States next month to explore the idea of holding a peace summit to try and finally bring an official end to the 1950s Korean war, a news report said Sunday. Lee Hae-Chan, a former prime minister and special political advisor to President Roh Moo-Hyun, will embark on a 10-day trip to the US on May 10 for talks on holding a four-way peace summit, Yonhap news agency said.
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