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Outside View: ABM talks deadlock -- Part 2

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by Nikita Petrov
Moscow (UPI) Mar 26, 2008
Sources in the Russian Defense Ministry are very dubious about the new U.S. proposals. Off the record, they insist that all proposals brought by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Moscow this time do not change the gist of the problem.

Their aim is to alleviate Russia's grievances and show their European allies that it is impossible to come to terms with "those Russians" -- we have been offering them this and that, but they just won't agree to anything. Particularly, they want to emphasize this to those allies who are not happy about U.S. plans to defend itself with a missile shield, and leave them the role of a target for retaliation.

The same sources argue that Washington has not reduced Russia's concerns about the threat of a U.S. missile shield to the Russian nuclear deterrent in the European part, where Russia keeps about one-third of its counter-force potential.

Defense Ministry representatives note that by way of confidence building Rice and Gates have offered to let Russian officers visit the radar in the Czech Republic or the Ground Based Mid-course Interceptor site in Poland given the consent of their respective governments.

But who can guarantee that this consent will be given? Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has made the promise now, but later on he can take it back. The proposals not to target the radar at Russia or to keep interceptor missiles non-operational are pretty much the same. Anything can be promised, Russian military say.

However, the United States is not going to sign a legally binding document. Washington can re-target the radar, make missiles operational, and go on with other war preparations without looking back at Russia.

The authenticity of information about Iran possessing ballistic missiles capable of reaching targets in Europe is also dubious. Many remember how former U.S. Secretary of State Collin Powell showed in the United Nations satellite pictures of facilities with Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons.

The possession of weapons of mass destruction by the unpredictable dictator became one of the pretexts for the war against Iraq. These weapons have not been found until this day, although the war started exactly five years ago. Won't the situation repeat itself with Iranian ballistic missiles?

There are other reasons to doubt the sincerity of the U.S. partners, although some things may have got lost in translation. Before his arrival in Moscow, Gates made a trip to Turkey where he held talks with its leaders on the deployment of one more American high-frequency radar on the Anatolian Plateau capable of not only detecting foreign missile launches but also targeting its interceptor missiles at them. Russian military experts believe that in addition to the new radar, Washington may set up a base for interceptor missiles that will be really used against Iran.

The problem is that Washington has never said when it intends to stop the deployment of its missile defense system. Army General Yury Baluyevsky, chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, said with good reason at a news conference at Russia's RIA Novosti news agency last December that Washington will not stop at Poland and the Czech Republic, and that it will have missile interceptors in Norway and Britain. Now it transpires that it may deploy them in Turkey as well.

(Nikita Petrov is a military commentator for RIA Novosti. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those 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 interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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The ABM Deadlock Melamedov Version Part One
Moscow (UPI) Mar 24, 2008
There was no breakthrough on Washington's controversial missile defense plans at the recent two-day Russian-U.S. talks in Moscow in the two-plus-two format of foreign and defense ministers.

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