RIA Novosti military correspondent
Moscow (RIA Novosti) April 10, 2007
Russian military experts are perplexed by the arguments which the U.S. political and military top brass are using to justify their decision to deploy forward-based missile defense elements in Eastern Europe.
Who would believe that a radar in the Czech Republic and 10 anti-ballistic missile interceptors in Poland pose no threat to Russia and are only designed to ward off "rogue countries," such as North Korea and Iran?
Pyongyang is located so far away from Europe that it makes no sense for it to send its missiles via Europe if it wants to strike at the United States. If need be, Tehran can also choose any other trajectory, for example, fly over the North Pole, making missile defense elements in Poland totally useless.
Moreover, in the next 20-30 years, neither North Korea, nor Iran will be able to get missiles that are capable of reaching the United States. The ones they have now, or are developing, can cover no more than 1,800 miles. In order to increase their range to at least 5,500 km, these countries will have to upgrade dramatically their scientific and technological level, and make a leap in computer technology and software, neither of which is likely.
For this reason, I agree with Russian military experts that the U.S. ABM defense elements in the Czech Republic and Poland are designed against Russian strategic missiles. Their deployment in Eastern Europe will upset the European balance of forces, and pose a serious threat to our defenses.
The arguments that 10 anti-missiles cannot offset hundreds of Russian Topols and Topols-M -- SS-25 and SS-27 in Western code, Stilets, or SS-19s, and Satans, or SS-18s, do not sound convincing. Nobody can guarantee that there will not be 20, then 100 or even more of them, or that they will not be replaced with their upgraded versions that are being developed in the United States.
Moreover, high-ranking U.S. officials are saying that Washington is not going to consult even its closest NATO allies about the deployment of missile defense systems in Europe. Finally, it would be naive to think that Washington will limit its appetites to Poland and the Czech Republic, or to the modest potential that it is now talking about.
Russian military experts also believe that President George W. Bush's proposal to cooperate with Russia on developing a joint missile defense is a trick designed to mollify public opinion, primarily in Europe, which is naturally alarmed about the American plans for Eastern Europe.
This is what Maj.-Gen. Vladimir Belous (Ret.), a Russian author of several books on U.S. ABMs, told me on this score: "Such cooperation is out of the question. Our strategic nuclear forces are primarily aimed against each other. Their relations are based on the concept of mutual nuclear deterrence. Under the circumstances, joint ABM defense is unrealistic."
It is hard to refute this argument. At the end of the last century, Russia and the United States signed an agreement to exchange information on the launches of strategic and theater ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles detected by their respective early warning systems.
Moscow was planning to set up together with the United States a joint agency to control this process. More than seven years have passed since the agreement was signed but nothing has been done so far.
The Russia-NATO Council has a group on ABM in Europe. It held several consultations on ABM defense. Moscow has placed information on its ABM systems at its partners' disposal. Even joint computer courses were held on the problem. Brussels promised to buy individual elements of Russian military hardware for European ABM defense but nothing happened. NATO has decided to buy American hardware for Europe's ABM defense on the grounds that the Russian equipment does not match the standards.
Meanwhile, the entire system of anti-missile and air defense of Greece, a member of NATO, rests on Russian hardware, for instance Tor-M1 and S-300 air defense missile systems. They are included into NATO's integrated air and missile defense system, and the standards are acceptable. Why are they not acceptable for other European countries? Where is the logic here? Obviously, the political and commercial interests of Washington and its companies are more important than any logic.
Deployment of U.S. ABM elements in Poland and the Czech Republic will threaten not only Russia but also Europe. Chief of the Armed Forces General Staff Army Gen. Yury Baluyevsky and Commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces Col.-Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov have already warned in public that if U.S. ABM defense elements are stationed in Eastern Europe, Russia's strategic nuclear missiles as well as medium and small-range missiles will be targeted against them. The latter's production was discontinued 20 years ago, but will apparently have to be resumed.
If Europe wants to live in the shadow of nuclear missiles and be a shield for American self-centered interests, it is free to make this choice, the Russian generals say. We wouldn't like it to come under threat, but we are not going to sacrifice our national security, either. Therefore, we are compelled to give an adequate response to the threats that may appear on our borders.
earlier related report
Meanwhile, the Kremlin's chief spokesman told a British newspaper that Russia felt "deceived" by the American plans, and would potentially have to "create alternatives."
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, writing in the Financial Times, declared that it was "unacceptable for anyone to use the continent as their own strategic territory."
"Any unilateral anti-missile projects would fundamentally alter the continent's geo-strategic landscape. It would also be an affront to all Europeans," he wrote.
Russia has repeatedly criticised the United States' plans to place missile defence equipment in countries that were once part of Moscow's orbit.
The United States has asked the Czech Republic to host a radar system and Poland to host interceptor rockets as part of its missile defence plans.
Washington insists the anti-missile shield is intended as protection against attacks from "rogue states" such as Iran and claims that the proposed system would be useless against Russia's vast weapons arsenal.
That claim was contested by Russian General Vladimir Belous who told The Guardian daily on Wednesday that the "geography of the deployment doesn't give any doubt the main targets are Russian and Chinese nuclear forces."
"The US bases represent a real threat to our strategic nuclear forces," the general, described by the paper as Russia's leading expert on anti-ballistic weaponry, said.
Lavrov meanwhile argued in his comment piece that "no such threats exist for Europe or the US today, or in the foreseeable future."
"None of the so-called rogue states possesses missiles that pose a real threat to Europe. The construction of missiles capable of reaching the US is an even harder task, requiring different technologies and production capabilities."
He added that while the threats do not currently exist, the American plans "could become a self-fulfilling prophesy as a consequence of ill-considered actions."
Lavrov called for "open discussions" between the United States, Russia and the EU on the issue, and said that he hoped that the next meeting of the NATO-Russia council in Oslo later this month would include talks on the plans.
In an article also published on Wednesday, the Kremlin's chief spokesman Dmitry Peskov told The Guardian that Russia was "extremely concerned and disappointed" by the US's actions.
"We were never informed in advance about these plans. It brings tremendous change to the strategic balance in Europe, and to the world's strategic stability.
"We feel ourselves deceived. Potentially we will have to create alternatives to this but with low cost and higher efficiency."
Peskov added that while Russia was considering military counter-measures, President Vladimir Putin also wanted "dialogue" and "negotiations."
On Friday, the lower house of the Russian parliament warned that the antimissile shield risks triggering a new international arms race.
"Such decisions, which are useless in terms of preventing potential or imaginary threats from countries of the Middle and Far East, are already bringing about a new split in Europe and unleashing another arms race," read the declaration, which was approved unanimously by deputies in the State Duma.
Parts of the US missile shield are already in place in the United States, Britain and Greenland, and Pentagon officials say the plan is to have the system operational by 2013.
(Viktor Litovkin is a military correspondent for the RIA Novosti news agency. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the RIA Novosti editorial board.)
Source: RIA Novosti
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Seoul (AFP) April 10, 2007
South Korea will develop high-altitude interceptor missiles to cope with North Korea's ballistic missiles, the head of a state-run defence research agency said Tuesday.
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