UPI Germany Correspondent
Washington (UPI) Feb 14, 2007
The United States has irritated Russia with its plan to place an anti-missile system in Eastern Europe, and even within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the move is controversial. In his by now infamous speech at the 43d Munich Conference on Security Policy, Russian President Vladimir Putin last weekend accused Washington of provoking a Cold War-like arms race with its plan to place ground-to-air missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Washington claims the system, which foresees ten bunker-protected rockets to be stationed in Poland and a radar unit in the Czech Republic, is to protect the United States and its allies against rockets armed with nuclear warheads fired by the likes of North Korea and Iran. But Moscow sees the missiles as threats against its territory, and questions that their placement in Europe makes sense at all.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on Tuesday told German newspaper Die Welt that Iran would need missiles with a range of roughly 3,500 miles to reach Central Europe, carriers it doesn't have (the Iranian missiles are believed to have a range of just over 1,000 miles). Developing such systems would take Tehran "at least 20 years," Ivanov said.
The system would make much more sense if it's placed in Turkey, Afghanistan or Iraq, he added.
As for protecting the United States against attacks from the wavy regime of Kim Jong Il, Ivanov said a "look at a globe" would prove such reasoning illegitimate -- Moscow claims a North Korean rocket would not be fired over Europe, but be sent on the shorter eastward path, over open water.
Germany's Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung Wednesday evening told the foreign press corps in Berlin that generally, Germany supported the U.S. missile system. He added, however, that he also understood some of his Russian colleague's concerns.
"Together with NATO, we have to enter an intense dialogue with Russia to alleviate those fears," he said.
Jung said the system could be helpful for European security. Asked by United Press International whether the system should be included in a NATO framework, Jung said: "We certainly should think in that direction."
Washington is currently testing the missile system in Alaska, where 14 rockets (later 21 rockets) are stationed to defend continental America. The rockets would intercept incoming missiles and destroy them with a direct hit. The system, which Washington hopes to be operational by 2011, still is far from perfect, however, as several tests have failed.
While both the Polish and the Czech government have said they were generally positive about the U.S. system, within the population, the missiles are controversial.
A majority of Czechs and Poles opposes U.S. weapons near their homes, also because of fear that their countries as hosts for the U.S. military could become targets of terrorist attacks. Several politicians in Warsaw argue the Polish public should decide in a referendum over the fate of the American missile system.
Washington is expected to lobby for increased cooperation with Europe when it comes to stand against nuclear threats; Washington knows that a first strike against Iran, reportedly mulled by the staff around Vice President Dick Cheney, will not find much backing in Europe given the disaster stemming from the war in Iraq. In light of Europe's large Muslim minority, politicians there are likely to bank on further talks with Tehran rather than following a U.S. appeal for the use of force -- no matter how long diplomacy efforts will remain fruitless.
When it comes to the missile system, there are more potential allies in Eastern Europe, namely Ukraine, a country that has announced its interest to be included in the U.S. system. Moscow fears that this will pave the way for the Russian satellite state to be gulped by NATO, solidifying the irreversible break-up of the former Soviet Union and destroying any dreams of a loose military confederation based on the former Soviet states.
Yet such dreams may have been buried already in Munich. Karel Schwarzenberg, the Czech foreign minister, stressed that the Czech Republic would make a decision independent of Russia's concerns. He said Putin's aggressive rhetoric delivered "perfect arguments for an expansion of NATO."
Putin said in Munich the U.S. rockets didn't concern him that much. "Russia has weapons that can overcome this system."
earlier related report
There is not much time left before the start of a battle royal for the right to place missile defense components, i.e. weapons, in space.
Fortunately, the success of the proponents of orbital duels is not pre-determined. "We have repeatedly come up with initiatives aimed at preventing the use of weapons in space," said Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Munich Conference on Security Policy in mid-February. "Today I would like to tell you that we have drafted an agreement on the prevention of weapons deployment in space. Very soon it will be made into an official proposal. Let us work on it together." Of course, there is little hope that the Russian initiative will have a serious influence on the missile defense program. Nevertheless, a barrier must be placed across weapons' path to space.
In discussing the danger of anti-missile efforts in their present form, let us start with purely military problems. Does the U.S. system pose a threat to Russia? The answer is unequivocal: it does not.
At present, the U.S. has two deployment areas for extraterrestrial kinetic interceptors: 14 silo-based anti-missile units in Alaska and another two in California. Soon another 10 may be deployed in Poland, with support infrastructure in the form of a ground-based radar in the Czech Republic.
A prominent Russian military expert and former head of the Defense Ministry's Space Research Institute, Major General Vladimir Dvorkin, says, "the creation of one missile defense deployment area in the Czech Republic, Poland and other eastern European countries and the deployment of a dozen of anti-missile units in each does not pose any threat to the Russian strategic containment potential. It would take hundreds of deployment areas and thousands of anti-missile units to damage this potential."
Moreover, despite the impressive characteristics of the U.S. Ground-Based Interceptor - an intercepting height of up to 1,500 km and a directed-fire range of up to 4,000 km, it cannot guarantee the destruction of warheads in the middle of the launch trajectory from Russian deployment sites, which is very inconvenient for the Americans. At the same time, to destroy them at the most convenient point, the beginning of the trajectory, the interceptor must be located within 500 km of the target, which is also impossible geographically.
However, the first two stages of the interceptor are flesh of the flesh of the second and third stages of the Minuteman II ICBM. So it will not take much imagination to deploy Minuteman III's, which have about the same length and maximum diameter as the Minuteman II, instead of the announced conventional antimissiles.
Yet there is a greater danger. Russian leaders have repeatedly said that they will give an "asymmetrical," cheaper, but "extremely effective" answer to the U.S. antimissile defense system. This answer was quite clear. In mid-2006, Chief of the Russian General Staff Yuri Baluyevsky said, "We have practically found adequate and asymmetrical methods that allow us to say: the existing and prospective ABM will be successfully penetrated by our intercontinental ballistic missiles and their warheads."
This launches a boundless program for the improvement of offensive nuclear weapons. The response will be the appearance of the prospective ABM, this time partially space-deployed.
The result will be a new battlefield with its own "front line" and "fortifications." Given that over 180 countries are involved in space activities and at least 40 of them use information from orbit for some or other defense purposes, it is hard to find an alternative to Putin's Munich proposal and to argue with Vladimir Dvorkin, who said, "The proposed ban on weapons deployment in space should be viewed as an invitation to develop and adopt a countries' code of behavior in space. It could ban all actions aimed at destroying space systems, including weapons deployment."
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent the opinions of the editorial board
Source: United Press International
Source: RIA NovostiEmail This ArticleWhy Russia Fears Ballistic Missile Defense
Washington (UPI) Feb 15, 2007
Why does Russia oppose so fiercely the deployment of U.S. ballistic missile defenses in Central Europe to protect NATO allies from any Iranian threat? A lengthy article published Tuesday in the Moscow newspaper Kommersant by Mikhail Barabanov, editor of Arms Export magazine, gives an important insight into Russian thinking.
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