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A Scheming America Or An Uncooperative Russia

The 10 midcourse interceptor missiles the United States plans on installing in Poland are nearly identical to those now stationed in California and Alaska.
by Sergei Karaganov
Moscow (RIA Novosti) May 03, 2007
Having suggested deployment of missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, and achieved their tentative consent to host them, Washington has met with not only Russia's tough reaction but also the most unpleasant irritation of its main European allies.

By offering Russia to discuss the Euro-ABM issue, the U.S. government is trying to cover up its mistake and ease tensions. It wants Moscow to make some response or pretend that we have come to terms. If this fails, Washington may present Moscow as unresponsive to its "peace initiatives." Should we play along?

This reminds me of the European crisis in the late 1970s, when the Americans declared their intention to deploy cruise missiles and Pershing-2s ostensibly to set off the Soviet medium-range SS-20s. (The Soviet leaders made a decision to deploy SS-20s merely because the SS-16 three-stage intercontinental ballistic missile had failed the tests. A two-stage missile code-named SS-20 was a success).

At that time, many Europeans backed the U.S. plan in order to keep the United States involved in enhancing their security and prevent NATO's decline. They wanted to continue the Cold War because they felt quite comfortable under the American umbrella. The arguments of the current Czech and Polish leaders are reminiscent of the debates of 30 years ago. They are justifying their consent to host ABM components by a desire to have American protection against the increasingly powerful Russia.

In the 1970s, Moscow willingly exploited the new threat. After mutual hysterics of many years, the Soviet Union had to scrap its SS-20s, as well as the more useful shorter-range missiles.

Both sides lost, but the Soviet Union lost more. The missile crisis militarized relations in Europe and dragged out the Cold War for several more years without any sensible reason.

NATO's long-standing European members are not interested in missile defense although they do not want to continue quarreling with the United States, and are scared of Russia's rapidly growing strength. What they certainly do not want is remilitarization of European policy, which would primarily damage their interests by enhancing America's and, to a lesser extent, Russia's positions.

The Polish-based interceptor missiles will not help neutralize "the Iranian threat" because it will not emerge in the foreseeable future. Moreover, if a country wants to hit targets in Europe with warheads, missiles will be the last option for delivering them. There is a dozen simpler ways of doing so.

The interests of new NATO members were mentioned earlier, but they can be ignored altogether because these countries are not independent.

The U.S. interests are obvious, and disarming Russia's strategic potential is not likely to be one of these. Washington may hope to achieve this no sooner than in 15 years and on condition that Moscow will be totally idle.

America's primary goal is to provoke a mini crisis and remilitarization of European policy in the hope of restoring some of its badly damaged positions in Europe.

The second aim is to prevent rapprochement between the old Europeans and Russia. A growing alliance based on energy and other interests would make both Europe and Russia much stronger. This is the worst-case scenario for Washington, which is still dominated by old thinking.

The third goal is the most important - the ABM system does not hold much promise, and its advocates have to prove the contrary. They have to present it as crucial in order to keep it funded.

Russia is interested in preventing a crisis and another Cold War in Europe. It must not get drawn into the arms race, even as a farce. Russia should try to weaken the Western forces that would like to prevent its consolidation and advance. It should also refrain from confrontation with the Muslim world and China, towards which it is being pushed by the resumed talk about a joint ABM. If we are to confront the Islamic bomb, we should do it on our terms.

Russia would gain from getting strategic arms, offensive and defensive alike, back under control from which the Americans have withdrawn them. Militarily, prevention of ABM elements deployment in Europe could be the least important goal for Russia.

We should remember that our agreement to discuss missile defense systems may be presented as our consent to their deployment. When Moscow started discussing the terms for NATO's enlargement in the mid-1990s, the media immediately reported that Russia had swallowed it.

Clearly, missile defense deployment in Europe and the proposal to discuss it together conceal multiple interests of the United States. We should follow the rules of this game and talk in the same manner and without any trust.

earlier related report
Proposed European Missile Shield Politics Overshadow Feasibility
College Park MD (SPX) May 03 - Recent media coverage of the United States' plan to install a missile defense shield in Europe has largely focused on the political implications of the shield, paying little attention to the technical difficulties it faces, experts say.

The 10 midcourse interceptor missiles the United States plans on installing in Poland are nearly identical to those now stationed in California and Alaska.

These missiles are an unproven defense against a long-range ballistic missile attack, said Frederick K. Lamb, who co-chaired a 2003 American Physical Society study on boost-phase intercept systems for missile defense.

The existing ground-based midcourse defense system has been tested fewer than a dozen times, scoring six intercepts out of 11 trials since October 1999.

"Not a single test of this system has ever been carried out under realistic combat conditions," said Lamb.

"To assume it is going to work under realistic conditions with only a few minutes warning is like assuming a gun that has only been fired against a single, carefully arranged target in a brightly lit firing range is going to be successful in a fast-moving night battle against many enemies."

The tests have been scripted scenarios performed under operationally unrealistic conditions, according to the Arms Control Association, a Washington, D.C., based nonpartisan membership organization that supports effective arms control policies.

They have taken place at slower speeds and lower altitudes than would be expected in a real attack, and the intercepting missiles were preprogrammed with information on the target that would not be known in a real attack. Some of the tests, including the most recent one in September, did not involve decoys that an adversary would likely use to trick the system into hitting the wrong object.

Russia has been the most outspoken opponent of the new $3.5 billion missile defense system, with President Vladimir Putin last week saying Russia will take "appropriate measures" to counter the system.

Though Washington says the system is essential for protecting the United States and Europe from rogue states like Iran and North Korea, Russia views it as a threat to national security. Putin said he believes the system will be used to track Russian military activities.

"A lot of what's going on with the European missile defense system is alliance politics, not a technical debate," said Frederick Lamb.

In July, when North Korea was conducting missile test launches, the missile defense system in Fort Greely, Alaska, was switched from testing status to operational status, suggesting the military's confidence in the system. Then in December, Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, head of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, was awarded a Defense Distinguished Service Medal for overseeing the missile system when it needed to be put on alert.

"To advertise that this system is ready is misleading," Lamb said. "This system has no demonstrated capability, period."

Sergei Karaganov is dean of the Department of World Economy and World Politics at the Higher School of Economics.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

Source: RIA Novosti

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