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Nezavisimaya Gazeta article on Russian reactions to US missile defense adjustments

Nezavisimaya Gazeta article on Russian reactions to US missile defense adjustments

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Published by: Chuck Thornton on Sep 22, 2009
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"Obama Leaves His Space: Washington Intends To Put On Hold Construction of Anti-Missile Defense System in Poland and the Czech Republic"Nezavisimaya Gazeta Onlineby Andrey TerekhovMoscow18 Sep 09pp1,7On the threshold of Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev's visit to New York, theUnited States has announced its readiness to postpone plans for the deployment ofanti-missile defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic. Washington hasnot rejected the idea entirely, but is signalling that for the time being it mayrestrict itself to building an anti-missile defense in the Mediterranean region.Russian experts assess this as a positive step enabling Moscow to place its hopesin the beginning of meaningful dialogue with Washington. Such dialogue might leadto agreement between the sides on the deployment of a joint anti-missile defensesystem and enable them to resolve other strategic issues.US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and General James Cartwright, vice chairmanof the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, held a press conference yesterday devoted toanti-missile defense. Several hours prior to the press conference, informationagencies reported that an American delegation was conducting negotiations inPoland and the Czech Republic. Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer stated that USPresident Barack Obama had phoned him on Wednesday to inform him that deploymentof the radar system in the Czech Republic was being postponed. A similar signalwas received in Warsaw. George Bush's project proposed the stationing of 10interceptor missiles in Poland and a powerful radar in the Czech Republic which,the Bush Administration asserted, should protect the United States and Americanallies in Europe from the Iranian missile threat.According to the American Wall Street Journal, proceeding from the latestassessments of Iran's missile capabilities, Washington has decided that a greaterthreat to America's allies in Europe at present comes from Iranian short- andmedium-range missiles. For this reason, the Obama Administration will switch itsfocus to deployment of a regional anti-missile defense system for the continent.Officials in Moscow believe that US plans were aimed at undermining thecapabilities of Russian nuclear deterrence forces.Israel, Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria as an Alternative to PolandIn an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Viktor Yesin, former chief of theGeneral Staff of Strategic Rocket Forces, remarked that he viewed the decision ofthe Obama Administration with cautious optimism. He indicated that the situationwas developing in a way that is positive for Russia. "But I would not assert thatthe project in Poland and the Czech Republic is completely terminated. It hasbeen postponed. In this regard, Obama has set the task of developing alternativescenarios, which affords the hope that the Americans will definitively rejectfuture deployment of the radar system in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptormissiles in Poland," the colonel general stated. Only after it becomes clear thatthe alternative scenarios will be acceptable to Russia will we be able to say thatRussian diplomatic efforts have been successful.According to Viktor Yesin, the American plans for deployment of a regional anti-missile defense system incorporate a deal for the sale to Turkey of AmericanPatriot PAC-3 systems costing $7.8 billion. "The Americans believe that thedanger presently issuing from Iran's missile forces can be neutralized through aregional anti-missile defense system. This envisages the deployment of Patriot
systems in Israel (which has already been accomplished) and also in Turkey. Itcannot be ruled out that the new THAAD [Terminal High-Altitude Area DefenseSystem] anti-missile defense system is deployed in Bulgaria and Romania. This isa more sophisticated air defense system," the expert stated. "The sea componentof the regional system will consist of ships outfitted with the Aegis system andimproved (second modification) Standard-3 complexes." This will permit theestablishment of an effective anti-missile defense system in regions of the BlackSea and Mediterranean Sea, capable of countering Iranian short- and medium-rangemissiles. The speed-related parameters of these anti-missile defense assets donot enable them to intercept Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles.Long-range missiles may appear in the Islamic Republic no sooner than four or fiveyears from now, Viktor Yesin predicts. This is precisely the time frame availableto Moscow and Washington to reach agreement and implement a mutually advantageousair defense project that would ensure protection from future Iranianintercontinental missiles. The important thing, according to the specialist, isto establish a joint center for data exchange and missile threat warning. Thiscenter would enable us to track the development of missile technologies in theworld and afford realistic assessments of the threats. Unless this initial stepis undertaken, it will not be possible for Moscow and Washington to create a jointair defense system.Expecting a "Grand Deal"Professor Aleksey Bogaturov, vice chancellor of MGIMO [Moscow State Institute forInternational Relations], also cautioned against reaching hasty conclusions beforeMoscow received the applicable American documents and examined them thoroughly.After all, they might very well contain new American positions that areunacceptable to Russia.One way or another, Washington's decision not to station air defense elements inEastern Europe can hardly be seen as evidence that the current US Administrationhas a better understanding of Russia's concerns. Every meaningful decision madeby the White House over the past 20 years, experts in US affairs assert, has beenmotivated mainly by internal considerations.The Republican administration of George Bush was an advocate of the concept ofexcessive security. The Democrats cast doubt on the advisability of achievingthis super-security at the cost of heightened tension in relations with otherstates and large financial expenditures. Professor Bogaturov believes that theObama decision should be examined in the context of the internal political"revisionism" of the occupant of the White House, which has been a feature ofevery new American administration. "Obama is showing that he is a revolutionarywho has not only new ideas, but also the audacity to carry them out. He is notafraid of the critics," stated Aleksey Bogaturov in conversation with NezavisimayaGazeta.Nonetheless, the expert believes that this move by Obama, if it comes to pass,must undoubtedly be evaluated as a positive one. After all, it would open the wayfor a serious conversation between Moscow and Washington which the two sides havenot had in a long time. This is a stimulus for Russian diplomats to activate thenegotiations process with the Americans. But at the same time, our negotiatorsshould be looking attentively at what linkage the Americans will attach to theirdecision on anti-missile defense. Aleksey Bogaturov conjectured that Moscow canexpect a serious, candid discussion with the Americans on Iran. "The game isworth the candle. Such substantive dialogue is necessary," the expert noted.Analysts believe that this step undertaken by Washington may well be viewed within
the framework of a "grand deal" hypothesis with Moscow, i.e., a package resolutionof the basic problems that are burdening Russian-American relations. In additionto the Iranian nuclear program, the list includes the question of a future armscontrol regime. Citing a military-diplomatic source in Moscow, the Interfax-AVN[Military News Agency] reported yesterday that "Washington's rejection of plans todeploy strategic anti-missile defense facilities in Europe will facilitatepreparation of a new Russian-American agreement on the reduction of strategicoffensive arms (START)." The source noted: "In essence, the anti-missile defensequestion remains at present practically the only serious disagreement innegotiations on a new START Treaty, insofar as Russia views the stationing ofelements of an American anti-missile defense in Europe as a threat to its nationalsecurity."Specialists believe that in the event of a "grand deal," the Americans wouldcertainly present Moscow maximal demands, complete satisfaction of which would notconform to Russia's national interests. Depending on the conditions, the sidescould examine issues either in a package or individually within the framework ofmeaningful dialogue. It may well be that the latter option affords better chancesof achieving a compromise resolution.A New European Approach by the White HouseIn the meantime, the decision of the Obama Administration to postpone plans forthe deployment of anti-missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic isprompting questions with respect to Washington's policy towards Eastern Europe. Agreat deal of material has appeared in the press concerning the "specialrelationship" of the Bush Administration with countries of the former Easternbloc. These relations were indeed singular in nature, if we recall how theRepublicans skillfully took advantage of aspirations of the Poles and Czechs to beneeded by the one remaining superpower. In 2003, when the pillars of the OldWorld -- France and Germany -- suddenly opposed the Bush decision to invade SaddamHuseyn's Iraq, a fitting opportunity emerged for the Eastern Europeans. Whatcould more tightly secure the new bonds between Washington and the New Europe thandispatching East European soldiers to Iraq and emplacing US strategic bases inPoland and the Czech Republic?Having established normal relations with his French and German colleagues, Obamamay stop segregating Europe into Old and New and may advance the idea ofconsolidation of his European partners within the framework of the European Unionand NATO. It is another matter that in the opinion of experts, excessivesolidarity of the Europeans may complicate dialogue between Moscow and theEuropean Union.Western specialists are not inclined to exaggerate the military-politicalconsequences of Washington's potential action on anti-missile defense. Doctor IanAnthony, director of the Program for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation of Weaponsof Mass Destruction at the Stockholm Institute for the Study of World Problems,stated to Nezavisimaya Gazeta that what is at work here is an attempt by Obama tochange the dynamics of a zero-sum game. "The Obama Administration inherited asituation where the impulse generated in the 1990s to create a joint securitystructure in Europe disappeared. The situation is mindful of a zero-sum gamewhere the central European countries and Russia have begun to think about oneanother as rivals," Doctor Anthony stated. "They interpret certain events as'gains' and others as 'losses.' The anti-missile defense question is beingexamined in this light."The expert emphasized that the United States has not abrogated supplementalagreements with the Poles and Czechs aimed at convincing them of American

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