Who devalues Russian nuclear potential?

"In 2008, the fifth Topol-M regiment of the Tatishchevo SMF will receive the planned number of missiles," said Col.-Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, the commander of the Strategic Missile Forces (SMF), in early September.

The new RS-24 missile will soon be ready. Its designers say it has upgraded combat features. The sea branch of the domestic nuclear force will receive the currently tested Bulava missile system.

Russia has resumed the build-up of the strategic air forces.

All these steps testify to the consolidation of Russian nuclear potential, which is designed to counterbalance the American plan to build a global missile defense system. It would seem that we should not worry about our defense capability. But there is one question the answer to which may drastically change the view of the nuclear forces as the absolute strategic military and political guarantee.

Our offensive nuclear missile potential is in good shape, but what about defense? In other words, will we be able to protect ourselves in the event of a major or even a minor nuclear conflict? Are we ready for a duel between a missile and a missile interceptor? Regrettably, for the time being the answer is negative.

In any military school, the training starts with the axiom that a combat mission can only be accomplished by an offensive. In principle, this is true. But the scale and consequences of a nuclear missile war are so huge that depending on an offensive only is impermissible. What if the enemy starts first, or survives our pre-emptive strikes? In this case, we will have to hope for the effectiveness of our air defenses, which are inadequate.

These apprehensions about the lack of proper missile defense are confirmed by numerous statements from high-ranking politicians and military leaders. They say that the American missile defense system is already devaluing Russian nuclear potential.

Speaking about the imminent deployment of U.S. missile interceptors in Poland at a briefing, Solovtsov said that a dozen of them "cannot devalue the potential of the SMF strike force, but will have a certain negative effect on it." However, in the same speech he said that "the Soviet-produced missile systems of the SMF grouping have adequate features for overcoming the missile defense system, which the Americans will have by 2015-2020."

What are the Russian military and politicians worried about then? How will the United States devalue our nuclear potential with their missile defense system if our missiles can easily overcome it? Our leaders fully realize that no means of overcoming missile defense will replace a missile defense system as such.

Paradoxically, our missile defense is merely a reply to American moves. We do not have a program for its development. But it was not always like that.

The Soviet Union had a steady lead in missile defense development. In March 1960, a missile was intercepted at the Sary-Shagan testing ground for the first time. The Americans did the same only 23 years later.

Later, we developed the first comprehensive missile defense system, A-135, to protect Moscow. The Soviet Union gave an adequate reply to the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative. In 1986, more than 400 enterprises united by 38 ministries were involved in the relevant national program D-20. They conducted research in 40 major directions. But in 1991 all work ground to a halt. Today, the funding of missile defense is a fraction of what was spent in Soviet times.

In the meantime, the legally sealed development of U.S. missile defense is aimed at establishing a single information and missile firing system integrated into all branches of the armed forces. Thus, in the near future U.S. missile defense will transform into a global system for hitting all potential targets.

We are still merely discussing the formation of air and space defense under the Air Force aegis. The exercises of the nation's only regiment equipped with the S-400 Triumph missile system, which is capable of destroying tactical ballistic and cruise missiles, is being presented as a true triumph.

If we had a missile defense system which matched the power of our SMF and were able to operate from the surface, at sea and in the air, we would not be talking about the devaluation of our nuclear potential.

[Source: By Andrei Kislyakov, Novosti, Moscow, 17Sep08]

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