Washington may get a bad headache from its ABM system
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has finished his visit to Warsaw. His talks with his Polish counterpart, Radislaw Sikorski, focused on the situation in the Caucasus and the planned deployment of ten U.S. antimissiles at Redzikowo, near Slupsk in northern Poland.
The Kremlin thinks the sole aim of the U.S. ballistic missile defense system in Europe is to undermine the counterstrike potential of the Russian strategic deterrence forces deployed in the Tver, Ivanovo, Saratov and Kaluga regions in central Russia. In fact, it will be a formidable threat to one-third of Russia's Strategic Missile Force.
Lavrov did not hide the Kremlin's concern.
"We don't see any threats to Russia coming from Poland," he said at a news conference after his talks with Sikorski. "But we cannot ignore the fact that an inalienable element of the U.S. strategic systems will be deployed close to our border. The [ballistic missile] facilities in Eastern Europe cannot have other targets than Russia's strategic arsenal for years to come."
This was Russia's response to those who claim the U.S. missile defense system in Europe is designed to protect the United States and its allies from the ballistic missiles of rogue states, primarily Iran. This is ridiculous, because Iran does not have and for a long time will not have missiles capable of reaching Europe and America.
Other Russian officials, including General Yuri Baluyevsky, then chief of Russia's General Staff and now on the staff of the Russian Security Council, and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak, former deputy foreign minister of Russia, have also expressed their opinions about threats to Russia's counterstrike potential.
Baluyevsky said at a briefing in the Russian Information and News Agency RIA Novosti last November that the United States would not be satisfied with the deployment of missile defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic, and would press for more sites for its ballistic missile defense system.
He was proved right on the very day Lavrov visited Warsaw. The U.S. Senate ruled that $89 million be allocated to "the activation and deployment of the AN/TPY-2 forward-based X-band radar [the same as in the Czech Republic] to a classified location."
The "classified location" is not a complete secret.
Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), has said more than once that Turkey, Georgia and even Ukraine could be future locations for ballistic missile defense systems. Since the systems cannot be very well deployed near Tbilisi or Kiev today, the Pentagon will most likely choose Turkey or, some Western analysts say, Israel or Japan.
Both ideas are quite reasonable. The Pentagon's deployment decision will expose the real interim and end goals of its plans for a global ABM system, which Washington started creating after it withdrew from the Soviet-American 1972 ABM treaty in 2002.
If the Pentagon chooses Turkey, it will be able to monitor not only Iran's missile program, but also the situation in European Russia - strategic missile forces deployed in Ivanovo, Tver, Saratov and Kaluga regions. If it opts for Israel, its main goal will be Iran, and if it deploys its ABM systems in Japan, the targets will be China and Russia, including Russia's strategic missile forces in the Krasnoyarsk Territory.
The missile tracking radar is ineffective without interceptor missiles, which means that a new antimissile base will inevitably be built nearby. So we may soon hear about the "classified location" of such a base.
Russia is worried about these preparations, especially since its relations with Washington are deteriorating, including over South Ossetia. Russian generals are also worried because the United States is not fulfilling the pledges it made at the meetings of both countries' defense and foreign ministers to make the ABM system transparent to Russia.
Russian participants in these meetings have told me that Washington has no intention to formalize or make binding its promises "not to deploy antimissiles in their silos until they know for certain that Iran has created missiles capable of reaching Europe" and "to place the Czech radar so that it faces only Iran."
Further complicating things, the Pentagon has said it will allow Russian officers to visit its ABM facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic only if the two countries grant them visas.
This only increases Russian suspicions about the true target of the U.S. strategic missile defense systems in Europe.
Sergei Lavrov did not say at the news conference in Warsaw how Russia would respond to their deployment near its border.
"Do you really expect me to disclose the General Staff's secrets?" he said.
But Russia's possible response is not a secret any more. Russian generals, including Nikolai Solovtsov, commander of the Strategic Missile Force, have said more than once that Russia would retarget its strategic missiles at the Czech Republic and Poland. If they want to become targets for Russian nuclear missiles, it's their choice, the generals say.
Russia has told Washington more than once that no fence of antimissiles near its border would save the United States from a retaliatory strike by missiles capable of evading ABM as well as by air and naval systems.
The latest reminder was the flight of two Tu-160 strategic bombers to Venezuela, and the upcoming Russian-Venezuelan naval exercises, which may involve strategic and multirole nuclear submarines.
Washington may soon find the ballistic missile system it is installing contrary to Russia's interests more of a headache than an asset.
[Source: Novosti, Moscow, 12Sep08]
The Question of South Ossetia
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