Joint missile shield: to be or not to be?
Russia and NATO are able to overcome all hurdles along their path towards creating a joint missile defense system, US Defense Advisor to NATO Robert Bell said in an exclusive interview with the Voice of Russia. This optimistic mood of the American military diplomat was echoed by our country’s envoy to the Alliance, Dmitry Rogozin: in early summer this year, defense ministers of the Russia-NATO Council are expected to outline the framework for the joint missile shield.
A rapprochement between Moscow and Brussels on Euro-ABM issues is indeed a complicated matter, but it is not hopeless, the Russian envoy to NATO believes. Seeking to resolve the problem are politicians, diplomats and military experts involved in round table discussions that are being held in the Belgian capital today. The forum was organized by the East-West Institute (EWI). Missile defense has recently become one of the most pressing issues in global politics and a sort of indicator of the state of Russia-NATO relations. According to Robert Bell, the two sides are growing increasingly interested in a brand new relationship in this field.
"First I would point out that NATO and Russia have cooperated very closely on missile defense before and I don’t see any reason why we can’t cooperate very closely again. When I was at NATO at the beginning of this decade, I was an assistant secretary general and I had the privilege of negotiating cooperation between NATO and Russia on theatre ballistic missile defenses. And at that time we developed a whole program of exercises with NATO missile defenses alongside Russian missile defenses and worked out ways in which we could work together to defend side-by-side and in some cases, where our capabilities overlapped, defend in between. In January 2009, we had a big exercise in Munich, Germany where we proved that we could work together to defend our people and our territories against common threats. So, I am very confident that we can take some of that experience and some of the procedures that we worked out and apply those with this new system so that the two sides working together could cooperate and collaborate if they had to defend against a common threat."
More successful efforts in this area will require some additional political motivation, experts argue. Russia has already taken a step to that end at the Lisbon summit late last year, proposing so-called sectoral missile defense, with each party covering its territory and closely cooperating with its neighbors. Russia must shoot down Europe- or US-bound missiles flying over its zone of responsibility and vice versa. This is a compromise as compared to NATO plans, Dmitry Rogozin pointed out.
Under the pretext of establishing European ABM defenses, the Americans are now attempting to deploy missile interceptor systems on Russia’s northwestern borders to control our ballistic missiles, which form the basis for Russia’s strategic nuclear potential. It generates a number of difficulties. The geography of the deployment of our missile defense elements has yet to be determined. A powerful radar capable of tracking a missile from the very moment of its launch may be placed in Romania or Turkey. The west is also reviving its plans to create a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. It is not quite clear to us why they are seeking to deploy radars in Poland or in the Czech Republic, Dmitry Rogozin said.
NATO advocates the idea of establishing two “independent but synchronized” ABM systems - Russia’s and its own. They could interact through information exchanges, Robert Bell emphasized. But Moscow intends to participate in the Euro-ABM project on par, by integrating into the common system, Dmitry Rogozin goes on to say.
We believe that there are two ways of getting over these obstacles. Either there is a single European missile defense involving Russia and providing us with explicit guarantees that it is not going to be targeted against our country’s interests; or NATO waives its missile interceptor systems that could be deployed in the northern seas, where our strategic fleet and nuclear force units are located. Tough negotiations are currently under way as to what the guarantees of our partners - primarily the Americans - can be in order to prevent the new system from encroaching on Russia’s security interests, Dmitry Rogozin said in conclusion.
In December last year, Russia’s envoy to NATO said the following: “Missile defense in Europe can only be created with Russia, or directed against Russia. There is no third option.” So, now there is a chance to make the world somewhat safer by building a single ABM system.