Russian general criticizes American National Missile Defense program

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti defense commentator Viktor Litovkin) - General of the Army Yury Baluyevsky, Russia's Chief of Staff and First Deputy Defense Minister, has written an article, "U.S. NMD: What Next?"

It was published by the national defense weekly, Voenno-Promyshlenny Kuryer, ten days after the G8 summit in St. Petersburg. Leaders as senior as the chief of staff seldom write articles for the Russian press. They prefer writing articles and giving interviews to the foreign media before official visits abroad, and seldom reach out to the people via the Russian media. When they do, it is usually for a very serious reason.

Baluyevsky, the No. 2 man in the Russian defense establishment, could not keep silent when the Pentagon accelerated the National Missile Defense (NMD) project, and his article can be considered a policy statement by the Russian defense establishment.

He writes that Washington has taken a turn towards unilateral global superiority, although "the time when Russia and the Untied States regarded each other as adversaries or a strategic threat is past" and their defense departments have been promoting cooperation in the last few years.

The idea of military superiority was incorporated into the Nuclear Posture Review, submitted to Congress on December 31, 2001, and was described in the U.S. National Security Strategy, which President George W. Bush put forth in March 2006.

In the chapter entitled "Prevent Our Enemies from Threatening Us, Our Allies, and Our Friends with Weapons of Mass Destruction," the document states: "Our deterrence strategy no longer rests primarily on the grim premise of inflicting devastating consequences on potential foes. Both offenses and defenses are necessary to deter state and non-state actors, through denial of the objectives of their attacks and, if necessary, responding with overwhelming force. (...) Safe, credible, and reliable nuclear forces continue to play a critical role. We are strengthening deterrence by developing a New Triad composed of offensive strike systems (both nuclear and improved conventional capabilities); active and passive defenses, including missile defenses; and a responsive infrastructure, all bound together by enhanced command and control, planning, and intelligence systems."

Baluyevsky writes that U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2002 was part of a crucial step in U.S. defense policy. This allowed it to use modern technologies for more intensive research into and tests of ground- and space-based ballistic missile defense systems, which had been limited by its international commitments, as well as to develop its nuclear forces and infrastructure.

The Americans acted consistently within the framework of their strategy. An analysis of the current and prospective stages of the NMD project shows that its direction and nature have not changed much, whereas U.S. military and political leaders' interest in it and allocations for it have grown dramatically.

The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), a structure within the Department of Defense, was upgraded to the Missile Defense Agency (MDA). The promise to limit the capabilities of the NMD system to protect the national territory from a limited number of incoming missiles has been withdrawn.

In accordance with the approved allocations for defense, the MDA is to receive $7.88 billion in 2006 and expects to get $9.3 billion, or 17% more, next year. Another $1 billion will be channeled into the project through other items in the Pentagon budget. The majority of additional funds will go into research and development of mobile and sea-launched anti-missiles for intercepting strategic missiles and fragments, as well as ASAT weapons, which had been limited by the ABM treaty. The Americans have also stepped up the program to test the future system's components. From 1998 to the present, they have held a series of experiments and trials of NMD elements, with a varying degree of success, to check the progress of the development of information and strike systems.

General Baluyevsky mentions the deployment of two ground-based anti-missile sites, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, in California, and at Fort Greeley, in Alaska. The U.S. has also held moderately successful tests of sea-launched anti-missiles, which make up the core of mobile NMD systems.

NATO allies are becoming increasingly involved in the NMD project. The U.S. intends to deploy the first tier of the NMD system in some of the member countries (Baluyevsky mentioned Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria).

Washington claims that the missile programs of Iran and North Korea are the main threat, but Baluyevsky writes that U.S. actions show that it thinks the threat is coming not from Tehran or Pyongyang, whose possibilities are limited, but from Russia and China. This poses a direct threat to Russia's security.

Russia's leaders said several years ago that America's withdrawal from the ABM treaty would not affect Russia's deterrence potential. But the situation has changed radically, and now Russia is worried about the deployment of some NMD elements, especially the construction of the first anti-missile base and the requisite infrastructure in Alaska, which is fanning tensions in the region.

According to Baluyevsky, the sea-launched Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System is a potential threat to the Russian sea-based nuclear forces. But Russia is especially worried about the Pentagon's plans to deploy NMD elements in space, and build early warning radars and place silo-launched interceptor missiles in Central and Eastern European countries. The Russian general claims the implementation of these plans would disrupt the balance of Russian and American strategic delivery vehicles.

To begin with, NMD silos can be easily converted to launch ballistic missiles that could reach the most remote targets in European Russia.

Besides, by deploying NMD elements overseas, the U.S. is shifting responsibility for the consequences of a potential ballistic conflict to Europe, a fact that cannot please the leaders of European countries, including Russia. The interception of ballistic missiles using weapons of mass destruction (notably nuclear warheads) over Europe could provoke a fatal environmental catastrophe.

But the biggest problem with a large-scale NMD system, according to Baluyevsky, is that it cannot guarantee reliable protection from weapons of mass destruction because it is designed only to destroy ballistic missiles. The 9/11 tragedy showed that weapons of mass destruction can be delivered to a target using non-military, terrorist methods, as well as using less technologically complicated, simpler and cheaper methods, such as cruise missiles, aircraft and warships.

General Baluyevsky suggests that the U.S. should stop squandering taxpayers' money on a useless NMD program, which could provoke a new round of the arms race, and should instead join forces with Russia and the other leading global powers to create a truly effective system of protection against threats which an NMD system can do nothing to counteract.

He also warns that disregard for Russia's warning could change the nuclear strategic reduction policy, forcing Moscow "to develop relevant research programs and technological elements for eliminating the negative consequences" of U.S. actions.

The general does not say exactly what Moscow would do, but notes that "the Russian defense industry has a substantial and growing potential, which can ensure the maintenance and improvement of its technologies and the production of improved weapons and military equipment."

He mentions successful tests of modern strategic systems that could effectively penetrate the current and prospective defense systems. Russia is convinced that it "will be able to produce a suitable response to any attempts to endanger its security," Baluyevsky writes.

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