MOSCOW. (Viktor Litovkin for RIA Novosti) - Russian military experts are perplexed by the arguments which the U.S. political and military top brass are using to justify their decision to deploy forward-based missile defense elements in Eastern Europe.
Who would believe that a radar in the Czech Republic and 10 anti-missiles in Poland pose no threat to Russia and are only designed to ward off "rogue countries," such as North Korea and Iran?
Pyongyang is located so far away from Europe that it makes no sense for it to send its missiles via Europe if it wants to strike at the United States. If need be, Tehran can also choose any other trajectory, for example, fly over the North Pole, making missile defense elements in Poland totally useless.
Moreover, in the next 20-30 years, neither North Korea, nor Iran will be able to get missiles that are capable of reaching the U.S. The ones they have now, or are developing, can cover no more than 3,000 km. In order to increase their range to at least 5,500 km, these countries will have to upgrade dramatically their scientific and technological level, and make a leap in computer technology and software, neither of which is likely.
For this reason, I agree with Russian military experts that the U.S. ABM defense elements in the Czech Republic and Poland are designed against Russian strategic missiles. Their deployment in Eastern Europe will upset the European balance of forces, and pose a serious threat to our defenses. The arguments that 10 anti-missiles cannot offset hundreds of Russian Topols and Topols-M (SS-25 and SS-27 in Western code), Stilets (SS-19) and Satans (SS-18) do not sound convincing. Nobody can guarantee that there will not be 20, then 100 or even more of them, or that they will not be replaced with their upgraded versions that are being developed in the United States. Moreover, high-ranking U.S. officials are saying that Washington is not going to consult even its closest NATO allies about the deployment of missile defense systems in Europe. Finally, it would be naive to think that Washington will limit its appetites to Poland and the Czech Republic, or to the modest potential that it is now talking about.
Russian military experts also believe that President George W. Bush's proposal to cooperate with Russia on developing a joint missile defense is a trick designed to mollify public opinion, primarily in Europe, which is naturally alarmed about the American plans for Eastern Europe. This is what Maj.-Gen. Vladimir Belous (Ret.), an author of several books on U.S. ABMs, told me on this score: "Such cooperation is out of the question. Our strategic nuclear forces are primarily aimed against each other. Their relations are based on the concept of mutual nuclear deterrence. Under the circumstances, joint ABM defense is unrealistic."
It is hard to refute this argument. At the end of the last century, Russia and the United States signed an agreement to exchange information on the launches of strategic and theater ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles detected by their respective early warning systems. Moscow was planning to set up together with the United States a joint agency to control this process. More than seven years have passed since the agreement was signed but nothing has been done so far. The Russia-NATO Council has a group on ABM in Europe. It held several consultations on ABM defense. Moscow has placed information on its ABM systems at its partners' disposal. Even joint computer courses were held on the problem. Brussels promised to buy individual elements of Russian military hardware for European ABM defense but nothing happened. NATO has decided to buy American hardware for Europe's ABM defense on the grounds that the Russian equipment does not match the standards.
Meanwhile, the entire system of anti-missile and air defense of Greece, a member of NATO, rests on Russian hardware, for instance Tor-M1 and S-300 air defense missile systems. They are included into NATO's integrated air and missile defense system, and the standards are acceptable. Why are they not acceptable for other European countries? Where is the logic here? Obviously, the political and commercial interests of Washington and its companies are more important than any logic.
Deployment of U.S. ABM elements in Poland and the Czech Republic will threaten not only Russia but also Europe. Chief of the Armed Forces General Staff Army General Yury Baluyevsky and Commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces Col.-Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov have already warned in public that if U.S. ABM defense elements are stationed in Eastern Europe, Russia's strategic nuclear missiles as well as medium and small-range missiles will be targeted against them. The latter's production was discontinued 20 years ago, but will apparently have to be resumed.
If Europe wants to live in the shadow of nuclear missiles and be a shield for American self-centered interests, it is free to make this choice, the Russian generals say. We wouldn't like it to come under threat, but we are not going to sacrifice our national security, either. Therefore, we are compelled to give an adequate response to the threats that may appear on our borders.
Viktor Litovkin is a Deputy Editor in Chief of Independent Military Review, a weekly supplement to Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.