MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Kislyakov) - The first, ground-based stage of the U.S. missile defense program has successfully been completed.
There is not much time left before the start of a battle royal for the right to place missile defense components, i.e. weapons, in space.
Fortunately, the success of the proponents of orbital duels is not pre-determined. "We have repeatedly come up with initiatives aimed at preventing the use of weapons in space," said Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Munich Conference on Security Policy in mid-February. "Today I would like to tell you that we have drafted an agreement on the prevention of weapons deployment in space. Very soon it will be made into an official proposal. Let us work on it together." Of course, there is little hope that the Russian initiative will have a serious influence on the missile defense program. Nevertheless, a barrier must be placed across weapons' path to space.
In discussing the danger of anti-missile efforts in their present form, let us start with purely military problems. Does the U.S. system pose a threat to Russia? The answer is unequivocal: it does not.
At present, the U.S. has two deployment areas for extraterrestrial kinetic interceptors: 14 silo-based anti-missile units in Alaska and another two in California. Soon another 10 may be deployed in Poland, with support infrastructure in the form of a ground-based radar in the Czech Republic.
A prominent Russian military expert and former head of the Defense Ministry's Space Research Institute, Major General Vladimir Dvorkin, says, "the creation of one missile defense deployment area in the Czech Republic, Poland and other eastern European countries and the deployment of a dozen of anti-missile units in each does not pose any threat to the Russian strategic containment potential. It would take hundreds of deployment areas and thousands of anti-missile units to damage this potential."
Moreover, despite the impressive characteristics of the U.S. Ground-Based Interceptor - an intercepting height of up to 1,500 km and a directed-fire range of up to 4,000 km, it cannot guarantee the destruction of warheads in the middle of the launch trajectory from Russian deployment sites, which is very inconvenient for the Americans. At the same time, to destroy them at the most convenient point, the beginning of the trajectory, the interceptor must be located within 500 km of the target, which is also impossible geographically.
However, the first two stages of the interceptor are flesh of the flesh of the second and third stages of the Minuteman II ICBM. So it will not take much imagination to deploy Minuteman III's, which have about the same length and maximum diameter as the Minuteman II, instead of the announced conventional antimissiles.
Yet there is a greater danger. Russian leaders have repeatedly said that they will give an "asymmetrical," cheaper, but "extremely effective" answer to the U.S. antimissile defense system. This answer was quite clear. In mid-2006, Chief of the Russian General Staff Yuri Baluyevsky said, "We have practically found adequate and asymmetrical methods that allow us to say: the existing and prospective ABM will be successfully penetrated by our intercontinental ballistic missiles and their warheads."
This launches a boundless program for the improvement of offensive nuclear weapons. The response will be the appearance of the prospective ABM, this time partially space-deployed.
The result will be a new battlefield with its own "front line" and "fortifications." Given that over 180 countries are involved in space activities and at least 40 of them use information from orbit for some or other defense purposes, it is hard to find an alternative to Putin's Munich proposal and to argue with Vladimir Dvorkin, who said, "The proposed ban on weapons deployment in space should be viewed as an invitation to develop and adopt a countries' code of behavior in space. It could ban all actions aimed at destroying space systems, including weapons deployment."
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