MOSCOW. (Viktor Litovkin for RIA Novosti) - On April 18 Oslo will play host to the Russia-NATO Council summit, which will discuss the need to deploy American forward-based anti-ballistic missile (ABM) components in Eastern Europe.
There are heated debates on this issue in European and American media, and proxy squabbling between officials from Russia, the United States and other countries.
The Financial Times carried an article the other day by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (it was his second article in the European press in the last fortnight) under the title "A crucial debate on Europe's anti-missile defences." The minister tells the readers that any unilateral anti-missile projects would fundamentally alter Europe's geo-strategic landscape, and would affect its security interests. He considers the U.S. arguments about Iranian missiles being a threat to Europe and the United States unfounded. Tehran has no capability of threatening Europe and the United States with missiles, nor will it have in the foreseeable future.
Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin voiced a similar view: "Deployment of strategic components of the U.S. military infrastructure in the countries located near the Russian borders is bound to cause concern, and demands that we adopt appropriate measures," he said at a session of the UN Disarmament Commission. "Russia does not consider the implementation of the U.S. ABM program a strictly defensive measure. It upsets the world's strategic equilibrium and leads to the development of the disarming first-strike potential," he explained.
In an interview with The Guardian, the Russian president's deputy press-secretary Dmitry Peskov shared the same view. He said that Moscow was disappointed and concerned over the U.S. plan: "We were never informed in advance about these plans... We feel deceived. Potentially we will have to create alternatives to this but with lower cost and higher efficiency."
Chairman of the State Duma International Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev and prominent Russian expert on ABM defense Maj.-Gen. Vladimir Belous (Ret.), along with other military experts, criticized the U.S. plan to protect its territory with a European shield in the Western press.
During the same period, The Guardian published an article entitled "Russia threatening a new Cold War over missile defence," while The Christian Science Monitor wrote that Russia was driving a wedge between the European nations on the U.S. ABM deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic. NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, has joined the chorus supporting the U.S. plan. He said that ten American anti-missile systems do not and cannot threaten Russia with its hundreds of strategic missiles and thousands of nuclear warheads.
As we can see, the prospects of U.S. ABM deployment have already caused a psychological war with attacks and counterattacks, deviations and other maneuvers that are very similar to real hostilities between confronting armies. This war threatens to split Europe even before the Russia-NATO summit. Far from all European countries support Washington's decision. In some European countries officials working in the same government cannot agree on the consequences of the U.S. plan.
A desire to support the U.S. and upset Russia is prompting some European publications to fiddle with notions and use inadmissible double standards. The Guardian's headline "Russia threatening new Cold War over missile defence" does not reflect the Kremlin's position. It is not a threat. Moscow is forced to think about the outcome of the U.S. plan. If it goes through, responsibility for the consequences and a sharp deterioration in Moscow-Brussels relations will rest with the European Union and NATO.
The Russian arguments have been quoted by Sergei Lavrov, Vitaly Churkin, Dmitry Preskov, Konstantin Kosachev, and earlier by Chief of the Russian General Staff Army Gen. Yury Baluyevsky and Commander of the Strategic Missile Force Col.-Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov. They have convincingly disproved the assertions of the U.S. Administration and NATO that ABM elements in Poland and the Czech Republic are harmless and designed only for the protection against rogue countries. Moscow does not believe this for a moment, and will prove it again at the upcoming Russia-NATO summit in Oslo.
Moscow understands full well that no convincing and straightforward arguments can stop the machine of the American military-industrial complex, which hopes to get handsome dividends from the deployment of ABM components in Europe, other continents and even in outer space. But European capitals should realize who is responsible for undermining stability and tranquility in their countries.
Contrary to the expectations of Washington and Brussels, Moscow will not get involved in an arms race. It is strong enough to give an adequate asymmetric response to the ABM challenge, and can do it at low cost.
If the Europeans want to live in the sights of Russian nuclear missiles targeted at U.S. ABM bases, it's up to them. Moscow does not threaten anyone - it simply warns that it has no other choice but to counterattack.
Viktor Litovkin is a deputy editor-in-chief of Nezavisimoye Voennoye Obozrenie, 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.