An international conference on missile defense in Europe opened in Moscow on May 3. Washington and Moscow – the event’s major players – are still unable to find common ground: Russia insists that the missile defense system in Europe poses a threat, and the West deliberately shrugs off these concerns. The Russian General Staff is prepared to take strong measures to make its voice heard.
Old words, new font
Both sides continued to recite their monologues in a vacuum. Russia highlights the threats presented by U.S. missile defense programs, while Washington pretends not to understand what Moscow is talking about.
In response, the Russian military are deliberately heating up what could have been a discussion if at least some formal features of a dialogue were present. Chief of Staff and Army General Nikolai Makarov reiterated that Russia could use its conventional (and other) weapons against U.S. missile defense facilities deployed at its border “if the situation deteriorates.”
The deployment of new offensive weapons in southern and northwestern Russia, including the deployment of an Iskaner missile system in the Kaliningrad Region, is one way to destroy the missile defense infrastructure in Europe,” Makarov said.
There’s nothing shocking in the general's comments at the conference: The rhetoric about using military force (including Iskander missiles) against the U.S. missile defense system in Europe has been on display for over a year now. President Dmitry Medvedev himself made this threat in no uncertain terms in November 2011.
But this time, rather that issuing unsubstantiated threats about “appropriate measures,” the Russian delegation briefed the conference participants about the reasons for their concerns that explain their violent reaction.
Apocalypse in a slideshow
Deputy Chief of Staff Colonel-General Valery Gerasimov (appointed Commander of the Central Military District just a week ago) showed the audience visual images of simulated missile launches from Russia if the Americans deploy their new information systems and weapons that work together with components of the national missile defense system in Alaska’s Fort Greely and the Californian base Vandenberg.
The findings by the Russian General Staff members were designed to boldly underline the dangers inherent in the U.S. global missile defense system.
The Russian military showed a sense of humor during the demonstration: Iranian missiles flying over Europe in a hypothetical attack against the United States were not intercepted by the U.S. missile defense system in Europe; or rather they were intercepted together with Russian missiles launched from European Russia, which seems to contradict the assertions of the Americans.
In a joint system, Russian advanced systems that have characteristics similar to their U.S. counterparts and are deployed in southern Russia, could intercept such threats coming from Iran. However, our friends from NATO are not willing to move forward and integrate our missile defense systems, Russian generals say.
The simulation didn’t show signs that the Russian missiles headed toward the U.S. territory were totally vulnerable. However, the simulation offered a good demonstration of the technical capabilities of U.S. missile defense against them (from different angles). The question of the vulnerability of combat patrols performed by Russian missile submarines was raised as well. So the main concerns of the Russian military were outlined rather graphically, inviting the opponents to bargaining.
In this regard, the response by Deputy Secretary General of NATO Alexander Vershbow is particularly noteworthy for its lack of focus. Stating his fundamental disagreement with the findings of the Russian General Staff, Vershbow said that Russia still had a lot of nuclear missiles, which are guaranteed to overcome the U.S. missile defense system, if need be.
Anyway, this system, Vershbow went on to say, was directed against single launches of imperfect ballistic missiles and, of course, nothing can stand in the way of a massive nuclear strike by modern Russian strategic nuclear forces.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Madelyn Creedon repeated the same points, extolling the power and technical excellence of Russian missile forces, which can break through the American missile defense system even in the long-term perspective, because, as she stressed at every opportunity, it is not directed against Russia's deterrent capabilities in the first place.
If this is the case, then there’s nothing to bargain about: “We will not accept any restrictions either in terms of the number of missiles or the capabilities of this system [missile defense],” Creedon added.
The danger is the wall, not the bricks
Tactfully, the Americans perhaps failed to notice the main point in the remarks of Colonel-General Gerasimov about the close integration of information and weapon systems of both national and European components of the U.S. global missile defense system in real time. Moreover, Creedon pointedly emphasized that she will be looking at America’s national missile defense system separately from the European one, since they are different projects with different objectives.
The synergy effect of the American plan lies exactly in the close interaction of distributed components. Its individual building blocks do not pose a threat to Russia's retaliatory capability, but when they come together to form a wall they create a totally different defensive capability. The Iron Curtain between the East and the West may descend again, but this time it will be more technologically advanced.
The potential flexibility of this shared network of information and weapon systems (including mobile and space ones, both existing and prospective) forces us to address this antimissile shield with all seriousness. Today, and even tomorrow, it will not threaten Russia's strategic nuclear forces in any way, but who can guarantee what’s going to happen in the long run? What means of destruction could be easily integrated into the U.S. global defense system 10-20 years from now?
So far, even such a representative international forum as this Moscow conference has failed to establish at least some common ground on the issue, which is setting off a new nuclear arms race right before our eyes.
The views expressed in this article are the author's and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti