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Putin warns he will point missiles at Europe

Reuters | Jun 4, 2007

 

MOSCOW (Reuters): President Vladimir Putin said Russia would go back to its Cold War stance of aiming its missiles at Europe if Washington went ahead with a plan to build a missile defence shield near Russia's borders.

 

In an interview released late on Sunday, Putin acknowledged that Russia's response risked reviving an arms race in Europe but said Moscow would not be responsible for the consequences because Washington had started the escalation.

 

Putin made the tough statement before what is likely to be a frosty Group of Eight summit in Germany on June 6 where, among other world leaders, he will come face to face with U.S. President George W. Bush.

 

Russia has not specifically targeted its missiles at Europe since the end of the Cold War but, asked if it might return to that if the U.S. missile shield plan went ahead, Putin said: "Of course we are returning to those times.

 

"It is clear that if a part of the U.S. nuclear capability turns up in Europe, and, in the opinion of our military specialists, will threaten us, then we are forced to take corresponding steps in response."

 

"What will those steps be? Naturally, we will have to have new targets in Europe."

 

Russia's combative response to the U.S. missile shield has prompted comparisons with the Cold War. Putin has directed angry rhetoric at the White House, last week calling U.S. policy "imperialist".

 

Russia has test-launched a new ballistic missile in a move it tied to the U.S. missile plans, and suspended its compliance with a treaty limiting the deployment of conventional forces near Russia's western borders.

 

POLITICAL GESTURE

 

Putin's warning that missiles might once again be pointed at European targets carries a clear political message but has few practical implications.

 

Even after the Cold War ended, Russia retained the capability to hit European and U.S. targets. Training ballistic missiles on a particular target is a fairly simple technical task that can be done in a matter of minutes.

 

Putin's comments came in an interview Putin gave to selected media from G8 countries on Friday. The Kremlin released a transcript of the interview on its Internet site www.kremlin.ru at 2100 GMT on Sunday.

 

Russia's response to the U.S. missile moves would be to develop "more effective offensive systems", Putin said in the interview.

 

"We know that that risks restarting an arms race, for which we will not be responsible. It was not us who started altering the strategic balance."

 

Putin added: "Today we warn: if a new missile defence system is deployed in Europe there will be a response," he added. "We are forced to ensure our security."

 

Washington wants to locate elements of its planned shield -- including a radar station and interceptor missiles -- in Poland and the Czech Republic.

 

It says the shield is not a threat to Russia but is designed to protect against possible missile attacks from what it calls "rogue states" such as Iran and North Korea.

 

Putin said that was not credible. "There are no Iranian missiles with the necessary range," he said. "So it becomes obvious that this innovation is about us Russians."

 

Putin reiterated that a military escalation was not Russia's choice. "We are not in favour of confrontation," he said. "We are in favour of a dialogue.

 

"We want to be heard, we want our position to be understood," he said. "We do not rule out that our U.S. partners could review their decision (to build the missile shield)."

 

"But if that does not happen, we lift from ourselves any responsibility for the steps we take in response because we are not the ones who are initiating the looming arms race in Europe."

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Russia ups the stakes in US missile shield row

Agence France-Presse | Jun 4, 2007

 

Russia stepped up its Cold War rhetoric on Sunday with President Vladimir Putin warning it would point missiles at European targets if the US expands its nuclear defences near its borders.

 

Together with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Putin upped the stakes in a war of words with Washington over US missile defence shield plans that have caused a sharp downward spiral in relations.

 

"If the US nuclear potential extends across the European territory, we will get new targets in Europe," he said in an interview with newspapers from the Group of Eight industrialised nations.

 

"It will then be up to our military experts to identify which targets will be aimed by ballistic missiles and which ones will be aimed by cruise missiles," he said.

 

Lavrov, meanwhile, shrugged off American insistence that its plan to deploy missile defence hardware in Poland and the Czech Republic posed no threat, casting it as an attempt to encircle Russia militarily.

 

The US plan "wonderfully fits the overall picture of American global anti-missile defence, which according to our analysis -- just look at the map -- is being deployed along Russia's perimeter, and also China's, incidentally."

 

"If strategic components of the American arsenal appear in Europe near our borders, we are obliged to ... cut off potential threats from that deployment," Lavrov said in comments broadcast on the state-run television channel Vesti-24.

 

After warning repeatedly that the US proposals would set off a new arms race, Moscow tested a new multi-warhead missile last week that Putin said was a direct response to US actions.

 

The interview with Putin was due to be published on Monday but pre-released by Germany's Der Spiegel magazine. Putin and his peers are meeting for a three-day G8 summit which begins in Germany on Wednesday.

 

"The anti-missile shield is part of a nuclear system that protects American territory. For the first time in history, elements of it are being moved to Europe," Putin said.

 

"We want to re-balance the defence instruments with more efficient offensive equipment but we know that this could lead to a renewed arms race for which we are, however, not responsible."

 

Tensions over the plan have contributed to sending relations between the two states to levels many analysts say haven't been seen since the Cold War.

 

But in spite of the sharp words, Lavrov pointed to a previous avenue of Russian cooperation with the West on missile defence, saying: "It would be better to resume work within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council on creating theatre missile defence."

 

Developing a missile defence system to protect deployed troops from missile attacks is one of several joint programmes by the NATO-Russia Council, and is scheduled to be completed by 2010.

 

Washington says the central European shield, which foresees 10 missile interceptors in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic, would protect against potential threats from states such as Iran or North Korea.

 

"The Cold War is over. I don't view Russia as an enemy and I've got a good relationship with Vladimir Putin and I intend to keep it that way," President George W. Bush told Bulgarian National Television (BNT) on Friday.

 

But Putin, in the interview, rejected the claim that the missile defence was about Iran.

 

"We are told that this defence system serves against Iranian missiles but no Iranian missile has such a capability. It therefore becomes evident that this concerns us, the Russians," Putin said.

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Is The World In For A New Cold Age

RIA Novosti | Jun 4, 2007

 

Moscow: Today's strategic balance is an expression of the quantitative and qualitative alignment of forces with due account of the factors determining the strategic situation. Its parameters form a sophisticated dynamic system; nuclear, primarily strategic weapons are one of its elements.

 

But the general condition of this system largely depends on its other elements. Thus, there is an inseparable connection between offensive and defensive arms. Both the Soviet Union and the United States acknowledged it when signing the ABM Treaty. Indicatively, this treaty and the first agreement on the limitation of strategic offensive arms (SALT-1) were signed simultaneously (in 1972).

 

The gist of the problem is as follows: centuries-long escalation of a sword-and-shield race (offensive and defensive weapons) has always been won by the sword, but reached a fatal point with the invention of nuclear arms. A shield became useless even if it could parry 99% of all nuclear strikes. One percent would be enough to paralyze civilization. At the same time, a scientific and technical analysis of the problem shows that offensive weapons will continue leaving defensive arms far behind. No shield will parry even 90% of attacking missiles.

 

Many factors make it impossible to consider the U.S.-declared global ABM system as an effective protection against a massive first strike. But its deployment will create an illusion that it is possible to repel a weakened retaliatory strike. The illusory advantage of the first strike is one of the main dangers inherent in a global ABM system. Any crisis will increase the impetus for a pre-emptive strike and simultaneous measures to neutralize enemy anti-missile defenses.

 

American officials are adamantly denying the fact that their ABM system will threaten Russian security. This is what Condoleezza Rice said on this subject: "Let's be real about this," she said. "The idea that somehow 10 interceptors and a few radars in Eastern Europe are going to threaten the Soviet strategic return is purely ludicrous and everybody knows it." Indicatively, she used the Cold War term "Soviet." This is all true, but not in case of retaliation, when it will be much easier to intercept the few surviving missiles. Moreover, in perspective the Americans are going to equip their missile interceptors in Poland with hit-to-kill kinetic cassette warheads - 30 to 40 each. They will be much more powerful than 10 simple interceptors.

 

The main goal of the United States is to create basic elements of the ABM infrastructure - it won't be difficult to build them up in the future. The planned location of the American radar in the Czech Republic is very convenient - it will allow the United States to detect all Russian ICBMs within 60-75 seconds after launch and will immediately produce a mathematical model close to the missiles' flight paths, thereby facilitating their interception.

 

Washington's withdrawal from the ABM Treaty and particularly its intention to deploy ABM elements in Europe have been subjecting Russian-American partnership to the most serious test in the last few years. The Russian government's initial response was very reserved. It merely expressed "regret." This is quite natural considering that in the next 10 to 15 years this will be a political rather than a military problem for Russia. Today's technologies cannot produce a reliable ABM system. It will be even less effective against MIRVed ICBMs accompanied by multiple decoys in a well-orchestrated counteraction.

 

Nonetheless, Moscow made a decision to extend the service life of RS-20 Satans and RS-18 (UR-100N UTTKh) missiles with multiple warheads. If they remain in use, it makes no sense to speed up the re-equipment of single-warhead Topol-Ms with their three-warhead versions. Be that as it may, on May 29 Moscow announced a successful test of a new MIRVed RS-24 ICBM.

 

By the time the interceptor systems become combat-ready - in 2013, the Russian ICBMs would be capable of overcoming the American ABM system. But this is bound to create an issue of a response to offset a potential military imbalance.

 

Prominent military and political leaders have made a number of statements about potential response measures. Generally, they are described as asymmetrical and are capable of maintaining strategic stability. In practical terms they boil down to modernizing strategic offensive arms and enhancing their ability to overcome any future ABM system in order to inflict unacceptable damage on the aggressor in a massive retaliatory strike. It is especially important to guarantee immunity of ICBMs at the boost stage when they are the most vulnerable. One of the possible options is to reduce this stage and make a missile maneuverable.

 

Nuclear warheads should be also able to maneuver at the final stage of their flight. The first maneuverable warheads were tested in February 2005 at the Topol-M ICBMs. Judging by all, its warhead had several maneuvering slides and one ramjet. A warhead that slowed down during re-entry into the atmosphere is again propelled by this ramjet to supersonic speeds, and maneuvering slides send it into a zigzag flight with a completely unpredictable path.

 

Apparently, Russia tested not simply a ballistic missile warhead but an independent craft that an ICBM can carry to enemy targets. Chief of the Russian General Staff Yury Baluyevsky said that missiles with maneuvering warheads would go on combat duty in 2010.

 

Finally, the most often mentioned asymmetrical response to American ABM deployment is Russia's unilateral withdrawal from the treaty on medium and shorter-range missiles. This option is unviable both militarily and economically. It will require tremendous military expenditures on large-scale R and D, re-orientation of plants to the production of new types of weapons, construction of military bases and so on and so forth.

 

Maybe, this is what Washington is after - to involve Russia in a new arms race and let it drop from exhaustion like the Soviet Union did in a desperate bid to catch up with the United States in strategic nuclear armaments. Contrary to the assurances of our overseas and European friends, they do not need a strong Russia, and many became concerned when it started rising from its knees.

 

During talks with U.S. State Secretary Condoleezza Rice, Vladimir Putin emphasized once again that the deployment of American ABM elements in Eastern Europe would upset the current global balance of forces. The Russian president said that the American plans were not a problem only for Russian-U.S. relations but concerned the interests of all European countries, including non-NATO members, to a greater or lesser extent.

 

Russia, Europe and the United States should jointly evaluate all potential strategic risks. Otherwise, we will be in for a new cold age.

 

Yury Zaitsev is an expert of the Institute of Space Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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