Russia, U.S. Fail to Find Common Language on AMD
The meeting of the Russia-NATO Council in Brussels did not result in any breakthrough, just as many observers had predicted. At a final news conference, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said that Russia and NATO had different assessments of the potential missile threat to European countries, adding diplomatically that the meeting had been “very constructive.” Apparently, an example of this constructiveness is the statement made by Lieutenant General Henry Obering, Director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, who has generously promised not to deploy antimissile defense in the Caucasus within the next few years.
Russia’s permanent representative in NATO Konstantin Totsky, who led the Russian delegation in Brussels, expressed Moscow’s opinion on the U.S. plans to deploy the third launch area of its strategic antimissile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic. One radar and 10 silo-based interceptors will not be able to protect Europe from potential missile strikes anyway, he said. Consequently, the United States will expand the system afterwards. At the same time, Totsky said that Russia was willing to fight against the missile threat from the Middle East together with the U.S. and NATO, “by political, diplomatic and economic means.”
The U.S., however, having obtained formal endorsement of its East European deployment plans from its NATO allies in Brussels, intends to go on with them despite Moscow’s objections. This was made clear in a statement by Eric Edelman, the Under Secretary of Defense who headed the U.S. delegation in Brussels.
The United States and NATO will ensure “compatibility and complementarity” of their anti-missile defense systems, he said. Under these plans, the U.S. AMD in the Czech Republic and Poland will intercept ballistic missiles, while the AMD system set up within entire NATO will fight medium and short-range missiles. Yet Western experts believe that Americans will have to prove the need to deploy AMD not only for Moscow, but also for some of their NATO partners, first of all Germany.
When commenting on the results of the discussions at the Russia-NATO Council, observers point out that the U.S., showing its willingness to cooperate and have a dialog with Moscow, simultaneously pretends not to hear and understand Russia’s arguments. While Russia stresses the political and military-strategic aspects of the U.S. AMD bases appearing at its borders, Washington is trying to make the discussion purely technical, speaking in detail of the technical parameters of the systems, the desirability of information and technology exchange, the creation of some abstract “common mechanisms” that will warn about a missile strike from Iran or other rogue states.
America’s obtrusive proposals of cooperation on the “technical” level leave Russia bewildered and uncomprehending. Moscow has grounds to believe that they are rather declarative and propagandist, seeking to ensure unilateral advantages for Washington. Notably, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov has said that Russia does not see reasons to cooperate with America in strategic antimissile defense so far. The idea of a strategic “antimissile shield” is little efficient, hardly plausible and has “a somewhat chimerical nature,” he said.
At the same time, the U.S. intention to deploy elements of its AMD system in East Europe “really worries” Russia, Ivanov emphasized. “We do not understand why they need this system in East Europe, in Poland and the Czech Republic,” he said. Russia does not agree with American arguments about the “increasing” missile threat from Iran, which will allegedly acquire intercontinental ballistic missiles by 2015. On the contrary, Moscow believes that deployment of the U.S. antimissile defense near its borders may upturn the strategic balance in Europe and, perhaps, in the entire world.
As to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ visit to Moscow on April 23, Ivanov said, “We are willing to listen to the American party and are ready for a dialog where it is possible.” But independent experts say they doubt that serious AMD cooperation between Moscow and the George Bush administration is possible. They point out that there are no ready draft agreements between diplomatic departments or at least joint declarations of intentions, without which real cooperation can hardly take place.
As is well known, Russia, the U.S. and NATO will continue the discussion at an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Oslo on April 26-27. Following the Secretary of Defense, State Secretary Condoleezza Rice will visit Moscow in May, with view to convince the Russian government to withdraw its objections to the U.S. antimissile plans in East Europe.
It seems, however, that as long as Washington pretends not to understand Russia’s concerns and is unwilling to try to find a common language, real progress in resolving this problem is unlikely.