Russia Has No Choice but Seek Response to US AMD

To counter US anti-missile defense (AMD) Russia will develop its offensive weapon, Premier Vladimir Putin has said. But does Russia have a choice? And are there alternative ways to achieve a balance of power?

“In order to maintain balance, without developing the anti-missile system just like the United States are doing, we have to develop an offensive combat power system,” Putin said during his working visit to Vladivostok, in the country’s Far East.

''The problem is that our American partners are developing missile defenses, and we are not,'' he said.

“The issues of anti-missile defense and offensive combat systems are interconnected,” he went on. Putin added that "even during the Cold War, the peace was maintained thanks to this balance of power, which includes the correlation of forces between AMD, air defense and offensive arms.”

In addition to strategic importance, developing offensive arms seems to be more reasonable. The prime minister noted that the AMD is not only far too expensive, but its effectiveness is not yet clear.

“There is there is a big difference in cost between offensive and defensive arms. Therefore it is a lot cheaper to develop combat offensive armaments,” Vladimir Yevseev, senior associate of the Institute for World Economy and International Relations told RT.

The observer recalled the Scud ballistic missiles, developed by the USSR in 50s-60s. Effective defense against this weapon was developed only in the ’90s: the US “Patriot” (PAC-2) and Russian R-300.

The Obama administration scrapped the Bush-proposed plan to place interceptor missiles in Poland and radar on Czech soil, which was seen as a threat to its own security by Russia. However, Moscow wants to know what Washington intends to replace it with and is awaiting more information from the US on their plans to build an alternative missile defense system by 2018.

“The US has dropped its missile defense plans, and developed an alternative system, which would not create problems in its first phase, but we would like more details on further stages,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told RT in an interview in October.

Today the same concerns are still in place, which was voiced by Prime Minister Putin.

“We have to improve the exchange of information,” he said. “Let our American colleagues fully inform us about their anti-missile system, and in return we will offer them information on our offensive armaments."

Right now the shape of US future AMD it is not clear at all, Yevseev said. “The only thing clear is that the system will be integrated with the Israeli…system.”

With only eight years remaining before America plans to launch its new missile defense, the question arising is whether Russia will have enough time to develop its response.

“I hope that by 2018, Russia will manage to strengthen its strategic and nuclear forces by putting into service Bulava-30 [intercontinental ballistic missile] and deploying rocket complex RS-24,” Vladimir Yevseev told RT. “In addition, it is probable that Russia will be able to prolong the working lifespan of heavy missiles. Thus, by 2018 Russia will have a stronger position than it does now.”

Also on Tuesday, Putin touched upon the negotiations with the US on a new strategic arms reduction treaty – START – and described them as “positive”. The previous agreement expired on December 5 and it is expected that the new one will be signed by the two states early in 2010.

However, some experts are not that optimistic about the progress of the bilateral talks and believe it is the deadlock in negotiations that is behind Putin’s rhetoric.

“Both sides are reluctant to make concessions on certain aspects,” said Colonel General Viktor Yesin, the former chief of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces Main Staff (1994-1996).

Thus, he went on, “as a response to American claims to give them telemetric info on the launches of Russian missiles Putin suggested Americans should then give Russia telemetric information on their missile defense activity”.

“In this case there will be a certain balance between the capabilities of strategic offensive and defensive weapons,” Yesin told RT.

According to Vladimir Yevseev, the timing of Putin’s statement is not accidental either – “the new agreement has not been signed yet”.

“I believe Putin’s statement will strengthen Russia’s position during the talks that are due to take place in January,” he told RT. “Apparently, the sides did not manage do agree about some issues.”

The expert agreed with Yesin that telemetric information could have been one of the stumbling blocks.

With the world still suffering from economic recession, many would question what the point of this Cold War-era style arms race which costs budgets – in other words tax-payers – a fortune. And considering modern technology, is it really possible to create effective defense or offense systems that would counter-balance each other?

“There is no system that would provide absolute protection,” Vladimir Yevseev said. “However, defense systems are generally more expensive than offense systems.”

That is why, the expert said, rich and developed countries – “and Russia can be considered one of them” - can afford to develop effective defense systems such as anti-rocket defense. But developing offense systems is preferable.

“The disadvantage of defense system is that it can happen so that certain level can be exceeded following which the whole system will stop working,” he said.

All things considered, “I see no possibility of a war between Russia and the US,” Yevseev said. At the same time, it is possible to create defense against “rogue states”, and Russia is far behind the US in this issue. “The US have real non-nuclear interception systems, they modernize them and are so far ahead of Russia that I have no idea how it can be possible to catch up with them,” he said.

According to Colonel-General Viktor Yesin, if it wasn’t for the US, Russia would not have to get involved in this business at all.

“If the US at least limited their missile defense system, Russia would not be forced to improve and strengthen its offensive systems,” he said. “I still hope that, in the new START agreement, the Americans will take some obligations on limiting their global defense system.”

But will the world be more stable with two powers building up their military strength?

“My assessment is that increasing the number of both offensive and defensive weapons on both sides doesn’t strengthen global stability, rather quite the opposite to that! It would be much better if the Americans got back to the AMD agreement of 1972 and took some obligations on limiting their offensive weapons together with Russia – certainly, in some new format,” Yesin told RT.


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