30 December 2009

COA Analysis: Russia seeking to 'counteract' US missile defenses

Putin's new saber-rattling are gathering some attention, and not in a good way...

Russia needs more weapons to punch through America’s new missile defence shield, Vladimir Putin said yesterday in blunt remarks that will complicate efforts to cut the nuclear arsenals of the former Cold War rivals.

The Russian Prime Minister, reasserting himself as the country’s real ruler, said that Moscow should press ahead with a new generation of weapons to stop the Americans doing “whatever they want”.

“To preserve the balance we must develop offensive weapons systems, not missile defence systems as the United States is doing,” he said during a visit to the naval port of Vladivostok on the Pacific coast.

Until now, it had seemed that Washington and Moscow were edging towards a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start), despite failing to meet the original target of December 5.

Asked why the talks had failed to reach agreement on a new deal, Mr Putin said: “What is the problem? The problem is that our American partners are building an anti-missile shield and we are not building one.”

The Prime Minister was believed to be voicing the deeply held views of hardliners in the Russian military machine, but his forthright statement may also be linked to growing signs that he is preparing to announce his intention to seek a new presidential term in 2012.

An interview with a Russian journalist/mew GRU target reveals some insight into the internal workings of this decision within Russia.

RFE/RL: Vladimir Putin seems to view this point about offensive weapons systems as a sort of response to U.S. plans to create a comprehensive missile-defense system. Is this the old story of sword and shield?

Golts: It is a purely political story. The American strategic missile-defense system cannot now or in the foreseeable future threaten Russia's nuclear potential. At present, the Americans have deployed about 50 missile interceptors that could -- and many experts doubt this -- potentially intercept five to 10 warheads. Russia will have more than 1,500 nuclear warheads.

So we are talking about a political game. Russia is interested in dragging out the strategic-arms talks. As long as the talks are proceeding, Russia can demonstrate that it has risen from its knees and that it is the only serious opponent of the United States.

Incidentally, Putin has left no doubt that he is a firm believer in the need for a nuclear deterrent against the United States. He thinks that as soon as the strategic balance is tipped, the Americans will begin to act aggressively, including in the economic sphere. It is a reference to the so-called concept of expanded deterrence, which supposes that nuclear parity allows Russia to resolve matters in other, completely unrelated spheres.

A game is being played, and Russia is insistent on a direct connection between missile defense and offensive strategic weapons. Russian generals also insist that the START-1 agreement was clearly unfair to Russia.

American offensive systems are not developing, but we are creating new missiles. We know perfectly well how America's Trident and Minuteman missiles fly. The Americans can't give us anything new in this regard. At the same time, the Americans are very interested in how the RS-24 and the Bulava fly. In exchange, Russia -- via Putin -- is demanding the telemetry of U.S. missile-defense systems.

I think the most important thing we can take from the prime minister's words is that he seriously intends to complicate the START talks. As we know perfectly well, both sides have agreed not to make any statements about the talks. No matter how difficult things have gotten since they began in October, both sides have stuck to this. And now, when the talks have apparently reached the final phase, the prime minister of the Russian Federation makes this sensational leak.

RFE/RL: Why?

Golts: I think that Putin is showing who is in charge in Russia.

So dear readers - what thinkest thou? Here are 4 possibilities based on current events. What do you think might happen, and what indicators would you expect to see on the way toward that future?

By: Brant

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