Interview with Aleksandr Nikitin

Aleksandr Nikitin, a professor from the Moscow State University of International Relations, spoke to RT about the joint Russia-U.S. talks being held in Washington on controversial plans for a missile defence shield in Europe.

Russia Today: How likely is it that the U.S. will agree to Russia's offer of the Gabala radar base to be used as an alternative to systems based in Poland and the Czech Republic?

Aleksandr Nikitin: It looks like a small technical point, this Gabala radar issue. But in fact its stake it is a general political decision. Russia is strategically building a joint system with the United States, with the West. In fact, the architecture of the Western system is open, so more and more components can be added in different parts of the world. And if it was decided that Russia would donate such a component to the international system, it would mean the involvement of Russia into decision making process as well. Technical data couldn't be shared in one direction only. It's not only that Russia is ready to share data. Russia would be insisting on receiving some information from the other components of the system which would be located in different parts of the world.  Initially Russia suggested to exchange data from the Gabala radar for not building the components in Eastern Europe. Now the West is responding unexpectedly as it is trying to sit on both chairs. It says they still will be installing components in Eastern Europe, the contractor – Boeing company – is defined. And at the same time, would be interested in using data from the Russian components.  

RT: It is the first round of talks and it's the technical evaluation.  Is it likely that any major agreement or compromise will be reached there?

A.N.: These talks are very preliminary. In fact, the sides are probing each other. Since 2001 Russia was stressing that it is interested in building jointly with the West – especially with NATO, rather than with the U.S. – the theatrical anti-ballistic missile defence, the tactical one. But it was not interested in playing around strategic system. Now the rules of the game have changed. There are new political conditions and Russia and the U.S. are discussing exactly the creation of the strategic system of anti-ballistic missile defence. This would require redefining the rules of the negotiations. So, at this stage the west is trying to understand what Russia is ready to place in the collective basket and Russia is trying to understand how it could trade of something for this offer.

RT: If there is a threat, something will be done sooner or later and all these argument and discussion are going to delay a possible missile defence system. When do you think the system should be ready to meet the suggested threats?

A.N.: In fact no components of the system would be technically ready before 2011-2013. Approximately by that time the West would have something like 40 ground-based interceptors in Alaska and probably other 10 in California and another 10 in Europe. This still would be not enough to make strategic threats to Russian interests and Russian deterrents would be safe. However, exactly at the same time countries like Iran could develop a new generation of strategic far-reaching missiles with the range of 4,000-5,000 kilometres. It means that now there is no yet a threat against which a system is built. But when the system will be ready by 2011-2013, the threat might be there.