Going ballistic: Russia strikes back with missile warning

Iskander missile (RIA Novosti / Aleksey Danichev)
Russia proceeds from the necessity to maintain its strategic defense potential, says Russia’s Ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin.

­Russia’s primary interest is in protecting its citizens, says the NATO envoy.

“We cannot afford to trade on the security of our citizens,”
Rogozin said. “So if anyone puts an eye on it or casts a doubt on it, counter measures should certainly be worked out. And today the president named those measures.”

Rogozin went on to predict that there would be some tough talking during the forthcoming meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on December 8.

“Our colleagues from NATO will have to respond to the question: Why, if you call Russia a partner, are you building the potential to undermine Russia’s security?”

Meanwhile, former commander of the missile attack prevention army Lt. Gen. Nikolay Rodionov said the measures voiced by President Medvedev are capable of neutralizing the threats resulting from the deployment of the American missile defense system, told Interfax.

These measures “are aimed at wrecking the US plans to strike Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles deployed in the European parts of the country,” he said. “At the same it, it is a signal to our western partners to do everything possible in order to avoid a new arms race, which is inevitable given the implementation of US missile defense plans.”

Rodionov noted that when speaking about the deployment of strike systems in Russia’s west and south, Medvedev “undoubtedly” meant Iskander missile systems – “a high-precision weapon” which is “practically invulnerable to air defense systems.”

Finally, commenting on President Medvedev’s statements, NATO’s official representative in Russia, Oana Lungescu, said that the alliance’s proposal to discuss ways of cooperation in the AMD issue remains in force.

However, President Medvedev’s announcement does not mark the end of the so-called “reset” in Russia-US relations, believes the chairman of the Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee, Mikhail Margelov.

“I can state this as a participant of the meeting between the [Russian and US] presidents in Honolulu,” he told Interfax. 

“The president has presented retaliatory steps which our country has to make because of the US refusal to provide legally-binding guarantees that the deployment of the American missile defense shield in Europe will not be aimed against Russia,” Margelov said.   

The official noted that that despite disagreements, the two countries are not enemies. He observed that there have been differences in approaches when it comes to security issues “even between closest allies.”

­America says it is concerned with protecting its own homeland, yet it is deploying missiles along the Russian border. According to political analyst Igor Khokhlov, this policy of surrounding Russia and the former Soviet Union with missile bases actually dates back to the 50s and 60s.

He added the United States has pulled the rug out from under its European allies by surrounding the Russian territory with missile bases.

“Russia has adequate responses, especially with its new generation of missiles like Iskander, which can be put in Europe and will endanger the European allies of the US. The European allies of the US, who joined this program, are putting their own populations at risk because before these events there was no danger from Russia, and now Russia has a response to America putting its missile bases around its territory,” he said.

­Glyn Ford, a former Member of the European Parliament, told RT Europe has an obligation to moderate any US plans that fail to take account of Russia’s genuine security concerns over the ABM project.  

“I think the European Union and the European members of NATO have a responsibility to press the United States to actually try and come to some accommodation with Russia on this matter.  The two things would be – either we do not deploy or we provide information to Moscow that enables them to be assured that if you want a change in the balance of forces, it is comparatively small.”

­Russian political analyst Dmitry Babich told RT the timing of President Medvedev’s statement was not accidental.

“There are several reasons why the statement was made now. First, we should not forget that we are in the midst of an election campaign right now in Russia and also the American electoral campaign, so probably Russia could view this as the last moment when something can be renegotiated on missile defense and on the START treaty,” he stated.

According to Babich, the Republican opposition in the US will push Obama to be tougher on Russia.

“They have already threatened to renegotiate the START treaty. They think that it is too beneficial for Russia, though I would argue that it is correct,” he added.


­Europe seems now to be directly involved in the row between Moscow and Washington on missile defense. The Iskander missiles could be directed towards Europe as Medvedev has threatened, but as professor Nina Bashkatov, from the Liege University, told RT, this is between Russia and the United States.

“Europe should have no political reason to fear that those countries could be slipping in such hostility that war can be envisaged, let alone a nuclear war declared,” she said.

­Despite the fact that the US calls for an anti-missile defense system, Moscow’s concern is that Russia will be totally encircled and that it has the potential be used as an offensive system. According to political analyst Aleksandar Pavic, verification is very hard in these things.

“They can very easily and quickly be turned into offensive systems. We have to remember in 2002 US president George Bush unilaterally withdrew from the anti-ballistic missile treaty. This was the treaty that kept clear stability, not just in Europe but throughout the world for more than 30 years. Such threats actually increase the chances of a nuclear war or even accidental nuclear war. And the further way we get from that doctrine, which assured the peace, the more dangerous the whole international environment is becoming,” he stressed.

­Alice Slater from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation told RT it is unlikely the situation will lead to a new Cold War style arms race.

“I hope somebody will have some good sense because basically the US is a crumbling empire – it is in debt, it cannot fund its roads, it has wasted its national treasure on the military, and it is almost like it has to have a total shift into the 21st century. War is not the answer anymore and there are many problems America has to deal with. Hopefully this is a wake-up call,” she said.