Russia will never give up its deterrent forces

No world nuclear power will strip itself of nuclear forces as long as America pursues global military dominance and wars like Yugoslavia and Iraq, considers Andrey Kokoshin, former First Deputy Minister of Defense.

RT: The Russian air force chief has said recently that by 2030, the United States will have developed missile systems in space capable of hitting targets anywhere in Russia. How real do you think such a threat is?

Andrey Kokoshin: I could say that in the 1970s and even a little bit later, in the 80s, we developed plenty of countermeasures against potential space-based systems which could be neutralized or destroyed by different means, including the means of radio-electronic warfare or just anti-satellite weapons. And these technologies are well-known and available. The question is that it costs a lot of money. It will cost a lot of money for the other side to deploy such systems, to test them, to prove they really work, because there are a lot of questions about it. It is less costly, of course, to have countermeasures. That’s why I think that if they proceed with such development, we will find a way how to cope with this threat. And not only us: it could be done by the Chinese, by the Indians, and even by some other countries, not speaking about more developed countries.

RT: We’ve also heard that Russia will create a new air and space defense system by 2020, which some of the Western media have already dubbed “Russia’s very own star wars missiles”. How realistic is that, given that some Western experts have been saying that the Russian military has been slowly degrading since the breakup of the Soviet Union, and that process still hasn’t quite stopped.

AK: First of all, the Russian defense system is not degrading any more, and in recent years we have had a lot of serious achievements: technological achievements, achievements in operational thinking, in tactical thinking. We can demonstrate to any opponent that we can do the job in case of a crisis. Of course, our forces are not perfect and a lot of things should be done. Air and space defense…one should understand, what space defense is. First of all, space defense is an early-warning system regarding ballistic missiles incoming from the other side, be they land-based, sea-based or air-launched, plus cruise missiles of course. I think there is nothing new in this task. It is only the new situation, new technology on both sides, that’s one thing. If you take the so-called attack weapons, interceptors of different kinds, we have had serious achievements recently, especially for air defense. The S-400 for example, I think that it is much better than the American Patriot-3, for example. We were always very good in this area, plus we have some other technology. But the most important thing of all of these developments is radio-electronics, the new radars, the new networks of these radars, computing and super-computing, which could be distinguished between the real targets and false targets and so on. That’s the key question, and I think that the biggest investments in each country are coming to this area.

RT: But do you think it is valid to say that Russia is engaging in a new round of star wars.

AK: No, no, star wars from the very beginning was a misleading term. It was because of the famous movie at that moment. Of course, if the Americans proceed with anti-satellite weapons, of course we should do something the same. But I see that both the Chinese and Americans, and us, are very cautious about it. Everybody understands that we all live in a glass house, as the British say.

RT: Since Obama came to power, there has been a lot of talk about potential cooperation between the United States and Russia on the ABM in Europe. What are the real chances of getting an agreement on such of co-operation?

AK: Putin, and later Medvedev, made a proposal to have joint efforts to cope with a potential Iranian threat. If they really come to the stage when they are going to have full-scale capacity in ballistic missiles – and this proposal is still on the table – I think we could even add some components. But that’s it. But the most promising, I would say, interceptor position would be not in Poland, but in Turkey, for example. Why aren’t the Americans asking the Turks to put, for example, twenty or thirty interceptors which could intercept Iranian rockets in the boost phase? Why? I don’t know why. Maybe because the Turks did not allow them even to use a lot of their facilities during Iraqi war, you know, and demonstrate their own way of strategic thinking. Maybe, maybe. But to put it in Poland – that’s stupidity from a military-technological point of view and quite politically annoying. In my view, in many respects it was done just for pure political reasons and against the basic national interests of the United States. And I hope that now in the United States, in Obama’s team, there are more realistic and more, I would say, professional people who are more thinking about the national interests of the United States than those guys who were in the previous administration.

RT: Do you think the United States will agree to link the ABM issue with the negotiations on a new START treaty?

AK: I think that there are a lot of people in Washington who think it would be a reasonable position. But who will prevail? – I don’t know.

RT: So should we sign the new START treaty now given that many think that if there is not such a link between the ABM and the new START treaty, it could be detrimental to Russia’s security?

AK: In my view, we should not be in a hurry. We should not be under the influence of the magic of this [expiry date of] December 2009 – forget about it. We should work together. We should work very seriously. It’s an extremely important matter. Of course, we should think about diminishing our nuclear arsenals, but all the time we should keep in mind other guys, both those who are potentially there – boys with nuclear sticks – and about the boys who already have those nuclear sticks. And all these boys with nuclear sticks are mostly around the Russian Federation. One shouldn’t forget about this. Or quite close to the Russian Federation. That’s why we have more reasons to have deeper concern about this kind of things. And more reserves. We should think about other technology, other means for deterrence. And I always remember when, at one conference during the American war against Yugoslavia, one of our participants was saying, "Look, now you are bombing Yugoslavia, next day you will probably bomb us or Belarus, for example, our closest ally". "No, no, no, never, never, you are a nuclear power". That was the answer. That's why I think that, of course we should think about diminishing nuclear arsenals, step by step, maybe at some point to get rid of them. But maybe when they come very close to it, the Americans should get rid of their aircraft carrier battle groups, they should get rid of their predominance in conventionally-equipped cruise missiles and global dominance in aircraft forces.

RT: Do you believe that it is possible?

AK: If not, then nobody will get rid of their nuclear weapons. First of all other guys, and of course not Russia.

RT: And finally, given your experience with the United States, can Russia be sure of its security, if it doesn't have its own means of containment?

AK: Containment is one thing, deterrence is another thing. There is a serious semantic difference between them. Containment is more of a political term, which was devised by George F. Kennan and his famous long telegram from Moscow. Deterrence is, I would say, a more brutal thing. It is also political, but with a very heavy military content. And Russia will never give up its deterrent forces. I am absolutely sure about it. We have good reasons – we are the country which had the greatest devastation during World War II, we had great devastation during World War I. We defeated Nazism and saved mankind, and we have every right to have our deterrent forces, nuclear forces, and non-nuclear forces. And we have every right in this world to raise our voice for our national interests and for the interests of the international security.

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