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7 Dec, 2011 11:02

NATO shield spawning arms race - Russia military chief

Russia’s Chief of General Staff says Moscow is being pushed into a new arms race, although it has repeatedly stressed that it does not want this.

In his speech at an annual meeting with foreign military representatives on Wednesday, General Nikolai Makarov noted that at last year’s NATO-Russia summit in Lisbon, President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia could take part in Europe’s own missile defense system, but this suggestion was rejected. Moscow then offered another option – if NATO countries wanted to build their own defense system, they could simply ensure that Russia falls outside its effective radius, and the effective radius of similar Russian weapons would then remain within the country’s borders. The second plan was also rejected, Russia’s military chief said at the Moscow meeting.“We are ready for other options, but no one is suggesting anything. We hear nothing but empty statements that the missile defense systems in Europe are of no danger to Russia’s strategic nuclear forces,” Makarov stressed.The general noted that a number of analysts in the US and Europe have proved that the existing components of European missile defense are already affecting Russia’s nuclear potential. He also stressed that European countries must be more active in discussing the problem. “Missile defense creation in Europe can complicate our relations. The Russian President, Defense Minister and myself, as Chief of General Staff have held talks with our colleagues in most European countries. Many of them said that we should decide this issue with the US, but we are talking about Europe. Why are they separating Europe and Russia? Who needs that? We are ready to cooperate, to build missile defense together. Why are they not answering our requests? Someone must be benefitting from this,” Makarov said.The chief of staff also noted that his country has had to act in response to the foreign moves on missile defense. “The actions defined by the President’s statements are already being realized,” Makarov said.“But we do not need this, and we are saying it again. Instead of trust, we are getting suspicion and mistrust in return. Europe will not benefit from this,” he added.The Russian general also said that the assurances that the defense shield is just a remote prospect for 2018 – 2020 do not stand up to criticism. “We see at what rate the missile defense is being introduced in Europe and we see that the directions are different – not against the Southern threat, as it had been declared. It puts us on alert. Naturally, we must take measures now and not in 2018 in order not to find ourselves in a losing situation,” General Makarov said.Mark Avrum Gubrud, a social activist from the University of North Carolina, believes the US plans may trigger a new arms race that could extend into space, but will still be ineffective at protecting the United States and its allies. “The system won’t provide any measure of protection against weapons in Iran or North Korea that don’t exist yet” he told RT. “They might in the future, but if they do they’ll be able to defeat this system. Russia can defeat it too, but in the meantime it’s raising questions about what the US long-term intentions are and where they may be headed in the future… If the United States continues to go down this path, the world is headed for trouble.”  He believes the system could actually be a precursor to a larger-scale, more robust deployment of weapons – possibly including nuclear – to take out unwanted satellites in space.