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22 Sep, 2009 10:43

ROAR: “New missile defense shield will be more dangerous for Russia”

ROAR: “New missile defense shield will be more dangerous for Russia”

Analysts say if the amended American missile defense system is deployed in the Caucasus, new disagreements await Moscow and Washington.

The US military are not shelving their missile defense system, they are simply amending it, observers warn. Russia's Chief of General Staff, Nikolay Makarov, has also expressed his concerns. Commenting on information about the possible deployment of elements of missile defense in the Caucasus, he said on September 21 that Russia was negative about this intention.

Russia has been very sensitive to any kind of foreign military assistance to Georgia after the war over South Ossetia in 2008.

Makarov also said that Moscow will only agree to a shared missile shield with the US. The implementation of any new missile project by the US is unacceptable for Russia, but Americans do not support the idea of a global defense system, Makarov said.

Moscow has for a long time proposed a shared missile defense system instead of the US’s deployment of radar and interceptor missiles in Europe. This system could include Russian radar stations in Gabala, Azerbaijan and Armavir. “Also, creating a Moscow-based center for the exchange of information has been proposed,” Kommersant daily noted.

The Americans have not agreed to build the shared missile defense system, insisting that their plans to deploy radar and interceptors in the Czech Republic and Poland were not a threat to Russia. However, on September 17, the US announced the overhaul of their plans for Europe.

After that, the Pentagon has promised to build a new shield to track missile launches from “rogue states.” NATO’s secretary general, in turn, has invited Moscow to link up the alliance’s and Moscow’s missile defense systems. Many observers, however, doubt that Russia will be able to take part in building new global system that is supposed to defend Europe from an “Iranian threat.”

Moreover, the new US’s missile defense shield will be “even more dangerous for Russia,” military analyst Vladislav Shurygin believes. “In fact, a very serious coordination of the US [missile defense] program is going on,” he told Regnum news agency. “The US will not remove their missile defense shield from Russia’s borders, but will configure it in a different way,” he stressed.

The new US program is not taking into account Russia’s concerns, the analyst believes. “Simply, recently Americans have made a serious breakthrough in developing sea-based missile defense system, so they no longer need big and vulnerable bases,” Shurygin said.

The missile defense shield, deployed on ships is far more compact and it makes it possible to maneuver easily, the analyst believes. “So, the overhaul of the decision to build the shield in Poland and the Czech Republic is putting a good face for Americans who are simply correcting their program,” he added.

Shurygin also noted that “a reservation has been made that [Americans] might not remove the missile defense system from our borders.” It has already been said that it may be deployed in the Caucasus, he added.

“It is clear that deploying these ships in the Caucasus region, in the Black Sea actually means a direct threat to Russia, because the Black Sea area does not threaten America or Europe,” Shurygin said. In this case, the system “will probably cover Georgia from Russian missiles,” the analyst added. The Americans “are simply keeping step with their technological progress,” he added.

In fact, many Russian observers have noted speculations in the US media about possible deployment of the new sea-based shield in the Caucasus. Many statements of this kind are citing Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, James Cartwright, as saying that “an X-band radar” in that region may track missile launches from Iran. Cartwright is quoted as saying that stationing radar in the Caucasus might reassure Russia, because the X-band radar “points in a single direction.”

Politicians and analysts in Georgia said the possibility of deploying radar might contribute to their country’s defense. At the same time, many of them stress that, in case of deploying the system in the Black Sea, Russia and Turkey may have objections.

As Russia is wary of the new US plans, it is difficult to expect it to make any “concessions” as a response to the White House’s decision to shelve the missile defense shield for Europe. One such possible Moscow response is the overhaul of the decision to deploy the Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad region.

However, observers are commenting on the mixed statements of Russia’s military on this issue. Chief of General Staff Nikolay Makarov said that Moscow had not taken the decision to give up its plans for the deployment of Iskander missiles after US had shelved its system for Europe.

His words contradict the earlier statement of Deputy Defense Minister, Vladimir Popovkin, who told Ekho Moskvy radio that “the measures Russia had planned in response to the deployment of missile shield elements in Eastern Europe would certainly be abandoned.” However, Popovkin said that only the Russian president would decide on this.

Aleksey Makarkin, vice president of the Center for Political Conjuncture, agrees that “politicians rather than generals will make final decisions.” One should not consider Makarov’s words “as a political change,” Makarkin told Gazeta daily. “There is uncertainty in the higher military leadership, and at the same time a desire to react to political events,” Gazeta daily quoted him as saying.

Moscow may not be in a hurry to make concessions, the Russian media say. “Observers believe that it suits Moscow well that the Obama administration keeps responding to their critics, saying that the correction of the missile defense plan is not a concession to Russia,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily wrote. Obama said that Moscow’s opinion was taken into account, “but no more than this,” the paper said.

“That means that it is sufficient for Moscow to restrict itself to a refusal to deploy the Iskander missiles,” the daily stressed. “Meanwhile, Russian and American experts could work quietly on the possibilities for developing strategic partnership of the two countries,” the paper said.

In this case, Moscow would not face again “the potential threat for its nuclear deterrence forces,” the daily added. However, proposals for a new shield that have been made in the statements of the US military these days contain such potential threats, the paper note.

Aleksandr Pikaev of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations believes that Americans may choose from several variations of the new missile defense shield. However, it would be different from the “clearly provocative” option proposed by the Bush administration, he told Komsomolskaya Pravda radio.

The work on the new shield will give all “a respite,” Pikaev said. It will take a fairly long time to develop and deploy it, he added. “In any case, the decision will be made either by Obama himself in case of his re-election or by a new administration,” the analyst added.

Sergey Borisov, RT