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15 Feb, 2010 11:20

ROAR: Russia concerned by US “surprises” in missile defense

ROAR: Russia concerned by US “surprises” in missile defense

Taking decisions on deploying interceptor missiles in Romania and Bulgaria, the US might break the strategic balance, analysts warn.

Bulgaria said it may join the US anti-missile program and deploy elements of missile shield on its territory. Sofia and Washington will hold talks on this matter soon. Romania also announced plans this month to host the US interceptors on its soil.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on February 14 that Moscow is waiting for the detailed explanations concerning US plans in Eastern Europe. Russia wants to know “why after the Romanian ‘surprise’ there is a Bulgarian ‘surprise’ now,” Lavrov said.

Meanwhile, Poland’s lower house of parliament approved on February 12 an agreement that specifies conditions for the stationing of US soldiers in the country. The document makes it possible to station some 100 US soldiers as part of missile defense shield that include Patriot missiles and Standard Missiles (SM-3).

Bulgaria may deploy Patriot complexes or SM-3s too, observers say. At the same time, there has not been an official confirmation so far, Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily said. The new US missile program will include ground-based and sea-based interceptors and other elements deployed in Europe according to the assessment of threats from Iran and the Middle East, US officials said.

Despite the fact that the US says the missile shield is not aimed against Russia, “it seems that Moscow has learned about Americans’ plans concerning Russia’s security, together with the rest of the world, rather than by the bilateral diplomatic channels,” the daily said.

Washington has made it clear that the possible deployment of missiles in Eastern Europe is no more than the realization of the modernized plan announced by US President Barack Obama on September 17 last year, the paper said. Simultaneously, the US then refused to deploy radar and interceptors in the Czech Republic and Poland.

Moscow opposed the US plans, stressing they were aimed against Russia rather than Iran. Deploying elements of missile defense in Bulgaria or Romania is justified if the US “is going to intercept missiles launched in Iran,” believes Col.-Gen. Viktor Yesin, former head of staff of Russian Strategic Missile Forces.

“US missiles, on the one hand, should intercept Iranian missiles, and on the other, they should not be able to devalue Russia’s potential of nuclear deterrence,” Yesin told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. “If the USA observes these conditions, which the Russian leadership insists on when it comes to the cooperation in the missile defense sphere, then I do not see any threat to Russia,” he said.

“However, if the Americans decide to deploy some other complexes rather than Patriots or Standards, which are not able to threaten Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (IBM) so far, then Moscow should not agree to this,” Yesin said.

SM-3 missiles launched in the Black Sea area will not be able to destroy Russia’s IBMs, Vedomosti daily said, citing an anonymous source in the Defense Ministry. “However, concern arises if other kinds of weapons could be deployed in those countries, which present a greater threat to the strategic balance," the paper said.

The US military already have bases in Romania and Bulgaria that were created some years ago for delivering troops and cargo to Iraq and Afghanistan, the daily added.

Some of these bases in Bulgaria are deployed on former Soviet military facilities, built as part of the Warsaw Pact military strategy, Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily said. “Having escaped from the Communist regime, the Bulgarians pledged that they would never allow foreign servicemen on their territory,” the paper said.

These vows, however, “have been quickly forgotten,” the daily said, adding that now Bulgaria is a NATO member and is one of the closest US allies in South-Eastern Europe.

Russia’s envoy in NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, assumed that the possible deployment of missiles in Bulgaria and Romania “will not bring anything good to Europe,” the paper said, citing his statement on Twitter. “Bulgarians are brothers, but they are sometimes unscrupulous in the political sense,” it quoted Rogozin as saying.

Bulgaria wants to participate in the process of strengthening regional security, but after the analogous proposal to the Romanian leadership, Sofia was afraid to remain beyond the US missile defense plans, said Evgenia Voyko of the Center for Political Conjuncture.

For the new Bulgarian leadership, the participation in the missile defense program “would be a possibility to strengthen its positions in the Balkans and Eastern Europe,” she said. The country’s government has already set a course to become closer to NATO’s structures and overhauling energy projects with Russia, she said.

“Possible talks between Sofia and Washington about Bulgaria’s joining missile defense is a natural consequence of the new foreign policy course of Bulgaria after the change of the ruling elites,” Voyko said. The participation in the US missile program may also increase the status of Bulgaria and other East European countries, the analyst added.

As for the US’s plans, Washington’s strategy “remains unchanged,” said Leonid Ivashov, president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems. Washington needs missiles in Romania to “neutralize Russia as a geopolitical competitor,” Ivashov told Ekho Moskvy radio.

The explanations that the missiles in Romania are necessary to avert the Iranian threat are false, because “Iran will never be first to deliver a military strike,” Ivashov said.

However Aleksandr Konovalov, president of the Institute for Strategic Assessment, believes that US missiles do not present a threat to Russia, taking into account their characteristics. Sea-based missiles can be deployed in the region first, Konovalov told Ekho Moskvy. Analogous ground-based missiles will be built only in 2015, he added.

The deployment of the missiles in Romania answers the new Washington strategy, about which the US president has spoken earlier, Konovalov believes.

The missile defense elements in Romania do not present a threat to Russia’s nuclear deterrence potential, agrees Maj.-Gen. Vladimir Dvorkin, a senior researcher at the Center for International Security at the Institute for World Economy and International Relations.

However, the participation of East European states in American missile defense plans creates a “negative attitude against a general background of the cooperation between Russia and the West in solving security problems,” Dvorkin told Moskovsky Komsomolets daily.

Russia keeps insisting that US missile defense plans “should be considered in the context of strategic weapons and discussed with Russia first of all,” Dmitry Danilov, head of the Department for European Security Studies at Institute of Europe told the daily.

However, the situation “has not changed in principle,” Danilov said, and decisions on missile defense are being taken “without Russia’s active participation.”

Sergey Borisov, RT