ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review, Apr.22
This Wednesday ROAR presents opinions on nuclear disarmament.
NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA writes that Moscow is ready for disarmament, but on its own terms. The article says President Medvedev, in his speech at Helsinki University, announced that Russia is interested not only in cuts in nuclear warheads, but in the means of delivery, the missiles, and strategic bombers, as well. The president also pointed out that it is necessary to provide that strategic assault weapons are placed exclusively in national territories.
The Russian president agreed with U.S. president Barack Obama’s ideas of maintaining effective nuclear arsenals while other countries possess nuclear weapons, and of signing an international agreement on discontinuation of production of radioactive materials for military purposes.
The same newspaper writes in an editorial that after the April 1 meeting, the Russian and U.S. presidents have both elaborated on the issues of nuclear disarmament, putting forward several conditions each for the process. While the U.S. president suggested that not only Russia and America, but every nuclear power should join the process as signatories, President Medvedev suggested to ban nuclear arms from space, to ban replacement of nuclear strategic weapons with strategic conventional ones, to ban all attempts to ‘store’ disarmed warheads which could be placed on the delivery vehicles again, and to maintain a balance between offensive and defensive weapons.
The editorial says the current situation is different from the situation during the Cold War, but that nuclear weapons continue playing a role in maintaining world security. MAD – the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction – is alive and well today, and it is the best existing guarantor against first strike. Something will have to replace it soon, but the outlines of a new set-up are not yet clear.
In the opinion of the authors of the editorial, there should be more conditions added to those set by the two presidents: for instance, NATO should stop its expansion eastward, or in any other direction along Russia’s borders.
The article says that nuclear disarmament is a key policy of the new American administration, which links together several other policies such as efforts to stop nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran. The policy is practically bi-partisan, says the paper, as it is supported by a group of former Secretaries of State of both parties, and was included in the electoral program of Obama’s Republican rival Senator John McCain.
In their speeches, U.S. politicians usually do not touch on matters important for Russia – everyone pursues his own interest. But a discussion over these matters is inevitable at the negotiations starting this week. Among such matters is the fact that in the current international situation, Russia cannot afford to go lower than 1500 warheads.
The editorial says that the degree of readiness by the new U.S. president to accommodate Russia’s concerns is the true criteria of his intentions in the nuclear disarmament process.
VREMYA NOVOSTEI publishes an interview with Deputy Minister for foreign affairs of Russia Sergey Ryabkov on the first round of the Russia-U.S. consultations on nuclear disarmament, about to commence in Rome.
The Deputy Minister says that there is a chance that the new American administration may prove to be more accommodating to Russia’s concerns, and more flexible than the previous one. He says it is too early to predict what is going to happen at the negotiations – there’s still the stage of consultations to commence and complete, and only then can the experts for both sides sit down to work together.
Asked about the numbers of nuclear warheads to be negotiated, the Deputy Minister says that the issue is going to be one of the key matters under discussion, but while such figures as 1000, or even 500 warheads are definitely unrealistic for the moment (both Russia and the U.S. have to take into consideration the existing arsenals of other nuclear powers which have not yet become part of the disarmament process), the final figures will have to be lower than the 1700 to 2200 warheads in the previous treaties. As for the delivery vehicles, first of all for the missiles, the current actual figures are already lower than those prescribed by the existing treaties, so there the two sides will have to exchange opinions on how much further they can afford to go.
Asked about the U.S. missile defense system, the diplomat says that even if the situation now looks uncertain, the work on the program is continuing. The only thing the U.S. administration made clear is that the program shall be checked for feasibility, and dealt with according to the results. For us, the offer to use Russia’s radar facilities still stands, but one must understand that it means building a different system of missile defense, which includes peaceful means of persuasion being used first, with military means being used only if the peaceful means fail, and only by a consensus of states participating in the program.