Russia demands “action, not words” over NATO, US anti-missile system
In a speech that outlined NATO's mission for the 21st Century, Hillary Clinton emphasized that the 28-member military organization presents no threat to Russia.
“While Russia faces challenges to its security, NATO is not among them,” the US Secretary of State told an audience assembled at a Washington hotel ballroom on Monday. “We want a cooperative NATO-Russia relationship that produces concrete results and draws NATO and Russia closer together.”
Clinton then said that the key to NATO-Russian relations is a high level of transparency in order to dispel Moscow’s fears that the alliance will one day turn on Russia.
“European security will benefit if NATO and Russia are more open about our armaments, our military facilities, and our exercises," Clinton continued. “NATO and Russia should have a regular exchange of information on posture, doctrine, and planned military exercises, as well as specific measures to permit observation of military exercises and to allow visits to new or significantly improved military installations.”
Dmitry Rogozin, the tough-talking Russian ambassador to NATO, wasn’t buying a word of it.
“In my view, Mrs. Clinton's speech failed to answer the questions that Moscow has repeatedly raised with its US and NATO partners,” he told Interfax on Tuesday.
Rogozin then cited a long list of complaints aimed at NATO and its “spontaneous expansion eastwards.”
“We cannot be happy with these rules,” he said. “A unilateral world, NATO-centrism, the alliance's spontaneous expansion eastwards and refusal to recognize the principle of integrity and security.”
The failure “to take into account Russia's and its partners' interests… is a burp of the Cold War,” the ambassador said.
And Russia is not sitting by idly as NATO continues to encroach eastward. At a February 5 session of the Russian Security Council, President Dmitry Medvedev said he had approved Russia's updated military doctrine, which ranked NATO expansion as a major threat.
Russia’s new military doctrine mentions, amongst other threats, “the desire to invest the military potential of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with global functions, carried out in violation of international law, and advance the NATO member states’ military infrastructure closer to Russia’s border, particularly by expanding the bloc.”
But Russia had been making overtures to its partners that the European security architecture needs to be overhauled to reflect all of the parties’ interests.
In November 2009, Moscow made a push for the United States and Europe to embrace a new security structure on the European continent that would finally remove “stereotypical Cold War rationale” from NATO’s mission statement.
The first two articles (entire document available here on the President of Russia’s official website ) of the European Security Treaty proposal make it clear that Russia wants its security interests taken into account before NATO does business in the former’s geopolitical backyard.
According to the Treaty, the Parties shall cooperate with each other on the basis of the principles of indivisible, equal and undiminished security. Any security measures taken by a Party to the Treaty individually or together with other Parties, including in the framework of any international organization, military alliance or coalition, shall be implemented with due regard to security interests of all other Parties. The Parties shall act in accordance with the Treaty in order to give effect to these principles and to strengthen security of each other.
A Party to the Treaty shall not undertake, participate in or support any actions or activities affecting significantly the security of any other Party or Parties to the Treaty.
Clinton, in her speech on Monday, denied that there was any need to embrace a new security architecture in Europe.
Given the US military’s reckless globetrotting since 9/11, and without the approval of the wider international community, Moscow seems right to question if NATO is designed less with defending the European continent than with giving America an excuse for flexing its military muscles for ultimately unilateral, nationalistic purposes.
On the anti-missile system front
Following US President Barack Obama’s decision in September to scrap his predecessor’s plans for an anti-missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, it seemed that all the talk of a US-Russian “reset” was more than just words. So far, it appears words are all that were on offer.
No sooner had Obama killed the anti-missile shield, than US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was telling reporters in the Pentagon that the United States had plans to build a new system.
Here is Gates glowing about the system in an article that appeared in The New York Times, September 19, 1009:
“In the first phase, to be completed by 2011, we will deploy proven, sea-based SM-3 interceptor missiles – weapons that are growing in capability – in the areas where we see the greatest threat to Europe.
“The second phase, which will become operational around 2015, will involve putting upgraded SM-3s on the ground in Southern and Central Europe.
“All told, every phase of this plan will include scores of SM-3 missiles, as opposed to the old plan of just 10 ground-based interceptors.”
Gates concludes his hand-wringing plans by stating that this system “will be a far more effective defense should an enemy fire many missiles simultaneously… At the same time, plans to defend virtually all of Europe and enhance the missile defense of the United States will continue on about the same schedule as the earlier plan as we build this system over time, creating an increasingly greater zone of protection.”
A child could understand the implications of such a system steaming like a pile of horse manure on Russia’s doorstep. In the event of some future crisis, either in Russia or elsewhere, and especially if Washington is once again under the sway of a “war president,” such a “defensive” anti-missile system could tempt less rational minds to carry out an offensive action in the belief that no reprisal would be technically feasible due to the (unproven) missile umbrella.
In other words, anti-missile defense in Europe will very likely do exactly the opposite of what its makers proclaim it will: defend Europe from outside attack.
And the Europeans, despite a better-than-average educational system, are viewing the issue myopically, as if the United States itself, as it has proven so tragically in Iraq, will not carry out some military mission that is (yet again) diametrically opposed to Europe’s interests. So let the Americans build their anti-missile system, but at least make darn certain that more than one nation’s finger is on the trigger. The fact that Washington refuses to relinquish such almighty control speaks volumes about their real intentions.
So who can really blame Russia for doubting America’s stated intentions, especially when Obama the Peace President may be voted out of office in three short years and the Neolithic neocons go back to Washington?
“We would still like to understand whether the US is really going to hold not only its own finger, but also those of its partners, on the button for using missile defense systems. I personally have very strong doubts about that,” Rogozin, commenting on Clinton's statement that Washington supports the idea of NATO inviting Russia to create a joint missile-defense system.
Russia’s NATO ambassador then said that too many uncertainties surround the missile defense issue, including partnership in creating such a system, and exactly what threats the system protects against.
"Initially, we suggested moving according to a certain logic that is clear to everyone," the ambassador said.
First, missile threats must be identified, Rogozin said.
"There must be a joint review that will identify these threats and those challenges that exist, in particular, in the area of spreading missile technology and possible delivery of weapons of mass destruction by ballistic missiles. Once we have jointly decided who is threatening us, when such a threat could become real, where it is emanating from and what steps can be taken to overcome this threat, only then must we proceed to the next stage," he said.
The second stage involves the use of political and diplomatic measures against the threatening party, he said.
"If this does not work, the third stage comes into effect: putting economic pressure on the transgressing nation. And only if all these three steps fail to produce any result, can we talk about cooperation in metal, that is about creating a collective missile defense system," Rogozin said.
Presently, however, Russia's partners – primarily the United States – are following a different logic.
"First they bilaterally agree with some European state, southern or Baltic, then leaving us to find this news from the media, which is not quite the approach between partners," Rogozin said.
"It is totally obvious that in the missile defense policy, the NATO partners are putting the cart before the horse," Rogozin continued. "NATO-style partnership on missile defense consists of one thing: partner states must make their resources, primarily their territory, available for the deployment of US missile defense systems. This sort of cooperation is unlikely to cause optimism with Russia. This is why we are asking once again to prove, not just in words, but first of all in deeds, that Washington is prepared for real serious cooperation on missile defense.
"So, speaking of the US Secretary of State's proposals, I can only say one thing: the words really sound music to the ear, however we would like to decide on real action, not words," the ambassador said in the interview with Interfax.
A silver lining in the clouds?
The NATO-Russia Council finished a series of debates in drawing up a review of common threats in Brussels on Friday.
"Now, along with the ambassadors' proposals and recommendations, it will be passed to civilian and military experts, so that the review become a finalized political document by April, when an informal NATO-Russia Council meeting at the ministerial level is to take place," Rogozin told Interfax following the meeting.
The passage of this document will help broaden cooperation between Moscow and the alliance and overcome mistrust that still exists between the two, Rogozin said.
"We would have the chance to become friends in opposing a common enemy – the threats that are directed against the northern civilization," he said.
Asked to specify what "common enemy" is implied, Rogozin continued, "We are not inclined to point at anyone – and this is Russia's position now."
Meanwhile, according to a news report by RIA Novosti, Russia and the United States may agree to the terms of a new arms reduction treaty following a phone conversation between Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, scheduled to take place in several days, a senior Russian lawmaker said on Wednesday.
But all may hinge on US plans for missile defense in Eastern Europe.
The issue of "interconnectedness" between the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and ABM treaties is a problem that will arise during the State Duma ratification process of a new START treaty, visiting Chairman of the Duma Committee for International Relations Konstantin Kosachev, who arrived in Washington in the framework of interparliamentary contacts, told journalists on Wednesday.
"Attention was drawn to the fact that during ratification of the new START at the State Duma priority would be given to the fact as to whether a problem of interconnection between the START and ABM treaties was solved. This problem is of key importance to us," Kosachev said.
Russia would like to have an agreement on missile defense with the U.S. in this or that form, "be it a new treaty or an appendix to the strategic offensive arms treaty, or any other legally binding
form," he said.
"If there are no restrictions and if the U.S. does not have a restriction to develop its missile defense systems, this will sooner or later kill the disarmament process, because, having unlimited interceptor missile capabilities, it would be wrong to expect the weapons levels to be reduced," he said.
This position is not opposed by the U.S. at the political level, "but we feel that there are various viewpoints on this subject in Washington," he said.
Kosachev is currently leading a delegation of the State Duma's foreign affairs committee that arrived in Washington for talks on trade and economic ties with US congressmen. And his trip made him privy to information that could have bearing on the negotiations.
"A phone conversation between the two presidents is to take place in the next few days. It is being prepared now. It might signify a breakthrough," Kosachev added .
Russia and the US are currently holding talks to replace the START 1, the cornerstone of post-Cold War arms control agreement that expired on December 5, 2009.
Obama and Medvedev pledged at their first meeting in April 2009 to replace the START I treaty as part of broader efforts to "reset" bilateral ties strained in recent years.
The new treaty's outline, as agreed on by the Russian and US leaders, includes cutting nuclear arsenals to 1,500-1,675 operational warheads and delivery vehicles to 500-1,000.
Kosachev said the US side is more optimistic about the deal, saying that only a few minor details are to be finished.
“The Russian side is more pessimistic, saying that some serious disagreements remain between the two states and that the US side should show more flexibility… However, the possibility to complete the talks in the next two or three weeks is quite high," he said.
The Russian lawmaker also said the ties are getting better, but still require major improvements.
"The Russian-US relations are making progress. They are better than during the last century, but are there is still room for improvement," he said, according to Interfax. "However, the past year brought more expectations than results."