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Medvedev’s missile defense statement tough but nothing new-experts

November 24, 2011, 16:02 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s televised statement in response to the deployment of the U.S. missile defense system was tough, but from the military point of view it offered nothing new. All of the mentioned measures are either being implemented already, or have been part and parcel of the military’s plans for quite a while, say many analysts. There cannot be such thing as “adequate measures,” a negotiated solution must be sought, they added.

Medvedev on Wednesday appeared on television with a special televised address, in which he stated that an agreement with NATO and the U.S. on the missile defense system they had been working on failed to be achieved, and that Russia could not tolerate the weakening of its deterrent capability and must resort to special measures. Medvedev accused the United States and NATO of the intention to undermine Russia's security. He reproached them for unwillingness to provide legal guarantees the missile defenses would not be directed against the Russian Federation.

The president issued orders to develop measures for "the destruction of information and control means of the missile defense system," to commission a missile attack warning radar near Kaliningrad, and to strengthen the protection of strategic nuclear force facilities. The president also promised that the strategic ballistic missiles would be equipped with new generation complexes of overcoming missile defenses.

As Medvedev warned, if these measures prove insufficient, Russia would deploy in the west and in the south its advanced attack weapon systems capable of eliminating the European component of the missile defense. He also warned Russia would place Iskander missile complexes in the Kaliningrad Region.

Medvedev's statement followed the failure of his talks with U.S. President Barack Obama at the APEC summit in Hawaii. After a conversation with the U.S. president on November 14 the Russian head of state said that there was no agreement on the missile defense, and that "we do not quite understand what our partners offer."

According to Kommersant’s high-ranking sources in the Kremlin and the Russian Foreign Ministry, the hard line against the United States will continue after Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin. The next step the Russian president may take might be his refusal to attend the NATO summit in Chicago in May 2012, which will take place in parallel with the summit of the G8.

According to diplomats, the suspension of the dialogue on this serious problem would mean the curtailment of the successfully launched resetting of relations between the U.S. and Russia, on which great hopes had been pinned.

"No progress on the missile defense issue should be expected until the spring of 2013. First we will have our elections, and then the Americans will have theirs. The conversation can begin after the inauguration of a new person in the White House," the editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine, Fyodor Lukyanov, told the daily.

Diplomats are even more pessimistic. "After this speech the resetting can be buried," a diplomatic source said.

From the political point of view all points the Russian president made look pretty tough, but in military terms, to put it mildly, they are nothing new, said Kommersant. All of these measures are either being implemented or had been planned and made public by the military a while ago.

Experts have a mixed attitude to the president’s statement. Some have said that the proposed counter-measures would be effective, while others acknowledged that Russia had no means with which to counter the European ballistic missile defense.

"Russia has every opportunity to adequately respond to the expansion of the U.S. missile defense in Europe,” the RBC Daily quotes the director of the Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, Ruslan Pukhov. The placement of Iskanders in the Kaliningrad Region, in the Krasnodar Territory and in Belarus will give us the ability to make missile strikes against the countries that provide their territory for the deployment of missile defenses.

The expert recalled, with reference to a statement by the chief of the General Staff, Nikolai Makarov, that Russia might retaliate with the development and creation of the newest liquid propellant intercontinental ballistic missile, able to overcome missile defenses.

The counter-measures President Medvedev outlined in his statement are proportionate, cost-effective and can be implemented within a fairly short period of time, says a member of the Public Council under the Ministry of Defense, Igor Korotchenko. "The armed forces are prepared to promptly implement these measures, and we have a radar with a high manufacturing readiness level of the Voronezh type. It is mounted very quickly. All this will take about one year from the moment a practical decision has been made to the day it will be up and running.

The president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, Leonid Ivashov, has a different opinion. "Russia has nothing to counter the current version of the expansion of the missile defense with,” he said. “It is clear that the United States will not make any concessions on its missile defense program, because both the Republicans and the Democrats are unanimous that the deployment of a missile defense in Europe is a powerful economic, scientific and technical task, with thousands of businesses involved in its implementation and huge sums of money allocated for this purpose. They will go to the end, despite all our threats."

As the director of Russian and Asian programs at Washington’s World Security Institute, Nikolai Zlobin, said, Medvedev's speech was an attempt to "make a good poker face." The real opportunities for Russia to influence the U.S. are slim, so the president has threatened with extreme measures to have "more room for bargaining at the negotiations." Zlobin said Medvedev's speech will have a greater effect on the domestic scene. In the U.S. the same threats will not frighten anyone.

"There is no threat to us from the defense that is being created in Europe," Nezavisimaya Gazeta quotes the head of the Center for International Security at the institute for international economics and international relations (IMEMO), Alexei Arbatov, as saying. “And even the one that will be created by 2020. Our strategic forces, according to the plans for modernization will be able to overcome not only the defense that will be built, but a much more powerful one. And there is no need for some new measures. It is an entirely different matter that there is political disappointment, frustration. Some had thought missile defense cooperation could be cooked up without much a do in virtually no time. It did not happen, because after all, cooperation on missile defense is only possible between true allies. In the responses the president enumerated there is nothing new. All we have been doing will continue to be done in any case."

The only thing that draws attention to the list of "adequate responses", the expert said, is the words on the development of measures for the destruction of information and control missile defense systems. That is what is called cyber warfare. "If the West responds seriously to it,” said Arbatov, “it will react very harshly, and we will regret more than once we made this sort of threat."

"In the U.S., this action will cause annoyance. Obama has long tried to present the resetting of relations with Russia as the main achievement of his foreign policy, and he repeatedly defended Moscow in front of Congress. Now the Kremlin has dealt a blow on his partner, and at the very start of the election race,” says Fyodor Lukyanov. “The Republicans will get new arguments against Russia: Putin is about to stage a comeback and Moscow indulges in saber-rattling again. Obama will have no arguments with which to fight back."

"The reason for all this,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta quotes the IMEMO’s chief researcher, Vladimir Dvorkin as saying, “is the mutual mistrust that persists in the political class in Russia and in the United States. It is hard to strengthen confidence at a time when we're still in a state of mutual nuclear deterrence as a heavy legacy of the Cold War. There can be no adequate measures other than negotiating."

MOSCOW, November 24