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US changes missile defense plans

March 18, 2013, 11:28 UTC+3

Washington insists that plans to abandon the final stage of the European missile defense system are not a concession to the Kremlin

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The United States scraps the final phase of its European missile defense shield, the Kommersant daily writes. As this phase prompted Russia’s main objections, many have qualified this decision of the United States as a breakthrough in Russian-U.S. relations. However, according to the daily, Moscow has no euphoria in this connection.

According to the Kommersant, the problem of missile defense as a whole and a new initiative of the U.S. in particular will be among the key issues at Russian-American talks in Geneva on Monday and Tuesday between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and U.S. Under Secretary for Arms Control Rose Gottemoeller.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel voiced at the end of the week U.S. readiness to revise European missile defense shield plans and abandon the fourth, key stage of the program. According to him, a growing nuclear threat from Iran and particularly North Korea is the main reason behind that decision. Pyongyang’s recent nuclear test and a successful satellite launch in December triggered concern of the U.S. military.

The U.S. is not planning any longer to deploy by 2020 upgraded SM3 Block IIB interceptors in Poland, but intends to concentrate on protection of its own territory. For that a program launched by the administration of George Bush Jr will be revived.

Washington insists that plans to abandon the final stage of the European missile defense system are not a concession to the Kremlin. “The missile defense decision Secretary Hagel announced were in no way about Russia,” George Little, a Pentagon spokesman, said.

However, it is the fourth stage that triggered main objections from Russia from the very beginning, the newspaper writes. Moscow has repeatedly warned that the deployment of upgraded interceptors capable to counter intercontinental ballistic missiles close to the Russian border is a threat to Russian strategic forces.

The statement by the Pentagon chief would seem to eliminate the key irritator for Moscow. That is why many specialists have seen this decision as a possibility for a breakthrough in Russian-U.S. relations. “I don’t see any connection between Russia’s objections against the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in Europe and the statement of the U.S. defense secretary,” Ryabkov said.”All aspects of strategic uncertainty connected with the creation of a missile defense system by the United States and NATO remain. Our objections stay in place accordantly,” he added.

According to the top Russian diplomat, elements of U.S. missile defense system planned for the deployment in Europe within the framework of the first three phases are highly mobile. “They will be deployed on ships that can move from one water zone to another within several days. Ground based systems will be also mobile,” he explained. He insists that a curtailed system of the Europe-based missile defense system can also be a threat to Russia’s nuclear potentials.

“We feel no euphoria in connection with what was announced by the U.S. defense secretary. And we see no grounds for correcting our position,” he summed up. “We will continue a dialogue and will seek the signing of legally binding agreements stating that all elements of U.S. missile defense system are not directed against Russian strategic nuclear forces,” he added.

According to experts, this tough stance of Moscow may close the door on new agreements between Russia and the United States on missile defense. “We have been repeatedly saying that we are concerned about the fourth (and partially the third) phase of a Europe-based missile defense system. Now the United States abandons it. Obama is sending a clear signal to Putin: Americans have lent an ear to our concerns,” Retired Lieutenant General Yevgeny Buzhinsky, PIR Center Senior Vice President, said.

According to him, “at some point Obama sent the same signal to Medvedev, when the United States abandoned its plans to deploy missile defense elements in the Czech Republic and in Poland – and this to a great extent made it possible to ‘reset’ relations of Russia and the U.S. Now Moscow admits almost openly that the ‘reset’ has ended”.


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