Executive Intelligence Review
This article appears in the May 11, 2012 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

Russians Reiterate Warning:
NATO Faces Preemptive Strike

by Carl Osgood

[PDF version of this article]

May 7—A two-day international conference on ballistic-missile-defense (BMD) systems called by the Russian government, should serve as a wake-up call to those who have been denying the strategic reality of the threat of thermonuclear war. The May 3-4 conference in Moscow was titled "The Factor of Anti-Missile Defense in Forming a New Security Zone." Before an audience of representatives of 50 nations, including the 28 NATO countries, the top Russian military leadership reiterated the warning issued by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on Nov. 23, 2011: If NATO goes ahead unilaterally with the deployment of the NATO-U.S. anti-missile systems in Europe, which Russia has repeatedly identified as a threat to its strategic forces, Russia will have no choice but to consider a preemptive strike against the anti-missile installations.

Since NATO intends the first phase of deployment of the European BMD system to be up and running at the time of its May 20 summit in Chicago, a global showdown of decisive importance for the world's survival looms immediately ahead.

Makarov Is Blunt

Chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, Gen. Nikolai Makarov, laid out the stark situation during the opening session.

"The placement of new strike weapons in the south and northwest of Russia against [NATO] missile defense components, including the deployment of Iskander missile systems in Kaliningrad region, is one possible way of incapacitating the European missile defense infrastructure," Makarov said. Taking into account the "destabilizing nature of the missile defense system ... the decision on the preemptive use of available weapons will be made during an aggravation of the situation."

This is not the first time Makarov has made such a dire warning. Back on Nov. 17, 2011, he told Russian Public Chamber, a Kremlin advisory body which includes numerous policy heavyweights, that "Russia could be involved in a conflict where weapons of mass destruction could be used...." Then, on Feb. 15, in an interview with the radio station Ekho Moskvy, Makarov said, "We are certainly not planning to fight against the whole of NATO, but if there is a threat to the integrity of the Russian Federation, we have the right to use nuclear weapons, and we will."

No Target But Russia

One of the major features of the conference was a presentation by the Russians of a computer simulation showing how the missile defense system represented a threat to no country other than Russia. The presentation depicted the reach of radars and interceptor missiles to be deployed as part of the shield, and demonstrated how the interceptors would, in several years, be capable of hitting Russian missiles.

But the Russians are not prepared to wait for later phases of the system. With the intention of NATO clearly visible, they are drawing the line now: "Nyet."

At the conference, the secretary of Russia's Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, said that, by 2020, the NATO system would have the capability to intercept a portion of Russia's ICBM force. "The geographical regions and technical characteristics of these missile defense systems create the foundations for additional dangers, especially considering the current and future levels of high-precision armament of the United States," he said. "There are just no targets for the missile defense shield other than Russia."

Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told the conference that "so far, we have not found a mutually acceptable solution to the missile defense issue, and the situation is at a dead end." He noted that NATO intends to declare initial operational capability of the European BMD systems on May 20 at the Chicago summit, indicating its willingness to go ahead without Russian accord.

"There is a dilemma facing our countries now," Serdyukov said. "Either we pass this test of cooperation and respond together to new missile challenges and threats, or we will be forced to undertake the necessary military measures." But he also indicated that an agreement on missile defense can, in principle, be reached, as the recent agreement on nuclear arms reductions shows.

Cooperation Is Still Possible

But Russia has also put offers of cooperation on the table, on missile defense and more.

Repeating the proposal Moscow has been making since then-President Vladimir Putin brought it to the Kennebunkport summit with President George W. Bush five years ago, Patrushev said the optimal solution is joint development of a European BMD system which would strengthen security of all countries of the continent without exception, would be adequate to the probable threats, and would not undermine strategic stability.

Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov added that, if there were a genuine agreement to cooperate on missile defense, then not only the Russian Gabala radar in Azerbaijan and other potential facilities in southern Russia, but also the Moscow Don-2N radar, would be available for joint East-West use.

Just last week, Patrushev announced that Strategic Defense of Earth (SDE) issues such as preempting asteroid strikes, would be a major topic at the Russian Security Council-sponsored global security forum in St. Petersburg next month. That proposal for collaboration was first issued by Russia's former Ambassador to NATO Dmitri Rogozin last Fall (see box).

The American Non-Response

The American response to the Russian assertions about the NATO system was to say that it's not aimed at Russia and to argue, in effect, that it doesn't work anyway. Most importantly, NATO and the United States insist that they will go ahead with the deployment; that they will not provide written guarantees that the system is not aimed at Russia; and that Russia should give President Obama leeway until after his (presumed) re-election to negotiate an agreement with Russia.

Having already received numerous assurances from the Obama Administration on the system that were not honored—and clear indications of the Obama-British encirclement policy against Russia and China—the Russians have no reason to believe them, and no intention to go along with the NATO game.

"In fact, we have no desire at all to disturb global strategic stability," Alexander Vershbow, the Deputy Secretary General of NATO, told the conference. "Quite the contrary: NATO missile defense will be capable of intercepting only a small number of relatively unsophisticated ballistic missiles. It does not have the capability to neutralize Russian deterrence."

Madelyn Creedon, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs, claimed that Russian virtual modeling that shows Russia as the only possible target of the NATO system is wrong, because it is based on the assumption that the system is activated immediately on launch, when in fact there's a delay before it is activated. A Russian missile could hit Seattle or Washington, but the delay would not prevent intercept of more primitive missiles. These comments inspired the headline in one Russian newspaper, "NATO says Euro ABM can only intercept substandard rockets."

The notion that Iran is even the threat to Europe that NATO claims it is, was itself challenged at the conference. According to Russia Today, political analyst Vladimir Orlov told the conference that the threats that NATO claims to be worried about are greatly exaggerated. "Missile threats by those countries which Americans and Europeans claim develop long-range missiles—it is just not credible. Europe should not feel vulnerable, and the issue is that Russia instead of Europe now feels vulnerable," he asserted.

Orlov was backed up by France's Director for Strategy Affairs and Defense Policy Michel Miraillet: "Firstly, Iran's ballistic missile program threatens neither Europe or the United States. Secondly, the Iranian nuclear program is developed for civil applications only. Therefore Russia considers Iran is a risk, not a threat to Europe." He also said, however, that it would be a risk to ignore Iran's missile program, which is quite capable at shorter ranges.

Over 200 experts from 50 countries, including all 28 NATO members, as well as China, South Korea, Japan, and Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member states, participated in the conference. They are now all on notice, to act to prevent World War III.

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