Thursday, 24 November 2011

NATO BMD Underming NATO Security

On the anniversary of the Lisbon Summit, President Medvedev of Russia made an announcement on missile defence cooperation between Russia and NATO. His statement showed frustration after a year of largely fruitless talks:
The problem is, it means that in the future, interceptor missiles and other missile defense elements may be deployed close to the Russian borders and in adjacent seas. At the Russia-NATO summit in Lisbon a year ago, I suggested creating a joint missile defense system in Europe. We suggested that if we have to develop missile defense, it is better to do it together. We suggested making this system sector-based, with each party responsible for the corresponding sector. Moreover, we said we were open to suggestions from our NATO partners and could make necessary adjustments to this layout, as long as its key elements remain intact. And the key element is that Europe does not need new dividing lines. It needs a common security perimeter, with Russia participating in it as an equal partner. I am still convinced that such an approach would offer unique opportunities for Russia and NATO to develop a real strategic partnership, because friction and confrontation in our relations can be replaced with the principles of equality, indivisible security, mutual trust and predictability. Unfortunately, the United States, and later other NATO members, failed to demonstrate serious readiness to take this way. They are not going to take account of our concerns regarding the architecture of the European missile defense system. At least they are not doing it today. They merely tell us that their plans are not aimed against Russia. 
Leaving aside a discussion of the use of missile defence deployment, it has been clear for some time that there is no possibility of NATO entering into a genuinely cooperative programme with Russia, under which Russia would be a genuine partner. Any BMD system deployed to Europe would remain under NATO control.

This is not an issue that can be looked at in isolation, but is a wider part of relations between the US, NATO and Russia. Other issues intimately bound up in the BMD question include the presence of some 180 US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, and NATO's insistence that these can only be removed as part of an arms control deal involving the several thousand remaining Russian tactical nukes; the collapse of the Adapted Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty; NATO-Georgia relations; and the new NATO exercises designed to reassure the Baltic States that NATO is able to come to their defence in the unlikely event of war with Russia.

The problem here is Russia's weakness rather than its strength. Russia now places the same reliance on tactical nuclear forces to outweigh a conventional imblanace in NATO's favour as NATO used in the reverse circumstance during the Cold War. In addition,t he Adapted CFE Treaty is seen as no longer meeting current conditions, where NATO heavily outnumbers Russia in conventional forces. The treaty constrains Russia within its own borders, in particular in the Caucasus, where it has a long term insurgency.

President Medvedev announced several actions as a result of the failure of BMD talks. The timing must be seen as a reaction to the US announcement that it is ending compliance with its obligations under the CFE Treaty (see this AP article). These are worth quoting in full:

First, I have instructed the Defense Ministry to immediately activate an early warning radar in Kaliningrad. Second, as part of the Russian aerospace defense program, Russia will urgently strengthen its defensive capabilities for Strategic Nuclear Forces installations.
Third, strategic ballistic missiles coming into the arsenals of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces and the Navy will be fitted with advanced missile defense penetration systems and the latest effective warheads.
Fourth, I have ordered the Armed Forces to develop a set of measures that will enable Russia, if necessary, to destroy the data exchange and control centers of the missile defense system. These measures are adequate, effective and cost-efficient.
Fifth, if the aforementioned measures prove to be insufficient, the Russian Federation will deploy, along its western and southern borders, advanced offensive systems capable of destroying the European component of the missile defense system. This will include deploying Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad. Other measures aimed at neutralizing the European component of the US missile defense system will also be prepared and implemented if necessary.
Next, if problems persist, Russia reserves the right to refrain from taking further steps as regards disarmament and arms control. Furthermore, considering that strategic offensive and defensive weapons are closely interrelated, Russia may have sufficient grounds to withdraw from the New START Treaty. Such a possibility is envisaged in the very idea of this treaty.
The threat to move Iskander missiles to NATO's borders is most unfortunate and unhelpful. As is the threat to the New START treaty. In truth there is nothing here that will make Russia-NATO or Russia-US relations any better, or contribute to a solution to the BMD problem.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has responded, but his statement is weak. He fails to acknowledge that NATO as a whole (especially the more easterly parts) is simply not ready to work with Russia as a parter, and that in the Baltic States, Poland and elsewhere the majority rather see Russia as a threat to be deterred and countered.

In Russia, it seems for political reasons, the "threat" of NATO BMD is overblown. There is little to no prospect that this 'missile shield' will work, anymore than the systems the US has deployed to date. It will certainly not work against Russian strategic systems, especially if these are now fitted with simple countermeasures as Medvedev has ordered.

Important questions remain unanswered. Is NATO really ready to restart the Cold War just to deploy and expensive and non-functional defence against a largely illusory missile threat?

Does it not make much more sense to actually sit down with Russia as a partner and negotiat a security relationship that makes sense for both? The CFE Treaty, if it is to survive, needs to change to reflect the fact that since 1999 NATO has expanded to Russia's borders and is now the overwhelmingly most powerful military force in the world. Russia needs to recognise that its actions in Georgia, not to mention Chechenya and Dagestan, inspire fear in its other neighbours and it must seek a peaceful resolution of border disputes.

The tiny US nuclear force in Europe should be withdrawn within US borders, and tactical nuclear forces should be part of talks between the US and Russia on all nuclear forces. After all, these tacnukes are at several months readiness, and the threat they were deployed to face no longer exists.

And BMD needs to be put back into its box and left there. It doesn't work, it probably can't ever work, and the damage it is already doing to European security through this quarrel with Russia needs to be undone immediately.


On 9 March this year in a Press Conference before ministerial meetings, Secretary General Rasmussen said the following, which shows exacty NATO's position. NATO and Russia would operate two completely separate missile defence systems. This position still has not changed, and that is what has caused the Russian pullout. NATO is not offering a partnership, so why would Russia cooperate?

Q: ITAR-TASS News Agency, Denis Dubrovin. Secretary General, a step back from Libya to NATO-Russia cooperation in the area of missile defence. A few days ago our mutual friend James Appathurai has said in Washington that it's totally unacceptable for NATO, the proposals of the sectoral missile defence system in Europe, Russian proposals.
So does it mean that we now have more misunderstandings in this area? Or how could you comment on this statement? Thank you very much.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yes, but that statement does not represent a new position. It is actually what has already been stated by NATO leaders already during our meeting in Lisbon. It's well-known that we have initiated a joint analysis as to how we can implement practical cooperation on missile defence. It is a joint analysis.
Russia presents her ideas. We present our ideas, and I am quite optimistic that at the end of the day we will find a solution because we are faced with a common security challenge.
I would like to stress that we want to pursue a cooperative approach, but we do believe that it is possible to really pursue a cooperative approach through a system which is based on a Russia missile defence system responsible for the protection of Russian territory and the Russian population and a NATO-based system responsible for the protection of NATO allies.
It shouldn't be a surprise that NATO can't, of course, outsource the protection of a NATO territory and NATO populations. So now let's focus on what unites us and I do believe that we can find mutually satisfactory solutions to a cooperative approach

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