#10 - JRL 7019
Russia eyes global missile shield similar to US plans
January 15, 2003
Russia for the first time aired plans to develop a global missile defense shield along the lines of controversial US proposals.
"We will definitely develop theater missile defense systems, as well as air-space defenses" of the type mooted by Washington, said Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, quoted by news agencies.
He added Moscow was permitted to develop such a far-reaching system after the United States last year unilaterally withdrew from the cornerstone 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty which banned global missile shields.
"Formally, Russia is also free from the limits that were placed on strategic missile defense systems, by that document," Ivanov said.
Moscow fought furiously against US plans to build its missile shield and ditch the ABM in part because it lacks the finances to develop technology that mirror the Washington project.
Russia has powerful mid-range interceptor missiles which it has proposed incorporating in a European defense shield and further suggested it might take part in the development of a broader shield together with the United States.
But Ivanov's comments were the first to reveal that Russia was also sizing up plans to construct a space-based intercepted missile that Moscow has feared will be first developed by Washington and then turned into an offensive weapon.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in a keynote UN address in September 2000 lashed out against US plans to "militarize space."
Ivanov remained vague Wednesday about Moscow's actual commitment to the futuristic project and appeared to concede that Russia's stumbling economy prevented any grand plans in the short term.
"Of course, we will be basing (our decisions) on common sense and technical feasibility, as well as economic realities," the Russian defense minister said.
He added the US and proposed Russian shield "should not be aimed against each other" but failed to clarify those remarks.
"The US plans to build a missile shield do not harm our national security, but some of its elements do prompt questions," he said.
US President George W. Bush in December announced plans to deploy a limited missile shield by 2004 that would include 10 ground-based interceptor missiles at Fort Greeley in Alaska.
Such a system is far too small to test Russia's massive nuclear stockpile but Moscow fears Washington would expand the shield over the coming years and -- with Russia too poor to replenish its ageing missile arsenal -- could one day nullify its nuclear threat.
Ivanov said the space-based Russian shield is a project "for more than one year. But we are already drafting several plans.
"We have missile defense technology that nobody else has in the world," said Ivanov.