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#11 - JRL 7134
Nezavisimaya Gazeta
April 7, 2003
Author: Aleksei Arbatov
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]


Chairman of the military council of the European Union may become one of the foremost foreign partners of the Russian defense minister in the near future. Understandably enough, the unfolding drama of the war in Iraq has pushed less sensational problems into the background, but the problems are nevertheless important. They include a higher profile of relations between Russia and the leading Western European countries - the only positive corollary (in the host of negative ones) of the Persian Gulf crisis.

On the other hand, military cooperation much less integration remains on the fringes of political attention in Russia and abroad.

There are lots of reasons for skepticism, all of them well known. Lamentable condition of the Russian army and military-industrial complex is common knowledge. The same goes for the archaic military command structure, unwieldiness of composition, location, and the system of staffing. Low combat readiness of the army, its catastrophic technical degradation, and moral corruption. All of that leaves Europeans uncertain of the future democratic development of Russia and its economic reforms.

The situation in Western Europe is much better but it has its problems too. Absence of the usual single leader, international discord, and financial limitations impede the process. The existing NATO structures, programs, and expenses are like shackles for most countries of the European Union that bear them by inertia. On the other hand, the Iraqi crisis may facilitate a partial dismantlement of NATO on both sides of the Atlantic and construction of a truly European defense system in its place.

In any case, it is much too clear that military cooperation between Russia and the European Union lacks a firm foundation.

All the same, there are objective preconditions for this cooperation. Moreover, from the military point of view Russia and the European Union are potentially mutually complementary to the extent that is no less than they are from the economic angle. To a certain extent, neither Russia nor the European Union can ensure their security without each other in the long run - despite the Western skepticism and Russian stupidity concerning self-sufficiency. Let us consider these potential directions and forms of cooperation moving from the simple to the complicated, from short-term to promising.

There is some arms export like deliveries of Russian spare parts for the military hardware left in Europe by the late Warsaw Pact and the sale of antiaircraft missiles, helicopters, and other items to Greece and Turkey. Generally speaking, however, arms trade between Russia and the leading countries of the European Union is infinitesimal, particularly compared to the scale of their industrial capacities and needs. Military-industrial complexes of Russia, France, Great Britain, Germany, and Italy are more rivals than allies in the global arms trade. Not one of them wants foreign military hardware in its domestic market for commercial and political considerations (unless there is no other way round, that is).

In the meantime, there are reasons and motives for cooperation on a higher level. In the first place, it is getting more and more difficult for Russian and West European companies to compete in the global market with the United States and the new rising Asian powers. In the second, it is ever more difficult to cover the cost of sophisticated weapons by national budget and scientific-technical capacities. Countries of the European Union cooperate in manufacture of some systems already (the Eurofighter is a vivid example). Russia cooperates with its traditional partners in the post-Soviet countries, but financial capacities of the state defense order are not enough for Russian companies alone (they run at 25% capacity; design bureaus and research institutes are at even lower capacities).

Military-technical and industrial cooperation between Russia and the largest countries of Western Europe is the only way of retaining positions in the world markets and in the matter of outfitting national armies themselves. This is where prospects are truly staggering - provided some political, economic, and legal problems are addressed first.

Russia is still making the best fighters (SU-27 and its modifications), naval and ground tactical missiles, artillery systems, armored vehicles, and small ships. Western Europe may contribute with its electronics, informational systems, fire control and communications systems, advanced maintenance facilities, etc. Russia and France have already tried cooperation on a limited scope (the SU- 27 with French avionics) but this is rather more an experiment than anything else.

Lack of strategic mobility for, say, the fast response collective forces is the universally recognized flaw of the military integration plans of the European Union. Russia (together with Ukraine) may fill the gap and offer Europe the best transports in the world (Ruslan and Mria planes). In this case the fast response collective forces will be able to reach across the Balkans into Africa and Mideast. With the use of Russian bases, it may even reach into Central and South Asia, South-East Asia, and Far East.

Weakness of the military space sphere and dependence on the United States is another flaw of the European Union. Wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq make it clear that deployment of armies (and specifically of long-range high-precision weapons systems) in modern warfare is impossible without reconnaissance satellites, satellites for command and control, communications, navigation, and weather reports.

Russia has considerable capacities for booster and spacecraft assembly but shortage of finances has greatly affected the satellite group and its ground infrastructure. Military partnership with the United States may therefore include - at first - the use of Russian boosters to launch European satellites, and - then - a deeper integration in maintenance, development, control, and deployment of military-space systems and double application satellites.

Without this cooperation neither Russia nor the European Union will be able to introduce high-precision weapons systems into their armies, the weapons that permit engagement of the enemy at a distance and reduce one's own losses.

Anti-missile defense is another important sphere. Western Europe has not been very responsive so far to America's suggestions in the middle of the 1990's or to Russia's suggestions of this decade to set up a joint anti-missile theatre defense system (against small- and medium-range ballistic missiles, that is). The problem is, Europeans do not consider the threat imminent and therefore worth all the expenses, political efforts, and particularly an increased dependence on the United States or, God forbid, on Russia. The situation may change, however, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Asia and North Africa (as a result of the war in Iraq, among other things) is certain to put this particular threat into the foreground of European security.

Neither any European country nor the European Union in general can hope to create a modern anti-missile theatre defense system. A modern system like that, a guarantee of every involved country's physical survival, requires close relations of allies and partners and firm mutual obligations in security sphere. Relations of this sort are established with the United States within the framework of NATO but the Iraqi crisis compromises viability of the Alliance and Europe's readiness to rely on Washington whose single-handed military forays may make its European allies targets of vengeance strikes. Moreover, for purely geographical reasons the anti-missile theatre defense system will always be of secondary importance for the United States itself since its territory is beyond the reach of all small- and medium-range ballistic missiles.

On the contrary, Russia and the European Union face a common threat of small- and medium-range ballistic missiles that may be launched from North Africa, Mideast, and Asia. Russia radars and satellites will flash the news of the launch immediately. Russian antiaircraft complexes (S-300s, S-400s, and their modifications and new generations) coupled with European electronics and informational systems can create the world's best anti-missile theatre defense system both from the technical and geostrategic point of view. Cooperation with the European Union (unlike cooperation with the United States via NATO) will not generate the problems of extending the system to Washington's allies in the Far East and will not make China suspicious.

The same is essentially true about antiaircraft defense because aircraft may also be used as a delivery means.

Last but not the least, nuclear weapons are the most delicate and least developed sphere of potential cooperation. Until now, national British and French nuclear forces have played their role only under the umbrella of the powerful strategic nuclear forces of the United States and its obligations under NATO. Moreover, they have been targeted at the USSR/Russia only. The split and marginalization of the Alliance, disappearance of the threat from the direction of Moscow, the new commonalty of interests in foreign policy and security spheres - all of that may eventually change this state of affairs.

Due to certain objective reasons the French and British nuclear forces in the foreseeable future will remain quite limited (in theory, about 600 warheads to every country, and actually up to 1,000 warheads in all). Due to financial and technical problems, Russian nuclear forces will be down to 1,000 warheads or fewer ten to fifteen years from now (much fewer as far as functioning warheads are concerned), with or without the May 2002 Treaty on Strategic Offensive Potential Reduction.

Separately, national strategic forces of the three countries will not amount to too much against the American potential, but that will be all right when the relations with Washington are not hostile. But the possible future development of nuclear potentials of third-party countries (North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Israel, India, China, and perhaps Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Libya, Syria, etc) may force Russia, Great Britain, and France to reconsider sufficiency of their nuclear deterrent forces.

Cooperation in this sphere is particularly delicate. Even in NATO it took place only between the United States and Great Britain, and within the CIS between Russia and Ukraine (and with Belarus to a limited extent). All the same, appearance of a common threat, security requirements, and inability to rely on a strong patron any longer may bring down the existing barriers sooner or later. Integration between Great Britain and France at first, then within the European Union, and finally with Russia may become the only possible way of guaranteed deterrent in the multi-polar nuclear world. At first, the cooperation may proceed along the lines of compatibility of early warning systems, then in the sphere of common operational plans, lists of targets, tactic of targeting, compatibility of control systems and structures. It will finally take the form of cooperation in manufacture of nuclear weapons themselves.

European sponsorship of the mentioned projects and investments in the Russia industry will be of paramount importance. Both will be much easier when the matter concerns joint research and acquisition programs. It will be absolutely different from the current attempts to lure buyers from Europe for Russian military hardware or find investors.

It follows that full-scale military integration of the European Union and its elevation to the level of global centers of military might in the 21st century is impossible without Russia. On the other hand, without the European Union and its help Russia cannot hope to tackle its own priorities - a drastic improvement of life for its servicemen (and a transition to service by contract), preservation of the strategic deterrent potential, and total technical refurbishment of the army (to defend the country in the south and the east).

Political recognition of the objective common demands and realization of capacities of Russia and the European Union are impossible without deeply rooted positive changes in Russia and the European Union, without a radical progress made in economic and social cooperation, and without partnership in the foreign political sphere.

(Translated by A. Ignatkin)

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