| JRL Home | JRL Simple/Mobile | RSS | Newswire | Archives | JRL Newsletter | Support | About
Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

Balance of strategic capabilities may change to Russia's disadvantage

Launch of Defensive MissileThere is little chance that the talks on missile defense in Europe will succeed. The Russian plan for sectoral missile defense provides for joint participation on an equal footing in developing theater missile defense. This is not acceptable to the United States and does not jibe with the structure of relations within NATO.

Valdaiclub.com interview with Alexei Fenenko, Leading Research Fellow, Institute of International Security Studies of RAS, Russian Academy of Sciences.

What do you think about Russia and NATO's approach to the future development of sectoral missile defense and European missile defense? What are the chances that a mutually acceptable solution will be found?

There is little chance that the talks on missile defense in Europe will succeed, in my opinion. Nuclear deterrence is the foundation on which Russia and the United States construct their relations. Should the U.S. deploy a missile defense system, this will undermine bilateral relations. Since 1999, Washington has made no secret of the fact that its strategic goal is to make the territory of the United States and its allies invulnerable to attack. Washington wants to move beyond the logic of mutually assured destruction. NATO's new strategic concept views the deployment of American missile defense systems as a new foundation for guaranteeing the security of America's allies in Europe. Russia, for its part, has serious concerns that the United States is trying to undermine its strategic capabilities with this missile defense system. This is particularly alarming given the reduction of strategic offensive arms under New START and the impending withdrawal of the nuclear systems built in the 1980s over the next 15 years.

The talks on missile defense have unfolded according to this logic. In the spring of 2000, then president Vladimir Putin proposed to British prime minister Tony Blair that Russia and the EU create a joint missile defense system. The administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush saw the Russian proposal as an attempt to torpedo the U.S. missile defense system and drive a wedge between NATO allies on this issue. At a summit in Rome in May 2002, NATO put forward its own compromise ­ Russian participation in the development of theater missile defense but not in command and control. Judging by the reaction to Medvedev's speech in Lisbon, this is the only compromise the West is prepared to accept. The Russian plan for sectoral missile defense, on the other hand, provides for joint participation on an equal footing in developing theater missile defense. This is not acceptable to the United States and does not jibe with the structure of relations within NATO.

But this is not the main issue. In Lisbon, Medvedev said with good reason that we still have 10 years to reach an agreement on missile defense ­ otherwise, a new arms race will be unavoidable. However, in 10 years the balance of strategic capabilities may change to Russia's disadvantage because of cuts in its nuclear arsenal and the deployment (albeit in a limited scope) of an American missile defense system. Meanwhile, New START, which contains a provision linking strategic defensive and offensive arms, expires in 2020. Before that time, Moscow would like to conclude an agreement with Washington on missile defense that preserves the logic of mutually assured destruction. It became clear at U.S. and Russian presidents' summit in Washington on June 24, 2010 that the White House is not prepared to accept mutually binding limitations on strategic missile defense. This is why Russia, in the fall of 2010, added sectoral defense in Europe to the agenda of missile defense talks.

What is preventing Russia and NATO from stepping up cooperation on international issues, for instance, on the current situation in Afghanistan (establishing a viable state, counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics)?

The situation in Afghanistan is creating a complex set of issues in Russia-NATO relations. Until recently, experts said that their positions on Afghanistan coincide. But the events of the past two to three years suggest otherwise.

First, Russia is alarmed by the phased withdrawal plan for NATO troops announced at the Lisbon summit. The Karzai government is not in control of a considerable part of Afghan territory. The situation in neighboring nuclear Pakistan has been unstable for seven years because of its internal war with radical Islamists in Waziristan. Washington has not proposed any plans for stabilizing Afghanistan and Pakistan. Moscow is worried that Washington will leave a heritage in the form of a regional war involving Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and Russia has obligations toward Tajikistan under the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO)

Second, NATO refuses to talk with CSTO concerning the cooperation on the Afghan issue because it hasn't yet recognized this organization. President Barrack Obama said in May 2010 that the United States is opposed to foreign interference in the Kyrgyz crisis. Apparently, Washington reserves the right to build military and political relations with Central Asia, bypassing CSTO. Washington applied for membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as observer in the summer of 2002, which was met with a nervous reaction both in Beijing and Moscow, who saw it as an attempt to foster military ties with Central Asian states.

Third, there are unresolved disputes over on counter-narcotics operations in the region. Russian officials are heard reproaching NATO more and more often for condoning the growing of opium poppies in Afghanistan. In October 2010, Russia tried to discuss this issue with Karzai, irritating both Washington and Brussels.

These problems are not yet fatal. But as they accumulate, they can create a conflict potential over Afghanistan.

Global cyber security is a new challenge for the entire international community. What forms of cooperation between Russia and NATO could this lead to?

Cyber security and information security are being broadly discussed in Russia and the United States, and even more so following the controversy generated by WikiLeaks. But this issue is still at the stage of discussion. For now, the Internet is being mostly used to publish leaks, gather information and monitoring ­ that is, rather as a means o achieving political goals than an independent space.

There is another more important trend: the demand of China and a number of developing countries to change the system of administering the web, putting it under the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The United States and the EU have rejected these proposals. Russia is more likely to support China than America on this.

What are the chances that the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty will be signed soon as the natural next step after the success with New START?

There is little chance that the conventional forces treaty will be signed in the near future. Not a single NATO country has ratified the old, Istanbul version of the treaty. The pretext for this was Russia's refusal to pull its military commitments out of Moldova and Georgia. But such excuses cannot lead to a big conflict, and it's not worth risking a serious treaty like this for such weak excuses.

But the real issue lies elsewhere. The balance of conventional forces has changed in NATO's favor in the last 15 years. NATO does not see what concessions it would gain from Russia for reviving the treaty. And Moscow, for its part, is feeling the growing disparity in conventional forces. Now that the entire system based on the Stockholm and Vienna accords on the rules of war in Europe is falling apart, Russia is trying to keep its options open in this sphere.

I think it would make more sense to restore the Conflict Prevention Center in Vienna. It was set up in 1989 but is lying dormant right now. Reviving it could help us resume talks on confidence-building measures in Europe ­ a kind of code of conduct for Russia and NATO in Europe, which also applies to third countries.


Keyword Tags:

Russia, Nuclear Issues, Missile Defense - Russia News - Russia - Johnson's Russia List

Bookmark and Share - Back to the Top -        


Bookmark and Share

- Back to the Top -        

  Follow Johnson's Russia List on Twitter Tweet