RIA Novosti: US move to suspend missile defence discussion unimportant – pro-Kremlin pundits

Mssile Defense Control Room

(RIA Novosti – April 3, 2014) The Pentagon statement on the suspension of discussions with Russia on missile defence issues is absolutely “perfunctory”, these consultations have long lost any meaning, the experts approached by RIA Novosti believe.

Russia and NATO agreed to cooperate on the Euro-ABM [European missile defence] project at the summit in Lisbon in 2010, but the talks reached a stalemate because of the US refusal to give legal guarantees that the system being deployed was not directed against Russian deterrence forces. US plans to create a missile defence system in Europe is now one of the sources of tension in US-Russian relations. [Passage omitted: US announced suspension of consultations because of Ukraine situation].

“Ritual” abandonment

Consultations between Russia and NATO on missile defence issues have been going on for years without any progress because of the firm position of the USA, the experts believe, so their abandonment only reflects the real state of affairs.

“It is an absolutely ritual thing. These consultations have been conducted for the past four years with absolutely no success,” former chief of the international treaties directorate of the Russian Defence Ministry Lt-Gen Yevgeniy Buzhinskiy told RIA Novosti.

The expert stressed that the US position on the issue had been unchanged for many years, and no breakthroughs were imminent in the talks. “It doesn’t matter whether they are conducted or not. I do not think this is any great loss,” he said.

This view was shared by editor in chief of the Natsionalnaya Oborona [National Defence] journal, member of the public council under the Russian Defence Ministry Igor Korotchenko.

“There has been no progress or breakthrough on missile defence issues in all the years of consultations. Therefore what the Americans have now said is not important to us in the grand scheme of things: it is simply the acknowledgment of the actual state of affairs,” Korotchenko said.

Chairman of the presidium of the expert council on aerospace defence of the Russian Federation, developer of the S-400 and S-500 air and missile defence systems Igor Ashurbeyli holds a similar opinion.

“The deadlocked talks on Euro-ABM, which went on throughout recent years, were logically fruitless. There is nothing to get upset about now. The USA has abandoned what in actual fact did not exist anyway,” said Ashurbeyli, who had headed the lead system design bureau Almaz-Antey until 2011. [Passage omitted: Agency summarizes Russia’s earlier proposals on European missile defence]

“Despite Russia’s concern, the USA and NATO did not want to hear about any specific accords that would have eased this concern,” Korotchenko added.

A chance for Russian missile defence

In Ashurbeyli’s opinion, Russia now has an excellent chance to make a mighty leap forward in the creation of its own missile defence.

“As the classic said, ‘to unite, one has to set oneself apart first’ [inaccurate quote from Lenin],” Ashurbeyli said.

In the past 20 years, when Russia was not yet strong enough as a state in its own right following the collapse of the USSR, all the USA did was consistently breach any military accords they could, particularly on missile defence, he said.

“It is worth recalling that as long ago as the early 1990s, the Russian missile defence system S-225 reached the stage of company trials at NPO [Research and Production Association] Almaz. However, at that time, under pressure from the USA, [Soviet President] Mikhail Gorbachev issued orders for all the work and documentation to be destroyed, though the USA was then ‘at ground level’, as it were, in this area [of research and development],” Ashurbeyli said.

As a result, the expert said, Russia lost nearly two decades and it was only a few years ago, when the development of a new Russian missile defence system began, that it started to make up for the lost time and catch up with the Americans, who had forged ahead.

Bombers in Crimea

Experts believe that the issue of Russia’s response to what is happening in Europe in terms of missile defence remains important.

“This missile defence system, particularly its European segment, is designed to counter our nuclear system,” Chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee on Defence Vladimir Komoyedov has said. “We are now going to take our own measures to counter all this,” he said.

For his part, Igor Korotchenko is certain that what is needed is not just words but military-technical measures as well as subtle work with the European political elite and the public.

“What we should respond to is not the abandonment [of consultations] but the creation of the Euro-ABM infrastructure. Here we can resort to the implementation of the set of measures that was being drawn up by the General Staff,” he said.

In his view, to keep the missile defence systems in Poland in check, Iskander-M systems must be deployed in Kaliningrad Region. He also assigned an important role to Crimea, which had recently joined Russia.

“The next step is the deployment of Tu-22M3 medium bombers in Crimea so as to use them to neutralize the Euro-ABM threat in Romania. Additionally, the Tu-22M3s can be used to neutralize command and information centres of the Euro-ABM system in Europe,” the expert added.

Korotchenko also deems it necessary to carry out work with “politically sane elites” in Europe and with public opinion, so as to counter US plans to deploy missile defence.

“We have to work with European public opinion in order to achieve the same results as in the Czech Republic, when the population rebelled against the deployment of a Euro-ABM radar, and as a result, the government met the demands of the population and abandoned the deployment plans,” Korotchenko said in conclusion.