Interfax: Russia needs ‘clear and reliable’ missile defence guarantees

Missile Defense Control Room file photo

(Interfax – May 24, 2013) Russia needs “clear and reliable” guarantees that US missile defences will not be aimed against it and will take “military-technical” measures in response to their deployment, Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolay Patrushev has told Interfax news agency. “They will be taken as required, as the USA progresses in the creation of its missile defence system,” he said.

Patrushev said, as reported by Interfax, that Washington’s latest missile defence proposals were a step in the right direction but did not lift Russia’s concerns. “We value the readiness to make missile defence programmes transparent. However, political statements about the absence of intentions to undermine the other side’s strategic deterrence potential are, in our opinion, clearly insufficient,” he said. “Cosmetic amendments to America’s plans, such as not creating a new interceptor, cannot lift our concerns over the destabilizing impact of missile defence on strategic stability,” he added.

Obama’s proposals only a step in the right direction

“In principle,” US President Barack Obama’s proposals set out in a letter to Russian leader Vladimir Putin in April, are a step “in the right direction, but that is not enough”. “We need clear and reliable guarantees that the development of the USA’s and their allies’ missile defence potential will not undermine the effectiveness of the Russian nuclear deterrence force. Individual transparency measures, or political declarations, cannot solve this task,” said Patrushev.

“Practice shows that genuine parity and verifiability in the sphere of arms control can be ensured only through legally binding international treaties drawn up on the basis of equality and strictly balanced interests of the parties,” he said.

Putin calls for “sincere” dialogue

Patrushev said that in his letter Putin called on Obama to, as Interfax put it, develop relations based on a sincere dialogue, which should cover missile defence. “The president of the Russian Federation notes that concrete deeds improving the atmosphere of the dialogue, as well as preventing the emergence of new irritants that would have a negative impact on our relations, are needed as never before,” said Patrushev.

“This document (Putin’s letter) reflects Russia’s leadership’s vision of ways to further develop dialogue and joint work on common challenges and threats. The main idea lies in the need to strengthen and comprehensively develop Russian-American relations, expand a sincere dialogue based on mutual trust between our countries to various spheres,” said Patrushev.

No solution yet to missile defence problem

Missile defence and arms control were discussed in the letter separately, Interfax said. “We have not yet reached mutually acceptable solutions on these issues. The Russian president has issued an instruction to draw up our proposals on a whole range of contentious issues which will be presented to the American side. I think that the continued intensive dialogue on this issue will facilitate specific agreements,” said Patrushev.

Non-proliferation – Nunn-Lugar programme will end, but other joint projects possible

Russia will not prolong the Nunn-Lugar cooperative threat reduction programme but is prepared to have other joint non-proliferation projects, said Patrushev.

“The Nunn-Lugar programme, which expires on 16 June this year, is outdated and we will not be pronging it,” he said, adding that Russia would be prepared to continue the implementation of projects related to the scrapping of nuclear submarines, storage of spent nuclear fuel and modernization of the system of customs control of radioactive materials.

“We can also have successful cooperation in the sphere of non-proliferation in third countries using the accumulated experience and existing potential. Naturally, with the permission of those states and in strict compliance of international legal norms,” he said.

“Relevant intentions could be set out in a special joint statement by the presidents” during Barack Obama’s “possible” visit to Moscow in September, he said.

Long-term presence of coalition troops in Afghanistan unacceptable to Russia

Coalition troops’ presence in Afghanistan should not be long-term, said Patrushev.

“We recognize the difficulties that arise in moving towards the completion of the combat mission of the USA and NATO by December 2014, when the UN mandate for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan expires. In any case, we hope the American intentions will be transparent,” he said. “Long-term foreign military presence in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which could be used against other countries, is unacceptable to Russia,” he added.

“Further presence of NATO on Afghan soil should have an appropriate international legal basis, presumably in the form of a new UN mandate. Otherwise, our agreements with the ISAF based on UN Security Council Resolution 1386 on military transit, among other things, will lose their legal basis,” he said.

Patrushev said he was pleased with cooperation with the USA in relation to Afghanistan, citing a helicopter deal and the delivery of arms and ammunition for the Afghan police.

He did not think talks with the Taliban would work. “As regards the Taliban, as the situation has shown, the Taliban leadership is not interested in serious peace talks because they aspire to take power in much of Afghanistan after 2014,” said Patrushev.

No proof of use of chemical weapons by Syrian troops

Patrushev said there was no “real proof” of the use of chemical weapons by Syrian government troops.

“We have more than once warned Damascus that the use of chemical weapons during combat activities is inadmissible. Each time the Syrian authorities refuted suspicions of our Western colleagues and publicly stated that they would not use weapons of mass destruction in an internal conflict. We have not heard such assurances from illegal armed formations,” said Patrushev.