RIA Novosti: OPINION: US Pullout on Missile Defense Talks Won’t Impact Russia

Mssile Defense Control Room

MOSCOW, April 3 (RIA Novosti) – The Pentagon’s recent talk of suspending anti-missile consultations with Russia is hot air, as the negotiations lost their significance long ago, experts have told RIA Novosti.

The Russia-NATO missile shield talks have been treading water for years, ever since the two agreed at a 2010 Lisbon summit to cooperate on the European project. The partners eventually deadlocked on the issue after Washington refused to provide Moscow with legal guarantees that its strike forces in Europe would not target Russia’s deterrence capabilities.

Elaine Bunn, a US Department of Defense official overseeing nuclear policy, earlier said that Russia’s stance on the Ukrainian crisis was a reason for the Pentagon putting its cooperation with Moscow on hold.

Now experts say that Russia-NATO consultations were bound to grind to a halt, citing Washington’s reluctance to meet Moscow halfway. So the freeze on them now accurately reflects the already existing state of affairs.

“It’s a matter of ritual. The consultations had been nothing but a failure for the past four years,” said Lt. Gen. Yevgeny Buzhinsky, who used to head the department of international agreements in Russia’s Defense Ministry.

Buzhinsky underscored that the United States had long been blocking anti-missile talks. “Talks or no talks, they don’t make a difference anyway. I don’t think they are a big loss,” he told RIA Novosti.

Igor Korotchenko, the editor-in-chief of National Defense Magazine, echoed Mr. Buzhinsky’s opinion.

“There was no progress or breakthrough on anti-missile defense over these long years of consultations,” he said, adding that the Pentagon simply stated a fact, which is that consultations had already lost their significance.”

Moscow’s plan was initially to break up the European missile shield into sectors, with Russia having control over its nearest surroundings. But the fact that the latter would include Baltic countries was enough for NATO to reject this offer citing Article 5 of the collective security treaty.

“Despite Russia’s anxiety, all agreement proposals that would appease it fell on the US and NATO’s deaf ears,” Korotchenko explained.

Russia is now mulling a response to NATO’s cooperation freeze and its unfolding missile shield in Europe.

“This system, especially its European segment, was designed to counter our nuclear deterrent,” says Vladimir Komoyedov, who chairs the Defense Committee in the Russian Lower House. “We are now going to take steps to meet the blow.”

Igor Korotchenko believes these measures must come through both military and diplomatic channels. A lot of importance should be attached to working with Europe and its elites, he stressed.

“The response should be directed not against their refusal [to cooperate], but against the construction of missile defense infrastructure in Europe,” Korotchenko told RIA Novosti, adding it’s high time Russia started putting through the measures recommended by its General Staff.

One of the steps is the deployment of Iskander-M anti-missile systems in the westernmost Kaliningrad region to contain the threat that comes from US interceptors in Poland. Korotchenko also suggested moving bombers to Crimea to neutralize US missile shield elements in Romania, as well as command and data centers across Europe.

He said Russia must also sway European elites and public opinion to achieve the same results as in the Czech Republic, where people protesting against missile defense construction forced the government to change its mind.