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RIA Novosti

Analysis & Opinion

Weapons in space: How can Russia respond to U.S. threat?

Topic: Russian missile forces

14:04 01/06/2006

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Kislyakov) 

This summer the United States plans to publish its new space doctrine stipulating the deployment of weapons in circumterrestrial space. Colonel Anthony Russo, head of the U.S. Strategic Command's space division, said the new policy would remove any ambiguity about official responsibility for figuring out who was behind any attack on U.S.-owned commercial satellites. First of all, this concerns the Department of Defense. But we will come back to this issue a bit later.

Anyone can see the danger being posed by space-based strike weapons.

During his visit to China in August 2005, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said both the United States and Russia were using outer space for military purposes, but no weapons had been orbited to date. "It would be difficult to imagine the consequences of their possible deployment. To the best of my knowledge, we orbit commercial satellites from 30 to 40 countries, and the issue of launch vehicles is irrelevant," said Ivanov.

In other words, Russia, which launches numerous foreign spacecraft and which knows nothing about their real content, can become involved in an "orbital conflict." In that case Russia would have to create a new theater of war, resume an unprecedented arms race and search for an "adequate response."

"We are opposed to the deployment of space weapons, which will not make the world a safer place and can provoke hostilities back on Earth. It would be extremely hard to prove in case of a malfunction of a Russian or any other satellite that it had not been damaged by other space powers, including the United States, if space weapons are orbited," Colonel General Vladimir Popovkin, commander of the Russian Space Force, told the ILA-2006 air show in Berlin in mid-May.

In other words, there would be ample room for speculation in case of emergency.

We have already mentioned a statement by Colonel Anthony Russo on the military's role in deterring attacks on commercial satellites (Reuters). It appears that Colonel Russo is not being totally straightforward, because the issue has nothing to do with protection of satellite systems. It should not be doubted that the United States could reinstate its ASAT program, while Russia can do the same with regard to the Ishim program of the mid-1980s. But no country has any space weapons to date.

In fact, space weapons are intended to destroy enemy inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) during their boost phase. Space strike weapons, which are to become a vital element of the U.S. NMD (National Missile Defense) program, would detect burning rocket engines and destroy MIRV warheads prior to the post-boost stage.

Let's not speculate about whose ICBMs the U.S. Strategic Command has in mind. Russia knows all about the goals of the NMD program and the designation of space weapons.

In late May, General Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of the General Staff, commented on U.S. plans to deploy elements of the NMD system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Baluyevsky said Russia was concerned because both countries were located in direct proximity to its borders. "Local ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) bases can be used to detect and destroy ICBMs," said Baluyevsky.

Baluyevsky said President Vladimir Putin had mentioned possible counter-measures in his state of the nation address. "We have found adequate and asymmetrical solutions enabling our ICBMs and their warheads to effectively breach ABM defenses today, tomorrow and in the foreseeable future," said Baluyevsky.

One can therefore say that the latest achievements in the field of ICBM construction can neutralize a global ABM system and space weapons, which are its important element.

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