MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Kislyakov) - Although it has so far been a source of controversy, the issue of anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defense may become a key factor in Russian-American cooperation.
Let's analyze what lies behind the ABM intrigue.
Talking to his American colleague on April 23, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov expressed Russia's concern about the ABM deployment plan: "A strategic ABM system is a serious destabilizing factor capable of considerably affecting regional and global security." Is this really so? The first outlines of ABM defense appeared simultaneously with the concept of strategic nuclear missiles in the middle 1940s. The idea is nothing new, and it would seem that a large-scale ABM system should not provoke a storm of emotions like the one that we have witnessed in the past six months.
However, emotions are all-important here. Russia cannot sit and watch the deployment of 10 American interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, no matter how hard the West tries to prove that they pose no threat.
But the location of a part of the American ABM system in Europe could easily turn from a source of confrontation into a foundation for cooperation.
It seems that the Americans are seriously worried by Russia's strong reaction to their plans to station ABM components on a territory that was until recently under the full control of the Soviet Union. At any rate, this is one of the reasons why the U.S. government is offering Russia the broadest possible cooperation in ABM defense.
Leaving aside the opinion of some retired Russian generals who do not even want to consider negotiating on an ABM defense with America, where should we start? In all probability, the two countries should resolve one of their main contradictions on strategic ABM defense.
"We cannot get an answer to the following question: why create a shield against a hypothetical threat from Iran that does not actually perform this purpose but rather creates geopolitical problems for Russian security?" Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Luxembourg on April 24.
Five days earlier, Russian Ambassador to NATO Konstantin Totsky said that 10 missiles would not protect the United States and Europe from a massive attack involving hundreds of missiles. Hence, the Americans will have to expand the European ABM system on an enormous scale.
To follow the logic of Russian politicians, the notorious Polish interceptors are targeted not at Iran, but at some other country, and the seemingly inevitable ABM expansion in Europe is a threat to Russia.
But in talking about the missile threat, we do not mean hundreds or even dozens of missiles. Iran may well launch a single ballistic missile, and no one can guarantee that it would not hit Europe. According to ballistic models, 10 interceptors on Polish territory could neutralize them.
If Russia could overcome its irritation over Washington's Polish and Czech initiatives, which do not pose a military threat to our security, cooperation in the deployment of a limited-theater ABM system would be quite possible. President Vladimir Putin proposed just that to the United States in 2000.
A limited ABM system would be designed for protection against medium- and short-range ballistic missiles. The likelihood of their use is quite high. The United States is stepping up tests of Lockheed Martin's mobile THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense). It may be flown by aircraft to any spot where there is a risk of a missile attack.
In turn, Russia is developing its own ABM air-defense system. Air Force Commander Vladimir Mikhailov said it will be a considerable improvement over the current S-400 Triumphs. Bilateral cooperation in intercepting potential individually launched missiles with effective mobile ABM systems appears to be quite relevant today considering the rapid spread of missile technologies and the poor monitoring of missile development.
In this context, President Putin's statement during the U.S. defense secretary's recent visit about a wide range of future Russian-American cooperation projects inspires optimism.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
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