Signing of new START treaty put off again / Moscow can increase Obama's chance of success in Afghanistan - analyst / U.S. sanctions against Iran will not affect Russia / Russia to build an integrated air and missile defense system /
Signing of new START treaty put off again
Despite public promises to sign a new strategic arms reduction treaty by the end of December 2009, Russia and the United States have put off the signing until next year. Analysts involved in drafting the treaty said it should be signed before the UN Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in the spring of 2010.
The Russian authorities have reconciled themselves to the fact that the key bilateral agreement with the U.S. will not be signed this year, sources in the Kremlin said on condition of anonymity.
"The treaty will not be signed in December, but this does not mean there are insurmountable obstacles. The talks are proceeding in a positive atmosphere, with both sides willing to continue," a source in the Russian president's administration said.
He said the document has been almost fully agreed upon and needs only minor amendments, but refused to elaborate.
Also, the source could not say when President Barack Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev could be expected to sign the treaty.
"Until the new treaty is signed, both parties will abide by the old one, so there is no need to rush it," he said.
The analysts involved in drafting the treaty have indicated there is still considerable room for improvement. One of them said the differences were not critical but should be settled to allow the partners to move on. One of the biggest problems is the ceiling for nuclear warhead delivery vehicles.
Another hitch concerns the system of calculating heavy bombers, a source said, but declined to specify. Also, there is no agreement on how to amend the treaty to include a connection between strategic offensive arms reductions and ballistic missile defense systems (ABM). The connection is heavily advocated by Russia.
The analyst said the partners would settle all the differences and the treaty would be ready to sign in January 2010.
"There must be no rush in this matter," he said. "December 5 was an unrealistic deadline, yet we must not procrastinate either, because the UN NPT Review Conference is set for May 2010. We should sign the treaty before that or Russia and the United States will be criticized for slowing the movement toward denuclearization."
Moscow can increase Obama's chance of success in Afghanistan - analyst
On Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
Rasmussen asked his partners to increase the number of Russian helicopters in Afghanistan, to train their pilots, to provide them with fuel and components and to help train Afghan police.
Privately owned Russian helicopters carry NATO consignments in Afghanistan, and the decision to supply nine new Mi-17V-5 Hip helicopters for the Afghan army was recently announced, said Dmitry Vasilyev, an analyst with the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.
The United States plans to equip the Afghan army with 189 helicopters.
The last time Russia delivered weapons to Afghanistan without charge was in 2005. Vasilyev said Moscow shipped $30 million worth of weapons to Kabul at that time.
In 2006, the United States said it had supplied weapons and equipment worth $2 billion to Afghanistan.
A source close to Russia's state arms exporter Rosoboronexport said Moscow could deliver several helicopters free of charge, but that Kabul would have to pay for large-scale shipments.
The Afghan police force received a repaired Russian Mi-17 helicopter several days ago.
A source close to the Russian Defense Ministry said NATO had planned to buy Russian equipment and components, but that the deal never went through because the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA) requested that its Moscow office be exempted from taxes. The Federal Tax Service opposed this plan.
The source said Georgia and Azerbaijan were now handling the bulk of NATO transit via the northern route, bypassing unstable Pakistan, and that Russia's transit share was unlikely to increase.
NATO prioritizes the Afghan issue in its relations with Moscow because a modified plan to stabilize Afghanistan proposed by U.S. President Barak Obama may fail, and because it can be salvaged with Moscow's assistance. And also because it is the only plan, said Ivan Safranchuk, Editor-in-Chief of the Bolshaya Igra (The Great Game) magazine dealing with politics, business and security in Central Asia.
U.S. sanctions against Iran will not affect Russia
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a bill authorizing the president to levy sanctions on energy companies that directly supply petrochemicals to Iran and also on firms that provide the insurance or the tankers to facilitate fuel transport.
However, the Obama administration has so far been cautious about using this measure, and Iran said the sanctions would not be effective anyway. Analysts say the sanctions would not damage Russian companies.
The bill does not name the "guilty" companies, but the media say Iran receives the bulk of imports from Swiss Vitol and Glencore, Swiss-Dutch Trafigura, French Total, British Petroleum, and India's Reliance.
Nina Mamedova, head of the Iran sector at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Oriental Studies, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Iran has lived with U.S. sanctions for years.
In May 2009, external restrictions imposed on Iran forced the government to limit the sale of fuel to its people, which provoked social tensions. But Iranian authorities solved the problem by finding illegal suppliers.
Iran has almost completed the construction of three refineries and plans to build another four, Mamedova said. Some of them are being built jointly with foreign partners, mostly Chinese. She said Obama is unlikely to punish any Chinese companies.
In late November, Iran announced that China's Sinopec signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company and the partners planned to sign a deal within two months to build seven oil refineries in Iran. China is to invest $6.5 billion in these projects.
Using China's support as an argument, Iran has been trying to fan Russia's economic and political interest in cooperation. Russian energy giant Gazprom has been invited to join the project to build the Peace Pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan (IPI). Stakes in the consortium building the IPI gas pipeline are to be determined by the end of 2009.
Iran knows that Russia wants to take part in the IPI project because it will reroute Iranian gas from the Nabucco project, a rival of Russia's South Stream pipeline to transport Russian natural gas across the Black Sea to Bulgaria and on to Italy and Austria.
Russia to build an integrated air and missile defense system
A combined air and missile defense system will be created in Russia, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said on Wednesday. Its core will be made up of S-500 fifth-generation surface-to-air systems being developed by the Almaz Antey corporation. S-500 development is to be completed in 2015. Experts, however, do not share the deputy prime minister's optimism.
Leonid Ivashov, president of the Academy on Geopolitical Affairs, is skeptical: "If troops have no other up-to-date systems but S-400s, what can we do by 2015? We are only in a position to protect individual targets." A new system, combining air and missile defense elements, was already considered by the government in 2007 and in 2008. Almaz Antey was directed to start this development.
Anatoly Tsyganok, head of the Center for Military Forecasting, believes this approach is doomed to failure because even the Israeli army did not succeed in implementing such an ambitious project four years ago. Currently, combined air and missile systems are integrated in the United States, but the U.S. launched their program as early as 1993, the analyst said. He fears the merger of air and missile defenses could undermine the Strategic Missile Forces, which have been cut by military reform anyway.
"What we need to do is not try to protect ourselves against the U.S., but to address global threats. There is, for example, an asteroid threat, which can be tackled only by space forces," Tsyganok said.
The S-500 is one of the most hush-hush projects in Russia's defense industry. When asked about the S-500 project in August, Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin said only that the new system was not based on the S-400 Triumf, but was a further improvement of anti-missile weapons capable of hitting hypersonic and ballistic targets in near space.
This suggests that the S-500, code-named the Samoderzhets (Supreme Ruler), may be an asymmetrical response to the Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) missile, central to the U.S. and allied missile defense system.
Many analysts liken the project to plans to develop the fifth-generation fighter aircraft discussed for years, but regularly postponed by top brass.
RIA Novosti is not responsible for the content of outside sources.
MOSCOW, December 17 (RIA Novosti)
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