In June 2000, the US will be able to make a final decision on the deployment of the national anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defense system, which will break the ABM treaty of 1972 between Russia and the US. In order to receive the possibility to deploy an additional 100 interceptor missiles and a new early warning system in its territory, the US is offering Russia the opportunity to revise the ABM treaty. Washington explains this persistence by the need to protect the US from possible missile attacks of some Asian countries, in particular, North Korea and Iran.
Meanwhile, Russian Defense Ministry and other Russian government bodies do not find these arguments convincing. Commenting on Washington’s proposals regarding the revision of the ABM treaty, Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, the director of the main department of international military cooperation of the Defense Ministry, said that “these offers are not constructive and cannot represent the basis for future consultations regarding this problem.”
Ivashov said that Pentagon representatives were being conniving when they said that the American party considered the territorial ABM defense as a response to nuclear programs of North Korea, Iran and Iraq. He added that within the next few years, these countries would hardly have guaranteed vehicles for the delivery of weapons to the American territory.
Ivashov emphasized that at first glance, American representatives offer deployment of a limited ABM defense system in one area (in accordance with the ABM treaty). However, in reality, a system is being developed with such control and location facilities (including the space-based ones), which could be expanded to the national scale at any moment through a mechanical increase of interceptor missiles quantity.
According to Ivashov, the system being considered by Washington, will cover the territory with a radius of 1,500 kilometers, that is practically all 50 states. However, the treaty permits the creation of an ABM system with a radius of up to 150 kilometers.
Russian Foreign Ministry has a similar point of view. Speaking at a conference on nuclear weapons nonproliferation treaty in the UN headquarters in New York on April 25, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that a historical chance in the disarmament field could be missed if the foundation of strategic stability, the ABM treaty of 1972 being its corner stone, is destroyed. Ivanov emphasized that the threats, which the US claims warrant the ABM treaty amendment, could be parried without infringement of this treaty. As an example, Ivanov named the addition of comprehensiveness to the nuclear weapons nonproliferation treaty which India, Pakistan, Israel and Cuba still did not sign. Ivanov also offered organization of consultations regarding the establishment of a system of control over missile technologies non-proliferation proposed by Russia.
Meanwhile, the UN and European Union are concerned about the “potentially dangerous” consequences of implementation of the American ABM plans. Javier Solana, the former NATO Secretary General, who is currently a representative of the European Union for common foreign policy and security policy, also advocated this standpoint. He said that if Europe is not covered with the American ABM shield, a blow will be delivered to the military relations between the two parts of the
Atlantic Ocean and the defense will be bifurcated. At any rate, notes Solana, to receive the support of Europe, this American plan should not cause tension in the transatlantic alliance and should not cause a serious crisis in relations with Russia. Europe is afraid that the deployment of the national ABM defense system by the US will aggravate relations with Russia and China and will kindle the armament race in the world. However, Washington does not wish to listen to the statements of Russian politicians and representatives of international organizations about the inadvisability of the ABM treaty revision. In early May, Washington attempted to attract other countries to participate in the development of its national ABM system. Vice Admiral Herbert Brown, the Deputy Commander of the US Space Forces, warned that if a hostile missile flew to Ottawa, the American ABM system would not intercept it if Canada refused to join the project. The Admiral held a briefing for journalists in the headquarters of the Space Command in Huntsville (Alabama). He said that interceptor missiles intended for the defense of American cities could also defend the Canadian territory.
However, according to Brown, for this purpose, Canada needs to share the expenditures on the ABM system with the US. In this case, the ABM system will be controlled by the American-Canadian air defense system of the North America in Colorado. According to the budget bureau of the US Congress, by 2015, the spending on the ABM system will total at least $60 billion.
The Admiral emphasizes that if Canada does not take part in the project, the US will defend only American cities and not Canadian ones, “Detroit and not Ottawa.” The Canadian party responded immediately. According to Canadian Defense Minister Arthur Egglton, Canada will not let the US blackmail it and will make a decision about the ABM defense proceeding based on its own interests. Previously, the Canadian government often expressed doubts regarding the ABM system development in the US, which, according to Ottawa, could undermine the process of arms limitation. In March, Foreign Minister of Canada, Lloyd Exuorsy, said that his country opposed the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
What can Russia do if the US withdraws from the ABM treaty? According to Colonel General Vladimir Yakovlev, the Strategic Missile Forces Commander, a defense system will be to some extent more defective than an attack weapon. Corresponding measures will probably be taken in response to the US withdrawal from the ABM treaty. In his interview with Public Russian television, Yakovlev said that these measures could be both symmetrical and asymmetrical.
The media already reported that if the US deploys the national ABM system, Russia could give up the START-2 and suspend the process of liquidating its heavy MIRV missiles. Of course, these measures will require much money, but Russia will quite likely take them to protect its interests.
Meanwhile, issue 18 of the Communist opposition newspaper Zavtra presumes that Russia will make concessions to the US and a compromise will be achieved with regard to the ABM treaty, because the spoiling of relations with the US is not beneficial for Russia and Russia plans to further negotiate the armament reduction. We can agree with this version.
This way or the other, Moscow and Washington are negotiating a future armament reduction, although not everything is moving so smoothly. According to Interfax, Russia and US still have serious differences regarding the contents of the future START-3. Consultations about the ABM and strategic arms limitation held in Geneva in last April demonstrated these differences.
According to some sources, Russia insists on a more radical reduction of strategic offensive arms within the framework of the START-3 than the US. Moscow is offering to reduce the nuclear charges to 1,500 for each party, although the US would like to retain 2,000-2,500 charges.
Russia also proposes the addition of a clause on the reduction of shipborne long-range cruise missiles into the START-3, as well as a clause on restrictions on the anti-submarines activities of the US in the sea waters bordering the Russian territorial waters.
So far, the US is not ready for such radical limitation of its possibilities to build up nuclear potential. The sources added that the US Navy opposed the establishment of control over the quantity of shipborne long-range cruise missiles and declared that these missiles were not a strategic weapon. The sources noted that Russia and US also had serious disputes about tactical nuclear weapons.
The US says that the balance in this field will be broken in favor of Russia. Military sources report that the Russian party proceeds from the assumption that American tactical nuclear weapons reach the Russian territory and Russian tactical nuclear weapons cannot reach the American territory.
According to sources, the problem of the so-called “return potential,” that is the use of previously discarded nuclear warheads, remains one of the most sensitive topics in the discussion. The sources say that the US wants to refurbish submarine-based ballistic missiles for conventional warheads and is also seeking to reserve the possibility to restore their ability to carry nuclear charges.
Thus, the disarmament process initiated by Moscow is encountering considerable problems. At any rate, Russia and US understand that there is no alternative to this process and the only question is how much the compromises of the parties correspond to their good will. This way or the other, taking care about its security, the US will not be able to neglect Moscow’s interests.