Disputes about American antimissile defense system expanded to Ukraine

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It seems that after the deploying its antimissile defense in the Czech Republic and Poland, the US is going to follow suit in other European countries including the Ukraine. The military draws this conclusion from the statement of General Patrick O’Railey, deputy head of the antimissile defense agency of the Pentagon. Recently, O’Railey said that the Pentagon was studying the possibility of cooperation with the Ukraine in the creation of an antimissile defense system.

This statement did not go unnoticed by Kiev. Practically all Ukrainian politicians have had a negative reaction to the statement by the American general. Thus, Ukrainian Prime Minister Victor Yanukovich said that the Ukraine had never turned to the US to create a joint antimissile defense system and did not consider an antimissile base on its territory a possibity. Yanukovich stated, “I have no information on this issue. As far as I know, it does not exist.”

Ukrainian Defense Minister Anatoly Gritsenko spoke in the same manner. Gritsenko announced, “Defense Ministry, General Staff, I as Defense Minister and Chief of the General Staff as the Commander-in-Chief have not conducted, do not conduct and have not received an order for conducting any negotiations connected with the theoretical, potential, or any other proposed deployment of American systems in our country. This issue has not been and is not on the agenda.” Gritsenko adds that all information published by the media on this issue is unreliable and at odds with reality.

Thus, the Prime Minister and Defense Minister of the Ukraine disavowed the statement of the Pentagon about an antimissile defense system on Ukrainian territory. Victor Yanukovich has a pro-Russian stance but it is impossible to say this about Defense Minister Gritsenko. It is known that he is close to President Victor Yushchenko and an advocate of Kiev’s integration into European organizations such as NATO. Meanwhile, even Gritsenko understands the danger of conversations about the possible participation of Ukraine in the deployment of the US antimissile defense system in Europe. First of all, this understanding is evidently conditioned by Kiev’s desire not to spoil its relations with Moscow, since the countries are going to hold difficult negotiations on beacons of the Black Sea Fleet and borders in the Sea of Azov. In general, Kiev also depends on the price of gas supplied from Russia. In short, Kiev has no reason to quarrel with Moscow.

Meanwhile, there is no guarantee that pro-Western politicians, a group to which Anatoly Gritsenko belongs and who decline cooperation with the Pentagon in the field of antimissile defense, will speak about the harmfulness of this system with equal easiness. Gritsenko already announced that the Defense Ministry of Ukraine has not yet formulated its stance to the American antimissile system in Poland and the Czech Republic yet. He says, “So far, we do not have enough information to report a stance regarding this issue to the President and the government.” Gritsenko already met with US Ambassador to the Ukraine, William Tailor, with whom this problem was discussed. According to the minister, the American ambassador did not answer all his questions. The Defense Minister of the Ukraine thinks that so far, information necessary for drawing conclusions and offering recommendations for the President is lacking.

Former Defense Minister of Ukraine, Alexander Kuzmuk, has a different opinion. He is considered an authoritative expert and has already said that the “possible deployment of antimissile defense system elements of the US in the Czech Republic and Poland will mean a new armament race.” Kuzmuk stated, “The antimissile defense system was created after signing the treaty between the US and the USSR. In 2002, the US withdrew from the antimissile defense treaty. In response, Russia deployed new systems. Topol-M is well known and it can penetrate the US antimissile defense. I think that a multi-layer antimissile defense system with elements in Europe may become a response to this.” He adds that in regard to the deployment of American antimissile defense system in Poland and Czech Republic, the Ukraine should be concerned about the reaction of Russia first of all.

Kuzmuk explains, “I understand Russia’s current reaction. Russia primarily sees a threat. A substantial reaction by Russia will undoubtedly follow, since the US will fully control this territory of Russia in case of deployment of the antimissile defense system in Poland and Czech Republic.”

Kuzmuk also believes that concerning Iran and North Korea “there is no threat because these countries cannot produce intercontinental ballistic missiles requiring the deployment of antimissile bases in Europe.” He adds, “The deployment in Poland and Czech Republic does not end the vicious circle of US antimissile defense. Everything remains in the future.”

Thus, we see Kuzmuk’s concern about the plans of the American antimissile defense system in Europe. From his statements, we see that the deployment of a US antimissile defense system touch on the interests of Ukraine to some extent. Currently, Kiev says that it is against the cooperation of Ukraine and the Pentagon in this field. However, on the official level Kiev has not stated its position on the problem of the antimissile defense system in Europe. The Ukrainian experts already speak about this negatively. Meanwhile, it is clear that the official stance of the country in regard to this issue will depend on results of the political struggle that is currently ongoing in the Ukraine. Of course, the pro-American Yushchenko is ready to support the US. And similarly, the pro-Russian Yanukovich will draw different conclusions. Moreover, with two early warning radar stations (in Mukachevo and in Sevastopol) the Ukraine is already working for Russia. Moscow and Kiev already have elements of a joint antimissile defense system and, of course, these elements are working not only for Russia but also for the security of Ukraine.

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