On the possibility of joint use of the Gabala radar station

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Recently, the mass media reported that Russia gave up operation of the radar stations of the early warning system located outside of Russia. For example, in July of 2007, the Russian government already submitted to the Duma a bill on denouncing an intergovernmental agreement with the Ukraine on early warning and space control means. The radar station located in Azerbaijan will evidently have a similar fate. It is possible to draw this conclusion from the words of Russian Space Forces Commander, Colonel General Vladimir Popovkin, said on August 22 at the airspace show MAKS-2007.

Simultaneously, some journalists wrote about an alleged quick reassigning of the radar station in Gabala (Azerbaijan) to Americans to enable the US to control the situation in Iran and other South Asian countries. They said that the delegation of Pentagon would allegedly visit Gabala together with Russian and Azerbaijani experts. Along with this, it is said that pentagon is not against operation of the radar station in Gabala in its interests together with the antimissile defense elements deployed in Europe. All this reportedly looks logical because Russian Space Forces want to leave Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, this information requires some explanation.

First, Americans will be admitted to Gabala only once in the framework of studying the possibility of joint use of the Gabala radar station according to the topic proposed by Putin on June 7 in the course of G8 summit in German Heiligendamm. Addressing his American colleague George Bush, the Russian President proposed that the US give up the idea of deployment of its antimissile defense elements in Poland and Czech Republic. If this does not happen Russia will hardly agree with the operation of the Gabala radar station joint with the US. The Russian Foreign Ministry hinted this unequivocally recently. Boris Malakhov, deputy official spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, announced that Russia “would like to remind that a fundamental condition for implementation of our proposals regarding Gabala is the giving up of deployment of the antimissile defense base in Europe and placing of strike antimissile defense assets in outer space.”

Second, Russia gives up the operation of radar stations abroad in principle but will not do this instantaneously. For example, the agreement on the rent of the radar station in Gabala is in effect until 2012. It is possible that this radar will be operated by Russian Space Forces exactly until this time.

Third, even if Russia quits Gabala the hardware working there will hardly go to Americans because Moscow has the relevant agreements with Baku on mutual preserving of military secrets. Americans are also hardly able to master our hardware without the assistance of Russian specialists. If Gabala is left the hardware will most likely be put out of order or evacuated to Russia.

In any case, it is too early to speak about this. The results of the expert examination of Russia’s proposals regarding Gabala will be discussed only at the meeting of foreign ministers and defense ministers of Russia and the US in October.

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