Bilateral Russian-American antimissile defense (AMD) consultations have been held in the Kremlin, Foreign Ministry, and Defense Ministry for the first time since the announcement of the American national missile defense (NMD) program by President George W. Bush. Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfovitz, Deputy National Security Adviser to the US President Stephen Hadley, and a group of military and civil experts represented the US.

Russia was represented by the Director of the Foreign Ministry’s security and disarmament department Yury Kapralov and a number of military experts and diplomats. Following meetings in the Foreign Ministry, negotiations continued at the General Staff and in the Kremlin. American officials met with Presidential Aide for Strategic Stability Igor Sergeev and Chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin.

Russian participants in the AMD negotiations later commented on their results. Director of the Foreign Ministry’s PR Department Alexander Yakovenko reported that the consultations concerning AMD problems had no specific results, and both parties maintained their opinions. However, according to Yakovenko, this did not mean that discussion of the issues was pointless. He announced that the countries would continue their contacts about AMD issues. A meeting of Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and US Secretary of State Collin Powell is scheduled for May 18. Americans did not rule out the possibility that AMD consultations might reach the presidential level.

What is the reason for US improvement of its NMD? Answering this question after the consultations Sergeev said that the main motive for the new NMD development by the US was allegedly associated with threats on the part of so-called rogue states.

Sergeev called such arguments ridiculous. He stated that Iranian and North Korean missiles embodied old SCUD (old Soviet tactical missiles) technology, adding that, “When Americans say that Iran and North Korea can design intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching American territory on the basis of these first generation missiles developed on the basis of the German V-2, I, as a missile expert, simply laugh.” According to him, Russia states that it is impossible in principle to convert the SCUD missiles available to Iran, with a launch range of approximately 300 kilometers (and the approximately similar missiles of North Korea with a maximum launch range increased to 1,500 kilometers due to the installation of a cluster of four engines in the first stage and the attachment of additional fuel tanks) into intercontinental missiles.

In relation to the American statement about the possibility for rogue states to perform effective missile-launches at the US without any trial in the future, Sergeev emphasized, “One has to be suicidal to perform combat launches of missiles without prior trials. International missile-construction has yet to register cases of this. The whole testing infrastructure of rogue states can be reliably controlled by the technical facilities of Russia and the US, and we offered such joint control to the latter.”

Sergeev reported that he made an offer to America regarding the “organization of a joint expert group of missile experts, scientists, and engineers to discuss missile threats in the language of science and not politics.” He said that he had not received an answer to this proposal. In addition, he said that Americans promised to prepare a list of topics for discussion during forthcoming consultations about strategic stability with Russia, and the AMD problem would obviously be placed on that list.

Thus, despite the absence of valid reasons for self-defense by the US against missiles from rogue states, Russian experts consider the probability of the NMD system development in the country to be very high. America confirmed this conclusion. Already after negotiations with Russia, official spokesperson for the State Department Richard Boucher announced that President Bush and Secretary of State Powell would develop the NMD, which they considered a part of the “strategic plan” for defending America.

According to Boucher, international AMD consultations currently conducted by American officials would “help” other countries to understand the “strategic thinking” of the US. The Bush Administration hoped to hear the ideas of other countries and “various factors,” including those dealing with possible collaboration in AMD development, which it might take into account in the course of achieving its goal, reported the official spokesperson for the White House.

This gives rise to questions. For how long will Moscow negotiate the AMD with Washington and what form will the negotiations take? Will Russia agree with the amendments to the ABM treaty of 1972? What is the attitude of European countries and NATO to the proposed American project? What may be the possible actions of Russia in response to the deployment of NMD in the US?

Unfortunately, so far there is no definite answer to any of these questions. Some European countries are afraid that Moscow will finally yield to the US, and that the ABM Treaty of 1972 will be revised, leading to a new arms race, which would weaken the current international security system.

According to Professor Victor Koltunov of the Academy of Military Sciences, French officials expressed such apprehensions during the international AMD conference in Paris last week. Other countries are also very cautious about American plans for NMD deployment, and hope that Moscow’s position in this field remains unchanged.

May 10 NATO Secretary General George Robertson and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Asnar announced in Madrid that study of the American plans for AMD system development would be necessary, to receive guarantees for prevention of international tensions. Formerly, Asnar emphasized that Spain might choose its position on the problem after ensuring that Washington’s intentions would not lead to undesirable consequences. During their meeting with Washington emissaries, Marc Grossman of the State Department, and Stephen Hadley of the National Security Council in Brussels, Spanish officials expressed their fear that development of the antimissile shield by the US might make Europe a target for the missiles of rogue states. Europeans said that at present they did not feel any threat from these countries, but that it might appear should the US deploy radars as part of the future American AMD system in Europe.

European representatives added that they appreciated the US consulting with them about this problem, but wanted these consultations to be held with Russia, the reaction of which would be very important for the European Union.

Thus, AMD problems are fast becoming priorities in the field of international relations, in which Russia plays and will continue to play an important role. Global stability in the 21st century will depend on its stance.