Against the background of active international negotiations concerning the intention of the US to deploy a national missile defense (NMD) system and leave the Russian-American ABM Treaty of 1972, Russia has begun military reform from the development of future high-tech arms of the Armed Forces, including the so-called Space Forces.
Military Space Forces existed in Russian Army until 1997. However, financial problems in the country caused Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and Commander of the Strategic Missile Forces Colonel General Vladimir Yakovlev to merge the Military Space Forces with the Strategic Missile Forces.
Within the Strategic Missile Forces the Military Space Forces existed for a very short time. The merger failed to improve their financing and solve the problem of new satellite launches. NATO aggression against Yugoslavia showed the importance of the Military Space Forces in the structure of the country’s military organization.
Hence dismissal of Defense Minister Sergeev in late March was accompanied by a transformation in Defense Ministry structure. It is known that on March 24 the President issued a decree, and Space Forces Commander Anatoly Perminov appeared among the new officials in the Defense Ministry. May 30 he officially announced that his forces would begin operations from June 1. The Space Forces were restored from the spacecraft launch and control units, and Missile Space Defense Forces separated from the Strategic Missile Forces.
After two months of preparatory work, the staff of the Space Forces was finally organized. According to Internet agency Strana.ru, the Space Forces will include the main spacecraft trial and control center in Krasnoznamensk (with 11 separate command and measurement posts), a separate missile space defense army (with headquarters in Solnechnogorsk) including three divisions (early warning, antimissile defense, and outer space monitoring), as well as 14 separate radio electronic missile space defense nodes.
According to the plan, the staff of the Space Forces will have 250 officers’ posts. The Space Forces will operate the Plesetsk, Svobodny, and Baikonur cosmodromes in cooperation with the Strategic Missile Forces.
According to official information, the main tasks of the Space Forces will include buildup of space information systems, centralization of military space programs control, maximum concentration of responsibility for supply of information to the Armed Forces, provision of permanent control over the areas of ballistic missiles launch, reconnaissance of outer space, and warning about missile attacks to the command posts of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief and General Staff, transmission of space situation information to control posts, preparation and launch of spacecraft in the interests of defense and security, as well as in the interests of social and economic development of the country.
The Space Forces will also supply space information to other federal executive power bodies, take part in spacecraft launches within the civil Federal Space Program, commercial programs, and programs of international cooperation. The Space Forces and Russian Aerospace Agency will develop and operate the majority of space systems and elements of the ground infrastructure in cooperation as dual-purpose systems.
Between 2002 and 2010, the Space Forces will be reduced, which will supposedly improve their effectiveness. Meanwhile, 80% of more than 100 satellites remaining in orbit operate beyond their warranty. Sixty satellites form the military cluster and are used in the interests of the Defense Ministry. According to military experts, it is necessary to launch at least 24 military satellites annually in the interests of the Defense Ministry and for renewal of the space cluster, whereas in reality the number of satellites launched is smaller. According to the Russian Aerospace Agency, in 1998 Russia only put 26 domestic satellites into orbit, 16 of those military (61%). Between 1999 and 2000, Russia launched not more than 20 satellites.
According to Space Forces Commander Perminov, Russia is not about to deploy any kind of armament in outer space. Since 1983, Russia has been observing a unilateral moratorium on the delivery of anti-satellite weapons to outer space. The moratorium will remain in effect until other countries put such weapons into outer space. Although there has already been a formal pretext for termination of the moratorium (back in 1984 the US tested their ASAT system in space), Russia continues to observe it.
Meanwhile, despite the fact that the NMD problem is disputable, the US wants to accelerate the development of antimissile systems and attract Russia to this process, including its participation in upgrading its Space Forces. In the past, the Clinton Administration offered Russia assistance in constructing an early warning radar station in Eastern Siberia. In exchange, the US attempted to gain the right to deploy a limited ABM system, an offer Moscow rejected. The Bush team is currently repeating Clinton’s plan, but wants the right to build a far bigger NDM.
In response, May 29 Perminov announced that the ground and space elements of the early warning assets would be upgraded without American assistance.
Moreover so that, according to Perminov, Russia is working out the idea of creation of mobile early warning stations. In the future, putting these stations on combat duty will enable Russia to give up the maintenance of expensive objects of the early warning system, which have high energy requirements, located in Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan. Perminov did not name the exact date when Russia would give up maintenance of stationary stations, but hinted that given the current attitude of the country’s authorities and Defense Ministry to the Space Forces, this might happen in the near future.
Thus, Moscow is launching an active upgrade of its Space Forces. This is being undertaken primarily to minimize the possible threats to Russia that could arise if the US leaves the ABM Treaty of 1972.