Russia chooses a hard line


On the eve of the meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President George Bush, Moscow takes unprecedented hard-line actions for defending its geopolitical interests. The first step on this path is its decision to impose a moratorium on participation in the Conventional Arms in Europe (CAE) Treaty. This may happen literally in a few days. For the first time, Putin spoke about this in his annual message to the Federal Assembly in May. Now, writes Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the President is going to publish a decree on the suspension of participation in the adapted CAE.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote that inspections of NATO countries on the territory of Russia, stipulated by the CAE and other documents, were already suspended. This is not all. After withdrawal from the CAE, Moscow will be able to increase its armed forces unopposed in the south and northwest of the country, in the zones where NATO and the US have special interests. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who visited Moscow this week announced that NATO was going to keep expanding eastward, which meant that it would be impossible to avoid confrontation of Moscow and the alliance. Besides, it seems that Russia and NATO have different opinions about the deployment of antimissile defense (AMD) elements of the US in Europe.

According to the recent speech of General of the Army Yury Baluevsky, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Russia is prepared to interrupt its interaction in establishment of theater AMDs in Europe if the US and NATO do not accept Putin’s proposals regarding the establishment of an alternative system of control of missile launches of the so-called rogue states with participation of Russia. This system implies operation of the radar station in Gabala rented by Russia from Azerbaijan in cooperation with the US and other countries.

If the US does not make concessions to Russia and does not give up deployment of American radars and missiles in the Czech Republic and Europe, Americans will see new “surprises.” Both Russian diplomats and military officials already hint about this unequivocally.

Thus, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has announced that in case of implementation of the US plans to deploy AMD elements in Europe, Russia will respond to this “on the strategic level.” He said literally, “I do not think it is an accident that the planned antimissile base in Europe smoothly fits the pattern of the global AMD system of the US located, incidentally or not, along the perimeter of the Russian borders. Of course, we should take this into account.”

Chief of the Russian General Staff, Baluevsky, speaks about this in an even more “sensitive” way. Baluevsky hints that a harsh response of Russia to deployment of the US interceptor missiles in Europe will possibly be connected not only with the withdrawal of Russia from CAE, but also with withdrawal from the treaty on short and smaller range missiles. Baluevsky compares this process with the appearance of a genie from a bottle.

Thus, Russia is prepared for hard-line actions in connection with the wish of the US to arrange its third positional AMD area in Europe. This mans that a new stage of the “cold war” is quite likely. In any case, such a turn of events will be dictated not by Moscow but rather by Washington and some “hot-tempered” European countries that have entered into the European Union and NATO recently.