Unveiling the real purpose of American missile defense plans
Tomahawk missiles, launched secretly and suddenly from submarines in the vicinity of the Kara Sea, could readily destroy Russian ICBMs. This fact – together with the deployment of the American NMD – transforms the picture of a potential military confrontation between Russia and the United States.
The real purposes of the US National Missile Defense, the likely consequences, and NMD use scenarios are usually glossed over by commentators. And this is probably deliberate.
The salient point is that we are actually facing a principal turning-point in the strategic confrontation between the United States and Russia.
All of us are still children of the Cold War – if only in the sense that we have grown accustomed to accepting the nuclear confrontation argument as unquestionable. Thus far, no one has been able to attack us without risking a nuclear conflagration in return. Until recently, there weren’t even any theoretical grounds for thinking otherwise. But now that a long-familiar offensive weapon – the cruise missile – has been modernized, there is such a possibility. The first cruise missile models were flawed, and most importantly, they had a relatively short range: up to 1,500 kilometers. A crucial shortcoming in a hypothetical war with Russia, given Russia’s vast distances. But a new-generation cruise missile produced in 2004, the American Tomahawk, has become a weapon at a different level: almost undetectable, hard to shoot down, high-speed and high-precision. This missile has a range of up to 3,500 kilometers.
Tomahawk missiles, launched secretly and suddenly from submarines in the vicinity of the Kara Sea, could readily destroy Russian ICBMs based near Irkutsk, for example. This fact – together with the deployment of the American NMD, as described below – transforms the whole picture of a potential military confrontation between Russia and the United States.
I don’t know, and don’t want to know, whether the American political elite wants to destroy Russia. The only thing that matters is whether any particular country is physically capable of inflicting irreparable damage on the Russian Armed Forces. The military has a duty to prepare for war as soon as that question is answered in the affirmative.
That’s how we think of the United States, but it is also how the United States thinks of us. The Americans simply cannot accept that even after the catastrophe of the 1990s, Russia still remains the only country capable of destroying the United States. They probably don’t seriously think that this “gun” might be fired deliberately; the outcome would be far too suicidal for the whole planet. Yet Russia is so unpredictable…
Therefore, according to military logic, the USA requires a weapon capable of destroying Russia’s nuclear arsenals. Such a weapon has been built: long-range cruise missiles. But the US military must still have some doubts: what if not all of the American cruise missiles succeed in taking out Russia’s missile launchers? If only a tenth of Russia’s nuclear arsenals – 200 warheads – strike American cities, it would mean a worldwide apocalypse.
The NMD is being built to cover that eventuality. Intercepting 200 warheads is an entirely feasible objective – and it appears to be purely defensive. It’s very convenient to portray it as a defense against crazed terrorists or rogue states. In reality, however, the NMD is an inalienable part of another system, a far more substantial system, which implies that the American military doesn’t rule out a pre-emptive strike on Russia.
This larger system is functioning already. By the early 1990s, the United States had developed and adopted the Forward From The Sea concept. The total number of sea-based Tomahawk missile launchers is already over 6,000, and will reach 7,000 by 2010. All this already enables the USA to strike at all strategically important targets in the Russian Federation.
The USA has taken equally substantial measures to protect its own territory, in terms of building missile defense systems. There are two of them: the zone missile defense system and the theater missile defense system.
The zone system is called Aegis 6.1. It is likely to be installed along the coast of the United States.
The second system, known as the Navy Area Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (TBMD), is of far greater interest for Russia. It includes MacCampbell class ships, intended for long-distance interception of ICBMs at the early and medium stages of their flight paths – that is, when the ICBMs are incapable of evading interceptor missiles.
Consequently, the system needs to be deployed in the immediate proximity of Russia’s borders. And so we come to the radar station which the United States is planning to install in the Czech Republic, and which is causing so many arguments in Europe. The point is that this radar is supposed be part of the Navy Area TBMD. Its real (not declared) function is to identify the flight paths of Russian ICBMs within seconds of launch (not minutes, as sea-based or satellite surveillance would require). This would make it far easier to shoot down our ICBMs.
Now let’s try to imagine how an attack might happen. Obviously, it would be sudden. For this purpose, the United States would covertly deploy the following:
1. three or four groups of strike destroyers (five vessels per group) in the North Atlantic (around the Norwegian Sea and North Sea);
2. two or three similar groups in the Pacific Ocean (around the Bering Sea and the Sea of Japan);
3. three or four groups of strike nuclear submarines in the Arctic (around the Kara Sea).
At the same time, a group of MacCampbell destroyers would be deployed around the Barents Sea and the Baltic Sea.
The first strike would target the launch silos and mobile launchers of Russian ICBMs, along with missile-carrying submarines and strategic aviation groups. It would also destroy Armed Forces command points (along with the senior political and military leaders located there), air defense systems, Navy bases, and communications.
If the first strike is successful, the Russian Federation would be left practically defenseless. The second strike would use aircraft taking off from aircraft-carriers and US strategic aviation. It would probably target Ground Forces groups and large defense industry enterprises. After that, there would be no one left to organize any further resistance.
Success in preventing this form of attack depends on Russia’s ability to detect cruise missile launches from around the Kara Sea.
If the launches are detected, the Russian president and government would have at least two-and-a-half hours before the missiles reach their targets. And the action Russia would take is not only predictable, but inevitable:
1. Within 15-20 minutes of the attack, use ICBMs or tactical missiles with nuclear warheads to destroy the US missile defense elements in Europe. The Russian Armed Forces have long possessed tactical missiles suitable for this purpose, and they could be deployed at any moment, taking 10-15 minutes to reach their targets in the Czech Republic. Nuclear warheads would be required to guarantee destruction of the targets.
2. Simultaneously destroy US missile defense elements deployed on destroyers in the Barents Sea and Baltic Sea, and at US bases in Poland. This could also be done with ICBMs or tactical missiles, or cruise missiles fired from onshore launchers and Antei-type nuclear submarines. The Northern Fleet currently has five of these submarines, each carrying 24 Granit cruise missiles. The Granits would take about 20 minutes to reach their targets.
3. Simultaneously destroy satellites used by the opponent for communications, navigation, intelligence, and targeting. The Russian Space Forces have the weapons required to do this.
4. Immediately open up negotiations with the United States, presenting it with a fait accompli: the almost complete destruction of its NMD. Demand the self-destruction of the cruise missiles it has launched. Faced with the threat of an immediate strike from Russia’s full nuclear arsenals, the United States could not refuse this demand; the alternative, of course, would mean the start of a nuclear winter and the end of modern civilization.
All this is not being said with a view to seeing this scenario become reality; on the contrary, the aim is to see that it never happens.
In our view, this scenario could be used as an argument for starting new strategic arms limitation talks – primarily involving cuts to American arsenals, including long-range cruise missiles.
At the very least, people ought to know why the United States is installing a radar in the Czech Republic.