The United States angles for cooperation with Russia in matters of ballistic missile defense.

US President Barack Obama met with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Washington. The conversation was centered around Afghanistan and revised plans for European ballistic missile defense. It is known that Obama counts on cooperation with Russia in the matter of ABM framework development. What experts this newspaper approached for comments said that Moscow should accept the offer of cooperation. It would make promotion of Russian interests easier, they said.

The conversation in Washington began with the problem of Afghanistan. Obama emphasized that Afghanistan was not an “exclusively American battle”, that it was NATO’s mission as well. Rasmussen could only agree.

ABM plans for Europe eventually replaced Afghanistan. Obama and Rasmussen agreed that the revised plans promoted interests of the United States and its NATO allies “most effectively”. “We believe in contacts with Russia and … cooperation with it,” Obama said. “We want to improve both the Russian-US relations and the relations between Russia and NATO.”

Obama emphasized that America’s commitment to security of its NATO allies remained as “sacred” as Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. This reference to the collective security clause was clearly intended to mollify the Czech Republic and Poland.

Undersecretary of Defense for Political Affairs Michelle Flournoy addressed the US Senate in the meantime and announced that “It would have been advisable to continue aspiring to ratification of the ABM element deployment agreement and status agreement by Poland.” She informed the American legislature of the consultations under way with Prague and Warsaw over their potential role in the new ABM framework. “We already have several joint projects with the Czech partners running,” Flournoy said.

The Pentagon considers Russia’s “so far positive” reaction to amendment of the American plans “beneficial only indirectly” because it does not know yet what position Moscow will eventually take. In any event, the US Defense Department will welcome cooperation with Russia. Flournoy did mention, however, that “whatever Moscow’s reaction, the United States will keep taking necessary measures to ensure security of America and its European allies and partners.”

Russian Representative to NATO Dmitry Rogozin promised the other day that Russia would respond to revision of Washington’s ABM plans in the near future. Experts hope for a positive reaction. Colonel General Victor Yesin, formerly Strategic Missile Forces Chief-of-Staff, announced that Russia had to cooperate with the United States and NATO if it wanted its interests in European ABM development taken into account. “The European ballistic missile defense system will be built along the contours charted by the Americans and their NATO allies otherwise. And it will be NATO’s ABM system then, not European one,” Yesin said. “Cooperation with the United States and NATO is possible as long as nobody insists on any preliminary conditions.”

Rogozin said earlier this week that if the Pentagon meant to “negate” the Iranian intermediate-range missile program, “… the means of deterrence should be arrayed in this zone exactly and not along the Russian borders.” Rogozin even allowed for the possibility that the Pentagon might send its Aegis-equipped surface combatants to the Arctic region. Russian military experts dismissed it as unlikely. They said that development of the GBI components already deployed in California and Alaska would be more practical for the Americans and that if the need arouse, they could always deploy these ships in the Norwegian and North seas.

Is Flournoy’s words are any indication, the United States does not want to be restricted by any boundaries. “Elements of the system being mobile… it will enable us to move killer missiles and sensors in accordance with the changing geopolitical situation,” she said.

The Pentagon even promises “natural evolution” of the ABM system. Upgraded Standard-3 missiles or SM-3s deployed on Aegis ships and land will be able to intercept ICBMs during the fourth and final phase of framework development (i.e. by 2020). “Aided by the Japanese, the Americans are working on this Standard modification,” Yesin said. He added that the Americans knew that Iran and the DPRK might develop ballistic missiles by 2020 and that Russia had better bear it in mind.

Even if the cooperation talks resulted in nothing worthwhile and Russia was left to its own devices, Yesin said, it could defend its territory from Iranian missiles. Specialists are already working on S-500, a complex whose specifications will apparently match what the Americans expect to develop their SM-3s into by 2020. The radar in Armavir will be easily upgraded and used to detect launches and direct Russian interceptors to their targets.

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