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Russia Demands Equal Role in Missile Shield With U.S., Europe

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said the longstanding impasse over NATO's developing ballistic missile shield would only be ended if his country were granted an equal role in the system alongside the United States and Europe, Reuters reported (see GSN, June 19).

Moscow opposes an alliance initiative to build a missile shield in Europe, arguing that future-generation missile interceptors planned for deployment could target its long-range nuclear force. Washington and Brussels insist the antimissile system is only aimed at protecting the continent from a possible missile attack from the Middle East, but NATO has rejected Moscow's demand for a legally enforceable guarantee on the interceptors' usage.

The two sides have held a number of meetings on possible missile defense collaboration. The Kremlin has warned it could pursue a military buildup on territory bordering several NATO countries, among other measures, if a compromise is not reached.

"I think that the missile defense issue will not be solved regardless of whether [President] Obama is elected or not," Putin said at the close of the Group of 20 nations meeting in Mexico. "I think that something can radically change only in the case if the U.S. agrees with our proposal which says that Russia, Europe and U.S. were equal participants of this process."

Putin discussed missile defense with President Obama on Monday. The two leaders agreed to maintain dialogue on the issue even though an agreement appears far off at this point (Gleb Bryanski, Reuters, June 19).

Under the framework envisioned by Putin, "all three participants would jointly be building that system, and would be able to jointly assess threats, manage that system and make decisions on its use," RIA Novosti quoted the Russian leader as saying.

"This does not mean we are unable to agree on some fragments of that joint work. I think it is possible," he said (RIA Novosti I, June 20).
 
Separately, a powerful Russian radar system located not far from Armavir in the Krasnodar region is anticipated to begin its military duties close to the end of 2012, RIA Novosti reported on Tuesday (see GSN, May 23).
 
"The (radar) station is in the final stages of preparations for entering combat duty," Russian space defense forces head Lt. Gen. Oleg Ostapenko said to reporters. "We are planning to almost wrap up the work on the station approximately by the end of the year."
 
The Voronezh-DM radar at Armavir is one of a group of four Voronezh-class radars that have been activated in recent years in the country. The long-range systems can detect missiles at a distance of more than 3,700 miles. The threat detection technology can also be moved around more quickly than older generations.
 
An additional Voronezh-DM radar is deployed in the Kaliningrad region as part of Moscow's response to the NATO missile shield.
 
There are presently two Voronezh-M radar units based in Siberia's Irkutsk region and in Lekhtusi, not far from St. Petersburg (RIA Novosti II, June 19).
 
Ostapenko asserted that should Moscow decide not to renew a lease for a strategically placed radar in Azerbaijan, the move would not have negative repercussions for Russian security, ITAR-Tass reported
 
From its position in the Caucasus region, the Gabala radar tracks Iranian ballistic missile tests and monitors for possible missile attacks fired  from the Indian Ocean or other southern areas, according to previous reporting. Russia's lease on the installation is set to expire at the end of 2012 but Moscow and the Azeri government have thus far been able to agree on the financial terms of a new contract.
 
"Even if we decide not to use (the Daryal missile attack warning radar in Gabala, Azerbaijan), we will do that in a way, which will prevent any damage to our country, its security and defense ability. This is our main goal," Ostapenko said.
 
"A radar station in Armavir is capable of accomplishing the mission, which has been being accomplished by the Gabala radar. It will operate even better," the lieutenant general claimed, adding that the Armavir radar was "absolutely" an improvement on the Gabala system (ITAR-Tass, June 19).

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