Russia's No. 2 defense official on Tuesday said it was unlikely that his government and the United States would strike a deal on missile defense at the NATO summit in Chicago, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, March 12).
Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said the two former Cold War rivals have been unable to bridge the gap between their views on European missile defense. Likewise, Moscow and NATO have not been able to narrow their differences to strike an accord on antimissile collaboration, he said.
"It would be very difficult to achieve any success at the summit," the deputy minister said. "As of today, there is no document for the leaders to approve."
Russia objects to U.S. plans to through 2020 deploy increasingly sophisticated missile interceptors at bases in Poland and Romania and on warships docked in Spain. The U.S. effort is to form the backbone of a broader NATO endeavor to establish a ballistic missile shield capable of defending against feared missile attacks from the Middle East.
The sides in 2010 agreed to consider avenues for collaboration on the missile shield, but talks since then have failed to produce an agreement.
The Kremlin suspects the U.S. interceptors could be clandestinely aimed at its long-range nuclear weapons and has not been mollified by repeated assurances otherwise from Washington and Brussels. Moscow has demanded, to no avail, a legally binding guarantee on the issue. Russia is also upset that Washington has moved forward with deploying antimissile infrastructure in Europe while talks continue on a possible missile defense compromise.
Antonov said prospects for an accord "will depend entirely on how the U.S. implements its plans."
"If it conducts the policy of presenting us with a fait accompli, that doesn't show trust and respect for us as partners," he said.
Antonov would not disclose whether Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was recently re-elected to the presidency, would take part in the May summit. The Russian president-elect is scheduled to participate in a meeting of the Group of Eight leading industrial nations meeting at Camp David just prior to the NATO gathering.
"We still need to do a lot with our American friends and NATO colleagues to reach common ground and put it on paper," Antonov said. "I think it will require more time than there is ahead of the summit" (Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press/Google News, March 13).
The U.S. Defense Department reaffirmed that it is considering providing Russia with sensitive information on its antimissile technology, RIA Novosti reported on Monday.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Brad Roberts disclosed to lawmakers last week that the administration is considering passing on unspecified data as a means of assuaging Russian concerns as the two powers pursue an antimissile collaboration deal. Pentagon spokeswoman April Cunningham verified that the information was accurate in a Kommersant newspaper report (see GSN, March 7; Alexey Eremenko, RIA Novosti, March 12).
"We are trying to decide at this point transfer of what information on the future [European antimissile] system will promote our interests," Cunningham said (Kommersant, March 12).
Reports surfaced last year that Obama officials were weighing whether to provide Russia with the burnout velocity data for the U.S. Standard Missile 3 interceptor, which forms the core of U.S. antimissile efforts in Europe. It is thought the data would prove to Moscow that the U.S. interceptors are not a threat to Russian long-range missiles. The White House has promised congressional lawmakers it would not share classified hit-to-kill interceptor technology with Moscow.
"If they are really going to disclose data on (rocket) speed, that’ll be the decisive argument” for the Kremlin, Institute for Political and Military Analysis researcher Alexander Khramchikhin told RIA Novosti.
The sharing of such sensitive information has never been done before between the two former antagonists, Khramchikhin said. Standing in the way of any such data transfer would likely be the political considerations the Obama administration must weigh as it heads into a presidential election cycle, he said.
Republicans in Congress are also likely to strongly protest to any such information sharing.
The Kremlin did not respond to Monday requests for comment (Eremenko, RIA Novosti).
Russian Institute for Strategic Studies senior researcher Vladimir Kozin was skeptical that the potential data transfer would actually go through or that it would mollify Russia's specific concerns about the SM-3 interceptor, Interfax reported.
"We get the impression that they are trying to win Russia's consent with the planned deployment of U.S. missile defense in Europe under any pretext," Kozin said. "The promise to share tactical and technical parameters of SM-3 interceptors is a bait, which will enable them to fulfill the phased adaptive approach and mount the potential of missile defense."
Kozin, who serves on an advisory team to the Kremlin regarding antimissile discussions with NATO, said his group had not been provided with any formal deal from the United States on SM-3 information transfers.
"Obviously, the United States is just testing the ground but has not decided which information to transfer. I fear that the Americans underrate such an important parameter as the speed of interceptor missiles for showing that these missiles are not dangerous for the Russian strategic nuclear forces," the researcher said.
He pointed out that the U.S. military in February 2008 successfully employed a SM-3 interceptor to knock a malfunctioning satellite out of the sky at a height in excess of 130 miles.
"That is a proof that SM-3 missiles are capable of hitting ballistic missiles not only in the acceleration phase," Kozin said. "The U.S. plans to modernize these missiles and to enlarge their potential."
The White House's phased adaptive approach for European missile defense covers four phases that over the next eight years would see the development and fielding of SM-3 interceptors capable of destroying short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles and potentially ICBMs.
There is still the potential for the United States to develop its European missile defenses further than those four phases outlined in the phased adaptive approach, Kozin claimed.
"Hence, Russia should be careful and reserved about the U.S. offers in missile defense. We must be aware of possible consequences," he said" (Interfax, March 12).