February 18, 2001

ABM, NMD - Alphabet Soup of Defense

ABM, NMD - Alphabet Soup of Defense

Russia is an active proliferator. They are part of the problem. They are selling and assisting countries like Iran and North Korea and India and other countries with these technologies which are threatening other people, including the United States and Western Europe and countries in the Middle East; U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfield, Reuters, Feb. 14, 2001. CIA chief George Tenet echoed Rumsfield's remark and added that Russia was considered a global threat by the U.S.

Not surprisingly, this remark was not well received in Moscow which claims that Russia has done its part in honoring all existing arms treaties. To add salt to the wound, Moscow is disappointed that the Bush administration has, thus far, made no overtures towards talks between the two nations regarding defense issues. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is scheduled to meet, in Cairo Egypt, with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on February 24, 2001. This will be the first official meeting between the two nations on the arms issues. Everyone hopes for a positive discussion but the White House has made it clear that it has no intention of discussing compromise regarding the NMD. In response, Moscow feels that its objections and reason for them are being ignored. Interfax quoted Ivashov as saying, Even America's allies do not believe in the fairy tales about the threats from other states which Rumsfeld talks about.

There are those among the NATO allies who understand Russia's objections to the NMD. However, these nations are not ready to strain relationships within the organization by voicing open opposition of their own and/or officially defending Moscow's position. Ivashov told ITAR-TASS that, If the system is set up, we will regard it as the advance echelon for intercepting Russian strategic missiles. Americans will be, as it were, shielding themselves from Russian rockets with Europe in this multi-layer defense . . . Russia reserves the right to adopt corresponding conclusions and steps to guard its own security.

Deputy head of General Headquarters, Col. Gen. Valery Manilov, was recently quoted by Reuters as saying, The modernization the Americans are talking about would, in essence, take all the substance out of the ABM Treaty and make nonsense of [its primary] aim – that is, to maintain a balance between strategic offensive and defensive arms,"adding that any change to this balance would "unavoidably lead to an arms race. It is the general opinion of Russian officials that the NMD would basically nullify START II and end any attempts to ratify START III.

Relations between NATO and Russia have been tepid at best since Moscow opposed the NATO mission in Kosovo in March of 1999. Adding fuel to the fire was NATO's acceptance of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic into their fold in 1999 and the intention to consider the inclusion of several eastern European nations, namely the former Soviet states of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. From Moscow's point of view, if Lithuania joins NATO, the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad will be cut off and isolated. The Russian Journal quotes Yeveny Kozhikin, director of the Institute for Strategic Studies; There is a negative attitude toward further eastward expansion among the political establishment, the military and the population, Russia could not accept NATO membership for the Baltic nations under any circumstances. NATO does not sufficiently grasp this.

Russia has no say in which countries apply for and/or are granted NATO membership. Nonetheless, Moscow sees the inclusion of former Soviet states in NATO as a direct threat to its security and sovereignty, orchestrated, primarily, by the U.S. Part of the reason for this stand is the fact that NATO was created in 1949 to protect the West against threats from Moscow. Germany has shown support to Russia's concerns regarding NATO's eastward expansion and warns against doing so too soon.

Today, NATO's official mission statement begins, The fundamental role of NATO is to safeguard the freedom and security of its member countries. It is one of the foundations on which the stability and security of the Euro-Atlantic area depends and it serves as an essential forum for transatlantic consultations on matters affecting the vital security interests of all its members. Its first task is to deter and defend against any threat of aggression against any of them. Many Eastern European countries are eager to be accepted into the NATO family for the sake of their own political survival. To be outside the fold is to, not only not be protected, but to be seen as a potential threat.

While the Iron Curtain buffer created by the European former Soviet states against the threat of European expansion eastward no longer exists, Russia continues to be protective of its western borders and leery of a multi-national alliance adjoining this border. With the acceptance of the Baltic states into NATO, the alliance would then be less than 100 miles from St. Petersburg and, as a result, within easy strike distance of Russia. To many in the West, these may seem like ridiculous fears. To Russia, they are very real and justified. For one thing, Russia is very concerned about the status of the Baltic ports should these three nations become NATO members. Currently, these ports and waterways are of extreme importance to Russian infrastructure and trade.

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