NATO, Russian Rhetoric Heats Up Over Missile Defense Moves

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Global Security Newswire Staff
Feb. 3, 2014, 6:58 a.m.

The head of NATO on Sat­urday faul­ted Rus­sia for its com­bat­ive rhet­or­ic and threats of new mil­it­ary de­ploy­ments in re­sponse to the al­li­ance’s mis­sile shield.

“We must re­frain from threats against each oth­er,” NATO Sec­ret­ary Gen­er­al An­ders Fogh Rasmussen was quoted by Stars and Stripes as say­ing at the Mu­nich Se­cur­ity Con­fer­ence. “The de­ploy­ment of new of­fens­ive weapons has no place in a true stra­tegic part­ner­ship.”

Rasmussen re­buked Rus­sia for its re­cent field­ing of bal­list­ic mis­siles in its west­ern ter­rit­ory.

Late last year, the Rus­si­an mil­it­ary said it had fielded nuc­le­ar-cap­able Iskander mis­siles in the West­ern Mil­it­ary Dis­trict — an area that in­cludes the Ka­lin­in­grad, a Rus­si­an ex­clave that bor­ders NATO states Po­land and Lithuania. Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin shortly af­ter­ward said Iskander mis­siles were not be­ing fielded in the Ka­lin­in­grad, though he left the door open on their pos­sible fu­ture de­ploy­ment if no res­ol­u­tion is reached with NATO over its mis­sile de­fense am­bi­tions.

The com­mand­er of the West­ern Mil­it­ary Dis­trict last month an­nounced his dis­trict would be re­ceiv­ing a bri­gade of Iskander M bal­list­ic mis­siles later in the year, though he did not spe­cify ex­actly where they would be fielded, Voice of Rus­sia re­por­ted.

Mo­scow sees NATO’s evolving mis­sile shield as a threat to nuc­le­ar sta­bil­ity on the con­tin­ent. The Krem­lin re­peatedly has de­man­ded a bind­ing pledge from the al­li­ance that U.S. in­ter­cept­ors planned for field­ing in Ro­mania and Po­land in the com­ing years will nev­er be aimed at Rus­si­an stra­tegic as­sets. Wash­ing­ton and NATO have re­spon­ded with polit­ic­al as­sur­ances that the mis­sile-de­fense sys­tem is fo­cused on pro­tect­ing against a pos­sible at­tack from the Middle East.

Rus­si­an For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lav­rov dis­coun­ted these as­sur­ances in re­marks at the Mu­nich for­um.

“The mil­it­ary people real­ize mis­sile de­fense is part of the stra­tegic ar­sen­al of the United States,” Lav­rov was quoted by Stars and Stripes as say­ing. “When a nuc­le­ar shield is ad­ded to a nuc­le­ar sword, it is very tempt­ing to use this of­fens­ive, de­fense cap­ab­il­ity.”

The U.S. de­ploy­ment last week of a war­ship to its new home port in Rota, Spain, as an ele­ment of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “phased ad­apt­ive ap­proach” for European mis­sile de­fense ap­pears to be spark­ing fresh Rus­si­an con­cerns.

The head of the Rus­si­an For­eign Min­istry’s se­cur­ity and dis­arm­a­ment de­part­ment, Mikhail Uly­an­ov, on Sat­urday told In­ter­fax that so long as the United States ex­pands its mis­sile de­fense cap­ab­il­it­ies, there can be no new arms con­trol talks with Rus­sia, IT­AR-Tass re­por­ted.

He faul­ted the United States and NATO for con­tinu­ing to de­vel­op their mis­sile shield des­pite re­cent pro­gress with Ir­an in ne­go­ti­at­ing an in­ter­na­tion­al agree­ment that would tem­por­ar­ily ar­rest some of its nuc­le­ar weapon-ap­plic­able activ­it­ies.

If U.S. an­ti­mis­sile de­ploy­ments in Europe are not hal­ted, then Rus­sia may choose to with­draw from the New START ac­cord, Voice of Rus­sia quoted the seni­or dis­arm­a­ment of­fi­cial as say­ing.

“We are con­cerned that the U.S. is con­tinu­ing to build up mis­sile de­fense cap­ab­il­ity without con­sid­er­ing the in­terests and con­cerns of Rus­sia,” Uly­an­ov said. “Such a policy can un­der­mine stra­tegic sta­bil­ity and lead to a situ­ation where Rus­sia will be forced to ex­er­cise [its] right of with­draw­al from the [New START] treaty.”

Amid the post-Cold War pos­tur­ing about mis­sile de­fense, there are grow­ing re­ports that Rus­sia may be in vi­ol­a­tion of the 1987 In­ter­me­di­ate-Range Nuc­le­ar Forces Treaty. U.S. of­fi­cials last week up­dated NATO equi­val­ents about the re­puted ground-launched cruise mis­sile, whose al­leged on­go­ing test­ing could con­sti­tute a breach of the arms con­trol treaty, the Chris­ti­an Sci­ence Mon­it­or re­por­ted.

The ac­cord bars both Rus­sia and the United States from de­vel­op­ing, test­ing or stock­pil­ing bal­list­ic and cruise mis­siles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles. While the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has con­firmed rais­ing its con­cerns over mis­sile test­ing with Rus­sia, it has not said ex­actly which weapon could be in breach of the ban on in­ter­me­di­ate-range arms.

The weapon, ac­cord­ing to some re­ports, could be the R-500 Iskander K — a hy­per­son­ic cruise mis­sile.

An­drei Klimov, deputy chair­man of the Rus­si­an State Duma in­ter­na­tion­al af­fairs com­mit­tee, cri­ti­cized the United States for rais­ing treaty con­cerns at a time when “there are plenty of in­ter­na­tion­al is­sues that need our at­ten­tion, such as Syr­ia.”

“I see no good reas­on for the Amer­ic­ans to raise this now,” he said.

Vladi­mir Dvork­ing, an arms con­trol ana­lyst with a state-af­fil­i­ated think tank in Mo­scow, told the Mon­it­or it was too early to be­gin de­bat­ing wheth­er Rus­sia is in vi­ol­a­tion of the in­ter­me­di­ate-range forces ac­cord.

“This might have something to do with all the tests go­ing on in Rus­sia’s mis­sile com­plex,” Dvork­ing said. “But there is no fi­nal pic­ture of how these new mis­siles will look, or how they will be used once they are de­ployed.”

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