Russia Airs Concerns About NATO Missile Defense

by

BRUSSELS — As NATO and Russia prepare for a June meeting of defense ministers, Moscow is laying out its concerns with Western missile defense plans.

Experts from the two sides are discussing the issue in a working group while preparing for the meeting in June, when officials are to talk about options for broader missile defense cooperation.

Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s missile defense envoy to NATO, opened a March 30 talk at the East West Institute think tank here by casting doubt on the very need for it.

“I am convinced that missile defense in Europe is more ideological and political than a necessity,” Rogozin said. “Missile defense is now the ideology of NATO in the 21st century.”

Russia’s biggest concern appears to be Phase 3 of the U.S. Phased Adaptive Approach missile defense plan, under which advanced Standard Missile (SM)-3 Block 2A missiles would be deployed to Europe around 2018.

By then, the current U.S. and Russian presidents will be gone, Rogozin said: “Who can give U.S. guarantees that after [U.S. President Barack Obama’s] term of office, another president won’t come along and send Aegis ships [with interceptor missiles] to Finland?”

Alluding to NATO’s Lisbon summit, during which alliance officials spoke of building strategic relations with Russia, Rogozin questioned how anyone “can be a strategic partner if you do strategic planning against your partner.” He also wondered why the plan calls for interceptors in Poland, which “is so far from the threat” of Iran.

A sharper point to the concerns was offered by physicist Goetz Neuneck, deputy director of Hamburg University’s Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy.

“The next generation of SM-3 interceptors have an anti-intercontinental ballistic missile capability, and that could affect Russia’s [nuclear] deterrent in the future,” Neuneck said.

The head of the NATO-Russia Council missile defense working group, Robert Zadra, conceded that Russia needs some reassurance that phases three and four of the Phased Adaptive Approach would not undermine its nuclear deterrent. Much of that discussion has to do with the speed of future SM-3 interceptors, Zadra said.

Obama administration officials have repeatedly said the U.S. missile defense effort does not threaten Russia’s nuclear deterrent.

“We believe that [U.S.-Russia missile defense] cooperation can provide assurances to Russia that our missile defenses will not undercut strategic stability, while enhancing the ability of both nations to defend against emerging missile threats,” U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said March 29 at the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference in Washington. “For example, shared early warning data can increase the effectiveness of our missile defense system in Europe, while the U.S. and NATO retain the responsibility for defending themselves against ballistic missile threats.”

Neuneck wondered whether data sharing would be voluntary or obligatory, whether the data flow could be switched on and off, and who would control that. He also said SM-3s had not been tested in realistic conditions and were unprepared to deal with countermeasures such as aluminum strips or electronic devices.

Zadra said “industry and technology-sharing” might be “an area worth bearing in mind” for future discussions.

Rogozin said Russia might conceivably contribute an early warning system for missiles that “could be correlated with an analogous system for NATO countries,” and an underdevelopment interceptor system that could “theoretically be a contribution.” But Moscow wants to understand “the specific characteristics of the system to be deployed in Europe,” he said. “Russia has something to offer, but we need to know what is being built. Where is the train going?”

A U.S. Navy cruiser, the Monterrey, is being deployed in the Mediterranean Sea for nearly six months.

Aboard the ship in Antwerp on March 31, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder said, “We will also be looking to deploy what we call a Tippy-2 [TPNY-2] radar in southeastern Europe in the months ahead so that by the end of the year we will be fully capable of having our initial missile defense system against a ballistic missile threat that is there.” The threat “is growing” in terms of numbers and in terms of ranges, Daalder said, and “therefore, we will continue to adapt our defense capability to meet that threat.”

The sides have a temporary window of opportunity to find a compromise, Zadra said.

“We need to make progress and find solutions now, to ensure missile defense will not become an electoral issue in 2012. The next few months … are very important,” he said.