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Sergey Sargsyan

Deputy Head of the Center for Political Studies, “Noravank” Foundation

The US signed a memorandum with Romania and Turkey (on September 13 and 14 correspondingly) on SM-3 (Standard Missile-3) ABM systems deployment at the Deveselu air base in Romania and deployment of AN/TPY-2 radar (old name FBR-T - Forward Based Radar -Transportable), which acquires, identifies and tracks ballistic missiles in the active phase of their flight, on Turkish territory. The radar will submit data to the US ships equipped with “Aegis” combat system, which will effect interception of ballistic missiles. According to the Russian experts, one of the main aims of that radar, which acquires targets at the range up to 2000km, will also be the surveillance and control of the air area of the South Caucasus, a part of the territory of the Central Asia as well as the south of Russia, and in particular tracking the experimental launches of the Russian missiles at the test ranges1.

Besides, on September 15 the base agreement on deployment of the US missile defence in Poland concluded in August 2008 in Washington and its annex (of 2010) on deployment of SM-3 missiles on its territory came into operation.

This is the evidence of not only a breakdown in the negotiations on the AMB defence between the US and Russia, but it also impacts the military and political situation in the Middle East, Black Sea and Caspian Region and Eastern Europe.

Moreover, as the deployment of the radar in Turkey and the ABM system base in Romania are just the first stage of implementation of the Adapted plan on the Deployment of the ABM defence in Europe, which was approved by the president Barak Obama in 2009, it is more likely to stir up the processes on further large-scale and deep revision of the current system of bilateral and multi-lateral treaties in the sphere of the control of arms.

This system was formed in 70-90s of the last century under the uncompromising confrontation between two ideologies and under its influence all the states were involved in a bipolar model of the division of the spheres of influence. After the confrontation was over there was only one super-power, some of those treaties were annexed and brought into accord with new geopolitical realities. But later, when new leading global actors came forward, regional powers got stronger, gradually a multi polar world has been formed; new challenges and radical change of the balance of power sooner or later had to bring to the acknowledgment of a large-scale reconsideration of the base treaties in the sphere of arms.

The main bilateral and international treaties which has been regulating the relations of the states in the sphere of the control of arms and are called to support the balance of powers acceptable for all the participants are:

  • The 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty;
  • The 1987 The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) ;
  • The 1990 Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE); The 1999 Agreement on Adaptation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe;
  • The 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1);
  • The 1993 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-2);
  • The 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT);
  • Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-3), which came into operation on February 5, 2011.

A high level of complimentarity and interconnection of those treaties in fact means that termination of one will bring to a situation when for preserving the existing balance of powers it will be necessary at least to change or more probably to terminate and substitute other treaties either.

Unbalancing current system of treaties in the sphere of control of arms began after the withdrawal of the US from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in December 2001. The fact that Russia took it rather calmly caused astonishment of the West connected with Moscow’s violent and strict reaction on concrete steps of Washington taken for the planned deployment of the so-called “third district” of the ABM system in Europe, i.e. the deployment of the radar in the Czech Republic and 10 missiles in Poland.

But such a reaction is not an accidental; it is well considered and caused by a number of objective reasons and is a consequence of changes which took place in Russia and in the whole world.

Of course, a greater degree of confidence of Moscow in its powers has been caused by a rapid economic upsurge of the country which is in its turn conditioned by the growth of prices for the energy carriers. But, first of all, it has been caused by the accession to power of a new – more competent and active – leadership which has been building (including usage of the authoritarian methods) the working and efficient line of command and increasing the centralization and manageability of the state.

Formation of new Russian-American relations has been essentially influenced by such factors as the upsurge of the economic, political and military potential of China, character of the military operations of the US and their allies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Under such conditions the plans of the US connected with the deployment of radar in Czech Rep. and 10 missiles in Poland, which, according to Washington, have to protect Europe and US from the ballistic missiles of the Islamic Republic of Iran2, gave occasion to Russia to embark on a campaign of reconsideration of the treaties and provisions of the treaties which are, in their opinion, of discriminative character and are consequences of inequitable approach, and can be unilaterally breached or ambiguously interpreted and were concluded in the times of Gorbachev and Yeltsin weakness and lack of will.

First of all it regarded the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe which was suspended by Russia in July 2007. Currently, especially after coming into effect of the START-3, the main contradictions are concentrated on the approaches of the parties to the ABM defence issue.

The main idea of the ABM Treaty was that remaining open for the strike back of the enemy3 the parties realized lack of any prospects of nuclear potentials build-up because of the unacceptable level of mutual damage4.

At the same time building of the efficient system of the national missile defence by one of the parties may attach them a belief in their impunity and tempt them to deliver the first disarming strike. That is why for all the seeming exclusively defencive character of the anti-missile shield, its presence can change the balance of powers and can cause nuclear war.

Global ABM defence, which is drafted by the US today, can be characterized as integrated high-tech system with the complex application of various systems of arms and target destruction principles. In future the components, which would allow counteracting the ballistic missiles of the potential enemy on all the phases of the ballistic missile trajectory, are planned to be included in the deployed system of the US ABM defence.

Back in 1996 the programme of the US National Missile Defence (NMD) creation shifted its status from “technology development” to “deplorability of the arms system”, and after the adoption of the National Missile Defense Act of 1999 by the US Congress the works on it has been stirred up.

For today systems of midcourse and terminal phases are the most tactically efficient ones.

The G. Bush administration considered the option of starting the deployment of the European district of the US Missile Defense from the deployment of three-stage solid fuel GBI (Ground Based Interceptor) in Poland and XBR (X-Band Radar) in Czech Rep. Its goal would have been the acquiring, tracking targets and counter missiles guiding.

But after Barak Obama’s coming to the White House those plans – and first of all the terms of their deployment – were reviewed. In particular, this was conditioned by unwillingness to strain relations with Moscow, which sounded the possibility of cutting back cooperation in a number of programmes essential for Washington as counter measures. Particularly, it regarded organization of supply support of the coalition forces in Afghanistan through the territory of Russia. But the most important is that Moscow seriously considered the possibility of deployment of theatre ballistic missile systems “Iskander-M” in Kaliningrad Oblast, and in this case the ABM defence base in Poland would appear in its missile engagement zone. Generally, reconsideration of Washington’s plans regarding Czech Rep. and Poland can be considered as a tactical success of Moscow in the talks on missile defence.

As a result, the US adopted a new plan of deployment of ABM defence in Europe. It consists of four stages:

1. Before 2012:
  • Arranging of combat alert duty of three Aegis-equipped US Navy ships with SM-3 Block IA missiles which will be capable to destroy theatre ballistic missiles at an altitude up to 140km and at the range up to 800km;
  • Deployment of mobile AN/TPY-2 radars.

2. From 2015

  • Re-equipment of “Aegis” system with more efficient SM-3 Block IB counter-missiles, which will allow intercepting medium-range missiles;
  • Deployment of a ground based analogues of sea based “Aegis” system;
  • Getting 249 SM-3 missiles.

3. By 201:

  • Improvement of target acquisition and target indication systems
  • Further modification of SM-3 missiles – SM-3 Block IIA

4. By 2020:

  • Additional armament of “Aegis” system by SM-3 Block IIB, which will be capable to intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles.

It is necessary to mention that the concerns of Russia are caused rather by the improvement of the entire system of missile defence by Washington, which gradually takes the shape of a global one, than by the establishment of the 3rd district of the US ABM defence. In order to avoid such a development Russia, taking advantage of the “window of opportunities”, i.e. till the moment of real deployment of the warlike equipment, came forward with a number of proposals, particularly, on a joint running of Gabala radar station and sectoral forming of joint European ABM(together with NATO).

Russia’s proposal on joint running of “Daryal” Radar system nearby village of Gabala in Azerbaijan instead of ABM base deployment in Poland and radar in Czech Rep. pursued several goals:

Firstly, it confirmed its readiness to cooperate with the US; its real manifestation is just an organizational and technical matter.

Secondly, it put itself in a favourable light in the eyes of the global community – readiness to make available its military object5 for the US in order to avoid building of a new military bases in Europe and a new round of the race of armaments.

Thirdly, it opened a gate for a broad discussion of tactical and technical characteristics of a future European component of the US ABM defence.

At the same time, it is necessary to mention that by its military characteristics Gabala radar station, just like “Voronej” radar system nearby the town of Armavir in Krasnodar region (North Caucasus), is a tracking station and not a targeting one and it could be used only as a supplement for the radar in Czech Rep., but not instead. Gabala radar is more appropriate as an alternative to AN/TPY-2 radar the United States plans to deploy in Turkey and integrate into a general ABM defence system in December 2011 (in test mode).

In case if the US agree, the prospects of joint running of the radar station would allow Russia to intensify using of the Gabala radar station which is now being used with some restrictions, because of the stance of Baku; among the reasons the concerns of its environmental safety are mentioned. At the same time it would take the issue of prolonging the terms of its rent (which expires in 2012) off the table. Though radar in Armavir, which is alternative to the Gabala radar, was put into exploitation back in 2009, Russia is interested in continuing military and technical cooperation with Azerbaijan due to not only military and technical aspects but also out of military and political reasoning.

In case of refusal of the US (which is in fact confirmed by the conclusion of the agreement with Turkey), deployment of the radar station in the proximity of the Iranian borders automatically brings to the aggravation of the relations between Tehran and Ankara which will be used by Moscow in its interests.

But it should be mentioned that, besides purely technical issues of the combinability of the Gabala radar station with the existing US and NATO radar systems, participation of Russia in the US ABM defence system is unacceptable for Washington in the organizational plane either. According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia S. Lavrov: “Our partners from NATO say that they have liabilities on mutual defence – Article 5 of Washington Treaty – and those liabilities cannot be delegated to anyone” 6.

As a result, the proposal of Moscow concerning the creation of joint ABM defence system based on territorial (i.e. sectoral) principle of allocation of responsibility of separate countries or groups of countries for detention and destruction of the missiles in a definite sector of defence, was in fact voted down.

Under such conditions, besides symmetrical response, such as, for example, merging of antiaircraft defence and ballistic missile defence in one system of aerospace defence, which will have to increase its efficiency, Russia also considers a number of asymmetric responses of military-technical and organizational character, such as:

  • Shift to equipping of all the modifications of “Topol” missiles by multiple unit warheads;
  • Extension of a programme of rearmament of the navy with modern nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines;
  • Enhancement of maneuverability and survivability of missile systems of Strategic Missile Forces;
  • Elaboration of a new systems of ballistic and cruise missiles penetration and the improvement of the ones in the inventory;
  • Elaboration of measures on suppression or destruction of a new US ABM defence bases in Turkey and Europe in case of necessity.

Another option is the withdrawal from the the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (according to which Russia liquidated an entire class of the armaments capable to bear nuclear warheads) with further deployment of the missiles.

The missile standoff in the late 70s and early 90s developed according to the similar scenario. In response to the deployment of the missiles in Europe by the USSR, the US deployed 572 middle range missiles “Pershing-2”. But if then the USSR and its Warsaw Pact allies potential in armour, aviation and artillery systems can be compared with NATO, today the quantitative lag in more than 3 times does not allow Russia response symmetrically (including economic aspect).

Another argument for withdrawal of Russia from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is the fact that many countries, including its neigbours has either acquired such missiles or eagerly augment and qualitatively develop their potentials.

In this situation, according to some Russian experts the deployment of the intermediate-range missiles may become a deterrent for the non-nuclear or restricted nuclear conflicts in both European and Far East directions.

  1. Changes in geopolitical situation caused a situation when both the US and Russia, due to different reasons, are now interested in changing system of the current bilateral and multi-lateral treaties in the sphere of control of arms.
  2. Today the composition, structure, system of management and funding of the ABM defence in Europe and Middle East allow characterizing them as rather a European component of the US ballistic missile defence than NATO ABM defence or EuroABM defence.
  3. While building a new system of relations in the military and political spheres each of the parties will protect exclusively its own interests. But a new system of treaties must take into consideration both new balance of powers in the sphere of different types of arms and coming forward of new global and regional actors. Regional actors, the military and economic potential and advantageous geographic location of which may influence some aspects of new military and political balance, will try to acquire definite political and economic preferences at the stage of structuring that system. For this purpose they will intensify their partnership relations with leading global power centers – US, EU, Russia and China.
  4. In the system of relations between Azerbaijan and US Baku will first of all try to enlist non-critical attitude of Washington concerning the issues of domestic policy (authoritarian regime, violation of human rights, total control over the mass media, corruption scandals in ruling political elite and etc.), support on Nagorno-Karabakh issue, further intensification of the bilateral military and technical partnership.
  5. In the system of relations between Turkey and the US, Ankara will attempt to acquire or intensify the support of its stance on the issue of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, carrying out large-scale operations in the north of Iraq, on Kurdish issue as well as intensification its foreign political and military-political activity in the Middle East and South Caucasus.
  6. On the other hand inclusion of the ship based “Aegis” systems in the US ABM defence system in Europe in the Black Sea water area, as well as possible deployment of intermediate range missiles in Black Sea and Caspian region, will increase the meaning of direct negotiations between Moscow and Ankara (Russia and Turkey take similar stances on the issue of presence of navies of non-Black Sea states in that water area on a continuing basis).
  7. Deployment of the counter-missiles in Poland, withdrawal of Russia from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe , as well as possible strengthening of the military units in Kaliningrad Special Military District and particularly deployment of “Iskander-M” systems there (not to speak of intermediate range missiles in case of withdrawal from INF treaty) will become an additional catalyst for the European states to develop more independent European defence policy.
  8. Russia’s counter steps as a reaction to the deployment of the ABM defence bases in Europe will bring to the usage of the economic leverages by Russia, including the export and amount of energy carriers supply at least in regard to Poland and Romania (without violation of the existing international agreements in this sphere). This will bring to the further growth of importance of the alternative sources of energy carriers supply, including the Caspian region, for both Poland and Europe in general. In this context stirring up of the project of launching of Odessa-Brodi-Polotsk oil pipeline can be expected (or more broadly some kind of activation of the economic activity of GUAM) 7.
  9. Development of the network of all-over radar surveillance “Caucasusnet”, as well as the appearance of the elements of ABM defence system in Turkey and Black Sea area may bring to the strengthening of Russian troops in Armenia and Abkhazia.
  10. Involvement of Turkey in the European segment of the US ABM defence will:
  11. lower the a possibility of implementation of the plans of development of military and technical cooperation between Turkey and Russia. This will directly affect the results of the tender for procurement of the air defence missile systems in which Russia participates;
  • help to smooth over contradictions between Turkey and Israel in the sphere of military-technical and military-political cooperation. In spite of the official statement of Ankara concerning the impermissibility of passing data from radars in Turkey to Jerusalem, the exchange of data between the radar stations of those two states will take place as it corresponds to the interests of all the states taking part in the US ABM defence, one way or another;
  • increase the importance of the role of Turkey in the US and Europe security provision, and in consequence it increases its military and political weight, particularly in the Black Sea and Caspian region.
  • At the same time, it will once more prove the failure of the foreign political course of Ankara directed to having no problems with the neighbours, especially taking into consideration tough reaction of Tehran on the deployment of the radar on Turkish territory.

1Radar is planned to be deployed in Kuluncak district of Malatya province in south-eastern Turkey.

2 Here it should be spoken about the principle capability of Iran to produce intercontinental ballistic missiles.

3 When in 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty was concluded, the parties came to an agreement that each of them would create one district covered by the ABM defence. In the US this district was the intercontinental ballistic missiles base in California and in the USSR – Moscow region.

4 Conclusion of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty in 1972 (SALT-1) became possible only after the agreements on limitation of the national ABM defence systems.

5 From judicial point of view – Information-analytical center “Daryal” rented from Azerbaijan

6 «Российская газета», 4 июля 2011 г.

7 GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development – includes Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova.

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