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Limitation of ABM Systems remains a major challenge

16.12.2012 10:03

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller at a meeting in Geneva on December 8 discussed the situation around the missile defense and conventional arms control. Following this meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on December 9 at a meeting with Vladimir Putin's trustees that the U.S. refuses to change anything in the phased adaptive missile defense deployment in Europe.

"The conversation can only be in two directions: either we will implement the joint system that would be really oriented on managing risks emanating from outside the Euro-Atlantic, or if the U.S. does not abandon their scheme, we will need strong guarantees of the planned system nondirectionality against Russia. And, apart from guarantees also military-technical criteria, which can be verified at every stage of development of the U.S. missile defense system," the minister added.

Thus, with the reelection of President Obama a new stage of negotiations begins between Russia and the United States for the building of the US-European Missile Defense System. This stage can be complicated by the fact that, according to press reports, early in the New Year, the U.S. will put forward a new initiative for further reduction of nuclear weapons. It is clear that the problem of reduction of nuclear weapons is directly related to the missile defense problem, yet not only thereto.

Thus, Brookings scholars Steve Pifer and Michael O'Hanlon believe it possible to reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads to 1,000, and the total number of deployed and non-deployed nuclear warheads ? to 2000-2500 units. An even more radical reduction (up to 500 deployed nuclear warheads) was proposed by Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

Of special note is the report Modernizing U.S. Nuclear Strategy prepared by a group of prominent experts led by former STRATCOM Commander and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General James E. Cartwright, under the auspices of the Global Zero movement. The report sets out a plan to reduce U.S.' and Russia's nuclear forces to the level of 900 warheads by each side. It is offered to keep half of these warheads operationally deployed, and to withhold the other.

At the June 2012 issue of Arms Control Today there was another article by two American experts, Sidney Drell and James Goodby, with more radical proposals to reduce the nuclear arsenals of the U.S. and Russia. According to the authors, their proposed structure of the SNF could be quite durable and would not represent an incentive for a first strike.

It is known that the Congress approving the Prague treaty 2010 (START-3) made it a condition of further reductions the inclusion in the negotiating process of Russian strategic nuclear forces, that is, of what is conventionally called tactical nuclear weapons (TNW). Conventionally because the capacity of TNW is now comparable with the capacity of strategic systems. In addition, the U.S. tactical nuclear warheads located in Europe are strategic for Russia as they can achieve strategic goals in its territory. This weapon is not restricted by any international or bilateral agreements, although in 1991 the Presidents Bush Sr. and Gorbachev assumed unilateral obligations that led to a significant reduction in its reserves ? as compared with the levels the parties had in the 1991.

There is no official information on ammunition state of non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNW) the U.S. and Russia have now. According to non-governmental experts, the U.S. has in its active arsenal about 5 to 7 hundred warheads, of which about 200 are in the territory of NATO's European allies. Most reputable experts agree that Russia currently has in its active arsenal about 2,000 NSNW warheads. Unlike the United States, the Russian NSNW are in its territory. Totally in the European TMO the NATO countries have approximately 650 to 750 nuclear bombs and missile warheads.

Russian military-political leadership is inclined to regard NSNW as an instrument of compensation of its general-purpose forces weakness and considering that the Russian territory is within reach of nuclear weapons of other nuclear states located along its perimeter.

But the main thing that blocks the further reduction of nuclear weapons is the preservation by the Obama administration of the U.S. nuclear doctrine's provision allowing the possibility of a preemptive nuclear strike including on the territory of Russia, and in this context, Moscow's perception of a deployable global ballistic missile defense system as a potential threat to its nuclear containment.

Putting a question of a further reduction of nuclear arms without addressing the main issue of missile defense means to put the cart in front of the horse. To solve this issue, it is necessary to create in Europe an atmosphere of confidence between countries.

Looking back in the history, the negotiations on signing SALT-I series treaties (1972) were conducted in parallel and in inextricable connection with the other historical process initiated by the USSR and the Warsaw Pact countries ? the beginning of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (1973). It ended in 1975 with the signing of the Helsinki Final Act - a code of relations between the countries of Europe, based upon the principles of non-use of force or threat of force, the recognition of the inviolability of the postwar borders in Europe, sovereign equality, and other provisions very useful for practical strengthening of mutual trust.

In 2009, Russia made a proposal for the West to establish in the Euro-Atlantic an open collective security system on a clear legal framework. In fact, Russia's proposal in today's multipolar world is an analogue of the very same Helsinki process whose beginning has contributed much to an atmosphere of mutual trust in a bipolar world.

Is it any use complicating this not simple process, like negotiations on missile defense, with not less problematic negotiations on further reductions of nuclear weapons?