Russia ups the stakes with US over missile shield program

Updated: 2011-11-25 08:16

By Hu Yinan (China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

BEIJING - Russia's latest tough response to US anti-ballistic missiles (ABMs) near its borders in Europe - that it may deploy its own missiles to target US missile defense sites on the continent - is the start of an evolving competition in broader spheres between the two former Cold War rivals, according to Chinese experts.

Immediate tensions between Washington and Moscow, though, will be limited, analysts say, despite Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's remark on Wednesday that military countermeasures will be taken if Washington continues to build its planned missile defense system in Europe without bringing Russia into the picture.

Moscow has long accused Washington of building the shield without legal guarantees that it will not be aimed at Russia. The Obama administration has repeatedly said the president will not sign such a document.

With the strongest statement on the matter in months, Medvedev's speech on Wednesday has triggered escalating tension between the two powers. A day earlier, the US said it would stop providing data to Russia on non-nuclear military forces in Europe - something that Washington has been doing since 1990, when Moscow and the NATO states signed a pact.

Russia will equip ballistic missiles "with advanced missile defense penetration systems", Medvedev said on Wednesday.

If they "prove insufficient", "modern offensive weapon systems" will be deployed as well to ensure the country's "ability to take out any part of the US missile defense system in Europe", he said.

Moscow says it may deploy short-range Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, which borders NATO member Poland.

Washington, in response, said it would proceed with its missile defense shield plans in spite of Medvedev's statement.

For years, the US has called for the situating of land- and sea-based radars and interceptors in Poland, Romania, Turkey, Bulgaria and other European states to defend against potential attacks by Iran. Russia, though, sees this as a threat to its own nuclear forces.

In his speech, the Russian president also warned that Moscow may opt out of the New START arms control deal it signed with Washington in 2010 - a pact that had been hailed the biggest accomplishment in US-Russia ties since US President Barack Obama vowed to "reset" relations with the Kremlin.

In Beijing, Yang Chengxu, a researcher with the China Institute of International Studies, said that the dispute between the White House and the Kremlin over ABMs will be long term, adding that US-NATO ABMs are "evidently designed to counter Russia".

Russia-NATO talks have been stalled as Moscow insists that the missile shield should be run jointly, while NATO rejects the idea altogether. The US anti-missile system in Europe is due to be fully deployed by 2020.

"Moscow finds inadmissible the approach whereby some countries protect themselves at the expense of the security of other countries," the official Voice of Russia radio station said in a commentary.

Breakthroughs in US-developed ABM systems, if and when realized, will "deprive Russia of its energy advantages", said Shi Yinhong, an expert on US studies with Renmin University of China.

Russia's arms industry will benefit from Medvedev's latest speech, according to Russian political analyst Fyodor Shelov-Kovedyaev.

"The US is offering a challenge to Russia - a technological challenge which is probably even more serious than an open threat of war. By saying that Russia will take this challenge, President Medvedev evidently wants to stimulate Russian producers of military equipment to work harder," he said.

Medvedev has called for continued consultations "until the US passes the point of no return", said Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's envoy to NATO, adding: "We won't allow them to treat us like fools."

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor has said Washington will continue to seek Moscow's cooperation, but it must realize that "the missile defense systems planned for deployment in Europe do not and cannot threaten Russia's strategic deterrent".

In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed personal disappointment over Russia's threat to deploy missiles near NATO member states.

Moscow may use the latest gesture as a bargaining chip in future negotiations with the World Trade Organization (WTO), according to Shi.

After 18 years of efforts, trade ministers are set to formally approve Russia's accession agreement at the eighth WTO ministerial conference in Geneva in mid-December.

Zhang Yunbi contributed to this story.