Medvedev announces failure of U.S.-Russia missile defense talks; threatens to withdraw from New START

Josh Rogin by Josh Rogin on November 24th, 2011

This is article 530 of 1231 in the topic International

The U.S.-Russian talks to cooperate on missile defense have apparently failed, as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced a series of retaliatory measures today aimed at giving Russia the ability to destroy the American-led system in Eastern Europe.

In a statement to the “citizens of Russia” on Wednesday, Medvedev announced that the year-long negotiations between the President Barack Obama‘s administration and its Russian counterparts to find a way to work together on what’s known as the European Phased Adaptive Approach to ballistic missile defense were over. Medvedev said Russia was unable to attain written assurances from the United States that the system would not and could not be used to counter Russia’s ballistic missile force. Medvedev announced several aggressive Russian moves to counter the U.S. system, and also threatened to withdraw from the New START nuclear reductions treaty in retaliation.

“We are to replace the friction and confrontation in our relations with the principles of equality, indivisible security, mutual trust, and predictability. Regrettably, the USA and other NATO partners have not showed enough willingness to move in this direction,” Medvedev said.

Medvedev implied that the U.S. Congress was one of the primary obstacles in the negotiations, because some GOP senators are opposed to giving Russia any written assurances that could be seen as “limits” on U.S. missile defense and other GOP senators have called for the system to be directed at Russia.

“Rather than showing themselves willing to hear and understand our concerns over the European missile defense system at this stage, [U.S. officials] simply repeat that these plans are not directed against Russia and that there is no point for us to be concerned. That is the position of the executive authorities, but legislators in some countries openly state the whole system is against Russia,” Medvedev said.

He promised Russia would immediately move to put the missile attack early-warning radar station in Kaliningrad on combat alert, deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, equip Russia’s strategic ballistic missiles with advanced missile-defense penetration systems and new highly-effective warheads, design measures to disable U.S. missile defenses, and deploy modern offensive weapon systems able to “take out any part of the US missile defense system in Europe.”

If the situation continues to deteriorate, Medvedev threatened to go further and withdraw from the New START treaty, which the White House fought so hard to ratify last year.

“If the situation continues to develop not to Russia’s favor, we reserve the right to discontinue further disarmament and arms control measures,” he said. “Besides, given the intrinsic link between strategic offensive and defensive arms, conditions for our withdrawal from the New START Treaty could also arise, and this option is enshrined in the treaty.”

Undersecretary of State for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher was a key official in the development of the European missile defense scheme, and also led the negotiations on missile defense cooperation with Russia. When the system was announced in 2009, the Obama administration took criticism for abandoning former President George W. Bush‘s approach, which had focused on placing ground-based interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Critics accused the administration of pandering to Russia by abandoning the Polish and Czech sites for the new approach, which had a greater focus on Aegis ships operating at sea and mobile systems in countries including Romania and Bulgaria. The administration proudly announced a new radar site in Turkey in September.

Russia has always objected to the plans, arguing that the system has an inherent capability to counter Russian missiles. The Obama administration has always countered that the system was directed at Iran, not Russia. The cooperation being discussed was aimed at giving Russia enough access to data and operations to reassure them the system was not aimed at them. Some saw the effort as naïve.

“The notion that Moscow would politely accept the EPAA after New START was never realistic,” a senior GOP Senate aide told The Cable today. “They seek to limit U.S. missile defenses by any and all means.”

The aide argued that since the Obama administration secured NATO endorsement for the missile defense scheme, Russia’s retaliatory moves must be considered a threat to the entire alliance and prompt the administration to fully fund all four phases of the missile defense plan.

“These Russian systems threaten NATO allies, and we have to respond with both robust defense and credible nuclear reassurance in Europe.”

Today’s announcement by Medvedev is the second backwards step in the U.S.-Russia reset in two days. On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced that it would stop honoring its obligations under the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty with regard to Russia. That was retaliation for Russia’s complete disregard for the CFE treaty since 2007.

Nobody should be surprised by this development, but it shows that the U.S.-Russian reset policy may not survive the current round of U.S. and Russian talks, the aide said.

“This was long expected and it’s a test for the durability of the personal policies of the President –the Russian reset and nuclear zero. Here we indeed see a reset, to something circa 1986.”

 

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor responded to Medvedev’s comments by pledging the U.S. would continue to build the system.

“The United States has been open and transparent with Russia on our plans for missile defense in Europe, which reflect a growing threat to our allies from Iran that we are committed to deterring. In multiple channels, we have explained to Russian officials that the missile defense systems planned for deployment in Europe do not and cannot threaten Russia’s strategic deterrent.  Implementation of the New START treaty is going well and we see no basis for threats to withdraw from it,” he said. “We continue to believe that cooperation with Russia on missile defense can enhance the security of the United States, our allies in Europe, and Russia, and we will continue to work with Russia to define the parameters of possible cooperation. However, in pursuing this cooperation, we will not in any way limit or change our deployment plans in Europe.”

 

Statement by Dmitry Medvedev in connection with the situation concerning the NATO countries’ missile defense system in Europe

PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Citizens of Russia,

I address you today in connection with the situation concerning the NATO countries’ missile defence system in Europe.

Russia’s relations with the USA and NATO in the missile defence area have a long and complicated history. I remember that when US President Barack Obama revised his predecessor’s plans to build a missile defence system in Europe in September 2009, we welcomed this as a positive step.

This decision paved the way to our being able to conclude the important New START Treaty which was signed not too long ago and which clearly states the intrinsic link between strategic offensive weapons and missile defence. Let me state that again, this was a major achievement.

Subsequently, however, the USA began carrying out a new missile defence plan that foresaw the creation of a missile defence system in stages. This specifically raises concerns in Russia. It would eventually see the deployment of US missiles and military capability in close proximity to Russia’s borders and in the neighbouring waters.

At the NATO-Russia Council summit in Lisbon a year ago, I proposed developing a joint sector-based missile defence system in Europe where every country would be responsible for a particular sector.

Furthermore, we were ready to discuss additional modifications to the system, taking into account our NATO partners’ views. Our only goal was to preserve the basic principle that Europe does not need new dividing lines, but rather, a common security perimeter with Russia’s equal and legally enshrined participation.

It is my conviction that this approach would create unique opportunities for Russia and NATO to build a genuine strategic partnership. We are to replace the friction and confrontation in our relations with the principles of equality, indivisible security, mutual trust, and predictability.
Regrettably, the USA and other NATO partners have not showed enough willingness to move in this direction. Rather than showing themselves willing to hear and understand our concerns over the European missile defence system at this stage, they simply repeat that these plans are not directed against Russia and that there is no point for us to be concerned. That is the position of the executive authorities, but legislators in some countries openly state, the whole system is against Russia.

But our requests that they set this out on paper in the form of clear legal obligations are firmly rejected. We do hold a reasonable position. We are willing to discuss the status and content of these obligations, but our colleagues should understand that these obligations must have substance and not be just empty words. They must be worded not as promises and reassurances, but as specific military-technical criteria that will enable Russia to judge to what extent US and NATO action in the missile defence area correspond to their declarations and steps, whether our interests are being impinged on, and to what extent the strategic nuclear balance is still intact. This is the foundation of the present-day security.

We will not agree to take part in a programme that in a short while, in some 6 to 8 years’ time could weaken our nuclear deterrent capability. The European missile defence programme is already underway and work on it is, regrettably, moving rapidly in Poland, Turkey, Romania, and Spain. We find ourselves facing a fait accompli.

Of course we will continue the dialogue with the USA and NATO on this issue. I agreed on this with US President Barack Obama when we met recently, and on that occasion again stated our concerns very clearly. There is still time to reach an understanding. Russia has the political will to reach the agreements needed in this area, agreements that would open a new chapter in our relations with the USA and NATO.

If our partners show an honest and responsible attitude towards taking into account Russia’s legitimate security interests, I am sure we can come to an agreement. But if we are asked to ‘cooperate’ or in fact act against our own interests it will be difficult to establish common ground. In such a case we would be forced to take a different response. We will decide our actions in accordance with the actual developments in events at each stage of the missile defence programme’s implementation.

In this connection, I have made the following decisions:

1. I am instructing the Defence Ministry to immediately put the missile attack early warning radar station in Kaliningrad on combat alert.

2. Protective cover of Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons will be reinforced as a priority measure under the programme to develop our air and space defences.

3. The new strategic ballistic missiles commissioned by the Strategic Nuclear Forces and the Navy will be equipped with advanced missile defence penetration systems and new highly-effective warheads.

4. I have instructed the Armed Forces to draw up measures for disabling missile defence system data and guidance systems if need be. These measures will be adequate, effective, and low-cost.

5. If the above measures prove insufficient, the Russian Federation will deploy modern offensive weapon systems in the west and south of the country, ensuring our ability to take out any part of the US missile defence system in Europe. One step in this process will be to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad Region.

Other measures to counter the European missile defence system will be drawn up and implemented as necessary.

Furthermore,

If the situation continues to develop not to Russia’s favour, we reserve the right to discontinue further disarmament and arms control measures.

Besides, given the intrinsic link between strategic offensive and defensive arms, conditions for our withdrawal from the New START Treaty could also arise, and this option is enshrined in the treaty.

But let me stress the point that we are not closing the door on continued dialogue with the USA and NATO on missile defence and on practical cooperation in this area. We are ready for that.

However, this can be achieved only through establishing a clear legal base for cooperation that would guarantee that our legitimate interests and concerns are taken into account. We are open to a dialogue and we hope for a reasonable and constructive approach from our Western partners.

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