Whom are the NATO missiles aimed at?

Relations between Russia and NATO, in particular NATO’s plans for an anti-missile shield, were discussed on 6 July on St Petersburg-based, privately-owned Channel Five TV’s talk show "Open Studio" (Otkrytaya Studiya), hosted by Roman Gerasimov and titled "Whom are the NATO missiles aimed at?" Some of the discussion touched on a possibility of the USA and Russia going to war over the NATO ABM plans. The following is an excerpt of the show, subheadings inserted editorially.

Whom is NATO ABM aimed against?

[Opening passage omitted]

[Former officer of the Russian General Staff and now first vice-president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, Capt 1st Rank (retd) Konstantin Sivkov] I would like to remind you that the United States and its allies, or should I say satellites, have started four wars in the past 10 years. Neither Iran nor Libya, nor North Korea, nor any other country have started this many wars. So it is US presidents and [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy, who started the perfectly crazy war in Libya, that are paranoid types, let’s start with that. In these conditions, the question arises as to why the ABM system is being built.

First of all, I have to remind you that not only is an ABM system being created, but generally military infrastructure is being expanded by NATO to areas bordering our motherland, Russia. Air groups are being increased, systematic exercises are taking place, there were exercises in the Black Sea recently, in the Baltic Sea, in the Barents Sea, in the northern part of the Norwegian Sea, all of them near our borders.

It is particularly worrying that [Russia’s possible participation] in the ABM system was declined. They turned down our sectoral defence proposal. No-one was going to encroach on NATO’s responsibilities of defending its territory, no-one was going to take anything away from anyone. It was believed that Russia could take over the eastern sector, the most dangerous one or so it seemed, with its [own portion of] ABM defences. Unlike NATO, we have pretty effective anti-missile systems such as the S-400, capable of theatre ABM roles. Naturally, under the conditions of [economic] crisis, NATO has to invest less into development of, say, powerful anti-missile defence systems on its eastern borders. Nevertheless, NATO refuses that.

Then if we look at real threats, what do we see? The distance between Europe and Iran is about 4,000 to 5,000 km, [the distance between Europe and] Pakistan, I think, is 8,000 or 9,000 km. Neither Pakistan nor Iran would have missiles capable of travelling such distances in the next 20 years. Whom, then, is the ABM system being built against?

[Presenter] Wait a second, did you not say not now or in the next few years, did you say not in the next 20 years?

[Sivkov] Yes, of course, what are we talking about, what, next few years? And why build airfields and deploy air groups at our borders, why hold drills involving missile cruisers in the Black Sea? It would have been more logical, if NATO really had good intentions towards Russia, to agree on a sectoral principle, on information exchange, but instead we are being offered to just talk. This causes serious worry. [Passage omitted]

[Political analyst Konstantin Eggert] Well, naturally NATO is a war machine which keeps itself busy by constantly keeping itself battle-ready. The Russian army also holds drills, this is perfectly normal. I do get the feeling sometimes that for a large number of people in our country this NATO threat is a sort of salvation from a serious foreign policy disease. If this threat is taken away everyone will start to feel ill at ease because then we will have to pay attention to the way that the Russian Federation itself is, rather than searching for enemies around us, that’s the first thing. Secondly, speaking of military operations of some sort, well, do you seriously believe that the United States and NATO want to start a nuclear war against Russia? That seems sort of silly to me, no-one wants that. [Passage omitted]

Premonitions of Lt-Gen Tretyak

[Presenter] According to Lt-Gen Andrey Tretyak, head of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff, "in four years’ time the Americans will significantly modernize their missiles and increase their number in Poland to 300. In this case, a real possibility emerges of a strike against Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles and against our submarine-based ballistic missiles."

[Eggert] Does Gen Tretyak intend to start a war against the United States? Joseph Stalin didn’t start it, Leonid Brezhnev didn’t start it but Gen Tretyak wants to start it? I hope that we still have a political leadership that takes decisions on such matters. I do not know how they would stick 300 missiles there within four years, I am not a military engineer but I do not reckon it to be physically possible. [Passage omitted]

[Sivkov] I would like to note, firstly, 300 missiles can be installed there indeed. Secondly, if they are putting 300 missiles there, it is not our general intending to go to war with NATO but NATO intending to go to war with us, and we have to do something in response.

[Eggert interrupts] Are they crazy there? To fight a war over their own territory, a war over Poland, over Smolensk, intercepters would fly, now come on, what sort of nonsense this is.

[Sivkov] Secondly, now that we speak about it, building 300 missiles, building powerful radar systems which require massive funding, you were quite right, they are not crazy. They are doing it to fulfil quite concrete tasks. If there are no threats coming from the Arab world, then they must be looking at some other threats, including ones from Russia. [Passage omitted]

NATO ABM is about defending USA interests globally

[Presenter] So, is this some groundless panic, or are these the feelings of a man who has a gun pointed at him? [Passage omitted]

[Prof Dmitriy Danilov of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ European Institute] Of course, of primary importance is not only the number of missiles but the perception of threat, the extent to which we view this as a threat. I would like to remind you that in the early 2000s, when the United States said that it would be withdrawing from the ABM Treaty, it unambiguously said it would do so in order to build an ABM system. For some reason we took it pretty calmly then, and here I would agree with Mr Sivkov that we have to evaluate all threats, all risks dynamically, which is to say, today there are 15 missiles, tomorrow there are 30, the next day there are 300. Today they are at sea, tomorrow they are in space, etc. In any case, our military have to view it dynamically.

When we are being told that a joint ABM system cannot be developed because Russia and NATO are not allies and it is not going to work anyway, I can say that there might be a different way of looking at this: if we are not allies we have to realistically evaluate the military potentials of the two war machines which are objectively present there and to take them into account, which is quite natural. Then, when we are speaking about the NATO ABM system, let’s just be frank, this is not so much about the NATO ABM system as it is about the development of America’s global ABM programme. Its strategic military goal is quite clear: to defend the USA from all sorts of threats. [Passage omitted to end]

Source: TRK Peterburg Channel Five TV, St Petersburg, in Russian 1200 gmt 6 Jul 11

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