This should be read along with the US view as the two form an interesting contrast. The conclusion of this article seems remarkable to me. On what basis Primakov is optimistic about the US being transparent about their purposes completely eludes me. Anyway he seems to think that a confrontation is quite avoidable.
By Yevgeny Primakov, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences
The United States' plan to deploy the components of its anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems near Russia's frontiers has created one of the most acute problems in Russian-American relations today. Evidently, this "umbrella" can have a broader purpose in addition to America's formally stated task of neutralizing possible missile strikes from Iran and North Korea. According to defense experts, better places than the Czech Republic and Poland could have been selected to accomplish that task.
Our military's extremely negative reaction to the building of the U.S. ABM system in proximity to Russian territory is fully justified. Yet, it seems that Russia's main argument against this move by the U.S. has yet to be heard. Thus far, on Russia's part there have only been oral statements that we will find an adequate but asymmetric response to the U.S. move: ABM systems are no obstacle to the Topol-M and Bulava-30 strategic missiles that Russia is adding to its armory. Such statements from Russia are quite relevant, because they show to the Russian people that the containment functions of our strategic missiles are not undermined by the ABM system being built by the Americans. At the same time, these statements are meant to demonstrate to the Americans that we do not intend to get involved in an arms race.
However, can we lay the matter to rest here and say: "Gentlemen, military leaders of the United States, let us consider the issue closed, as you declare that the anti-missile system you are building is not directed against Russia. We are not worried about your ABM system because if need be, our missiles will bypass them." This issue brings to mind a following anecdote: A school teacher, a zealous atheist, entered her class and said: "Children, there is no God. Letus proceed to mock Him!" An amazed student asked: "But if there is no God, then why should we mock him?"
However, an American ABM system near our frontiers is not anecdotal material, as it creates a third positional zone for the U.S. anti-ballistic missile system. Yes, for the U.S., not for NATO. And this is happening in Eastern Europe, which, to all appearances, does not seem to have a say in any decision to use this zone for military purposes. Formerly, front-line American forces in Europe did not have a strategic component. Now it is being created. This essentially means that in Washington's opinion, Europe is still in need of a strategic American presence 15 years after the end of the Cold War.
This standpoint signifies a qualitative shift in American military thinking, and it raises a number of questions. For example, how will the American ABM system work? Will this involve pinpoint nuclear strikes? If so, this move will violate the Founding Act signed by, among others, President Bill Clinton in 1997, and it will entail deploying nuclear weapons in the countries that have recently joined NATO.
Who will determine the order of priority for covering specific facilities, and how will this be determined? Experts believe that a positional zone for an ABM system presupposes the creation of an appropriate infrastructure, including underground silos for the missiles. One more question: Won't the creation of such positional zones for America's ABM systems lead to the militarization of outer space?
The answers to these and related questions affect all inhabitants of Europe, as well as the world. I am aware that the present situation differs from the one that we lived through in the 1980s, when the Cold War was still raging. Then, the Soviet leaders made a mistake by deploying medium-range missiles (SS-20s) in Eastern Europe. The U.S. responded by deploying in Western Europe Pershing-2 missiles, which could reach Moscow in six to eight minutes. This gave the U.S. an obvious advantage. SS-20 missiles could not be regarded as strategic weapons since U.S. territory was out of their reach, while Pershing-2s could be used against Moscow as a first-strike weapon.
When the tension began to reach a boiling point, the two sides realized the need for a military detente. The Nuclear Forces Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles of 1987 (INF) was signed in Washington. The Soviet Union signed the Treaty despite the fact that it would have to destroy more missiles than the U.S. The Treaty remains in force to this day. However, each party to the Treaty may withdraw from it by virtue of exceptional circumstances, thereby jeopardizing its supreme interests.
By its present actions, the U.S. is arguably undermining INF Treaty. By deploying an ABM system in the Czech Republic and Poland, the U.S. is repeating the mistake the Soviet Union made by deploying SS-20s in Eastern Europe.
Moscow has already voiced the opinion that Washington has created a situation where Russia might have to pull out of the INF Treaty. This would be a prelude to the deployment of our medium-range missiles targeted at the United States' "third missile frontier" near our borders, especially as the U.S. recently declared that it would not confine itself to Poland and the Czech Republic.
Those obedient nations where the U.S. is deploying its ABM system fail to realize that they are getting involved in a most dangerous game. This is far better understood by NATO's old members, for example Germany, whose leaders have announced it will not accept the U.S. making unilateral decisions on matters of key importance to the world community, without first consulting with its allies, and that includes Russia. It seems to me that the U.S. behaves in this manner not only because it disdains Europe's opinions, but also because it realizes that it is difficult, if not impossible, to push such perilous decisions through NATO, where the principle of consensus reigns.
How can we get out of this impasse? It seems to me that we could get out of it, as we did in the 1980s, by refraining from creating a new front of U.S.-Russian confrontation. Russia and the United States can break the impasse by holding talks to secure complete transparency of American intentions in building a third ABM positional zone near our borders. Once such transparency has been attained, there would be no need for Russia to exceed the limits to ensure adequate counter measures.