Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

Russia and European Missile Defenses Reflexive Reset?

Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

Russia and European Missile Defenses Reflexive Reset?

Article excerpt

The U.S.-Russian "reset" T appeared to be in free fall in December 2011 as a result of both foreign and domestic policy issues that had dampened enthusiasm for further momentum. Among the forces resisting progress on nuclear arms control was the issue of missile defenses. The following discussion examines European (and other) missile defenses from the Russian perspective, with obvious implications for current and future U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) policies. The article first considers whether the outlook of the Russian government and military leadership on missile defenses and nuclear arms control is driven by realistic fears and/or resistant forces in Russian domestic politics. It then discusses the possibility that aspects of Russian public diplomacy on missile defenses consist of a "reflexive control" or other influence operation, directed at both foreign and domestic audiences. The article then performs data analysis to determine the viability of Russian and U.S. strategic nuclear deterrents, including scenarios that assume antimissile defenses are available.

Russian Rethinking

Medvedev Stokes Fears. On November 23, 2011, then-Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev issued a somber address in which he declared that Russia had been unable to reach agreement with the United States and NATO over the future of missile defenses in Europe. (1) Accusing the United States and the Alliance of undermining Russia's security, Medvedev censured Washington for its unwillingness to provide a legal guarantee that the Obama administration's European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) to European missile defenses would not be directed against Russia. (2) The outgoing Russian president presumably spoke with the approval of the current prime minister and probable future president Vladimir Putin.

Facing an imminent election in Russia that might have prompted his tougher line with respect to national security issues, Medvedev outlined a number of responsive measures that Russia would take if the United States and NATO continued to stiff Russia on missile defense talks. First, Russia would develop capabilities for "the destruction of information and control means of the missile defense system" deployed in Europe, meaning, in plain English, cyberwar. Second, the protection of Russian facilities for strategic nuclear weapons and launchers would be increased. Third, nuclear strategic ballistic missiles would be equipped with new countermeasures to overcome U.S. and NATO ballistic missile defenses. Fourth, Russia might deploy advanced attack systems in its western and southern districts capable of striking elements of the U.S. and NATO missile defense system, including Iskander ground-to-ground missiles in the Kaliningrad exclave. (3) Fifth, Russia might suspend further cooperation on arms control and disarmament, and, according to Medvedev, "There might be grounds for our country to withdraw from the New START [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty]." (4) As Medvedev spoke, doubtless the Russian General Staff was loading his PowerPoint file with even more talking points for future briefings.

Although it was apparent that some of Medvedev's rhetoric was intended for domestic political consumption, it would be mistaken to infer that his demarche was mainly or entirely campaign fodder. Russia's political and military leaders have, from their perspective, genuine security needs and concerns that are evoked by the U.S. and NATO missile defense plans. (5) For example, although the Duma had previously cautioned against jettisoning the entire reset process over missile defenses, the first deputy chairman of the Duma's foreign affairs committee, Leonid Slutsky, warned of inevitable connections:

The biggest success of this new chapter in Russian-U.S. relations was the signing of the New START treaty. But this treaty links strategic offensive weapons to missile defense. But the American administration, acting in circumvention of all agreements, is now trying to deploy systems near Russian borders that threaten our strategic nuclear deterrence forces. …

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