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Summer has just begun, and the Americans have not yet started
Summer has just begun, and the Americans have not yet started the scheduled two comprehensive tests of their missile defense system. However, Russian politicians and military leaders have already started talking about adverse consequences of its deployment.

On June 2, Igor Neverov, director of the Foreign Ministry's Department of North America, said that they were not at all sure that it would be possible to come to terms with the United States on missile defense. He emphasized that Russia is not content with the U.S.-proposed degree of openness on the third positioning area in the Czech Republic and Poland. He said: "These measures [designed to prove that missile interceptors in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic are not directed against Russia] are under discussion, but for the time being we do not even understand what we are being offered - not in principle, but in practical terms. Hence, it is not clear how we can come to terms on this basis."

Lieutenant-General Yevgeny Buzhinsky, deputy chief of the Defense Ministry's main department of international cooperation, said in late May that "the deployment of the U.S. missile defense third positioning area...is clearly directed against Russia."

Meanwhile, the spring talks between Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush (their last meeting as heads of state) in Sochi seemed to have paved the way for mutual understanding on key aspects of missile defense. At any rate, top Russian diplomats noted the Americans' readiness for dialogue, and welcomed U.S. efforts to "reduce to the minimum our concerns about missile defense plans." The military stopped lashing out at the United States. Nor did they criticize Europe for its willingness to host missile interceptors and radar.

But now we are back to where we started. Missile defense is a headache for our politicians and military figures that just won't go away. Moreover, it will not be cured by any talks or consultations.

But the situation is not that complicated. Let's start with the politicians. They have a sacred cow, which cannot be touched. This is relations with Iran. Without going into the diplomatic details, let's note that friendship with Iran is more important for Russia than compromise on missile defense. But the United States has proclaimed missile defense its national policy precisely because of Iran. Hence the Russian and American positions on the Iranian nuclear missile threat are poles apart, and there is no sign of any rapprochement on the issue.

The situation with the military is more complicated. There is one contradiction in the rhetoric of the Russian military leaders. For more than two years, they have been saying that Russia's strategic interests will be threatened if the United States deploys missile defense elements in Europe or elsewhere.

Until recently, they emphasized that Russia would make an asymmetric response to the U.S. plans by consolidating and upgrading its nuclear missile potential. Even if old, it is still reliable and well-tested.

But General Buzhinsky said on the eve of summer vacations: "We are thinking about asymmetric measures, but I cannot specify them. We are in the army and we think in terms of technical potentialities in order to minimize our losses."

This is strange, because strategic nuclear weapons had been mentioned as an alternative to missile defense by the president, the defense minister, and the chief of the General Staff. Now something seems to have changed.

It is becoming clear that even 100 missile interceptors in Poland could not threaten hundreds of Russian missiles, not to mention ten. The United States is not going to wage a nuclear war. However, conventional arms or precision weapons based on multi-echelon space vehicles are another matter. It is space-based missile defense, now being developed by the United States, that will give it limitless opportunities to conduct comprehensive surveillance, and deal strikes at huge territories in no time at all.

The Russian general is absolutely right to talk about technical potentialities. The problem is that, for the time being at least, we do not have them. We cannot parry a massive attack by precision missiles and bombs unless we develop a powerful combined system to protect ourselves against missiles and space-based weapons - air and space defense.

Earlier this year, Air Force Commander Colonel-General Alexander Zelin admitted that "air and space defense elements are in critical condition." It is not even clear today under which command the future air and space defense system should be placed. The situation with weapons is no better.

The S-400 Triumph is the only missile system that can counter an air or space attack. But it is very far from a real triumph. It is not even deployed in several positioning areas. For the time being, only one missile defense regiment, deployed in Elektrostal, just east of Moscow, has received it.

To sum up, Russia will not be able to protect its major administrative and industrial centers against an attack from the air or space. This is a source of concern for Russia's political and military leaders. American missile defense is yet another irritant.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.


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