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Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov on US missile defence plans, March 28, 2007

'American Antimissiles in Europe: Myths and Reality' Article of Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, Published in the German Newspaper Handelsblatt on March 28, 2007

Unofficial translation from Russian

American plans to deploy elements of US national missile defense in Europe have caused a predictable reaction and discussion. One would like that an open debate would precede such a substantial change of the geostrategic landscape in Europe. For at issue is the fact that the US military presence in the European continent acquires a strategic component for the first time since the end of the Cold War. This is not an idle question and actually concerns all European countries. The realization of unilateral plans affecting the European security architecture obviously will not add to a sense of security in the continent. Furthermore, a number of natural questions arise about the extent to which pan-European institutions and the concept of collective security as a whole will turn out to be devalued. Another question is what role is going to be allotted to NATO in carrying out the US military-political strategy being formulated we understand in autonomous mode. Many people are also wondering how all this is being projected onto the European Union's ESDP.

Such a scenario objectively cannot but affect Russia, tied by bonds of geostrategic interdependence with both the United States and Europe. What risks associated with this US-promoted project do we perceive?

In the first place, it subjects to erosion what is customary called strategic stability, of which practically all states of the world enjoy the advantages. The regime of "checks and balances" in all global politics may turn out to be undercut.

An objective link between strategic offensive and defensive arms has also existed. By the way, that's why, at the US initiative, the ABM Treaty was concluded in 1972. Developing the strategic defensive component can devalue the offensive potential of the other party. Although much, of course, depends on its subsequent development, the US sets no limits for itself, including evolution of the combat equipment of its MD base in Europe or the possibility of deploying on its basis a broad system of means of interception in the continent. And then also the character of the silos used for interceptors dangerously copies the ICBM launchers. What will then be in them five-ten years from now?

We all the more cannot treat this matter isolatedly, since the base in Europe - and this is a special object of concern - will be part of a global MD system whose elements tend to move towards the Russian borders along their entire perimeter.

They are already openly saying that subsequently any future MD system of NATO will be adjusted to the requirements of the US NMD. That is the parameters for the antimissile architecture in Europe are already being set unilaterally now, and this affects the interests of all European states and especially those of Russia for sure.

If, however, the question is one of missile defense, to protect Europe in particular, then did they ask Europe? Then all the former talk about collective work involving Russia on antimissile projects in the continent is now likewise being called into question. Yet cooperation in this sphere over recent years was regarded as a major factor of overcoming the Cold War legacy in European politics and of achieving a real restoration of the unity of the continent.

Russia is ready to look broadly at the situation obtaining. But we cannot watch indifferently the absence of the partners' readiness for collective examination of the matter, including assessment of potential threats (and they are indiscernible so far) and arrival at and implementation of joint decisions. They cannot explain distinctly to us why the haste and why the unilateralness. And this is a cause for concern. We will have to formulate our response, since the security of Russia must and will be ensured in any scenario. And we will formulate it on the principles of reasonable sufficiency.

Other negative implications also have to be taken into account. I mean in the first place the actual negation by these plans of the very possibility of the settlement of problems associated with proliferation threats by politico-diplomatic methods. Progress in the settlement of the Korean Peninsula nuclear problem suggests that this is possible given the good will of all the parties. The same is true of the nuclear problem of Iran, where much, of course, depends on US policy. Analyzing the statements of American officials, it is hard not to arrive at the conclusion that Washington does not believe in the success of the relevant multilateral efforts involving its international partners. What is their role then?

Another point - we all presume that leading powers will pursue a rational policy in any circumstances; that is will not succumb to the temptation of force. But recent experience shows that both serious errors and an ill-considered policy are possible, the consequences of which the entire international community then has to surmount.

When all is said and done, a big material factor is being created which will predetermine the military-political and foreign policy strategy of the United States for decades ahead. The question is whether we must all - and not only Russia - become hostages to the realization of such a scenario.

I think that our partners in Europe are beginning to grasp the significance of the Munich Speech of President Vladimir Putin. Without us the decisions are being taken that will solve a great deal for us and future generations of Europeans. A serious discussion on all these problems is now in order. We are far from trying to impose anything on anybody. The minimum necessary for all: a serious and well-argued debate on the gist of the issue and not merely briefings giving no answers to concrete questions. If in European politics something has changed in the last 15 years, then this formulation of the question cannot appear extraordinary.

Source: Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, http://www.russianembassy.org.

© 2007 The Acronym Institute.