Complaints Abounding or Dialogue of the Deaf: Once Again Russia Complains About Missile Defense

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 183

Russian Ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin (Source:

Reportedly, the US Ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, is optimistic that Moscow and Washington will agree by May 2012 (prior to NATO’s Chicago Summit) on an information exchange system on missile defenses (UPI, RIA Novosti, October 3). However, Russian official and press statements remain utterly negative. Deputy Defense Minister Anatoliy Antonov, Russia’s point man for arms control negotiations, complains that no progress has been made and that the US continues implementing missile defense faster than the pace of these talks (Interfax, September 27). In other words, Antonov complains that Washington has learned how to conduct negotiations as does Moscow. He also says this is purely a US system not a NATO system, feigning ignorance of NATO’s commitment to the system currently under construction (Interfax, September 27).

Dmitry Rogozin, Moscow’s ambassador to NATO similarly complains that the Alliance has offered Russia no practical cooperation and is stalling. He complained that NATO refuses to consider Russia’s proposal for full-scale joint interoperability and full legal guarantees of no attack on Russia and has suggested instead that each side have its own missile defense system to protect its particular sector but with robust links between both sides’ early warning systems. Like Antonov, he claims to be surprised by European passivity and reliance on Washington (Le Figaro, September 17; RIA Novosti, October 3). Aleksandr Lukashevich, the foreign ministry spokesman, like Rogozin, decries NATO’s stalling, and Turkey and Romania’s decision to allow the US to station parts of that system on their territories and the possibility of Poland following suit. No doubt this is what Antonov referred to as the US outpacing Russia (Rossiya 24, September 15; Interfax, September 15).

In reply, all these individuals talk – typically, one might add – of Russia’s red lines, time running out and of unspecified military-technical responses (, October 4). The recently tested Liner SLBM is such an example. Along this line of argument, the Navy’s CINC, Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky, announced that over 20 strategic submarines may be built by 2025, indicating perhaps a greater reliance on sea-based deterrents and deterrence (Interfax, September 20). Similarly, Vladimir Kozin, a deputy director of the foreign ministry’s press and information department, and an expert on Europe, announced that Russia would build its own sea-based missile shield (RIA Novosti, September 23).

While making threats, these officials also, in typical Soviet if not contemporary Russian style, issue demands. Rogozin has threatened that Russia will not attend the NATO Chicago Summit in May 2012, if there is no progress on the issue and if the Europeans do not come out from behind the US diplomatic shield (Interfax, September 29). Meanwhile his superiors in the foreign ministry, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, have recently once again demanded legally binding guarantees that the impending missile defense system not be targeted against Russia and its nuclear weapons, and complained that rapid progress is being made with no consideration for Russia’s interests and arguments (, September 17; Interfax, September 14, 17; Interfax, September 20, 21; The Washington Post, September 27).

Russian commentators such as Aleksandr Stukalin point out that the military arguments made against these missile defenses are quite literally fantastic and incredible and that not even Leonid Brezhnev demanded binding legal guarantees in the SALT and START I treaties of 1972 and 1979, respectively.  He also notes that Russia’s sectoral proposal includes a Russian defense of Poland and the Baltic States who have plenty of reasons not to accept Russian defense guarantees, yet Moscow insists on complaining that they oppose its proposals. He highlights the fact that Russian claims that it could defend the Polish-Baltic sector without stationing its interceptors or guidance radars on its territory are literally contradictory since the entire defense system is built on precisely the principle of stationing those systems on that territory (Moscow Defense Brief, No. 2, 2011).

Clearly Russian military and political leaders have simply decided that missile defenses as such threaten Russia despite all the technical and other argumentation to the contrary, and do not wish to be bothered by the facts. Their goal, perhaps inadvertently revealed by Rogozin, is simple.  They wish to be able to retain an unlimited capability to intimidate Europe if not the US through the specter of Russian nuclear strikes. As Rogozin said, “It is our strategic interest that the NATO missile defense potential being created in Europe should be unable even theoretically to block any Russian strategic nuclear force.” Allegedly such a situation of total vulnerability will provide confidence and diminish East-West tension (Interfax, September 14).

Such statements suggest that Moscow has still not forsworn dialectical reasoning as well as the goal of utter strategic freedom vis-à-vis Europe, including an unlimited threat of nuclear strikes.  Moreover, it confirms that Russian leaders still see stability as arising out of mutual deterrence, a relationship that presupposes mutual hostility. Under the circumstances, it is hardly surprising that European states refuse to listen to Moscow or that the US is moving steadily forward. Even red riding hood ultimately came to see what sharp teeth the wolf had. And if we may paraphrase Vladimir Putin, it is not only Richard Cheney or the US of whom it might be said that, “Comrade Wolf knows whom to eat, it eats without listening and it’s clearly not going to listen to anyone.”