Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 105

Efforts by the Bush administration to sell its missile defense plans to key governments in Europe and Asia appear to have grown more complicated following Vermont Senator James Jeffords’ recent defection from the Republican Party. That, at least, appeared to be the case during a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Budapest on Tuesday, when U.S. allies rebuffed U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s call for NATO to take urgent measures aimed at coping with the “common threat” posed by ballistic missiles being developed by the so-called “rogue states.” European governments, including France and Germany, used the Budapest meeting instead to reiterate that they neither feel endangered by the missile threat nor see any reason to launch themselves down a path that, in their view, could provoke new confrontations. The outcome of yesterday’s meeting suggested that recent consultations between Bush administration envoys and European governments have done little to ease concerns over U.S. missile defense plans on the other side of the Atlantic (Washington Post Service, May 30). Against this background, it is perhaps no surprise that, in its public stance at least, Moscow appears also over the past few days to have stiffened its resistance to U.S. calls for revising or doing away with the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, a move that would serve as prologue to the deployment by Washington of new ballistic missile defense technologies.

The firm restating of Moscow’s views on this contentious topic was prompted by a report published in the New York Times earlier this week that suggested the Bush administration is now prepared to offer Russia a package of incentives aimed at winning Moscow’s assent to the U.S. missile defense effort. The package is said to include a broad offer of potential U.S. military purchases from Russia–possibly including U.S. acquisition of Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles–as well as military aid to Russia and the conduct of joint Russian-U.S. antimissile exercises. The details of the U.S. plan will reportedly be spelled out to the Russian side in the runup to a planned June 16 summit meeting between Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin in Slovenia. It is also likely to be on the discussion agenda earlier next month, when U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld holds his first direct talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. According to a Russian government source, the two men are to confer on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Brussels scheduled for June 7-8 (New York Times, May 28; AFP, March 29).

Russian reactions to the New York Times piece have suggested that Moscow is digging in for some hard bargaining, however. A host of top Russian officials responded immediately to the Times piece by making it clear, first, that they have still heard no official proposals from the U.S. side and, second, that the incentive package outlined in the Times article will in no way shake Moscow’s insistence on retention of the ABM accord. The Russian case was perhaps put most forcefully by Sergei Ivanov, the recently appointed defense minister and a close advisor to Putin. He pledged to study any U.S. proposal that might be offered, but indicated pointedly that it would have no impact on Russia’s stand vis-a-vis the ABM accord. “If such proposals come–we have not yet received them–I am sure that they will not solve the ABM issue.” Ivanov also played down the import of the potentially most interesting aspect of the reported U.S. incentive package, the purchase by Washington of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles (and their possible employment in a future European missile defense shield). The Russian defense chief said that Moscow would insist on treating any U.S. offer to buy the S-300s purely as a commercial venture, and not as some sort of quid pro quo requiring Russian concessions in Russian-U.S. arms control negotiations. “The S-300 is intended for air defense, not antimissile defense, so I can’t link this to the current disagreement on ABM,” Ivanov added.

Initial Russian press reactions to the reported U.S. incentive proposal were equally skeptical. The newspaper Vremya MN, for example, described the U.S. offer as an obvious effort to bribe Moscow, and suggested that Washington hoped with the purchase of a few hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Russian weaponry to buy Moscow’s consent to changing the ABM treaty. Some Russian newspapers also opined that the reported interest of Washington in the S-300 actually constituted an admission that the United States needs advanced Russian missile defense technologies to boost its own missile defense plans. The newspaper Izvestia suggested that Russian radar technology for the detection of ballistic missiles is more advanced than that of the United States, and that Washington is likely therefore to be willing to pay a lot for the Russian systems (Vremya MN, Izvestia, May 29).

Initially at least, uniformed Russian military commentators also had little good to say about the reported U.S. proposals. An unnamed source within the Russian General Staff said that while Moscow is prepared to cooperate militarily with the United States–and to consider American purchases of Russian arms–it will not necessarily soften its position on the ABM treaty. He also suggested that the Russian government would be uninterested in any U.S. proposal calling for mainly token purchases by Washington of single models of Russian armaments. That comment seemed to suggest that larger-scale purchases of Russian weaponry might be welcome. A top Russian Defense Ministry official, however, appeared to throw cold water on even the notion of Russian-U.S. military-technical cooperation. Mikhail Dmitriev, the recently named Russian deputy defense minister (for military-technical cooperation with foreign governments), said that Washington in fact has no desire either for serious military-technical cooperation with Moscow, or for significant joint efforts in the areas of defense research and weapons development (Russian agencies, May 29).

Independent Russian defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer provided what is perhaps the most interesting analysis of official Russian views toward the reported U.S. military incentive package. In a commentary entitled “No One is Fooled by NMD” (national missile defense), Felgenhauer says that the Russian government believes the reported aid package to have been deliberately leaked by U.S. officials so as to convince America’s NATO allies that Moscow and Washington are close to a deal on missile defense and the ABM treaty. According to Felgenhauer, the swift and uniform assertion by top Russian officials that Moscow has no interest in the U.S. aid package was intended “to outflank Washington and to reinforce European opposition to NMD.” Felgenhauer also goes on to say that the sort of partnership in missile defense and other fields that the Bush administration appears to be offering Moscow could benefit Russia in many ways. But he argues that a deal of this sort is unlikely to be consummated, both because there is little belief in Moscow that Washington is acting in good faith, and because powerful constituencies have developed in Russia which would oppose an accommodation of this sort with Washington. He points particularly to potential Russian arms deals with Iran and ongoing arms shipments to China, each of which could or has earned Moscow billions of dollars in revenue and which would likely have to be terminated or curtailed as part of any new Russian-U.S. partnership (Moscow Times, May 31).