Saturday, April 28, 2007

Why Russia is so Upset about the ABM in Europe?

I am surprised that all of the principal English-speaking publications, as well as most of the Russian publications have forgotten the huge military concessions that Russia, under Putin made to the US in 2001-2004 to promote a greater cooperation between the two countries and to clear away all the cold war contradictions.

In 2002, Russia closed down its radio-tracking military complex in Lurdes, Cuba, and thus put an end to its 40 year military presence in the country, right next to its former arch-enemy. During its operation the base accounted for 80% of the total espionage information coming from the US to Russia. The complex had the ability to track information coming from most of the countries in the Western Hemisphere. The base was used by the Foreign Intelligence Service of Russia to connect with its operatives and to assure US compliance with the START I and START II treaties (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties). The base cost Russia $200 million annually, and up until 2001, there were talks of significantly expanding the base. However, after the warm relations with Washington, Russia decided to close the base, due to the expensive financing (hardly valid at the time) and the base's little use. The decision was made without Cuban consent, and at the time Russia did not have the necessary capabilities to substitute the system with a global space satellite mechanism, which only this year has begun to be implemented. At the time, however, the US had in place such a system, and was rapidly developing it further. (primary sources: Nezavisimaya Gazeta (06.11.2001); BBC (27.01.2002) all sources in Russian)

In January 2001, Russia began to withdraw personnel form its eavesdropping post and naval base in Cam Rahn Bay in Vietnam. The base was originally leased to Russia for free, but those terms were to expire in 2004, after which Russia would have to pay $300 million a year. Under a pretext of high prices, as well as the unlikely appearance of the Russian navy in the Indian ocean, Russia began a haste withdrawal. At the time, it had been reported that China and the US were competing to sponsor their own base there for $500 million annually after Russian forces withdrew. (primary sources:; (02.05.2002) all sources in Russian)

In both cases, Russia was trying to convince the US to halt the development of its global ABM system, by stating that Russia's intentions were peaceful and involved further closer cooperation between the two sides. The strategy did not work, the US installed and began to test its first ABM outpost in Alaska in 2004, and is now engaged in a the dispute we are all seeing about its ABM system installment in Europe. It is highly inappropriate for the US to call out Russia for initiating Cold War tensions.


randy said...

I agree with your logic, but the thing I still have a hard time grasping is why does Russia truly cares if the U.S. builds the ABM program in Europe? Is Russia unsure about U.S./Russian relations in the future? Are they worried about another Coldwar? Or - is this a power play and Russia believes they have the moral ground when it comes to this issue so they do not want to back off? Maybe Putin is flexing his muscles once again to show the voters in Russia that the Russian state is not weak (think elections).

nikolay said...

Russia considers the system a Trojan horse. It is clear that as planned the system will not be able to seriously interfere with Russian offensive capabilities. But, there is always a what if. Europe is such a sensitive place (territory-wise) in these issues, that it is better to keep these systems out. By the way, Russia has less of a problem if the system is in place in Turkey, where it can still fend off threats from Iran, but not be able to monitor the entire Russian European part.

And also, there is a general belief that Russia is currently at a disadvantage in its international relations to the US, and it wants to be on par, these systems violate those thoughts.

And as I said in this article, Russia was always trying to get the US to stop its ABM system when it was just being planned. I think when Russia has a military budget of at least 50% of the US military budget it will start building its own system. You also have to understand an ongoing sense of paranoia in the Russian state, and the Imperial ambitions.

With regard to elections, it is a subsidiary cause. He has enough popularity already.