The Russian Bear has finally awoken, who will tame it? That's a good question being asked by the EU Times online newspaper (see corresponding article below). They did all they could to keep the Bear in hibernation, which included bloody terrorist attacks against Russian targets as we just saw. But despite their best efforts, the Russian Bear has finally woken up. And fully awake, not to mention angry, Moscow has managed to reverse many Western advances throughout Eurasia. Soon, it will be poised to project its powers beyond its immediate zones of influence. During the past several years, Moscow has been revitalizing its nuclear deterrence, it is refitting/modernizing its conventional forces and it is engaging in a full-blown diplomatic blitz in various theaters of operation. As mentioned in previous posts, a balance-of-power, that which the world desperately needs today, is finally being attained once again.
According to the internationally recognized daily, the Wall Street Journal, Russia has moved tactical nuclear missiles (short range missiles with smaller nuclear warheads) close to the borders of Europe and this reportedly is fueling serious "worries" in the United States, even though America is said to have over 1000 tactical nuclear devices in its possession - of which about half are stored in European countries. Obviously, these Europe-based weapons are there against Russia. With around five hundred disclosed American-made nuclear weapons already stationed in Europe, with a European based anti-Russian missile defense shield already in the works, with over a thousand American military installations around the world (many of which are found right on the periphery of the Russian Federation), with several sovereign nations already invaded and with several more invasions already on the drawing board, Washington has the AUDACITY to complain about Moscow responding to the strategic encirclement of Russia by moving its tactical nuclear weapons closer to NATO borders?
Needless to say, Russia's reemergence as a superpower has begun flustering Western officials. And it seems that the "political right" here in the United States has finally stopped asking - what would Jesus do? The spiritual mantra of America's right now seems to be - what would Reagan do? The Wall Street Journal rant appearing on this page by two seasoned servants of the Anglo-American-Zionist empire, Edwin Meese and Richard Perle, more-or-less fantasizes about what their godman Reagan would have done with a belligerent and pesky Russia had he resurrected himself. Nonetheless, Russian Federation President Dimitry Medvedev's recent nationally televised speech had a stern warning to the West. As Britain's Telegraph reported, Medvedev said: "embrace us as a fully-fledged partner or have us as a potential foe." There was a flurry of activity in Moscow during the closing months of 2010. The following news articles deal with some of them.
Russian Missiles Fuel U.S. Worries
Full Video of Medvedev's Key Presidential Address (RT video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r68SZVsLywo
Missile Defense or New Arms Race: Medvedev puts choice on table (RT video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pduEpB8cgs
Strongest ever nuke warhead in Russian hands: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwlXllNkjtY
The U.S. believes Russia has moved short-range tactical nuclear warheads to facilities near North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies as recently as this spring, U.S. officials say, adding to questions in Congress about Russian compliance with long-standing pledges ahead of a possible vote on a new arms-control treaty. U.S. officials say the movement of warheads to facilities bordering NATO allies appeared to run counter to pledges made by Moscow starting in 1991 to pull tactical nuclear weapons back from frontier posts and to reduce their numbers. The U.S. has long voiced concerns about Russia's lack of transparency when it comes to its arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons, believed to be many times the number possessed by the U.S.
Russia's movement of the ground-based tactical weapons appeared to coincide with the deployment of U.S. and NATO missile-defense installations in countries bordering Russia. Moscow has long considered the U.S. missile defense buildup in Europe a challenge to Russian power, underlining deep-seated mistrust between U.S. and Russian armed forces despite improved relations between political leaders. The Kremlin had no immediate comment. Republican critics in the Senate say it was a mistake for President Barack Obama to agree to the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia, or New Start, without dealing with outstanding questions about Moscow's tactical nuclear weapons. New Start would cap the Russian and U.S. deployed strategic nuclear arsenals at 1,550 per side. It doesn't address tactical weapons, which are smaller and for use on a battlefield.
Senior administration officials say New Start, like most arms treaties before it, deals only with strategic nuclear weapons, adding that only after it is ratified can Washington and Moscow begin to negotiate a legally binding, verifiable treaty to limit tactical warheads in Europe. The positioning of Russian tactical nuclear weapons near Eastern European and the Baltic states has alarmed NATO member-states bordering Russia. They see these as potentially a bigger danger than long-range nuclear weapons. Tactical weapons are easier to conceal and may be more vulnerable to theft, say arms-control experts. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis said he raised concerns about the weapons this month with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and senior defense officials in Washington.
"Being a NATO member, of course, someone could say, 'Don't worry.' But when you're living in the neighborhood, you should always be more cautious," Mr. Azubalis said. He added that American officials "expressed worry but they also don't know too much" about where the weapons are and the conditions under which they are kept. Classified U.S. intelligence about Russia's movement of tactical nuclear weapons to the facilities has been shared with congressional committees.
“"Being a NATO member, of course, someone could say, 'Don't worry.' But when you're living in the neighborhood, you should always be more cautious."” AUDRONIUS AZUBALIS, LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER, ON CONCERNS THAT RUSSIA MAY BE MOVING NUCLEAR WARHEADS NEAR NATO ALLIES' BORDERS.
During a September hearing on the new arms-reduction treaty, Sen. Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican, spoke of "troubling" intelligence about Russia without saying what it was, adding it "directly affects" the arms-control debate. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D., Mass.) countered that it had "no impact" directly on Start, without elaborating.
Sen. Christopher Bond (R., Mo.), vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, refused to comment directly on the tactical nuclear warhead issue, but he said the Russians cannot be trusted to make good on their arms-control promises. "We know from published reports of the State Department that the Russians have cheated on all their other treaties, Start, chemical weapons, [biological weapons], Open Skies," he said. U.S. officials say Mr. Obama's revised approach to missile defense, and warming personal ties with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, have fostered cooperation in key areas, from isolating Iran to opening new routes to transport gear to Afghanistan.
But mistrust runs deep, U.S. diplomatic cables released by the organization WikiLeaks over the weekend showed. A February cable quoted Defense Secretary Robert Gates telling a French official that Russia was an "oligarchy run by the security services," despite Mr. Medvedev's "more pragmatic vision." A Gates spokesman declined to comment. Two senior Obama administration officials didn't deny the tactical warhead issue has arisen in private discussions with lawmakers, but said the 1991 pledges, known as the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives, weren't legally binding on either side and were difficult to verify.
Administration officials say U.S. and Russian negotiators plan to turn their attention to tactical nuclear weapons, as well as larger strategic warheads that aren't actively deployed, as soon as New Start goes into force. "If we don't ratify Start, we're not going to be able to negotiate on tactical nuclear weapons," one said. Poland's minister of foreign affairs, Radosław Sikorski, called Start a "necessary stepping-stone" on the way to a deal to reduce tactical arsenals.
Western officials say the Russian military views its aging arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons as a way to compensate for its diminished conventional capabilities, and as a hedge against the U.S.'s expanded missile defenses and China's growing might. U.S. officials point to steps Russia has taken to meet its arms-control obligations over the last two decades, including reducing the number of nuclear-weapons storage sites, once many hundreds, to as few as 50. But officials are skeptical Russia has fulfilled all of its pledges to destroy and redeploy tactical nuclear weapons in line with the 1991 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives.
According to the U.S. assessment, Russia has expanded tactical nuclear deployments near NATO allies several times in recent years. An example is Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania. A State Department cable from April 2009 said Russia had warned it would take countermeasures, including putting "missiles" in Kaliningrad, in response to expanded U.S. missile defenses in Europe. U.S. officials believe the most recent movements of Russian tactical nuclear weapons took place in late spring. In late May, a U.S. Patriot missile battery was deployed in northern Poland, close to Kaliningrad, sparking public protests from Moscow.
Some officials said the movements are a concern but sought to play down the threat. Russian nuclear warheads are stored separately from their launching systems, U.S. officials say. In the fall of 1991, the U.S. had about 5,000 tactical nuclear weapons deployed overseas, most assigned to NATO, according to the Arms Control Association. The U.S. destroyed about 3,000 as a result of the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives. Today, the U.S. is believed to have some 1,100 tactical nuclear warheads, of which about 480 are nuclear gravity bombs stored in six European countries.
Estimates on the number of Soviet tactical nuclear weapons in fall 1991—just before the fall of the Soviet Union—ranged from 12,000 to nearly 21,700. At a May 2005 conference, Moscow said its arsenal "has been reduced by four times as compared to what the Soviet Union possessed in 1991," and was "concentrated at central storage facilities...." Russia's ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, this month reiterated the position that Russia won't withdraw all tactical nuclear weapons behind the Urals until the U.S. takes its battlefield weapons out of Europe.
Dmitry Medvedev warns of Cold War-style arms race
Dmitry Medvedev has warned the world will be plunged into a new Cold War-style arms race within a decade unless Moscow and the West can strike a deal on a new missile defence system. Mr Medvedev, the Russian president, who was giving his annual state-of-the-nation speech in the Kremlin, issued the stark warning in an apparent attempt to strong-arm Nato into caving in on the sensitive issue. He is reported to have presented his own blueprint for a joint Nato-Russia missile defence shield at the Nato summit in Lisbon earlier this month but to have got only a lukewarm response. Analysts said his blunt message to the West on Tuesday appeared to be: embrace us as a fully-fledged partner or have us as a potential foe.
"In the coming 10 years, we are facing the following alternative," he told an audience of Russia's top decision makers including Vladimir Putin, the prime minister. Either we agree on anti-missile defence and opt for fully-fledged joint co-operation, or – if we fail to get constructive co-operation – (we will face) a new round of the arms race." To stormy applause Mr Medvedev warned that Russia would be forced to start thinking about where to deploy "new offensive weapons" if there was no agreement with Nato, raising the spectre of the Kremlin pumping billions more into a new nuclear weapons programme. Such a scenario would be "very grave," he noted.
Though he made it clear his preferred option would be to cut a deal with Nato, his outburst is unlikely to win him many friends in the 28-member military alliance. Whilst Nato has made it clear it is keen to co-operate more closely with Russia, it has not so far given any indication that it is ready to integrate its defence architecture with Russia's as fully or as quickly as Mr Medvedev seems to want. His tough talk appeared to reflect growing Russian anxiety that a landmark US-Russia nuclear arms reduction pact known as the new START will be scuttled by newly emboldened Republicans in the US Senate.
A close aide to Mr Medvedev said after his speech that if START faltered it would "mean nothing good." Separately, reports on Tuesday that Russia had moved tactical nuclear weapons up to Nato member states' borders as recently as this spring were seized upon by opponents of the treaty who said the move showed that Russia could not be trusted. The Kremlin declined to confirm or deny the claims which had purportedly originated in a US intelligence report.
Mr Medvedev's arms race warning came in an otherwise lacklustre speech. He pointedly said nothing of substance about his own future or Russian politics, stoking speculation that he will hand the presidency back to Mr Putin in 2012. Mr Putin has said the two men will decide which of them will run for president nearer the time depending on the country's economic and political situation. With his political future so uncertain, Mr Medvedev has therefore tried to avoid looking like a lame duck president. But analysts said his speech on Tuesday looked like that of a man winding down politically rather than someone who was actively staking a claim for a new mandate. Mr Putin is expected to upstage Mr Medvedev later this week when he gives a long interview to CNN's veteran broadcaster Larry King.
Blunt and Blustery, Putin Responds to State Department Cables on Russia
Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin responded Wednesday to criticism of Russia revealed in United States diplomatic cables published by the Web site WikiLeaks, warning Washington not to interfere in Russian domestic affairs. His comments, made in an interview broadcast Wednesday night on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” referred to a cable that said “Russian democracy has disappeared” and that described the government as “an oligarchy run by the security services,” a statement attributed to the American defense secretary, Robert M. Gates. Mr. Putin said in the interview that Mr. Gates had been “deeply misled.” Asked about a cable that described President Dmitri A. Medvedev as “playing Robin to Putin’s Batman,” he said the author had “aimed to slander one of us.”
Mr. King, whose program is carried on CNN’s channels around the world, has long had a reputation for softball questions. So Mr. Putin’s decision to appear on the program allowed his voice to be heard both in the United States and abroad while avoiding being challenged on contentious topics like his own grip on power and the limits on human rights and free speech in Russia. In the interview, Mr. Putin also warned that Russia would develop and deploy new nuclear weapons if the United States did not accept its proposals on integrating Russian and European missile defense forces — amplifying a comment made by Mr. Medvedev in his annual state of the nation address on Tuesday.
“We’ve just put forward a proposal showing how jointly working, tackling the shared problem of security, could share responsibility between ourselves,” he said. “But if our proposals will be met with only negative answers, and if on top of that additional threats are built near our borders as this, Russia will have to ensure her own security through different means,” including “new nuclear missile technologies.” Mr. Putin said Moscow would like to avoid this situation. “This is no threat on our part,” he said. “We are simply saying this is what we expect to happen if we don’t agree on a joint effort there.” Last month, during a NATO-Russia summit meeting in Lisbon, the delegations discussed President Obama’s invitation for Russia to take some role in the future missile shield, perhaps through linkage between Russian facilities and the European shield.
At that meeting, Mr. Medvedev proposed “sectoral missile defense,” which would divide the missile defense shield into “zones of responsibility,” and involve deep coordination between the European and Russian sectors, said Dmitri V. Trenin, a military analyst and director of the Carnegie Moscow Center. According to this plan, Russia would shoot down missiles flying over its territory toward Europe, and NATO would shoot down missiles flying over European territory toward Russia, he said.NATO’s proposals for cooperation are less ambitious, and some members remain deeply mistrustful of Russian involvement, he said. Mr. Putin appeared relaxed in the hourlong interview with Mr. King, who first interviewed him in 2000. He said he was “thankful” for President Obama’s softening of rhetoric toward Russia and for his revision of a planned missile defense shield in Europe.
Asked about the arrest this summer of 11 people accused of spying for Russia, Mr. Putin said the agents were not active, but would have “become pertinent in crisis periods, like when diplomatic relations were suspended or cut.” His comment seemed to address one of the central mysteries of the summer spy scandal: why the agents were passing on information that was readily accessible without spying. In the interview, Mr. Putin broke from the restrained response Russian leaders have so far given to the WikiLeaks cables, which have so far offered few real revelations about sensitive topics like corruption. The comments attributed to Mr. Gates, in a cable dated Feb. 8, 2010, used the harshest language made public so far.
Mr. Putin said that several American presidents had been elected through the electoral college system even though they did not win a majority of the popular vote, but that Russia did not press the point. “When we are talking with our American friends and tell them there are systemic problems” with the electoral college system, “we hear from them: ‘Don’t interfere with our affairs. This is our tradition, and it’s going to continue like that.’ We are not interfering. “But to our colleagues, I would also like to advise you not to interfere with the sovereign choice of the Russian people,” he said. He played down the impact of the cables’ release, and went on to suggest that they might be fakes being circulated for obscure political purposes. “Some experts believe that somebody is deceiving WikiLeaks, that their reputation is being undermined to use them for their own political purposes later on,” he said. “That is one of the possibilities there. That is the opinion of the experts.”
President Obama has taken to the airwaves to pump up support for the New Start Treaty with Russia by arguing that Ronald Reagan would have endorsed it. Both of us had the high honor of knowing our 40th president. We worked for Ronald Reagan, and we're sure that's not the case. There are many reasons why this treaty falls short of those negotiated by President Reagan. For one thing, its verification regime is inadequate. For another, it gives the Kremlin an unwarranted influence over the structure of our nuclear deterrent. Most important, it will almost certainly reduce our freedom to deploy vital defenses against ballistic missiles.
Moreover, the administration is asking a lame-duck Senate, dominated by a party that was rebuked at the polls by the electorate, to vote for this major arms-control treaty, in contravention of the settled traditions of our country—a tactic Reagan surely would have deplored. Never in U.S. history has a lame-duck Congress voted on a strategic nuclear arms-control treaty with the Soviet Union or Russia. That is why a group of 10 newly elected Republican senators sent a joint letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid demanding that they be allowed to perform their constitutionally mandated task of advice and consent on this treaty.
The main reason Reagan would have objected to this treaty is that it may well undermine his dream that our country might one day be shielded by a missile defense system from nuclear attack. On this issue, Presidents Obama and Reagan are diametrically opposed. Reagan was adamant that no arms- control agreement be allowed to encumber the pursuit of advanced ballistic missile defense technology. One of us (Mr. Perle) was present in Iceland when he turned down an otherwise desirable treaty with the Soviet Union precisely because it would have impeded work on his Strategic Defense Initiative.
The administration claims that the treaty has no effect on any American missile-defense program. Surely it knows better. Paragraph nine of the preamble establishes a bias against missile defense. It accepts our "current" defenses while implying that future U.S. defensive systems might undermine the "viability and effectiveness" of Russia's strategic nuclear force. With this unfortunate paragraph, New Start returns to the old Cold War "balance of terror" and assumes that attempts to defend the U.S. and its allies with missile defenses against strategic attack are threatening to Russia and thus destabilizing.
Limiting missile defenses to preserve U.S. vulnerability to Russian strategic nuclear strikes (as defined by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, President Dmitry Medvedev or their successors) will result in less effective defenses against any and all countries, including Iran and North Korea. Additionally, paragraph three of Article V prohibits conversion of offensive strategic missile launchers to launchers of defensive interceptors. Article XII and Part Six of the Protocol create an implementing body, called the Bilateral Consultative Commission, and gives it a broad mandate which could permit it to impose additional restrictions on the U.S. missile defense program. Article IX, Part Seven of the Protocol, as well as the Annex on Telemetric Information to the Protocol, could require the U.S. to share sensitive telemetric information from missile defense tests.
The treaty also places limits on strategic target missiles and their launchers used in missile defense tests. The Senate should deliberate carefully on these restrictions and their implications for long-term comprehensive missile defense before rushing to a vote. These issues were not adequately addressed during committee hearings on the treaty. And the full extent of their effects can be understood only after a serious examination of the withheld negotiating record. What are they hiding?
The crux of Mr. Obama's "Reagan Argument"—invoked no fewer than five times in his weekly address to the nation—is that New Start is rooted in Reagan's famous dictum "Trust, but verify," an old Russian proverb. But New Start has a very weak verification regime, one that establishes a dangerous precedent and lowers our standards for verification. To cite a couple of problems, under New Start, there is no on-site monitoring of mobile missile production facilities. This procedure was deemed necessary under the original Start treaty to help keep track of new mobile missiles entering the Russian force. There are also fewer on-site inspections, and Russia may declare certain locations to be maintenance areas, which are not subject to warhead inspection.
Secondly, New Start's verification provisions would provide little or no help in detecting illegal activity at locations the Russians did not declare, are off-limits to U.S. inspectors, or are hidden from U.S. satellites. Inspectors would inspect only declared sites, a precedent that could be invoked by others—Iran, for example—and must be regarded as unacceptable. President Reagan knew that in arms control the U.S. should play to win, and negotiate from a position of strength. With all the concessions the U.S. made to the Russians to secure this flawed agreement, the invocation of Reagan's memory on its behalf is at once an ironic acknowledgment that in these matters Ronald Reagan is the gold standard, and a brazen act of misappropriation.Mr. Meese was attorney general and a member of the National Security Council, and Mr. Perle was assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration.
Last month, Russia signed a deal establishing a military base in the breakaway state of Abkhazia, reinforcing Russia’s image as a threat to stability in the region. The deal allows for the building of a military base that would house 3,000 Russian troops for 49 years. Plans to build a naval base in Abkhazia’s port of Ochamchire also indicate Russia’s commitment to future presence in the region. Abkhazia is one of two breakaway regions of the Republic of Georgia, the other being South Ossetia. South Ossetia was the center of a conflict between Russia and Georgia, won by the Russians, that elicited condemnations from the world community against Russia and its violation of Georgia’s territorial integrity. Russia withdrew from Georgia but promptly recognized both South Ossetia’s and Abkhazia’s independence, taking them under Russia’s protective wing and effectively using them as buffer zones against Georgia. Russia claims that they are in favor of state sovereignty and the interests of both states and their peoples.
But according to Reuters, “both use the Russian rouble and Moscow has issued most residents with Russian passports.” With both regions lacking any realistic form of economic independence, we can only conclude that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are another notch on Russia’s belt. The Russian bear, the symbol and personification of Russian imperialism, hibernated throughout the 1990s, trying to reform its economic system and adapting to a new world. Even though powerful oligarchs controlled the corporate scene contributed to Russia’s financial crisis in 1998, the Russian state continued to use them their advantage. Many times they bought companies in the energy sector, directly funneling revenues into Russia’s pockets. Russia used its natural gas and oil reserves to strong-arm countries like Ukraine, Poland and others in the Eastern bloc into buying its gas and oil, necessary for the area’s frigid winters. Organizations like the European Union as well as NATO only solidify Russia’s mindset in a “them versus us” game. Tensions are running high along the expanding borders of NATO, the military alliance formed to combat the Soviet Union and something Russia still takes to heart. The Berlin Wall may have fallen and the USSR may have collapsed, but old feelings and perceptions run deep.
Russia has awoken from its hibernation, its eye on an empire once again. It has flexed its muscles in the continuing conflict in Chechnya, the war with Georgia in South Ossetia, its continued military buildup in Abhazia and South Ossetia as well as threatening to place short-range nukes on its borders in response to US plans to install a radar station and missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. “Der Spiegel” reported that Mikhail Margelov, a Russian foreign policy expert, felt “Russia’s uncompromising position on the issue” forced the United States to opt out of constructing the missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. In short, Russia’s stubbornness and opposition got the country what it wanted. Russia still knows how to play the game of power politics, throwing its weight around in the right situations. Europe, which receives large reserves of natural gas from Russia, fears being cut off if they institute any economic sanctions and the United States, even with its warm relations with Georgia, can only do so much without risking an international conflict.
Although international treaties can set certain borders and conditions, in the end there are loopholes and gray areas and many of the rules are not enforced. Sometimes there might be a lack of evidence but most of the time it’s because the amount of effort and time required to go through the entire process of charging a country with violations of treaties, especially Russia. The Russians know they hold political sway. They are power brokers who can bend countries to their will with memories of the Cuban missile crisis. Russia has a history of bending the rules, testing the waters and stretching the limits of international law. As long as the present attitudes exist and international laws continue to be ineffective, Russia will stay on its imperial course. The Russian bear has finally awoken. Who will tame it?
Just a year ago Ukraine was insisting that Russia would be required to vacate the Crimean naval base of Sevastopol when its old lease expired in 2017. That would have posed serious problems for Russian Navy's Black Sea Fleet, which is headquartered there. But today, after pro-Moscow President President Viktor Yanukovych took office in February, Russia appears completely secure in its military foothold on Ukrainian soil until at least 2042. In a quiet announcement Monday, Moscow revealed that – with Ukrainian consent – it will "upgrade" its Black Sea fleet over the next decade with at least 18 new warships, including six new frigates, six submarines, two giant troop-landing ships, and new squadrons of naval aircraft. "I am quite sure that the Russian Black Sea fleet will stay in Ukraine till doomsday," says Kirill Frolov, an expert with the official Russian Institute of Commonwealth of Independent States. The Russian naval upgrade is likely to cause waves around the Black Sea, which is bordered by NATO members Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey, as well as Ukraine and Georgia. The NATO aspirations of Ukraine and Georgia, both former Soviet republics, had stirred strong concerns in Moscow. But with NATO rules stipulating that member countries may not host non-NATO foreign military bases on their soil, Mr. Yanukovych's agreement to prolong Russia's grip on Sevastopol would seem to block Ukraine from even considering joining the alliance for decades to come.
The tilt toward Moscow
Since the narrow electoral victory Mr. Yanukovych in February, Ukraine's previous pro-Western drift has gone into sharp reverse. The Slavic neighbors now seem headed into a full strategic embrace. Under former President Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine was committed to quickly joining NATO, but Mr. Yanukovych put an end to that last April by quietly closing down the government commission that was preparing for the move. According to an agreement last week between Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and his Ukrainian counterpart Mikhail Yezhel, Kiev is now on board with Moscow's wish to restore the potency of its Black Sea naval arm. Until now, the Black Sea fleet has been mostly rusting at anchor in Sevastopol since the collapse of the USSR almost two decades ago.
Russia says fleet protects Ukraine, too
When Russia and another NATO aspirant, Georgia, fought a brief summer war in 2008, Ukraine – which sympathized with Georgia – complained about the use of Black Sea fleet warships deployed against Georgia from Ukrainian territory without Kiev's permission. Russia now says it will inform Ukraine about any future movements of the fleet in advance. Some Ukrainian analysts say that's not enough. "If the fleet is situated on Ukrainian territory, any actions it makes should take Ukrainian interests into account," says Andrei Yermolayev, director of the Sofia Center, an independent think tank in Kiev. "I think Ukrainian military specialists, security experts and politicians have to be given facts about the modernization. We have a right to know what are Russia's plans, goals, and strategy." Last week the two defense ministers also agreed to broaden military cooperation, including holding joint war games in Russia's southern region next summer. "We think that modernizing the Black Sea Fleet is beneficial for Ukraine as well as Russia," says Mr. Frolov of the Russian Institute of Commonwealth of Independent States. "First, Russia is paying an enormous rent for the use of this base. Secondly, the fleet not only protects Russia but also Ukraine."
Popular among Ukrainians
Last April, when Yanukovych agreed to extend the Russian Navy's lease on Sevastopol by 25 years in exchange for a 30 percent discount on Russian natural gas, the Ukrainian opposition in parliament hurled smoke bombs and denounced the deal as "a black page in Ukrainian history." But protests Monday were muted, with Ukrainian analysts pointing out that the bargain to retain the Russian fleet in Sevastopol remains widely popular among Ukrainians – polls show that about 60 percent approve – and many hope the Russian presence will yield further economic benefits. "I don't think anybody is very indignant about the Russians modernizing their fleet," says Viktor Nebozhenko, director of Ukrainian Barometer, an independent Kiev think tank. "It's their own business. It would become intensely popular among Ukrainians if they decided to build some of those new ships in [the languishing Soviet-era military shipyards near the Ukrainian port of] Nikolayev," he adds. "We need the jobs."Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2010/1025/With-Ukraine-s-blessing-Russia-to-beef-up-its-Black-Sea-Fleet
After France, one of America’s closest allies, announced in February that it hoped to sell a Mistral — a ship that carries helicopters and can conduct amphibious assaults — to Russia, with the option to sell several more, American officials soon raised objections. The proposed transaction would be the largest sale by a Western country to Russia since the end of World War II. The commander of the Russian Navy has said that if his Black Sea fleet had had such a ship during the 2008 war with Georgia, it would have been able to carry out its operations in 40 minutes instead of 26 hours.
Some Eastern European NATO members, including Lithuania and Estonia, protested the deal, according to a cable by Ivo H. Daalder, the United States ambassador to NATO. The United States opposed it as well. In a November 2009 cable titled “Mistral Sale Could Destabilize Black Sea,” John R. Bass, the American ambassador to Georgia, recommended that the Obama administration discourage the sale or at least seek a stipulation that the Russians should not deploy the vessel in the Black Sea.
“This sale would render the already difficult task of getting Russia to comply with its ceasefire commitments nearly impossible, and it would potentially increase the militarization of, and instability in, the Black Sea region,” Ambassador Bass’s cable noted. Hervé Morin, France’s defense minister at the time, defended the sale in a February meeting with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, arguing that that a single ship would not change the military balance and that the sale was a “way to send a message of partnership to Russia at a critical time.”
But Mr. Gates argued that the sale would send the wrong message to Russia given France’s role in brokering a cease-fire in Georgia, “which Russia was not fully honoring.” The Russians say that they intend to decide shortly between the French proposal and several other offers. A French shipbuilder said that if France won the contract, the first ship would be built in 2013.
These developments reflect Armenia’s intensifying arms race with Azerbaijan in the unresolved conflict over Karabakh. They were clearly made possible by a further deepening of Russian-Armenian military ties that led to the signing of a new defense agreement between Moscow and Yerevan in August 2010. The accord signed during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s state visit to Armenia extended Russia’s lease on a military base in the country by 24 years, until 2044, and upgraded its security mission. It also commits Moscow to supplying the Armenian army with “modern and compatible weaponry and (special) military hardware” (Armenian Public Television, December 25).
Moscow had significantly reinforced the combat capacity of the Russian base, headquartered in the northern Armenian city of Gyumri, by deploying a division of S-300 systems and two dozen MiG-29 fighter jets there in the late 1990’s. The two countries agreed to jointly defend Armenia’s airspace in the same period. Their integrated air defense system was given a “regional” status by the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in early 2007. Moreover, in 2007, Russian military officials first indicated that the Armenian military had its own S-300’s. The then commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, Colonel-General Vladimir Mikhailov, said that Moscow was modernizing Armenian air defense capabilities and would continue doing so in future. Mikhailov’s deputy, Lieutenant-General Aytech Bizhev, revealed that as part of that assistance, Armenian officers had been trained to operate the long-range S-300 surface-to-air missile system known for its precision (www.armenialiberty.org, 15 February 2007).
It was not until December 20, 2010 that Yerevan explicitly confirmed possessing S-300’s. In a written statement, the Armenian defense ministry stated that Defense Minister, Seyran Ohanian, visited an anti-aircraft military unit and “familiarized himself with the work of the state-of-the-art S-300 air-defense systems.” The statement added that Ohanian also inaugurated a new Russian-Armenian “air-defense command point” featuring S-300’s.
Five days later, the ministry aired on state television a ten-minute report showcasing the Russian-made systems, test-firing missiles in an undisclosed location in Armenia and providing a detailed description of their technical-tactical characteristics. The footage also featured an excerpt from a speech delivered by Ohanian to military personnel. “We have acquired new means [of air defense] … and those acquisitions will be expanded in 2011. The air defenses of our enemies do not have means of this type and quantity,” Ohanian said (Armenian Public Television, December 25).
Neither Ohanian, nor other military officials specified precisely when the Armenian military received the S-300’s or at what cost. Armenia’s official defense budget in 2010 was an equivalent of about $400 million, a sum comparable to the market price of two or more S-300 divisions. Moscow is thus likely to have delivered the systems to its main regional ally at a knockdown price or even free of charge.
Earlier in December 2010, Armenian President, Serzh Sargsyan, and the National Security Council approved the State Program of Developing Weaponry and Military Hardware in 2011-2015. Sargsyan’s office released few details of the modernization plan, saying only that the Armenian army will procure more “state-of-the-art weapons” (Statement by the Armenian presidential press service, December 11).
The modernization plan is essentially based on two documents approved in August 2010 by an ad hoc government task force. Ohanian told journalists then that Armenia will enhance its “long-range strike capacity” and will be able to “thwart enemy movements deep inside the entire theater of hostilities.” Ohanian did not deny that the planned arms acquisitions are a response to the ongoing military build-up in Azerbaijan and Baku’s growing threats to resolve the Karabakh conflict by force (www.lragir.am, August 10). Azerbaijani defense spending, fuelled by the country’s massive oil revenues, is projected to total over $3 billion and will slightly surpass Armenia’s entire state budget in 2011.
In a subsequent interview with Radio Free Europe’s Armenian service, Ohanian noted that the precision-guided weapons sought by Yerevan would potentially target the “strategic facilities” of Armenia’s hostile neighbors. The Armenian military is believed to already possess short-range tactical missiles capable of striking military and civilian targets in Azerbaijan (RFE/RL, December 13).
The linkage between the military modernization plan and the Russian-Armenian defense pact was effectively acknowledged by Artur Baghdasarian, the Secretary of the National Security Council. Baghdasarian also reaffirmed the two governments’ intention to set up joint defense ventures to be based in Armenia. The Kremlin called into question its supposedly pro-Armenian stance when it pointedly declined to refute, prior to Medvedev’s visit to Yerevan, Russian press reports that it also plans to sell S-300’s to Azerbaijan. Armenian opposition figures and commentators voiced serious concerns about this possibility, saying that it would change the balance of forces in the conflict zone in Azerbaijan’s favor. Armenian officials dismissed such fears, with Ohanian claiming that his forces “know the ways of reducing the effectiveness of such systems” (Armenian Public Television, December 25).
Whatever the reality, Yerevan sees no option other than to continue relying heavily on military cooperation with Moscow. With internationally mediated Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks remaining deadlocked and the vast majority of Armenians still strongly opposed to any peaceful settlement that would place Karabakh under Azeri control, Armenia currently seems to lack viable policy alternatives.