US interceptors in Europe fast enough to hit Russian ICBMs: researcher
Interceptor missiles deployed in Poland as part of a US missile defense shield would be fast enough to target Russian intercontinental missiles, contrary to US assurances, a US researcher said Thursday. Ted Postol, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a long time critic of the US missile defense system, said the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is understating the speed of the interceptor and overstating the speed of Russian long range missiles. MDA spokesman Rick Lehner said Postol had no access to missile test data and his assertions were "totally false." The United States is negotiating to station 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a high powered targeting radar in the Czech Republic to counter what it says is a growing missile threat from Iran. Russia has objected vehemently to the plan on grounds that the European site could be used against its missiles, despite repeated denials from Washington. Postol said the Americans "were probably concerned the Europeans wouldn't accept (the plan) so they came up with the false argument that the interceptors won't be fast enough to engage Russians' ICBMs." He argued that the interceptor missiles would have to be faster than acknowledged by the Missile Defense Agency to be effective against missiles from Iran. "The MDA claims the interceptors have a rather slow burnout speed, because you have to have a low burnout speed in order to not overtake Russian ICBMs," he said at a press conference. "They claim a 6.3 kilometers per second speed. At this speed, the interceptor wouldn't be able to engage an ICBM from Russia," he said. "But in fact, the burnout speed of this interceptor is closer to nine kilometers per second, which tends to fit to claims of the MDA that the system can protect from an Iran attack," he said. "If the speed is inferior, then they can't defend places that they said they could defend earlier," he said. Lehner insisted, however, that the US interceptors are not fast enough to catch a Russian ICBM. "These missiles are more like six kilometers per second or a little more and it is certainly not sufficient to intercept a Russian missile, even coming out of a western part of Russia," he said.
China says U.S. missile shield threatens global stability
The placement of U.S. missile defenses in Europe will not ease global security concerns but will undermine the global strategic balance, the Chinese foreign minister said Wednesday. Washington insists that the deployment of a radar in the Czech Republic and a missile interceptor base in Poland will protect the U.S. and its NATO allies from potential missile attacks coming from Iran or North Korea, despite Russia's objections. Speaking at a news conference after a meeting between foreign ministers of China, Russia and India, Yang Jiechi expressed hope that a new concept of global security, characterized by mutual trust and equal rights, could be established in the future. The Harbin meeting is the third stand-alone meeting of the foreign ministers from the three countries. New Delhi hosted the previous two meetings, which some experts and media said could be aimed at setting up a military-political alliance to counter the influence of the United States in the region. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at the news conference in Harbin that Russia has no plans to form a military union with India and China. He said Moscow is developing dialogue with the two Asian countries through bilateral as well as trilateral formats, within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and other structures. "We are striving to jointly resolve key issues of security through multilateral dialogue, primarily by political and diplomatic means," Lavrov said. "There is no alternative to a multi-polar and equal-rights cooperation in the world if we want to respond effectively to the existing threats," he said.
Putin: US Plan Evokes '62 Cuban Crisis
President Vladimir Putin on Friday evoked one of the most dangerous confrontations of the Cold War to highlight Russian opposition to a proposed U.S. missile defense system in Europe, comparing it to the Cuban missile crisis of 45 years ago. The comments — made at the end of a summit between Russia and European Union that failed to resolve several festering disputes — were the latest in a series of belligerent statements from the assertive Putin. Emboldened by oil- and gas-fueled economic clout, Russia is increasingly at odds with Washington and much of Europe on issues ranging from Iran and Kosovo to energy supplies and human rights. Putin used a news conference at the summit's conclusion to reiterate Russia's stalwart opposition to U.S. plans to put elements of a missile defense system in the former Soviet bloc countries of Poland and the Czech Republic — both of which are now NATO members. "Analogous actions by the Soviet Union, when it deployed missiles in Cuba, prompted the 'Caribbean crisis,'" Putin said, using the Russian term for the Cuban missile crisis. "For us the situation is technologically very similar. We have withdrawn the remains of our bases from Vietnam, from Cuba, and have liquidated everything there, while at our borders, such threats against our country are being created," he said.
The October 1962 crisis erupted when President John F. Kennedy demanded that Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev remove his country's nuclear missiles from Cuba because they could have been used to launch a close-range attack on the United States. The Americans imposed a naval blockade on Cuba and the world teetered on the edge of war before the Soviets backed down. Putin also suggested that the tension was much lower than in 1962 because the United States and Russia are now "partners," not Cold War enemies. His relationship with President Bush, Putin said, helps solve problems, calling him a "personal friend." The Russian leader said there has been no concrete U.S. response to his counterproposals for cooperation on missile defense, but added that the United States is now listening to Russia's concerns about its plans and seeking to address them. In Washington, White House press secretary Dana Perino underscored those remarks rather than the Cuban missile crisis analogy, saying "there's no way you could walk away without thinking that he thinks that we can work together." The U.S. plan is part of a wider missile shield involving defenses in California and Alaska which the United States says are to defend against any long-range missile attack from countries such as North Korea or Iran. Russia strongly opposes the idea, saying Iran is decades away from developing missile technology that could threaten Europe or North America, and it says the U.S. bases are aimed at spying on Russian facilities and undermining Russia's missile deterrent force.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters there were "clear historical differences between our plans to deploy a defensive missile system designed to protect against launch of missiles from rogue states, such as Iran, and the offensive nuclear-tipped capability of the missiles that were being installed in Cuba back in the 1960s." "I don't think that they are historically analogous in any way, shape or form," he said. Turning to his future, Putin said he would not assume presidential powers if he became prime minister after finishing his term next May. Putin is barred from seeking a third consecutive term in the March 2008 presidential election. But he suggested this month that he could become prime minister, leading to speculation that the substantial powers now invested in the presidency might be transferred to the prime minister. "If someone thinks that I intend to move, let's say, into the government of the Russian Federation and transfer the fundamental powers there, that's not the case," Putin said. "There will be no infringement on the powers of the president of the Russian Federation, at least while it depends on me." After repeating his insistence that he does not intend to change the constitution in order to run for a third term, Putin said he had not yet decided where and in what capacity he would work as former president. He is expected to remain an influential figure in Russia. Putin will lead the ticket of the dominant United Russia party in December parliamentary elections. An overwhelming victory for the party could turn the legislature into a new power base for Putin and give him a claim to continued authority based on his popularity.
Putin traveled to Portugal, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, for talks with leaders of the 27-nation bloc. But despite a positive spin put on the meeting by Putin and EU President Jose Manuel Barroso — who called it "open, frank and productive" — the summit yielded no major breakthroughs. The EU and Russia have been without a new cooperation agreement for more than a year, during which time doubts have grown in many European capitals about the reliability of Russia's energy supplies and trade policies toward EU member nations, such as Poland. Topping the list of concerns is Russia's energy policy — the reliability of supplies and the intentions of state-run oil and gas companies. Russia already provides 30 percent of EU energy imports, including 44 percent of natural gas imports. The state-controlled gas giant OAO Gazprom has recently moved to acquire assets in Europe and strike bilateral deals with some EU countries. That has led the EU to consider new restrictions on non-EU companies owning majority stakes in gas pipelines or electricity power grids without additional agreements — much to the Russians' consternation. Earlier, Putin tried to assure European leaders that Russian investment was not to be feared. "When we hear in some countries phrases like, 'The Russians are coming with their scary money,' it sounds a bit funny," he said.
In related news:
Russia tests long-range missile
Russia announced the successful test firing of an inter-continental ballistic missile from the northwestern Arkhangelsk region to a target on the other side of the country today, news agencies reported. The RS-12M Topol missile, which has the Nato codename SS-25 Sickle, was launched from the Plesetsk cosmodrome and hit its test target in the far eastern region of Kamchatka on Russia’s Pacific coast, the Interfax and ITAR-TASS news agencies reported. "The test warhead of the rocket destroyed the hypothetical target with required accuracy at the firing range on the Kamchatka peninsula," the Strategic Missile Forces press service was quoted as saying. "Thus, the stability of the main technical flight characteristics of the missile complex were confirmed," it added. The RS-12M Topol is a three-stage missile fired from a mobile launcher and is similar in size to the US Minuteman ICBM. The first launch was made in 1981. The test launch came amid growing East-West tensions and a dispute between Moscow and Washington over US plans to install a limited anti-missile defence shield in central Europe.
Norway's military: Russian bombers neared NATO summit on unusual practice run
The Norwegian military says two Russian bombers on an unusual practice run neared today the Netherlands, where NATO defence ministers are meeting. Spokesman Lt.-Col. John Espen Lien says that another set of bombers earlier today flew unusually close to far northern Norwegian territory, but remained in international air space. Lien says that the later flight - by two Tupolev 160 strategic bombers - followed a course near the Norwegian coast and between Britain and Denmark, before turning back some 190 kilometres northwest of the Netherlands, where NATO defence ministers were meeting in the city of Noordwijk. Russia has routinely sent up bomber flights from its northern bases in recent months in what is broadly seen as a demonstration that its military is again potent, 16 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union left it with few resources. Russian Air Force spokesman Col. Alexander Drobyshevsky told the Russian Interfax-AVN news agency today that those flights were part of worldwide exercises. He said 10 Russian bombers, including the four near Norway, plus two reconnaissance planes and two refuelling tankers had flown practice missions over the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans, as well as over the Black Sea during the day.
Russian Bear bombers conduct cruise missile practice
Two Russian Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers will practice on Friday launches of cruise missiles at a testing site in southern Russia, an Air Force spokesman said. Russian strategic bombers began on October 16 a series of long-range training flights over the Arctic region, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and the Black Sea with simulated bomber raids and missile launches missiles at testing grounds in northern and southern Russia. The exercises will continue until October 30. Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky also said up to 10 Tu-95MS bombers and two Il-78 aerial tankers flew scheduled flight patrols on Thursday in neutral airspace, and were accompanied for at least five hours by NATO F-16 and Tornado fighters. Russia has stepped up practice runs of its strategic bombers ever since President Vladimir Putin announced the resumption of strategic patrol flights on August 17. The president said at the time that although the country halted long-distance strategic flights to remote regions in 1992, other nations had continued the practice, compromising Russian national security. Although NATO countries expressed concern over possible violations of their airspace and scramble their fighters as a "routine response" when Russian bombers fly close to their borders, Moscow says all the latest flights are within air patrolling corridors permitted by international regulations.