US-Russian "strategic balance" to return

UPDATED: 17:45, June 08, 2007

On May 29th, Russia's strategic rocket forces successfully test-fired two missiles of unique significance: one being the RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missile with multiple warheads, launched at the Plesetsk launch site; the other being the "Iskander-M" short-range tactical missile, launched at Astrakhan. The RS-24 can allegedly "penetrate any missile defense system"; and the "Iskander-M" is proclaimed as a modern "high-precision weapon of destruction" by Russia. After the successful test-firing, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister, Sergei Ivanov, said that "finally Russia can rest assured in defense and security issues."

Some analysts believe that Russia's successful test-firing of new missiles is of great strategic significance. It actually indicates Russia's determination to restore the balance of its military strategy with the United States, as it was during the Cold War era. Test-firing missiles are seen as a response to the US unilaterally withdrawing from the 2001 ABM treaty, and insisting on the deployment of a missile defense system. In recent years, Russia has been endeavoring to develop strategic offensive forces and break the absolute security of United States, so as to achieve a strategic balance. The successful test-firing of the RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missile marked the improvement in the capability of Russia's strategic rocket forces in breaking missile defense systems, as well as an enhancement of their strength in nuclear deterrence. According to Russian military experts, the RS-24 can carry six to ten warheads that are equivalent to 150 tons to 300 tons of TNT. It can hit a target within a range of 12,000 km; much farther than the US's most advanced "Minuteman III" intercontinental missile. The United States' myth of missile defense system "Skynet" was thereupon destroyed.

This year, the United States ignored Russia's opposition and accelerated the deployment of missile defense systems in Central and Eastern Europe. No matter how the United States explains its intentions, Russia will always regard this move by the United States as its greatest, real threat. Russian President Putin has bluntly stated that Russia is deploying the "Iskander-M" missiles in response to the US deployment of anti-ballistic systems in Europe. The goal is to maintain a "global strategic balance" when the US provokes a new round the arms race." "Iskander-M" missiles can effectively avoid the interception of anti-missile systems and has strong striking capabilities and very good mobility. By using satellites or unmanned aircraft, it can enable accurate strikes on small targets. Putin recently said that if the United States insists on deploying missile defense systems in Europe, a move that threatens Russia's security, Russia might re-assign its missile targets to Europe. If that occurs, Europe will once again become a "hostage" in the arms race between the United States and Russia. Russia's move would place tremendous psychological pressure on those countries that have allowed the United States to deploy missile defense systems within their territory. This is also what Russia wants.

The test-firing is also an overture to Russia's withdrawal from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. This treaty had once been regarded as the cornerstone of European security. However, after the end of the Cold War, NATO's eastward expansion has reduced this treaty to a mere name only. Considering its disadvantage of lacking conventional equipment, Russia has repeatedly proclaimed that when necessary, it will suspend the implementation of the Treaty to seek and maintain the military "balance of power." On May 28th, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement in which it urges all parties to the Treaty to strictly enforce relevant provisions. However, few Central and Eastern European countries have responded. In this case, the missile test-firing is more like a display of a military deterrent force, and an overture for Russia to withdraw from the Treaty.

Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has consistently regarded the military balance with US and European powers as an important guarantee of national security. In recent years, as the United States tightens its strategy of "Russian containment", Russia also continuously increases the intensity of strategic counter activity, in line with its economic growth. A Russian official said that as a response to the US deploying missile defensive systems in Europe, Russia will produce two new types of missiles on a large scale before or after 2015; and afterwards, it will equip its troops to use them. Some analysts believe that Russia and the United States have recovered an era of "strategic balance". The consequences of the return of this balance remain unknown.

By People's Daily Online

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