US seeks to ease Russia’s fears over radar system

After Russia criticized the US for creating a NATO shield that could undermine its security, the US has invited Russia to test the system, making assurances that the system being built is not directed against Moscow.
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (R) confers with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in this file photo. Washington is preparing to offer Russia written assurances that the NATO shield system being built is not directed against Moscow. AFP Photo.

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (R) confers with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in this file photo. Washington is preparing to offer Russia written assurances that the NATO shield system being built is not directed against Moscow. AFP Photo.

The United States has invited Russia to use its own radar technology to assess one or more U.S. missile-defense flight tests as part of a new push to persuade Moscow that a planned NATO missile defense system poses it no threat, a Pentagon official said Oct. 18.

 The idea is to let Russia measure for itself the performance of U.S. interceptor missiles being deployed in and around Europe in what Washington says is a layered shield against missiles that could be fired by countries like Iran.

Earlier this month Russia said moves by the U.S. to create a NATO-wide missile shield could undermine its security. Russia is demanding a legally binding guarantee that the system would not be aimed against Russia. “If events continue to develop this way the opportunity to turn missile defense from an area of confrontation into a subject of cooperation will be lost,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said Oct. 6.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan calls for an initial deployment of ship-based anti-ballistic missiles in the Mediterranean followed by ground-based systems in Romania, Poland and Turkey. In the meantime, reports that Russia is creating an emergency relief center in Serbia which will be used to spy on neighboring Romania has been denied by Moscow.

Counteracting criticism, the Obama administration is seeking to soften Russia’s rhetoric with its test offer. “These are smaller missiles,” Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, told an Atlantic Council forum. He said the current and planned Standard Missile-3 interceptors built by Raytheon Co. would be ineffective as anti-missile interceptors against a country like Russia, whose strategic deterrent missiles are launched from deep inside its territory, he said. The SM-3 interceptor, to be based on land and at sea, “can’t reach that far.”

‘Not legally binding commitments’

Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told the forum that the U.S. was prepared to offer Moscow written assurances that the system being built was not directed against Moscow. But Tauscher, who held talks in Moscow last week on the issue with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, added: “We cannot provide legally binding commitments, nor can we agree to limitations on missile defense, which must necessarily keep pace with the evolution of the threat.”

Tauscher could not predict whether Russia and NATO would reach an agreement on missile defense cooperation in time for a NATO alliance summit next May that is due to consider the system’s progress. The U.S. would like to partner with Moscow to boost its performance, including the use of Russian radar systems.

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said it had not yet determined which test or tests it would open to active Russian participation. Russia would not receive any classified performance data on the U.S. system, said Richard Lehner, an MDA spokesman, but would be welcome to use its own radars, sensors and other know-how to measure interceptor speed, altitude, distance and other parameters.

Tauscher said the planned missile shield would be robust enough to manage the threats that Washington projects in the Middle East but “certainly would only chase the tail of a Russian ICBM or SLBM.” Those are the acronyms for long-range missiles fired from land or from submarines. “And that’s the truth,” she said. “Perhaps only with their eyes and ears will Russians embrace that.”

Compiled from Reuters and AP stories by the Daily News staff.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011
WASHINGTON / MOSCOW