Putin offers to work on joint missile shield

Dove missileSo, after spending the past few weeks ratcheting up the pressure, Putin has made an about turn and offered to work on a ‘joint’ missile shield with the United States.

Details of exactly how such a scheme would work are a little sketchy at the moment, to say the least, but it seems as though the Kremlin envisage a system built primarily around the radar station they currently rent in Azerbaijan.

Dmitri Peskov, Mr Putin’s spokesman, insisted that a radar base in Azerbaijan would be sufficient to cover the whole of western Europe and that the use of Poland for interceptor rockets should be reconsidered. “The two sides could completely share the technological data of that station with equal control of the station . . . It would lead to a substantial easing of tension and it will solve the problem.”

In principle, I think it’s a good idea – and, with the benefit of my 20-20 hindsight – makes Putin’s brinkmanship of the past few weeks seem much more logical. Lets face it, Russia is at much at risk of missile attack from ‘rogue’ nations or terrorist groups as Western Europe and the United States – if not more so – and a joint missile shield does seem the logical way forward.

But will it happen in practice? I can see plenty of potential problems.

For starters, there is the whole trust issue. An effective joint shield would require a lot of actual joint working, and there isn’t a lot of evidence to suggest that Russia and the US could work well together on such a politically charged project. Although, having said that, there’s always a first time for everything…

Technical issues are also going to come to the forefront. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, although welcoming Russia’s joint missile shield proposal, argued that a shield located in Azerbaijan wouldn’t be able to react in time to incoming missiles:

“It’s a bit close to the rogue states we are discussing.”

A shield located primarily in Azerbaijan wouldn’t cover all of NATO’s member states either.

I suppose this could be overcome by stationing the main radar in Azerbaijan, and the interceptor missiles somewhere else – say, in Poland – but for this would not only require phenomenal co-ordination, but would still probably require radars to be stationed too close to Russia’s Western borders. And wasn’t the whole point of Azerbaijan to avoid that…?

Ultimately, I don’t think this is anything more than a good idea, destined to failure – but I’d be happy to be proved wrong.

Update: For the true cynics among us, here another explantion as to why Putin offered to develop a joint missile shield based in Azerbaijan:

I think that the Russian base, there in Qabala [Azerbaijan] is getting ready — they’re going to lose the base, the lease on the base is going to expire, and they’ve already been making plans to relocate the radar to Krasnodar [Krai, in Russia]. And so what they’re trying to do here is legitimize their presence in Azerbaijan at the expense of the Azerbaijanis. And they will also permanently make the United States a target of the Iranians, and the Azeris, and it’s designed to divide the United States and Azerbaijan. And it creates a Russian military presence there, if I understand the statement correctly.

Cunning, or what?

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5 Responses

  1. JTapp says:

    I don’t see how this would divide the U.S. and Azerbaijan. Is it because of the Russian interference?

    Azerbaijan is no fundamentalist state or real friend to Iran, Shiia Islam is hard to find in the country as most of the mosques are Turkish and Saudi-built and staffed by Sunni. Most of the northern part of Iran is inhabited by ethnic Azeris that Tehran is wary of anyway.

    The arguments I was hearing from analysts on the news yesterday was that a missile being fired from Iran would be over the radar site too quickly to be detected in time to be shot down.

    My guess is Russia wants it there because it’s still not out of the question that Russia could easily invade Azerbaijan (as it did under Lenin) sometime in the future.

  2. Michael Averko says:

    As per what I communicated on the subject at Sean’s blog:

    For the past year, Aliev has been following what can be termed as a post Cold War Titoist foreign policy. In this situation, he wins if Moscow and Washington are in agreement.

    Added to this are the not always great relations between Tehran and Baku. Some Azeris see a slice of Iran’s territory as their own. The involved land mass includes an Azeri population. In the Azeri-Armenian conflict over Nagorno Karabakh – Iran hasn’t sided with Azerbaijan. The Armenian community in Iran has been on relatively good terms with Iran at large (government included). Azerbaijan’s relative good ties with Iran’s historic rival (of sorts) Turkey is another somewhat sticking point.

    Pre 1917 Russia contributed a good deal to Azerbaijan’s development. The continuity of Russo-Azeri togetherness lasted during the Soviet period. Aliev is the son of a Politburo leader. Russia has a degree of perfectly understandable influence in Iraq.

    This proposed deal makes perfect sense.

    *****

    As an add on to the above reposted:

    This whole shield business is arguably more political than anything else. I’m sure many of the Brzezinskiites and neocons might see this Azeri option as a cave in to Russia. On the other hand, the initial plan was pleasing to the not so Russia/Putin friendly forces.

  3. Tim Newman says:

    Lets face it, Russia is at much at risk of missile attack from ‘rogue’ nations or terrorist groups as Western Europe and the United States – if not more so – and a joint missile shield does seem the logical way forward.

    Exactly, and I’ll be interested to see where this leaves the argument that the threat envisaged by the US does not exist. I expect it to continue regardless.

  4. @ Andy & Tim:

    What “rogue state” (not to speak about terrorist groups) has the ability to send missiles to Western Europe or the U.S.? Get real, guys!

  5. Michael Averko says:

    They’re long term strategic planners. Whether their view is right is open to question. Meantime, we all know what that system can be used against besides rogue states.

    Nebojsa Malic got it right at:

    http://www.antiwar.com

    What happened to the Serbs in ’99, could’ve easily happened to Russia were it not for Russia’s nuclear capability. Now, Russia is on the rise, with some not liking that.