Commentary from the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Norway to «Dagbladet» in connection with the joint Norwegian-US development of parameters for the Norwegian contribution to the missile defense system of NATO

March 9th 2017

Deployment of strategic missile defense capabilities within the global missile defense system might potentially jeopardize the efficiency of Russian strategic nuclear forces as a means of deterrence. A further improvement of the missile defense system, an increase in their numbers and their further approach towards the borders of Russia (and, as a result, to the places where the Russian strategic missiles are located) will only make the situation worse. This will mean a serious undermining of the strategic stability and hence also that the character of the whole system of international relations will be less stable and more unpredictable. USA and the NATO-countries understand this very well.

In the preamble to the Russian-American «Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty» of 2010 it says that there should be «an interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms»,  and also that this «interrelationship will become more important as strategic nuclear arms are being reduced». When the Treaty was signed, the Russian side declared that the new treaty «could only function and be viable if there would not be any qualitative and quantitative expansion of capabilities in the American missile defense system», meaning that a change in the situation with the missile defense system could be one of the possible reasons for Russia to withdraw from the Treaty.

The fallaciousness of the path followed by the US and NATO is that it goes against one of the basic principles of international relations in the OSCE-area, a principle stating that the countries should not try to strengthen their own security at the expense of the security of others.

The US has suggested removing the Russians concerns through «setting up the cooperation in the field of missile defense systems» and an «explanation» of the American plans for a missile defense system.

But what actually did happen? Firstly, in 2002 the US unilaterally withdrew from the agreement on missile defense of 1972. Secondly, the original task of preventing limited missile attacks by «rogue states» or terrorists was consigned to oblivion. Instead the task is to secure «an effective, reliable and layered» missile defense system to meet the growing missile threats, or in other words, we are already talking about a global missile defense system. And after the situation with the Iranian nuclear programme has been solved, the main argument used by Washington for deployment of elements of the strategic missile defense system in Europe, has vanished. We suspect that even if it would be possible to reach an agreement on the nuclear problem on the Korean peninsula, one would find new pseudo-arguments for a continuation of the deployment of a global missile defense system.

Russia has several times come up with initiatives in this area, initiatives having as their goal to change this question from an «irritable» one to one of cooperation. All of these initiatives were turned down by the US and its NATO allies.

Russia has aimed at not allowing a unilateral deployment of an unlimited global missile defense system, including the creation of a positioning area in Europe, has suggested organizing information exchange, joint supervision of missile tests, joint missile exercises and studies in the field of missile defense systems. We have suggested to the US not to deploy elements of this system in space, to do a collective assessment of the missile threat and to work out collective response measures. We have suggested to the NATO-partners to jointly work out a concept and an architecture for the European missile defense system, a system that should be managed jointly and not undermine the strategic stability but be oriented towards stopping threats coming from outside of the Euro-Atlantic zone. Russia was also ready to give the US information from the radar stations in Gabala (Azerbaijan) and Armavir about the launching of missiles from the Middle East.

The US also came up with some initiatives (like the loading of interceptor missiles in the shafts only if a missile threat «materialized», the permanent presence of Russian observers on the sites, the use of technical means of control, the limitation of the sectors of emissions from and strength of the radar stations etc.), but later they themselves abandoned these initiatives. The US and its allies were not ready to make a real move in this direction and to consider the Russian approach. Emphasizing «the responsibility of NATO to defend its own territory» they chose the NATO approach in order to decide upon the parameters of the future European missile system without the participation of Russia. And the US/NATO refused to give us legally binding assurance that the missile defense system of the US/NATO would not be directed against Russia.

A group of specialists from the scientific institute of the MOD of Norway, together with the American agency for the global missile defense system, are working on the parameters for a possible Norwegian contribution to the missile defense system of NATO. Îslo takes part in the US-lead Maritime Theater Missile Defense Forum and exercises held within the framework of this forum. Five Norwegian frigates could be used by the missile defense system. They are fitted with the missile weapon system «Aegis». It has been announced that a new radar within the framework of the modernization of the «Globus-2» radar station in Vardø will be built before 2020. This radar might, according to experts, perform tasks for the missile defense system.

We talk much about not allowing the militarization of our common Arctic region. In a situation when elements of the missile defense system of NATO are deployed, Norway will deliberately take the problem of the missile defense system to this peaceful and non-confrontational region and play the role of NATO's combat outpost directed against Russia (it is highly unlikely that the Norwegian military will try to intercept missiles from the Middle East or North Korea over its own territory and we are only talking about Russia). The Norwegian position has developed noticeably. To quote from the political platform of the Norwegian government from 2005, at the time headed by prime minister Jens Stoltenberg who is today Secretary General of NATO: «…Norway will work to abandon the existing plans for an missile defense system» (Plattform for regjeringssamarbeid, «…Norge skal arbeide for å skrinlegge dagens planer for rakettforsvar»). The Norwegian government should be aware holding such positions, that have not been provoked, are unilateral and might lead to unpredictable actions, could be damaging and assess the possible consequences of them to their fullest extent. NATO consists of many countries but not all of them are going to deploy elements of the missile defense system.

What should Russia do in such a situation? Believe in the empty words of representatives of NATO when they say that this system is not aimed at Russia? Since US/NATO/Norway does not want to solve this question through diplomatic channels or through talks, then the only answer left is the military-technical one. Russia has to upgrade its strategic nuclear forces so that they will be capable of surmounting any missile defense system. Russia will do its utmost so that that will not lead to an arms race and keep the strategic stability, but the possibility of undermining of the stability will still be higher.

Russia is not a threat to Norway but will work out its military plans on the basis of the real risks. It is upsetting that no consultations are being held about this serious question. Even if we do not find a solution at once, dialogue and negotiations are always good and useful.

The actions of the USA and NATO, Norway included, might lead to problems not only in the North, but to undermining of the strategic stability with catastrophic results for the security both of Europe and of the whole world.