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BMD Focus: Russian ABM warning -- Part 2

By MARTIN SIEFF, UPI Senior News Analyst   |   Jan. 10, 2008 at 6:17 PM
WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- The Moscow newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda in an editorial Wednesday raised the specter that if the Bush administration succeeds in building a new anti-ballistic missile interceptor base in Poland, it might soon box Russia in with dozens of them.

However, political realities in the United States today make that development extremely unlikely. It remains unclear who the next president will be. A Republican President Rudy Giuliani or John McCain might well seek to increase U.S. ABM assets deployed in Europe. A President Mike Huckabee might not.

It is unlikely that any leading Democratic presidential candidate would approve such a policy if he or she were elected president.

A President Hillary Clinton would probably continue full support for existing ABM programs, but a President Barack Obama or John Edwards might well slash funding for them dramatically.

Further, even if the next U.S. president and Congress, very improbably, were to approve the building of the dozens of bases that Komsomolskaya Pravda warns against, they would have to fund European countries ready to host them. And that would likely prove impossible.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his handpicked Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who tried to prevent U.S. Air Force aircraft supplying Israel during the July 2006 mini-war against Hezbollah, would certainly not play host to such a facility. And even the very first proposed such base in Poland may now never be built because the new Polish government headed by Prime Minister Donald Tusk wants better relations with Russia and it is already sending warning signals to Washington about its reluctance to approve the base.

Finally, it should be noted that the single Polish base, as we have often remarked in these columns, could not begin to provide any remotely effective protection or counterweight to the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces. At most, it would hold only 10 Ground-based Mid-course Interceptors, GBIs. And they would be designed to protect the United States and Western Europe against the possible eventual launch of a single Iranian ICBM or IRBM with a nuclear warhead, not hundreds or thousands of Russian ones.

Nevertheless, the Komsomolskaya Pravda article took it for granted that if one ABM base was built in Poland, dozens more could very quickly follow. And the editorial also assumed that they would be aimed at Russia, not Iran.

"Russia's situation is deteriorating," the editorial warned. "It must act immediately to prove that it has the potential to restore the strategic balance in Europe. To do this, it should openly demonstrate the vulnerability of the ABM facilities, as China did on Jan. 11 (2007) when it launched a ground-based medium-range ballistic missile that destroyed its aging Feng Yun-1C weather satellite 535 miles above the Earth."

The punch line in the Komsomolskaya Pravda editorial came in its last paragraph where it warned, "Tests of systems capable of destroying radars and protected launchers must be carried out in a manner proving that the viability of ABM facilities is limited to peacetime and pre-war periods. Such systems supplied to the armed forces should be deployed in areas where they would be most effective."

Komsomolskaya Pravda is not an official platform of the Russian government, but especially on defense and international issues, its editorials usually reflect and exhibit an excellent understanding of Kremlin official thinking. And it is certainly the case, as we have monitored and warned in these columns, that over the past 15 months, senior Russian officials have often warned that if the Polish ABM base were built, they would move rapidly to deploy an overwhelming and therefore positively asymmetrical missile response of their own against it.

The statement at the end of the Komsomolskaya Pravda editorial is consistent with those earlier warnings. But it also goes further. The editorial's conclusion suggests that such programs may be implemented by the Kremlin very rapidly in the next few months even if, as now seems to be the case, the Polish ABM base is never built in the first place.

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