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Kiev radar row -- Part 1

By NIKITA PETROV, UPI Outside View Commentator   |   Feb. 5, 2008 at 11:42 AM   |   Comments

MOSCOW, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- The Federation Council, the upper house of Russia's Parliament, has approved the Jan. 25, 2008, decision of the State Duma, the lower house of Parliament, to denounce the agreement with Ukraine on the use of its early warning radars.

The bill will be forwarded to Russian President Vladimir Putin for approval. If Putin signs the relevant decree and the document is published in the official Russian press, the agreement will be sent to the Ukrainian government in Kiev along with notification that the Kremlin will stop using its Dnepr radars in Beregovo near Mukachevo, and Nikolayevka near Sevastopol.

Six to 12 months later, as specified in the intergovernmental agreement, the Ukrainian radars will stop supplying Russia with information about the launches of strategic missiles in the southwestern and western zones.

Four-star General of the Army Nikolai Pankov, state secretary and deputy defense minister of Russia, said one of the reasons for the decision was Kiev's intention to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

But that is not the main reason. First, Ukraine may join the NATO bloc only after holding a national referendum to learn public opinion, which does not seem to support the intention of the incumbent president of Ukraine, its prime minister and parliamentary speaker.

And second, the Kremlin cannot stop its early warning cooperation with Ukraine, allegedly because Ukraine wants to join NATO and at the same time advocate mutually beneficial relations in the missile sphere.

The Jan. 25, 2008, parliamentary session, which approved the termination of the radar agreement with Ukraine, also decided to prolong the agreement with Kiev on the warranty servicing of Russia's largest strategic missiles, the R-36M -- NATO classification SS-18 Satan -- and the subsequent R-36M2 Voevoda missile.

The R-36M Satan, which can carry 10 independently targeted nuclear warheads, was designed at the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau in Dnepropetrovsk, in the south of central Ukraine. Under the 1992 Lisbon agreement between Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and the United States, Ukraine may not produce such missiles or have other types of strategic weapons.

This is why it partly scrapped the Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack and Tupolev Tu-95MS Bear strategic bombers and turned the rest over to Russia as debt repayment.

The Dnepropetrovsk plant, where the Voevoda was made in Soviet times, now produces trolley buses, but its missile designers still provide routine maintenance and repair SS-18 Satan intercontinental ballistic missiles, when and if necessary, under the agreement prolonged by the Russian Parliament. Russia has only 75 such missiles now, but they form the core of its strategic deterrence force.

Russia's decision to stop anti-ballistic missile cooperation with Ukraine was made for pragmatic reasons. Three-star Col. Gen. Vladimir Popovkin, commander of the Russian Space Forces, said the Dnepr radars, for whose information Russia pays $1.3 million annually, exhausted their service warranty in 2005 and their modernization would cost at least $20 million. Is it worth it?

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Next: Why Russia doesn't need the Ukraine-based radars

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(Nikita Petrov is a Russian military analyst. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)

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(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

© 2008 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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