“Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia Nikolai Makarov and the U.S. Navy admiral and NATO`s Supreme Allied Commander Europe James Stavridis have discussed a wide range of issues related to Russia`s cooperation with NATO, including missile defense plans in Europe”, a statement released following the meeting said. “Russia and U.S. do have some differences about the issue but will continue working together to achieve a compromise”, Mr. Makarov told journalists after the talks with Mr. Stavridis in Moscow. He added that the negotiations were ‘open and frank’.
You might be surprised to learn that the above-mentioned episode took place nearly a year ago, on November 1, 2010. Moreover, three years ago we could read the following: “Russia has repeatedly tried to make the US understand that the creation of a missile shield in Europe is taking place not only in theory but also practically”, the ITAR-TASS news agency said quoting Nikolai Makarov. In other words, Moscow wanted the U.S. to revise its plans to build the European missile defense unilaterally. “We need to know all the details concerning the US missile plans, all the deadlines- for the sake of stable relations between our countries in future”, Chief of the Russian Armed Forces said.
But is there anybody who still does not understand what goals the US is trying to achieve by deploying its missile elements in Europe? The Pentagon has long worked out a plan for Third Site missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic up to 2020. Knowing all this, what ‘further improvement’ of Russia-US and Russia-NATO relations are we talking about?
I wonder why Mr. Makarov is being so optimistic about the issue. He was quoted as saying that “Gen Stavridis heeded to our concerns and pledged further cooperation on missile defense”. But as I see it, Mr. Makarov simply indulged in wishful thinking. Mr. Stavridis did not say anything meaningful and just promised to communicate Russian concerns to the US administration.
But those were just idle words since the White House and the Pentagon are perfectly aware of Russia`s position after Mr. Stavridis had reported on his talks with Nikolai Makarov.
Meanwhile, the US plans are quite simple. In 2012 they are going to deploy in Poland nearly 100 Patriot missiles, prior to sending there its mid-range SM-3 interceptors. In May, 2011, Romania joined the US Third Site program, allowing the placement of SM-3 on its territory. Last month Turkey agreed to place the US AN/TPY-2 radar…
The U.S. Navy deployed the Aegis-equipped USS Monterey to the Mediterranean in March to patrol the area. Each of six ships comprising the convoy has the Aegis Combat System aimed to spot up to 250-200 missiles at a time and launch SM-3 missiles to intercept warheads even in space. Earlier this month Spain confirmed its permission to the US to station warships equipped with Aegis on its territory.
Before visiting Russia, Admiral Stavridis went to Romania and Turkey, where he discussed the US and NATO missile plans in Europe.
Each time Moscow says it wants to have guarantees from Washington that Third Site in Europe will not be targeting Russia, it hears one and the same phrase about ‘mutually beneficial partnership between the two nations’. Speaking in NATO last month, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, Rose Gottemoeller said that Washington expected to achieve first agreements with Russia on missile defense before Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Obama`s meeting later this autumn.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has repeatedly confirmed that there is no breakthrough in Russia – US – NATO talks on missile defense. Russia’s NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin said that the talks on the European missile defense have come to a deadlock.
So, why Gen Makarov has been trying to conceal the lack of understanding between the two countries? Why his counterpart Stavridis is a welcome guest in Moscow?
If you tell me that this is all about diplomatic protocol, I will argue: Stavridis was welcomed more than a high-ranking official. Apart from taking part in the talks in Moscow, he visited Volgograd, where he was told not only about the Soviet-US cooperation during WW II, but also wondered how the things were developing now. He met chief commanders of the South Military District and visited local training camps.
Last year Mr. Stavridis visited Saint Petersburg, where he was welcomed by the Western Military District. As Mr. Makarov has recently put it, “Admiral Stavridis thoroughly plans his visits to Russia, trying to use every chance to learn about Russian people, their history and culture”. Visiting military districts can teach one about a country’s history and culture? Quite a peculiar way, I should say.