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Russia: Moscow Takes Dim View Of U.S. Security Policy

  • Ahto Lobjakas

Speaking at a seminar in Brussels earlier this week, Alexander Pikayev of the Carnegie Foundation in Moscow provided a Russian view of the United States' projected National Missile Defense and of perceived changes in U.S. foreign policy. Pikayev warned that progress on NMD could undermine bilateral relations between Washington and Moscow and lead to an increase in nuclear proliferation. RFE/RL Brussels correspondent Ahto Lobjakas reports.

Brussels. 6 April 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The Carnegie Foundation's Alexander Pikayev says the Russian government grossly misjudged the intentions of the new U.S. administration of President George W. Bush.

Speaking 3 April at a seminar organized by the Brussels-based Center for European Policy, Pikayev said Moscow's expectations of improved bilateral relations with the new administration have been far from realized. He spoke of "cold winds" recently emanating from Washington and said the administration had adopted an unexpectedly tough stance toward Russia on a range of strategic issues.

Chief among those issues is the United States' projected National Missile Defense, or NMD, which President Bush has said he is determined to put into practice. Russia has vehemently opposed the plan, saying it violates the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and could lead to another arms race.

Pikayev says the debate on missile defense must be seen in the wider context of the U.S. administration's current review of foreign and security policy:

"[The] debates around anti-missile defense are much more important than the ABM Treaty, and the potential architecture and organization of American antimissile system, because those debates play [an] important role and represent an important part of a broader debate involving such issues as [the] American commitment to cooperative multilateral international legal regimes, American isolationism or interventionism, and the future of some American-led security alliances."

Pikayev says U.S. moves like the decisions to proceed with NMD and pull out of its Kyoto Protocol commitments to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions indicate that the Bush administration is embarking on a course he calls "unilateralist" and "unpredictable." This, he adds, bodes ill for bilateral U.S.-Russian relations as well as for U.S. global relations overall.

Pikayev says that perceived changes in U.S. foreign policy are likely to have a profound effect on existing strategic arms reduction treaties like START 1 and START 2, as well as on the treaty eliminating Europe-based intermediate- and short-range nuclear missiles (INF) and the treaty on reducing conventional forces in Europe (CFE).

"[The] ABM Treaty [and] strategic arms reduction agreements [served] for 30 years as the foundation of bilateral relations between Moscow and Washington. This process survived major crises like [the] war in Afghanistan, [the] end of dtente, [the] Star Wars [program] of President [Ronald] Reagan, [the] collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO expansion, [and the] Kosovo operation. During all those crises, strategic arms control, including the ABM Treaty, represented a major stabilizing factor which [made it possible] to maintain dialogue between [the] two [capitals]."

Pikayev says that, instead of further negotiations on arms control, the United States is currently offering Russia what he calls "face-saving" talks on maintaining strategic balance. In addition, he says, growing U.S. unilateralism will have a destabilizing effect in various regions of the world, and could lead to the wider global proliferation of nuclear weapons.

During a discussion of Pikayev's views, Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution in Washington defended the United States' right to deploy a missile defense, provided certain important conditions were satisfied.

Daalder said Washington must simultaneously engage in a broader non-proliferation effort in cooperation with Russia as well with its European allies. To this end, he said, the United States should promote arms control talks -- including continued dialogue with Russia on modifying the ABM Treaty -- and use what he called "diplomatic persuasion" to roll back missile programs in countries like North Korea.

Pikayev says he is most concerned about the effects changes in U.S. security policy could have in Asia. As he sees it, mounting U.S. isolationism will erode the security guarantees Washington has so far underwritten in the area. In addition to worrying states like Japan and South Korea, this development could also directly concern Moscow as it falters on maintaining security in Russia's weak and underpopulated Far East.

Moreover, Pikayev says, NMD could lead to a serious arms race in Asia. In his reasoning, China would be certain to increase its arsenal of ballistic missiles in response to the U.S. project in order to boost the credibility of its own nuclear deterrent.

Pikayev says this could spark a dangerous chain reaction elsewhere in Asia:

"India clearly links its own nuclear development with [that of] China. If China goes up [in nuclear warheads], India [will] most likely follow suit. Pakistan would not remain outside because it considers India as [its] primary rival and of course it would have to build up if India continues its [own] build-up."

The Asian ripple effect Pikayev describes could, he says, eventually reach as far west as Iran, Iraq, and Israel. In his view, it could also provoke Taiwan and possibly a future unified Korea to acquire nuclear capabilities of their own in order to meet a perceived Chinese threat.

Pikayev also says that if the U.S. administration carries out its promised reconsideration of its role in the Balkans, the European Union would not at present be able to fill the resulting security void. He says U.S. inaction in Kosovo and Macedonia could lead to a domino effect, possibly involving Greece, Bulgaria, and other Southeast European states.

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