US missile network hurts strategic balance

By Zhong Sili Source:Global Times Published: 2016/6/20 0:13:00

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that the US missile defense system that has been deployed in Europe has the potential of turning into an offensive system and may be used against Russia, according to Russian news agency TASS.

On May 12, a missile defense base in Romania was declared operational and ready to be connected to the NATO anti-missile grid. One day later, the US announced that construction would begin on a missile defense base in Poland, the second such site in Eastern Europe. Both sites are reportedly equipped with Aegis systems.

In response, Putin made strong remarks, calling these systems a "direct threat" to Russia, although Washington maintained that the systems are "defensive" and not aimed at Russia.

In the Far East, South Korea has now been seeking locations to accommodate the Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) platform, for which US will pay the bill. If its X-Radars are deployed in the Korean Peninsula, there will hardly be any room left for Russian force maneuvers in the Far East, and Russian missile launches to the east of Lake Baikal will be closely watched.

Deploying missile defense systems near the periphery of Russia has been planned for quite a long time. The commencement of those projects is only a part of those incremental efforts.

However, the tricky part lies in the timing and the high-profile step of announcing it.

It has been several months now since Russia successfully regained influence in the Middle East with its military operations, leaving the US no choice but to seek cooperation and coexistence in the region with seething anger.

American allies in Europe have been left panicked. Those countries pay the price of following American leadership, dealing with the migrant crisis, fearful of another terrorist attack, and confronting Russian armed forces from land and sea.

With the US "pivoting to the Asia Pacific," and its lack of resolution and firm action to deal with the messy situation in Syria, it's reasonable to question whether the US is still able to maintain its commitments to its European allies. The high-profile showcases in Romania and Poland are probably in response to that.

The deployment of missile defense systems in Romania and Poland ushered in the third phase of the US European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) ballistic missile defense program, which is an integral part of the US global missile defense network.

Mainly comprised of warning systems, intercepting weapons and commanding systems, the network serves as strategic deterrence to outgun potential and actual adversaries of the US.

With long-range warning systems such as Aegis, X-Radar and multiple types of satellites, the US could monitor missile launches from hundreds or even thousands miles away.

With minor adjustments, these systems could also put other targets such as fighter jets, or even stealth targets under surveillance, granting the US unparalleled operational intelligence gathering capabilities.

Such systems have already been deployed in Alaska, Guam, and Japan. With the bases in Romania and Poland, the network could cover Russia almost from end to end. As the US global missile defense network comes into shape, the old strategic balance based on "mutually assured destruction" is breaking down.

While the US is striving to achieve supremacy, it's hard to imagine others will sit tight and be deterred. As Putin puts it, Russia will use every means necessary to maintain the strategic balance, so as to avoid potential wars and conflicts.

Meanwhile, a Cold War style arms race cannot happen again. Although Russia has threatened to quit the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, it would not throw 50 percent of its GDP into arms building anymore.

There are more cost-effective means to achieve that end. For example, Russia has Topol-M, RS-24 and other types of ballistic missiles in service or in building, with multiple independently-targeted re-entry vehicle and trajectory maneuver capabilities.

Intercepting these weapons would be a difficult task for any missile defense system in service. What's more, missile defense facilities have become priority targets in the first wave attacks.

All in all, moves draw countermoves. Stability will not be achieved until security has been guaranteed. Seeking hegemony at the expense of others' interest simply does not work.

The author is a freelance writer based in Beijing.

Posted in: Viewpoint

blog comments powered by Disqus