Russia is keeping a close eye on U.S. plans to deploy missile defenses in the Asia-Pacific region, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov admitted. He added that Moscow reserves the right to undertake certain measures in response to America’s potential defense move. Russia has also voiced concerns about the United States’ implementation of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

“The continuing growth of the U.S. capabilities in what we call the Far East – the Asia-Pacific region – has not gone unnoticed in Russia. We are closely following what is happening between the U.S. and its allies in Asia. Important events are unfolding there and a lot has already been achieved,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said at a nonproliferation conference in Moscow on Sept. 7.

Washington announced plans last spring to expand its missile defense shield and install its components not only in Europe, but also in Asia and the Middle East. At the time, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Issues Madelyn Creedon said that locations in Australia, Japan, and South Korea could be selected.

It was reported in August 2012 that missile defense components – early warning radars – would appear in Japan and the Philippines.

Earlier, the U.S. had announced plans to establish a military base in Australia. The White House has made no secret of the fact that it sees China as the main threat in the Asia-Pacific region. As Barack Obama put it back then, the United States and small Asian countries had long been concerned about Beijing’s territorial claims to islands in the South China Sea. Washington considers this region to be of great strategic importance, because up to $1.2 billion in commercial shipping passes through it annually, on the way to U.S. shores.

Observers haven’t ruled out the possibility that Russia and China could join efforts to resolve the American missile defense problem. “China has significantly intensified cooperation with Russia in terms of resisting the deployment of an American missile defense system. The deployment of missile defenses in the region will be met with rather stiff resistance from China, which will be expressed in diplomatic maneuvers that will have some practical effect. For example, some economic actions will be taken, possibly including sanctions in the form of increased commotion from Chinese diasporas in the United States and in other regions,” said Captain Konstantin Sivkov, Vice President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems.

However, Moscow still hopes to continue negotiations with Washington on this matter.

“We must work with America to achieve something meaningful. If this fails, we have a number of measures that have been mentioned by the Russian president,” Mr Ryabkov said.

New Start treaty

Signed in Prague on April 8, 2010, the New START treaty went into force on February 5, 2011 for a period of ten years. Under the treaty, the parties agree to provide each other with information on their strategic offensive arms, including the geographic coordinates – with up to one geophysical minute precision – of underground intercontinental ballistic missile (IBM) launchers. The treaty parties exchange data on the status of their strategic offensive weapons on Mar. 1 and Sept. 1 of each year.

Commenting on the missile defense program in his first interview since the inauguration, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that his American counterpart would like to solve this problem. “Is it possible to find a solution to the problem if president Obama is re-elected for a second term? In principle, yes, it is. But this isn’t just about president Obama. I believe that he genuinely wants to work out a solution to the problem,’ Putin said.

The Russian president believes that both the military lobby and the Department of State, “with its quite conservative machinery,” have been hindering the search for a solution to this problem. “The thing is that, in order to solve the missile defense issue, we both need to accept the fact that we are reliable partners and allies,” said Putin.

Meanwhile, yet another problem could be emerging in Russian-American relations. In early September, it became that Moscow was unhappy with how Washington has been carrying out its obligations under the START treaty. “In sum, our assessment (based on inspection results) is positive– but we also have some observations, and those observations are meant for public discussion. They need to be discussed in a bilateral advisory committee that is arranged for under the treaty; the next session of this bilateral advisory committee will take place in Geneva before the end of September,’ Mr. Ryabkov told Interfax.

“We have a list of questions we would like to ask the American side, and I suspect that they are also eager to share their opinions with us about what they believe is necessary, based on the experience from the inspections exchange. There is nothing than cannot be discussed here, there are no concerns that cannot be overcome through the normal, systematic, and responsible work of the delegations,’ the Foreign Ministry’s representative added.

First published in Russian in the Vzglyad newspaper.