Russians Ready to Test Obama over Missile Defense

Monday, 10 Nov 2008 10:23 AM

By Nat Helms

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Just one day after his first national security briefing, president-elect Barack Obama is already facing his first international test as the petro-dollar-rich Russian Federation bolsters its nuclear forces to counter the U.S. missile shield being installed in Eastern Europe, Russian authorities have revealed.

The Russian moves come in response to a Bush Administration plan to install “up to ten silo-based long-range interceptors located in central Europe” between 2011 and 2013, according to the Missile Defense Agency at the Pentagon. European and Asian political pundits say the Russians want to find out if Obama will keep the embryonic “missile shield” in Eastern Europe or cave in to threats of a 21st century Cold War and remove it.

“The United States has kept, and is continuing to keep, Russia informed about U.S. missile defense policy, plans, and programs,” an official at the missile agency says. “Any prospective U.S. missile defense assets deployed in Europe would not be directed at Russia.”

The US has already installed one Boeing Ground Based Interceptor (GBI) system in Poland and is building a companion radar station in the Czech Republic, Pentagon officials said. The missiles are intended to protect Europe from isolated missile attacks by “rogue” nations, President George W. Bush has said.

On Wednesday, Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev claimed his country was being “forced” to beef up its nuclear forces to counter American-inspired military pressure on its western border.

In response the Russian Strategic Missile Forces is going on line with its fifth-generation RS-24 multiple-warhead ballistic missile system in 2009, according to several Russian and Chinese news services.

Newsmax reported Thursday that Medvedev had cancelled plans to withdraw three intercontinental ballistic nuclear missile regiments from western Russia by 2010.

The regiments are armed with 30 modernized RS-18 “Stiletto” missiles deployed in the Ukraine until the end of the Soviet Union. Before the US missile shield was announced the ICBMs were slated for the scrape pile, the Russians said.

"What we've had to deal with in the last few years — the construction of a global missile defense system, the encirclement of Russia by military blocs, unrestrained NATO enlargement ... The impression is we are being tested to the limit," Medvedev reportedly told the Russian Parliament in Moscow.

The Russians have rushed into service a new intercontinental ballistic missile as well, according to the Russian general who commands Russia’s strategic missiles.

"We have carried out a series of successful ground and flight tests of the RS-24 missile. The new ICBM system will be put in service in 2009," Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov told the Russian internet news service Novosti last week.

The new system would "strengthen Russia's nuclear deterrence" by countering “elements of a U.S. missile defense system deployed in Central Europe,” Solovtsov said.

The RS-24 compliments another new ballistic missile system called the Topol-M, a nuclear tipped ballistic missile already in service in the Russian army, according to the semi-official Interfax news service.

The Russian Topol-M, 30 years younger than the modernized RS-18 Medvedev intends to keep in service, has unique flight characteristics the Russians claim make it immune to all US anti-missile systems, including the GBI system in place in Poland..

There are currently four Topol-M systems deployed. Each of the units has up to ten intercontinental ballistic missiles with a range of more than 6,500 miles, the Russian newspaper Pravda is reporting.

The Topol-M is 68-feet long, seven feet in diameter, and weighs 47.2 tons at lift off, according to Russian military sources. The missile can perform “unpredictable flight maneuvers” owing to auxiliary thruster engines that allow it to maneuver in space, the Interfax news agency said.

"Considering the changing military and political situation in the world and U.S. plans to deploy its missile shield, as well as the need to adequately respond to these plans, a set of measures are being taken to develop the Strategic Missile Forces," Solovtsov told Interfax.

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