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  Asymmetric response is cheaper. But is it better?

Vytautas Kinèinaitis
2007 06 04

The speech of the Russian President V. Putin in Munich on 10 February, in which he accused the United States on the global dictate, sounded like threatening. Moreover that on 1 February, while speaking about the intentions of the United States to dislocate the elements of the anti-missile defense system (PRG) in Poland and Czech Republic, he stated that for Russia external security is of vital importance; therefore „its actions would be asymmetric, however, very effective“. He also mentioned the missile the warheads of which can change the trajectory according to height and azimuth and against which the PRG systems would be powerless.

It is not clear whether V. Putin‘s statement on warheads of new generation corresponds with reality, and  to what extent „asymmetry“ of a possible response is predetermined not by effectiveness of a new gun but by the Russian economic possibilities.

Why on earth Russia „responded“? After all there was no threatening from the United States. Maybe Russia simply takes a chance, since this is useful from the geopolitical point of view: to take a defensive position and win sympathies of the European countries, especially of the former „satellites“. At the same time this could be a good opportunity of preventing the United States from creation of the PRG shield.

When speaking about the PRG system, a deputy of Duma A. Kokoshin suggested to use the former experience. In 1980’s he participated in the establishment of ideology and strategy of possible soviet „asymmetric responses“ (their measures are much cheaper than creation of the PRG system). It was important not only to have adequate armament, but also to demonstrate it to the enemy at certain moments so as to convince „the political class“ of the opposite side that multistage PRG system will provide neither military nor political superiority.

A similar position is reflected in the recent review elaborated by the Russian Academy on Security, Defense and Law Enforcement. Among the measures of „asymmetric response“ it also mentions a possibility of destroying radars of PRG system by cruise missiles from strategic bombers with a view to restricting a possibility of taking over the Russian ballistic missiles. By the above the suggestion is made to intensify diplomatic efforts so as to prevent dislocation of elements of the PRG system in the neighborhood of Russia.

V. Popovkin, the general colonel of the Russian cosmic forces said that when solving problems of „asymmetric response“ of tactical level, radar cosmic space stations could be established in the territories of the Russian embassies.  The new type stations would not require permanent surveillance and wouldn’t require much space. Disregarding that his suggestion violates the Vienna Convention on the status of diplomatic embassies, the general most probably executes the presidential strategic line -  to highlight effectiveness and cheapness of own arms.

The Russian minister of defense S. Ivanov is of the same opinion.  He warned his colleagues: „if someone tries to bring us back to the armament race, we have to say that we are not going to do that... Our response..... will be asymmetric.“ However, it is not clear what kind of response this will be and where are directed Russian geopolitical vectors.

The above is clearly reflected in the report of the general colonel L. Ivashov, the president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, prepared in 2004. According to the author, „geopolitical enemies of Russia prevent from reintegration of the post-soviet space and involve our country into the global economic system under unfavorable conditions“.  Globalization and global market are of no use to Russia. It is necessary „not to extensively develop the western model, but to find a new quality of life-style with own system of values and attitudes“. Besides, the general also states that Russia „is forced to be actively interested in military-political processes both in Europe, and in Asia and to apply the Russian military policy in its neighboring regions.“

In Munich V. Putin highlighted that Russia  - the former „empire of evil“ – has managed to change itself and does not want anyone to dictate what it has to do“. Consequently, it remains closed to the West by keeping the heritage of the USSR era in the sphere of politics and soldiership and freedom of actions.

For the Baltic States the most actual are the Russian political-psychological and diplomatic „measures“, since they are designed not only for frightening off the United States, but also for forming the Russian internal policy and relations with the neighbors.

We have already witnessed that geopolitical interests of Russia could be defended with the help of the „bronze soldier“.

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