The Russian position on the missile defense issue is an attempt to influence the architecture and the numbers and the physical characteristics of U.S. missile defense, which is essentially aimed at rogue states or accidental launches. And in that respect, one wonders why Russia is so much against it.
interview with Ariel Cohen, Senior Research Fellow, Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Security, The Heritage Foundation, and member of the Valdai Discussion Club.
How did Putin's refusal to participate in the G8 summit influence the decisions that were taken? Was Medvedev considered to be a good partner with whom to cooperate?
The G8 summit is a summit of heads of state, so the fact that Putin did not show up is clearly a signal to the United States and to the G8 that Russian priorities are elsewhere. Moreover, the Russian priorities are exemplified by Putin's trip to China. This is a strong signal of where Putin's third term foreign policy priorities are going to lie.
As regards Medvedev’s participation it is needed to mention that the Russian Prime Minister does have good relations with Barack Obama. They even had burgers together, they get along well. But the U.S. President also understands who is in charge, because he asked Medvedev to pass information to Putin about how, after Obama's hoped-for reelection, he will be more flexible on missile defense. Of course, today it is impossible to predict who is going to be president – Obama and Mitt Romney are running neck and neck. Therefore, one can speculate what will happen after the elections, in terms of missile defense if Obama is indeed elected. But clearly, if Romney is elected, the same flexibility on missile defense seems impossible.
How can the decision taken during the NATO summit on the deployment of missile defense in Europe by 2018 influence the Russia-US or Russia-NATO relations?
I do not believe that the missile defense controversy is in any way endangering Russian security. In order for the scenario that the Russian generals and others are articulating to become a reality – in order for this missile defense to cause substantive damage to Russian security – one has to assume a disarming U.S. strike against Russia.
The U.S. will never go to a disarming strike. And even if it did – let's talk theoretically – the nuclear submarine second strike capability of Russia cannot be addressed by missile defense. Even if, let us say, 100 warheads are left after the disarming strike, and if one assumes that this missile defense is capable of intercepting, which are very far-reaching assumptions, there's also the submarine leg and the bomber leg of the Russian nuclear triad, and missile defense cannot deal with that. And therefore, I do not believe this is a serious concern.
Thus, the Russian position on the missile defense issue is an attempt to influence the architecture and the numbers and the physical characteristics of U.S. missile defense, which is essentially aimed at rogue states or accidental launches. And in that respect, one wonders why Russia is so much against it.
It seems that the Russia-US relations are cooling, for example, both in Moscow and Washington the political rhetoric is becoming harsher and the missile defense issue add up to the coolness. How will the bilateral relations develop?
The U.S.-Russian relations in general last for more than 200 years old, and there are significant bilateral issues that are of interest to both countries. What I would like to see is less hysterics, less personal attacks, like we saw on McFaul and Hillary Clinton, and more serious, substantive engagement. It is not in the interest of Russia or the United States to have a nuclear-armed Iran. It is not in the interest of Russia or the United States to have the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power in the Middle Eastern countries, one hopes – I hope so. And therefore, I would like to see a more pragmatic rhetoric and more pragmatic engagement, and less hysteria.