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Nezavisimaya Gazeta, April 7, 2003

Under a Single Umbrella
Military Interaction between the RF and Western Europe is Possible and Necessary

By Alexei Arbatov
Alexei Arbatov is Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Defence Committee (YABLOKO faction).

The Chairman of the Military Committee of the European Union may become one of the main foreign partners of the Russian Defence Minister. Now this post is occupied by a Norwegian Gustav Haglund. (Sergei Ivanov - left, Gustav Haglund -right).
The unfolding drama of the war in Iraq has pushed less sensational problems to the background, even though these problems may be extremely important in the long term. They include a higher profile for relations between Russia and leading Western European countries, which is the only positive corollary (against a host of negative ones) from the Persian Gulf crisis.

However, military cooperation, to say nothing of integration, is still on the fringes of political attention in Russia and abroad.

The Iraqi crisis and the dismantling of NATO

There are lots of grounds for scepticism, all of them in the foreground. The deplorable state of the Russian army and military-industrial complex is well known. The same holds true for the archaic military command structure and the inertia of its composition. The low level of combat readiness of the army, catastrophic technical state of decline and moral corruption (apparently even the Head of the General Head-Quarters acknowledges this fact) make Europeans uncertain about the future of Russia-s democratic development and its economic reforms.

The situation in Western Europe is certainly much better. However, Europe also faces problems. The proper European institutions that should service European security after the end of the Cold War are still at an "embryonic" stage. The absence of a habitual single leader, international discord, and financial restrictions are impeding developments. The existing structures, programmes and expenses within NATO remain a heavy burden that most countries have to bear out of inertia. The Iraqi crisis may well accelerate the partial dismantling of NATO on both sides of the Atlantic and the construction of a truly European defence system in its place.

However, it is still clear that military cooperation between Russia and the European Union still lacks a solid foundation. Its Eastern component is in a ruined and distressed state; whereas there is no Western component - it is a draft project and lacks any real organisational or material basis.

Nevertheless, there are objective prerequisites for such cooperation. Moreover, in military terms Russia and the European Union are potentially mutually complementary to the same extent as they are economically. To a certain extent neither Russia nor the European Union are capable of independently ensuring their security - despite Western scepticism and Russian inane statements about self-sufficiency. Let us consider possible directions and forms of cooperation, ranging from simple to complicated and short term to long term.

Partners and Competitors

You have some arms trade, for example, deliveries of Russian spare parts for weapons and military equipment left in Europe by the late Warsaw Pact and the sale of anti-aircraft missiles, helicopters, and other items to Greece and Turkey. However, in general arms trade between Russia and leading EU countries is insignificant in terms of industrial scope and the demands of the armies. The military-industrial complexes of Russia, France, Great Britain, Germany, and Italy are more competitors than allies in the global arms trade and don't want to allow foreign military hardware onto their domestic markets for both commercial and political reasons.

In the meantime, there are reasons and motives for cooperation at a higher level. First, it is becoming more and more difficult for Russian and West European firms to compete on their own in the global market with the United States and newly emerging Asian rivals. Secondly, it is becoming more difficult to cover the cost of sophisticated weapons with national budgets and national scientific and technical capacities. The European Union has been already pursuing cooperation in the creation of some weapons systems (for example, the Eurofighter). Russia involves its traditional contractors from the post-Soviet space in some forms of cooperation, but the funds [allotted by the national budget] for the defence order are catastrophically low even for Russian enterprises (their production facilities are operating at only 25% capacity: the figure is even lower for design bureaus and research institutes).

This is already insufficient to remain at the foreground of military equipment competition with the USA and other emerging military leaders of the 21st century. There is only one way to maintain positions on the international arms markets and equip one-s own army: military-technological and production cooperation between Russia and the leading states in Western Europe. This opens up a really huge field for cooperation, provided that a number of political, economic and legal problems are resolved.

For example, Russia is still manufacturing the best fighters (SU-27 and modifications), naval and ground tactical missiles, artillery systems, armored vehicles, and small ships. The Western Europe may contribute electronics, informational systems, fire control and communications systems, advanced maintenance facilities, etc. Russia and France have already tried a limited form of cooperation (the SU-27 with French avionics) but this is more of an experiment than anything else.

The lack of strategic mobility for rapid reaction collective forces is the universally recognized flaw of the military integration plans of the European Union. Russia (together with Ukraine) can fill in the gap and offer Europe the best heavy transport aircrafts in the world (Ruslan or Mria types). In this case the rapid reaction collective forces will be able to reach across the Balkans into Africa and the Middle East. And using Russian bases, it may even reach into Central and South Asia, South-East Asia, and Far East.

Another well-known defect of the EU relates to the underdevelopment of its military space complex and its dependence on the United States. You cannot prepare and deploy modern armed forces (including long-range high-precision weapons systems) without reconnaissance satellites, satellites for command and control, communications, navigation, and weather reports, as demonstrated by the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Russia has surplus capacities available to create space carriers and other good spacecrafts. However, owing to a shortfall in financing the space military group and its ground infrastructure are in ruins. The Russian Aviation and Space Agency and its branches have functioned largely owing to launches of American satellites and depend to a great degree on such cooperation (cooperation at a small level exists with France, and there are plans with Italy and some other countries). Therefore military partnership with the EU can involve, at the first stage, an abrupt increase in the deployment of Russian carriers for the launch of European satellites, and further integration for the support, development, control and deployment of military space systems and dual-purpose satellites.

Without such cooperation neither Russia nor the European Union will be able to introduce high-precision weapons which make it possible to conduct "non-contact wars" and reduce their losses and corresponding damage in the military theatre to a minimum, although the recent Iraqi war has demonstrated that weapons alone cannot fill in for a shortage of political foresight and responsibility of their leaders.

Fear of Dependence

Anti-missile defence is another important sphere. Western Europe has not been very responsive to America's suggestions in mid-1990s or to Russia's suggestions this decade to set up a joint anti-missile theatre defence system (i.e., against small- and medium-range ballistic missiles). This is due to the fact that Europeans do not see any imminent threat and therefore do not believe it is worth all the expense, political effort and particularly increased dependence on the United States and Russia. However, the situation may change, and a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Asia and North Africa (in particular, as a result of the war in Iraq) will certainly put this particular threat into the foreground of European security.

No single European country nor the European Union in general have the capacity to create a modern anti-missile theatre defence system. Obviously, such a modern system, which guarantees the physical survival of every country involved, requires close relations between allies and partners and firm mutual obligations in security. These kinds of relations have been established with the United States within NATO, but the Iraqi crisis has compromised the viability of the Alliance and Europe's readiness to rely on Washington, whose single-handed military forays may make its European allies targets of revenge strikes. Moreover, for purely geographical reasons the anti-missile theatre defence system will always be of secondary importance for the United States, as its territory is beyond the reach of all small and medium-range ballistic missiles. Only intercontinental missiles can threaten the USA, which necessitate a strategic anti-ballistic missile system for defence.

On the contrary, Russia and the European Union face a common threat of small and medium-range ballistic missiles that may be launched from North Africa, Mid-East, and Asia. Russian radars, in addition to space systems (which are potentially joint systems) provide immediate warning on the launch of missiles from those directions. Russian anti-aircraft complexes (S-300s, S-400s, modifications and new generation complexes), coupled with European electronics and informational systems, could create the world's best anti-missile theatre defence system both from a technical and geostrategic point of view. Cooperation with the European Union (unlike cooperation with the United States via NATO) would not generate the problems of extending the system to Washington's allies in the Far East and would not make China suspicious.

The same holds true for anti-aircraft defence, as aircraft may be used not only as ballistic weapons, but also as a delivery means. In addition, close cooperation in anti-aircraft defence is urgently needed to avert aircraft terrorism in Europe (like "black September" in New York and Washington).

Finally we come to the most delicate and least developed sphere of potential cooperation - nuclear weapons. Until now, national British and French nuclear forces have only played their role under the umbrella of the powerful strategic nuclear forces of the United States and its obligations under NATO and only targeted the territory of the USSR/Russia. The split and marginalization of NATO, disappearance of the threat from Moscow, new common interests in foreign policy and the security of Russia and the EU can finally change the situation here.

For certain objective reasons the French and British nuclear forces will for the foreseeable future l remain quite limited in quantity and composition (in theory, about 600 warheads for each country, and up to 1,000 warheads in all). Due to financial and technical problems, Russian strategic forces will be down to 1,000 warheads or fewer ten to fifteen years from now (far fewer actually functioning warheads), regardless the fate of the May 2002 Treaty on Strategic Offensive Potential Reductions.

Facing New Threats

On their own the national strategic forces of the three aforementioned countries will not amount to too much against the American potential, but that will be acceptable, as long as relations with Washington are not hostile. However, the possible development of the nuclear potential of third-party countries (North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Israel, India, China, and possibly Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Libya, Syria, etc) may force Russia, Great Britain, and France to reconsider the sufficiency of their nuclear deterrent forces.

Certainly cooperation here is particularly delicate. Cooperation even within the confines of NATO has only involved the United States and Great Britain, and within the CIS Russia and Ukraine (and Belarus to a limited extent). However, the emergence of a common threat, security requirements and the inability to rely on a strong patron any longer may bring down existing barriers sooner or later. First, integration between Great Britain and France, then within the broader framework of the European Union, and finally with Russia, may become the only possible way to offer a guaranteed deterrent in all directions of the multi-polar nuclear world. At first, cooperation may proceed along the lines of compatibility of early warning systems, "hot lines", then the provision of broader information, then coordination of operational plans, lists of targets, tactic of targeting (certainly not each other), the compatibility of control systems and finally assume the form of cooperation in the production of nuclear weapons and support systems.

As well as science and technology cooperation, the European financing of all military projects, investments in Russian industry (which will be easier to make in joint military research and technology programmes), as well as purchases of weapons and military equipments, will be of prime importance for all the aforementioned directions of cooperation. It differs from current attempts to simply attract buyers of Russian equipment from Europe or attract investors to the holding companies of the Russian military-industrial complex on conditions that are unattractive from the viewpoint of Western corporate law.

It has transpired that the European Union cannot be fully integrated in terms of military capacity and cannot become a global centre of military might in the 21st century without Russia. On the other hand, without the European Union and its help Russia cannot resolve its key goals: radical improvement in the welfare of the Russian military (and transition from conscription to the contract-based formation of the army), preservation of the strategic deterrent potential, and comprehensive technical refurbishment of the army to defend the country in the south and east).

It will prove impossible to achieve political recognition of objective common demands and fully exploit the capacities of Russia and the European Union without radical positive changes in Russia and the European Union, radical progress in economic and social cooperation, as well as partnership in foreign policy. However, this would appear to be a fantasy. Although judging from experience in the past decade, life in terms of dramatic change sometimes goes far beyond the most unreal fantasies


See also:

Russia - EU Relations

Russia's ABM Initiatives

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, April 7, 2003

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