Interview with Evgeny Buzhinskiy, consultant at the Russian center for policy studies.
A statement issued by the Russian Presidential administration said that the Russian-US relations had reached a very high level, which was proved by the serious results of joint work in many spheres. So, what are the most significant results of Russian-US military and technical cooperation in the past year and a half, how do you think?
Well, I don’t think that the statement meant technical-military cooperation. Cooperation with the United States – yes. The most significant is the signing and ratification of START treaty. That’s the most important. And, the mutual desire to develop cooperation in the field of missile defense. That’s the most important results as I see them. As for technical-military cooperation, first of all, Russia and the United States do not have legal basis. First of all, they got to reach an agreement, a legal agreement to start and develop technical military cooperation. When I was in the Ministry of Defense, we studied that process in the year 2004. But, as far as I know, the consultations and negotiations are still going on.
So, how do you see the further development of military and technical cooperation between Russia and the USA?
Of course, there are areas of mutual interest – first of all, of course, it’s missile defense, and that was actually the main interest of the US side when they offered technical military cooperation, because for years, Russia proposed that we should conclude an agreement on technical military cooperation, and the US side had no interest, but in the years 2003-2004, when we started talking about cooperation in missile defense, they offered not agreement on technical military cooperation, but an agreement on technological cooperation. Then there was another issue of mutual interest, that was self-made explosives, because that was very important, especially for the US side, taking into consideration their activities in Afghanistan.
Missile defense was a major issue of discussion during the talks between the Russian President Dmitry Medevedev and US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday. Russia and NATO agreed to cooperate on the so-called Euro missile defense system during the Russia-NATO council summit in Lisbon last year, and NATO insists there should be two independent systems that exchange information, while Russia favors a joint system. How do you think the situation is going to develop?
If it were two independent systems, what is the main concern of the Russian side? If NATO has its own independent system, of course, it will be directed, let’s say, outside – not inside, outside – and outside is Russia, especially in the East. So, we would prefer, of course, as far as I understand the Russian position, maybe not a completely joint system, but a system. That was, actually, the gist of the approach which President Medvedev proposed in Lisbon. If Russia takes responsibility, for example, for the North East, there should be no active NATO interceptors in this sector. But, unfortunately, NATO is not very enthusiastic about the Russian approach, as far as I know – especially, the Baltic states, Poland, they do not see a possibility of somebody, not a member of NATO defending or providing their security.
I see. Ellen Tauscher, the US Undersecretary of State for arms control and international security affairs, said that reaching an agreement with Russia on cutting the tactical nuclear weapons stockpiles was likely to be a complicated process, and it would take time. So, what results do you expect?
Of course, it will be a long and complicated process, because the significance which NATO, the United States and Russia attach to tactical nuclear weapons is completely different. Of course, the United States mostly relies on its strategic nuclear forces, and Russia, taking into consideration the inferiority in conventional forces, in high precision weapons, in strategic non-nuclear means, of course, mostly relies on its nuclear tactical stockpiles, and, of course, as it was said recently by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, this issue, if solved, should and would be solved in a package.
What can you say about the year’s Russian exchange information on their nuclear stockpiles under the New Year’s arms reduction treaty?
Well, it’s a normal practice. Now, it’s the first stage of the exchange of the so-called initial data – what means of delivery and how many warheads each side has.
Russia welcomes the success of NATO-led coalition forces and the stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said on Tuesday, after a meeting with the US Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Moscow. So, how do you see further Russian-US cooperation in Afghanistan?
I think that Russia now is doing as much as it can – because, of course, I understand that our NATO partners would prefer Russia sending real troops to Afghanistan, but it’s a principle position of the Russian Federation not to send troops but all, all other things – transit, reconnaissance information, training of all kinds of specialists, arms deliveries, all that has been done and is being done by the Russian Federation.