Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Russians are Deeply Concerned by American "Prompt Global Strike"

Following the meeting of the Russian Ministry of Defense collegium in Moscow on December 10, 2013, the defense minister, Army-General Sergei Shoigu, and the chief of the General Staff, Army-General Valery Gerasimov, instructed the top brass on the priorities facing the military. In their addresses to the top brass in the newly formed “Situation Center” of the General Staff, commanders were told that the development of the plan of defense is linked mainly to the United States’ concept of “Prompt Global Strike” and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ballistic missile defense initiative. Voluminous Russian media coverage offers plenty of insight into the well-established objections in Moscow to the creation of missile defense in Europe, especially alleging that this has serious implications for Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent. However, less is known on the much deeper issue of understanding US Prompt Global Strike capabilities and its possible implications for Russian defense planning .

In a detailed analysis in RIA Novosti, Konstantin Bogdanov considers how Russian officials understand the concept of “Prompt Global Strike,” noting that Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin had sharply criticized existing US plans. Bogdanov’s starting point is to highlight in simple terms Washington’s aim to create a military capability that would allow a non-nuclear strike anywhere in the world within 60 minutes. The author suggests the most feasible implementation of the concept would be using Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) armed with high-precision conventional warheads, while a second component may be strategic cruise missiles. A third component envisages the creation of advanced delivery vehicles capable of exiting and re-entering the atmosphere, though such developments face the problem of carrying heavy warheads and avoiding the militarization of space.

Bogdanov’s analysis concedes that the US Prompt Global Strike capability is not being developed with Russia in mind, but states that it clearly does present added problems for Russian defense planners. In the event of a hypothetical use of such capabilities against Russia, the US would face the prospect of nuclear escalation and full retaliation. However, despite this, Bogdanov argues that Moscow cannot afford to ignore US Prompt Global Strike plans. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov characterized such capabilities as presenting a “path to escalation” with “apocalyptic consequences.” The author also argues that Russia’s most advanced air defense systems do not offer country-wide protection against Prompt Global Strike capabilities.


Moreover, a plan is being drafted to deploy rail-mounted nuclear missiles as a potential response to Prompt Global Strike. On December 18, 2013, Lieutenant-General Sergei Karakaev said, “A defense ministry report has been submitted to the president and the order has been given to develop a preliminary design of a rail-mounted missile system.” Karakaev added that extensive analysis of the US system led to the conclusion that “there is a need to reconsider the issue of a rail-mounted missile system given its increased survivability and the extent of our railway network”

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