Russia-Belarus: Intercept Point:
ABM Defense as a Political Argument

Moscow Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye , 12-18 Jul 97 No 25, p 3
by journalist Sergey Aleksandrovich Goryainov

The mass media of all possible political orientations lately have been drawn into the discussion over the unification of Russia and Belarus, and not one politician with any kind of stature will be found who has not hastened to voice his own competent opinion. But both right and left are keeping mum about the true reason for the stubborn attraction of "democratic" Russia and "totalitarian" Belarus. Meanwhile, this is a very serious reason.

The Volga installation of the Russian Missile Attack Warning System (SPRN)--a fundamentally new solid-state digital radar (Chief Designer Stanislav Mironov, head developer NIIDAR [Scientific Research Institute of Long- Range Radio Communications], Moscow) went on the air in early 1995. This radar is capable of fixing the launches of ballistic missiles with high accuracy essentially on the entire territory of Europe. Volga is located not far from Baranovichi in Belarus. The cost of development, fabrication and construction of this installation and, most important, its strategic importance to Russia, are extraordinarily high.

After the Missile Attack Warning System's early warning (RO-2) center near Riga was blown up at U.S. demand and the fate of the Mukachevo Missile Attack Warning System center was hanging by a thread due to the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, making Volga operational was a success whose significance is hard to overestimate. It is quite obvious that with Belarus ending up in the NATO orbit, the Baranovichi Missile Attack Warning System center instantly will suffer the fate of the Riga center, which will lead to a substantial and then possibly irreplaceable "strategic blindness."

Grand Illusion of Strategic Stability

Information from the Baranovichi center arrives at the Missile Attack Warning System command post and goes from there to the command-computer facility (KVP) of the Moscow industrial area ABM Defense System (A-135 system). Several dozen ABM silos of the far and near echelon equipped with nuclear warheads are under control of the A-135 command- computer facility. This ABM defense system, which has no world analogs, was accepted on alert duty by presidential edict of 17 February 1995.

The A-135 system has been made in strict conformity with the 1972 ABM Treaty between the USSR and United States. At the March Helsinki summit, the high contracting parties signed a joint declaration which called this document a "cornerstone of strategic stability," but its reliability has given rise to certain doubts of late.

The United States is spending up to six billion dollars annually on research in the ABM defense area (with a total absence of financing for similar work in Russia). Intensive development of a national strategic ABM defense system is being carried on with this money; it is to include five defended areas, while the 1972 Treaty permits creating only one area. In the words of Anatoliy Basistov, general designer of the A-135 system, the Americans will manage to accomplish the task of creating a national ABM defense system by 2010, after which the United States immediately will withdraw from the Treaty.

According to General Staff GRU [Main Intelligence Directorate] data, European countries that are NATO members also are conducting intensive work in the ABM defense area, and the effect of the Treaty does not extend to them. In addition to developing a strategic ABM defense system, the United States is conducting wide-scale work to create ABM defense systems in a theater of military operations (PRO TVD). Having independent financing, it already should be completed by 2000. Advertising documentation on the THAAD system, which comprises the basis of the U.S. theater ABM defense system, already had been presented at the last weapons exhibition in Abu Dhabi.

The theater ABM defense system also will not fall under the effect of the 1972 Treaty, and so an understanding on limiting the parameters of these systems was reached at the March summit. This agreement cannot be assessed other than as a global defeat of the Russian side. Suffice it to say that the speed of a land-based ABM interceptor under this agreement must not exceed 5.5 km/sec (the Russian side was insisting on 3 km/sec), but it is close to the speed of the Russian strategic ABM defense system's ABM interceptor! Considering the circumstance that combat employment of THAAD will be possible in just three years and work on a similar complex in the Russian enterprise for creating ABM defense systems (Scientific Research Institute of Radio Instrument Making, Moscow) was frozen back in the mid- 1980's, it can be asserted boldly that the "cornerstone of strategic stability" is no more than a fig leaf covering a swift buildup in one side's ABM defense potential and a catastrophic reduction in it on the other side.

Nuclear Response Threshold

What are the reasons for such attention to the problem of ABM defense in the United States?

First of all, an intensification of the process of a "spread" of ballistic delivery vehicles and of nuclear and chemical weapons is forecast by the end of the century, in connection with which the probability of blackmail, terrorism and unsanctioned launches grows. At a 1993 international conference on ABM defense problems, the U.S. side presented a briefing prepared based on CIA reports, which asserted that by 2000 around 17 countries can possess nuclear weapons, 30 can have chemical weapons and 15 will be capable of acquiring ballistic delivery vehicles with a flight range exceeding 3,000 km. There also is a similar picture in the report of the RF Ministry of Defense NII-2 and in corresponding General Staff GRU summary reports.

The second reason is that tactical ABM defense systems such as THAAD can become a significant breakthrough in the international weapons market--the one who manages to fill this prospective niche will become proprietor of the market at least for the first two decades of the coming century. Russian complexes such as the S-300 are the "highlight of today's program" of Rosvooruzheniye. Even the S-400's now under development will be unable to compete in specifications and performance characteristics with THAAD type systems, and bringing domestic SAM complexes to the level of ABM defense complexes will require financial infusions which Russia's present budget will be unable to sustain. The only way for our country not to lose the future market is to renew the work on a THAAD analog begun in the Scientific Research Institute of Radio Instrument Making back in the late 1970's and that now has been brought to the OKR [experimental development work] stage. The significant breakaway of Russian developers that existed at one time has been reduced almost to nil as of today, but chances for victory in competitive struggle still are rather great.

Moscow's Last Line

At present Russia's only chance to deploy a national strategic ABM defense system is to modernize the A-135 system while preserving the existing Missile Attack Warning System network (including also the most modern Baranovichi center).

In the words of Viktor Sloka, chief designer of the multichannel Don radar, which is part of the A-135 system, from the very beginning both the radar and the system as a whole were being created with consideration of further development and in principle are capable of providing information cover and combat cover against attacking ballistic missiles not only for the European part of Russian territory, but also for the territory of Eastern European countries.

General Designer Basistov asserts that the A-135 system demonstrated significant "reserves" in all parameters in proving ground and state tests. The high-speed ABM interceptors of Lyulyev's design can destroy ballistic targets at ranges 2.5 times greater and at altitudes 3 times higher than those for which they now are certified. The A-135 in principle is capable of destroying low-orbiting satellites as well.

In addition, it must be taken into account that A- 135's 5K80 command-computer facility is the most modern, sophisticated command post of those existing in the country--the only one protected against casualty-producing elements of a nuclear burst and that has ABM interceptor launch positions (active protection).

The existence in Russia of the world's only combat ABM defense system, a developed Missile Attack Warning System, and a scientific and design potential for building them up is the most serious argument in the discussion about NATO eastward expansion and a genuine foundation for today's political decisions. To use the terminology adopted by ABM defense developers, today is a unique "intercept point" at which the fate of these very systems and consequently also the fate of Russia as a superpower is being decided.