It was held within the framework of the project named Cooperation in the Field of Security and Strategic Culture. Opportunities and Barriers to International Cooperation in the Sphere of Missile Defense, funded by the German Foundation for Peace Research (Deutsche Stiftung Friedensforschung).
According to the research paper, the deployment of the missile defense system is explained by a nonexistent threat and seriously complicates the relations of European states with the Russian Federation.
“If NATO still wishes to maintain territorial missile defense, the project of cooperation with Russia must not be rejected. Only if Moscow is convinced that the NATO missile defense system is not a threat to Russia, NATO missile defense will provide the European allies with a comprehensive security advantage. A new start for cooperation with Russia would therefore be sensible,” the paper says.
Meanwhile, Ilgar Velizade, Head of the Baku-based South Caucasus Club of Political Scientists, said that Europeans view the American system as an effective tool for ensuring their own security.
“The current difficult geopolitical conditions lead to growing suspicion in relations not only between Russia and its eastern neighbors, but also between Russia and other Western countries. The sanctions regime and the reasons why these sanctions are introduced do not help to defuse the situation. Naturally, in such a situation, projects like BMD in Europe are in demand and are realized under conditions of symmetric measures on the part of Russia,” the political scientist said.
At the same time, in his opinion, the effectiveness of these steps, and, in particular, the effectiveness of BMD in Europe is disputable.
“It is even more difficult to talk about security, when you realize that your actions can serve as a reason for counteractions of a possible adversary. In general, in this situation, the whole system of European security, relatively speaking, is put under attack. A new conditional or explicit ‘iron curtain’ is being formed, and neighbors on both sides begin to feel more and more uncomfortable,” Ilgar Velizade said.
According to him, further similar actions in this direction will lead to an even greater complication of the situation.
“I do not think that in the foreseeable future the BMD system will be used by the West and the East. At the same time, further deployment of this system, equipping it with new technically advanced air defense weapons, will undoubtedly contribute to complicating the military and political situation in such regions as the Baltic, the Black Sea basin and Northern Europe,” the expert said.
Commenting on the validity of the NATO missile defense system in Europe, Pal Steigan, Norwegian politician, publisher, writer, independent entrepreneur in the field of culture and information technology, reminded that this system was originally sold as a defense against incoming missiles from Iran.
“This was a thinly veiled bluff to begin with, since Iran didn’t have that kind of capacity or intentions. After the nuclear agreement with Iran the bluff is in the open for anyone to see. These missiles are directed against Russia and with the deployment of the missile batteries close to Russia’s borders it is all the more evident. This is not an instrument of defense, but of war of aggression,” the politician said.
According to him, the participation of European countries in the implementation of this project contradicts their own interests.
“In Norway there is no such missile battery for the time being, but with the new US Air Force base near Trondheim and with the Norwegian satellite radars close to Russia we are included in these preparations for aggressive war. This is obviously against the interests of the people of Norway and of Europe,” Pal Steigan said.
“The EU needs peaceful cooperation and trade with Russia, but the war party of Washington does everything in its power to destroy such cooperation. This has to do with US imperial interests,” he stressed.
He also expressed confidence that there are deep conflicts between the US and Europe.
“The European countries do not want to foot the bill, and with the trans-Atlantic estrangement between EU and the Trump administration Germany and other countries see the opening to act for better relations with Russia and China. The war cries of the neocons are dangerous and we even risk a big war by mistake,” Pal Steigan explained and added that Europe badly needs a strong mass movement against this war policy.
In turn, Hiromichi Umebayashi, Special Adviser, Peace Depot; Visiting Professor, Nagasaki University, called the NATO missile defense system a major obstacle to any efforts to improve the relationship between US and Russia.
“The improvement of the Russia-US relationship is vitally important to the world because the world has to see the next START negotiation to succeed the current one whose target year for reduction is 2018,” he explained.
The expert shared the view that the agreement with Iran radically changed the situation around this project.
“The rationale for the current European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) has been lost with 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement with Iran. And if they [Europeans] really care about the possible threat and want to defend themselves against it, a system with mutual cooperation with Russia seems to be a best choice,” Hiromichi Umebayashi stressed.
From his point of view, it is difficult to predict further development of the situation.
“Trump administration may want to get along better with Russia, but also may want to pursue interests of US defense industry. Only I can wish is that public voices in Europe and the US will rise strong enough to change the course,” the Japanese expert said.
Meanwhile, Ian Anthony, Head of SIPRI’s European Security Program, paid attention to the fact that, according to NATO, the BMD system has reached an “initial operational capability.”
“This means that the systems in the field are able to work together under NATO command and NATO control. This includes the missile interceptors in Romania, Spanish ships equipped with the Aegis missile defense capability, a radar station in Turkey and a command center in Germany. In the future additional capabilities will be added, both on land – in Poland – and at sea – with Dutch ships integrated into the system,” the analyst said.
According to him, the current priority for NATO is to link all of the parts into one fully integrated air defense system that also includes short-range missile defenses and combat aircraft.
“The purpose of the system is to defend NATO Allies against limited ballistic missile threats from the South. NATO has repeatedly explained that the system cannot defend against a much more sophisticated and numerous missile capability, such as the Russian capability, and it is not designed to do that,” Ian Anthony reminded.
He also stressed that Russia’s concerns are focused on the wider issue of the United States missile defense capability, of which the NATO system is only one part.
“Russia’s perspective is that the European capability cannot be seen in isolation from this overall missile defense system and that, in the future, this overall system might undermine the deterrent effect of Russia's nuclear forces. Therefore, Russia seeks legal constraints on United States missile defenses, which the US is not willing to give. In the current political and military conditions, closing this gap in perspective and reaching a shared understanding must be considered to be very unlikely,” Head of SIPRI’s European Security Program said.
Meanwhile, Seth Baum, Executive Director, Global Catastrophic Risk Institute; Research Affiliate, Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, Cambridge University; Research Scientist, Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, presented a broader vision of the situation, speaking of the importance of NATO's missile defense system for relations between Russia and the West.
According to him, many security problems are generated because of lack of consensus on Russia's place in the world order that would be respectful to Russia's desire to be an independent center of power and establish friendly relations with the West.
“The failure to achieve this goal following the Cold War is what caused the problems we see today about missile defense and many other issues. The United States takes much of the blame for that failure,” Seth Baum said.
According to him, the United States will not be able to achieve any meaningful progress in relations with Russia as long as Donald Trump is president, however, in the short term, the parties should try to resolve the main contentious issues.
“As a researcher in the field of nuclear weapons risk, as an American, and as a human being, I have a strong desire to see better relations. Heightened tensions increase the probability of nuclear war and decrease the prospects for cooperation across a wide range of important global issues. Russia is a large and important country. For its own sake and the sake of the world, I hope we can make progress in relations,” the American expert said.