An Outlook for Joint Countering of Security Threats
No. 4 2005 October/December
Vladimir Dvorkin

Head of Research, Center for Strategic Nuclear Forces, Major General (Ret.).

What are the prospects for Russia’s partnership with the West in
countering security threats at the beginning of the 21st century?
What still remains from the strategic legacy of the Soviet Union
and what has been created in new Russia? Answers to these questions
are key in preserving and modernizing this legacy and taking
further steps in building a new partnership capability.

Before tackling this problem, however, it is essential to
address the definition of ‘partnership’ since this term is often
used too loosely. Thus, Global Partnership, an action plan adopted
at the G-8 Evian Summit in 2003, provides for $20-billion aid to
Russia for eliminating its stockpiles of chemical weapons,
scrapping decommissioned nuclear submarines, improving the safety
of its nuclear installations, etc. At the same time, the aid is to
be provided not only by G-8 members, but also by at least other 13
countries, in particular Australia, New Zealand, and South

Although Russia agreed to allocate $200 million annually for
these programs, this partnership still resembles “cooperation”
between a sick patient hooked up to an IV and a team of doctors
fussing around his bed. Thus, it is important that we discuss a
partnership that is more or less on equal terms.


There is no immediate threat of direct aggression against Russia
on the part of specific states or their coalitions in the
foreseeable future. However, other threats to the country’s
military security have increased. International terrorism and the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are modern realities
that are eroding the security of practically every civilized state.
These threats are particularly dangerous to Russia due to its
geo-strategic position and insufficiently protected borders.

Moreover, the outbreak and escalation of large-scale regional
armed conflicts near Russia’s borders, possibly involving the use
of nuclear weapons, cannot be ruled out. Such a possible scenario
demands special deterrence action by the Russian Armed Forces.

Furthermore, there is a need to protect Russian installations
and facilities that are situated in the oceans and space
infrastructure abroad, as well as facilities related to shipping,
commercial and other types of activity in littoral areas and remote
oceanic zones.

This proves that, far from diminishing, military force continues
to play an increasing role at the beginning of the 21st century.
However, the transborder nature of practically all of the
aforementioned threats and challenges, coupled with an insufficient
resource base even in the most powerful states (Russia not being
among them yet), requires close international cooperation. This is
why Russia needs military structures capable of smooth, hassle-free
interaction with analogous structures in other countries.
Cooperation on such a level demands at least two provisos:
interoperability of structures between Russia and its allies and
our partners’ comparable contribution to addressing these shared

At first glance it may appear that such a partnership is already
in place – under the auspices of the Russia-NATO Council which
provides guidance and recommendations for more than 20 joint
working groups, the conduct of joint military exercises,
peacekeeping operations, and other activities with the
participation of Russian and NATO forces. It also provides the
basis for the implementation of military-technical cooperation

Yet there is little evidence of equal partnership, especially
full-fledged participation in coalition forces dealing with
regional armed conflicts, peacekeeping operations, WMD and other
nonproliferation activities. This requires a high level of
structural, operational, and technological interoperability between
Russian and NATO military units, as well as comparable
professional, legal, and humanitarian personnel training

Meanwhile, the Russian military, which is the poor man’s answer
to the Soviet military, is not ready for such partnership. The
Russian Armed Forces have emerged from unjustified shakeups and
reorganizations in recent years and are now an essentially obsolete
structure, not speaking about the command and control structure.
Nor has the progressive deterioration of arms and military
equipment been halted: the obsolescence and wear and tear of the
basic assets of the military-industrial complex presently stands at
80 percent – a very critical level. Meanwhile, the country
continues to lose key technologies that are crucial for its
defense. The technological gap between the Russian and U.S. (NATO)
armed forces in intelligence, communication, command and control,
and precision-guided weapons continues to widen.

To bridge this gap, it will not be sufficient just to modernize
the military-industrial complex, create joint commands of compact
mixed-arms forces and assets, introduce effective procedures and
methods for conducting operations with the use of integrated
intelligence, command and control and communication systems,
together with air, ground and sea-based precision guided weapons.
All of this already exists in the U.S. military and to a certain
degree in the most developed European NATO member countries. So
while (and if) Russia moves in the same direction, the
Western-leaning nations will only increase their lead, thus
broadening the gap.

For these reasons, no direct and equal military partnership
between Russia and the West can be expected in the foreseeable
future. At the same time, supplies of arms and military equipment
to government forces in Afghanistan, for example, which are mainly
trained to handle Soviet weapons, is an example of indirect
partnership in the military sphere. Certain structures of the
Russian Armed Forces can also be involved in auxiliary operations,
such as, e.g., making available their military bases, providing
transport support, constructing pontoon ferries, etc.


Other security spheres have the potential for full-fledged
cooperation – partly as Soviet legacy and partly as input by new
Russia. This involves, in particular, stopping the proliferation of
missiles and missile technology, and building missile defense

Yet how relevant is this line in dealing with new threats? After
all, on the one hand, the missiles in the majority of countries
with authoritarian regimes do not pose a serious danger unless they
are armed with nuclear warheads. On the other hand, it is not
difficult to secretly deliver nuclear explosive devices or nuclear
warheads to big cities either complete or piecemeal with their
subsequent assembly on the ground. This danger is more real than
the possible use of missiles.

Furthermore, the rapid spread of new technology (including
satellite navigation) makes it possible within a relatively short
time span to convert ballistic missiles with conventional warheads
into precision-guided weapons. Such missiles can be extremely
dangerous if they hit nuclear power plants, installations or depots
with radioactive materials, chemical or other substances, while
hundreds of such installations and facilities can be found in any
megalopolis. Second, many hundreds of ballistic missiles are
deployed in countries with unstable political regimes, and should
even a small part of these weapons be armed with nuclear charges,
this will become a substantially more serious threat compared to
other options for the delivery of such warheads. This is why
cooperation in countering the further proliferation of missile
systems is such a high priority.

By the mid-1980s, the Soviet Union had completed the
construction and modernization of the ground-based component of the
missile attack warning system (MAWS, which began in the late
1950s), comprised of eight radar stations along the border
perimeter. These systems were built in Murmansk, Pechora, Skrunde,
Mukachevo, Sevastopol, Gabala, Balkhash, and Irkutsk. The
Daryal-type radars found in Gabala and Pechora are still believed
to have an unmatched capability for detecting ballistic targets in
their areas of responsibility.

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, five of the eight
MAWS radar systems ended up outside Russia. The Dnepr radar at
Skrunde was dismantled. After that, its functions were partially
performed by the Dunai-3U radar of the Moscow Region’s ABM Defense
System; eventually, this system was displaced by the new Volga
radar based in the Baranovichi area, which was put into operation
in 2003.

The main purpose of MAWS has always been to ensure the early
detection of single, multiple and massive launches of U.S.,
British, French and Chinese ground- and sea-based ballistic
missiles. Data received from MAWS systems are designed to serve as
a basis for decisions to retaliate (such decisions are made within
a space of just a few minutes by the country’s top leadership) with
a counter missile strike so as to protect own missiles from a
disabling first strike.

The expediency of such plans for the use of strategic nuclear
forces in a basically different military-political environment
merits a separate analysis. It will only be noted here that in the
prevailing situation, the fact that Russia and the United States
have abandoned plans to withdraw their missiles to avoid attack –
that is plans for retaliatory strikes – far from diminishing the
role of MAWS, actually gives it a greater role in meeting new
threats since these systems help rule out an inadequate,
disproportionate response to provocative missile strikes by
countries with unpredictable regimes, ensuring credible
instrumental control over the proliferation of missiles and missile

This is, in fact, an area of cooperation where Russia could play
a leading role, principally because the Russian MAWS radars
deployed in the south of the country possess a unique capability to
monitor the southeastern, southern, and southwestern regions where
the danger of a missile launch exists. These capabilities
substantially exceed those of the United States or other Western
partners. This technology could be made more effective with the
joint operation of Russian and U.S. early warning systems. This
view is shared by leading U.S. experts in the field. Thus, a study
involving the imitation of missile launches from many countries –
from the Middle East to Europe – against different targets and with
different flight paths, showed that (according to Dr. Bruce Blair,
president of the Washington-based Center for Defense Information) a
joint MAWS system is 20 percent to 70 percent more effective than a
separate early warning system.

A very important step in this direction was made in September
1998, when the Russian and U.S. presidents decided to set up a
Joint Data Exchange Center (JDEC) in Moscow to share information on
ballistic missile and space launches. Pursuant to that decision, a
corresponding memorandum was signed in June 2000. The JDEC is
designed not only to ensure against accidental missile launches in
either country, but also to monitor missile launches of third
parties, including sea-based (submerged) launches. The two sides
chose the location for the JDEC, developed a table of organization,
defined staff functions, the type of equipment, etc. Under the
memorandum, which went into effect upon signing, the Center was to
have gone into operation a year later – that is no later than July

The project was considered at that time to be a breakthrough in
strengthening mutual trust and proof of real partnership.
Nevertheless, to date the project remains frozen, although it is
ready on both the organizational and technical level: thus, in
their declaration signed simultaneously with the U.S.–Russian
Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions (Moscow, 2002), the two
sides pledged to do what it takes to put the Center into

There are many petty red-tape, bureaucratic impediments to this
process, including, government officials say, the issue of covering
civil liability for any possible damage. Yet with mutual political
will, this problem can be resolved very quickly since with the JDEC
in place, potential damage will be negligible.

In addition to enhancing the effectiveness of missile launch
oversight, close partnership between Moscow and Washington will
help expand the JDEC’s role by getting many other countries
involved. This will lay the groundwork for a multilateral missile
technology control and multilateral notification regime for missile
launches, thus creating additional effective instrumental and legal
safeguards against the proliferation of missiles and missile
technology in the world.

While the fate of the early warning radar stations in Belarus
and Kazakhstan is not as yet cause for serious concern, this does
not hold true for the two radar stations in Ukraine and one in

Baku’s drift toward Washington is quite discernible, as can be
seen from, among other things, the heightened military cooperation
between the two countries and the involvement of Azerbaijani troops
in operations led by coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Thus, the future status of the Russian military base in Azerbaijan
(the Gabala MAWS radar station) remains uncertain.

Nor does the situation with the two Russian MAWS radars in
Ukraine provide much cause for optimism in the foreseeable future,
due to Kiev’s persistent striving to join NATO, which can happen
fairly soon. This could cause, among other things, purely legal
problems linked to the presence in Ukraine of foreign military
bases maintained by countries that are not part of the North
Atlantic alliance.

What policy should Russia adhere to in these conditions?
Stopping the decline of Russian influence, not only in Azerbaijan
and Ukraine but also in the entire post-Soviet area, is obviously
crucial. This remains, however, a very bleak prospect: too much
time has been lost and too many serious political mistakes have
been made. To rectify them, it is necessary not only to build a
politically and economically attractive country with stable
democratic structures. It is also critical to overcome some glaring
contradictions with regard to NATO: on the one hand, developing a
partnership within the Russia-NATO Council, while on the other,
setting the Russian Armed Forces the priority task of repulsing an
air (space) attack that no other force but NATO can carry out. Yet,
at the same time, Russia’s best possible policy in the face of
mounting global security threats would be a de facto, as well as de
jure, merging with NATO.

In the interest of preserving Russia’s partnership potential for
countering the proliferation of WMD-capable missiles, it would be
essential, above all, to “unfreeze” the JDEC and subsequently
expand its functions toward full-fledged international cooperation.
Then not only the United States but the entire West would see to it
that radar stations based outside Russia do not drop from the MAWS


Prospects for partnership in building a global ABM system look
increasingly more encouraging. It would seem that in this field
Russia has actually taken the lead since it is the only country
with a credible strategic ABM system (the Moscow Region ABM
system). However, neither Russia’s experience in building such a
system nor the underlying technology is of much interest to the
United States or European countries. First, because Russia’s system
is based on the use of nuclear technology to intercept attacking
missiles, and since they bear no indication as to what type of
warhead is used – nuclear, chemical or conventional – retaliation
to even a dummy launch can result in a nuclear fireworks display
over Moscow with all the ensuing consequences. Second, the United
States deployed an almost identical ABM system but it was
dismantled exactly 30 years ago by Senate ruling.

At present, joint Russian-U.S. computer-assisted ABM theater
exercises, staged alternately in Colorado Springs and Moscow, have
been proceeding for several years now. These exercises have the
makings for full-scale Russian-Western cooperation in building ABM
systems on different levels. These exercises have been used, in
particular, to rehearse the interoperability and coordination of
such systems as the S-300 and Patriot in repulsing tactical
ballistic missile attacks against theater targets. In 2004, a war
game of this kind was held for the first time between Russia and
NATO at Colorado Springs.

One distinguishing feature of the U.S. ABM system is that it is
probably one of the first large-scale military programs not
designed to avert missile threats coming from specific adversaries,
but developed in accordance with the “capabilities-based approach.”
This principle fits into the national security strategy that must
take into account the unprecedented unpredictability of the
military-political situation in the world following the breakup of
the bipolar system, especially since the U.S. intelligence
community, in 1999 and 2000, considered scenarios in which Russia
acted as a U.S. ally and adversary. On the other hand, in the wake
of September 11, it has become non-PC to refer to Russia, which
fully supported Washington in its antiterror efforts, as a possible
adversary. U.S. administration officials continue to repeat that
the U.S. ABM program is not aimed against Russia’s nuclear
deterrence capability.

A CIA report released several years ago said that missile
threats to U.S. territory from ‘rogue states’ could not
realistically emerge before 2015, which almost completely coincided
with Russian expert estimates. That forecast, however, did not suit
all interests in the United States, and so a special commission
under Donald Rumsfeld brought the threats forward a decade,
“setting” them for 2005. This prediction became a strong argument
for the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush to withdraw
from the 1972 ABM Treaty (a decision opposed by Russia) and launch
full-scale preparations for the deployment of a national ABM
system. Today, no credible missile threat for U.S. security is
expected: after all, ‘rogue states’ need considerable time to carry
out test flights, which is impossible to do covertly.
Leaving aside for a moment the problems of Russian-U.S. cooperation
in the ABM sphere, related to the lingering distrust on both sides,
bureaucratic impediments, concerns over sensitive technology
transfers, and so forth, there is good cause to say that the
feasibility and expediency of this cooperation at the present stage
is contingent on the status of the U.S. ABM program.

The work on a strategic ABM system in the United States has been
proceeding continuously for several decades, but it received a
particular impetus in the early 1980s. The perception that the Star
Wars Program was never designed for practical implementation, but
merely aimed to undermine the Soviet economy, is hardly consistent
with reality. It will be recalled here that back in 1983, former
U.S. President Ronald Reagan said it was an extensive program that
would not be carried out in the 20th century.

An analysis of the U.S. ABM elements that are currently being
tested shows that participation by Russian designers in these
programs is difficult if only because Russian sensors,
elemental-base, and other technologies are not attractive to the

At the same time, the United States’ development of an intercept
system that is meant to destroy ballistic missiles at their
boost-phase has a host of shortfalls complicating their effective
use. This conclusion was made, in particular, in a report by an
American Physical Society (APS) study group entitled, On
Boost-Phase Intercept Systems for National Missile Defense (July

Analysts from the study group showed that missiles could only be
intercepted with speeds considerably higher than what has been
achieved to date. Without this, missiles launched from inland areas
by potential adversaries cannot be intercepted. In this context,
cooperation with Russia, whose design organizations have the
technology to create high-speed interceptor missiles and solid
propellants, which are ahead of U.S. technology by at least a
decade, could be extremely effective in building new-generation ABM
systems to effectively engage all types of missiles at the boost

This one area, however, does not exhaust the prospects for
Russian-U.S. cooperation. Ground-, space- and sea-based information
and reconnaissance capabilities are the keys to the success of
missile defense systems.

The unique capabilities of Russian MAWS radar systems,
especially if integrated into a joint ABM data exchange facility,
were mentioned earlier.
There are equally good prospects for cooperation in deploying a
low-orbit satellite target designation system (STDS), which
considerably enhances the capabilities of the ABM system. STDS
spacecraft, about 650 kg each, with IR and visible-band sensors,
are to be put into circular orbits of 1,350 km to 1,400 km with a
60 to 70 degree inclination. Heavy defense-conversion
(non-military) rockets, developed under the Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr
Project, could be used to put them into orbit. During the strategic
arms race, the rocket’s output performance specifications were the
world’s highest in its class.

Several such rockets, converted from RS-20 ICBMs decommissioned
at the end of their service life, showed an extremely high degree
of reliability in commercial satellite launches for foreign

Such a rocket with a boost stage and several restartable engines
can simultaneously place two STDS spacecraft into circular orbits
of up to 1,400 km with the required inclination degree. This makes
it possible to deploy a low-orbit data support constellation for a
global ABM system at a considerably smaller cost.

Russia’s cooperation with European countries in the ABM sphere
is hardly feasible without U.S. participation. European states can
apparently be counted on to make a technological contribution to a
global ABM system, as well as make their territory available for
the deployment of new U.S. ABM facilities, which, judging by media
reports, is a subject of ongoing debate with the newly admitted
NATO member states from Eastern Europe.

The perception that Moscow’s proposals for a European ABM system
are primarily a crude attempt to divide the EU and the United
States is hardly justified. After all, in 2000, then Russian
Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev submitted detailed proposals for a
European ABM system not to the Europeans but to NATO Secretary
General George Robertson. At that time, they only involved theater
missile defense, as the ABM Treaty’s limitations were still in
effect and there was still hope that the Russian-U.S. agreement on
the discrimination of strategic ABM and non-strategic ABM as part
of a package to extend the START II Treaty would enter into
Yet under the new conditions, Moscow’s offer to cooperate with
Europe on non-strategic ABM alone appears anachronistic. This also
applies to joint computer-assisted war games with the United States
and NATO, confined only to theater ABM.

At the same time, the U.S. “capabilities-based approach” outside
possible missile threats for the majority of European states will
doubtfully be greeted with enthusiasm. Therefore, Europe will have
to make preliminary analysis of such threats, taking into account
missile technology transfers between North Korea and Iran, where
the Shehab-5 missile, with a range of about 3,500 km, is being
developed on the Taphodon-2 medium range ballistic missile
platform. There are also missile technology transfers between China
and Saudi Arabia (Dunfan-3 missiles with a range of more than 2,600

Attempts by the European countries to stop the further widening
of the technological gap with the United States can also provide a
good incentive for European participation in such a large-scale

Thus, Russia’s cooperation with the EU needs to be seen in the
context of building a global ABM system which could in the long
term effectively defend U.S., Russian and EU territory against
missile attack since separate cooperation with the EU or EU states
is evidently unrealistic for military-political and technological
Furthermore, other areas of cooperation with the United States that
could be tapped for a European ABM program include advanced Russian
radar technology, state-of-the-art software to detect early missile
launches, the identification of warheads amid decoys and jamming
devices, and other R&D projects. Russia also has developed test
infrastructures, featuring a network of radar, optical electronic
and telemetric stations.

* * *

There are still good prospects for Russian-Western partnership
in countering proliferation threats, together with the construction
of a global ABM system. In the foreseeable future, this could be
the only sphere of relatively equal military and military-technical

Not only Russia, but also the West, is interested in preserving
this partnership potential. It is important to face up to this need
and deploy joint efforts as soon as possible. After all, as
Russia’s influence in the post-Soviet area progressively declines,
it could be faced with the formidable problem of keeping all of its
foreign-based radar stations within a single MAWS framework. At
that point, global monitoring of missile proliferation would prove
all but impossible.

Russian-U.S.-European cooperation in R&D programs, and in
deploying combat and information support ABM systems, is equally
If the decision to work together in this area is made in the
foreseeable future, it will open unique opportunities for
cooperation between the military-industrial structures of Russia,
the United States, and the leading European states.

It will be essential to work not only on the joint development
of a global ABM system but also share its information components.
This would be the most convincing evidence that the end of
confrontation in any form is irreversible. It would also be a major
step toward a genuine strategic partnership.

For more than three decades, missile attack warning systems have
been major spheres of strategic rivalry in relations between the
Soviet Union/Russia and the United States. In a new environment,
with enough common sense and political will, they could become a no
less important factor in the consolidation of efforts to meet
global security challenges.