Far reaching attitudes in Russia

Article published on Dec. 3, 2004
community published
Article published on Dec. 3, 2004

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Putin announces the creation of new Russian nuclear missiles, and nobody seems to be paying any attention to the arms race that this could inspire. Meanwhile, the EU yawns

In the words of its sullen president, Russia will soon have nuclear weapons with a technology which "for many years will be incomparable with anything else in the world”. He is referring to Bulava, which are intercontinental-range, submarine launched ballistic missiles. Work was started on 30 of these in 1986 and it has taken up until now for them to come about in the form of missiles that have an 8000km reach with 10 warheads that aim at individual targets and can be launched from submarines.

An ambivalent reality

Scientists and politicians from around the world do not appear to have placed much importance of Vladimir Putin’s announcement. Many, as Scott McClellan, spokesperson for the White House confirms, were fully informed about the experiments and did not consider them a threat. Russia currently creates four missiles a year, but would need to create 40 a year in order to restore all of its obsolete missiles from now until 2020. Of course, this restoration of nuclear missiles respects the Moscow Treaty for the reduction of strategic offensive arms. It also complies with the Russo-US agreement SALT 1, which insists that both parties are mutually informed about the development of strategic missiles. Also, the tests carried out in January this year were done using harmless charges and is the first time since 1990 that Russia has performed any nuclear tests. Nevertheless, the more advanced the technology produced, the greater the number of nuclear tests necessary for its final preparation. Moreover, the Russian defence budget is set to rise by 30% in 2005 to 15,000 million euros, so questioning whether Putin’s strategy is in the interest of Europeans should not take a back seat.

Europe’s Solitude

During his announcement, Putin added “as soon as we lower the guard in the main components of our defence - our nuclear shield for example - we will be confronted with new threats”. This is precisely what should worry the EU. Not only does Putin consider the need for a nuclear arms shield in the same way that Bush does for the USA, but he also leaves Europe more isolated in its pacifist strategy and intelligence gathering in the fight against terrorism. While the EU tries to come to an agreement with countries such as Iran over their use of nuclear energy for ‘not for weapons’ purposes, Putin remains a threat. With these stakes, it is doubtful that either he, or we, will have a good relationship with countries that are crucial in the fight against terrorism like Iran, the trans-Caucasian countries and Pakistan.

With 1,207,000 soldiers and 876,000 military personnel suffering because of years of suspended or delayed pay, the Russian army is a de-professionalised and unmotivated giant, and this is the main reason why the fight against terrorism in Russia is a failure. The worst of it is that Europe knows that Russian missiles are aimed towards countries with doubtful independence, like Belarus, the unstable Ukraine and its neighbours, and yet it does not even occur to them to speak to Putin for fear that their economies will suffer through a rise in petrol prices. The Russian and American arms strategies should not affect the good will of Europe and its policies, which are orientated towards international cooperation and the improvement of the intelligence services. But they should force Europe to agree on, and implement, the Constitution so that European diplomacy is strengthened by a common defence and security policy which shows the rest of the world the benefits of a balance between security, democracy and diplomatic skill.