Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Putin's Radar Gambit
By Ralf Beste and Alexander Szandar
Russian President Vladimir Putin has put Bush on the back foot over the US's planned European missile defense system with his offer of a radar station in Azerbaijan. But experts say the proposal is technically unfeasible.

Putin has offered Bush the use of the Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan for the US's planned missile defense system.George W. Bush is normally a man of plain words. But last Thursday afternoon, at the G-8 summit in sunny Heiligendamm, the US president seemed uncharacteristically undecided.
He was smiling, as he usually does, but Bush seemed incapable of producing a clear statement as he stood next to Vladimir Putin and attempted to report the conversation the two men had just had.
The Russian president had "made a few interesting suggestions," Bush said, adding that the two men would now engage in "a strategic dialogue" on the matter. "This will be a serious set of strategic discussions," he said. "This is a serious issue." But as far as clarity went, that was the extent of it.
Find out how you can reprint this DER SPIEGEL article in your publication. Then it was Putin's turn. In a few words, the Russian president explained the offer that had apparently rendered his American counterpart speechless. Russia, he said, was offering the Americans a radar station in Azerbaijan, where the two countries could jointly operate an early warning system against missile attacks by rogue states like Iran. The system will cover "the entire Europe, without any exception," Putin said, and added that the president of Azerbaijan would be "glad to contribute to the cause of global security and stability."
After a months-long aggressive war of words between Washington and Moscow, Putin's surprise proposal brings new movement into the dispute between the two superpowers. Until then, the Russians had flatly rejected American plans to build a missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland to protect the United States and large parts of Europe from a possible Iranian missile strike.
Climate Politics

REUTERSAfter a long tug-of-war, the G-8 came to a unanimous agreement on fighting climate change -- and this under UN criteria, which the US has not accepted until now. The UN climate report, which states that the increase in greenhouse gas emissions must be stopped and reduced, were explicitly acknowledged. There is no binding commitment which aims for reducing CO2 yet, but the EU, Canada and Japan are said to be seriously considering an agreement to reduce worldwide emissions by half by 2050. Their most pressing task will be convincing other nations to sign on.
Dialogue with Developing Nations
Until now, the discussion with economically strong and politically influential emerging economies such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa, has depended on the will of the G-8 members. Beginning this summer, though, talks with these countries will take place regularly. The new cooperation will be called the "Heiligendamm Process." The G-8 hope to concentrate on important issues, including: technology for climate protection, collective commitments for aid in Africa, and protection of innovations and investment freedoms. Leaders of the emerging countries were at the summit on Friday to take part in talks.
Intellectual Property Protection
The G-8 says they urgently need to forge a collective strategy against copyright piracy with developing nations. They want to create better cooperation between customs and penalties, and build a worldwide electronic information system for customs authorities.
No Restrictions on Hedge Funds
Chancellor Angela Merkel had to accept defeat on the controversial issue of hedge funds -- but she expected this. The US and the UK refused to agree on a voluntary code of conduct. The G-8 spoke of greater transparency and urged better risk management through banks, investors, and regulatory agencies -- but came to no firm agreements. There are more than 9,000 hedge funds worldwide, with an estimated value of $16 billion. Berlin fears that the collapse of these funds could have worldwide effects in the financial sector. The German government remains tough on this issue and the finance minister plans to address the issue again in October.
Robust World Economy
The worldwide economic boom was judged positively, with G-8 leaders saying the global economy is in "good condition."
Worldwide Investment Freedom
The G-8 has asked that developing and newly industrialized nations review their investment politics. They oppose unnecessary restrictions and say investment freedom is critical for growth, prosperity, and employment.
North Korea and Iran
Though the G-8 has expressed concern over the North Korean and Iranian atomic programs, they have not provided any detailed decisions on the topic.
Putin's initiative has Europe's foreign policy experts puzzled over his true intentions. Could it be a "tactical reversal" and possibly even a "trick," as Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, a foreign policy expert for the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), suspects? Or is it a step that at least has brought "movement into the discussion," as Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier believes? Most of all, could a radar facility in the Azerbaijani town of Gabala even be capable of intercepting Iranian missiles?
Almost all observers agree that Putin's proposal is a skillful political chess move. The Russian president, who has spent the last few months on the defensive, has now re-gained the upper hand. Now it's the Americans' turn -- the Americans, who have been consistently calling upon Moscow to cooperate. This in itself eliminates the option of rejecting Putin's proposal outright.

This undated file picture shows the control room of the Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan.From a technical standpoint, however, the Russian suggestion has serious problems. Experts in Washington, at NATO and in Berlin know little about Gabala. But there was one thing that they did notice right away: Putin had failed to mention that the facility is currently being used to keep track of American missiles that could be launched from US submarines in the Indian Ocean, fly over Iran and continue to Russia.
The "Daryal" early warning system at Gabala first went into operation in 1985, during the Cold War. After the fall of the Soviet Union and Azerbaijan's independence, the Russians now pay about $7.5 million a year to lease the facility, which is part of the early warning system for Russia's strategic missile units. The agreement with Azerbaijan expires in 2012, at which point the radar system would likely be ready for the scrap heap. Western experts assume that it has not been upgraded in recent years.
With its Gabala proposal, Moscow intends to frustrate US plans to station missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic. In reality, however, the radar in Azerbaijan and the system planned for the Czech Republic serve completely different functions. The Gabala facility is purely an early warning system, whereas the principal purpose of the radar in the Czech Republic would be a so-called fire-control system. Iranian missiles would be monitored in flight and their coordinates sent to the 10 interceptor missiles stationed in Poland. Hence the US radar would be more than a warning system; it would also be a guidance system for the missiles.
Sign up for Spiegel Online's daily newsletter and get the best of Der Spiegel's and Spiegel Online's international coverage in your In- Box everyday.
Military experts doubt that the Russian radar facility could be made compatible with the American missile system. The two countries' electronic data exchange standards are completely different -- not to mention strictly guarded secrets on both sides.
NATO military officials know from bitter experience just how much this secretiveness can get in the way of cooperation. NATO and Russia have long intended to network together the various anti-aircraft and missile defense systems meant to protect their own troops during joint foreign missions. But when it comes to disclosing technical data, one German NATO official claims, "both sides end up stonewalling."
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

No comments: