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Russia and the U.S.: balancing between fear and reason
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Viktor Litovkin)

Media reports from the last few weeks increasingly resemble Hollywood horror movies.

The United States is reportedly developing a new-generation hydrogen warhead for its Trident II (D-5) strategic submarines. The Pentagon plans to deploy elements of its National Missile Defense System (NMD), namely, an early-warning radar and ground-based interceptor (GBI) launchers, in the Czech Republic and Poland. The U.S. Navy is transferring a powerful radar from the Hawaiian Islands to the Aleutian archipelago near the Russian border. Moreover, another radar will be positioned in the South Caucasus, but its exact location is still unclear. In other words, Washington is trying to “contain” Russia.

The American press carries articles about the U.S. absolute military supremacy over Russia and the possibility for the United States to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenal of Russia with a first strike. I mean, above all, an article called “The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy” by Keir A. Lieber, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, and his colleague Daryl G. Press from the University of Pennsylvania, which appeared in the Foreign Affairs magazine. They cite figures which show that Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal has sharply deteriorated.

Unfortunately, one must agree with many points of this article. Moscow’s commitment to the July 31, 1991 START I Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms has caused the Russian nuclear arsenal to shrink considerably over the last few years. Furthermore, some combat-ready ICBMs, including the famous Voyevoda R-36-MUTTKh or R-36-M2 (NATO reporting name SS-18 Satan) with ten independently targeted warheads, the obsolete RT-2PM Topol mobile ICBM (NATO reporting name SS-25 Sickle) and some others, are being scrapped.

Russia’s strategic nuclear forces now have 762 missiles capable of launching 3,373 nuclear warheads. The Strategic Missile Force wields 503 ICBMs and 1,853 nuclear warheads. The Russian Navy operates 12 strategic submarines with 636 nuclear warheads, and the Air Force has 79 strategic bombers with 8,884 long-range cruise missiles.

The United States, on the other hand, has 5,521 combat-ready nuclear warheads, including 1,050 warheads on 500 silo-based missiles, 2,016 warheads on 336 submarine-launched missiles, and 1,955 long-range cruise missiles for its 100-plus Boeing B-52 Stratofortress and Grumman Northrop B-2 Spirit bombers.

Nonetheless, Russia has enough nuclear warheads to feel more or less calm.

Under the May 24, 2002 Russian-U.S. Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, each country may retain not more than 1,700-2,200 strategic nuclear warheads by December 31, 2012.

Moscow continues to reduce and upgrade its strategic nuclear forces. Obsolete missiles are being scrapped and replaced with fewer, albeit more dependable and effective, RT-2PM2 Topol (SS-27) silo-based missiles. The Russian Strategic Missile Force, which now has 45 such missiles, will increase their number to 150 by 2015 under the state rearmament program. Meanwhile, the Navy will receive Bulava-30 (SS-N-30) missiles for its Mk 955 Borei-class submarines.

Frankly speaking, it is pointless to calculate the size of the Russian and U.S. strategic arsenals because our two countries have the ability to destroy each other several times over. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy once said that it did not matter whether the United States could destroy the U.S.S.R. 20 times and the U.S.S.R. could do the same only three times because once was quite enough.

Russia and the United States, which are no longer divided by any principled and irreconcilable ideological differences, should not revert to the Cold War-era concept of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). On the contrary, they should opt for a reasonable approach and jointly deal with high-priority threats, such as international terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction and missile technologies, religious and ethnic intolerance, separatism and extremism, as well as poverty, which fuels terrorism and religious extremism.

The latter is particularly true of Afghanistan. The American-led NATO coalition has been trying to prop up the government of Hamid Karzai for several years, stabilize the country, introduce democratic institutions there and help get rid of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda extremist organizations.

But it turns out that a 35,000-strong NATO force comprising elements of the world’s most powerful armies cannot accomplish these objectives. Consequently, the January 31-February 1, 2006 London Conference on Afghanistan and the November 28-29, 2006 NATO summit in Riga decided to continue the peacekeeping operation and said the industrialized world would provide $10.5 billion for Afghan economic development over the next five years. The UN, World Bank, European Union, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and some non-governmental organizations will also contribute greatly to this social and humanitarian relief package.

Unfortunately, donor aid is often stolen before it can reach Kabul. Moreover, many Afghan companies do not get regular allocations for humanitarian and social projects in Kabul and its environs and are therefore unable to create jobs and raise the living standards of the country’s neediest.

Nonetheless, the Bush administration plans to ask Congress to set aside another $10.6 billion for Afghanistan. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has promised to allocate 500 million pounds over the next three years. France, Germany, Japan, China, India, Turkey, Iran and Russia are all ready to provide support. The Kremlin has pledged to write off Kabul’s $10 billion debt to Moscow and to furnish the Afghan army with weapons and equipment for fighting terrorists and extremists. Moscow also trains Afghan police officers to combat trafficking in illegal drugs, which fuels terrorism.

As I see it, reasonable cooperation involving Russia, the United States, NATO and other countries on the Afghan problem and other pressing issues, the Middle East settlement in particular, would prove far more useful than nuclear confrontation and brinkmanship policies. Each country has the right to provide for its self-defense and national security. This, however, should never be accomplished at the expense of other nations.

U.S. efforts to “contain” Russia will not bring calm to Washington because, as President Vladimir Putin has said, Moscow will find a sufficiently cheap, adequate and asymmetrical response to the NMD program. But this does not seem to be a good idea, either, because an arms race cannot help overcome poverty. Russia, the United States and the rest of the world would benefit if the MAD concept were replaced with reason and cooperation.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti. -0-

MOSCOW. (Fakhriddin Nizamov, member of the RIA Novosti Expert Council)

The fight for control over energy resources has been gaining momentum over the recent years, becoming a dominating factor in international relations. Players in this fight are both individual states and regional or international organizations, such as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the International Energy Agency (IEA) and others that represent the interests of their member states.
Struggle for control over energy-rich regions sometimes goes in the open. One example is the attempts to "democratize" post-Soviet republics. Western geopolitical centers that impose managed crises on these countries are worried that reserves in the fields that supply oil to their markets are becoming exhausted.
Experts estimate that global energy demand will grow by 2.4% a year on average in the next several decades, while the output in the North Sea and Indonesia will fall due to exhaustion. Moreover, instability in the Middle East has shaken the fragile foundations of the world's energy resources. So key electricity consumers are beginning to eye post-Soviet countries seeking to diversify their hydrocarbon imports, as these countries can boast not only huge reserves, but also stable economic growth. In these circumstances, new independent states have an increasing influence on the global market.
But there is another factor that needs to be acknowledged. This growing influence is not brought about by any coordinated steps or thought out policies of commodities exporters related to transportation, transit, optimal price setting and energy security. The situation on energy markets has been favorable for them so far. It can push aside regional or inter-state disagreements for some time, but it does not help to resolve them. The latest events related to gas supply from Russia to Belarus and from Uzbekistan to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan showed clearly that transition to market prices on gas is a painful process that requires meticulous preparations. Central Asia is a good example in this respect. Its security depends to a large extent on how it resolves the existing problems in the energy sector.
The need for common approaches has led to increasingly frequent calls for setting up a single energy market within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Some propose to call it the Asian Energy Strategy, others the Energy Club. Yet the essence does not change: it is time to ensure energy and, consequently, economic and political security of the SCO members by establishing a special body.
It will be difficult to achieve significant results without streamlining national energy strategies and legislations, said Vitaly Bushuyev, director of the Russian Energy Security Institute. Decisions made without thorough expert analysis are often left unimplemented because it is hard to find a balance between national interests and mutual concessions for the sake of integration. Moreover, SCO energy cooperation has already shown that its members' interests are not just different, but sometimes opposite. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, for example, are first of all interested in promoting hydropower generation in the region. Tajik experts estimate their country's hydropower potential at 550 billion kWh a year. But development of hydropower generation in these countries without considering water consumption in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan would irrevocably damage the latter countries' agriculture. Moreover, Kyrgyz experts believe that thermal power plants built near glacier areas wil
l disturb the fragile ecological balance. Many present oil and gas production and transportation projects are carried out under bilateral agreements, which affects price setting and results in ongoing tensions between producers and consumers.
The great potential of energy supplying countries requires a coordinated price policy on both domestic and foreign markets. The SCO countries control 23% of the world's oil, 55% of natural gas and 35% of coal, Bushuyev said. At the same time, they waste the most energy and their energy efficiency is the lowest. Given the dynamic growth of SCO economies and high energy prices, joint efforts seem a good way to tackle many problems. The idea to set up an energy club is gaining relevance because the global energy market requires coordinated and well-considered moves on the part of all interested countries, not just one or two players. Only then it will be possible to stand up to the market's whims.
OPEC's experience shows that such a body would assist in developing common tactics. Russian experts believe that interests of the energy club members should not be limited to energy production, transportation or consumption. They can be both geopolitical and concern investment. Central Asia and China, which has a huge workforce, could create many new jobs by attracting investment in the energy sector.
Many have rushed to describe the energy club as an OPEC analogue. But its format is unique. OPEC, for example, coordinates oil prices for 11 oil exporters, while the IEA unites mainly oil consumers. The energy club, however, will unite both producers (Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan) and consumers (China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan). Despite these differences, OPEC's experience and the IEA's policies can be used as models when establishing the new body. The energy club can become an expert site for offering recommendations that would take into account interests of all SCO member states. And it will also make it possible to go from discussions and analysis to implementation of real projects.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti. -0-